Areas of improvement: A focus list for each player

Everyone in the world not only has the opportunity, but also the need for improvement in their jobs and in their home lives. Similarly, young and rich baseball players have the same kind of need, no matter how young and how rich they may be for showing improvement on the field. Today’s effort is to look at some of the 2017 Astros and choose an area for them to work on during spring training and throughout this season. So without further discussion….

Jose Altuve. This feels like a finger painter critiquing Cezanne….could he get taller? No? Then how about returning to the Altuve who tattoed LHP for .372 BA/.431 OBP/ .973 OPS in 2015? He was a pedestrian (for him) .306 BA/ .391 OBP/ .885 OPS against the lefties in 2016.

George Springer. The gut reaction is to ask big George to cut down on that human windmill act and strike out less. A noble goal, but it is probably a futile request. So instead, a fella with his speed and smarts has no business getting thrown out stealing more than half the time (9 for 19 in SBs). Tighten that up please. Oh and sure – if he could cut down that 24% K rate everyone would be ecstatic.

Collin McHugh.  One of the striking differences between last season when he was mediocre and previous seasons was Collin’s ability to get out left handed hitters. In 2016 lefties put up a robust .291 BA /.804 OPS against him as compared to .235/.648 in 2015 and .220/.609 in 2014. (Also if he could get back to his 2014 .190/.556 against righties that would not hurt).

Carlos Correa.  A right handed hitter as good as Carlos is should never hit .236 BA against LHPs like he did in 2016. Get back to using the whole field against lefties Mr. Correa.

Yulieski Gurriel.  He certainly doesn’t have to be a 30 HR guy, but as a corner infield he needs to show more pop than he did in a small sample last season and he needs to draw walks. A .262 BA in 2016 was solid; a .292 OBP was poor and a .385 SLG was bad.

Lance McCullers Jr.  The easy area to point at would be health but that is a hard thing to work on in ST. Instead the wunderkind needs to cut back on baserunners allowed. His WHIP from 2016 looks like something from circa 2013 Jordan Lyles (1.543) ….. Yes his great stuff kept his ERA sparkling, but the baserunners ran up his pitch count and put extra strain on the young man’s arm. He walked more batters in 2016 than in 2015 in 2/3 the innings. Did the injury lead to the runners or did the runners and extra pitches lead to the injury?

Dallas Keuchel.  Better communication skills on how he is feeling.

Josh Reddick.  He was awful against LHP in 2016 with a .155 BA / .366 OPS and yes it would help if they don’t start him often against lefties. But you also can’t pinch hit for him every time a lefty pitcher comes into the game. He needs to aim for his so-so career numbers against lefties .218 BA / .640 OPS.

Ken Giles.  In 115.2 mlb innings leading into 2016, Giles had given up 3 HRs. In 65.2 IP in 2016 he gave up 8 HRs and he gave up 15 of his 32 runs for the season in those 8 appearances. He needs to figure out how to keep it in the ball park.

Jake Marisnick, Tyler White, Preston Tucker, A.J. Reed, Tony Kemp, Colin Moran. Except for a 2 week hot spot for Tyler and a warm July for Jake, these guys were really bad in their time in the majors last season. If and when they get called upon they need to be more positive than negative in their value to the team this season. They need to work on not looking overmatched and/or scared at the plate.

There are obviously other folks to critique here and that assignment is given to you.

Of other folks likely on the team, plus the manager, GM, owner, and coaches what areas for improvement do you want them to work on this season?


155 comments on “Areas of improvement: A focus list for each player

  1. New rule? Managers can now signal when they want to walk a hitter so the four requisite pitches don’t need to happen. One way they’re trying to speed up the game. At least one pitcher says he likes it because it saves his arm. Others do not agree.


    • I know that very very rarely there is an intentional walk wild pitch or a batter reach across and slap one or even the fake intentional walk – but I would not miss it.
      But that saves you a minute here and there. I think they need a pitch clock – the hitter gets 5 seconds to get in the box between pitches – the pitcher gets 15 seconds to pitch – something like that. It won’t happen I know


  2. What do I expect [not what I would desire] from Dallas Keuchel in 2017:

    Starts: 20
    IP: 110
    Games MIssed on DL: 60
    Wins: 7
    Losses: 8
    ERA: 4.55 or higher
    WHIP: around 1.35
    K/9: 7.1
    BB/9: 3
    HR/9: 2

    Dallas has no velocity, and by raising and tightening the strike zone, the league has taken his strength away from him.


