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Astros predictions: Depth, pitching, real deals and attention span


With a win and the first off day of the season, the Astros are ready to get into the stride of a full season ahead. Obviously, the win could lead to over reaction and higher-than-reasonable expectations, but it also gives rise to hope for a marked improvement over last season’s 19-game jump toward respectability.

Today, Chip and Dan look at a few more prognostications, some not so easily broken down with yes/no or specific numbers.

Jump in at any point and register your thoughts…

1.   Brad Peacock begins a rehab assignment soon and Brett Oberholtzer will return this month. What happens then? Are they automatically reinserted into the rotation? Who do they replace?

  • Dan: My assumption is that both Asher Wojciechowski and Roberto Hernandez have pitched decently (no no-hitters and no 9 run 1 inning stints) and all four pitchers are ready.
    • Obie is back in the rotation because a) They want two lefties in the rotation and b) They see a little Keuchel in Obie.
    • Obie replaces Wojo because Wojo still can be optioned to the minors
    • Hernandez stays in the rotation, because they brought him here to help give veteran stability to the rotation and they like his ability to get ground balls.
    • Peacock is the odd man out – they either try to waive him, bring him up in Deduno’s spot, trade him or perhaps….. trade Feldman.
  • Chip: Difficult question because it will take into account the conditions — both health and performance — later this month or next of all four pitchers, not to mention the otherthreestarters andDeduno or others in the pen.
    • Oberholtzer will be the longest coming back, perhaps not until late April or even early May. So the first question will likely be Peacock. Obie has a job, Peacock is probably not guaranteed and has options. Theoretically, he could jump into the pen to work his strength back up if needed.
    • Prediction: Hernandez stays if effective and either Peacock or Wojciechowski head to Fresno or the pen.
    • My guess is that the equation will change by the time Obie returns and it will be more obvious.

2.   Is Jake Marisnick the real deal? Will he be the center fielder at the break? At the end of the season?

  • Dan. The kid is growing on me. I loved his glove last season and still do. I saw a little of him in Spring Training and liked his hitting approach. In the opener he did something that we have lacked with a guy on third in the past. He put the ball in play and lifted a fly deep enough to score the 2nd run and give Luke Gregerson a fairly stress free save opportunity. I don’t know that he will ever be a premier hitter, but he is a big kid and could develop some power over time. Jury’s out – but I think he could be helping us for a while.
  • Chip. Is he the real deal? Yes, absolutely. It comes down to what your expectation is for a “real deal” center fielder. Defensively, he can patrol centerfield with the best so the bat is the question. Surprise! If Marisnick can simply hit .250 with a solid OBP, he’ll have the position as long as he wants this season.

3.   Will Astros’ hitters break the MLB record for strikeouts in 2015 (1535 by the Astros in 2013)?

  • Dan. I’m going to say close but no cigar. I could be totally wrong after watching the opener, but I was at the game Kluber pitched against the Astros last September when he struck out 14 in 7 innings. He still had great stuff in the opener this season, but the K’s were cut in ½ to 7. The Astros seemed to be taking a better approach, especially with a couple strikes. Chris Carter had a great AB (for him) where with 2 strikes he shortened his swing and hit one the other way – that was caught at the right center field wall. Maybe the new hitting coach will help them lower that K%.
  • Chip. Nope. Houston will surprise this year and its hitters will get better at the K rate as the season progresses. Don’t get me wrong, still a lot of strikeouts ahead, but not threatening the record.

 4.   Will the Astros – or any specific player for that matter – give you a reason to watch the team in the last two weeks of the season?

  • Dan. It is too much to ask for the team to be in contention in the last two weeks of the season. I would love it – but don’t expect it. I think we could be looking at Jose Altuve fighting for another batting crown and Carter / George Springer duking it out for the HR crown. I’m hopeful that Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh at least get a sniff of the Cy Young race. OK – that is all too much to ask – but they are all possible.
  • Chip. Yes, this season will be more exciting than seasons past and, while there may be no wild card push, enough players will be having those kind of seasons. Moreover, it could also be the time of the year when you get a glimpse of spring training 2016. Can you say Carlos Correa, Tony Kemp, Mark Appel, Colin Moran?

5.   Does Jon Singleton earn a trip back to Houston, or get called up due only to injury? Or does he remain blocked all season due to solid performance in front of him?

  • Dan. I see two scenarios getting him back to Houston – 1) Evan Gattis or Carter are injured or 2) They package Carter in a trade for that TOR pitcher that keeps getting mentioned.
  • Chip. It’s all — read ALL – on Singleton. I’m hopeful he has to hit so well (mid to upper .300s) and has to force his way back to Houston. If Carter handles first base like he did Monday, he’ll be solid. Gattis is more at home at DH, and it’s clear an outfield of Colby Rasmus, Marisnick and Springer could be one of the best OF defenses in the majors. If the aforementioned played so well that we didn’t see Singleton again until the second half of the season, that would be excellent.

6.   Which injured player will most affect the Astros this season?

  • Dan. If Keuchel or McHugh go down, I think they will have a hard time with competently filling those spots.
  • Chip. After Keuchel and McHugh, it gets shallow quickly, meaning few others can pick up the slack. If Jose Altuve goes down, there are a few other hitters who could carry the team for a short period of time. Final thought: You can lose either one of Keuchel or McHugh for a DL stint, but if you lose both for extended period of time, it gets ugly. The team also cannot afford to lose Altuve and Springer simultaneously. Again, ugly, and very quickly.

