Eight wins, seven random thoughts, six losses

If you’re looking for deep and insightful, you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Those West Coast games go late. And I was up late. So instead of penetrating analysis, you’re getting “the stuff in Brian’s head this morning.” Be glad I’ve filtered out the song lyrics, 1980s commercial jingles, and that group of tales known as “Stupid Brian Stories” that I generally only tell people I know well … or people who have a drink with me.

So, without any further adieu, here are seven random thoughts.

1. How lucky are the Astros to have Marwin Gonzalez? He is a luxury. Put Marwin on most teams, he’s probably the starting shortstop or second baseman, or third baseman. Once again — at the old age of 26 — he’s quietly putting together a quality season at the plate. In limited action, he’s hitting .294 with an .824 OPS. Oh, and he’s struck out roughly once in every six ABs. All while filling in at SS and 1B. If MLB handed out All-Star appearances to the best bench player, he’d be in the running.

2. George Springer has got to be getting some consideration for a Gold Glove in right field. I’ve now seen several just amazing plays on line drives. Forget the stolen homer against the Rangers. In that same game he tracked down a line drive that was slicing away from him. Did the same thing in Seattle this week. I know everyone’s all “Marisnick’s amazing in center,” and I’d agree. But Springer has been equally amazing in right.

3. Speaking of Springer, he and Evan Gattis look like they are on the verge of finding “it” at the plate. Chris Carter still looks lost and befuddled, but I don’t think we end April without Springer and Gattis starting to deliver. Which is a good thing, because Luis Valbuena and Marisnick can’t lead this offense forever.

4. Which brings me to Jeff Luhnow. It’d be easy to say the Gattis trade was a bust, but once Gattis starts mashing, he’ll carry this team for a couple of weeks. Then Jose Altuve and Springer will do it. Then Carter will find his stroke along with Colby Rasmus or Robbie Grossman. Then Jason Castro will start hitting clutch or Jed Lowrie. And that’s the beauty of this offense. They don’t all have to be hot. Just two or three of them at a time. But the important thing is, each one of them is capable of it.

5. OK, I’m just going to say it. I think Jake Marisnick was abducted by aliens and replaced with a copy who can square up on the ball. No, I don’t think Jake From Pluto’s Moon can sustain his otherworldly .361 BA or .970 OPS. But I think we’re looking at a guy who can deliver an OPS of .730 or better over a season. And that, combined with his defense and base running, make for a top-notch center fielder. I just hope they’re treating the real Jake good on Pluto’s moon.

6. Once again, I am amazed that Houston ever picked up Tony Sipp. Yes, he’d have completely different stats if Springer hadn’t grabbed that homer against the Rangers. But Sipp has, otherwise, been nothing short of stellar again. He’s a lefty who can get anyone out. He and Will Harris have made it hard to bring up Josh Fields from AAA.

7. And speaking of the minor leagues, the Hooks are 7-4. The Grizzlies are 8-5. Lancaster is 7-6. And Quad Cities is 10-3. Combined, Houston’s farm system is 32-18. I haven’t checked all 29 other farm systems, but I’d bet they aren’t as good. For example, the Cubs’ vaunted farm system is (Iowa 6-6, Tennessee 6-5, Myrtle Beach 8-3, South Bend, 5-8) 25-22. St. Louis’ farm system is 23-26. The Twins’ is 26-23. And yet, other than a lot of conflicted feelings of Carter vs. Jon Singleton at first base, and wondering how the organization can fit Fields into the bullpen, no one is really clamoring for an infusion of youth at the moment. And that, folks, speaks well of the Luhnow Plan.

So, what do you think about my seven thoughts?  What random thoughts of your own would you like to share?


46 comments on “Eight wins, seven random thoughts, six losses

  1. A nice entry Brian T – thoughtful and interesting.
    So where is my head at right now?
    1) Those come from behind wins… like blowing leads or hitting slumps, I’ve always thought that the ability to come from behind was contagious and that often in the past the Astros’ best years coincided with that ability. Coming from behind the last two games is the type of thing that can trigger a big positive attitude with the team – a positive hangover if you will.
    2) I keep thinking that if I write the following words I will look ridiculous when the team falls apart and loses 20 games in May or something – but maybe this team is ready to contend in a mediocre AL West this season.
    3) Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Matt Albers last appearance for the Astros. With Albers out and before the miraculous pickup of Tony Sipp, the Astros bullpen consisted of J. Cisnero, P. Clemens, J.Williams, R. Valdes, A. Bass, J. Fields and C. Qualls. You look up Yuck in the dictionary and you see a picture of that bullpen staff. What a difference a year makes.
    4) Even with the ugliness going on with the middle of the lineup – nice to see 8 guys with OPS of .700 or over.
    5) It went against my early instincts, but I am glad that Keuchel and McHugh are split up in the rotation – it helps to keep us away from some of those longer lose streaks.
    6) IIE (It is early) but the Astros have 5 relievers on pace for at least 80 innings this season – that needs to get pared down a bit.
    7) I never agree with everything a manager does – I imagine most managers second guess themselves once in a while, but I have been happy with what AJ Hinch has done, especially the way he has not panicked with the bad hitting or when they started the A’s series off with 2 losses or the one loss to start the Angels series. The team seems to be happy and fairly confident. In the back of their minds they have to be saying – wait until the big guns start contributing on offense….