  3. What do I expect from Lance McCullers, Jr. in 2017 [if he stays healthy]:

    Starts: 28 or more
    IP: 190 or more
    Games MIssed on DL: 7
    Wins: 18
    Losses: 6
    ERA: 3.25 or less
    WHIP: around 1.25
    K/9: around 10.5
    BB/9: around 3
    HR/9: around 0.7

    Lance should, if he stays healthy, establish himself clearly as the ace of this staff.


  4. What do I expect from Collin McHugh in 2017:

    Starts: 30 or more
    IP: 185 or more
    Games MIssed on DL: 7
    Wins: 14
    Losses: 8
    ERA: 4.25 or less
    WHIP: around 1.40
    K/9: around 8.6
    BB/9: around 2.5
    HR/9: around 1.25

    Collin should hold his own, and benefit from an improved offense.


    • If you had to choose between a “finally arrived,” hot Reed, or Hoyt is the (rhetorical) question..

      Or Hoyt and the same of Teoscar?

      I think it’s a false dichotomy. If Sipp or Marisnick aren’t up to snuff, Hoyt shouldn’t be the fallout.


  5. I am all for giving Hoyt a chance to make this team in ST. He’s earned it in the minor leagues and with an 11.5 K/9 in his short stint with the Astros last year. But he’s got to significantly beat last year’s debut numbers of a 4.50 ERA and 5 HRs and a 3.9 BB/9 in 22 IP.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I submit those were high leverage by memory, after a grueling season already – what do ya expect from (and especially) his background? would be my answer. In fact, you’re right. If he earns it, and that’s our motto.

      Let’s see how the GM/Mgr sticks to it


    • I agree with both of you. I think Hoyt has a legitimate shot to make this team and I also think he was worn out at the end of the year and this is why he didn’t pitch as well as we expected. I think Hoyt will look much better if he makes the team out of S.T.


  6. Here’s a question after reading Bill’s assessment of Collin.

    Are the Astros ahead of the curve (pun intended) – and help me out here – if the strike zone is higher, then guys with high spin rates can use that drop more effectively?

    My thinking is, if a hitter sees McQ (or Morton LMJ Fiers towering arch) coming too high, which we’ll have to start it higher, they’ll spot the curve quicker. But if we intend to leave them marginally hi enough to end as a called strike, the chance of slipping in higher strikes would require an “out of zone” swing?

    It would seem to help the 11:30 to 6 curve guys like we have! It’s also much scarier to hang a high curve…


    • It doesn’t matter about how it affects Collin.
      What really matters is if the umpires call it as consistently for Collin as they do for every other pitcher. If the strike zone is raised for everybody and the umps don’t give the “elite pitchers” more of a break than they do all the other pitchers, then every team and every pitcher will have the same dilemma as you outline for our pitchers.
      Our batters will get the same benefit against the league’s pitchers as their batters get against ours. But if our lineup is loaded with high OBP guys from top to bottom, then our batters should benefit more from strike zone changes because they are more patient than other team’s batters are, just like the Red Sox batters will benefit from having a lineup full of good hitters.
      If the umps raise the strike zone for every pitcher, all things remain on an equal plane, with that plane being two inches higher.
      Then it will simply be: which pitchers have better stuff that is harder to hit. That’s the way it should be anyway.


    • I don’t think a higher strike zone helps McHugh at all. When he elevates the ball it gets crushed. He needs to tease them with pitches just out of the zone high to change their eye level and then come back with pitches at the bottom of the zone or breaking below it.


    • I think the cutter action (with Sneed and Devo using it) is a signal that that’s what you need in arsenal. Stuff falling off the table..

      I get what you mean, Op, especially if you train as a complete hitter, they should have to swing at the letters at least. Seems like the high strike should’ve been called all along. It is still a strike.

      I don’t think we stray from pound down, though, either.

      Maybe it’s simply a tool for more judgment calls?!

      I wonder too if each of these can be distinguished in our rotation’s (and prospects’) arsenal?


    • Well, I have to tout our GM again. He has set us up to be successful for several years. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but this is the best, and only, way to have sustained success for 5+ years and I feel comfortable the Astros will have that success. I am not promising a World Series, but I think we have the best chance to win one than any time in the past, including 2005.


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