7.      Answer this one: Why will the Astros finish above (or below) .500 this season? Show your work. In other words, explain…

  • Dan. I think they will end up over .500 for the season and the reason is simple. They will lower their runs given up per game from 4.46 to around 4.10 and they will raise their runs scored per game from 3.88 to around 4.20. They will lower those runs per game mostly through bullpen improvement. They will take the 205 innings they gave to guys with ERAs over 5.00 (Jerome Williams, Darin Downs, Anthony Bass, Paul Clemens, Josh Zeid, Michael Foltynewicz, Lucas Harrell, Kyle Farnsworth, David Martinez, Rudy Owens, Jose Cisnero, and Raul Valdes) and give a big chunk of that to Gregerson and Pat Neshek. They will also replace those poor OPS ABs of Jon Singleton, Marc Krauss, Matt Dominguez, L.J. Hoes, Jonathan Villar and Jesus Guzman with competent numbers from Luis Valbuena, Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus – plus a ½ season more of George Springer. They will win more games and be a decent mlb team for the first time in a very long time.
  • Chip. Simple answer. If the teams stays healthy, it’s .500 plus. The guns are there and health has hindered several players over the years (Springer, Lowrie, Gattis, Castro). If players start going down, it may not happen. Immediate depth is still the biggest question for another year.
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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO, and wakes up each morning to the tallest spot in the region, Pikes Peak. He is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 50 years. A native of another picturesque city, Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. Pastor Bosman came up with Chipalatta, and it has stuck.

95 comments on “Astros predictions: Depth, pitching, real deals and attention span

  1. 1oldpro
    April 8, 2015

    As far as starting pitchers are concerned, I think it all has to do with how the current guys are pitching. If Wojo has a real good start against a lefty dominated lineup like Cleveland, you almost have to give him another start, unless he’s already been told that he’s going down when Ober get healthy. That beforehand communication can be something valuable in getting the players’ trust. I have to think that type of communication is something that Hinch is helping Luhnow with.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 8, 2015

      I just wonder how will they work it old pro – but I like what you are saying in having a Hinch as a reasonable buffer of a human being between the players and the robo-front office types.

      Like

  2. Mr. Bill
    April 8, 2015

    Regarding the rotation: I see the ‘Stros as being at least one, and probably two, consistently excellent starter[s] away from the kind of rotation we will need to compete for a play-off spot, and at least three consistently excellent starters away from World Series level competition. I like Dallas Keuchel for one of the five spots long term. I am seriously hoping McHugh can fill a 2nd. Wojo? Dunno. I guess we’ll see in 2015. Obie? I’m rooting for him, but It will take Keuchel-like improvement over last year for him to be more than just a place-holder for Hader. Feldman? Hernandez? They are already place-holders, just waiting to be pushed out by great performances by the young guns or by trades. Peacock? He is sort of a wild card – could go either way.

    So, when Peacock is healthy, if he dominates at AAA, and Hernandez struggles, Peacock should displace him. If Peacock is mediocre at AAA, he either stays there or goes on the trade block.

    Obie is a ways away, but I suspect he has a spot in the big club’s rotation whenever he’s healthy. Wojo has options, and can always come back. But Obie had better make that Keuchel-like improvement pretty quick (meaning pretty solid evidence of it before July 31), or someone else may be clamoring for the shot. Wojo? Straily? Buchanan? Shirley? Appel? Let’s see who pushes the envelope.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 8, 2015

      I think a very good analysis Mr. Bill – though I think with the way the playoffs run – you don’t have to have 5 strong pitchers to compete for a WS – 3 strong starters could get you there (but I agree we are not even there yet)

      Like

  3. Mr. Bill
    April 8, 2015

    Regarding Marisnick. The position is now his to lose. To not lose it, in my opinion, all he has to do is hit .250 or better with an OBP of .300 or better, stroke a good number of doubles and an occasional triple, steal a base at least every 10th game, and keep the Ks down to 1 every 7 or 8 at bats or less. If he does that, I’ll start a JFSF fan club.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 8, 2015

      In case you are wondering, in the JFSF fan club I am hoping to establish everyone wears khakis and invites people to call and talk about insurance in the middle of the night.

      Like

      • Becky
        April 8, 2015

        “Who is this REALLY”???? Jake….Jake from State Farm. Is this fan club open to girls too???

        Like

      • Dan P
        April 8, 2015

        Love it Mr. Bill and Becky….funny as heck

        Like

  4. Mr. Bill
    April 8, 2015

    There is a rumored Presley sighting in Fresno. No, not Elvis, you silly things!

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 8, 2015

      I think it is likely he would be there – he can get his $1 million that way and be on call up speed dial or part of a trade package…

      Like

  5. daveb
    April 8, 2015

    Wojo controls his own destiny at this point, as long as he sees three or more starts. What if he pitches like he did in ST? You simply can’t yank a guy from the rotation in that case. Course, it would be a bit of a shock if he continued to be so effective. A good shock. I think Peacock is the odd man out at some point soon. Oberholtzer gets his job back when he’s ready, unless Wojo makes it impossible. Course too, odds are that someone else will miss a start or three, making the rotation issue less of an issue.

    Jury still completely out on Marisnick. Of course, if he keeps the OPS above .700, with a serviceable OBP, he’ll keep the job. We know he’ll play defense. Let’s see what he does against right pitching over the next few months. He also controls his own destiny. It’s possible that he’ll sit against those guys at some point, but for now, he’s got a full time job.

    The strikeout record sure is within reach. But if guys like Springer hit enough for a high enough OPS, then I don’t really care too much about the K’s this year. Next year? I don’t want so many similar guys on the roster.

