Saturday Astros’ update: Scattershots, notes and observations


It’s a Saturday with two more games in Arlington to come this weekend. Here are some scattershots and thoughts for you to ponder.

Epidemic in poor hitting.

  • Eleven teams — including five in the AL — have batting averages at .203 or below.
  • The Cubs and Marlins do not have a home run yet and four teams have hit only one.
  • Pittsburgh (45) and San Diego (45) have more strikeouts than Houston (43).

Meanwhile, back on the mound, Houston pitchers in the top five of nearly every team category.

Another Astros’ plan?

  • If one thing is becoming clear, it’s that this analytically based organization plans. Do all the plans work out? Of course, not, but they have plans all the same. Is it a coincidence that Brad Peacock (at AAA Fresno) and Asher Wojciechowski (in Houston) are pitching on the same schedule? Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch was quick to point out that Peacock may need only one more start at Fresno before he’ll be ready, which puts Wojo on notice after a poor start on Thursday.

Key points early in the season.

  • Astros’ pitchers have walked only eight hitters, three of those by Dallas Keuchel in the season opener. Key reason for a 0.97 team WHIP.
  • Keuchel and Collin McHugh showed no regression indications whatsoever in their first appearances. If anything, they solidified their positions.
  • Hinch didn’t flinch in making adjustments to his lineup after the first series. Some moves were based on the pitcher on the mound, others the result of performance.
  • The bullpen has been a breath of fresh air. While it is not the most worked, it has been among the very most effective in the AL. Here’s the line: 12 1/3 IP, 6 H, .146 BAA, 0.57 WHIP, .167 OBP, 15 K, 1 BB.

Can’t keep a good man down!

  • Sooner or later, something will have to give, and the shaking may be heard all the way to Houston. The consensus is that Corpus Christi has a stacked roster. How long can they keep it together? Certainly, not a full season. But, the Fresno roster is not exactly a collection of overweight also rans. If players like Tony Kemp, Carlos Correa, Teoscar Hernandez or Mark Appel move up this summer, someone gets bumped in Fresno. Or perhaps someone gets bumped in Houston.

And, leading off..

  • If you’re thinking Jose Altuve hits better outside the leadoff spot, guess again. Over his career, Altuve is a .302 hitter when leading off. In fact, as the first batter in a game, he’s a .307 hitter. Now, you can argue he’s more valuable to the team in the two hole, where he’s produced a .311 average. Another thought: He’s not known for slow starts. April is one of his best months, year in, year out.

Questions for your weekend consideration…

  • Has Jonathan Villar become the 2015 version of Marwin Gonzalez?
  • If shortstop Jed Lowrie fields a ball in the shift where the second baseman normally positions himself and makes a throw to first for the out, is it still scored a 6-3 put out?
  • The Astros’ lineup may be in flux or transition for the next several days. Will this team be more of a small ball type team built around speed and moving runners along or will the ultimate big boppers show up?
  • Your preferred lineup for the rest of the weekend?
  • How do you see the roster shuffle shaking out next month or into June? In Houston, Fresno and CC?
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62 comments on “Saturday Astros’ update: Scattershots, notes and observations

  1. The Peacock/Wojo parallel is interesting. Good catch.
    Did you know that Baseball America has listed the CC Hooks as the 3rd-best club in the Texas league, and only the 4th-best AA club in baseball? Talk about some locker room material! Hader pitching tonight for CC.
    I think Altuve’s more valuable in the two hole than leadoff because most of his OBP comes from his hitting and hitting moves runners around to home. I think he stays in the leadoff spot as long as we don’t have another good OBP guy to put in front of him.
    I’m hoping Lowrie and Rasmus have awakened the power bats.
    I wonder if Rua’s ankle is going to let DeShields face his former team all weekend. Delino did comment how he has a chip on his shoulder because the Astros didn’t protect him in the Rule V Draft. I could see DDJ bunting against Former Fausto.
    Hernandez is an extreme groundball pitcher. Wonder how he does against this Ranger’s lineup.
    I don’t necessarily see a roster shuffle shaking up the team as much as I see a possible trade doing it. If Wojo doesn’t do a better job of getting the ball down, I can see Peacock replacing him, but that’s not what I’d call a shakeup.

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  2. The worry for me about Peacock is his walk rate. He walked 5 in his first outing this week, and that is EXACTLY what caused him to get in trouble last year. I’d keep him in Fresno for at least two more starts, if possible. That would give Wojo two more starts to figure things out….it’s not like we’re in a hurry to get Peacock up. I’d like to see more of Asher before Luhnow pulls the string on him……my opinion only.
    I listened to the last few innings of the Fresno game last night, and Hoes had a two base error, and Matty D. is still not getting hits. The talent in Corpus will make Luhnow lose sleep, on who to move up….nice problem to have!

