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Astros 2015 Harkens Back to Astros 1979


Heading into the 1979 season, the Astros were the latest rendition of a terrible tradition. While not as bad as the 2011-2013, 106, 107, 111 loss seasons, the team back then had finished 17 consecutive seasons more than 10 games out of the league/division lead. In the 6 previous seasons (1973-1978), they had finished 17, 21, 43.5, 22, 17 and 21 games out of first place. Bottom line, the team created in 1962 on the mosquito riddled plains of southeast Texas had never really experienced a pennant race. Ever.

The 1979 Astros, similar to this season’s team, made some subtle upgrades in the off-season and adjustments on the fly during the season. Trades by GM Tal Smith (yeah the “Hill” guy) brought them C Alan Ashby, SS Craig Reynolds and OF Jeffrey Leonard (Leonard actually the previous September). Ken Forsch was moved from the bullpen to the rotation before the season and eccentric, but talented Joaquin Andujar was shifted from the bullpen to the rotation during the season. In a change that makes you wonder about implications for today’s team, the Astros moved CF Cesar Cedeno (the George Springer of the day) to 1st base after a knee injury sidelined him for most of 1978. Joe Sambito had shared the closer’s role with Forsch in 1978, but took it over in 1979.

The Dodgers had become the dominant team in the NL West taking over from the Reds, who were still a good team, but not a Big Red Machine great team as they were earlier in the 1970’s. After losing to the Yankees in the ’78 World Series, the ’79 Dodgers were mediocre. They still had one of the best offenses in the league, but their pitching went from #1 to #9 in runs allowed. After the 7th game of the season, they never again were above .500 for the season and finished at 79-83.

The Astros under Bill Virdon, got off to a decent start, but were just above .500 at the end of May when they went on a 25-8 run. On the 4th of July they were 52-31 and 10.5 games up on the 41-41 Reds with the rest of the division struggling under .500.  Similar to this season, there were signs that maybe not all the success was on solid foundation. On July 4th, their pythagorean record (based on only scoring 25 more runs than they allowed) said the Astros should have been 45-38 and only 3-1/2 games up. Shortly after this date, the Astros lost 12 of 13 games to cut their lead in 1/2. The Astros clung to their shrinking lead tenaciously, until surrendering it in late August after holding it for 81 games (similar to the 79 game hold this season). The Astros never regained the lead, but after falling behind by 2.5 games – they held serve and after beating the Reds head to head twice in late September – they were only 0.5 game back. They lost the 3rd game of the series and ended the season at 1.5 games back with an 89-73 record. The Reds were 90-71 and were not forced to make up one postponed game.

The plus side to this crash and burn was that the 1980 Astros were playoff race tested and that team finally played in the first postseason for the Houston team.

The point here is that the current Astros, like those 1979 Astros are unexpected contenders, because of early season mediocrity in the division along with what in retrospect were some unsustainable stats. Remember those insane won-loss records early in the season when they scored 1st, when they scored 4 runs, when they hit two homers in a game, etc.. Fans and probably the players knew that this amount of success could not be sustained. However, the Astros can still right the ship and stay in contention and it is important that this team of youngsters get their first real exposure to a pennant race, if not for this season then for down the line.

Questions:

  • Are the similarities between the 1979 and 2015 teams real?
  • Can the Astros as constructed stay in playoff contention to the bitter end?
  • Is the loss of George Springer driving the recent fall (2-8 since he left) or was this going to happen anyways?
  • What in your opinion is the measure of success ultimately for this team?

 

 

 

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About Dan P

Dan Peschong is a full time engineer and a long time Astros lover from the days of Joe Morgan to the days of Jose Altuve.

92 comments on “Astros 2015 Harkens Back to Astros 1979

  1. Mr. Bill
    July 14, 2015

    1. That was then and this is now.
    2. The Astros could stay within 3 games of the lead this year IF: [a] Correa, Tucker and Lowrie all have insanely high BABIPs, Runs scored, and RBI totals the rest of the way;; [b] Feldman’s ERA the rest of the way is under 3.50 and McHugh’s is under 3.00; [c] Gattis goes on a HR tear [it could theoretically be Carter, but that is a pipe dream]; [d] Valbuena gets really hot and gets his BA for the year up to .260; and [d] we do not have any more injuries to starters other than at 1B;
    3. Losing George Springer was devastating; he is the glue, the inspiration, and the spirit of this team; Correa could become that, but he is not yet ready;
    4. ‘success’ for this team would be for Correa, Tucker, McCullers and Velasquez to finish the year as the top four ROY candidates in the league. That would mean their second half performances – and stats – were all superb at the same time. And that would mean the Astros probably win the pennant.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      July 14, 2015

      Oh, and I forgot the most important thing the Astros have to do to stay in the pennant race this year – win every series’ they play against the Angels and the Rangers. So we’ll find out pretty soon if this can happen.

      Like

  2. Roger
    July 14, 2015

    As to question # 1, the ’79 team with Richard, Niekro and Forsch was more accomplished, experienced and overall better than our current 1-3, had a collective ERA of about 3.00, and 40 (!) complete games, by seasons end. We will obviously not match that.
    Cruz (Tucker), Cabell (Valbuenna), Cedeno (Carter) Puhl (Rasnick) were better at that point in their respective careers, and Sambito was a lock. So, I see similarity mostly in terms of a lack of depth, and a sense of panic.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      Very well written. Add in that Cedeno and Bob Watson were so much better than our two airhead/airbats at first base and you have touched the big differences in the two teams.

      Like

    • Steven
      July 14, 2015

      They also pitched in a different era. JR probably could have been successful in any era, but the other two (HOF credentials of one nonwithstanding) may not have been a 3.00 ERA type today.

