FREE Blog Weekend: The tradition continues, looking back, looking forward


It’s the weekend, the last weekend before pitchers and catchers report. After a slow winter that picked up significantly over the past few weeks, the Astros who report next week will represent a completely re-worked roster. Yes, to use the old proverbial comment, they’ll need a scorecard and name tags to tell each other apart.

Here are some thoughts looking back and looking ahead.

Jeff Luhnow is pushing the train.

  • You don’t have to be a koolaid drinker to realize that the Astros’ GM is making progress. While staying with the plan that maintains payroll flexibility (Read: No James Shields, Jon Lesters, etc.), he clearly continues to keep his options open on key trouble spots over the past few years (e.g. bullpen, corner infield, etc.). He continues to search for bullpen help after adding Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to add to Chad Qualls, Luhnow signed Roberto Hernandez (possibly a starter that will provide other bullpen options) and is having discussions with other possible additions as well.

The Rodney Dangerfield Effect.

  • No respect. Many naysayers, onlookers, experts and fans will take the Missouri “Show Me” approach before they accept a possibility the Astros will surpass .500 or challenge for the playoffs. That said, the Astros are ranked in the top half (barely) in the predictions by ESPN’s David Schoenfield. Ahead of the Rangers. Ahead of Oakland. Clearly, Schoenfield has bought into the improvement on paper, but a good start in April will obviously turn heads of the doubters.

That roster thingy.

  • Luhnow and new manager A.J. Hinch indicated they’d keep the spring training roster to as much of a minimum as possible With the addition of reliever Joe Thatcher Friday, the Astros will now have 59 players headed to ST in the coming days, one short of Luhnow’s projection of around 60. Still, this year’s roster will have more flexibility, more versatility, more options than anytime in recent memory. With only a handful of guarantees, it’s impossible to predict a 25-man roster as any of 8-10 players could have breakout springs and capture a spot. Even some on the NRI list.

Predictions. Projections. Prognostications.

  • Fangraphs is out with its depth chart projections for your perusal and consideration. Some interesting breakdowns since these rankings actually project specific time and ABs at each position. For example, Fangraphs project that Matt Dominguez has more ABs at 3B than newly acquired Luis Valbuena. It also shows a primary outfield of LF Jake Marisnick, CF Colby Rasmus and RF George Springer. Oh, were it so simple. After you review the individual and position breakdown, here’s a look at how these stats would stack up against the rest of the majors. Lots to review, but eager to hear your thoughts.

Manfred and rule changes.

  • Every year there is talk about rules changes. However, with new commissioner Rob Manfred already discussion a variety of adjustments, it seems apparent baseball may be in for some updates in the next year or two. One that is breaking now has MLB reducing the strike zone. The problem with that is interpretation since some umpires call balls off the plate or a higher pitch than others. The first order of business should be a consistent strike zone called and keep the Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine “expansion” away from the game. Somewhat like the border issue, there are rules on the book already. Enforce those, then let’s discuss changes. That’s my opinion.

Some questions to provoke your thoughts and comments.

  • Are you satisfied right now where the Astros are with building the roster? What other addition would put you over the top?
  • Many predict a last-place finish for Houston, but Schoenfield sees the Astros as much more competitive? Which prediction is closer to being accurate?
  • Which NRI or fringe player(s) could be the biggest surprise(s) and “steal” a spot on the break-camp roster?
  • Barring injuries, how close are the Fangraphs predictions to reality for the 2015 season?
  • Just curious. Without looking, can you name the third base coach, the bench coach and the hitting coach for the Astros?
  • If Manfred were to make one rule change next year, what would be your #1 request?
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64 comments on “FREE Blog Weekend: The tradition continues, looking back, looking forward

