Why Mike Fiers matters to Houston; why Singleton’s weight does not

So, I was reliving some glory from 2015 over the last few days, watching snippets from games. And I watched some of the post-game interviews after Mike Fiers‘ no-hitter.

You remember that, right? Aug. 21, Fiers walks a lone batter in each of the first three innings, then just takes over, leaving the Dodgers scratching their heads and wondering what the heck happened.

After the game, one of the reporters at the press conference asked A.J. Hinch if having a guy like Fiers throw a no-no was “improbable.”

Hinch, who is quickly becoming my favorite Astros manager ever, shot down that theory immediately. Maybe that’s just a manager having his player’s back (are you listening, Bo Porter?), but I think it’s a little more.

In fact, after that no-hitter, Fiers had six more starts in the regular season for Houston. Four of those six were quality starts. The other two: he pitched 5 innings, giving up 4 runs, the other he went 5.2 IP giving up 4 runs (3 ER). So it’s not like he wasn’t giving the team a bit of a chance to win. His record in these six outings, 1-1 with four no-decisions.

Looking back, Fiers seemingly figured it out in 2014 with a 2.13 ERA in 71 innings, Fiers regressed some in 2015 with a combined (Houston and Milwaukee) ERA of 3.69. But, as we all know, ERA is not the most reliable stat.

But I think there are a couple of things that will work in Fiers’ favor in 2016. First, his FIP tends to be a bit higher than his ERA. That means good fielding benefits Fiers more than other pitchers. This was especially true once he got to Houston.

Well, the Astros have an excellent defense. Gold Glove at second base. Former Gold Glover in center field. Fantastic fielders at all three outfield positions really. Plus Correa and Valbuena in the infield.

Listening to the post-game interviews from several of his games, it seems Hinch and Brett Strom are trying to develop a plan for Fiers that plays to his strengths much like what they did for Collin McHugh. In an interview with MLB Network, he mentioned how Strom had a game plan for him that differed from what he did with the Brewers.

In the end, this is a guy with 404 IP in the majors who owns a 3.61 ERA. His lifetime FIP is 3.73 and he brings a WHIP of 1.21. All this from a guy who will be fourth or fifth in the Astros rotation.

It’s this quality of depth — a guy who is probably third-best or even competing for that No. 2 spot in the rotation on some teams — that makes a guy like Fiers so important to Houston.

A Tale of Two Bellies
Not bellies, really, but weight.

So there were a couple of stories at Astros.com about first basemen reporting to camp, and how much each weighed. Take what you want from these reports.

The first was a story about everyone’s favorite million-dollar minor leaguer, Smokey Jon Singleton. Despite the fact he claimed to have chilled all winter, apparently Singleton spent the winter puffing — I mean pumping — up in the weight room.

OK ..?

I wasn’t aware that a lack of muscle was his big issue, but maybe some added strength will help with his bat speed or something? I’m not a biomechanical specialist. But if bulking up was his answer, then adding 15 pounds of muscle was the right choice.

I guess …

The second story concerned everyone’s favorite minor league player of the year, A.J. Reed. The formerly flabby first baseman showed up to camp in the best shape of his life. Well, certainly the best shape of his professional life.

Apparently — according to the article — he spent the winter working out and taking ground balls. OK, so on the surface that doesn’t seem too dissimilar to what Singleton did. After all, if Big Jon just took some ground balls now and then — and I’m willing to give him the benefit of that doubt — then it sounds pretty identical to what Reed did.

But then why do these two stories sound so dissimilar? The Singleton story seems like an apology about the guy who ate a whole cake in one sitting. The Reed story reads like something from Shape magazine.

I’m looking forward to watching some spring games just to see the difference in their physiques.

I won’t even discuss how one is a whiff machine while the other has all the power but also seems to have great bat-to-ball skills. Something that, you know, is probably enhanced more by being in shape than being bulky.

Of course, round is a shape. But there’s a reason I’m not a major leaguer.

I look at Fiers and see an unsung hero who might really be a key piece as the season goes along. Any other unsung heroes you looking at? Marwin Gonzalez? Will Harris? Tony Sipp? Jake Marisnick?

As the players trickle into camp, we’ll get some of these stories from Chron (spit!), MLB.com and even (this is the crazy part) the national media. What stories are you on the lookout for?


