Don’t despair: Positives ahead for 2016 Astros


Sports is the ultimate “What have you done for me lately” experience. The postmortem for the Houston Astros’ 2015 season will naturally lean towards the negatives of losing what had been as much as a seven  game AL West division lead and a 6-2 lead six outs from appearing in the ALCS.

But there are definitely positives to be gleaned from the 2015 season and for where the Astros are positioned heading into 2016.

  • Pythagorean W-L. Per the Pythagorean won-loss formula, the Astros should have finished with a 93-69 record, not their final 86-76 record. This often indicates a team that might have some better luck coming their way in the ensuing year.
  • Negative turned Positive. It could be argued the mini-collapse that led to the Astros playing in the wild card play-in game may have been a positive overall. The Astros stood up on the road to a much more experienced (and much, much higher paid) team in the Yankees, stuck their foot on their throat and never gave them a modicum of a chance.
  • Road Repeatability. The Astros final road record looked bad at 33-48, but this camouflages the awfulness of the 17-42 road record the team put up between May 1 and the last week of the season. It is hoped that the way the team stood up the last week of the season, winning four of six on the road and going 2-2 on the road in the playoffs will help this young team’s confidence on the road in 2016.
  • Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. The Astros had the best staff ERA (3.57) in the AL and the second best starting pitching ERA (3.71) in the AL. Perhaps, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh will not be as fortunate to have 20 and 19 wins in 2016, but perhaps wunderkind Lance McCullers Jr. will have a better record than 6-7 when putting up a 3.22 ERA over 125 innings. Yes, they might need a fire-balling traditional closer to hold up the back-end of the bullpen, but the pen made a quantum leap from an AL worst 4.80 ERA in 2014 to a 4th best 3.27 ERA in 2015.
  • More of a Good Thing. If 99 games of Carlos Correa and 102 games of George Springer were a very good thing, wouldn’t 150+ games of them be even better?
  • Less is More. A big part of the Astros pitching and bullpen improvement in 2015 was having less innings being pitched by bad pitchers. The hope here is that a similar thing will happen with some of the high K, low contact hitters. Of course just like with the pitchers, the key is to have better hitters taking at bats from worse hitters. This is the biggest question for this off season.

So, what positives do you glean from 2015, that you think will lead to a better 2016.

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105 comments on “Don’t despair: Positives ahead for 2016 Astros

  1. The biggest positives for me were all starting pitching. How many years will the Astros have a guy who wins – or should win – the Cy Young, another guy who wins 19 games, and a rookie pitcher that stuns the league with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.186 WHIP and 129 Ks in 125 innings to boot? Add to that the promotion – well earned – of potentially the best shortstop in Astros history, and you’ve got some pretty good things to smile about, even considering the huge collection of other things – especially the entire offense after #3 in the order and a bullpen that blew up on us the last 1/3 of the season – that made this balding man want to pull out the rest of his hair strand by strand.

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    • As far as positioning for 2016, the positives are that the Astros still have Keuchel, McHugh, and McCullers in the rotation, have Gregorson in the pen, and have Altuve, Springer, and Correa as 1-3 in the order. After that, it’s a whole lot dicey.

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  2. More positives:
    – 0 plate appearances by Matt Domingues
    – Jose Altuve was not our cleanup hitter
    – signed our top draftees
    – Fresno Milipedes win the AAA pennant!

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  3. I’m going to throw a curveball and use a negative as a positive. I think all the Ks by our hitters will turn into a positive. Why? Because I think it showed Hinch and Luhnow, while watching the Royals rally from 4 down in the 8th inning of game 4, that contact hitters are the way to go. I believe our 2016 team, while still having some high K hitters, will have more contact hitters in the lineup. We know the Astros are going to have a strong rotation and the bullpen will be good, and hopefully better with some tweaks. Improve the lineup with more contact hitters and I think we are looking at a 90+ win team.

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    • Tim, I think Luhnow’s draft shows he plans to transition to a contact-hitting team. Unfortunately, most of those pieces were not ready for 2015, so he had to put together an offense with what was available on the trade and free agent markets. That was power that came with Ks.