  1. Thanks for the Friday buffet to munch on, Chip. Let’s see
    – Satisfaction with the additions – Yes, I am satisfied with where the emphasis has been in the off-season – more relievers, more bats for the infield. It is not perfect but there is some room if a need arises during the season to do more. I feel like this is a decent set of players with reasonable flexibility – not an embarrassment.
    – Where they will finish – I think they can come in at 83-79 – so I am more of a .500 guy.
    – Fringe guys – I am betting Peacock is not ready for longer than they think and that Roberto Hernandez, Dan Straily or Asher W grab that 5th spot. That is where I think the break out might occur – kind of like McHugh last season (though he was added after ST).
    – I think the thing you pointed out – Matty D with more ABs than Valbuena at 3B makes no sense with Fangraphs also predicting a much bigger WAR out of Valbuena.
    I don’t see Carter / Gattis splitting 1B and DH down the middle like they say.
    – Third base coach, hitting coach and bench coach – wow!!! Total blanks and I wrote about them bringing in a hitting coach that was not too successful and I cannot tell you what any of their names are.
    – #1 request – disconnect the All-star game from home field in the WS. Just plain stupid.

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  2. One thing I gotta say…this new commissioner is pissing me off already. If he really wants to know why offense is ‘down’, it’s because of the drug testing. And it’s not like it was back to 1968 levels before the mound was lowered, either. Hell, we’re not even back to 1980s levels either.

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  3. The Fangraphs projections are stupid. Even though the team will face 60-65% RH pitching, they are giving Dominguez more PA’s than Valbuena. So basically they have Luhnow trading our starting CFer for a backup 3B and a maybe #5 starter.
    Fangraphs also has Valbuena with a higher projected WAR, so basically they are also saying we will play an inferior player more than we will play a superior player, and we will do it against same-side pitching.
    They also have Springer playing RF most of the time and project him to have a negative dWAR in RF. That is impossible to comprehend!
    Even though Gattis has never really played 1B, they have him with a much better dWAR at 1B than they do Singleton, who’s played 1B all his career.
    Those are my initial thoughts on that. I gotta go do Grampa stuff.

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  4. *it’s impossible to predict a 25-man roster as any of 8-10 players could have breakout springs and capture a spot.*

    I’m looking at the NRIs, the returnees, the salaries, the invitees, and the spots, and I just don’t see the number of openings you are talking about. The only openings I see, ABSENT INJURY OR TRADE BEFORE OPENING DAY, are:
    1. the fifth starter role [someone will have to significantly out-pitch Straily];
    2. who, if anyone, will be the left-handed [or switch hitting] power guy off the bench [Sclafani? Tucker?]; and
    3. who will be the fourth outfielder (not counting Gattis) [i.e. who if anyone will beat out the million-dollar salary man Alex Presley]; and
    4. who will get the two potential spots in the bullpen (can Thatcher or Cruz outpitch Deduno and/or can Wojo or White outpitch Buchanan]?

    What other potential openings am I missing?

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    • Mr. Bill, not really talking about “openings”, just the players that will be filling those openings. Players like Altuve, McHugh, Keuchel, Feldman are givens. But there are 8-10 players perhaps who could be interchangeable, if that makes better sense. Especially in the outfield and/or bullpen.

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      • I see what you mean, Chip. Absent a trade or injury, i just also see Lowrie, Valbueno, MarGon, Gattis, Carter, Castro, Conger, Springer, Rasmus, Marisnick, Obie, Gregerson, Neshek, Sipp, Qualls and Fields as ‘givens’ as well as the four you mentioned.

        As far as position players go, the ones I’ll be watching closely are Singleton, Sclafani, Torreyes, Tucker, Aplin, Grossman, and Presley. Guys like Hoes, Santana, Villar and Dominguez I consider as extreme long-shots to make the opening day roster, who would have to absolutely go Hunter Pence all over opposing pitching throughout the course of the Spring to overcome the bad karma they have put off so far in the chances they have gotten.

        As far as pitchers go, the one’s I’ll be vetting carefully are Wojo, White, Straily, Deduno, Cruz, Harris, Chapman, Thatcher and Downs. Hernandez, Hoyt and the rest of the NRIs I have to consider as extreme long-shots that I won’t even be watching unless they do something to make me.

