Saturday notes: Post Christmas thoughts with spring now coming into focus


It’s the weekend after Christmas and the Astros are clearly on a mission. And, yes, it’s morning again in Houston!

While I plan to be back in January, here are a few thoughts to whet your Astros’ appetite, though you’ve probably already eaten plenty over the past week.

What is the biggest problem the Astros face in 2016?

Clearly, one of the biggest obstacles that Astros face is maintaining and moving forward. It’s not difficult to get to — or near — the top of the mountain.  The bigger problem is staying there. Jeff Luhnow and company made it to the playoffs last season with a hodge podge lineup and roster. Plus pitching, and plenty of it. There’s a slim chance the same lineup would have had the same outcome two seasons in a row. So change is inevitable and Luhnow has accommodated.

The rotation will be different, the bullpen will be different, the corner infield spots will be different. And, Luhnow is likely not yet finished with the remake. Already, at least nine players who were on the 2015 opening day roster will be playing elsewhere. That number is likely to increase by opening day 2016. Even bubble choices (guys who were the last ones out on that roster) like Brett Oberholtzer and Alex Presley are gone.

You maintain or progress by change. The good teams prove that year in and year out and Luhnow is tweaking and re-tooling.

Did the Astros give up too much in recent trades?

Yes, of course. But Luhnow was not going to get caught in the predicament again of which players to protect and which ones not to protect from the Rule 5 draft. In the case of Mark Appel, the handwriting on the wall was obvious. There just wasn’t going to be a place for him in the Astros’ rotation and he wasn’t going to force the hand of Luhnow or A.J. Hinch. You want guys like Lance McCullers Jr. who knock the door down and Appel just wasn’t that guy.  Should be as a #1 pick, but no.

From one perspective, you have to like Luhnow’s tenacity. He goes out and makes sure he gets what he wants. While he won’t necessarily get caught in tying up huge budget on free agents with ridiculous contracts, he will use the commodity that he has (minor league talent, in many cases unproven) to buy what the team needs. Yes, sometimes, he does spend that ridiculously (Evan Gattis and Hank Conger trades), but he believed those guys would help the team and he went out and got them.

Can the Astros be lucky again?

Luck is always a part of the equation. Houston got lucky on several fronts in 2015. Colby Rasmus panned out. Carlos Correa returned from a crazy injury and was ready ahead of time. Two AA pitchers helped the team. A.J. Hinch didn’t meddle too much and managed like a fifth-year manager. Jim Crane acted like an owner and stayed out of the on-field product. Houston had enough quality players in the fold and in the wings to make up for injuries and under performance. Yes, some of these aren’t necessarily in the “luck” category, so just call it karma or the planets aligning or finally getting the right team in place (management, players, people, etc.).

Houston still needs real results at the corner of the infield. Luis Valbuena should be the guy.  The numbers he had in the minors and in Chicago did not bear out in 2015 and the Astros have been patient. If he can turn into the guy that the numbers project, problem solved at third base. Houston obviously thinks the same thing or the team would not have traded Jed Lowrie (again).

The Astros proved in 2015 that they can handle severe injuries (Lowrie, George Springer, Scott Feldman et al). While the stable is not necessarily barren now, the options do not run as deep.  Is there a McCullers or Vincent Velasquez or others waiting? If so, there aren’t as many of them.

Is Luhnow the guy?

Clearly, Luhnow has led the team out of Egypt. But can he lead the organization into the promised land? Obviously, he can reshape a team and isn’t scared or hesitant to make the moves he believes will get the team there. But, is he the guy who can fashion a solid contending team year in and year out? The proverbial jury is still out, but there are many questions. Some have been answered, others still necessitate an incomplete grade.

He’s earned a few more years to try though. He has returned the team to respectability and it’s fun to be an Astros’ fan again. It’s been a bumpy ride, but the scenery on the trip in 2015 was pretty good.

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43 comments on “Saturday notes: Post Christmas thoughts with spring now coming into focus

  1. The Astros pitching last season did involve a lot of luck:
    Keuchel was great and held up.
    McHugh had his regression but was healthy and had good run support.
    Ober punched his ticket out of town with one stupid pitch
    Roberto was just barely good enough to stay around awhile.
    Deduno’s one shot ended on the DL.
    McCullers faced the dreaded “Too Many Innings” syndrome but managed to throw a great game against KC in the playoffs.
    Velasquez was like a good fifth starter, but always ended up throwing too many pitches in five innings to see his way to the end of a game.
    Feldman was hurt. Peacock was hurt.
    Wojo wasn’t ready for prime time.
    Kazmir and Fiers showed flashes of brilliance, but the no-hitter just wore Fiers out and Kazmir faded.
    I think the staff assembled has the ability to be as good or better. Injuries will test the Astros’ strength at the AAA level.