    If we don’t get to see some of the young kids get on the field in September, I’ll be pissed.

    At this point, I would not be surprised if Singleton turns into a bust. Not the end of the world though, because we’ve got a couple of possible replacements in the pipeline.

    Fully agree on losing Keuchel or McHugh. Our main weakness remains quality rotation depth. Altuve is a sturdy kid. I don’t expect to lose him for long at any point. But if he was to go down with a lengthy injury, does Marwin or Villar get the temp job? What about Sclafani?

    Rotation depth, significant slumps by a couple of our key hitters (potential guys like Carter, Marisnick, Rasmus, Gattis, Castro) and injuries will keep this club from playing .500 ball in 2015.

    Like

  6. Devin_
    April 8, 2015

    1. Obviously, Luhnow is looking for a starter so that he can implement the tandem system on the major league club when Olberholtzer and Peacock are ready.
    2. I’ve been fooled by a lot of players in the past. I like JFSF and hope he is a major leaguer, but we need a bigger sample size to say.
    3. No. They need to average 9.5 per game the rest of the way. I say that we miss this due to the following:
    – No Darvish, Scherzer, and Lester facing us.
    – Valbuena is not Dominguez
    – More runs scored and better bullpen means fewer at bats in the bottom of the ninth.
    4. I’ll always watch Altuve and Springer as long as they are Astros.
    5. The only three infielders at Fresno on 40 man are Dominguez, Singleton, and Torreyes. If Singleton rakes and either JFSF falters, there is an injury in the outfield, or Carter gets traded you will see him recalled. If Singleton does not rake, they will find another option. If Singleton really rakes, say 1.000+ OPS after May 15th, they’ll find a spot.
    7a – Altuve. We have the depth to cover for his lost performance for a couple weeks, but I think his energy and leadership are important on the field. Also, without him, I think the fan interest wanes considerably. I may be selling Springer short.
    7b. Yes to above .500. Early in the season every team looks good/better and we have these strange, optimistic reasons why certain players will have career years and our team is headed to October. I think this team has legitimate ballplayers for the first time in a long time and has guys that don’t like losing.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 8, 2015

      I love the mlb tandem joke, Devin. Devin… Devin …. Devin….it was a joke right?

      Like

      • Devin_
        April 8, 2015

        Yes, and I pledge to beat it into the ground over the course of the summer until Luhnow stops or reduces his tandeming.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        April 8, 2015

        Dan, I feel Devin has lifted a great weight off of my shoulders and agreed to share it.

        Like

  7. Becky
    April 8, 2015

    Wojo has the weight of the world on his back tomorrow, and he had better hope the big boppers show up. Facing a real line-up, versus a Spring training game is WORLDS apart. No one is just in the batters box “tuning up”……..they are there to scare the crap outta him. I totally expect him to not sleep ONE minute, before tomorrows game. Gotta give it up for him, he doesn’t show emotion on his sleeve!
    Oberholtzer will get his spot back, so it’s really a moot point. Peacock, however
    may be in line for the bullpen, or DFA’d. I can’t imagine he has much “worth” in a trade, even if Luhnow throws in another low level guy.
    McHugh and Keuchel had better stay healthy, or we are going to look VERY opaque. My concern is Hernandez…..we don’t know how he’s gonna be by the end of June. He might be a better trade candidate, *if* Wojo and Obie BOTH do well.
    Still can’t see the games………..GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

    Like

  8. astrocolt45
    April 8, 2015

    1. Obercock. They will continue to hold the clipboard as long as the 5 starting QBs do not throw an interception. 2. JFSF. He hit .272 last year in limited duty. The question for me still is “Why did you sign Presley?” 3. No because they will not keep the same starters all year. There will be a trade for a lower K rate guy(s). Well, then again, I said that last Fall. 4. Sept USED TO BE a fun time because no matter how far in the toilet you were, it gave you hope for next year. This leaving your best players in the minors stinks for multiple reasons. 5. Who is Jon Singleton? 6. Because of last year, I am tempted to say Springer. Because of thin SP – I am tempted there. But I think the venerable spot may be Castro. 7. They will be under .500. They have improved the bullpen and some hitters. But I have a tough time looking at those SP and seeing them – over the season – keeping us in the game up until the 7th inning. So the bullpen may get over worked again. If three of them get 190 – 200 innings, we have a good shot at above .500.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 8, 2015

      I think that between Keuchel (200 IP in 2014), McHugh (173 IP with his short minor league stint), Feldman (180 IP) and Hernandez (164 IP last year) they can get enough starting pitching, if…. they stay healthy.
      I think the 190-200 IP is a tough standard.
      – The Angels had only one pitcher above 190 and only 2 above 170 IP
      – The A’s had 2 above 190, but the next highest was 146 IP
      – The M’s had only 1 pitcher above 180.
      We won’t talk about the Rangers.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        April 8, 2015

        “I think the 190-200 IP is a tough standard.”
        ——————————————————————————-
        You’re right of course, by 2015 “standards”. Sorta makes you wonder how pitchers like Seaver, Ryan, Blyleven, Kaat, Fergie Jenkins and many others were regularly throwing 290-300 innings and often surpassing 300!

        Of course, the 4-man rotation was in vogue and those guys seemed to do okay.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        April 8, 2015

        Chip, those pitchers of old were not so heavily burdened by the huge bags of money to carry. Today’s pitchers are worn out from the wear and tear of all the trips to the bank.

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    • Steven
      April 8, 2015

      Marisnick hit .249 last year.

