Saturday Catch up: What If … What Is … What shall be


So, Kris Bryant is now a  major league third baseman. He’s not 4-for-4 with four home runs after one game, but I’m sure he’ll be bashing them out of the Friendly Confines soon.

Carlos Rodon is in AAA and on the verge of the majors, so far pitching well at AAA for the White Sox organization.

No disrespect to Luis Valbuena, but what if Bryant had been the top pick in 2013 instead of Mark Appel? And what if the Astros had picked Rodon (college experience) instead of the high school kid with the bum elbow in 2014?

Right now the Astros would be promoting Bryant to fill in for Marwin Gonzalez who had been filing in at third while Bryant passes that magical contract day, and Rodon would be on the verge of the Astros’ rotation. Meanwhile, some other team would be happy with Appel at AA and while a third team would be dealing with whatever decision it had made on Brady Aiken and his elbow.

The organization would be better. This team would be better.

In the end, Appel may end up being a great pitcher, fitting in nicely alongside Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh in the Houston rotation. And maybe whoever the Astros get with that second pick this summer will be a better choice than Aiken and his aching elbow.

Observations Thus Far
All that said, this is still a good-looking team. But, yeah, there are problems.

As of Friday morning, the Astros have struck out 90 times in nine games. I think we can all do that math. And if that rate holds, Houston is looking at 1,620 Ks on the season. That would shatter the old record. Shatter it hard. (Good news update, only 5 Ks Friday night.)

That, combined with the lowest batting average in the majors, has led to some ugly offensive games. At the same time frame, Houston is tied with Milwaukee with the fewest runs scored (23). But Houston is tied for 5th with 11 home runs and is pretty middle-of-the-pack on total bases (107 at 21st place).

So, how has Houston been winning? Well, a team ERA of 2.75 (6th) certainly helps. While the starters are posting a 3.53 ERA (10th), the Houston bullpen is allowing 1.59 runs per nine innings (3rd best) against the league.

Yes, the bullpen has improved.

And while I doubt Houston’s staff can keep it up at these rates, I also doubt the offense will continue its miserable ways. Chris Carter will start hitting at a sustained .250 clip, knocking homers every three or four games. George Springer will probably hit even better. I’d expect both to break out at any moment. I can’t believe Jose Altuve won’t be a .320 hitter by the time the season ends, which means he’ll be on a tear for months eventually.

The bigger question is this: What kind of hitter is Jake Marisnick? JFSF isn’t just beating out slow rollers and dinking singles in front of outfielders. He’s hitting the ball with authority. He’s got a homer, a triple and a double already. All that and his defense.

As Dan asked on the Free Blog Weekend, how do we feel about Keuchel and McHugh?

The other day, Fangraphs ran an article on Keuchel about how he’s essentially the ace Houston has been looking for. But the fact is, McHugh is every bit as effective and solid as Keuchel. If Scott Feldman can be a bit more consistent, and either Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer or Asher Wojciechowski can man those last two spots (I think Roberto Hernandez doesn’t make it out of May for Houston), then the rotation can hold up its end of the bargain.

What We Will See
So, as we march toward the end of April, here are a few questions:

1. Does anyone miss Dexter Fowler? Some saw him as Houston’s big offseason loss. But if Marisnick can keep hitting with some authority, keep his average around .290 or so, Springer can get on track and Rasmus can be about what we all thought he’d be, then this will be an amazing outfield. Good to great on offense. Excellent defense.

2. Are Keuchel and McHugh aces in your books? Name me a staff where Keuchel would not be, at least, the second-best starter. Washington maybe? Detroit when everyone is healthy? Name me a staff where McHugh wouldn’t be a standout. Frankly, he’d be the ace in many places, I think.

3. Are you worried about the offense? Which is more sustainable, the Astros’ bad offense or its great pitching? Which is in line for a bigger correction? (In other words, when Houston’s offense finally starts hitting, will its pitching turn as bad as the offense was?) Are the Ks a real problem?