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  2. I think the key is that the Luhnow grade is incomplete, which it should be. We haven’t had enough time to tell if the trades were successful or not (although we can all agree the Conger trade failed). The Gattis trade, at first, looked horrible, but as it stands today the Astros are leading in that one. The Gomez/Fiers trade and the Giles trade appear to have been huge hauls for the other team, but no one traded away has done anything worth mentioning, at this point, to call the trades bad. Gomez was injured for the majority of the time this season for the Astros, but if he rebounds and plays like he is capable, combining it with several years of control for Mike Fiers this trade may end up well for the Astros.

    2011-2014 were lean years as Astros fans, but in my estimation, it was worth it to get back to contention so quickly. Look what the Royals fans endured starting in 1986 to 2014 or Pirates fans from 1993-2011. I would rather have 3-5 years of horrible baseball if it leads to 3-5 years of competitive, playoff baseball afterwards. For me, the most miserable time as an Astros fan was from 2007-2010 (sans 2008) when the front office pretended to want to win by signing miserable free agents like Bill Hall, Kaz Matsui and Pedro Feliz, etal, but failing to sign draft picks or drafting players based upon signability instead of physical ability. Drayton was a very nice guy and cared about the community of Houston, but his last 5-6 years as owner were failures, in my opinion. He meddled too much and listened to Bud Selig too much instead of doing what was best for the Houston Astros franchise. I’m not 100% sold on Jim Crane, but he is a baseball guy and I think he has a better understanding what it takes to build a winning baseball team.

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  3. Oh, by the way, welcome back Chip. You have been missed, but I have been following you on Facebook and congratulations on your commitment to a leaner self. I am hoping to take inspiration from what you have done. You look great and I’m sure you feel great as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The next sign of maturation I want to see from Luhnow is letting the kids he drafted have legitimate shots. Tyler White shows me the drive to succeed that I just don’t see in Singleton. Will Luhnow let Cinderella put on the glass slipper or go with convention? He took a big chance with Singleton and lost. White has so clearly outperformed and outworked him that to even hint that the job is Singleton’s to lose strikes me as the kind of false self esteem BS we used to hear from Bo Porter. If White falls on his face in Spring Training and Singleton performs then so be it but I fully expect the reverse to be much more likely. And while Singleton has more experience as a first baseman I fully expect White’s work ethic would translate well to defensive work. Then, if Reed comes to camp in shape and hungry give him some PAs in Fresno and bring him up, trade Gattis and let the fun begin.

    While we might not have the same quality of pitching in the high minors that we had last year who would have thought McCullers would rocket up the depth chart the way he did? Musgrove might be that guy this year. A healthy Feldman would be a really big deal, especially if Luhnow can’t resign Kazmir. I’m still hoping Scott signs with us for personal off the field reasons but also because another lefty in the starting rotation seems a better fit than another right hander. Yes, he will be expensive but this year has shown us that pitching is very pricey and that’s just the reality of it.

    I think what really excites me about this year is that our really good players like Correa, Altuve, Springer, Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh are still young and should be on the upward part of their careers. Off the top of my head I only see Feldman, Neshek and maybe Rasmus as ones who are obviously on the downside of their careers. When you look at the other clubs in our division they all look a little gray around the edges in very important areas. Hurry Spring!.

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    • Sir, I agree on Singleton. However, I do believe he’ll get EVERY shot in spring training (if he’s still here and Luhnow doesn’t find another suitable option). Why not? The Astros made the investment and he has some history. That said, if he’s hitting .200-.225 in mid to late March, it’s time to give up the ghost.

      That doesn’t mean that you don’t give White and Reed their ABs, just that Singleton should get his last and final shot as an Astro.

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  5. Welcome back Chip great to read your post, hope all is well. This year will be huge for Uncle Jeff, to see if he is really smart, or just had a very full cupboard to empty.
    A lot of trades and draft picks over the years stocked the pond. Now it is going to get harder.