      One of the biggest positives in 2015 was the addition by subtraction. Less bad pitching. Less Matt Dominguez. I think 2016 will be less Chris Carter and probably less Evan Gattis. That means more of someone who makes contact, probably hits fewer homers but drives in runs with fly balls, moves runners with grounders and just generally put the ball in play. Like the Royals did in the 8th inning of Game 4.

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      • I think Luhnow was trying to work within budgetary constraints and said – I can give Shin-Soo Choo type of money to a contact / OBP hitter so that I’m paying a guy in his 30’s $20 million / yr for 5 or 6 years or I can patchwork with someone like Rasmus for one year at $9 million and Gattis at near minimum and pick up the 2 relievers we so desperately need. The contact / OBP guys are coming, and I hope we start seeing them soon from our own system.

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      • I agree with you, Brian and Dan. This is why I support, for the most part, Luhnow as the G.M. and don’t want to bail on the plan. That would be a colossal mistake, in my opinion. The farm system is deep, the major league team has made great strides in the past 2 years and our future is filled with high contact, high OBP hitters. I admit he has made some mistakes, but find me a G.M. that hasn’t. So far, the 5-year plan is far ahead of schedule.

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    • Carlos Correa is a special correspondent for MLB.com at the World Series. When asked about the Royals’ success, the first thing he mentioned was their high batting averages. Then he mentioned their pitching and then their defense.

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    • i agree here tim.
      i see comments that make it look like we were terrible, one has only to look above at dan’s column and read the important line “(we had) a 6-2 lead six outs from appearing in the acls to see fallacy in the sky is falling evaluation of the team. 6 outs from the league championship!! how many other teams can say that? so the k’s are annoying and draw criticism but the team still got you to 6 outs away from the league championship. i think luhnow will definitely move in the direction of more contact but it won’t be wholesale moves. and you folks that hate gattis, stock up on your favorite adult beverage cause he aint going nowhere. he like many others on the team, get compared to players that have been successful for years already. this was really is first full year at dh. he has had 1289 major league at bats – with 566 of them coming this year. not enough time to accurately determine what he will be in a few more seasons of 500+ at bats. now gattis isn’t necessarily a favorite of mine, but i am willing to give him adequate time for evaluation. what the team needs is less knee jerk reaction and more in depth analysis. we’ll get that from luhnow.

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      • I don’t hate Gattis. I hate how he was used. If they put him at #7 in the lineup and used Tucker as the DH against righties with power sliders I think the results would have been better.

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      • I’m not a Gattis fan, but it was his first year in the A.L. and his 2nd half was much better than his 1st half. I’m willing to keep him, but have a backup plan if he fails. Tyler White is cheaper and probably perform better than Gattis as an everyday DH.

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      • If one doesn’t like the job that another did, that does not mean that one hates another. It means they don’t like the job the other did and would rather see someone else do a better job.

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  4. One of the positives I took from this season were the great years we had in the minors from players we did not expect it from. Joe Musgrove, Jon Kemmer, Tyler White, Matt Duffy and A J Reed all performed great and above what most people thought. Colin Moran had a great year after that fluke injury he suffered. Bostick, Martes, Yuhl, Abreu and Paulino all showed stuff that surprised a lot of folks.

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    • And there are more that we don’t know their names yet, who will rise to the top in the next 2-3 years. Daz Cameron, and Kyle Tucker are two right off the top!!

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  5. 1. The starting pitching…..WOWZA!!!
    2. The shiny new short stop whose the AL rookie of the year!!
    3. A manager who let the guys be who there were in the clubhouse, but when they stepped on the field they were all baseball, and all Astros!
    4. The GM who *tried* to get a closer at the deadline, but balked when the Padres wanted the farm for Kimbrel.
    5. The boys learning to win, and getting back up off the mat and gritting out the last few road games, to secure the wild card….I absolutely loved watching them celebrate the two wins to get to the post season. *Loved* it!!
    6. The front office realizing what is needed to get better…..I know what I’m talking about because I have a friend whose in the FO. They were concerned, trust me.
    7. With a healthy Springer, Correa, Gomez, Altuve, Rasmus (maybe) and the additions of a new 1st baseman, and 3rd baseman…..we will be a very good team next year.
    They have got to get the live and die by the long ball attitude out of their minds.
    While all of us love homeruns….getting doubles and timely hits are just as important.
    That’s why I said, if there is one guy who could preach and demonstrate the importance of situational hitting is Jeff Bagwell!!
    Good article about the importance of keeping Marwin Gonzalez on this team at
    Astrosdaily.com
    8. Having this city go absolutely NUTS buying Astros merchandise, and being excited about baseball for the first time in 6-7 years!! Did my heart good to listen to Matt Thomas rave about these guys!

