Free Blog Weekend: Backwards thinking, drools and futures

It’s Friday and if you’ve been around these parts for long, you’ve come to expect a Free Blog Weekend from time to time. It’s a tradition that emanates from my radio background when the old DJ used to offer Open Mic Friday and anyone could chime in on any subject they wanted.

In other words, it’s your turn. Our only rules here are keep it clean and civil. I’ll get it started.

Arbitron, sabermetrics and backwards thinking.

My primary background is radio and media, thus I have an understanding of Arbitron, the radio metrics used to judge the success of that media. Arbitron is used to show where a station has been, not necessarily where it is going. But I’ll stop preaching for a moment.

Arbitron was created such that every radio station, regardless of morning show swagger or actual audience size, can find a place to hang its hat. Even the smallest station can suggest that it’s #1 in this area or “the third best station in that category”. Everyone wins. That’s sometimes the way it is with stats. Every player, every manager, every agent, every owner and GM can find a stat that supports their reason to like a player, put him into a certain position or sign him to a lucrative — or not so lucrative — contract.

Devin said it: “We’re not doing research on the players for academic purposes but rather to support our argumentative posts, comments…” And isn’t that exactly what the new media has done to support its own conclusions and agendas? Backwards thinking. But that’s yet another story for another day.

At any rate, my thoughts are that stats should reflect the game, not change it.

Lineups, pencils and drooling.

Speaking of odds, stats, predictions, etc. Hinch is more likely to get it right than wrong with his lineup next season. Jeff Luhnow is probably already having to wipe the drool from his manager’s chin. Whether you bat George Springer in the leadoff or Jose Altuve or even Evan Gattis or Brian McCann (okay, just making a point here) how can he go wrong with hitters like Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Carlos Correa, Yulieski Gurriel and Alex Bregman to pencil in as well?

The losers here are going to be players who are major league ready or near major league ready. Players like Colin Moran, Max Stassi, Tyler White, A.J. Reed not to mention Nori Aoki, Jake Marisnick, Preston Tucker and even Marwin Gonzalez, who can now settle into his real role as a highly paid Super Sub. The only position battles in spring training will be for those last few roster spots.

How would you pencil in the lineup, top to bottom? Remember, someone has to sit in those National League parks.

Expectations, dreams, hopes. The future is now.

The predictions and hopes for the Astros have been on the front burner for some time now, especially with fans. Most diehards have been playing the game, often pinning hopes on also-rans, start-ups and wannabes. Most of us thought — at least we were hoping — the future was then. But clearly, the future is now and Dallas Keuchel and his compadres will need to ante up to hang with the gang.

Now, the game has changed and the boys are playing hard ball. Finally. Everyone is watching now. Come late January and February, the media won’t just have the Astros in the Top 10 in expectations, power rankings and prognostications.

It’s 2017 baby. World Series year! Expect front page stories, even cover stories. Yes, Sports Illustrated is sure to repackage it’s 2017 prediction. It’s just a matter of which player(s) will be on that cover this time around.

And a few questions for your weekend consideration.

  1. The Astros have acquired several players this winter. Which is the best acquisition? The worst, or weakest?
  2. Your best guess on the opening day starter on the mound.
  3. The Astros will have a deep bench and deep upper system next season. Some of those players (some mentioned above) won’t be around though. Who do you believe will NOT be here. Not so much who you would like to see go, but who will be used to get a pitcher or traded to make some room.
  4. It’s unlikely for obvious reasons, but is there still a place for Edwin Encarnacion in Houston in 2017?

55 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Backwards thinking, drools and futures

  1. 1.The Astros have acquired several players this winter. Which is the best acquisition? The worst, or weakest?

    I think the best acquisition will be Carlos Beltran. I know he is going to turn 40 early in the season, but he will be a great mentor to the young Latino players on this team and he can still hit with the best of them. I think the weakest addition could be McCann, but he is still an upgrade over Castro. He won’t hit for a high average and he is painfully slow on the basepaths. He won’t strike out much, but he will probably hit into a ton of doubleplays.