      Like

  3. astrocolt45
    July 14, 2015

    DanP: A well researched post. In 1979, I was watching the Texas Rangers. They too were in 1st place for 20 days in late June/early July. They had Fergie Jenkins, Sparky Lyle, Mickey Rivers, Dock Ellis, Al Oliver, Bert Campaneris but it was toward the end of their careers. And they never sniffed the playoffs for the next two decades. The 2015 Astros are a young team. They should improve and contend for next few years. #1 – Probably not, #2 “Can” – Yes, “Will they” – Lets hope so. #3 It did not help, but when you have a couple guys at the top of the lineup you “expect” to hit and they don’t, and you have 3-4 power guys in the middle that you “don’t expect to hit” and they don’t – the runs will dry up. #4 All of us that are unknowing have said “In contention for years.” That should be a reachable goal.

    Like

  4. Tim
    July 14, 2015

    The team, as constructed, will probably fade in the 2nd half. They will have to upgrade the team to stay in contention. The key is not trading any of our top, top prospects, especially for a rental. I like Cueto, but don’t want to include Phillips or Reed in a trade for him. The Springer injury has been devastating for this team. Getting Lowrie back will help, but I am not sure that is enough on the offensive end. I am in some agreement with Steven in that you have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, but be careful not to destroy the future while doing it. Ultimately, I think finishing above .500 would still be considered success for this year and something to build on for next year, but I still haven’t given up on this year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • rj
      July 14, 2015

      amen

      Like

    • Steven
      July 14, 2015

      Yea absolutely don’t trade Reed. Phillips could be had from me if he is a main cog of a Cueto or Hamels deal, but I probably wouldn’t put him in a Kazmir deal. It’s all moot – we aren’t gonna pay the cost for Hamels, Cueto has almost every team above .500 bidding on him, and Kazmir has said publicly multiple times that he prefers pitching in Oakland and wants to be there long term. It’s likely we will end up, if anything at all, with a Samarjalphabet type, and I don’t know if that is worth giving up anyone given that Feldman is just as capable of solidifying the three spot as any of those types.

      We are probably best suited to take our shot internally – which means sitting Carter a LOT more, and continuing the match up game, and keep your fingers crossed that we are still in this when Lowrie, Feldman, and most importantly Springer, pop back in. Carter is something stupid like .048 against pitches over 94, he has no business in the lineup against hard throwers.

      Like

  5. Devin_
    July 14, 2015

    Ugh, can you imagine how poorly this offense would be in the Astrodome? We’d probably finish last in the league in HR, but Altuve/Correa/Springer would surely have more triples than Gattis at least. Our ground ball pitchers would likely take a hit, but Qualls would get a bump. Wojo might look like an ace.

    This team has already achieved success. The question is whether they can finish the job or just enter 2016 with more hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan P
    July 14, 2015

    What if I told you that the 1979 team batters were less than a year older than the 2015 batters and that the 2015 pitchers were about a year older than the 1979 pitchers on the average?
    I would hope you would say that age is not the same as experience. Gattis is 28 but basically entered the season with about 1 season’s mlb ABs. Valbuena at 29 with only about 3.5 seasons of mlb ABs. Springer 25, but entering with about 1/2 season ABs. McHugh who had only 34 mlb starts (about 1 season) before 2015. And onward.
    I think the Astros have overperformed this season vs. their experience level and it is tough to fight slumps when your veteran leadership is so limited, in the bullpen or on the DL.

    Like

    • Devin_
      July 14, 2015

      I’m not sure it is experience they lack, but rather a problem with an over abundance of stubbornness. Guys like Carter and Singleton seem to have been told the optimal outcomes from an At-bat are Walk or Homerun. When they slump they don’t change approach and keep taking the same pitches, swinging through the same pitches, and getting the same results. If I were hitting coach, I would give the following instructions:
      – Carter needs one line drive towards the pitcher per game. Just focus on trying to smack it low and hard up the middle until you have your timing back and can dictate at-bats.
      – Singleton needs to try to hit the ball as hard as he can at the traditional SS spot. Stop taking low and away for strike one and do some damage.
      – Valbuena gets taken to kangaroo court each time he doesn’t beat the shift with fewer than 2 strikes.
      – Tucker is disallowed from swinging at pitches above his belt. See the Valbuena approach above.
      – JFSF – line drives to RF or we are revoking your khakis.

      Like

      • astrocolt45
        July 14, 2015

        With permission, I would like to add, when 2 runs or more down, quit swinging for the fences. A Texas Leaguer to the opposite field is just as good as a home run. When Bagwell was on TV, hit kept talking about a batter having to understand situational hitting. That has been lost some place.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        July 14, 2015

        Brilliant, just brilliant. I will ad that when Correa came to the majors he sprayed the ball to all fields and now is a pull hitter. Castro is out of his “line-drive right at somebody” phase and now can’t hit line drives at all. That is the very definition of a bad hitter’s slump.
        Yesterday, on another site, the Carter defenders were sarcastically raking the Carter critics and one of the regulars said that Carter was an “above average major league hitter” and I almost laughed and puked at the same time. Carter has a zone half the size of the strike zone that we see displayed on tv. If you put the ball in that zone, he puts his swing in that zone and it’s the same swing every time. If you put the ball outside of the zone, he still swings in that zone, missing the ball completely, or he takes the pitch for a ball or a called strike. If you throw a slider to him and start that pitch in his zone and break it out of the zone he will swing and miss because his bat always stays in his zone. He will never go out and get a pitch because he never learned to do that. If you throw him a high fastball strike above his zone, he will swing and miss because he won’t go higher to get it because it is not in his normal swing path. He has one swing and if he hits a home run it is a pitching mistake every time because you put the ball in the one place he can hit.

        Like

      • Steven
        July 14, 2015

        I’m not a BA component guy, I think its an overrated stat, but there is still a point that it is just bad. Carter at .190, inexcusable. We need better than 19% of the time he gets some type of hit. I think most that don’t that much attention to it just feel that a .260 hitter with a .480 SLG percentage is more valuable than a .290 hitter with a .340 SLG percentage, but not to the degree that our Mendoza line guys sit at.