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  6. The Royals won, and I have a love hate relationship with Eric Hosmer. A guy who can get that clutch hit when he has to, and a dang good 1st basean. I hate him for how he played against us!

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  7. Finding Chipallata 5 years ago , it makes being a 35 year Astro fan even better to read all the great posts, how we educate each other, agree to disagree, cheer and cry together. The Astro ship is heading in the right direction, now lest makes some move’s !

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  8. I haven’t been this excited about the Hot Stove League starting in 10 years. It is a great time to be an Astros fan again, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s watch this offseason with anticipation and excitement on how our favorite team can be improved for the 2016 season.

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  9. The 7 game difference in the actual win/loss record and run differential projections probably have something to do with the way the team is built versus bad luck. If we continue to struggle manufacturing one and two run innings against good pitching and continue to live for blowing out average and below pitching – see game 5 – we will continue to see ourselves below the Pythagorean waterline.

    If we continue to trot out Valbuena, Carter, Rasmus, Castro, Gattis and crowd, and btw Springer isn’t exactly a high caliber contact guy either, we are going to continue to see some 3-2 losses and 7-1 wins.

    This team could be completely remade over with two additions that we already own – White and Kemp. White at 1B (or DH and Reed at 1B if the Astros are ready for another ROY), Kemp in LF, Rasmus gone and Carter gone – and we can produce some 1 and 2 run innings, and not have 15 K’s every time we face someone like Kershaw. We don’t have to get rid of ALL the strikeouts, but some more balance and some more small ball producers to get something done against the better pitchers will help in my opinion.

    And Devin brings up the good point earlier – lets see guys like Gattis and Valbuena utilized more to their strengths. I like lumberjack, but he isn’t a 600 plate appearance type talent. He can improve that BA and OBP both if he isn’t trotted out there 600 times, but utilized to face pitchers he has tendencies towards and used less against hard throwing righties. Not sure the depth was there in the roster for Hinch to use – there were probably 5 guys he wanted to sit everytime they played against those types.

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    • When we got Gattis I noticed a significant difference in his splits from low power to high power RH pitchers. I was researching the opening day lineup vs Kluber and I left him out of the lineup because his splits were bad against RH power pitchers. I wonder if his splits in 2015 were the same. I guess I’ll look that up.

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    • In 2015 this was Gattis’ line against power pitchers in the reg season. In 129 plate appearances he hit .185/.202/.385/.597. He had 23 hits, 2 walks and 40 Ks

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  10. I still don’t see a real focused “plan”. If the goal was to be contact oriented, then we should have gone and stayed in that direction, rather than breaking records for strike outs. It’s pretty apparent that contact works, as evidenced by KC being to the World Series two years in a row. But we all pretty much all knew the all or nothing approach really was not the answer. We’ve talked about it here way beyond blue in the face standards. So I still wonder why we interrupted our rebuilding “plan” with that trip to the record books in the K department. Tim, that’s why I’m still dubious of the Luhnow “plan”.

    Of course, we could have a heck of a team next year, especially if 1OP is allowed to pencil in the lineup. I certainly want Springer and Correa hitting 3 and 4, in no particular order, 150 games each. George did a heck of a job in posting that .367 OBP mostly leading off and hitting second, but let him hit! We’ll see a .900 plus OPS from both of our young sluggers if we put them where they belong. I don’t mind if Altuve leads off. The way Tyler White is going, heck, let him DH daily and hit second, or 5th if he’s going to slow down Springer and Correa on the bases. I don’t want to see Gattis any longer. Not Carter either.