74 comments on “Why Mike Fiers matters to Houston; why Singleton’s weight does not

  1. Fiers and Gomez walked into a tight clubhouse last August. They went to a winner with unknown players on it, from a team that was losing despite having some stars on it. Trying to downplay their ability to adjust, I will just refer to that set of circumstances as “different”.
    These two are now Astros, not displaced Brewers. They are in the American League. They are in Kissimmee and they are now part of a team expected to win in a completely different part of the country. They blend. They have a different set of coaches, a different regimen, a front office with a different philosophy.
    To us, they are players who are important, even vital, in the plan to bring that magnificent trophy to Houston for the first time ever. I am glad they are here. Welcome, Guys. Lets play baseball until November.


  2. Great take on Fiers, Brian T. Having the three F’s – Fiers, Feldman or Fister in those 4th and 5th spot in the rotation is a great luxury. Feldman was the Astros #3 heading into last season and either of the other 2 probably would have if they had been here then.
    The Astros had a league leading ERA of 3.57 even with 39 starts from Oberholtzer, Hernandez, Kazmir and Velasquez (ERAs all over 4) and 9 starts from Deduno, Strailey, Asher W and Peacock (ERAs 5.40 to 7.16). They have room to improve.

    In 2013, Gomez had a WAR of 8.5 (2nd in the majors behind Trout). The Astros hitters in 2013 had a cumulative 5.2 WAR….In 2014 his WAR was a good 4.8. If he could give the Astros a year somewhere up there it would be a big boost to this offense.

    Unsung hero? If Jon Singleton could just produce like in the minors that would be a big step up over Chris Carter. It would be not as much as I think we would get out of White or Reed but it would be a step forward at a position that has a lot of room to improve. Based on last season I think Marwin G was the Swiss Army knife of the team – playing all over the infield and LF very well and producing offensively very solidly for a backup.

    I am on the lookout story wise for what Gregerson is going to do if he is not THE GUY like he probably won’t.


  3. Brief off-subject comment: This morning’s paper carries interview with Pete Rose, who is opening “Hit King” Baseball Academy in Katy. Tells how he has more hits than anybody and bunch of other top stats. Pete says: “Everybody should play the game the way I did. I played the right way.” If it sounds familiar, it should. Craig Biggio, with 3000 hits and Hall of Fame entry, often said, “I played the game the right way.” Hard to believe Pete Rose is opening his first “Hit King” in Houston of all places, Craig’s back yard, claiming to have played the “right way.”


  4. Great post Brian, I read somewhere , cant remember where, that Gomez will have a major comeback year. That would be huge for us in 2016. I am going to plagiarize someone on the blog, but I loved McCullers, McFriers, McCugh, McFister Nice MC’s for 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D. Not worth the internet it was tweeted on.
      That comment from CBS was them expanding on a twitter post from Ortiz, where he was expanding on a comment from Luhnow.
      Luhnow said all the Astros’ relievers would know their roles by the end of Spring Training. Ortiz then tweets his ideas about what those roles could be. CBS Sports then reports on Ortiz’s speculation.
      Total crap. And you wonder why things get blown out of focus and why a lot of us don’t like Ortiz.

      Liked by 1 person

    • D. He has no inside inflation. The FO likes him even less than the fans do.

      Fiers will prepare to be a starter during spring training. Period.


    • Yeah and then Jon did not play until the 96th game of the season with the big club. So, he does not exactly grab the bull by the horns when he is “handed” the job.

      Good post by Chip – funny how the same things are questions this spring – who’s on first, who’s closing, who will be at the bottom of the rotation, the construction of the lineup and whether Crane will abandon the Luhnow plan if there is a regression.


  5. Ortiz suggests Fiers is going to work out of the pen and then notes that it’s purely speculation on his part. He’s getting paid for this stuff. Can’t he find anything factual in camp to write about? Speculation is our job! Not his.

    I’m not so willing to go easy on Singleton. Most sites had him at 225 last year. Pretty much everyone agrees that he’s 250 now. Drellich has him at 255, 17 of it muscle. I guess the rest is happy weight. If Singleton is still 6’2″, he does not need to weigh 250 at his age. We already know he’s got a fast bat. And he’s never hit a cheap homer when he does connect. That muscle is not going to help him around the bag or on the bases. That’s why other guys come to camp lighter. I’m going to speculate (because we’re allowed to) that the club is not delighted with his new bulk.

    If I’ve got an unsung hero, it’s got to be Marwin. Especially since I was pretty tough on him his first couple of years. The guy can play 4 or 5 positions without creating havoc. He had an .843 OPS against lefties, hitting .295 with a .347 OBP against them in 2015. I’d try to get him in the line up against every lefty we face.