        Think of it this way, Carter is better with runners in scoring position than not, like 40 points better. That is .230. That is still awful. With runners in scoring position, he gets hit 23% of the time. Most teams have middle of the order guys hitting .270+ with RISP. If you throw in his K% he locks in that he is far less likely to do anything positive in that at bat, especially in the proverbial runner on 3rd with less than two outs situation.

        Carter has no place hitting in the middle of a lineup. I could live with him batting 7th as a stopgap – but at this point he has shown that he is what he is – and given where he is going I think he is only going to get worse, not better. He has slow reflexes in the box, his eye to reflex time is short (which is why he gets dominated by hard throwers who cut an additional tenth of a second from his decision point), and those things only get worse into your late 20s and early 30s. He isn’t long for the major leagues.

        Alot of people may feel the same about Valbuena. I am not convinced that he is a regular 3B in the majors, but he belongs in a conversation about having that job. His K rate is only 22%, not spectacular, but not outside of the norm for a power hitter. His BABIP is nearly 100 points lower than last years – and 60 points lower than his career. He still draws walks. I think he is exposed as an everyday player some – there has been a discernable shift in how he is pitched. He started with seeing 70% fastballs as a rookie, and through his major league career the trend is down year by year all the to 52% this year – and the average major leaguer gets 62% fastballs. They have a book on him – and its worked. But hey, they can’t all be stars, and he at least is passable with RISP, and can get a runner in from 3rd with 1 out without it always being a hit.

        Like

  7. Dan P
    July 14, 2015

    A few observations here (not arguing – mostly tongue in cheek):
    – Devin, do we want Carter or any of the batters hitting one back up at the pitcher – with today’s shifts it seems like everything up the middle is at someone. (This one bothers me as traditionally to get out of slumps the best remedy was to hit it back up the middle).
    – astrocolt45 – Is the biggest problem with our situational hitting not understanding the situation or not being able to shorten up and make contact with 2 strikes?
    – I am tired of watching this team hit this season and struggle to see anyone who is improving or on the upswing. Sure MarGo is hitting better lately it seems – but so many of these guys are just not changing their approach ever. Oh wait a minute – Correa had a good approach and now he is taking more ABs with a worse approach. Do they not listen, are they not coachable, or does the hitting coach suck?

    Like

    • Devin_
      July 14, 2015

      Dan, it seems like we are seeing pop-ups and strikeouts with a man on 3rd base. This means the hitter is doing exactly what the pitcher is trying to get him to do. It’s possible they are just getting beat, but the consistency of it happening of late suggests to me they are beating themselves.

      Like

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      When Marisnick was hot, he was spraying the ball everywhere. When Altuve was hitting .340 he was lining singles to all fields. now he is hitting long fly ball outs. When spring was struggling it was because he was over swinging. When he started hitting it was because he started spraying the ball to all fields. Same with Correa. Rasmus tries to go to left to beat the shift, but he is just not a good enough hitter to do it
      Think about what we are hearing from the announcers about Conger. They say he has turned into a surprising hitter. That is because he is hitting .240, and our “good” catcher is hitting .210. But .240 sucks! I’ll repeat that: .240 sucks! For people who don’t think BA is a good determination of the true value of a player, I submit the BA of Marisnich and Altuve and how those guys carried the team in April with their incredible batting averages and compare it to the two players the last two months, when their BAs fell like rocks. Springer’s BA suddenly skyrocketed and he started carrying the team on his back. Then Gattis’s BA started to skyrocket and he carried the team. Right now, everybody’s BA is plummeting and nobody is carrying the team and that’s why a wild pitch and three walks kills a brilliant pitching performance and gives LMJ a loss he didn’t deserve.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tim
        July 14, 2015

        I will just say that, for a catcher, .240 isn’t great, but probably doesn’t suck. However, the bigger question is why isn’t Conger playing more often than Castro considering how horrible Castro has been offensively. Even if this raise in Conger’s batting average is just a hot streak we should be riding it out until he cools off. I know Castro has improved in throwing out baserunners, but our biggest issue right now is offense and we can’t afford to keep rolling Castro out there every 5 out of 7 games.

        Like

    • astrocolt45
      July 14, 2015

      To respond, I am an Antique Baseball Guy. I believe in Wee Willie Keeler. I have not seen a “shorten up” this season, but have not watched every game. Let me add about “situational baseball.” By 9 years old, a kid can learn to “think” before each pitch – what do I do if a ball is hit (or pitched) this way or that. Then when the pitch is made, he can react to the situation. That is what I like about watching Altuve, Correa, and Springer. They get a 1 step jump on each ball hit their way.
      Whereas, good hitters on other teams foul off those close pitches. We do not seem to be able to adjust to being fooled, with only a couple exceptions. Good teams may have dumped the bunt, but I see them hitting behind the runner time and time again. But the key word is “hitting.” Other than the 1941 World Series, few teams win games on strikeouts.

      Like

  8. daveb
    July 14, 2015

    I spend a lot of time watching that 79 club up close. The thing that sticks out most in my mind was Reynolds always bunting Puhl over to second. It was a team with very little power, and not much offense, but they also did not strike out much and were good at manufacturing runs. There were also no real glaring holes at any position, except maybe for Ashby who had a very bad year at the plate. Of the regulars, Puhl led the team with a .729 OPS. Walling became the only real power threat as the season progressed. And the bench, while unremarkable, was stable. But the big thing was the rotation, perhaps the best in the league that year, with the three guys Roger mentioned above and Andujar too. But no, I don’t really see any similarities between the 1979 club and the 2015 version. Two totally different concepts, and not a merry go round from the minors as we’ve seen in 2015. As an aside, a box seat was still 4.50 in 1979.

    No, I don’t think the present team can stay in the hunt. Not enough pitching. Big holes in the lineup.

    The Springer loss has had a huge impact. Even slumping on this road trip I could easily see a 4 – 6 record rather than the 2 -8 we got with Springer out.