    Anyway, more ranting from me at another time!

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    • I’m not going to waste time defending Luhnow, except to suggest his 2015 plan may have deviated by necessity. If he stuck to his rebuilding plan, I think we would have a new GM today. He got some added salary room last off season and had to maximize returns despite not being able to complete his desired trades and sign his first choices. I think the 2014 draft debacle and hacking scandal put him on the hot seat.

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    • What Devin said is very accurate, in my opinion. Every team covets high contact, high OBP hitters so they aren’t easy to acquire via trade or free agency. You have to draft and develop them, which Luhnow is doing. The reason he ‘deviated’ from the plan in 2015 is because Crane gave him orders to win and compete for the playoffs and, lo and behold, the Astros did just that. Luhnow didn’t tie us up with any Shin Soo Choo contracts and those high K hitters can easily be replaced once the players in our system are ready. Some of those players are ready or very close to being ready, including White, Kemp and Reed. I expect Reed to open the year in Fresno, but will be in Houston sometime in 2016. The Choo contract is a prime example of how much high contact, high OBP players are coveted. The Rangers wanted him badly and they over-paid for him. I am very curious what kind of contract Zobrist will get. He is 34 and will turn 35 next year. I think he is worth a 3/$30M contract, but I bet some team will give him 3/$45M, which is too much, but he will be coveted by teams that don’t want to give out another Choo type contract.

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  11. I know they are not a team that hits or scores consistently enough but here’s the deal:
    – They scored more than the other team 86 times in 2015 compared to 70 times in 2014
    – They raised their scoring significantly from 3.88 to 4.50 runs / game
    – They went from middle of the pack in SLG (.383) and OPS (.692) in 2014 to second in the league (.754 OPS / .437 SLG) in 2015.
    Luhnow was able to better this club’s production while not over-committing on contracts (length or $$). I don’t agree with the omissions he made the second half of the season in bringing up and losing someone / anyone at 1B but he did improve the offense of the club overall.

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    • Again Dan I think season total stats don’t tell the whole story – they rolled some pitchers, and they struggled incredibly against others. The goal isn’t to break records in runs, homeruns, strikeouts, its to win games. To do that we have to incorporate more consistency against the best pitchers, and to do that you have to have manufacturers – i.e. Kemp. Couple him at the top with Altuve, let Springer and Correa have 3 and 4, and when you face Felix Hernandez you have a few contact guys that might get on base, cause some trouble, and help us manufacture instead of hoping against all hope you get a big inning when the guy is more likely to strike out 11-13 (or more) of your hitters.

      Now all in all, we did win 86, so I’m not in the disparage Luhnow crowd. The bottom line is what matters, and 86 wins is better than just about anyone projected. I do hope to see more balance though and turn that into the 93 win ol’ pyth suggests.

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    • I guess what I am saying is that Luhnow made changes that created a better offense than in 2014, but not as good as the season long stats would suggest and I don’t think he was surprised by this. He showed some improvement on the offensive side, while still allowing himself monetary room to improve the abysmal bullpen that was the dark mark of the 2014 team.

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  12. Here is my snap shot on LUN. He took over an organization and farm system that was just historically all time Horrid!.. I think he is smart enough to have made some deals and decisions and got Crane to buy enough to his plan that we improved , we couldn’t get any worse. Now I have agreed with about 30 % of his moves, 70% head scratchers.
    So he took crap and we now have respectability. Now we will see just how smart he is, we have some studs , some good kids on the farm, some money. Expectations have jumped, can he take his game to deliver a champion?

    2016 is the year to really evaluate if JL is worth his bravado!

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    • Yes, I would say this will be Jeff’s put up or shut-up off-season. We will see how much he values our remaining MiLB high-level performers [White, Reed, Duffy, Kemp, Devenski, Musgrove, etc.] on the one hand, and how attached he is to the big club’s underperformers, on the other hand. Surprise me, Jeff!

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  13. I love Zobrist like others do – brings so much to a team. The question is – when does a guy who turns 35 in May start falling off the cliff and how many years do you give him. I mean he has been a very steady hitter this whole time.