      • If Jon Singleton could give us a year like Prince Fielder gave the Rangers last year [.305, .378, ,841 with 28 DBLs, 23 HRs, 98 RBIs, 64 BBs and only 88 Ks in over 600 ABs, with a .318 BARISP, I assure you no one will be talking about the shape of his belly, or how much of his weight gain was muscle vs cupcakes, for a long time.


  6. * What stories are you on the lookout for? *

    Anything about the Astros -except for Singleton’s weight issues -is welcome right now.

    I am on the lookout, starting later this week, for stories about what positions Preston Tucker, Tyler White, Matt Duffy, Tony Kemp, and Joe Sclafani are working on, and how they are looking at – and need work on – in those positions.

    I am also on the lookout, before the week is over, for how Gregerson, Peacock, and Neshek are throwing as they try to get in shape and/or come back from injuries.


  7. I hope Fiers doesn’t end up in the BP. I think the guy has a lot of the it factor. I think he could be the third best starter, maybe even 2nd best starter, by the end of the year, though I also think highly of the Mc’s. We are in a good place in the rotation, the best place we have been since 2005. I hope Fiers gets 30-33 starts to show his stuff, we will be the better for it. He is better than both Feldman and Fister IMO, but I don’t mind all 6 being there given the durability issues of the F’s and McCullers age, experience, and probable start limit.

    If I had a nickel for everytime I hear this guy or that guy is in the best shape of their lives stuff I wouldn’t have to get up at 5 a.m. anymore. More muscle isn’t going to really help Singleton’s hand/eye, though it might buy him an extra tenth of a second to improve in the strike zone in bat speed. If we see a difference in what he does it’s probably coming from maturation of the head, not the body.

    Singleton is a guy I am watching. He swings at pitches out of the zone 26.8% of the time, the major league average is 24%, so he isn’t really killing himself outside the zone. I think he has the skill set in zone recognition, but isn’t near aggressive enough – he swings at strikes only 63% of the time. Some of that maybe the work he puts in preparation wise – does he know the pitcher he is facing, does he know the tendencies of the bullpen pitchers, is he ready for situational hitting – so much more than just see ball hit ball in the majors versus the minors. Some of it just maybe that he freezes up in tough spots.

    I would say I hope we catch lightning in a bottle, that he gets comfortable, and duplicates that 22% K rate from AAA with the walk rate and gives some power, but we have already caught so much lightning the law of averages are bound to catch up. Keuchel barely made this rotation 2 years ago, lightning. Many pundits felt Correa’s draft spot was the Astros attempt to save money and draft better later, lightning. McHugh was picked up off waivers, lightning. Sipp, journeyman lefty reliever with control problems shows up in Houston and starts throwing strikes, lightning.

    Personally, I would cut ties with Singleton, play White at 1B (or DH if Gattis is injured and forget status and just play Reed), but I am intrigued at what the enigma is going to do since he is here, and after all, it’s not my team, I just get drug along for whatever ride Luhnow and Hinch takes us on – and so far its been a successful one.


  8. I was looking again at the headline here, and I think the reason why Singleton’s weight does not matter is this: He’s either figured it out, and he’ll win the first baseman’s job, or he has not and there are some great quality options. White, Duffy and, of course, Reed. But also Marwin and Tucker.

    So, “Wow” me, Singleton. “Wow” me or step aside.


  9. Anxious for baseball, so I am imagining a ‘Blue and Orange’ inter-squad game. Here are the line-ups I’d like to see.

    BLUE TEAM [Our projected starters]

    2B Jose Altuve
    RF George Springer
    SS Carlos Correa
    DH Matt Duffy [due to Gattis’ recovery plan]
    1B Jon Singleton
    CF Carlos Gomez
    LF Colby Rasmus
    3B Luis Valbuena
    C Jason Castro [back-up, Max Stassi]
    SP Doug Fister [we know what everyone else can do]
    1st reliever: Mike Fiers
    2nd reliever: Pat Neshek
    Loogy: Tony Sipp
    Closer: Luke Gregerson
    Supersub – Marwin Gonzalez
    RHB pinch hitter – Jake Marisnick
    LHB pinch hitter – Preston Tucker

    ORANGE TEAM [The up-and-coming hopefuls]
    2B Tony Kemp
    RF Jon Kemmer
    SS Alex Bregman
    DH Tyler White
    1B A.J. Reed
    CF Derek Fisher
    LF Preston Tucker
    3B Colin Moran
    C Tyler Heineman [back-up, Alfredo Gonzalez]
    SP: Joe Musgrove
    1st reliever: David Paulino
    2nd reliever: Brendan McCurry
    Closer: Ken Giles
    Supersub – Joe Sclafani
    RHB pinch hitter – JD Davis
    LHB pinch hitter – Andrew Aplin

    Who wins? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • This would be a fun game Mr. Bill and if the up and comers don’t suffer from either nerves or trying too hard, they could give the establishment a solid game. I wouold pick the “real” Astros in this matchup though the up and comers might have won most of the previous years of similar matchups.


      • I thought that same thing when I saw him on Mr. Bills orange team! Don’t go to sleep on that kid…. Kemmer is special! ! Old Pro and I were talking about him a couple of months ago! Thanks guys…it’s days like today that humbles you to the fact that chemo is POISON.


  10. Oh man Mr. Bill, both of your teams look pretty dang good! I like your Orange team, because you have our future playing on it! Good stuff on your lineups! That’s all I got today is a b*tch. But…only two more to go, thank God.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Driving to work I was listening to an interview on 790 AM with AJ Hinch. He always comes off as interesting and genuine. Some highlights:
    – He said that Singleton definitely has gotten bigger in his upper body over the off-season. He also said that Singleton is one of the guys that needs to stop over-swinging and that getting stronger does not necessarily address that. Hinch said that this is not Singleton’s last chance because he is still young, but he needs to earn the job.
    – He talked about how tight the clubhouse is and how important that was last season. He said it was very unusual – usually the clubhouse is a lot more cliquish. He said he did his best to set up an inclusive atmosphere, but that in the end it is up to the players.
    – An interesting discussion revolved around his management style. He is so calm in the dugout they asked him how he worked behind the scenes. He said that he feels like it is important on the field to be the calm anchor. But he said he does read them the riot act as needed in the clubhouse – not very often but he does blow a gasket once in a while. He said it was a credit to the team that these blowups did not make it outside the clubhouse into the media. He also said that he rarely had to get on them for effort.
    – And he said he would announce the bullpen roles right at the end of spring training. He wanted Giles to get to be part of the team before announcing his place in the team.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That’s about the strongest thing Hinch would say about a guy showing up at camp having undergone his own ill advised winter training program.


    • Wasn’t Singleton receiving some mentoring from Barry Bonds? Did I make that up or remember incorrectly?

      I’m sure the Astros did not instruct Singleton to go play winter ball. He has proven he can hit AAA pitchers (even if not at the contact rate us fans desire). Winter ball would have just taken away a spot from a developing player.


  13. New sliding rules passed by MLB today. Why is this important to the Astros?
    1a. Jose Altuve
    1b. Carlos Correa.
    Nothing made me feel better in 2015 than to watch Correa scream at a baserunner sliding improperly into Altuve on a meaningless play at second. All teams have so much to lose when their middle infielders are legal targets.


  14. I like how Ortiz and Drellich are using twitter to post Facebook clips of the Astros working out.
    Strom really impressed with Peacock
    Juan Minaya’s delivery looks so effortless and smooth
    Paulino might require some work tunneling. It appeared easy to distinguish the breaking ball coming out a little higher in his delivery.
    Neshek bouncing around like a teenager on that landing foot. Nice!


    • OP, you are one hip guy. I still don’t know what to do with Twitter, but I found both pages on Facebook. Nice to see video of diamond action!


      • dave, I just google their name and the word twitter on my pc and their twitter account link comes up and I click on it and, voila, I can see what they tweet.. They even link to their current articles that they have written, so that I don’t have to search for them on their paper’s web site. I do the same for McTaggart.
        Even though I don’t have a twitter account, I have public access to theirs.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I double-dog dare Jeff Luhnow to call up the St. Louis Cardinals’ F.O., pretend to be the Commissioner of Baseball, ask to speak to the Cardinal Organization’s ‘Ground Control Unit’, and inquire what the Astros’ starting line-up for the next Friday’s ST game will be.