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    • Kevin, it is interesting that Luhnow will NEVER be off the hot seat. Fans will always want more! All of us have been saying “this will be a huge year” for Luhnow since he got here. In some ways it isn’t fair, yet, there are only 30 of these jobs, so the pressure is always on!

      What most of us forget is that he’s had to assemble his team on and off the field. Some of those hires didn’t work out, but he’s the man in the front office that gets blamed (rightly so) for those things too. I believe what we’ve seen in 2015 is the beginning of the “gel” in the organization. The manager, the scouts, the assistants, even the coaching in the minors have all started to come together.

      The fact that some organizations have begun to “raid” the Astros coaches, assistant GMs, players, etc. is a good sign that Houston has taken a few steps forward.

      Yes, it will be a huge year for Luhnow if only because he’s still in uncharted territory for his time as a GM. He has never had to hold the fort and he’ll have to show that 2015 was not a fluke of nature. We now know he can assemble a pitching staff/bullpen. Can he provide the right type of offense that will sustain? Let’s see…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice to have you back Chip – always interesting thoughts.
    You are voicing some concerns I have had internally about the repeatability of 2015. There is never any guarantee that everyone who did X last year will do it again this year. And injuries at the wrong time to the wrong people can derail things also.
    I really really want this front office to give the young guys (White / Reed) a shot at 1B and DH some time during this coming season. I want solid hitters there, not some time hitters there.

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    • The problem with sticking with some of the guys they have is that they are not good hitters for average to start with and when they slump they slump below .200.
      Gattis, Singleton, Castro, Carter, Conger and even Rasmus have never been known for decent batting averages, so their slumps are killers.
      The opposite of that is Altuve, who slumped in May to a .248 average, which the other guys hit at their best.
      The Astros need a lineup of guys who can hit for average, so that when they aren’t at their best, they aren’t so awful!

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  7. Biggest problem:
    Find out who is gonna play 1st base…and quit the revolving door.
    Did Luhnow give up too much in trades:
    Yes…and Maverick, and Pena will prove that out.
    Can the team get lucky again:
    ABSOLUTLY! They just have to pick up where they left off this year!
    Is Luhnow the guy?
    He is, until the talent on the farm starts putting out one great player after another, then I think he will move on to another team in distress like the Astros were.
    And you’re correct, he will ALWAYS be on the hot seat!!
    Sooo glad to have you back Chip, but Dan and Brian have filled our days with great conversation!! We look forward to seeing you back in January!

    The *key* to next year’s season, will be starting off the season on a good foot. Winning is ALWAYS the best foot forward! I’m excited, because I know Luhnow is not done yet!!

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  8. Again, welcome back Chip. With each passing year of improvement and advancement in the minors, I agree that JL has no choice but to trade for proven talent. The “log jam” long discussed is now happening in each step downward.

    Trades are always interesting. If one looks at 1 acre, all are the same, but one acre in Houston is not the same value as one acre in the country. JL HAS to over pay with prospects to get his missing pieces. Either in signing expensive FAs and maybe losing a draft pick, or in a heads up trade. The key is his ability to maintain the pipeline in the minors making it fairly easy to replace those traded pieces and hoping the replacements continue to improve. Some will stall – (insert Mier or perhaps Villar) but you hope others improve. Now is the time for the advancement of Aplin and Vasquez, and at least one catcher. The corner spots are advancing right now. And of course, you never have too many good pitchers. JL has done an excellent job on the minors. Lets see what happens on the Astros.

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  9. hey chip! its good to see you. hope all is well with you.
    biggest problem for 2016? i think offense. we have really solid starters and what looks to be a better and deeper bullpen. to me the outfield looks very solid as well and our 2b and ss are excellent. so we’ll see how it shakes out at 1b, 3b, dh, and catcher.
    did we give up too much in recent trades? i don’t think so. giles is a welcome addition at a critical spot, it needed to be done. as far as the other two listed yes conger was a big time bust, but the gattis trade (1/14/15 Atlanta Braves traded DH Evan Gattis and RHP James Hoyt to Houston Astros for RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 3B Rio Ruiz and RHP Andrew Thurman.) to me is still under evaluation. Hoyt is definitely gonna help at some point and while gattis disappointed this year, it was his first as a full time starter and i think he makes or breaks this year, but does deserve the chance.
    can we be lucky again – well sure. we have most of the players in place and a decent coaching staff, barring long lasting injuries to multiple players, what happened last year is repeatable and sustainable.
    is luhnow the guy. i say yes. he quickly built a top of the line minor league system and is now adding MAJOR league pieces to compliment what we have. not all of the trades have worked out, but rarely does that happen anywhere else either.

    good to see you chip, Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and everyone at chipalatta

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  10. I will say this relative to the Astros luck. It is hard to point at any one hitter and say they hit out of their head or they were so great they could not repeat it in 2016.
    It is hopeful that someone from Gattis, Valbuena, Rasmus or Castro will put out improved numbers. But there could be some fall off for some of the pitching.

