Will The Luhnow Plan turn into The Luhnow Gamble?

Now that the trade dust is settling and numerous players are wearing different uniforms, there are a few obvious conclusions about the Astros’ tepid participation in the deadline festivities.

Here are some thoughts.

Jeff Luhnow is gambling that his rotation will be healthy come October.

  • If Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and even Collin McHugh are fresh and healthy come October, they could be a formidable combination. But if Mike Fiers or Joe Musgrove are forced into the fray, The Great Luhnow Gamble will have failed. By essentially keeping his powder dry at the deadline, Luhnow is holding his breath, crossing his fingers, knocking on wood just hoping for the miracle of health.

Derek Fisher is part of the next generation core.

  • Along with Alex Bregman, the soon-to-be 24-year-old Fisher is one of the first of the next group of players coming up “behind” Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and even George Springer. By the time that Bregman/Fisher (and even Kyle Tucker) hit arbitration, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Morton and a few others will be gone, and Keuchel, Altuve, Springer and possibly Evan Gattis will either be making big money or be gone as well. Josh Reddick and Yulieski Gurriel are both signed through 2020 at reasonable figures.
  • The point? Luhnow has apparently already seen the promise of Fisher and is thinking ahead, not mortgaging the farm system and the future for the here and now.

Depth will be a key down the stretch.

  • One thing that has brought the Astros this far in 2017 is depth. Pitching depth. Roster depth. Lineup depth. And Luhnow was not willing to bust up what is certainly the deepest roster in more than a decade. The team has already used 39 players, 10 pitchers have started games, only one pitcher (Fiers) is on pace to pitch more than 170 innings, A.J. Hinch has used 90 different lineups in the first 104 games and 11 different players have double-digit home runs. Still, the Astros are 16 games up, currently playing without two of its stars and with multiple pitchers either not pitching or only at 80%.

Remember the Luhnow Plan.

  • Luhnow and Jim Crane told us several years ago they wanted to build an organization through the draft (read: Correa, Bregman, Fisher, Kyle Tucker et al) and add key pieces when necessary (read: McCann, Reddick, Morton and friends). While it’s easy to want to veer away from the blueprint, Luhnow is merely sticking to the plan. If he wins the gamble, Houston could become the dynasty the city has longed for. If not, he could be on the next MMP train out!

To be sure, this trade deadline thing for Houston was a balancing act. And, while adding a huge piece is unlikely, let’s not forget Luhnow could still bring in players in August if they can get through waivers.

Three months from now, though, we’ll have most of the answers. We still have back-to-school, Labor Day, my high school reunion and Halloween to celebrate first though. Will Keuchel and Friends be enough to overcome the rest of the American League and take on the Dodgers? Or will there be wailing and gnashing of teeth as we all watch someone else play in the World Series? Ugh, I know.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • You wanted Lance Lynn? Coulda had him in the 2008 draft. Houston took Jordan Lyles with the 38th pick, St. Louis took Lynn with, you guessed it, the 39th pick.
  • The best acquisitions for Houston this summer may, indeed, be Keuchel, McHugh, Correa (in September), Fisher, Will Harris and a rapidly maturing Bregman.
  • Something to think about: Assuming everyone is healthy come playoff time, which 25 players make the team. There would be several bubble players, especially if Keuchel, McCullers, Morton and McHugh progress and remain healthy. Odd men out?
  • Key question: In your estimation, if everyone is healthy, does this team have what it takes to go all the way in its current makeup?

100 comments on “Will The Luhnow Plan turn into The Luhnow Gamble?

  1. I have given JL terrible marks for years. But this year the team as constructed has been phenomenal. I do know 8 teams will make the playoffs. 7 will be losers in the minds of some. I am just enjoying the ride. The trade pieces this year at the deadline were not, in my opinion, spectacular. I don’t think you go all in with a pair of 3’s.


  2. Good job Chip – playing off your thoughts….

    The Gamble
    Three of your top 4 pitchers Keuchel, McCullers and Morton missed significant time last season to injury. And all 3 of them have been on the DL this season and at least for Keuchel and McCullers they were tweaky kind of injuries (neck and back) where it is not always clear if they are fully healed or not or one stumble away from hurting themselves again. Then McHugh was healthy last season, but has been out for most of this season – so yes it is a big gamble to think this bunch will keep it together.

    Derek Fisher – next generation
    Rather ironic that Derek at 24 is the newer generation vs. 22 y.o. Correa but that is how it goes in the baseball world where your age is not as important as your service time. Fisher with 3 HR and 8 RBIs in only 41 ABs looks like a big improvement over Aoki – we’ll see if he can adjust as the league adjusts to him.

    Depth has been evident in their offense and their starting pitching. The depth of their bullpen is suspect and to me it is a big question if Liriano who has not pitched out of the pen much in his career will be that “guy”. Hopefully, he does shut down the leftys and does good enough against rightys to help this pen. They really really need steady Will Harris back.

    The Luhnow Plan
    The fans with 50+ years under their belt really don’t give a crap about a 5 year plan. Luhnow on the other hand does not have all these many years of pain under his belt. So – he is OK to stick to a plan he believes in, but man….he better be right.

    You wanted Lance Lynn? Yes – I was screaming for them to draft Lance Lynn (don’t look at my Pinocchio nose)
    The best acquisitions for Houston this summer may, indeed, be Keuchel, McHugh, Correa (in September), Fisher, Will Harris and a quickly maturing Bregman. – Those will have to be our best acquisitions unless there is a waiver wire miracle coming
    Something to think about: Assuming everyone is healthy come playoff time, which 25 players make the team. There would be several bubble players, especially if Keuchel, McCullers, Morton and McHugh progress and remain healthy. Odd men out?
    Odd men out? Sipp, Feliz, Martes, Musgrove
    Key question: In your estimation, if everyone is healthy, does this team have what it takes to go all the way in its current makeup?
    Yes – they can do it with what they have, but a little more pitching help sure might have clinched it.


    • Yes, Derek Fisher ironic in more ways than one. He could have been one of those young ‘uns like Correa. He was originally drafted by, umm, the Rangers, in 2011, but chose to play college ball at Virginia instead. I dare say he progressed faster at Virginia than he might have in the Rangers’ system though. Glad he waited…and the Astros drafted him…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, it is time to actually start winning series’ again. It is way too early to worry very much about a playoff roster, or how far we might or might not go in a series with the Yankees, Indians, Red Sox, Royals, Rays, or [theoretically] the Dodgers. Right now, the way we have been playing since the ASB, we would be out like a candle in the wind.

    Other than winning series’, we have to do three things:

    1. get our big offensive guns [Correa, Springer] back and producing at pre-injury levels;
    2. get our big three starters [Keuchel, McCullers and either McHugh or Morton] up to the top of their game by September; and
    3. get Will Harris back and in the groove, get Devenski over his ill-fated ‘let’s see what happens when I throw up in the zone to major league hitters’ experiment, limit Peacock’s innings without shutting him down and letting him completely cool off, and find somebody who can halfway consistently get batters out without giving up crooked number innings to the other side in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

    As soon as we accomplish 2 of those 3, I’ll feel a whole lot better about penciling in a playoff roster and predicting how we would do against Yankees, Indians, Royals, