Free Blog Weekend: One shoe has dropped …

Last time I saw Jeff Luhnow, he seemed to have two legs. That means he’s got two shoes. Well, one shoe dropped Thursday when the Astros traded Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham (ouch!) for Scott Kazmir.

Good starting pitching hasn’t really been Houston’s problem this year. Oh, the team’s ERA (3.96) among starters ranks 14th in MLB and 6th in the AL. Well, at the price of two prospects — one of which I fear the Astros will regret losing — this rotation is looking up. Kazmir and his 2.38 ERA will likely replace Vincent Velasquez in the rotation. That’ll allow Velasquez and Lance McCullers Jr. to rest their young arms down the stretch by taking turns in the bullpen.

It also gives the Astros the rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Kamzir, Collin McHugh, McCullers and Scott Feldman. That’s a playoff-bound rotation. Well, as long as that other shoe drops.

Preventing runs hasn’t been Houston’s overall problem. Overall, Houston’s team ERA of 3.54 ranks 9th in the majors and 4th in the AL. So, while adding Kazmir is nice — really nice, especially if Luhnow can extend him two or three years — the real problem the Astros have had this season hasn’t been preventing runs.

And that’s where that other shoe might come in

Worst Performers

We could pick from several stats here, but I like OPS. Anyone with an OPS over .750 is a very good player, and .700 is the cut off between those marginal contributors and those not making the grade. For example, Luis Valbuena (as of Thursday afternoon) had a .709 OPS and an oWAR of 1.2. Chris Carter had an OPS of .698 and an oWAR of 0.4. Marwin Gonzalez brings a .697 OPS and an oWAR of 0.5.

Of course, you have to figure in defense as well. Valbuena has an overall WAR of 1.2, MarGo brings a 0.8 and Carter’s overall WAR is -0.3. Defense matters.

Anyway, there’s more to it than OPS. This team has a lot of power, but I’ve seen a ton of solo homers lately. Homers are better when shared with a friend … or three.

But that means this team needs people who make contact, get on base, stop striking out like chicks dig it.

So, what hitter in this lineup needs to be replaced the most? Chris Carter (.190 BA, 16 HRs, 115 Ks in 290 AB with 43 RBIs and that .698 OPS), Luis Valbuena (.203 BA, .709 OPS, 19 HRs, 40 RBIs, 75 Ks and 301 ABs) or Jake Marisnick (.231 BA, .639 OPS, 12 SB, 5 HRs, 60 Ks and 216 ABs)? I would add the other two low performers, but I don’t see the Astros trading Jason Castro right now (the lowest OPS at .632 among qualifiers) or MarGo, who is the team’s super sub. Above Valbuena, the next lowest OPS is Gattis at .723. (His oWAR and WAR are both affected by his lack fielding fielding value as a DH.)

Help Begins at Home

The problem is, if you’re going to replace one of these poor performers, who are you replacing him with? Carter or Valbuena may see themselves replaced somewhat by Jed Lowrie when the injured “former shortstop” returns.

As for Marisnick, once George Springer returns, that solves that problem I’d suppose. Do the returns of Lowrie and Springer fill all the Astros’ offensive needs?

Do the Astros need to replace both Valbuena and Carter or just one? If you replace both Valbuena and Carter, does that change the very nature of the Astros’ offense? After all, this is a power offense. Removing two power hitters for a couple of on-base, singles hitters will take a lot of homers out of the lineup in favor of singles.

Looking Outside

Replacing both Carter and Valbuena probably requires looking outside of the organization for another trade. For that other shoe. If replacing Carter or Valbuena from the outside is the goal, we’re not looking at Carlos Gomez. Ben Zobrist is probably a bit expensive. Another option might be Atlanta’s utility player Kelly Johnson.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Twice in Thursday night’s game the Astros ran themselves out of a run. Jose Altuve getting caught at third came before two straight walks then a ground out. If the Astros avoid a double play on that ground out, Altuve scores. Later, MarGo gets caught stretching a double into a triple. Correa followed with a double, and there’s another run missed.

Do the Astros need better base coaching? Do some baserunners — even the best ones like Altuve — need an occasional stop sign?

About That Rotation

Keuchel, Kazmir, McHugh, McCullers, Feldman. Is this the best rotation in baseball? Other than Feldman, I expect to win every night with these guys. Even McHugh, who hasn’t been dominant, has an ERA 2.85 in his last seven starts. He’s already tied last season’s win total. He actually compares pretty well to Keuchel who, in his last seven, is also 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA. Add Kazmir and McCullers, who both have sub-3.00 ERAs, and this is a dominant rotation.

A Few More Things To Consider

1. McCullers looked a little rusty Thursday night. Does sitting these guys seem counterproductive?

2. I love me some Preston Tucker, but that ball he misjudged was horrible. Does this make you rethink Jake Marisnick’s value, even if it’s just as a defensive replacement?