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  11. Hey Chip good to see you back.

    Whether or not the Astros continue to improve may hinge on what transpires in the upcoming weeks.
    What will Luhnow do about Keuchel. I remember reading an article last summer talking about an extended contract.
    Keuchel said this is the only organization he has known and he would like to stay. He did mention he wanted a fair deal.
    Since that time we saw an ace in the playoffs that went on to become the AL Cy Young winner.
    Each day that passes without a deal ( I think) puts the Astros future in jeopardy. If they offer him a nice deal and he accepts, then we’re on the way to becoming a good respectable team. If they low-ball him…..the opposite.

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    • 1. The biggest problem the Astros face in 2016, in my opinion, is the Texas Rangers.
      2. Did the Astros give up too much in recent trades? In my opinion, maybe. But I think they got back equal value in return, in total
      3. I think the Astros can be lucky again, but they could also be good, which trumps lucky.
      Is Luhnow the guy? Yes, because he has four extra years of the best education he ever received. He is a lot smarter today than he was four years ago.

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    • I have observed that almost without fail, pitchers and agents who are in Keuchel’s position, want the GMs of all 30 major league clubs to vie for their services and determine their financial destiny, not just one club.
      This ball may not be in the Astros’ court. Either way, I don’t see Keuchel’s future as singlehandedly putting the Astros’ future in jeopardy.
      Keuchel has a chance to get a monumental payday in his year 31 season and he can still get that and millions from the Astros in arbitration in the next three years.
      We know the Astros would like to keep him, and we know they are not a rich franchise. What we don’t know is what and who might be whispering in his ear what he should do.

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      • Also we do not know who might be whispering in JL’s ear. One would think that whoever told him to tie up Matty D, Grossman, and Jon Boy to long term contracts is no longer within shouting distance of JL.

        We see DK as the perfect one to tie up but the FO may have other reasons to just play out his arb years along with Springer, Correa, etc. as they have with Castro. DK is not going to starve over the next 3 years.

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  12. 1. Starting over at 0 wins and 0 losses. Last year earns them some positive momentum and confidence. You never know in baseball, however. The Astros should have coasted to a title in 2000, but injuries and inability to pitch in the new ballpark combined to give them a terrible record.
    2. Yes, too much on paper…but we aren’t playing fantasy baseball. No one in the Giles trade was likely to really help them in 2016, for example.
    3. I think staying healthy is the luck they need.
    4. Yes – but let’s not forget some Ed Wade / Bobby Heck players may still be the keys to the locomotive delivering oranges in Oct.

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  13. Thinking things over, Chip – I think the biggest problem the Astros face is being able to score more runs consistently, because I don’t believe they will repeat as the AL leader in ERA as a staff in 2016. I think there are too many things between regression, injury and luck that can lessen the pitching staff’s effectiveness.

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    • Think positive thoughts!! In 100 days, they will be opening the 2016 season, and who knows what Luhnow has up his sleeve for the next 6-8weeks!! My intuition says he’s gonna make at least two more moves…..another starting pitcher, and???

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  14. You know Dan, I’m normally one of the more cynical in this group. But I see a full season of Springer and Correa, and at some point, the high OBP bat of White in the line up. I also see better stats from first base, with Reed ultimately getting the job there. We know what Altuve will do. And I look for better numbers from Valbuena and Gomez too. So I think the offense will indeed score runs more consistantly.

    Hard to say what will happen with the pitching staff. Repeating as league leader in ERA would be unlikely and a significant accomplishment. That said, ignoring injury, we’ll be seeing a full season of McCullers and Fiers. I think Fiers becomes more important than Gomez post trade. Keuchel probably won’t go back to back with the Cy Young award, he will remain elite. If McHugh repeats his 2014, somewhat “down” year, that will be just fine. The question mark is the 5th guy and overall health. I think we can get solid work from Feldman and then from Musgrove When the time comes. And we still might get a late Christmas present in the form of another starter.