      Lets just give you Depth Charts projections at 588 PA’s – .237/.287/.361 – and they seem to be one of the ones on his side.

      I know noone likes projection sites – especially when they beat up our own – we are all homers after all – but these guys all make a living out of being pretty darn close. Yes, they don’t always catch the breakouts, but lets be realistic, the break outs are a very small percentage of the crowd. When not a single projection site is saying this guy can even be league average offensively, and its EVERY one, you have to have some healthy skepticism.

      Like

    • astrocolt45
      April 8, 2015

      I may be making a distinction without any difference, but when you try to “eat innings” – if we look at 1450+/- innings in the year. Three of the better starters pitching 570 and the three better relievers pitching 210 innings – that leaves a balance of innings 670 innings pitched by the mid-level starters, some bullpen guys, and probably some fill in from AAA. Any of those innings NOT pitched by the first two groups will fall to the last group. That 3rd group will have a tough time pitching .500 ball. (Interesting note Feldman and Cosart both ended up with the same number of 2014 innings). ESPN shows only 52 have 190 or more and only 66 even made it to 180+ (about 2 per team) in 2014 MLB both leagues.

      Like

  9. astrocolt45
    April 8, 2015

    Just a note to say that I watched some of the Angels and Mariners last night. The announcers were talking about their predictions for the AL West. They then started laughing about the “Lastros.” When one spoke up and said they have some players this year and can probably contend with us. So maybe nationally we may get more ink and lets hope it starts to change color.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chip Bailey
      April 8, 2015

      Hey AC, I think Hinch and Luhnow would be quite happy playing the “surprise” card as long as they can. There will be a day — perhaps as soon as the second half of this season — when Houston won’t be the huge, pronounced underdog. That’s when they’ll have to live up to expectations of everyone, including the national media. If that makes sense.

      Like

  10. Chip Bailey
    April 8, 2015

    There have been many questions about why the Astros signed Presley for $1 million. Here are a few thoughts that I think could help bring some light…or not. 🙂

    1. He was arbitration eligible, so his signing, non tender, etc was inevitable.
    2. He was a serviceable OF with some upside.
    3. It was early in the off season and Luhnow had lots of options. Perhaps there were already calls about Marisnick and even prospects like Santana, the free agent market wasn’t shaping up favorably.
    4. It was pre-Gattis for sure.
    5. Perhaps Luhnow thought that Carter might be on the move.
    6. In other words, Presley was a depth option
    7. If Luhnow had foreknowledge of how the winter would have turned out, would he have waited? Probably.
    8. Still, he’s paying a guy $1 million (chump change) to stash him in Fresno. He also has a $2 million first baseman there. 🙂

    Like

    • Steven
      April 8, 2015

      So is Fresno now the highest paid roster in AAA?

      What if the unlikely happens and Hernandez, through that perfect series of events, ends up there also!

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        April 8, 2015

        Doubtful that Hernandez ever pitches in Fresno unless it’s a rehab. They’ll trade or DFA him before he agrees to go there.

        Frankly, Hernandez could be a key to the rotation. If he remains healthy, he could eat up some decently quality innings, especially for a #4/#5 guy.

        Like

      • Devin_
        April 8, 2015

        It might be – I read that Singleton is the highest paid minor leaguer at this point, but I’m watching to see what happens with Carlos Quentin in Atlanta. They DFA’d him and could potentially send him and his $8 million salary to Gwinnett. I suspect if they cannot find a trade partner he gets released and they’d have to eat some salary…but you never know.

        Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 8, 2015

      Chip, I’ll show my ignorance of current minor league roster rules here. If Presley accepts an assignment to Fresno, will we have to re-assign Hoes or one of the other outfielders [or Duffy, or Sclafani?] to make room for him on the active roster there? I have a similar question regarding Alex White and the pitching staff

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        April 8, 2015

        First, both White and Presley were assigned to Fresno today. White is on the roster. Presley has until Friday to accept the assignment or become a FA (and lose his $1 million). For the most part, Fresno must abide by roster boundaries like any team. They have a 25-man limit just like Houston. It’ll be interesting with the first game tomorrow night. Not sure entirely how current the roster on the Fresno site, but I wouldn’t expect any significant shifts to Corpus. And, of course, there could always be a trade or a sudden torn fingernail in the next 24 hours. 🙂

        Peacock is on a rehab and that won’t count, as I understand it…

        Like

    • astrocolt45
      April 8, 2015

      Chip I have been very vocal about Presley and Conger signings. However, that is a lot of “Monday Morning QBing” because I have no idea if there was an imminent trade for Castro and it was pre-Gattis and Rasmus. And JL may have been finessed by another GM in saying – let’s do a three team and you go get ???. But in the end, I don’t see either one – based on past performance – improving the club. AND JFSF does look improved over last year at the plate. I could have bought Apple at $25 before the 7 for 1 split.

      Like

  11. Steven
    April 8, 2015

    I love Marisnick’s play. He can go get it. He has speed. He seems to have some acumen for the little things, baserunning, defensive positioning, and these things cannot be overstated.

    My problem with Marisnick is what analytics tells us happens over the long term.

    Lets say he gets 600 plate appearances. In those 600 PA’s he will have a just sub 5% walk rate, somewhere around 4.3% – what most every projection site has him at. That will net him 26 walks. In the other 574 PA’s we can give him conservatively 20 sacs of some sort. In those 574 PA’s if you give him a .300 (league average) BABIP, he will hit .265, with a OBP of .297. Almost everyone is projecting a .360ish SLG.