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    • Becky, I listened to the last few innings, too. Do you think the Fresno radio guy knows that the Astros are the parent club of the Grizzlies? I thought he would never shut up about the Giants.

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      • Probably not since he hardly knew any of the players. It might take him a few more games to realize Fresno’s parent team is in Houston, Texas, and not on the West coast!! GAWD……..he’s BORING!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of thoughts here, Chip
    – Hitting always seems to lag pitching early in the season and warm up later – however, there has been a real trend down in hitting for the last decade.
    – I think the Astros do plan ahead and sometimes we end up surprised but rarely are they
    – I love the lack of walks by our pitchers and the general pace of the games (those that I’ve seen)
    – A couple things from last year – in general Altuve starts out good but last year April was his “worst” month (.276 BA / .696 OPS was better than some guys best month). He was also very good in various spots in the lineup but best batting 2nd – (.373 BA / .904 OPS in a significant 268 ABs).
    – Villar’s ability to play OF also (looks good as the 4th guy who can play CF) is a game changer for him. He has more speed than MarGo and additional flexibility. He is bringing velue – but it is early – he started last season well too.
    – Lowrie and the 6-3 put out – No idea but gut says no
    – I am hoping this team can win either way – some times by way of the 3 run homer, sometimes by situational hitting and good baserunning.
    Lineup

    2B Altuve
    SS Lowrie
    RF Springer
    1B Carter
    C Castro
    DH Gattis
    LF Rasmus
    CF Marisnick
    3B Valbuena

    (Trying to mix the lefties and righties in the lineup)
    I see Peacock taking Wojo’s spot – but Obie taking Peacock’s spot and Peacock going elsewhere if everybody is healthy.
    I can see guys like Correa and Appel and others getting a boost up to AAA after a couple months – sooner if someone is brought up to the Astros due to injury or performance.

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    • Dan, Altuve ended up with a .276 average, somewhat on the “strength” of a 1-for-10 in his last two games of the month.

      That said, Porter had him all over the order during the month. He started in the three hole, then to cleanup and ultimately moved to leadoff on April 17. I agree with most that he is more “at home” in the two spot, but finding someone to hit in front is the problem I asked about when the Fowler trade was made. Who will hit there?

      I think Altuve will be fine once he settles in. But..what if he is the one who regresses this season. And, regresses significantly.

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  4. As to Villar. his fielding sure makes Becky look bad. But being in on a double play TWICE – sure makes Becky look good. The liner to first – anyone would have been out even though he was half way to 2nd. Completely disagree with Ash in that the lead runner HAS TO see the ball hit the ground. If it falls, he may be out at third – but when caught it is a double play. But Villar has been steady at 3rd base in very few attempts.

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    • I told you all last week, I was gonna give Villar one more chance to make me look bad………I hope he continues to make me look bad. I *WANT* him to succeed…..

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  5. I am fairly certain a ball fielded by Lowrie on the 1st base side of 2nd would be scored a 6-3. It is not where the ball is hit, but what fielder makes the play (at least that is my best educated guess).

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    • Tim, it was more tongue-in-cheek than anything. Yes, the # of the fielder follows the fielder. Same is true for any position. For example, if the first baseman made a putout at second following a runner up the line, he would still show as a put out for “3”. But, it is odd…and could play with your mind looking at a boxscore later this season, or cause a broadcaster to look twice at his scorebook twice when he talks about what a hitter has done previously.

      To be sure, a ground out to Lowrie is not necessarily a ground out to short, at least when it’s Houston!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. *Has Jonathan Villar become the 2015 version of Marwin Gonzalez?*

    That is a tall order, if you are referring to the 2014 version of Marwin. Marwin stepped in when Jon failed miserably at SS, and became our regular SS. He hit .277 with an OBP of .327. He struck out less than 20% of his at bats. While he is definitely not Carlos Correa, he played a solid shortstop [and occasionally other positions] behind a pitching staff that lives or dies by the ground ball.

    I hope Jonathan does well this year, finds his bat, glove and arm, and earns a place on this team [or another because “longer boats are coming to win us!”]. But whatever happens, he has a long, long way to go and a whole lot to prove over the course of a lot of games to become the 2015 version of Marwin Gonzalez.

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  7. And…today’s lineup. No Gattis. MarGo getting his first start of the season.

    Altuve 2B
    Springer RF
    Lowrie DH
    Carter 1B
    Valbuena 3B
    Castro C
    Rasmus LF
    Gonzalez SS
    Marisnick CF

    Hernandez on the hill.

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    • Chip, it is interesting that Tony Kemp is starting in LF for CC tonight. They are giving Gio Mier a start at 2B. Sclafani has been out of the line-up again.