    Yes, I’m optimistic. And welcome back Chip!

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  15. daveb and Becky
    Maybe I should have said the biggest challenge (not the biggest problem) will be scoring more runs. I think they will do that, but I guess what I am saying is I believe they have to improve that side of the ball, because last season they had the best pitching staff ERA in the league and barely made the playoffs.
    As they have done over the last few years with the pitching – the key is having less bad ABs from folks like Carter, bad Valbeuna (hopefully good Valbuena shows), too much Gattis, etc. And like you say – more good ABs from Springer and Correa (and hopefully White/ Reed). Maybe Castro or Valbuena or Gattis or Gomez bounce up for us.

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  16. I think Kazmir wants to return here, but will leave if he gets a 4-year offer elsewhere. What I’m saying is that, all things being equal, he returns to the Astros, but if another team panics and gives in to his 4-year contract request he will leave. I have no problem with him returning on a 3-year contract for around $40-45M, but I would rather not go to 4 years on him unless he is willing to take a lower AAV, such as 4/$44-46M offer. I prefer Kazmir over Gallardo because the Astros would retain their 1st round pick, which keeps getting better as more free agents are signed.

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  17. I know it may be a bit premature, but when is the last time Houston had it’s NFL, NBA and MLB team make the playoffs in the same year? How many cities will have their NFL, NBA and MLB teams all in the playoffs this year? Especially the cities that have only one of each team?

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    • Good point. As a kid in New York, the year just prior to moving to Texas, the Miracle Mets won it all in 69 and the Knicks and Broadway Joe’s Jets both won the 69-70 titles. It was a wonderful year to be a sports fan in NY.

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    • I would guess 1986, but not sure if the Oilers made the playoffs that year. We know the Astros and Rockets did. I believe Houston sports fans are in for a few years of quality teams. If the Texans can ever find an above-average QB they could be unbeatable with their great defense.

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  18. I think we’ll have one of the best rotations in the league with the assets we presently have in house. If we get Kazmir, our rotation probably becomes best in the league. I feel pretty good either way.

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  19. dave, i like all this positivity coming out of you! and i agree. our rotation, bullpen and outfield should be among the best in baseball, as are our 2b and ss. i think valbuena has a better year and (although i am about alone on this) i think gattis has a better year. if white and reed prove to be ready for the majors and our catchers are good defensively and even average offensively, we are well on the way to big things.
    my one area of caution is the starters potential to regress a bit, but i think if we are a better club offensively than last year (and i think we will be) that will offset that regression by scoring more runs. and i, like becky, think there will be an additional move for a starter or a bat or possibly both. for some reason i suspect one or both of those may come through a trade rather than fa. although kashmir at a reasonable price and number of years would work without sending out more prospects.

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    • I think you can expect some regression from Keuchel, and maybe McHugh, but I think LMJ will improve and, if he is brought back, Kazmir will improve from what he did for the Astros in 2015. The biggest area of pitching regression we may expect is from Will Harris. I don’t think he will be as good as he was this year, but he will still be a serviceable bullpen piece. Neshek may be better now that he won’t be pitching on a broken foot. Sipp will probably regress some, but we also have Hoyt and Ferrell in the minors who may help next year. Overall, I think our pitching will be close to how it performed in 2015 with a slight regression, but I expect our offense to be improved with a full season of Correa and, hopefully, a full season of a healthy Springer not to mention the removal of the black hole at 1B.

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  20. Last year Jeff Bagwell was checked on just over 60% of the 140 public ballots.
    This year he has been checked on 86% of the 114 public ballots turned in so far. His chances are looking better every day.

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  21. I personally have come to the conclusion I most definitely do not want Luis Valbuena as our regular 3rd sacker next year. If Luis stays [albeit with his $4.2M salary!], my position is that he should just be used as a super-sub and/or a late inning defensive replacement.

    I keep hearing from wishful thinkers that improvement on the offensive side is coming from his direction. But take a close look at Luis’ historic numbers. He’s been in the league 8 years now, so he is not going to suddenly break out and surprise anybody. What he has been, that is what he will mostly be. Unfortunately, LV’s historical numbers do not provide any reasonable basis for us to expect any significant improvement in offensive production.

    Let’s start with BA. LV’s lifetime BA over eight seasons in the MLB is .228. Last year he hit .224. Not much more can be expected BA wise, can it? And we need some BA out of our corner infielder next year to be more competetive with Texas [remember, they have Beltre at 3rd and Moreland at 1B, who smoked our corner infielders last year].