    Jake Marisnick at his best looks like a below league average guy in almost every offensive category. He won’t hit for power, he won’t get on base often enough, he will spend a LOT more games contributing nothing to the offense than he will winning games. In any season that he posts a below league average BABIP, which happens to almost every major leaguer at some point, could be his last year in the league as a starter because he will end up around .220 with a .260 OBP.

    To me we are banking alot when we give 600 plate appearances to a guy that is a bad BABIP away from a terrible season, especially when you have other options.

    This was always the problem with Chris Johnson. The Braves loved him when he almost won a batting title, and it only took the very next season for them to realize how chancy starting him is- after they jumped in head first on a fairly sizable contract. Like CJ, Marisnick survives the negatives by virtue of his physicalness at the plate – he makes good BABIPs a better possibility by just being a little bigger and stronger than the next guy – say Presley or Grossman. LIke CJ he will eventually hurt his BABIP by swinging out of the strike zone WAY too much (at 37% so far in his career). Unlike CJ though, Marisnick brings a ton of other intangibles to play that are almost as important as what happens in 600 PA’s.

    If I was Hinch I would be figuring out the way to get as many innings as I could from Marisnick on the bases, in the OF, while limiting his PA to around 250-300. Those intangibles can win games – a diving catch, a timely stolen base, even getting 1st to 3rd on a hit to left center with only one out in a tight game – none of which I expect from say a Grossman – but batting 5 times a day will negate alot of that.

    Like

    • Steven
      April 8, 2015

      I will caveat my own statement with this though – if you feel like you can get some of that offense in other places – i.e. your RF’er might become a superstar slugger, your DH and 1B have high SLG, your 2B can be an OBP machine, and you can cost control CF with a guy that can at least stay in a decent area of .265 AND be really great in a bunch of intangibles that won’t let him break the bank in an arbitration hearing, well it makes perfect BUSINESS sense.

      Like

  12. Mr. Bill
    April 8, 2015

    * Why will the Astros finish below .500 this season? *

    The Astros will finish below .500 this year because:
    1. We look to have only two consistently excellent starting pitchers, and these must line up against our opponents’ ace and #2. We will win some of these match-ups. But I expect to see a lot of Keuchel/McHugh starts end up in losses because our offense will not do well against other team’s aces and #2s. Look at how we did vs. Kluber. 3 hits – all singles. Fortunately, Keuchel was a little better and the ball bounced our way, and so we won. But how many times can we expect Keuchel and McHugh to allow less than 2 runs?
    2. At least 70 – 75 % of the time we will have to score 5 to 6 runs in every game not pitched by Keuchel or McHugh to win consistently. Can we do that? We have certainly not proved it yet. To do that we will need all the table setters [Altuve, Valbuena, Lowrie, Marisnick, and Villar/Grossman/Gonzalez] to get on base at least an average of once a game in those games and need one or two of the big boppers [Springer, Carter, Gattis, Rasmus and Castro] to contribute an EBH when the table setters are on base. So far, that kind of coordination has not consistently happened – even in the Spring.
    3. We have a guy closing who we hope can do the job but has not proved it. And while our BP looks on paper to be much better than the last two years, we haven’t seen it shake out in real time yet. If we lose Neshek or Sipp to injury, or if either return to pre-2014 form, we are in trouble in the 7th and 8th inning in most games once again.
    4. Chris Carter is our clean-up hitter. That is likely to produce a strikeout or pop-out 80% of the very time when we need hard contact the most. Our clean-up hitter should come to bat with Altuve, Springer, or Valbuena and/or Marisnick on base 300 times or more this year. 25+ dingers, 150 strikeouts, 100 pop-outs, and 10 GIDPS in those 300 or more situations is not enough production for that critical spot in our line-up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steven
      April 8, 2015

      Nonsense Bill – the first time Keuchel gives up a run I expect him to be DFA’d. Our expectation is perfection!

      I like your evaluation of Carter in the cleanup. It’s spot on for the most part. I would like to see him 5th or 6th for that reason, though I do like the notion of 35 homers – and he isn’t going completely Rob Deer on us, just edging towards it.

      Like

    • Dan P
      April 8, 2015

      Gee Mr. Bill – that is really a 1/4 glass full way of looking at things.
      1. Because of days off and because McHugh is not even starting the 2nd game of the season – it is impossible to say how often either of them will line up with the #1 or #2 aces of the other teams.
      I’m also not going to base my judgment on this offense on their performance against the reigning Cy Young award winner. I will say they did hit in a bit of bad luck on a number of well hit balls and they made a lot more contact than we saw last season.
      2. I don’t agree that they will have to score 5 or 6 runs a game to win in 70-75% of the games that Keuchel and McHugh do not pitch. If you said something reasonable like 50% of those other games I could possible agree. I mean Feldman gave up 3 or less runs in 21 of his 29 starts – if you pair him up with a better bullpen there are a lot of opportunites to win games with 4 runs scored.
      3. Speaking of the bullpen – we started 2014 with Qualls and Albers and a lot of prayers. After a few weeks that was Qualls and rosaries. This season, you have Qualls, Sipp, Neshek, and Gregerson who I believe are solid major league relievers. You have to drop a lot of guys to get down to where we were last May.
      4. If you were saying that Singleton K’s and pops out all the time – I would certainly agree with you. Carter K’s too much but I don’t see him as the king of the pop-ups. He improved a lot last year – heck he improved a lot during the season. I don’t know if he is the best choice for the cleanup spot – but if he does a better job making contact (like he did in the opener) it may work.