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  5. Re: No respect

    In baseball, respect is a product of on-field, in-game, win-when-it-counts performance, not pre-season hype, propaganda, or projection. The 2015 Astros will have to earn respect in the win-loss column, in the runs-scored vs. runs-allowed comparison, and in our pitching staff’s ERA and WHIP vs. the ERA and WHIP racked up against our offense comparisons. And they’ll have to do it most successfully against Seattle, Oakland, California, and Texas. Having a bunch of Dave Kingman types on the team who can launch an occasional late-inning solo shot onto the train tracks when the team is losing by 5, but who is just as likely to wear a golden sombrero home, will not get you much respect.

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  6. I wouldn’t bother wasting my time on fangraphs projections for playing time – they use past playing time to factor in. I doubt Dominguez even makes the roster this year and I am sure they didn’t give Fowler away for their backup third sacker – or maybe they did to cut that salary, but then why give Rasmus almost as much? I am sure in Luhnow’s mind the tradeoff is Rasmus/Valbuena for Fowler, and while I think Rasmus is a bad signing at 8 mil, Rasmus/Valbuena should outperform what Fowler/Dominguez would do as a duo.

    I also don’t see Marisnick in LF. Part of his appeal is the defense. He will get far less opportunities to use that defensive prowess playing in possibly the easiest LF in baseball. I expect the Astros to use some combination of Grossman/Gattis in LF, with Marisnick getting his time against lefties in CF or RF spelling Rasmus.

    I would be concerned about strike zone changes affecting or staff in particular. Outside of McHugh’s offspeed stuff, none of the starters have a really dominant out pitch. Keuchel, Obie, Feldman and even McHugh to a degree, depend on location, location, location. Wojo might benefit in seeing the rest of the league come towards him (not so much him actually improving, just the median moving towards him some), but that’s about it from what I see.

    The bullpen could also be helped with that meter moving mediocrity.

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    • Please don’t forget Straily as part of that Fowler trade. I am feel strongly that they like him as the #5 starter going into ST. That makes Rasmus/Valbuena/ Straily look much better than Dominguez/Fowler/Harrell was on opening day.

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      • OP1, don’t know if it’s true, but I read that Straily’s fastball dropped several mphs in velocity in 2014 vs 2013 and wound up consistently in the mid-to high 80s. If that is the case, I sure hope WOJO or White out-pitches him in ST.

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      • he said he had a shoulder problem last year, but that he is fine now. I’m sure the Astros checked him out thoroughly in the physical.

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      • Fortunately, it will be impossible for Straily to turn into another Jesse Crain. Straily has five more years of team control including the next two years at league minimum.
        Crain robbed the Astros of $3.25 mil in just one year. He should be on the FBI Most Wanted List for No-armed Robbery.

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  7. * Are you satisfied right now where the Astros are with building the roster? What other addition would put you over the top? *

    It’s all about 2017 and beyond for me, so I just want to see us do three things:
    1. draft well in 2015;
    2. trade guys like Carter, Castro, Feldman and Rasmus at the deadline for high-ceiling A and promising AA talent [esp. at P, C, and corner-infield positions], and
    3. sign no long-term albatross contracts with aging free-agent superstars who will cost us high draft picks.

    Satisfied with where we are in 2015, going into ST? Not really, but that is primarily as a result of what I see as the botched #1 drafts in both 2013 and 2014 and the tendency of this GM to surrender of way too many good to really good pitching prospects for low ceiling, ridiculously-OBP and scandalously high K position players that will only be here for a year or two. I would also like to see some real flame-throwers for a change. I wonder – can Strom really only do his magic with guys who max out at 92-93 mph? If you remember my All-Time Astros starting five, you understand why I tend to remain significantly underwhelmed by all the guys in our system, even when Strom gets one or two to have a crazy good – and likely un-repeatable – year when they go all Keuchel/McHugh on the league. N. Ryan, R. Oswalt, R. Clemens, M. Scott, R. Johnson, J.R. Richard – where are the guys who can dominate like any of those did? Especially if the strike zone narrows, we had better find some guys who can actually miss bats, not just pound the ball into the ground.