    I guessed that the team might win 78 games back in March. I don’t really care about the record at the end of the season. More importantly, I’d like to see the club poised to compete better in 2016, without guys we’re tired of seeing on the roster. Get moves made to put the team in a position to win. It would be nice to find someone on the planet that can play first base, if only until a shiny new kid shows up there. We need a third baseman to give us a .750 OPS and three outfielders north of .700 with a least one guy, Springer I would hope, in the .900 plus range. And I don’t want anyone with an OBP under .300. That includes Gattis too. Is that asking for too much? And we really need a solid rotation. I think all doable in 2016.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      Yes it was a team without much offense, and yet their team batting avg was .256 for the year, 20 points higher than this year’s Astros team.

      Like

      • daveb
        July 14, 2015

        That’s a good point.

        Like

    • rj
      July 14, 2015

      “i don’t really care about the record at the end of the season”?????? dave did you fall and hit your head like dan? the most important measure of a team is its record at the end of the season. they don’t send you to the playoffs because you are poised to be better, they send you because your record is better than the others trying to get there. in terms of the post season (and isn’t that what we all are striving for?) the record at the end of the season is all important

      Like

      • daveb
        July 14, 2015

        rj, I’m a realist. I did not expect this 2015 club to make the playoffs. I don’t see this club making the playoffs now. And don’t be accusing Dan of not thinking straight just because he landed on his noggin! Be easy on the guy. We all know he has issues. But seriously, I think I’m being level headed about this. I’d rather see trades made now that will better position us for 2016. I’d hate to lose young talent now in an effort to make the playoffs this year and fail. It’s that simple/

        Like

      • rj
        July 14, 2015

        lol i think dan is a steady level headed kinda dude. (maybe less level with the knot on it temporarily) i agree wholeheartedly that we should not trade away young talent that can help us for years for a pie in the sky attempt to make the playoffs this year (especially for a rental player). but its not like we are in fourth place 10 games out either. this team was in 1st place for something like 88 days. they are only out by 1/2 game and are still one of the top five in all of the league in record. thats a team that with some added help (from within or from outside) can make the playoffs. we have holes. big holes. but we still have managed to be better than most of out league. so if we can make a trade that helps and isn’t counter productive to the future, i say go for it. i trust luhnow not to be stupid about it.

        Like

      • Steven
        July 14, 2015

        I think the key is realize every team in the AL has big holes. We aren’t alone in the lack of depth. Most contending teams are busy trying to patch work their 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. Most of them don’t have multiple 160 game, 600 at bat talents, most of the lineups in the AL are being shuffled day in and day out to take advantage of situations.

        I didn’t expect this team to contend, but we are there. Noone expected the rest of the AL, and our division, to have the holes either. This thing is winnable, and it might be 5 years before we say that again regardless of how good we think they will become. Take your opportunities where you get them.

        But, no, don’t take them at the expense of guys that may become solid major leaguers for a decade plus. Let’s not talk Reed. But someone will give you Hamels for Hader, Kemp and Phillips? I might take it – given that Hamels will be here for 3 years. I wouldn’t make that tade for Cueto or Kazmir, but I might give up one of those (well maybe not Hader for a rental), to take my shot.

        Like

  9. Dan P
    July 14, 2015

    daveb – nicely done – I think the biggest similarity was the feeling that we would not hang on – so it was really a fan thing, not a team thing.
    I’m afraid if we go get all these guys you mention that can hit that the hitting coach will turn them into guys that can’t hit…..

    Like

    • SargeH
      July 14, 2015

      And…. remember, the club actually has TWO hitting coaches, Alan Zinter is the assistant hitting coach. So, two hitting coaches cannot get the club on the right track or do they interfere too often?

      Like

  10. astrocolt45
    July 14, 2015

    While I am bitching, one thing that I refuse to believe that is shown by the “super metrics” is some of the “shifting”. If it is a left handed batter, we play everyone on the 1st base side and 3B almost on 2nd base. O.K. he is a pull hitter. But if the ball goes over the head of the first baseman, their fat catcher still gets a triple because the right fielder is playing in center. Yes, I understand that if he hits a pop up, it will probably go toward center/left. But what if the batter makes solid contact. And finally, when you have two outs, you don’t need to play up on the grass at 3rd and 1st unless you have a stumble bum pitching. You are not going to throw home any way. Play for the 3rd out. I feel better already.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      Good point! When we had 3 centerfielders out in the outfield, that was supposed to be great, because we had the entire outfield covered with guys who could go get the ball. Then all of a sudden, you pinch your right fielder to RCF and a single toward the line becomes a double or a triple. If you’ve got three great fielders, play straight away and they cover the entire field. Extreme outfield shifting sucks and allows doubles and triples. Extreme infield shifting allows singles to the opposite field If the batter chooses that route and can pull it off.

      Like

  11. Dan P
    July 14, 2015

    “Enjoying” the discussion and thoughts here. I guess I enjoy your thoughtfulness and great points, but don’t enjoy the truth that this team’s hitting is in such bad shape.
    I keep wondering if some of this is due to putting people in responsible situations they never faced before. Valbuena and Gattis were never everyday players. Altuve and Correa are trying to be bombers instead of the good hitters they are. I picture the Altuve that old pro describes where he was hitting the ball where they weren’t. We need him hitting .330 with a .370 OBP, not a 15 HR guy.
    Can they stay afloat until George returns? Will George take weeks to be George again?

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      July 14, 2015

      Dan, the problem is they were just treading water WITH George.

      Like

  12. 1oldpro
    July 14, 2015

    It seems weird to have an article about the 1979 Astros and famous names like Watson, Alou, Cruz, Howe, Puhl, Bochy, Ruhle, and Pladson are not included.
    Oh wait! Pladson?