      Like

      • Mr. Bill
        April 8, 2015

        Dan, I like to leave some room in my glass for something stronger to be poured in. 🙂
        If I fill the glass to the top . . . well, what you see is what you get.

        As far as McHugh and his vs. Scott Feldman’s position in the rotation goes, I am indeed assuming that the off-day following opening day and the desire to let Wojo’s first start be at home are the only reasons McHugh is not starting off as 2nd in the rotation. I fully expect that to be fixed with the next off day.

        As far as Feldman, both his spring starts and his history in every other year are bad for a repeat of last year’s numbers. In 2009 his ERA was 4.08 and WHIP 1.28. But the next year, in 2010, his ERA shot up to 5.48 and his WHIP to 1.599. In 2011 he was good again, with an ERA of 3.94 and a WHIP of 1.094. But in 2012 he was bad again, with an ERA of 5.09 and a WHIP of 1.383. 2013 and 2014 were more like the ‘good’ Scott. But at least as far as I know, he has never strung together more than two years of his Dr. Jekyl side, so I am not counting on him being the ‘good’ Scott Feldman. If he is, great, but my projections are for the ‘bad’ Scott Feldman – pretty much like the one we saw this Spring. He put our offense in a major hole with each of his starts toward the end of this Spring.

        Wojo’s ERA as a rookie may beat 4.00; but it was 4.74 last year in AAA, and his WHIP was 1.447. He had a good Spring [especially the first couple of games], so I hope you are right and I am wrong about the number of runs we’ll have to score in games he pitches.

        Hernandez? His career ERA is 4.60, and his career WHIP is 1.41. He’s 34 now, so I don’t think I am going out on a limb to say – against AL hitters like we’ll face – that he’s probably not going to improve over that.

        I acknowledge the bullpen is – or looks on paper to be – significantly improved. But when making projections – as this post called for – i have to take contingencies in mind. Neshek and Sipp’s career stats vs. 2014 stats give me pause – and if they, or Gregerson, go down or under-perform we have some pretty challenging depth issues as well.

        The Carter at clean-up issue may have resolved itself. As OP pointed out, Gattis has taken his place as clean-up hitter for now. That, in my opinion, may net us another 5 to 10 wins in and of itself – and lift us over .500 – if Gattis stays at clean-up and stays hitter-healthy.

        Like

    • rj
      April 8, 2015

      mr. bill, gattis hit cleanup last night and is scheduled to hit there again tonight. carter is at #5 last night and tonight.

      Like

  13. Mr. Bill
    April 8, 2015

    Mr. Hinch has moved Carter to #5 for tonight’s game. Evan Gattis is batting clean-up.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      April 8, 2015

      That’s a nice tweak. This time last year — between games #1 and #2 — Mr. Porter (you remember him, right?) moved Altuve from #3 to #4, subbed Krauss for Guzman at 1B and Presley for Hoes in RF.

      What a difference a year makes! I’m thinking I can live Hinch’s one tweak. 🙂

      Like

    • 1oldpro
      April 8, 2015

      That is not a move. Gattis hit cleanup on opening night!
      Carter was originally penciled in to the #4 slot early in the day on Monday, Hinch changed it later, so that is the same order.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        April 8, 2015

        Well, duh, even more kudos to Mr. Hinch! We could see a change tomorrow, however, at catcher, with a day game. Ahhhhhhhh! And, another reason to slot Wojo into the rotation at #3, so Conger catches him!

        Interesting — just looked it up — Conger caught 5 of Wojo’s last 6 spring games, including the last three in a row. If there’s anything to it — and, of course, assuming Conger catches the day game Thursday — I’m giving Hinch another star for planning ahead.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        April 8, 2015

        The Astros announced last week that Conger would catch Wojo in game #3. I love the organization, the communication and the planning of this staff.

        Like

  14. Chip Bailey
    April 8, 2015

    OP or anyone else who may have heard…Did Hinch provide any explanation as to why Wocjiechowski was slotted into the #3 spot ahead of McHugh and Hernandez?

    Is it because Wojo could essentially be replaced by lefty Oberholtzer when he’s back and he didn’t want back-to-back lefties? Or is there another reason?

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      April 8, 2015

      No. It was because the Astros felt that it would be better for him to make his first major league appearance at home in MMP in front of Astros fans. They also felt that McHugh was up to the task of being the pitcher for the first road game of the year in front of a hostile sellout crowd in Arlington.
      It is a tactical move to try and apply forward thinking to the current situation and give the Astros every advantage to start off on the right foot on the road, while letting Wojo feel the sanctuary of the home dugout in his debut.

      Like

  15. Dan P
    April 8, 2015

    Your explanation makes as much sense as anything Chip. Maybe he started writing out the card for the 3rd game during the off-day and he still hasn’t finished writing “Wojciechowski”….

    Like

  16. 1oldpro
    April 8, 2015

    As far as Marisnick is concerned, the same train of thought that got Villar and Grossman onto this team and Singleton in Fresno is the word of Hinch that he was going to give every benefit to the players by judging them on his and his staff’s opinions. He said he would look at the past, but that every player had a clean slate and a chance to prove themselves. True to his word, Marisnick is the starting CF, Grossman and Villar played their way onto the team and White, Presley and Singleton played their way off.
    Michael Bourn is being paid $14 million this year to play CF for Cleveland. I feel very comfortable with JFSF as the Astros CF, if everybody in charge of the Astros does too. And I feel great about him for $510,000 a year.