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  14. Kemp could be a key player.
    Do they think he’s ready?
    Do they think he will ever be ready?
    The answers to those two questions could determine what we do about LF in 20i6
    If they think he can hit big league pitchers and draw walks, he has the quickness and savvy to handle LF in MMP.
    If they don’t think he can handle the bat, then they need to go find someone who can.
    Zobrist certainly falls into the Astros sphere because it is going to be two years for Fisher and probably three or more for Tucker/Cameron to burst on the scene, although I still think Bregman could play LF with his bat. Especially if Carlos and Jose are an all-star combo.

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    • Since Bregman has already told the organization he won’t pay another position , he COULD be an attractive piece in a big trade in the next two years! Just say’n.

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      • I have never heard of Bregman saying that. That would be crazy for him because he knew we had Correa when we drafted him. If he hits, there are still a lot of positions out there he could play.

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      • OP….yeah, he was asked about the position change this year, and he said he “absolutely did not want to play 3rd, my position is short stop”.

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    • Old Pro, you and the rest here are some of the most intelligent baseball fans I have ever come in contact with, but I think most here with the exception of Chip have undervalued Bregman and what he will bring to our team. I have gotten really excited about five players from LSU in the last few years. All but for one, I rate Bregman at the top. Of course, I’m still sobbing about not picking up Aaron Nola who will be an all star for years. I rate Bregman second ahead of the all star second baseman for the Rockies, Gausman for Baltimore and Tampa Bays rookie outfielder.
      I don’t understand Bregman’s errors that happened this summer, but he certainly led the ncaa baseball for fielding % in his time there. He is a natural leader, will hit for average and will certainly bring an energy to the team without any negative side issues.

      I predict starting around 2017 all you will include him as one of the top Astros, and he will be at shortstop and Carlos will be at third. You all can start throwing bad fruit at me now.

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      • I’m not going to throw bad fruit at you, but Carlos will be 22 opening day of 2017. I just don’t think the Astros will move him to 3rd so quickly. However, if Bregman just tears up the minor leagues next year they may approach Carlos and gauge his interest in a position switch. Bregman may be a great hitter, but I don’t think he will ever be as good as Correa and the Astros will be very careful not to upset their future Hall of Fame SS. This is not a knock on Bregman, but just that I think Correa is going to go down as one of the greatest shortstops, if not one of the greatest players, to play the game. He is going to be that good. The adjustments he made as a 20-year old was just amazing and something you rarely see. Even Mike Trout didn’t make the adjustments this quickly.

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      • Larry, I would love to see things work out with Bregman, but if Correa wants to stay at short and is displaying an ability to play the position, I don’t think we can expect a move to third anytime soon. I think Correa will be a heck of a shortstop based on some of the remarkable things he’s done there already. I expect him to relax, focus and start making all the routine plays in 2016. If Bregman wants to play for the big club, he might need to be a bit flexible. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s hope he puts together a great minor league season in 2016. He’s got a ways to go.

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      • I said I wasn’t in love with Bregman, but I think Bregman could one day be capable of playing SS, 2B, 3B, DH, LF, or CF for this club. I think he has that kind of talent. My true hope for 2017 is this:
        Bregman CF
        Correa SS
        Springer RF
        Reed 1B
        Moran 3B
        White/Tucker DH
        Altuve 2B
        Fisher LF
        Heineman C
        I swear I think everybody in that lineup would be capable of hitting .280+
        and an OPS of .330+ and, as a group, would hit 130-140 HRs and lead the AL in doubles and steals. Almost everyone in that group would be a Houston draft pick and most of them would be Luhnow’s picks.
        I know Fisher might not be ready by then, but just maybe he is. These guys were all top notch college or high school players and every one of them excel at getting on base.
        By the way, Phillips would have been in my leadoff spot and in CF and Bregman would have been in LF before the damn trade for Gomez. But we do have Gomez for 2016 and that sounds good to me.