    2.Your best guess on the opening day starter on the mound.

    I think it has to be Keuchel. No one really shined last year in the rotation so it should just default to the prior season’s opening day starter if he is still on the team. In this case, I think it will definitely be Keuchel.

    3.The Astros will have a deep bench and deep upper system next season. Some of those players (some mentioned above) won’t be around though. Who do you believe will NOT be here. Not so much who you would like to see go, but who will be used to get a pitcher or traded to make some room.

    I think Paulino will be used as a trade chip for a pitcher along with A.J. Reed. I don’t think the Astros need to make any more additions before opening day, but I think Luhnow is hellbent on getting one more starting pitcher. I would prefer to just ride with what we have and, if needed, make a trade at the trade deadline in 2017. However, Luhnow doesn’t call me for my advice so my guess is Paulino and Reed are goners.

    4.It’s unlikely for obvious reasons, but is there still a place for Edwin Encarnacion in Houston in 2017?

    I just don’t see it. Someone, probably Gattis, will need to be traded to make room for Encarnacion and that is still, approximately, an additional $15M in payroll added to the team and I am not sure adding Encarnacion, but subtracting Gattis (leaving Stassi getting some starts at catcher) is enough of an upgrade to justify signing EE.


  2. Forgive me, Chip, for going briefly off topic. Astrocolt45 posted late yesterday and I want to second. His suggestion is that periodically posts be entertained/invited from some of our awesome customers that would then be featured as the lead blog post for that day/week, thus taking some of the pressure off you and Dan. Just seems like an idea whose time has come.


  3. Fangraphs has an article projecting the rule 5 picks from yesterday. Katoh projects Mike Hauschild to accumulate 2.5 WAR over the next 6 seasons, which is the 2nd highest WAR among the rule 5 picks from yesterday (Kevin Gadea going from the M’s to the Rays is projected for 4.3 WAR).


    • Another tangent, but what is the logic by Houston in not selecting a LHP in the Rule V draft? We saw Hauschild get taken as well as quite a few others. Why not roll the dice on someone, bring them to camp, and see if they can fit in the bullpen for the year? Worst case scenario we sell them back to their prior club for $50k, right?


      • From a completely technical point of view, they had a full 40-man roster, so no place to put anyone. They were not allowed to draft. Now, of course, they could have cut someone loose before setting their roster, but they apparently felt the timing was not the best for that. And, obviously, another team could have drafted “for” the Astros and completed a trade, which is not unusual.


      • They added 2 LH pitchers this past week. One was signed to a minor league contract and the other was claimed off waivers from another team and added to the 40-man roster. Both will be in camp this spring with a chance to earn a spot on the 25-man major league roster.


  4. I think my phone has the “Billy C and RJ Disease”. First it erases my post. It then double posts it. Then I look to see who likes a post, it automatically says I like it also. That would be fine but some are my posts. That makes me look like a megalomaniac going around liking my own posts. It is Free Blog Weekend, right?

    Liked by 3 people

    • AC, some posts are worth posting twice. Some posts are worth posting twice. And being megalomaniacal — at least in some cases — isn’t the end of everything. After all, the opposite of a megalomaniac is shy, humble, modest, reserved and timid and who needs that around here? 🙂 At least you aren’t going around with three different screen names, liking your own posts with the other two. Right? That is right, correct, AC? Hello?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I don’t think there is room for Encarnacion with the Astros. With the players they have now, Encarnation is going to tie up a lot of money for a lot of years, will cost them their #1 pick, and will force them to do something with Gattis, thereby weakening them at catcher. All it takes is one bad foul ball and we might lose McCann. I want to keep Gattis and his bat.
    As Chip says: It’s 2017. If it comes down to Gattis or Stassi on this team, I want Gattis. That is just the opposite of what I would have said one year ago. That’s because Gattis is really a catcher, not a myth.
    Give me a good starting pitcher and pay him with Encanacion’s money. We still have four months to work a deal for a pitcher.
    The Cards gave up their #1 pick and paid Fowler a fortune. I think the rumors of EE’s value plummeting, due to his costs, are premature and I don’t think the Astros need to pay that price.