    Like

    • Steven
      April 8, 2015

      Well look he isn’t exactly Mario Mendoza. He will have some moments offensively. He is 6-4 and 225. He swings hard. He will LOOK great. I think Hinch is making a mistake. Not by having the guy here, there is a whole list of reasons to have him here, but by playing him everyday.

      That said, we really don’t know if he is going to play him every every day, or leave him in the 6th when they are down 7-1. He may mix and match.

      I see Jake as a guy that you can pencil in CF. In pencil. I see George Springer as a guy you right in ink as your RF. Altuve is in ink. Valbuena is close, maybe eraseable ink. Gattis, Carter, few others, join Valbuena. Marisnick, straight pencil. I wouldn’t play him against power righties, I wouldn’t leave him in games that we fall behind in, if I don’t start him I would look for opportunities, like Castro or Valbuena get on in the 7th inning, we are down by 1 with 1 out, send him out there to run. Use him in the 8th inning of a close game after Rasmus or Grossman just finished their AB – and maybe he makes a game saving play. Millions of ways.

      We don’t know that some of that isn’t going to happen. We can check back in June. Often teams say things publicly to help the players confidence, and still play the mix and match game.

      Like

  17. Dan P
    April 8, 2015

    Mr Bill – at least for tonight – good Feldman has returned. Gave up a dinger into the first row in right. Unfortunately – Carrasco has been the same beast he was at the end of 2014 tonight.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 9, 2015

      Very encouraged by Scott’s superb performance tonight. Ready for a break-out of the bats today to support Wojo’s 1st major league start. Come on, horses, square something up and give Wojo some breathing room!

      Like

  18. rj
    April 8, 2015

    well dang. winning streak stops at 1

    Like

  19. Becky
    April 8, 2015

    *BIG BOPPERS*…….where art thou? Lord have mercy…..the strike outs.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 9, 2015

      Becky they faced two extremely tough pitchers right out of the box. Kluber was the Cy Young winner and pitched great opening night. Carlos Carrasco was a beast at the end of 2014 – after being pulled out of the bullpen – he started 10 games down the stretch and gave up 0 or 1 ER in 8 of the 10 games. Nobody was hitting him much. Big arm with hard breaking stuff – he was really tough last night. I hope they can break out against normal people.

      Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 9, 2015

      There has been much made in the media and on this blog of the strikeouts – especially by me. I hate to see our guys strike out. I especially hate to see them do it multiple times a game. But to be honest, so far, against really good pitchers, our strikeout rate has not been as bad so far as I feared.

      Realizing we have a offense with a lot of high strikeout numbers, the strikeouts that really concern me. however, are of three types: [1] the ones that lead off an inning (we had five of these last night), [2] the ones with men on base (we had three of these last night), and [3] the ones by our clean-up hitter (we had four of those last night).

      I don’t care if it’s Gattis or Carter or someone else, we cannot expect to win many games if our clean-up hitter strikes out more than once a game. And when an offense can only manage an average of 3 1/2 hits per game, they absolutely have to make contact in the rare occasion they come to bat with runners on base. We made that contact in the first game, we did not in the second. Based upon that, the results in those games were entirely predictable.

      Like

  20. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    Assuming your ace and #s stay healthy and start 30 games apiece, winning half of those games [splitting with the other team] guarantees you only 30 games. If you do better in those games, and win 75% of them, that only guarantees you 45 games. The season is won and lost by how well the team does behind starters 3 through 5.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 9, 2015

      And bullpen wins which we have been lacking…

      Like

    • Devin_
      April 9, 2015

      Is this why Oakland always loses in the first round of the playoffs?

      Like

  21. 1oldpro
    April 9, 2015

    Fresno has 27 players listed on their roster this morning and they can only have 25 before the end of the day. They have 13 pitchers and 14 position players. Peacock nor Ober are not on that roster.

    Like

  22. 1oldpro
    April 9, 2015

    Last year, when I saw Neshek pitch, his delivery started the ball low and it stayed low. This year the ball starts low and ends up right over the middle of the plate. His delivery and timing are off. He’s got to find the form he had last season.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 9, 2015

      He looked like he was trying a little too hard.

      Liked by 1 person

    • daveb
      April 9, 2015

      Was that the same guy I suggested to be our closer a couple of months ago?

      Like

  23. Kevin
    April 9, 2015

    On another note saw some action in the twins game, Oh My ol Jordie Schafer looked horrible in center, so glad he is no mas here

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      April 9, 2015

      At your behest I just watched the lowlights. He looked like a country boy trying to play CF in street shoes. Sort of makes you wish we got Ober for Bourn and left the rest in Atlanta.

      Like

  24. 1oldpro
    April 9, 2015

    Opening night in minor leagues;
    Fresno at home against Las Vegas, w/ Peacock on the mound.
    CC on the road in Springfield starts Kent Emanuel.
    Lancaster at home against San Jose starts Brian Holmes.
    Quad Cities on the road against Peoria starts Chris Lee.

    Like

  25. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    Marisnick out, Grossman in for today’s game. Rasmus will be the one roaming Tal’s Hill.

    Like

  26. Becky
    April 9, 2015

    PLEASE Lord……….let this kid get his first win today!