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  8. Are you satisfied right now where the Astros are with building the roster? What other addition would put you over the top? I like what we have done considering the budget given to Luhnow.

    Many predict a last-place finish for Houston, but Schoenfield sees the Astros as much more competitive? Which prediction is closer to being accurate? The first Sportsbook released MLB O/Us today and they had the Astros at 73.5, 2nd worst in the AL, ahead of only the Twins. I still think they are closer to Schoendfield’s projection
    .
    Which NRI or fringe player(s) could be the biggest surprise(s) and “steal” a spot on the break-camp roster? Is Grossman a fringe player? If so, I think he will be a big surprise this year.

    Barring injuries, how close are the Fangraphs predictions to reality for the 2015 season? I don’t think there is any way Dominguez has more ABs than Valbuena. Otherwise, I can see their OF projection playing out.

    Just curious. Without looking, can you name the third base coach, the bench coach and the hitting coach for the Astros? I can name one of them.

    If Manfred were to make one rule change next year, what would be your #1 request? This surprises me as I was completely against the DH until recently, but I would like to see this universal in MLB. It makes no sense to alternate back and forth in interleague games and World Series games.

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  9. Set 25 man Roster: If it were my choice (and it is not) I would send a possibly better, younger player back to AAA than have him ride the bench for over 50% of the time. So IF (all of these are ifs) Stassi is better than Conger – send Stassi to AAA. If Marisnick is better than Grossman – AAA him. If Singleton is going to ride the bench in favor of Gattis or Carter – AAA. Matty D is ONLY 22. Fresno Bound. OP1 has talked multiple times about players being brought up too soon – suffer – and we get down on them and they on themselves. Now I am not saying we should send all four of them to Fresno. But younger players that we hope can be starters need to play. Bench players that we anticipate NEVER being a starter – make the team but sit on the bench. Up until these last FA signings and trades the Astros almost HAD TO play players that were not ready. There were better than what we had but we did not allow the gradual maturation to a MLBer.

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  10. What other addition would put me over the top? Closer.
    Meyers wasn’t a closer but they made him one. Melancon wasn’t a closer but they tried to make him one. Valverde was a closer, but worn out. Veras wasn’t a closer, but they made him one. Qualls wasn’t a closer, but they made him one.
    Now Luhnow says we’re ready to field a team with a winning record. If you want to be a team with a winning record in this day and age, you need a closer.

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    • This has been something I have wanted all along, but the budget doesn’t allow for it, at least at this time. I give Luhnow credit as he pursued Andrew Miller and offered him more money than NYY. Do you think, had we gotten Miller, that we would not have gotten either Gregerson or Neshek? Miller would have cost about the same as what we paid for both Gregerson and Neshek.

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      • Tim, I’m hoping they trade for one by using their excess players and trading them and their salaries for a guy who can close and his salary. Specifically I am talking about their excess of RH power hitters who don’t field well and young middle infielders, or utility infielders high in their system.

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      • I am open to this, but I absolutely do not want Papelbon. He is regressing terribly and a horrible clubhouse guy. I would be open to one of the Royals relievers as they have a surplus in their bullpen.

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      • Totally with you on Papelbon. I’m leaning more toward a pitcher below 30 who is a reliever with good hard stuff and a good K rate that they could name as their closer, rather than a guy who is already making closer money. I like the two FA relievers they signed, but not as closers.

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    • Guys, not to be a downer, but I don’t believe Luhnow is looking for another closer-type. Basically, because of all the reasons you suggest above OP. Just like all the other positions, he’s allowed himself versatility. No true LF, but many to choose from. No tried and true 3B, but plenty of options. Similarly, plenty of back-of-the-bullpen types and options, but no closer. Whatever happened to the argument by many that closers weren’t necessary? I’m not necessarily in that camp, but many people are.

      And, lost in the closer discussion is how the Astros value Josh Fields. He’s been suggested as the closer of the future. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the equation in 2015.