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      • Mr. Bill, indeed, it is interesting, but I wouldn’t think unexpected. Perhaps, only that it’s happening this early in the season.

        However, long term, here is the reality. Houston believes it is set at 2B, SS and 3B for the future. Sure, anything can happen, but you must have contingencies. If you believe Kemp is an athlete you want to keep, you need to provide alternatives.

        Moreover, Luhnow will have another ton of decisions this winter. You have the no brainers like Correa and Appel, but when you get to the last few seats on the bus (40-man roster), you want to have as much information as possible.

        Because…at this snapshop of a moment in time…Kemp ain’t going to play 2B in Houston. This year. Next Year. In two years.

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  8. The game is changing again. It’s cyclical. We might be seeing lineups with fast guys who have good bat skills, laying down sacrifice bunts and stealing bases. Extreme defensive shifts are the norm today, throughout MLB. We will even see the big guys punching balls into open spaces in order to counteract third basemen playing where second basemen used to play. Although our present roster is by no means built that way today, our system is full of guys in the manufacturing business. Guys like Gattis might soon be dinosaurs.

    I’m not sure why Brad Peacock is still in the picture. A lack of rotation depth?

    I have every confidence that both Keuchel and McHugh are the real deal. Health is the key at this point.

    I see no need for Correa to spend any time in Fresno.

    Altuve will hit in the leadoff spot. But in the long run, he’s perfect in the two slot. For now though, get Lowrie into that two slot where he’ll be hitting lefty most of the time, frequently with Altuve dancing off first. That screws the shift too.

    Villar is a much better athlete than Marwin. If he hits, he’ll get far more playing time.

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    • “I see no need for Correa to spend any time in Fresno.”

      dave, I’m not suggesting he should be rushed. However, how long do you keep a guy at a level he’s mastered? Not suggesting he’s mastered anything, but it’s hard to see him staying in Corpus all sesaon.

      Villar is a much better athlete than Marwin. If he hits, he’ll get far more playing time.

      No doubt. That’s why I’m wondering if Margo hasn’t been supplanted. You might see Marwin in LF, but you’d never try him in CF. Let’s see how Lowrie hits today. Over the first few games, he may have hit himself into the 3 hole for a while. Or you could argue he’s there by default as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing Marisnick up top. Marisnick, Altuve, Lowrie, Springer…

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      • Jake is not a leadoff hittier. We’re still not sure if he’s a hitter. Let’s give it a few months.

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      • Yes, I agree, Jake is not necessarily a leadoff hitter. But here’s what it will boil down to eventually…assuming the Astros don’t pick up a prototype leadoff guy.

        Would your lineup be better with Altuve at #2 and Springer at #3? Or perhaps with Lowrie at #3 and Springer at #4? Right now, we’re plugging 2-3 (maybe 3-4) holes with guys that would hit better elsewhere in the lineup than where they are now. So, can you plug only the leadoff spot and move the other guys to where they may be more comfortable and get better results. Make sense?

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      • For the time beig, I’d leave Altuve where he is, hit Lowery second and put Springer where he belongs in the third slot. And maybe by mid season we’ll find Fowlers replacement.

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  9. *Will this team be more of a small ball type team built around speed and moving runners along or will the ultimate big boppers show up?*

    This will definitely not be a ‘small ball’ team as such teams go, but hopefully it will at least develop a good small ball game skill set. Pitching is looking really good this year, and so far big boppers are looking really bad, that at least until the air warms up and the big boppers start feeling it, we are going to have to play a little small ball just to tread water in our division. Thank heaven for a few guys [Lowrie, Marisnick, Grossman, Altuve, Castro, Rasmus, Springer] who can take a few walks and hit a few singles and doubles while the big boppers are being totally dominated by every pitcher they face. You do realize that after four games, we have two positions that have not yet managed a single hit [DH and 3B], one which has not even managed to get on base via BB [DH], and one which has only 1 hit and no walks in 15 ABs [1B]. If they don’t start showing up big time by the end of April, as temps start warming up, I would personally be happy to see both Carter and Gattis gone in favor of Sclafani and Tucker, and let us make that transition to a small ball team you are talking about.

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  10. “Villar is a much batter athlete than Marwin. If he hits, he’ll get far more playing time”
    Marwin actually has brains, and common sense. I’m still waiting to see if Villar has either one. Villar is a talented player, and NOTHING would please me more, than for him grow up, and play to his potential……the clock is ticking.

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  11. *Pittsburgh (45) and San Diego (45) have more strikeouts than Houston (43).*

    And both of those teams are below us in winning percentage. Pitt is 1-3 and would be in last place except that Milwaukee is absolutely horrible, and has yet to win a game. San Diego is 2-3 and in sole possession of last place in the NL West.