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      • Larry – you can count me among the skeptics though. I think Bregman is a future major leaguer, yes. He may even become a slightly ahead of the curve starter, but I have my doubts that he will ever be a difference maker, much less all star. But hey, that’s why we do this exercise. I’ve been wrong before, when it comes to baseball, I will most certainly be wrong again.

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      • And when it comes to position change – the club owns this guy for the next 8 years, unless he makes the 40 man faster than I anticipate. The choice isn’t really his.

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      • I don’t see Altuve hitting 7th, even in 2017. Let’s not forget that he’s just a year removed from a batting title. Get someone else with a high OBP up there with him. And as I said yesterday, Springer and Correa over a full season might produce as much as any 3 and 4 slots in the league.

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    • Another benefit of Kemp is sliding Altuve into DH when he is a little banged up. Recall the June slump this year – he didn’t benefit from 9 innings of defense those days.

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  15. Tim, I agree that Carlos may just be the greatest Astro ever and Bregman will not even come close to his potential. I’m saying that with what we have in our system now, I see Bregman filling in the last spot for our infield which will hopefully include Reed at 1st base. If Bregman is traded and with Luhnow’s track record, I think we will regret it in the following years. Will Carlos move to third like Arod, we’ll see.

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  16. Larry….no one is knocking Bregman. He was drafted VERY high this year, and trust me the Astros know how good he is, and how fast he’s gonna blow through the minors. BUT…..I don’t think it’s fair to start making noise about not wanting to change positions, when you’ve only been with the club less than a year. I’m 100% sure the organization will satisfy everyone concerned when the time comes!! By the way……I watched I’m play in the college World series, and I was more than impressed!!! He’s very good, but Correa is AMAZING good.

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  17. Just watched the Royals do to the Mets what they did to us. Work the count, get the pitch you want and cash in a base hit. Beautiful to watch.

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  18. What gripes my a $$ is how SLANTED Joe Buck is with the Royals. He does this EVERYTIME calls the WS. The Royals might win it all, but come on man…..dont show your rear end by showing so much slant to one club over the other.

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    • I stopped complaining about how bad Joe Buck is (on here) years ago. There are a few commenters who were highly offended I did not think the biggest Cardinals fan in all of broadcasting was unbiased.

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  19. Going back to the original topic on the positives, I hope the FO learned that if you play for only one run per inning, you can score 9 in a game. That wins most games. Someone had to whisper upstairs that a lead off runner that is bunted to 2nd gives up an out. But when the 2nd batter is a K, you give up an out and a base. I love a 3 run HR as much as Earl Weaver, but there were so many games that I just would have loved to see the lead off hitter in so many innings score and not die on the bases.

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    • Teams that play small ball tend to finish above their pyth formula winning percentage. Teams that play for the big inning tend to finish below it. Worked for the Cardinals for years – just look at LaRussa’s career winning percentage and run differentials. It’s working for the Royals now.

      When your opponents throw Felix Hernandez or Corey Kluber or some other Cy Young guy, it doesn’t help to pencil Carter, Rasmus, Castro, Gattis, Valbuena, Springer, etc. in your lineup. You are just helping his Cy Young campaign. We need better balance.

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    • Kind of ironic that the Astros murdered King Felix (8 runs in 0.1 IP) in their only time facing him this season, but in general the Kluber and Hernandez (and even second tier guys) slow this offense to a halt.

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      • If I remember correctly, the Astros had quite a few good wins against TOR pitchers this year. I can’t recall which ones and I’m to lazy to look it up. Remember the Dodgers series? Then they would lose to mediocre guys.

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    • Speculation is that with Shaprio taking over from Beeston as team president he would not have final say on most personnel moves. Maybe he knows they gave Shapiro more say.
      So, the guy gets them to their first playoffs in 22 years by basically being aggressive bringing in Price, Tulo and Revere at the trade deadline and now decides to walk away. Have to figure that he did not feel comfortable with the change at the top.