    Like

    • Dan P
      July 14, 2015

      Yes – old pro – I would have loved to write in more detail about the players. And it is hilarious when you look at some names and it is a complete brain blank. Rick Williams started a bunch of games that year (and then never appeared in a game again in the majors). I don’t remember him. Dixon? Wiedenbauer? Huh?
      When you wrote Pladson I thought you were combining 2 names. Ha ha

      Like

  13. Zanuda
    July 14, 2015

    Sometimes I feel like these guys are playing “Home Run Derby”. A home run is great but I’d rather see consistent singles and more. I’m a little tired of seeing the “Home Run gauntlet in the dugout” after the event and then they score no more runs the rest of the game. Net result is a loss. Yes I believe that Luhnow wanted to put a team that hits the long ball but if there’s no one on base then that philosophy will ultimately fail in the long run.
    I remember the saying, “chicks dig the long ball” but what would you rather have, two home runs or 5 singles back to back that plates 3 – 4 runs in an inning?

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      Finally, someone with the guts to say it! Cuteness wears thin on a team not winning.

      Like

    • Steven
      July 14, 2015

      I would rather have guys that hit with power, not singles hitters or homerun focused hitters. But hey, we don’t all get to have Goldschmidt.

      Like

  14. daveb
    July 14, 2015

    I don’t have a real appreciation for the game the Astros are playing today. Sure, it’s nice to see a guy really crush a ball. But coaxing a walk, making the starter throw nine pitches in an at bat, hitting behind a runner, watching Tucker go with a pitch and doubling into the left field corner; even getting a bunt down when needed, those are the things I want to see on a regular basis.

    What concerns me most is that Altuve was better at that last year. Correa and Tucker were better at that last month. I believe that guys like Carter and Gattis, through no fault of their own, are actually a bad influence on this young club.

    I want to see these kids start extending at bats like they were in the minors. Make the guy on the hill work. This team is not going to win with the likes of Valbuena, Carter and Gattis. We need multi tool guys rather than minimal tool guys.

    Like

  15. 1oldpro
    July 14, 2015

    Question 4. The measure of success for this team, as the team stands currently, is an above .500 record.
    If they make a big trade and give up prospects that hurt a lot, the measure of success, for me, is to go deeper in the playoffs than one game.

    Like

  16. Mr. Bill
    July 14, 2015

    Meanwhile, AJ Reed was 2-4 last night for Corpus Christi with a BB and 2 RBIs. And a certain Venezuelan catcher who started the year at Quad Cities went 3-4 with a double and 2 RBIs, such that he is hitting .389. Is Alfredo Gonzales for real?

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      July 14, 2015

      Imagine 2017 and having Reed at 1B, Altuve at 2B, Correa at SS, Moran and/or J.D. Davis at 3B, an outfield of Tucker, Kemp, Springer and Phillips, then having Heineman, Nottingham and Gonzales as your catching and/or DH crew.

      Like

      • Dan P
        July 14, 2015

        Well it is better than the old days when the buzzards were flying around our minor leagues during the season, because we had so many dead men walking on the rosters.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 14, 2015

        Dan, you get ‘dead men walking’ around the minors when you trade all your good prospects for a rent-a-pitcher.

        Like

      • daveb
        July 14, 2015

        I think Tucker will be one heck of a DH down the road. We’ll have too many other more athletic options for the outfield, perhaps including his own brother.

        Liked by 1 person

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      One of the reasons Gonzalez is in AA is because Pena is in the Pan Am games from the 10th thru the 19th.
      Another reason is because he was acquired in ’09 and they need to see what they have in him because buzzards will be flying around our minors in December looking to feed.

      Like

  17. Dan P
    July 14, 2015

    So maybe we could just put Brent Strom in charge of the hitters too. I mean could it get any worse than it is?

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      July 14, 2015

      Some dudes named Bagwell and Biggio might team up as consultants and shake some stuff up. But they would need Kangaroo Court authority from Luhnow and Hinch.

      Like

      • Dan P
        July 14, 2015

        The problem being that so many hitters are major league minimum and the union would get mad if they owed more in Kangaroo Court fines than they made in salary.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 14, 2015

        That is, with a couple of our worst offenders, a real possibility! But one of them, at least, is a long way from league minimum.

        Like

    • Lester J. Gillis
      July 14, 2015

      I was so glad to see Strom bring some fire to the dugout last weekend. We were in the middle of a 2-8 road trip and everyone looked like they were just going through the motions, trying to get to the All Star break alive. Then that ump in Tampa missed Keuchel’s strike three on Jake Elmore – I can understand Hinch’s calm demeanor is a steadying influence on a young team, but I think once in a while someone needs to show some emotion, especially when things are going sour.

      Like

  18. Kevin
    July 14, 2015

    Man you all are on a roll and hoot today , thanks for the laughs. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous on what we would have to give up to rent Cueto! W e have to do something 1st, 3rd and catcher killing us at the plate, to many holes!

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      July 14, 2015

      Well, the answer to that lies in looking at their minor league depth and where they are hurting in the major leagues. They do not have good depth in minor league pitching and they have been awful in LF and at the leadoff position. If you want to offer them something for Cueto, you offer them one of your top pitching prospects who is on the 40-man(Feliz, Velasquez) and Tony Kemp. They are going to want LMJ and then you have to decide how bad you want Cueto.

      Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 14, 2015

        McCullers for Cueto would be nonsense. We are trying to add to our rotation [theoretically], not take away from it. Consider Devenski. Consider Hauschild or B.J. Holmes, or even the Farrell kid [not Riley]. But neither McCullers nor Velasquez are expendable. And trading Kemp? I’d rather trade Fisher.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 14, 2015

        If they want more speed and lead-off ability from a LF, we could offer Aplin or Hoes. Heck, since we don’t seem to want him, offer them Sclafani.

        Like

      • Steven
        July 14, 2015

        We aren’t getting Cueto. The difference between the Astros and the Yankees are the Yanks will sell the farm for a rental, because they feel like they can resign anyone. It’s the Yankees. The Astros are going to balk at most offers for our top notch guys because we know Cueto isn’t coming back, we aren’t going to give him 7 years and 155 mil to do so. The Reds probably have 3-4 suitors that will sell off to get him like the Yankees or Tigers or Dodgers.