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      • Chip,

        I agree with you that Luhnow will not trade for a closer, but I would have liked someone who has done it before. I wouldn’t have mind signing K-Rod for one year. I don’t want Soriano as an option as he, like Papelbon, is regressing horribly. I would be open to a trade for a closer, but if Luhnow trade Carter I doubt it is for a closer. Also, I am not sold on Fields yet as a closer. He may get there, but I need to see more consistency from him.

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      • Tim, Strailey could hit Super 2, though not likely. However, he’d be due his first arbitration year after the 2017 season. Along with: Springer, McHugh, Peacock, Obreholtzer and a few others. Not to mention the second/third years for players like Keuchel, Conger, MarGo, Alex White, Dominguez, Gattis and others.

        Remember that bottleneck I mentioned in a couple of entries last year. It’s quickly approaching, which is one reason Luhnow is keeping so many of his options open with the roster. Like him or not, he’s playing that part of the game smartly.

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  11. If I could have one rule change from Manfred it would be to go back to getting the umps to move the game along with the batters and pitchers staying in their places and playing baseball instead of chess. Zzzzzzzzzzz

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  12. It’s not actually a rule change, but rather an enforcement one. On force plays at second base, the runner is not called for interference if they can reach the bag with one or more limbs despite their slide taking a different vector. Yes, not being able to take out the middle infielders as easily might depress scoring, but how much better would Biggio have been had they never had that play in Milwaukee?

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  13. I think the Astros can top Fangraph’s projections if Castro finds the mean of 2013 and 2014 with his bat, and Singleton is a replacement value hitter and cleans up his defense at 1B. If Castro can hit and be the DH against some RH pitchers, letting Conger catch and bat against those same pitchers with Gattis still available off the bench and behind the plate they are going to be much better against righties this year. Conger’s ability behind the plate is terrific and he hits righties decently, so taking advantage of matchups is vital and we have the ability to do that.
    If Conger can stay behind the plate enough without killing the team offensively he could turn this team from a 79-83 team to an 82-80 team with his mitt. A true closer jumps it up to an 88 win team because it puts another good reliever back into the 7th and 8th mix instead of closing, thus adding more WAR to them and eliminating the weakest reliever from the mix.
    The Astros would really have to mess up badly for all these outfielders to provide negative WAR defensively, so it is up to them to put those players in positions to provide more defense and more wins there.

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  14. It really looked to me like the Astros chose Joe Thatcher over Jose Veras. Getting on in years, moderately effective pitcher, cost-effective.

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    • Steeeve, I wouldn’t disagree. It does get a lot of lefties in the bullpen for ST. You already have Chapman and Sipp, though you could argue Chapman isn’t a real factor. Now you add Thatcher to the mix along with Darin Downs, who’s also an NRI. Again, Luhnow providing himself many options, backups, contingencies and possible redundancies.

      Of course, Thatcher’s deal could reach $2.3 million if he makes the roster and hits his incentives. Plus, he has that opt out 5 days before the end of spring training, which means Houston will need to make a decision on him prior to that if they want to keep him. Sounds like he’s okay taking the minor league deal to get to camp, but doesn’t want to start the season in the minors…or at least wants to keep his options open.

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    • I am in the minority on here, but I prefer Thatcher over Veras. We need as many LH options as possible and I really think Veras would have regressed for the Astros in 2015. All those BBs are going to catch up with him.

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  15. I’m not satisfied with where the Astros stand today on roster building, admittedly, because I keep looking for the next time we make the post season as my only measure of real success. 81 wins will not placate me, even for a season. While there will be significant changes to the make up of this club between now and April 1, I think we’ve gotten a bit less athletic overall, especially if Marisnick can’t hit enough to spend significant time in the outfield playing his great defense. We also have quite a bit less depth in the rotation than we had seven months ago. Yep, I’m still lamenting the loss of Cosart especially. I’d really be pleased to see Feldman give us as much as we got from him in 2014, but I do not expect it. Overall, we had a pretty healthy rotation. Will we be as fortunate?