  2. So deep…..and insightful. I feel like I was actually there, in the middle of the story.
    SLAP! OK, I’m back.
    1. I hope Marwin is happy being on a winning team.
    2. Springer is like a bottle rocket that can go in any direction when he is lit up. Still needs to work on his ricochets off the boards because he is so super set on getting to the ball as quickly as he can. This truly is an area where he can “slow the game down”.
    3. Carter Springer and Gattis are not being blown away by fantastic pitching. Being able to watch every game, I can tell you they are getting pitches to hit and are just plain missing them.
    4. Luhnow will soon be able to put players on the field that will make this team complete and compete regularly. It’s pretty amazing that the Astros are leading their division when their team is hitting exactly 100 points behind the Royals and have the lowest BA in baseball. I am convinced that is not going to stay that way for long.
    5. Marisnick has found the perfect storm: He is hot, pitchers refuse to pitch around him because he is the number nine hitter, and they are willing to let him swing away hoping that he will make an out and with the primo doubles hitter right behind him, his speed circling the bases comes into play in almost game. Don’t mess with that #9 slot!
    Gotta go play!


  3. .730, I can buy that. Afterall, besides 2012 he posted well over .800 at almost every level, he should be able to translate that into a .730. We know he is a big kid with some strength. We also know he maybe the best athlete on team not named Springer. He should be a low double digit homer guy with a bit of doubles sprinkled in.

    I do have my doubts about his ability to tell a ball from a strike consistently. I hope I am wrong, he has been a joy to watch – but I see CJ at the plate – stronger guy, swings a solid bat, ball sounds different off the bat, etc., who is also susceptible to slumps because he is a BABIP only guy. Maybe the difference will be that we know CJ can be a headcase, difficult to work with, which maybe hiding a bit of confidence lag, and hopefully Jake does not. In the end though I am not sure he can have a good enough OBP to get that .730 – or at least contribute to the inbalance of the lineup by providing too much of that .730 from the SLG side. I hope he starts sprinkling in a few walks and less strikeouts into this magical start.


  4. Okay, you asked for random..

    1. How soon will the Astros adopt the Cubs’ philosophy and jump someone from AA or add a top prospect from Fresno? And, no, Singleton is no longer a prospect.
    2. Hinch seems to be narrowing down his lineup. There’s Altuve in the leadoff, Valbuena may be claiming the two hole for now. Marisnick nailed down #9. Springer and Gattis will get 3-4 for a while longer. Just need a solid, consistent, regular 5-8.
    3. Tagging onto OP’s #1: I hope Marwin gets a chance to enjoy a winning team all season long…in Houston.
    4. If I’m Hinch or Luhnow, I’m a little hesitant to mess with success. Okay, very hesitant. Will Fields throw off the flow in the 7-8-9 innings? Even making a position player switch now seems a little delicate. Just call me #superstitious (I’m still wearing the same pair of socks from Sunday.)
    5. With Sipp, McHugh, and Harris on board, I’m watching the waiver wire daily! Who’s the next “star” to join Houston?
    6. Did anyone realize the Astros were 11-11-2 in series against AL West opponents in 2014?
    7. Just wondering…If Chris Carter, Evan Gattis and George Springer walk into a bar…


    • If Carter, Gattis and Springer walk into a bar:
      – The bar tender will turn off the ceiling fan because they will provide plenty of breeze
      – It would have to be like a saloon with those batwing doors that swing all the time….
      – They will try to sit at the bar, but they will all miss the stool
      – They will be thrown out
      – They will try to pick up some ladies but they will strike out

      Liked by 1 person

  5. On #2, if he stays healthy, the world will take notice. I feel as if he would be talked about with Adam Jones, Carlos Gomez, and the other elite guys if he had been left in CF. I’m hopeful JFSF and Springer can force their way into discussion of best OF defenders at two positions. Keuchel not giving them any chances might hurt that though…

    I don’t see a need to rush/promote anyone at this point. Stay the course…we should be weathering the slow start by Carter and Gattis now with a realistic expectation that they both get hot for stretches to balance it out.