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  20. Meanwhile, we have another highly touted #1 draft choice still in our minor league system, awaiting his moment. His name is Mark Appel. What did we learn about Mark last year? It depends on what his instructions were. If he was told to work on arm slots, delivery mechanic, and specific pitches, the stats don’t tell us anything. But here are the stats, just for fun:
    IP- 131.2
    Ks – 110 [about what his historic stats suggest for him]
    BBs- 51 [more per outing than in 2014]
    HRs – 13 [less per outing than in 2014]
    WHIP – 1.41 [better than the 1.60 in 2014]
    ERA – 4.37 [way better than in 2014]
    BAA – .266 [way better than in 2014]
    GO/AO – 1.08 [his worst year so far]

    Alas, Mark is not knock, knock, knockin’ on MMPs door.

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    • Mr. Bill you ignorant slut!

      In the ‘counterpoint’ session, check out these comments made about Mark [and Tony Kemp] after those two led Fresno to the PCL championship:

      “Behind a solid start by Astros No. 2 prospect Mark Appel and a 3-for-4 performance from 11th-ranked Tony Kemp, the Grizzlies defeated Round Rock, 7-3, in the decisive fifth game of the Finals to win the first PCL title in franchise history. The championship came one day after Fresno stayed alive with a 2-1 triumph over the Express at Chukchansi Park.

      Sunday’s start went to Appel (1-0), the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft, and he responded with one of his strongest outings of the season. After surrendering an RBI single to Ed Lucas in the top of the first, he didn’t allow another runner past second base until the sixth. “Total domination,” DeFrancesco said. “This guy struck out 10 guys and had total control. He made one mistake there in the sixth inning. Other than that, this is the Mark Appel that the Astros are expecting and hope that he gets the job done.”

      Drew Robinson hit a two-run homer on Appel’s 106th and final pitch dampened an otherwise strong 5 2/3-inning stint that included career high-tying 10 strikeouts. “Talking to him, he threw a changeup on an 0-2 pitch, his third-best pitch, when he was up over 100 pitches,” DeFrancesco said. “It was a learning experience for him.”

      Kemp led the offensive charge. The 23-year-old second baseman led off the bottom of the first with a double off Anthony Ranaudo (1-1) and scored one batter later when Tyler White drilled a two-run homer. Kemp also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the second and helped the Grizzlies add a key insurance run with an RBI single through the right side in the fourth.

      The 2013 fifth-round pick batted .405 in the playoffs and .450 (9-for-20) against Round Rock en route to winning Finals MVP honors. “The kid’s a catalyst,” DeFrancesco said. “Hitting [for average], scoring runs, stealing bases. He’s a true competitor with the game on the line and he got some big hits for us. We’re real happy for Tony.””

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      • I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but Appel starts remind me of Chris Holt from the late 90s. You get a bunch of flawless innings paired with one inning that’s a real stinker. The BB totals are the only concern about Appel that I have, though. I think veteran leadership will help him keep the lapses in check.

        Like

  21. Tyler White is headed to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball. He will play 1st and be a DH. Funny how all the talk of him going to learn to catch, is suddenly gone.

    Like

    • I guarantee you that if a 5’11” 215lb guy caught three innings without ever catching before, he would not be able to stand up the next day, let alone swing a bat or run.
      What they were asking him to do was crazy and it is scary, because they should have known better. Why was there nobody in the organization who had the gumption to tell Luhnow that he was trying to do the impossible?
      It takes years for the best catcher in the world to be a major league catcher. What were they thinking?

      Like

      • They WEREN’T thinking…….that’s the problem. Why would you risk the health of a kid, by asking him to do something so foreign to him! I don’t “get” it.

        Like

      • He was 225 but lost 10 lbs over the last offseason. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I would still like him to shed a few more pounds.

        Like

  22. I found something very interesting when going over Evan Gattis’s stats.
    As you know, a huge majority of the Astros’s road games are in the parks of our four AL West opponents. Here are Gattis’s lines in those four parks for 2015.
    BA/OBP/SLG/OPS
    Seattle- .200/.263/.457/.720
    Arlington- .211/.250/.316/.566
    Oakland- .188/.212/.313/.525
    Angels- .091/.139/.121/.260
    In the 35 most important road games of the year, against our biggest opponents, our cleanup hitter disappeared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I just can’t justify a place on the roster for the guy in 2016. Unfortunately I won’t have any say in the matter. But if we have guys like Springer, Correa and Gomez in the middle of the order, my DH is Tyler White, hitting 2nd or 6th.