    I think Fangraphs is full of crap. Much of what they say does not make sense, as noted by several folks above, simply because too many of the guys they are using won’t be in a position to put up the stats Fangraphs has assigned to therm. Another thing. Altuve is too talented a hitter. He simply will not regress to a .299 average and a .341 OBP. He might even become a bit more selective in 2015 as he continues to be one of the best contact hitters in the game. At the end of the day though, Vegas is usually pretty close. I don’t think we’re a .500 club on paper, at least today anyway.

    Joe Sclafani remains my fringe guy! I don’t think he gets a seat on the bench for Opening Day, but I envision him worming his way up to the big club at some point along the way. I do fear though that he’ll be packaged at some point to a club that likes him more than we do.

    Nope, I am bit ashamed not to know who our coaching staff consists of.

    Dan P., I agree. Giving home field to the league that wins the AS game is worse than flipping a coin.

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  16. One more thing. Although Springer belongs in center, no way he produces a negative dwar (as assigned by Fangraphs) in right if that’s where he ends up. They don’t watch film. He’s far too talented.

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    • Nail on the head. They don’t watch film.

      Fangraphs uses previous stats to generate projections. Defensively it is WAY to short sample to project Springer in RF after that 3 week start. You would think that given the exposure and publicity it gets they would have some guy reviewing what appears to be stupidity before they put it out.

      On the flipside, Springer isn’t getting as much national love as we give him here. I was watching MLB channel the other day, and they were doing one of their top 10’s, and they went rightfield, and of the three guys making their list – all former players mind you – Springer showed up on 1 guys list at number 10, and not even mentioned by the other 2. Personally I think if he can stay on the field for 150 games he will be one of the top 5 RF’ers in baseball this year, but I’m a homer.

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      • Honestly dave, not even we (unfortunately) have actually “seen” Springer in action that much. However, to your point, we are much more aware of his capabilities on the plus side than most are. The outsiders are looking (I believe) at the negative info (e.g. Ks, etc.), which apparently includes a perception that his defense isn’t a strong suit.

        Just off the cuff here, but wonder if Luhnow’s stats gurus have detected something about Springer’s defense that will keep him in RF over CF while he’s an Astro?

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      • Luhnow’s gurus: Chip. I honestly don’t have a pulse for the direcion Luhnow is moving in today. I hope Charles Barkley is wrong about analitics.

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    • Yep, noticed that…and also that the Astros didn’t have anyone watching him throw last week (in Houston). Guess when you get burned, ya kinda lose interest. Can’t blame Luhnow for passing, but Albers is one I might have taken a NRI flyer on. He’ll probably be an All Star this year (SMH).

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      • Devin, I don’t doubt that in the least and, moreover, we don’t know the behind-the-scenes story either. Still, he might have been a good NRI gamble, assuming he threw okay last week. Very low risk, though, Luhnow probably figures he has his “Albers” in Gregerson, Neshek and any other of a half dozen who’ll battle for a spot in the bullpen.

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  17. DANG……..a girl goes outta town a few of days for a shopping trip with her sister, and Luhnow
    spends more money than ME! Saw where Crain is getting a divorce…….big deal.
    I’m not debating how good, or bad this club will be this year……..”many a slip twix the cup and the lip”. Great conversation fellas!

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  18. The thing that Fangraphs does not take into account, which I mentioned in the RF roundup is that Springer made 5 errors in his first 14 games (ever) in RF and 2 in the next 62 games. Wherever he ends up playing he will be a very impactful player if he can stay on the field.

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    • Yes Dan, and I think he made 3 errors in his entire minor league career, playing almost exclusively in centerfield. I’m sure throwing him to the wolves in right to start his ML career also contributed to his slow start at the plate. Take away the .477 OPS through his first 17 games and his rookie offensive stats are all the more impressive. Another reason why he should be put back in center and left alone.