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        July 14, 2015

        Bill, I didn’t say I would do the deal. I am saying that you would have to offer what I suggest to get him. I’m not trading LMJ for Cueto. I just said the Reds would counter and then the Astros would have to make a decision. If I have Feliz and Kemp on the table for Cueto, that means I have compared my values of the players and it is a fair trade. When they counter with LMJ, I am prepared to say no.
        They can listen to other offers and by then our offer will be leaked and if the Reds can’t beat it they may call back. There is a lot to consider.
        In my particular opinion. I want another #3 pitcher with some team control so that I can space my starters out the rest of the year, including Feldman.
        The rest of the trades thin the herd in Houston and Fresno so that I can move players who need to be moved so I can keep my future players on the 40-man. And I try to get more young good minor leaguers for guys like Carter and Rasmus and Villar and Buchanan, etc. because we won’t be drafting in the top 10 of the draft, or claiming guys first off the waiver wire for a long time.
        By the way, I do not miss DDJ, nor do I worry about missing him in the future.
        But I would have sent Grossman and Hoes packing instead of JD Martinez if I knew then what I know now.

        Like

      • Tim
        July 14, 2015

        I would trade Feliz and Kemp for Cueto and not think twice about it. I know he is just a rental, but Cueto is one of the top 5 starting pitchers in the game today. If we get into the playoffs we would have a rotation of Cueto, Keuchel, LMJ and McHugh. That would probably be the best rotation in the A.L., probably 2nd in all of baseball behind the Nats ( maybe 3rd with the Dodgers being ahead of them, but it’s close). Losing Feliz and Kemp would not dampen our future. Who knows, maybe If we make the playoffs, Crane ponies up to sign Cueto in the offseason. You never know. 🙂

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 14, 2015

        The thing about trading Kemp is that we presently have exactly one premier lead-off hitter in the entire organization. His name is Anthony Kemp. Our other ‘lead off’ hitter at Fresno goes by the name of Jonathan Villar. Brett Phillips is leading off for Corpus because we have no one else, but Maverick is much better suited for lower in the order. Kemp at lead off, Altuve at 2nd, Correa at 3rd, Reed at Clean-up, Springer at 5th, then Phillips, Tucker, Nottingham and either Moran or J.D Davis competing for 6 through 9, that is our future.

        Good first basemen we have at the lower levels. Good outfielders and high-end shortstops we have. Good pitchers and catchers we have. But if Kemp is traded, we have zero prospects for a premier lead off hitter for years to come. Make no mistake, if we trade Tony it will hurt, and it will hurt for a long time. It will be a Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub, Kenny Lofton level of hurt.

        Moreover, trading for a rental SP carries no guarantees – particularly this year when we face the rest of the season with gaping, fully exposed offensive holes at 1B, 3B, C, DH, are under .500 for the past 6 weeks for reasons having virtually nothing to do with any problems with our rotation, have an already worn out bullpen, and will not have the heart and the soul of the team [George Springer] on the field for 7-8 more weeks. Perhaps, against all odds, a bona fide miracle occurs and the stars align after the break and an SP rental for one year temporarily looks like it was worth it; or perhaps Cueto or S’malphabet or whoever we would trade our future for will not adjust well to Minute Maid’s short left-field porch or will wind up on the DL two weeks after the trade.

        Like

      • Tim
        July 14, 2015

        Sorry, Mr. Bill, but it is an awful big stretch to compare Tony Kemp to Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub and Kenny Loftin. Altuve is an adequate lead off hitter, if needed, but admittedly, better suited in the 2 hole. I like Kemp, but I seriously doubt trading him is going to set us back one iota. We have so many good prospects that losing a light hitting OBP player, to me, won’t be a huge loss. I think we’ll survive just fine.

        Like

      • Tim
        July 14, 2015

        I probably should say low power, high OBP player instead of light hitting as Kemp will hit for a decent average.

        Like

  19. 1oldpro
    July 14, 2015

    Fangraphs lists the Astros players who have at bats this season in order of their offensive contributions to the team. Here are the bottom ten listed:
    15 Colin McHugh
    16 Villar
    17 Singleton
    18 Carter
    19 Valbuena
    20 Gattis
    21 Grossman
    22 Gonzalez
    23 Marisnick
    24 Castro
    George Springer is listed by Fangraphs as the leading offensive contributor on this team and it’s not even close.
    You can find this info if you google “Astros WAR leaders Fangraghs” and when the page appears, go to the OFF category on the player listings. and click it and that category will list the offensive leaders in their order.

    Like

  20. Mr. Bill
    July 14, 2015

    Okay. So, the obvious question may be: Can Colin McHugh play 1B or 3B when he is not pitching?

    Like

  21. 1oldpro
    July 14, 2015

    I wanna be real clear about this before I go watch the ASG.
    I don’t want to trade our future stars. I would like to trade a guy on the team and a guy in the minors for a #3 type pitcher who has some team control, until Feliz, Hader, Appel, Velasquez, LMJ, Musgrove Martes, Paulino and Bostick and anyone else we have in the pipeline are ready to blow out the ALWest.
    I want the bad hitters from this year’s team traded away before next year and also the expensive, non productive players traded away, so that we can successfully keep our future players who are coming up and sign our special players like Keuchel to long term deals before it gets to the point where they want to walk.
    We’ve kept Stassi, Heineman, Pena in the minors for what? Get rid of the bad expensive catcher and lets see the young inexpensive ones, even if they aren’t great. Let’s get rid of the expensive, older LH outfielder and go with Tucker and Kemp. Let’s get rid of the over the hill relievers who are giving up runs and let some young guys come into the bullpen.
    I did not go through the last four years of misery to see old, bad players keep our prospects down in the minors. This isn’t life, this is baseball! So, the old bad guys can go find work somewhere else. You know, kinda like like old, bad politicians need to move on and let the young crooks come in and take over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Bill
      July 14, 2015

      Exactly, OP1.