      Like

    • If he must be in the lineup, he needs to be hitting seventh or eighth.
      Its a crying shame to have a DH that can’t play a position and can’t produce runs either.

      Like

    • It’s a shame there is no one in our FO responsible for crunching numbers, spotting trends, and using the data to find a competitive advantage.

      Like

  23. The Astros have 3 Gold Glove Finalists according to Rawlings:
    1. Pitcher – Dallas Keuchel
    2. 2nd Base – Jose Altuve
    3. Catcher – Jason Castro

    Like

  24. Mr. Bill’s Knocking on heaven’s door comment above inspired me to write an ode for Mr. Gattis:

    Ma, take that bat away from him
    He can’t even hit a thing.
    His chances are getting very slim
    Feel like I’m knockin’ on Evan’s swing.

    [Chorus]
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing

    Ma, take that bat away from him
    He is hitting with a prayer and a wing
    To hit a slider he needs a longer limb
    Feel like I’m knockin’ on Evan’s swing

    [Chorus]
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing
    Knock, knock, knockin’ on Evan’s swing

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Ok…..we ALL know after this year, what a poor DH Gattic was. BUT…..what else can he do to stay with this organization? Simple…..*nothing*.
    1. He can’t catch anymore
    2. He can’t play 1st base, or ANY base for that fact of the matter.
    3. He can’t play left field…..that idea got flushed down the toilet this year.
    4. So……what do you do with the guy??? I’m not being a smart a$$ but I’m serious, I’m just wondering what else he can do to stay on the roster?
    Any ideas???

    Like

  26. I did the same for Luis Valbuena and his story is the opposite. He hit well in all four of those ballparks, especially compared to his overall stats. When we went west, he showed up!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I wish the Padres would hold off naming Andy Green as their manager because he is not a former catcher, and I have the name of a current backup catcher I would like them to interview for that job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Teams have five days to make a QO after the series ends and the players have what, seven days to accept or reject it? Warm up the burners, Sandy! It will be Hot Stove time.

      Like

  28. Tyler White AND A.J. Reed were both named offensive players of the year for our minor league teams!! And….. Keuchel, Altuve, and Castro are ALL finalist for the Gold Glove awards. They were listed yesterday as in the running for it, and today they named them in the finalist for it. Keuchel had 1 error for te year, Castro had 1 for the year, and Altuve committed 5 errors. I hope they ALL get one, wouldn’t that be cool!!

    Like

  29. Another positive for 2015 was that we had a pretty good super-sub. Marwin hit .279 [tied with Correa for 3rd on the team behind Altuve and . . . drumroll . . . Jonathan Villar. Marwin also had a .317 OBP, which was 5th on the team behind Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Villar. MarGo also hit 12 HR and drove in 34 runs. And he struck out only 20% of the time – which on the 2015 team was really, really good [Carter 33%; Rasmus 32%; Castro 31%; Tucker 30%; Marisnick 29%; Conger 28%; Springer 24%; Villar 23%; Valbuena 22%]

    Like

    • That is EXACTLY why we need to keep him. If we can’t get a Zobrist like player, then keeping Marwin is a *must*. And what’s that nasty taste in my mouth…..Villerror 😠Blah, spit, spit, spit….

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Before this blog closes out I wanted to say I’m not afraid of what Luhnow or the Astros might do. I was in business enough times to know that you see and learn new things every day. You get surpised by competitors, customers, employees, partners and coworkers. You get surprised by suppliers and their competitors and their employees.
    The business of baseball is a people business.
    I trust Luhnow more now than I did one, two or three years ago because I know he is more informed, more learned and more experienced than he was.
    He has been through a lot and has seen what players are capable of doing and what they can’t do.
    There are going to be trades, free agents, waivers and waiver signings. We are going to have a player or two lost in the rule 5 draft, but that is the way things go. This offseason and 2016 are going to be so much fun and I am looking forward to learning a lot more about baseball myself. This is going to be a blast.

    Liked by 2 people

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