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    • What is even more interesting is that he was way above league average range factors in the games he played in CF and just barely above league range factor averages in RF. And he made no errors in CF covering huge ground.
      Apparently the Astros not only have a problem knowing what to do with their top pitching prospects, judging by Springer, Singleton and Santana, they have no clue what to do with their top position prospects either. How complicated is it to place a young great center fielder in center field? Some people think they are so smart they spend most of their time thinking up stupid things. Their brains actually get in their way. Thus it has been with Springer’s MLB career so far and Appel’s minor league career. Brainy people do dumb things because they complicate the obvious.

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  19. Two additions. First Tim does not want the ability to edit others comments. If he had that ability, he could come behind me and fix my screw-ups automatically. Second, Chip, could you post the link to your “bottleneck” post. I remember reading it – but was unable to find it last night. I would like to re-read it. Now if I made any stupid comments back then, please allow Tim to edit them for me :-).

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  20. If there was one rule improvement that I would want, it is an automatic technical review on the field – it would be for the home plate umpire to be able to ask for a review of a 3rd strike – 1/2 swing. That is the most “All Over the Place” call in baseball. Is it if the bat crosses home plate? Is it if the wrists break? Is it if he attempted to check his swing? Instead of the ump pointing to 1st or 3rd, whatever the rule, he should be able to point to a camera on the field and the light blink red or green. Just something that is standard and common.

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  21. It’s a free blog weekend!
    *What am I most excited about right now with the Astros? George Springer. I can’t wait to see him play. I can’t wait to see him run the bases. I can’t wait to see him hit his first home run of the season. I can’t wait to see him play baseball again.
    *What do I think is the biggest change in this team? The left side of the infield. It feels great having Lowrie back at SS and Valbuena playing 3B. We wanted better players there and I think we got them. I feel terrific having Marwin there to back them up.
    *What is the Astros deepest position? I think it’s Catcher. I can’t remember the Astros having three major league catchers. They have Castro, Conger and Gattis. I love the fact Stassi is so young, but could actually spend a full year at Fresno without being disturbed. Or maybe longer. I think more highly of Stassi than most my fellow bloggers do. But that’s OK with me because, unlike Singleton, Stassi still has time to become a better player without the pressure.
    * What is most intriguing about the Astros? If Straily becomes the #5 starter, then he, Keuchel, McHugh, and Ober will make around $2million between the four of them, and Scott Feldman will make $10million by himself. Matt Alber’s $200,000 buyout is about 40% of what four of our starting pitchers will earn this year. If the four guys I mentioned are starting pitchers for us this year, their salaries added together will be more a million dollars less than the Astros paid Jesse Crain to not throw a pitch last year.

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  22. I’ve been lurking and reading everything posted on the blog for most of the off season and have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations. I like learning from folks who are passionate and knowledgeable about a subject and here the Astros are really well covered. I especially appreciate 1oldpro’s take on Springer and Appel. Springer is the only one of the CF candidates who combines offense, defense and potential longevity and excellence. Why not build the OF around him for the next decade?
    As for rules changes and increasing offense I think a lot could be gained from an electronic strike zone. It would completely eliminate the vagaries of the individual umpires. As a player if I know my strike zone is going to be the same every game I ought to be able to learn what I can hit and can’t hit. It would eliminate the Maddux/Glavine effect although it would also eliminate the Conger effect. OTOH trying to legislate against shifting seems overly complicated and penalizes the teams that do their homework on opposition hitters. Perhaps the NFL should outlaw all double teams and zone coverages. Anyway, thanks to all of you folks who have made the off-season so enjoyable. Come on spring Training!