4. Has all the early season honoring of Altuve been a part of his problem? Awards every night, movie premieres. Now that all the fanfare is dying off, do you expect Altuve to start looking like the guy who deserved all that hoopla?

5. After nine games last season, the Astros were 3-6. Is 4-5 really that much better? They are now 4-6 (morning update). How important are these next two games for a successful April?

6. Two things that have happened twice are bugging me. Twice, Altuve has been picked off leading off a bag. Twice we’ve had runners dead to rights at home plate only to see them magically slide around a tag. How does this happen at the Major League level?  Is this bad coaching, that stupid plate-blocking rule or just dumb bad luck?

7. Do we even make that trade for Valbuena and Dan Straily if we have Kris Bryant … and Carlos Rodon? Would you be happy with an outfield of Fowler (LF), Marisnick (CF) and Springer (RF)?

8. And finally, is it fair to look back on those drafts with 20-20 hindsight? The thing that amazes me is that we hear all about how Luhnow and Co. were thinking of Colin Moran over Appel. Now Moran was the No. 6 pick, so it’s not like he shouldn’t have been in the discussion, but does that mean the Astros totally — TOTALLY — overlooked Bryant? And did Luhnow let Rodon’s senior year, when he was merely great and not superhuman, lead the Astros to pick Achin’? It’s odd how Luhnow can go from the non-safe pick (Carlos Correa) to the safe pick (Appel) to the non-safe pick (Aiken) from year to year to year.

9. Does Mike Trout rise to the level of Pujols-ian hate for you?

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86 comments on “Saturday Catch up: What If … What Is … What shall be

  1. Ugh after that game last night and a lousy cup of coffee this morning, I have to think about we could have had Bryant and Rodon. Here is to hoping the Rockets win game 1.

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  2. If we had drafted Kris Bryant he would be at third base for Corpus Christi hitting .495.
    If we had drafted Rodon, he would be in a tandem rotation pitching five innings every fourth day at Lancaster.
    It’s a process.

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  3. 9. All Albert Pujols has ever done to the Astros is to do his job. I can’t understand anybody disliking him for that. The same for Trout.
    How can you hate either one of them for being the best players in baseball in their prime?
    The persons to hate are the persons who are responsible for us playing the Cardinals every week during Pujols’s prime and then playing the Angels every week during Trout’s prime. That is the crime!

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  4. 1. I miss Dexter Fowler in LF and leadoff. Altuve only walks if the opposing pitcher can’t find the plate.
    2. Keuchel is our #1 and McHugh is our #2. Fernando is our #5, Feldman is our #5 and Wojo/Peackock/Ober are our #5.
    3. Am I worried about our offense? Yes, but I am much more worried that the front office thinks that things are going to be fine.
    4. All of Altuve’s honors are not the problem with him. BABIP and swinging at every pitch combine to be his problem.
    5. The early schedule for the Astros is brutal, actually rated the hardest in baseball. The Astros have to find a way to win 2 out of 3 every so often to keep from falling farther and farther below .500. It’s so hard to do that. when you have only two lights out starting pitchers and no offense.
    6. The two things driving you crazy are blown out of proportion because of the fact that the Astros cannot score runs. Yes, they are bad, but if the Astros were a team like Corpus Christi they wouldn’t mean that much because winning hides mistakes. Those two things are made big because of the worst offense in major league baseball.
    7.Do we make the Fowler trade if we have Bryant and Rodon. With hindsight, hell no! If Bryant and Rodon are buried in the Astros minors by a stupid GM, maybe. But if he had drafted them, maybe he wouldn’t be so stupid. Would I be happy w/ Fowler/Marisnick/ Springer. Heck yes, especially with Bryant at 3B.
    Appel was 2013’s 1.1 and has thrown ten innings so far this season in AA. Bryant was 2013’s 1.2 and is already in the majors. This may be the only time Luhnow has ever made a mistake. Ya think!
    8.Is it fair to look back at those drafts? yes. As long as you give credit where credit is due for the 2012 draft. That one may be terrific!