  6. All great stuff gang. Someone pinch me I’ve watched every pitch, every game and were 8-6. I’m drawing a blank. where did we get JFSM?

    If Villar has any future not sure its sitting on the pine? Wish Springer could just slow down his at bats, he has looked really bad most of the time, Gattis wow he swings dang near at anything. I think he make up his mind to swing about the time the pitcher releases the ball. Carter to Fresno fix his swing and bring Tucker up!


    • Umm, Kevin, hate to bring it into the conversation, but Marisnick came over with Moran in the (ducking now) Cosart trade.

      Carter is out of options and wouldn’t pass through waivers I’m sure.


    • You brat! I can’t watch the games! We got JFSF in the Cosart trade, along with Collin Moran. The Marlins gave up on both of them, but Luhnow REALLY wanted Moran, and then asked for Marisnick. He’s a delight to watch, or in my case to “listen” to!!


      • i feel your pain becky. i can only listen as well. i tried to get mlb.tv BUT it turns out i am in houston’s blackout area (even though i am in austin) and can’t see any games through them. as far as cosart trade goes, i think it was a good one (maybe great) for the astros. 07/31/14 Houston Astros traded RHP Jarred Cosart, LF Enrique Hernandez and OF Austin Wates to Miami Marlins for CF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Francis Martes and a compensation draft pick, i think #31 0r 32 this year


  7. Thoughts on Brian’s 7 thoughts
    1) How lucky are we to have MarGo? Equal to how unlucky we are to have J Villar?
    2) Springer is a greyhound out in RF – he gets great breaks on balls and I think it makes some difficult plays look rather easy especially on hard line drives to either side of him.
    3) Springer is within one 2 for 4 game of rising above the Mendoza and Gattis seems to keep hitting in poor luck. Last night Carter walked twice and got a key single up the middle during the 5 run rally. He might bust out quickly himself.
    4) I have to agree that I feel like we have enough major league hitters to carry us – even when some are slumping – just a little sick of the extremity of some of these slumps
    5) Marisnick’s hitting is pretty simple – with Altuve behind him they are throwing a lot less crooked pitches and he is doing a great job of sitting on those fastballs. I also feel like he has really improved in hitting the ball solidly the other way – especially into the right center gap. He is a big kid and I feel like the power is only going to improve with time.
    6) You watch Tony Sipp and you wonder what folks were thinking that gave up on him, but he had been pretty inconsistent in his career. A lefty that can do a decent job against rightys is a fine jewel in the bullpen.
    7) Winning solves a lot of things. Winning at the mlb level helps calm those who want to hurry things along from below. But the beauty is that there is talent down there that is ready if needed and will be knocking soon and for a long time.


    • I think it’s easy to praise the Altuves and Keuchels of the world. But teams need Tony Sipps and Marwin Gonzalezes. Every time the two of them enter a game I think, “Oh, thank goodness.”


      • It is a small sample – but Sam Deduno has been solid for us since we picked him up waivers. Just a quiet pickup out of nowhere.


  8. 6. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when Wesley Wrong used to come into the game as a LOOGY I would just cringe. It was torture for me to see him on the mound.
    When Tony Sipp comes into the game from the BP I feel like doing a fist pump. I wanna jump up and thank our lucky stars that he is there. I guess it is the same feeling Tiger fans had last year when JD Martinez stepped into the batter’s box.
    You capitalize on another team’s mistake and sometimes other teams capitalize on yours. Such is life and baseball.
    7. The minors. We have a lot of guys in the minors who are hitting the ball a lot.
    We have a lot of pitchers in the minors who are in the tandem and shouldn’t be, and a lot of pitchers who are starting that aren’t being allowed to pitch deeper into games.


    • Perhaps the last part of your post [under the “7. minors” heading] is born out by what Evan Drelich posted today: “Astros’ .283 average across minors is best, HR count of 42 second best, but ERA is 5th highest at 4.32” Our minor league teams appear to be the exact opposite of our major league team.


      • So, Mr. Bill, are you (aka Drellich) suggesting we trade the hitters out and go with this lineup?

        * Singleton 1B.
        * Kemp 2B.
        * Correa SS.
        * Duffy 3B.
        * Presley OF.
        * Tucker OF.
        * Santana OF.
        * Pena C.
        * Aplin DH.
        * Fontana, Sclafani, Stassi, Hoes on the bench.