3. We’re not even past the trade deadline, but it’s not too early to start looking at Sept. 1. Should the Astros add a lot of players when rosters expand, or should they keep it to a minimum since they will probably be in a playoff race? If Luhnow calls up players, who is on your short list? Tony Kemp? Joe Sclafani? Domingo Santana? Luis Cruz? Chris Devenski?

4. By the end of Sunday’s game, the Astros will have played 100 games. So far, the Astros have won 54 games, and could be as good as 57-43 or as low as 54-46. What’s your over/under for 100 games?

5. Anything else you want to discuss. After all, it’s the weekend, and this blog is free.


153 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: One shoe has dropped …

  1. -Daniel Mengden was dominant in his stint against Lancaster last night, giving up one hit, a homer by JD Davis, and struck out eight. He got the win in 5 innings- pitched allowing no walks.
    – Mark Appel pitched very well yesterday(game score of 61), leaving the game with a good lead which Fresno then blew with the help from a huge error by SS Jonathan Villar, which led to 5 runs in the eighth inning. Tyler White had three hits and is still hitting over .400 in his short AAA stint. Domingo Santana had the vaunted Golden Sombrero for Fresno yesterday. 4Ks and a walk.
    -Jandel Gustave was lights out for three relief innings in a CC win over Frisco.


  2. The Rangers are one of the leading contenders to try and woo the Phillies for Cole Hammels. So far this year the Rangers are 6.5 games behind Houston and have committed $143.9 million to this season’s payroll.
    With all their expensive contracts and a lot of young stars in the minor’s, I encourage them to take on a lot more payroll for older players and send those future cheap stars to the National League. After all, 2016 is the last chance they have to win before arthritis starts to set in.


  3. Following up on earlier posts, Adam Lind has been plagued with lower back problems for five consecutive seasons. He was taken out of yesterday’s game with lower back spasms.


  4. Today Luis Valbuena joined Chris Carter in the Astros Attempted Pennant Run Hall of Shame. Last three games for Luis, 11 Plate Appearance, 0 hits, 1 BB, 0 Runs scored, 0 Rbis. For these three critical games vs. KC, Luis and Chris Carter were both AOL. That means we got ZERO offensive contribution from our regular corner infielders. [Can’t blame Carter for Sunday’s ugly loss though, because he did not play].


  5. Jonathan Villar committed his 12th error in 43 AAA games in AAA, and it led to 2 unearned runs in a game Fresno lost, 12-5. Oberholzer got rocked in that game, as did Veras.
    Villar was not around to see the runs score. After he committed the error he was replaced at SS by Nolan Fontana, right in the middle of the inning.
    In AAA this year, Villar has nine errors at SS, 1 error in LF, 1 error in CF and 1 error at 3B.


  6. In his last 8 games, Tony Kemp is 0-27, but only five of the outs are strikeouts. That means that his BABIP in those games is .000 even though he made contact in 22 of the at bats.


    • Good timing, I’ll say. Maybe he’ll fall off our potential trade partners’ radar – THEN start making up for lost time with the BABIP.


  7. I heard a rumor that Bregman forgot his glove at LSU. When he came to Houston to sign, they gave him a glove that was discarded by Villar. It appears that the glove still had 8 errors left in it.


  8. It’s a free blog weekend and I want to say a little about Mark Appel. People seem to be jumping from the boat like he was on fire.
    Everybody made fun of Appel when Gausman was called up last year. Oh look Gausman’s already in the majors! Well, Gausman’s in the minors. Same with Finnegan. He was in the minors when he got traded today and his new team is sending him to the minors.
    Ventura, the guy who beat the Astros today, pitched in the world series last year and was sent to the minors last week and then recalled.
    Appel is working at pitching all the time. he hasn’t slacked or gone on the DL or missed starts or done anything weird. He is just learning to pitch the way the team wants him to learn.
    With the big time Rule V crunch the Astros will face this off season, Appel is not Rule V eligible. They can take their sweet time with him and when they think he is ready they will promote him. He is better off working on that slider and curve and change up so that LHB stop beating his pitches all over the place. He rules righties and lefties rule him. It is something he has to fix. I don’t want him in the majors until he’s ready to get batters out no matter which side they hit from.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kemmer and Reed each had two hits and each homered for CC in a 5-2 win.
    Derek Fisher and Ronnie Mitchell each had two home runs in an 18-2 win over Stockton tonight. Stockton made 6 errors.
    Nottingham was 0-4 tonight, with a passed ball and had a wild pitch get past him for Stockton.
    White had a couple of doubles and a walk for Fresno again today. Still hitting .416 in AAA and played uhmm, uhmmm, First Base!


  10. Good morning fellas! Have we lost Chip Bailey to the world outside baseball?
    Old pro…….since villerror has been in Fresno, my blood pressure has been stable!
    just kidding, but when our shiny new short stop makes those eye popping plays it
    just sealed villar’s fate with the big club……thank GOD!!!!!
    What a tough loss yesterday. The Royals jumped on Keuchel fast, and thank goodness Marwin, and Val Buena had the good sense to throw home to get the first two outs….just an unlucky day for Dallas yesterday. Looking forward to hearing some more trades this week! Let us know if you find Chip!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s