    Like

  27. 1oldpro
    April 9, 2015

    Question 7, why will the Astros finish below .500 this season?
    I think it’s going to be close. I think they fall just short because of three things.
    A) No fireballers in the bullpen. There is nobody there who is a guy that comes in and gives batters virtually no chance to hit him. There are good relievers there but they couldn’t afford to buy a guy and haven’t been smart enough to develop a couple in their farm system.
    B) very sketchy MOR and BOR starting pitchers.
    C) Batting average. They have one guy who threatens to be a .300 hitter and the rest of the guys project to hit below .260. Say what you want about BA being passe but over 162 games and thousands of at bats if you don’t have some players who can hit for high average, you are not going to win a larger amount of your games. Hitters who are capable of higher batting averages are accomplished hitters and those are the kind of players who come to bat with runners on and deliver a lot more often than average hitters do.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      April 9, 2015

      We need a contrarian, and looks like Bopert is in retirement. So I will change my answer from below to just above .500 but for the same reasons that you gave 1OP. On a more serious note – they improved 19 games last year. They need to go another 12 this year for a total of 31 in two years. Unless you are Bosox or Yankees with unlimited money – that is tough to do. Also, our minor leaguers did not press the issue this past year. I think right at 81-81 is about right for the 11-12 game improvement. In the minors this year, we need a couple hitters with .800 OPS and a couple pitchers with WHIP of below 1.00. There is not one guy this year that based upon past performance deserves to be on the 25 man – yet. It is time for them to step up. If Correa repeats his A Ball numbers – he better be up here by September.

      Like

  28. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    3 Ks in the bottom of the first. All with a runner in scoring position. Gattis with 5 straight ks. This is not pretty.

    Like

  29. Tim
    April 9, 2015

    What the heck, Conger? That out has to be made.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      April 9, 2015

      Springer did his job. Conger didn’t.

      Like

  30. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    Is this a new record for us? Five straight strikeouts to start the game. Somebody please put the ball in play!

    Like

    • Tim
      April 9, 2015

      At least we have 4 BBs. 😉

      Like

  31. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    Well, at somebody from our side finally put the ball in play – on Bauer’s 54th pitch of the game. I guess we might as well cheer for a pop-out to 2nd at this point – even if it ends the inning and strands two runners. I would make a joke about how they need to call this kid Jack Bauer instead of Trevor Bauer, but so far I think this is all on the Astros.

    Like

  32. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    So far, WOJO is not giving up or losing his cool – despite sandlot mistakes being made all around him.

    Like

  33. Tim
    April 9, 2015

    Another K for Gattis. Oh boy, I am hoping this is just early season struggles because he looks over-matched right now.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 9, 2015

      Singleton would be an improvement at this point. For that matter, it couldn’t get much worse than your clean-up batter and DH batting .000 after three games, and striking out 6 straight times.

      Like

  34. Tim
    April 9, 2015

    I think there might be another reason Wojo is starting game 3…a flyball pitcher in Arlington could be disastrous.

    Like

  35. Tim
    April 9, 2015

    3 hits on Monday, 3 hits yesterday and through 4 we have 0 hits today. Ugh!

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 9, 2015

      Is Deduno warming up? I think Wojo is pretty much done.

      Like

    • Devin_
      April 9, 2015

      What’s downright silly is not that we have no hits through four, but that they have 9 strikeouts against a guy walking one per inning. Don’t try to hit the ball fair – just foul it off and lay off the wild stuff until he puts you on base.

      Like

  36. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    What is really bad is that Trevor Bauer’s ERA last year [his best] was .418 and his WHIP was 1.38. He averaged less than a K per inning. No way he should be doing anything close to this to any major league team.

    Like

    • Dan P
      April 9, 2015

      I’m guessing you meant his ERA was 4.18 – not .418 – though he is pitching so far as though his ERA was .418.
      Baseball is cyclical and teams slump and individuals slump – but this lack of hits is rididulouos so far.

      Like

  37. Dan P
    April 9, 2015

    ridiculous – I can spell, but I can’t type

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      April 9, 2015

      Yes, Dan, I tried to correct the .418 to 4.18 with a quick reply post, but the ‘you are posting too fast’ warning prevented it.

      Like

      • Dan P
        April 9, 2015

        It is these darned fingers of ours ….

        Like

  38. Kevin
    April 9, 2015

    UGH

    Like

  39. 1oldpro
    April 9, 2015

    Wojo is a high ball pitcher who was up in the zone all day today. Cleveland missed a bunch of fat pitches. We’re actually lucky to be down only by 5.

    Like

  40. Mr. Bill
    April 9, 2015

    It does not matter who they bring in to pitch against us. The result seems to be the same. It’s not them, folks – it’s us!

    Like

  41. Dan P
    April 9, 2015

    Well if we can’t get a hit with the top of the order coming up in the 8th – I don’t think it is happening with the middle of the order….

    Like

  42. Dan P
    April 9, 2015

    I guess the answer to breaking up the no-no is obvious – they need to send Marwin Gonzales up with 2 outs in the 9th to break it up.

    Like

  43. Dan P
    April 9, 2015

    Lowrie breaks up the no-no with a HR with 1 out in the 9th. Woopie do

    Like

  44. daveb
    April 9, 2015

    We already know that this club will be prone to striking out. I didn’t know that Gattis could do it so quickly though. He’s not one to work a count is he?

    Conger might be a “framer”, but how could a guy catching in the big leagues be so bad at executing a tag play? He actually looked kind of whimpy back there.

    I don’t like our 40 homer guy hitting second. He seems too concerned about moving Altuve over. Let’s put Lowrie and his left handed bat in the two slot so he can make use of that big hole when Altuve gets on.

    Like

  45. Becky
    April 9, 2015

    Jed……..please forgive me for every thing I’ve ever said about you. Today you were my HERO! Good thing you guys weren’t around me today.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. astrocolt45
    April 9, 2015

    Only 1499 more K’s and we tie the record.

    Like

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