      Like

    • Roger
      July 15, 2015

      Great comments 1OP

      Like

    • astrocolt45
      July 15, 2015

      To further this discussion. 2015 Salaries in order: Feldman, Rasmus, Lowrie, Neshek, Gregorson, Valbuena, Carter, Castro, Altuve, Qualls, Fausto, Sipp, Singleton, Conger, Margo, Presley and balance at league minimum.

      Like

  22. Dan P
    July 14, 2015

    Alright! The Astros have home field advantage in the World Series!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Roger
    July 15, 2015

    So—- when the first big trade occurs I sense it will be a surprise. Somebody or bodies that we don’t expect. Not saying bad or good, just different. Luhnow will catch us off guard.

    Like

    • Dan P
      July 15, 2015

      That is a good bet Roger. In most cases the trades he has made have caught the fans and I think the media off-guard. We did not expect Folty, Tropeano, Cosart etc. to be traded. And even when we expected a possible trade, for example Carlos Lee in 2012, there was no buzz about it before it occurred.

      So it is fair to say that the trade(s) will likely occur out of the blue and may well fool us on who they get and who they give up.

      Like

  24. Mr. Bill
    July 15, 2015

    We all wait. Some really believe that a trade will mean that some supehero will be brought into the fold to serve as our savior for 2015. Others sense that a trade will mean that an irreplaceable piece or two or three from our dream team of 2016 or 2017 will be traded away for someone who will at best provide a thin line of invisible lip gloss on a pig. Time will tell who is right.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      July 15, 2015

      I think there are 4-6 on the 40 man that could be had today by any other team. However, those other teams know that those will be on the Waiver wire for free. Then most teams have a “backup plan” for the player you give up. We don’t have that “backup” right now. Because if we did, the “backup” would be on the MLB roster. So it would appear that the only options are a package of 2-5 for maybe a .240 hitter or 4.50 ERA pitcher. And those other teams have to be hesitant to add any of the marginal players to their 40 man. JL will have to be very creative on any trades. To trade Rasmus or Feldman or Carter or anyone right now, what do you expect to get in return (other than prospects in low A) and who do we have to replace them?

      Like

    • Steven
      July 15, 2015

      One guy can make a 3-4 game swing happen. In a weak AL that could be enough. It might not be. You won’t know until you take a shot. The problem is you think there is a dream team coming from prospects. You have no idea how they are going to perform anymore than anyone has an idea of Cueto making a difference in a pennant chase. You are trying to paint the picture that you know that Reed is going to be special, that Kemp can post a .380+OBP at the MLB level, so on so forth. BOTH sides come with a lot of hope and a little assumption (or even presumption).

      JR Towles and Chris Burke were one top rated prospects. Grossman was once the number 5 prospect in the Pirates system. Marisnick was a top 5 prospect in the Marlins system early on. Matter of fact, if you look at the Pirates list of 20 from 2012, Gerrit Cole was there, fine, but the rest is a whose who list of superstars and household names like Jameson Taillon and Rudy Owens. It’s generally like that almost no matter what team and/or year you look at. For some reason you think the Astros list from 2015 is different and we have 10 hall of famers in the waiting.

      I am not trying to bag on Astros prospects. I like Reed. Alot. I think he is going to be a plus first baseman. I like Hader. Not particularly alot, but I think he will be a MLB pitcher. But do you know what Cole Hamels is? He is a perennial allstar type pitcher, a guy that will post 200 innings of low 3/high 2 ERA baseball. He is ever as good as ANY pitcher that Houston has. If the price is Hader and Phillips and Kemp, so be it. You will be happy for 3 years of Cole Hamels at the end of it. If Cueto costs one of those guys with 2 other guys we have never heard of, so be it. You have no idea where you are going to be in 2017, 2018, or 2025, but you know where you are in 2015, and thats striking distance. It’s that Brad Pitt moment from the movie Troy when he told the Greeks glory is right there for the taking – and the rest of the AL is Troy, they are right there for the taking.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Roger
    July 15, 2015

    Or—-and this is just to raise bp early this AM, he somehow, on the cheap, in some crazy way, gets both Cueto and Hammels?

    Like

  26. Dan P
    July 15, 2015

    All of this comes down to value and need and evaluation. What if someone needs a catcher very badly and likes what they see in how Castro handles pitchers and plays defense and their scout happened to show up on a day he actually got a hit? What if the Astros think 2015 McHugh is the real McHugh and not the 2014 McHugh? What if the Astros fear that Velasquez’s arm is about as reliable as Brady Aikens? What it the Astros do not have long term plans for Kemp or Feliz or fill in the blank. A decent package could be put together that the front office is comfortable with and the fan base is not just because of judgment and evaluation.

    At this point I have my doubts that a trade is going to turn this ship around. I think there is a good chance that the Astros will be 5 or 6 games behind by the time Springer returns regardless of what trade occurs. They could bring in a good or very good pitcher and he could be losing 2-1 and 3-2 games just like Keuchel.

    As time goes on I keep thinking they may take this opportunity to thin the herd, rather than bring in a bunch of help.

    Like

    • Devin_
      July 15, 2015

      Begin broken record…I’d love to get Hamels because of cost certainty and team control. I don’t think it happens because asking price is too steep, and as Dan says, it doesn’t fix our offensive woes.

      I’m not sure there is an available, impact player to be had that fits our needs. We might get a bigger boost by not playing JFSF than trading for an outfielder. Tucker has looked better of late…maybe he breaks out in the second half. Finally, Lowrie and Springer should return this year.

      So, I’m at the point where I would rather see Luhnow turn some of the fringe prospects not destined for our 40 man into lower level guys that have more years to be evaluated before decisions can be made. No one is giving up a TOR for Tommy Shirley, Joe Sclafani, and a couple other minor leaguers…despite what the sheep on TCB might think.