  9. @ Chip: Would not presume to speak for ED. My answer is a modified, partial ‘yes – at some point down the road (depending on our record and injury history going forward). EXCEPT I would keep Altuve, Springer, Valbuena, and Marisnick. And Pena would probably be second string behind Tyler Heineman. Since Altuve is at 2nd, Kemp is a DH-OF, and Sclafani is a DH-supersub. Santana has a ways to go [despite a nice run lately], so he stays in the minors longer. Presley is not in the equation at all. If we keep Springer and Marisnick, there is no room for both Aplin and Tucker. Right now, I’d have to say Aplin and Duffy – both of whom I really like, by the way – are just ‘insurance’ in case of injury OR good-looking chips in order to trade to fill in the blanks of the ‘Lancaster let down’, that was caused by the draft fiasco of 2014. [We are very strong up and down the line-up at Quad Cities, Corpus, and Fresno – but not so much at Lancaster. That’s a crop year that needs shoring up].


  10. According to Fangraphs the highest WARs on the team are in order:
    McHugh .7
    Marisnick .6
    Valbuena .5
    Keuchel/Castro tied .4
    Altuve/Lowrie tied .3
    There is only one pitcher on the staff with a negative WAR- Feldman
    There are five position players with negative WAR- Grossman, Villar, Springer, Gattis and Carter.
    According to Fangraphs, the best defensive player on the Astros this year has been Castro behind the plate. According to their numbers, he has been fantastic on defense.


  11. Raise your hand if you can remember how much J.A. Happ *hated* being in Houston. *if* and when he left the game ahead (not too many times) he would GLARE at the guy coming outta the bullpen. Oh yes…….I remember it well. He’s
    the one pitcher on the M’s staff, that I hope get’s pummeled tonight.


  12. For those of you that are not in Astroholic Remission. One way to watch on MLB TV is to wait about an hour after the game and you are not in blackout. (or you can wait for the week-end and watch the week) It does cost $20 a month or $110 for the season. I like to watch on my TV so I bought a Roku $50 device one time cost. Still only get to see the game after completion. Better than nothing. (I get no commission for pushing crap on the Internet).


      • I bought what looks like a USB or thumb drive. It actually picks up MLB TV just like it does on my computer (wireless). At Walmart it was $50. It slips into the HDMI slot on the TV. For some reason, ROKU does not recommend a direct link to the internet on this small device. It is in HD but I am right on the limit for download speed in the Internet. You can check your actual download speed on line.

        I had to upgrade to MLB TV premium to make it work ($25 a month I think). So I can actually use my laptop during a game and look up stats or watch another game. etc. Directv was not an option for me. I am sure it would be better but I got left out. There is no monthly fee for ROKU. Obviously there is a monthly fee for the Internet and for MLB TV. So I am paying about $75 a month in season and it will drop to $50 out of season. All games except Astros and Rangers can be watched LIVE. Sorry I am not a tech nerd so I may be using the wrong terms or descriptions.


      • You can also use mlb tv subscription on an Xbox 360 (w/ their live subscription as well) or any number of ‘smart’ devices. My Samsung blu-ray has the MLB TV app, for example. In my experience it works well – better quality than ESPN3 as a comparison.


  13. Well………..Mr. Happ did just enough to get a win, but Ol’ Fausto was pretty good too. If Hernandez can have a game like this every 5 days, I’ll take it. The good
    Carter showed up tonight…….FINALLY, got hisself a homerun!! Glory be, the guy can hit after all!


  14. Guess who got sent to Fresno today???? Fields is coming back on Friday!!
    He who I won’t mention, is going to take his little error brain to AAA!!!


  15. That leaves the bench a little short Becky – but makes some sense as they have been having the bullpen pitch a bit too much – need a little help there that is for sure and Lord Voldemort – I mean – He who shall not be named – Lord Villar – was taking up space.
    Tough loss last night – took too long to get going and left way too many guys on base. 12 hits and 3 walks has to get you more than 2 runs.


  16. In the end, I think Villar is your classic AAAA player with a couple of MLB tools. His speed is a tool and — if he can concentrate long enough not to screw up — his defense is a tool. Could he be a productive major leaguer? Maybe some day. But when that day arrives, we’ll have an entrenched shortstop (Correa) and other options for utility players (Kemp, Sclafani, Torreyes, Fontana).


    • Brian, you’re probably right on the AAAA player. Villar has had his spurts though and could be a serviceable player as you say…”some day”. I do believe we’re seeing a much more “win now” or at least “win soon” philosophy from the Astros, so they’re not going to hesitate to make moves that improve the club. In past seasons, Villar might have been given more time. It will be interesting to see how he’s used in Fresno…whether it’s primarily/solely at SS or if they move him an already-crowded outfield, etc.

      Do you think we’ll see Villar in Houston again this year? Hmmmm.


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