  6. 1. Tie for best. McCann and Beltran. Both filled a need. Worst: Salty Morton has to stay healthy. Or add to the medical staff.
    2.D K.
    3. White (low draft pick), Kemp (blocked at multiple positions), and PTuck (one dimensional). I would like to see all, if gone, traded for value but we all know IF other GMs see value, they can wait for the cuts and they cost nothing. I just don’t see all of them sticking in Fresno, along with Aplin, Reed, et all.


  7. I like Reddick so far, with the hope that they will usually sit him against lefty pitching. What I like the most about this acquisition is that as it looks right now, Springer will be going home to center.

    The worst guy so far would be the starter we picked up. What’s his name? Salty?

    Even if we get a deal done for someone like Quintana, Keuchel is still the main guy here. He gets the nod on Opening Day. But if he repeats last year, it will be his last opener.

    Tough call. Does not seem to me that other clubs are clamoring for guys like Jake, White, Reed or Margo, because I think Luhnow would move on from any of those guys. I suppose all but Margo might get moved simply to make room, if Luhnow is convinced Gurriel can be a better than average first baseman. But any significant deal for a starter would almost have to include 3 of our top ten minor league guys. Take your pick. As far as EE goes, I only see him here with the kind of a deal that Cespedes did last year. If his big contract does not happen, maybe he’ll do a year at 25 million.


  8. 1. Aoki. When he gets the game winning PH that sends us to the World Series you’ll all agree.
    2. Keuchel (if healthy). McHugh next in line, then LMJ (if healthy), then Musgrove, then Morton, and then Fiers/Peacock/Chaff
    3. I doubt we see Paulino back in Houston. I have a fear Feliz will be moved as well. As for the bench guys, I think Luhnow would move Aplin, Reed or Moran in a heartbeat if he got an offer he liked. Their spots on the 40 man are problematic due to performance reasons. If all are retained I’m assuming they are on the Fresno roster to begin the year.
    4. Not without a corresponding move. I could see a signing of EE loosening Luhnow’s grasp on Bregman though. Move Bregman for a starting pitcher, slide EE into 1B, Gurriel stays at 3B, OF is Aoki/Beltran/Springer/Reddick/JFSF with McCann/Gattis at C. That puts Beltran and Gattis swapping out their gloves for a DH spot every few games. I don’t like where this is going…it seems like a Luhnow thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not necessarily agreeing with everything, but your thinking is on a good level and offered me some other perspectives. I really respect these ideas.
      Ken Rosenthal’s idea of offering EE a contract like Cespedes had with the Mets, and opted out of, as a way to have EE and not have him for a long time if he is successful. Yoenis signed a 3/75 contract with a player opt out after year one and he exercised it and got a better deal after year one.


    • I premise this comment with the admit of having attended last call, but can we really fit Jake on the 25 man? I knew this was not a done conversation. No! Bregman in no way should go for EE even if Jake can fly fences!


    • Me too, I can’t imagine why we would want to plug 30-35 HR, 100-110 RBI, right in the middle of the lineup at a position where we have tried Carter, Singleton and Reed. Maybe Guzman is available, or Carlos Pena. What could they possibly be thinking? Keep in mind those stats are no stretch, they’ve been his average for the last 6 years – and he comes with a .350+ OBP. What a terrible idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would disagree and suggest there is no room for Gurriel, and there is your issue since Gurriel is going to make 14 million. Assuming Bregman isn’t traded he should be at 3B (or LF maybe?) for 150+ games.