      Like

    • rj
      July 15, 2015

      dan, i think you are onto something there. we pretty much have to ‘thin the herd’ or lose those players through rule 5. there is without doubt a crunch coming for the 40 man roster if no moves are made. that either means some sort of blockbuster involving some of the top prospects or a trade of multiple mid level guys for a #3 or #4 type starter or solid bullpen piece. i’d like to somehow bring in a bat as well, but i think the FO considers lowrie and springer coming back as the calvary in that regard.

      Like

      • Dan P
        July 15, 2015

        rj – How to balance out thinning the herd vs. who has value vs. who is really at risk for Rule 5 draft is an interesting ballet? In some cases the team may leave someone dangling that they don’t think is going to be in their future, but who may get picked up anyway because of good stats (but bad intangibles).
        The last Rule 5 was interesting – I think we all thought that DDJ was a very likely candidate, but the other two picks were surprising to most of us.

        Like

      • Devin_
        July 15, 2015

        Dan, I need to refresh my knowledge of Rule V, but doesn’t a team get to add a player to protected status once one of their players is chosen in that draft? In other words, once DDJ was (predictably) chosen, didn’t they get to protect another player before each of the next two (Gustave and then Rollins) players were lost?

        Like

  27. 1oldpro
    July 15, 2015

    The Lancaster Jethawks have only 22 active players on their roster, 12 pitchers and 10 position players. They only have 3 outfielders. They have two pitchers on the DL.
    By the way, Joe Musgrove is on the DL at CC. Don’t know anything about that.

    Like

    • uncleknuckle
      July 15, 2015

      So we should expect changes in the next few days. I’m looking forward to it!

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        July 15, 2015

        You can tell the condition of the Fresno team, too, when you look at their PCL All-Star participants, LJ Hoes and Tyson Perez.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 15, 2015

        As you know, OP1, Fresno does now have some pretty good players that matriculated from Corpus too late for inclusion in the Al-Star selection process. Tony Kemp, Tyler White, and Mark Appel come to mind right off the bat. Andrew Aplin has also recently been promoted, but has yet to show that he can do in AAA anything close to what he did in AA. And, of course, Tyler Heineman, of the .314 BA and .352 OBP, and only 5 Ks in 105 ABs, to go with 0 errors, is there as well.

        Like

      • daveb
        July 15, 2015

        Don’t forget my buddy Kemmer Mr. Bill. He’s got better numbers in CC than White did.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 15, 2015

        Daveb, Jon Kemmer is indeed a breath of fresh air for the Hooks. Talk about a guy who waited and waited for an opportunity then stepped out of the shadows to become the ‘next man up’ when the team needed him. I sure hope he continues and builds on the renaissance journey!

        Like

  28. Becky
    July 15, 2015

    Been playing grandma to my there Memphis grandsons for four days, and haven’t been reading too much about our guys. I had to tape the game yesterday, so I’ll watch the only two innings keuchel pitched. I’ll just keep reading all the witty posts you guys are talking about!! I keep thinking luhnow is gonna pull off a big one here in the next few days. Carry on you bright minds!!

    Like

  29. Becky
    July 15, 2015

    Three not there…..I just got a new Samsung tablet, still trying to work out the kinks!!

    Like

  30. 1oldpro
    July 15, 2015

    Gee, it must be rough to be Joe Sclafani, Andrew Aplin, Mike Hauschild, Jordan Jankowski, Brady Rodgers, Tyler White, Matt Duffy, Aaron West, Luis Cruz, Tyler Heineman, Jason Stoffel and Tyson Perez. None have not ever been a top 20 prospect but they have worked their way up in the system and are right on the verge of making it to the bigs. I tip my hat to them and their determination, their incredibly hard work and all of the wins they have contributed to the Astros system on their way up. They might not have gotten a lot of recognition elsewhere, but they get admiration and respect on this blog. Here’s to all the Astros minor league players.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill
      July 15, 2015

      There is certainly no automatic advancement in the Astros system. Ask Telvin Nash and Brandon Meredith, among a host of others. You have to keep grinding, keep performing, and keep helping your team win, even when you don’t have the flashy tools, get the attention, score the big interviews or star in the showy press releases. So I am with you 100% in that salute, OP1. Here’s to the guys who have fought through all the odds year after year and performed all through the system – and now stand poised and ready for a chance to contribute on the big stage if and when their name gets called. These guys are the ‘next men up’.

      Like

  31. 1oldpro
    July 15, 2015

    This morning in the Astros GCL game, the Astros were ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. With a runner on second the Phillies batter laced a single to left and Frankeny Fernandez threw out the runner at home to preserve the lead.
    The next batter laced a single to left and the runner, who had advanced to second on the previous play, was thrown out at home by Frankeny Fernandez to end the game.
    That’s how you do it.

    Like

  32. daveb
    July 15, 2015

    That might have been more fun for FF than hitting a walk off homer.

    Like

  33. astrocolt45
    July 15, 2015

    I have read all these comments twice. Also I have studied and studied charts and graphs. Here is what I have determined with a 98% certainty. Carter will get hot in the 2nd half. Well “Carter HOT.” He will go on a tear and hit a home run every 3 games instead of 5 1/2 games. HIs BA will be .220 with all other at bats a K. Castro read the article at JD Martinez studying his old tapes. During the break, Castro too studied his old tapes and the new tapes of JDM and will hit .289 in the 2nd half. Valbuena watched old video of Harry “the Hat” Walker showing Matty Alou how to swing down on the ball. He will tried to imitate that swing but will fail. He will end up with a level swing and move up to .340 OBP because the pitchers will now fear him MORE. Even with the loss of power. Lowrie returns and struggles breaking into the lineup because we are winning at a .667 clip. The pressure is off the pitchers, so they decide to throw strikes and quit nibbling. Happy Days are here again, the sky above is clear again. Oh, and in other news, there are no significant trades. JL releases 5 – AAA players. Not because they are AAAA players but because they are actually low A players with 4 years of MiLB experience.

    Like

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