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    • OP, I’m a bit perplexed at your dramatic change of heart/attitude. Only a couple of weeks ago you were excited, enthusiastic and anticipating the season.

      I understand the season hasn’t hit on all cylinders and there are questions, concerns and things that haven’t come to fruition. But it’s April. What specifically has caused you to take such a drastic 180-degree turn in such short order?

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    • Part of the problem with Altuve maybe that after a full season of good numbers every nerd with a swing chart knows what he is susceptible to outside of the zone. Hopefully the Astros hitting coach has the same chart and is trying to help Jose adjust.

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  5. Brian I’d take Bryant and Rodon. And, as I mentioned in our email exchange yesterday, that would have allowed the Astros to keep Fowler. The leadoff spot (or the 2 spot if you’d prefer to look at it that way), is as detrimental to the entire lineup as the middle order is now. Altuve is “subbing” in the leadoff spot and Springer is “subbing” in the two hole. Consider this possible lineup (in hindsight, of course).

    * Fowler.
    * Altuve.
    * Springer.
    * Bryant.
    * Gattis.
    * Lowrie.
    * Castro.
    * Carter.
    * Marisnick.

    You can mix and match the outfield however you’d like, but this lineup is significantly stronger than what is there today.

    Plus, with Rodon, it’s probably Oberholtzer who was traded over the winter instead of Folty or Tropeano.

    Then, as early as next spring, your rotation is Keuchel, McHugh, Rodon and maybe Feldman and Wojo.

    Of course, that’s a lot of hindsight barking…

    We now return you to your regular, ho-hum 4-6 team…

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  6. I can’t remember the new rules, but somewhere I think MLB has stated you can’t automatically walk a guy every time he comes up to bat. I may be wrong, but I think I heard this over the winter. That said…….I love Albert Pujols. The guy is an awesome player ( last years in St. Louis)……Mike Trout is just *awesome*. There’s a reason why he was ROY in 2013……The next two games if you can, you walk him. PERIOD.
    I don’t care if you have to walk in a run……it’s better than giving him something to drive outta the park.
    P.S. Happy birthday Chip! We wouldn’t be posting on here without you!

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    • Becky, thanks for the birthday shout out. About to head out for an afternoon of fun with my three boys, so y’all behave now, ya hear!

      The only intentional walk rule discussion over the winter had to do with speeding up the game. It basically would have a pitcher not have to throw four pitches to a hitter, but just motion “four” and it would send the batter to first. It didn’t pass muster, so that rule wasn’t implemented for the season.

      Not being able to walk a hitter at your discretion would interefere with the integrity of the game, in my estimation. If a hot hitter was at the plate with runners at second and third (and first open) and you couldn’t walk him because you’d walked him previously in the game, yikes, that wouldn’t be right, would it? Of course, a team could always pitch around him if they wanted to and you could unintentionally intentionally walk him I suppose…

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      • Thanks for clearing this up for me Chip! Trout is a special player, and much like Albert……….he should be respected for what he could do to the pitcher! Love watching both of them play……just not when they are playing us! I hope the rain stays away so you guys can have a wonderful birthday celebration!!

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  7. An amazing outfield? Good to great offense? Great? We’ve got a long ways to go before we can even think abut declaring our outfield offense as even good. Springer will come around, but there is simply no reason at this point to assign a potential .290 average to Marisnick. And Rasmus?

    I wasn’t even going to comment, but then I saw item 9. Why would you hate a baseball player? Because they play for another organization and have shown HOF credentials? Brian, that’s one of the more childish posts I’ve read here.

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    • dave i think brian was just commenting on the angst that arises with the mention of pujols. i have it, i still see that ball being crushed against us. i don’t hate pujols, i bet brian doesn’t either, just a use of hyperbole by him, all in good fun. brian is usually lighthearted with his blogs and i think he was doing that here.