      • BUT – ask yourself this, would you rather Gurriel or EE? I mean, if money is no issue, which guy would you rather have? That choice is easy. The obstacle though isn’t just the 25 million you give EE, it’s the 14 million dollar elephant in the room after that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Why is Gurriel’s $14M salary this year the elephant in the room? I’m not going to say he will be better than EE, but no matter what contract we offered EE it would be more than Gurriel in total value and I’m not going to consider Gurriel a bust (based upon his $14M salary) after a short stint in the major leagues and not having played organize baseball since February of last year. He was widely recognized as the premier Cuban hitter when he became a free agent last year.


      • You miss the point. IF the Astros sign him what do you do with Gurriel? Elephant in the room isn’t about his ability, it’s about how to get him on the field, which you want to do more than not when a guy makes, yea, 14 million. That is the primary reason I don’t see us signing EE, because you are already paying Gurriel 14 million, you have Bregman, and you just gave Beltran 16 million to take most of your DH at bats away.


      • I hear you, now. You could put him in LF and that would make Gattis the backup catcher with some occasional starts. Aoki would definitely be the 4th OFer. It’s not ideal, but it is an option.


    • I don’t believe Gurriel is long term. Perhaps a year or two, then traded. Luhnow set up his salary (front-loaded) much like he did Feldman. Gets what he wants out of him for a year or so, then trades him to a team who can handle the diminishing salary. With the arb-eligible players, Luhnow is going to have to find salary to dump in 2018. Gurriel is set up for that dump IMO.


      • If he is Feldman 3 years hence, I hope we get more than Lupe Tortilla. That front end load didn’t produce the results antispated. Not comparing the players, just the contracts.


    • I don’t like the EE idea not because he couldn’t add value to the team, as he could. But that’s another roster spot, and less money for what the team REALLY needs: a TOR hurler.


  9. OK – you were talking about lineups up above so here are my two lineups against rightys and leftys

    Against Leftys

    1. Altuve 2B
    2. Bregman 3B
    3. Correa SS
    4. Beltran DH
    5. Springer CF
    6. Gurriel 1B
    7. Gattis C
    8. Reddick RF
    9. Marisnick LF (or CF if you want to move Springer around)

    Against Rightys

    1. Altuve 2B
    2. Aoki LF
    3. Correa SS
    4. Beltran DH
    5. Reddick RF
    6. Springer CF
    7. McCann C
    8. Bregman 3B
    9. Gurriel 1B

    I know there can be a lot of changes depending on who they put at 1B and 3B – but this is one shot at it


    • Good shots Dan – only caveat I would have is that Aoki has hit both leftys and rightys equally well in a not very small sample – while Reddick has hit leftys to the tune of .218. I do think Reddick will play some against leftys, he is making too much money not too, and when he is in there I don’t think they will ever slot him 8th, I think they expect him to be a middle of the order presence, all the time. I can see a great big mish-mosh happening all season, and injuries will play a big part too.

      I also don’t think McCann and Gattis will get a straight left/right platoon, but more likely a pitcher assignment. There will be some movement too it, like a really tough lefty or hard throwing righty, but I expect 2/3rd of the catching duty will be assigned to who is on the mound.


  10. Best – Beltran will be the most impactful in the lineup (assuming he stays in it) – McCann though brings some credibility though, it was the first move that the Astros did that said we are here to be serious this year.

    Worst – As a group, all the new guys are injury bug prone. I’ll call his worst move the one he didn’t make in getting a guy that we KNOW is going to make 30+ starts, most of them good ones, leaving us with 4 question marks and an open competition for the 5th spot between 2 young, good pitchers and 2 guys that we know what we will get. Offseason ain’t over though.

    DK is the only guy on the staff with that trophy. If McCullers makes 30 starts he is probably the best pitcher on the staff next year, but DK is a warrior that still deserves the nod this year.