    What about OBP? Touted by some as a potentially high[er] OBP guy, the reality is that LV’s lifetime OBP over his eight seasons in the MLB is a weak .312. Last year his OBP was almost right on the snide of his 8-year average, at a weak .310 – lower, by the way, than either Jonathan Villar, Jon Singleton, or Marwin Gonzalez. In reality, LV has had exactly two decent OBP years out of 8 in the majors. On the basis of that those two yeras do we really expect him to improve significantly in OBP in 2016?

    How about HRs. Will he give us more in 2016? Highly unlikely. LV’s lifetime high for HRs, prior to last season, was 16 [at Wrigley Field]. In 2015 he somehow got 25 balls to go over the fence. Do we really think he will even equal, much less exceed that, next year? On what basis?

    And now to the big issue – RBIs. We need our 3rd sacker to drive in runs – at least 70 to 75. I assure you, Beltre will beat the heck out of that. But LVs lifetime high for RBIs, prior to last season, was a meager 51 [again, at Wrigley Field]. In 2015 he got a whopping 56 RBIs [way below what we need for a corner infielder]. Do we really think LV will improve on his 56 RBIs despite the fact that his career numbers give no precedent for it?

    If we want to compete with the Rangers and Angels – on more than ‘luck’ – we need someone besides Luis Valbuena as our regular 3rd baseman. Matt Duffy, anyone?

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    • That’s what makes you crazy…..Valbuena is clearly not a long term piece at 3rd…..but I also don’t think Luhnow will even CONSIDER Duffy. Duffy was the MVP of the AAA minor league, but was brought up in September, just to sit on the bench to “watch”. I look for Luhnow to include him in a trade…sad, but true.

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      • I’m fine if they trade Duffy if it is for the right player. He is not our long-term answer at 3B (neither is Valbuena, but we could probably get more for Duffy than Valbuena in a trade). Moran has more upside, in my opinion, than Duffy, who is a career minor leaguer, sans his September call-up, at age 26 turning 27 before the season starts. He had a very good year at AAA last season, but his age is not on the prospect side anymore. If the Astros can extract any value out of his production in 2015 at Fresno then they should go for it.

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    • Thank you, Thank you I thought I was like the step child wanting no mas Val Buena. I would love to see Duffy get that shot and what the heck we going to do with Bregman , he isn’t playing SS.

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    • Yes, his offense doesn’t justify a starting spot, but he is the best defender at third base we have. Defense is a valuable commodity – look at KC as an example. I want to see what White and Duffy look like around the bag. With Gattis on the roster we can only afford so many non-defenders…although letting Carter go may have opened a slot for one.

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  22. Jon Heyman turned in his HOF ballot today but did not vote for Bagwell, Clemens, Kemp or Wagner. Looking at who he did vote for, his criteria for voting appears to be that he will vote for anyone who didn’t play for Houston. Clemens has all the numbers needed to get in the Hall, but Heyman didn’t vote for him, but he did vote for Bonds. What criteria does he use when he doesn’t vote for Clemens but does vote for Mussina?

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  23. Just to be clear I am not a big fan of Valbuena either and realize he isn’t the answer for this team going forward. I wonder if a platoon of him and Duffy would work at 3B this year. The problem is that if they keep Duffy on the 25-man roster then PTuck will have to start in the minors. Assuming they carry 12 pitchers and the 9 offensive starters (counting Gattis as DH) that leaves 4 bench players. Stassi, MarGo and Marisnick are guarantees so unless a trade happens that leaves only 1 spot for Duffy, PTuck, White and Reed. I think it’s a foregone conclusion Reed starts the season in AAA, but who gets the last bench spot?

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    • The first paragraph headline from Chip above: “What is the biggest problem the Astros face in 2016?”

      Remember, JL needed to improve 3rd. So LV is an improvement over MattyD. Now the next question is – is LV 2016 an improvement over LV 2015? And that answer will play out this year. That is the hardest thing for the FO now. They need to “improve” a team that made the playoffs. Somehow the team needs to find replacements for Conger, Carter & Lowrie. I see that as being easy, but in truth, being “good” for 162 games is extremely difficult. We need three more to step up and compete like Correa did last year. If any of them come in and hit below .199 or give every runner 2nd base, the record can not improve.

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