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      • Ha-ha. They are certainly not poor Brian. Laughing all the way to the bank. And Trout will be signing his own Pujols like contract before long…..he might even get more!

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  8. Wow its only a game played by gifted and sometimes arrogant young men, that are lucky enough not to have to grow up for a while. There would never be a reason, right. for us to get nasty with a fellow blogger. “Come on man”

    Happy Bday Chip

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      • Poop, Rasmus schmaltzed his way to letting a pop up drop on Friday night. If he is not prepared to go all out, all the time, we can find another guy to play left. He’s already dubious at the plate. Bleep, we have guys that really want that job.

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      • And then he handcuffed Castro with his short hop throw to the plate. You’ve got to keep that throw down and make sure the hop hits the grass rather the dirt in front of the plate.

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    • I like the Altuve, Grossman, Springer part of the line up. I remember last year when Altuve and Grossman were pretty good one two punch. Grossman get’s hits…….

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  9. I wasn’t sold that Bryant was the right pick over Appel / Gray, but was absolutely certain Rod on was the right pick over a high schooler I’d never seen pitch. Money was a more determining factor in all three Luhnow 1.1 picks than I believe it should have been.

    If we kept Fowler we would not have Valbuena and Rasmus. I would have been happy standing pat. I’d like to know how Altuve, Springer, and Keuchel felt about the move.

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  10. As to Friday Night’s game. Marisnick made a bone head tag up play. He immediately knew it. Villar got picked off first with a runner on second but evaded the tag. Let me repeat picked off first with a runner on 2nd. And it appeared Villar thought he was just being “aggressive,” and for the 3rd time With a Runner on 2nd.

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  11. Tony Kemp did not play tonight for CC. Instead, Gio Mier played second base. Gio’s first fielding error did not result in a run. Gio’s second fielding error allowed the tying run to score in the eighth. Gio’s third fielding error allowed the winning run to score in the eighth. CC suffers only their second loss of the season, 2-1, to Springfield and Hader gets the loss even though he didn’t allow an earned run.

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  12. Mike Springer and Robbie Trout had a VERY good game tonight! And the “Kid”
    did his normal every time he get’s the ball……AWESOME pitching!

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  13. Luis Cruz, Gonzalo Sanudo, Darin Downs and Jordan Jankowski allowed 17 runs on 19 hits and 5 walks last night. Fresno did not win that game in Las Vegas. Sanudo had to fly all the way from Lancaster to acquire his 30.00 ERA for the night. Probably not the best move the Astros made yesterday.

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  14. So how good was Keuchel? Seven strikeouts, ten groundouts, one lineout to second, one single to right and a double to CF. That’s right, only two balls hit to the outfield.

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  15. Ash had an interesting comment the other night. In posting the Slugging % etc. would it be more accurate to add in stolen bases. In other words is a walk/single plus a stolen base equal to a double. Or a double + SB actually equal to a triple.

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    • That’s an interesting question. I think you also have to throw in caught stealing and pick offs when you are tallying this up, though. Also, the stolen base can have either a positive or negative impact on the following hitters. If Springer has to take pitches for Altuve to steal 2B and it puts him behind in the count, the strikeout is far more likely an outcome to follow. If Altuve is standing on first base and not stealing, it is far more likely Springer will see a fastball to hit.

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  16. Thank you Luhnow for the gift of a very good bullpen 🙂 🙂 🙂
    So far, if this team is ahead after the 6th. inning…….the bullpen comes in
    to shut it down! Gregerson and Neshack will need a day of rest before they get used again. Josh Fields??? Where art thou!!

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  17. Twelve games in, who would have thought that Carter’s defense could make Singleton’s defense look weak, and Carter’s bat make Singleton’s bat look so strong.
    Baseball is so weird and wonderful.