    Everytime we predict who gets moved in or out – it’s always wrong. The guys at ESPN don’t get it right either. Nor does, rarely does MLBTRADERUMORs,I mean these things have legs. My guess – Marisnick is safe if the roster stays the same because there isn’t another CFer on the roster. With Aoki limited to LF when he plays, that puts the DH duties squarely on Beltran, and probably spells doom for Reed, White, and Tucker as Gurriel probably has to play first. I would agree that it looks like most of the roster spots are taken and most of the near major league or major league ready guys are going to be the Fresno All star team. Can you imagine what Fresno is going to do to opposing pitching? Goodness.

    EE – Probably not. I wouldn’t mind it, but I don’t think we should. It’s hard to pass up that kind of consistent run production from a guy that isn’t exactly 38 and falling off the boat tomorrow. Same time, you are paying Gurriel 14 million next year, and with Beltran looking to get a lot of DH time, the McCann/Gattis duo splitting C and the one not catching seeing a little DH time, Bregman firmly planted at 3B for 150+ games, Aoki still here taking up at least half the time in LF (and is Gurriel a guy you would put in LF anyway?), Gurriel is probably looking right at 1B. Hard to imagine that Gurriel will get paid 14 million to watch a lot of games.


  11. * The Astros have acquired several players this winter. Which is the best acquisition? The worst, or weakest? *

    The one who should turn out to be the best acquisition [so far, at least] is Carlos Beltran. If he stays healthy, he looks to be the first consistently productive DH we have ever had – and he can play LF if necessary as well.


  12. I think the Astros signed Beltran instead of Encarnacion.
    With the offense the Astros have already assembled, there is no way Luhnow is going to give up his #1 pick for an expensive position free agent.
    I refuse to think of Gurriel as the elephant in the room when talking about Encarnacion.
    I think the Astros have money to spend on a starting pitcher, but I think it has to be a player Luhnow wants, at a salary that falls into his realm of possibilities for now and the next couple of years, and someone who doesn’t cost us a prospect that Luhnow considers untouchable. The exception to all these rules is going to be a pitcher that Luhnow never thought he could get: a dream starter.
    Matt Holliday has a no-trade-to-Oakland clause in his contract.
    There are a lot of guys on the Astros roster who are available. That is not a crime or even shameful. This is hot stove season, not singing around the campfire with the Cub Scouts.
    The Cubs, Red Sox, Astros, Nationals, Indians, Rangers, Cardinals and Dodgers are focused on one thing. The Astros and the Indians have done the best job of staying on target with their money. The remainder of the teams, perhaps with the exception of the Mariners, are just interested in making a showing.
    Could anyone try to do a better job of ruining a franchise’s future than AJ Preller. What a disaster!
    How long will the City of Houston have to wait before the Texans figure out what they have in Rick Smith as a GM? Will success ever enter into his job description?
    Since money became the single most important thing in sports, have you noticed that we know less and less about the players on our teams? Everything important is hidden and everything not important is scripted.


  13. * Who do you believe will NOT be here. *

    I don’t think the organization thinks very highly at all of:
    1. Tony Kemp [displaced by Aoki for now; Myles Straw, Ronnie Dawson, and Daz Cameron sneaking up from behind]
    2. Teoscar Hernandez [displaced by Josh Reddick for now; Ramon Laureano, Alejandro Garcia, and ultimately JTuck waiting in the wings ], or
    3. Preston Tucker [who cannot play a defensive position; Drew Ferguson and Jason Martin coming up behind him].

    I still think [or at least hope] that if Tyler White can hang on one more year, and can get his mojo back at AAA next year, he could rake as DH when Carlos Beltran rides off into the sunset at the end of the 2017 season.

    While I do not think the organization is high on Mr. Stassi or Mr. Heineman, with our big league catchers being candidates for injuries, and with Mr. Stubbs not being anywhere close to ready perhaps until 2019, I sure hope Stassi and Heineman stick around.