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  23. With Bopert in mind, here is the list of the Astros top 20 prospects from fall, 2012, Luhnow’s first year in Houston. Also, what the Astros did with them:
    1. Jon Singleton was the top 1B prospect in the minors. Astros signed him to a contract at age 22, brought him up and he was the worst 1B in the league.
    2. Carlos Correa- Astros chose not to promote him , even though his manager said he was way past High A. Broke his leg before he could get to AA
    3.George Springer- Astros kept him down to keep his money low, offered him a horrible deal which he turned down, and after they brought him to the majors they stuck him in RF so a lesser outfielder could play CF.
    4.Jared Cosart- Traded
    5. Delino Deshields- turned him into an infielder, turned him into a CFer, turned him into a LFer, turned him into a Ranger
    6. Lance McCullers- named him a starter who also relieves in a tandem. Hasn’t thrown in AA yet.
    7.Mike Foltynewicz-Traded
    8.Rio Ruiz-Traded
    9.Kevin Comer- Gone
    10.Brad Peacock- Up, down, up, down, up, down, injured
    11.Joe Musgrove- pitched in Short season. No longer in top 20
    12.Nick Tropeano- traded
    13. Asher Wojo- Now #20, still hasn’t made it to majors at age 26.
    14. Nolan Fontana-Still in top 20 but stuck behind Correa, hurt in AA last year and playing 2B mostly.
    15.Vincent Velasquez- pitched some in AA but not a lot of innings above A ball
    16.Max Stassi- Still hasn’t made the top 10 and is still a year or two away at age 23.
    17. Jonathan Villar- Yeah
    18.Domingo Santana- Brought up to the majors two years too soon and struck out in 82% of his at bats.
    19.Carlos Perez- Traded
    20. Josh Fields-Will be 30 years old this September and still struggling to find the plate.
    Is there any wonder why baseball teams don’t just get rid of all their players and start over, except, maybe for one team? This is why you can’t just depend on prospects. It’s also why you lose over 100 games three years running and everybody laughs at you. It’s also why you start running around trading prospects to try and get some real major league players on the team again.

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    • Totally. Dave Dombrowski has made a career of drafting the hardest throwing pitchers he can find, then trading them for established major leaguers. Works for me.

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    • I think one could just about take any team’s top prospects and then add a couple years and get a similar read. I am the last person who is going to take up for JL, but this list is probably above average for most GMs. Over on the (spit) site the other day, people were frothing and excited about us getting #2 & #5. In order to achieve that high honor, you have to be terrible for at least two (2) years and unable to sign your number # 1 pick (or unwilling) for last year. Now the chances of both of those guys being wonderful MLBers is probably less than 10%. Personally, I hope in 30 years when I am dead and gone – both of them are in the Hall. But if I were betting, I am taken the under. It is a top to bottom approach in baseball. Not so in some other sports. It requires evaluation of potential. It requires coaching and them listening. It requires being with a team that needs your services. It requires adjusting and then adjusting to the other teams adjustments. And it is never an over night success story. Here is a recent quote from another blog: “Because of Drayton McLane’s problems with the draft, mainly from 2007, when the Astros failed to sign its first two picks, both of whom became 2010 first-rounders’, Astros fans will be nervous heading into the June 6 Rule 4 First-Year Player draft.” (Now that horrible mistake made by D Mc was on Derek Dietrich who is now in his 3rd year in Miami with a career to date -0.3 WAR. And Brett Eibner who is yet to play in the majors. My point is the Astros could have signed them and it still would have made no difference to the team. http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/ Pick any team in prior years and see how many “winners” they got. It is almost a total crap shoot.

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      • My point was more about a team taking a plan to go totally young and build through it’s prospects and then not doing a very good job of developing them and then trading them. There was a lot of talk about the guys on this list being the future and then a lot of them started to succeed and then got traded away, while a lot more failed and are gone, and while one, Springer, has been misused from the time he blossomed in AAA. I am reminded that one of our group predicted that after the Astros prospects arrived they would be shuttled off because the Astros would not care to keep them around because they wouldn’t want to pay them. I wonder about the five we have traded off so far, before they ever really contributed to the Astros’ future.
        I don’t have real issues with any one individual trade, but I do wonder how that prediction might play out after seeing what has happened so far to the list from late 2012.

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    • I like the plan because it was the best option in righting the ship. The only other option was to spend heavily in FA, but that has never worked. JL did what had to be done to get the Astros back on track. We all knew it was going to be painful, but there is finally hope of a bright future. We have a strong farm system and some respectable major league players. If not for injuries to our bullpen we would have probably had a 25 win improvement from 2013. This year will be very telling on whether we are still headed in the right direction. I believe we are.

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