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  18. 12 games into the season and our first place Houston Astros really haven’t shown much from the offensive side of the game. This is why I am pleased with a 6-6 record and 1st place, so far. I have to believe that Gattis and Carter aren’t this bad or they wouldn’t have lasted this long in the major leagues. It does look like Springer and Valbuena are starting to get hot, but we could use Gattis and Carter to join them. Now, our pitching could regress some, but I think our pitching will still be good. Our offense has to improve and I see signs it will very soon. Let’s go Astros!

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  19. I see OldPro feels the same way as I do about the players being stuck in the minors. If Rodon and Bryant were in the Houston system, they would both be stuck in Lancaster or Corpus Christi. Somehow, the Houston club historically, held players back. Over the 54 year history of the club, the only ones I can think of off the top of my head, who were brought up to stay, from a AA level or lower, are Caminatti, Bagwell, Biggio, Altuve, Morgan, and Dierker. Considering the club has had five ownership groups, many general managers and many managers in its history, this has remained a staple after all of this time.

    1. Does anyone miss Dexter Fowler? I have not given Fowler any thought at all. I was disappointed with his lack of effort on some plays last year and I want my team to have all players who give their all. Even those with the club now that do not give their total effort makes me fuss when they do not break for the ball correctly or stand on third base while a ball is hit to left field and they should have scored.

    2. Are Keuchel and McHugh aces in your books? Yes, the young men have shown to be aces thus far this year.

    Name me a staff where Keuchel would not be, at least, the second-best starter. Saint Louis is about the only staff I can see where Dallas would be the second starter and McHugh would also be right there.

    3. Are you worried about the offense? Yes, I am worried about the lack of offense.

    Which is more sustainable, the Astros’ bad offense or its great pitching? The great pitching will hold up throughout the season.

    Which is in line for a bigger correction? Springer is showing signs of breaking out as is Altuve. When Springer hits, it gets contagious and the club will streak then.

    4. Has all the early season honoring of Altuve been a part of his problem? He is hitting now.

    5. After nine games last season, the Astros were 3-6. Is 4-5 really that much better? A .500 showing at the end of the month would be huge.

    6. Two things that have happened twice are bugging me. Twice, Altuve has been picked off leading off a bag. Twice we’ve had runners dead to rights at home plate only to see them magically slide around a tag. How does this happen at the Major League level? Is this bad coaching, that stupid plate-blocking rule or just dumb bad luck? The pickoffs are lack of focus and are unforgivable. The magic slides are just that… magic!

    7. Do we even make that trade for Valbuena and Dan Straily if we have Kris Bryant … and Carlos Rodon? Yes, the Astros would still make the trades because, as I pointed out in #1, these players would be stuck in A or AA.

    Would you be happy with an outfield of Fowler (LF), Marisnick (CF) and Springer (RF)? No, Fowler had to go. His body language spoke volumes about being unhappy here.

    8. And finally, is it fair to look back on those drafts with 20-20 hindsight? The thing that amazes me is that we hear all about how Luhnow and Co. were thinking of Colin Moran over Appel. Now Moran was the No. 6 pick, so it’s not like he shouldn’t have been in the discussion, but does that mean the Astros totally — TOTALLY — overlooked Bryant? Sometimes, sabermetrics totally sux.

    And did Luhnow let Rodon’s senior year, when he was merely great and not superhuman, lead the Astros to pick Achin’? Again, sometimes sabermetrics totally sux.

    It’s odd how Luhnow can go from the non-safe pick (Carlos Correa) to the safe pick (Appel) to the non-safe pick (Aiken) from year to year to year. I agree. I feel certain that sabermetrics were not involved with Correa.

    9. Does Mike Trout rise to the level of Pujols-ian hate for you? Not even close. Now, ask me about Chad Qualls-ian hate….

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  20. West Coast Miracle. Wojo is listed as the starter for the Astros tonight in Seattle by MLB.
    Wojo is listed as the starter tonight for Fresno by MILB.
    Gimme a ticket for an airplane. Ain’t got time to take a fast train.

    Like

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