  15. Over at Whattheheckbobby – Jayne Hansen lists all the Astros’ minor league instructors, managers and coaches.
    I like seeing names of old Astros like Cesar Cedeno, Chris Holt, Leon Roberts, Mark Bailey, Adam Everett and Morgan Ensberg and can’t help but giggle at Morgan’s title as the Mindset Coach. Morgan apparently struggled with his own mindset when he would change his batting stance twice a week. Twitchy son of a gun.
    She also has a link to her book on amazon about the 2016 Astros farm system, which sounds interesting….


  16. Fowler signs with the Cubs for less than he would have made if he had accepted their QO.
    Orioles get snookered on Fowler and end up with Gallardo who may have arm trouble down the line. Birds lose their first round pick(#14) for Gallardo and Texas picks up a supplemental.


  17. So, how is spring training going so far?
    The good:
    Jon Singleton apparently worked out this winter.
    Jason Castro is signed and worked on his swing this offseason.
    Jose Altuve says world series or bust.
    Correa is the 13th best player in MLB after playing only five months.
    Valbuena’s foot is better.
    Rasmus is pumped.
    Gomez is healthy and is a MLB Top 100 player.
    Springer is quiet and healthy.
    Keuchel is happy.
    Feldman appears healthy.
    Peacock isn’t hurting anymore.
    Neshek had part of his foot removed and feels good.
    Giles is in camp.
    Marisnick worked on his swing all winter.
    Hinch likes Kemmer’s batting average.
    The not-so-good:
    Gregerson is hurting a bit, but it’s not real serious.
    Gregerson irritated from day 1 about the closer’s job.
    Gattis recovering from surgery.
    Evan Drellich has found 13 different ways to call the Astros cheap, even though he is supposed to be covering the Astros for Houston’s daily newspaper. If a sports journalist constantly puts down down the team he’s covering, could that be called “tanking”.


  18. Luhnow signed Neal Cotta to a minor league deal today. Not impressed, but who knows he might be able to get a couple of guys out. He’s the other lefty Luhnow has been hunting for.
    Old Pro…I agree with you about Dellich, he absolutely despises Luhnow, and that might be the reason for so much negative comments. It’s times like this when I really miss Richard Justice, and Alyson Footer.


  19. Was reading today somewhere ( not our local guys) that Houston fans should expect a drop off in the rotation unless Keuchel repeats his 2015 performance. Sports writers can get away with being both lazy and inept. I think that McCullers is going really going to turn heads through the league. And I’m no longer concerned about McHugh regressing. And then we have the three F guys for two slots. This is a good rotation with real talent nearby if needed.


  20. I watched the MLB show on the top 100 current MLB players. They rated Gomez, Springer, Keuchel, Correa and Altuve in the group. Five out of top 100. If you go back a few years, the Astros did not have 5 major league players on the team. Quite a turnaround, and except for Gomez, a tip of the hat needs to go to the coaching staff along with FO.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. In the last two years we’ve had:
    1. a batting champion;
    2.a rookie of the year;
    3. a Cy Young winner;
    4. a couple of scattered gold gloves;
    5. the starting pitcher for the AL in the All-Star game; and
    6. a meaningful trip to the play-offs as a wildcard, in which we put the world on notice that the Astros are back.

    That’s light years ahead of anything we had in several years.

    This year how about a League MVP, the fireman of the year award, another ROY [White or Reed?], another Cy Young [McCullers?], an RBI champ, an AL-West Crown, and a World Series ring?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know Mr. Bill, I think we can conceivably win the ring without any of those individual awards. That’s the sign of a real good team.


  22. I am sure everyone remembers the old Aggie joke about the Aggie going to the bait shop. He asked the owner what was the price on worms. The shop owner replied, “All you want for $1.” The Aggie replies, “That is a great deal, give me $2 worth.”

    Well when you read the following, you can see how Casey Close and Dexter Fowler turned a $15.8 Million deal into a $8 Million deal (Or up to $17 for 2 yrs). And while we are remembering, Close did a great negotiation for Brady Aiken also.



  23. Unless I’m missing something significant, it looks like Fowler would rather be the fourth outfielder on a World Series contender for much less money than start, probably in center where he wants to play, for much more money on a crappy team. Am I missing something or does the guy deserve some kind of an award?


    • He would have been paid $15.8 million if he had accepted the Cub’s QO. Instead he becomes a free agent and then signs for $8 with the same team. He deserves the Kanye West Economics Award and has the perfect dummy for an agent. Mighty Casey struck out again.


    • Fowler will be the starting CFer for the Cubs and Heyward will move to his more natural position, RF. Soler will either be a bench/platoon player or start the year in AAA.


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