    Pitching-wise, I suspect we will part with one or more of the trio of Paulino, Feliz, and Martes, along with perhaps Brendan McCurry, Riley Farrell, and almost certainly Forrest Whitely.


  14. Lineup vs lefties:
    Altuve 2B
    Aoki LF
    Correa SS
    Beltran DH
    Gattis C
    Springer CF
    Bregman 3B
    Gurriel 1B
    Reddick RF

    Lineup VS righties:
    Altuve 2B
    Reddick RF
    Correa SS
    Beltran DH
    McCann C
    Bregman 3B
    Springer CF
    Gurriel 1B
    Aoki LF


  15. 1. best beltran, weak ill say morton because of injury issues, although he could end up being a surprise.
    2. keuchel
    3. tucker, aoki, one of reed or white, plus young pitchers if there is a trade.
    speking of reed, 275 lbs?!! i mean he IS 6’4″ but 275. maybe fat elvis lives!!
    4. no. too much money, use it on pitching.


  16. I don’t think EE will happen, but again, if it does, then things could be much worse offensively for this Astro baseball club. I’d certainty figure out a way to make a line up out of this group. Yikes, if Gurriel had to go to third, Bregman to left and Aoki a 4th outfielder, we’d have a pretty intimidating group.

    But OP, I can’t justify Springer hitting 6th or 7th. He’s too good for that. Heck, I’d put him right behind Altuve in the second slot against lefties, and third otherwise. Damn, pitchers will face a miserable batch of guys, some with real speed.

    Let’s find that big rotation arm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like Springer, in fact, I love the guy on this team. However, he will probably be the team leader in K’s and I wouldn’t want a high K hitter in the 2 or 3 hole. If Altuve isn’t leading off then I am fine with Springer there, but I would prefer him in the 5, or maybe even 6 spot, but no lower. Whoever is leading off is the only hitter that is guaranteed to come to bat one time without any runners on base. I am not as concerned with a high K hitter at leadoff as I am in the 2 or 3 hole. This is just my opinion though and many may disagree with me (it definitely will not be the first time).


      • Don’t forget, George, in spite of his K’s, still sports a .356 lifetime OBP. That’s just what we should expect from Aoki too, but Springer brings so much more damage waiting to happen up there. This line up, regardless of how of it gets penciled in, will make pitchers weary quickly when it’s all humming along.


    • These are the lineups I came up with based on where I think they should be to open the year. Like any manager, I reserve the right to change them as the season goes on.
      The purpose of my lineup is to get the batters up there who hit and get on base the best, followed by the guys who drive them in. I tweaked my lineups to account for the lefty/righty matchups. With the hitters the Astros have throughout the lineup, I try to do it twice in every nine batters.
      If Marisnick could hit, I would have him in the lineup at the 9 spot in the place of Reddick against Lefties. But he doesn’t hit, so I am not going to take Reddick out of the lineup in the beginning of the year. If I could guarantee that Teoscar was on the roster on opening day, I would start him against lefties in Reddick’s spot. But I don’t know if Teoscar will be on the team.


      • Yeah, Teoscar would be my guy for when Reddick sits. Let’s see what kind of a spring he has. If the club carries five outfielders, both Jake and Teoscar might have a job. That would then take us back to both Bregman and Gurriel in the infield. I’m ok with that.


  17. Couple thoughts. We love Springer, but are we in favor of 5 yr/$100 million (Fowler contract a lesser player IMHO). Second, can DK rebound if the umps continue to take away his knee high curve (maybe ankle high).


    • Fowler struck out 154 times in 2015 and 124 in 2016. He doesn’t steal an extraordinary amount of bases and is regarded as a very weak CF. Springer’s biggest flaw is the Ks and he is a bit worse on it than DF, but you can be sure if he were an FA today he’d get a bigger deal.


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