    We are seriously fortunate not to be below .500 as well. Credit Keuchel, McHugh, Lowrie and Marisnick.

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  12. Can’t wait to see how Hader does tonight! Keep an eye on this kid……he’s a VERY good lefty, and he’s YOUNG! Who knows we might just have another Chris Sales in our system!

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  13. I will be paying close attention to Hader, especially after Kemmer said that he looked terrific this spring. Imagine, McCullers and Velasquez or West still haven’t thrown for CC yet.
    I wonder who follows Hader to the hill in the tandem.
    As far as Kemp in LF, remember that I had him playing LF/2B/DH in my dream yesterday about 2016. He played a ton of OF in college.
    So the Astros have Lowrie, Marwin, Villar, Correa and Fontana who can are SSs.
    That has to feel pretty good. I still think if Brendan Rodgers is still there at #2 this June they will grab him in a heartbeat. But if he’s not injured, I think he goes 1.1.

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  14. “I wonder who follows Hader to the hill in the tandem.”
    ————————————————
    Chris Devenski follows Hader tonight. McCullers goes tomorrow. A feather in your cap if you can recall where Devenski came from…without looking.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Chip…….looking at the Hooks roster, when do ya think the Astros are gonna give up on Jiovanni Mier, and Telvin Nash??? These guys have never shown me much, and the worst part is Mier was a # 1 draft choice.

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    • Becky, players like those will always be with you. And they’ll be with you until the Astros need a roster spot. Or utnil they get tired of playing. Or become a coach. Every organization has those players.

      Mier can afford to play for a while. Remember, he got that nice $1.4 million signing bonus.

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    • I think Gio may be running his course. The only place he ever hit was Lancaster. But Nash may be a different story. He seems to be improving a little bit each season and he still is only 24. He is the only Astros minor leaguer with an 8 ranking for power. What the Astros are trying to do is teach him to hit the ball more and miss it less. I like him DHing in CC because he is not blocking anybody but has shown some improvement this spring. He has started off hot and leads CC in RBIs with 6, while hitting .333 so far. All that is expected of him is to hit the ball and hit it a long way.

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      • Another big galloot that we won’t be needing. And Gio is making pretty good coin for playing a game six months of the year and then hanging out. I’d have certainly spent my 20’s doing the same if given the same shot.

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  16. Don’t look now, but Corpus Christi is doing it again. A nice little cushion now for Hader. Bases loaded for Kid Correa? What do you expect?

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    • And Correa knocks in two more. 6-0 CC in the third. Somebody might want to tell Springfield they are playing the third best team in the Texas league. They might have their own opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. As to the above comments about our new lead off hitter might be JFSF – I wrote a post yesterday saying, “Do any of you remember as a kid playing “Work Up?” Deleted it because I doubt more than a couple had ever heard of it. He is not the ideal lead off hitter, but right now – he is not the ideal #9. Lets hope he “works his way up” the chart.

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  18. Jed Lowrie has fallen victim to the curse of the DH. Still no walks and hits for an Astro DH this year. And that’s now 10 Ks in 16 plate appearances for people playing that position for us.

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  19. It seems like ground hog day been waiting all year for the astros and here we are talking about all the good stuff going on in the Minors UGH

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  20. *3* errors (not made by Villar!) *13* left on base. Welp…….all I can say is, let’s hope these guys have forgotten this game by tomorrow, because The Kid is on the bump.
    A couple of positives…….Valbuena got two hits, and Marwin made up for his error by hitting a homerun, and Castro can hit the ball. I wish we had 8 more Altuve’s!!

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    • This was a real stinker of a game – this is when Hinch earns his keep by getting them back in focus for Sunday’s game. Our ace will be going today!

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  21. So, today Corpus Christi travels to Tulsa to take on one of the teams that is more talented than them. The starting pitcher for the Tulsa Drillers and was drafted out of college when most of the Hooks players were in middle school. Yes, the Hooks today face a 29 year old AA pitcher. Pitching for CC will be 21 year old Lance Mc Jr.
    Tomorrow, the Hooks get to face a baby: a 26 year old AA pitcher.

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  22. So the kid who hit .339 with a .420 OBP in AAA last year sat again last night. That’s two out of three games. Safe to say though, he’ll work his way into a lineup somewhere at some point.

    Could be a fun watch at Augusta later on in the day.

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    • dave, if we put our 24 year old,.333-hitting Sclafani at 3B, where would we put our 24 year old, .111-hitting Matt Dominguez?
      Yeah, I guess we could put him down at the end of the dugout.
      Wow, did Alex White get crushed last night or what?

      Like

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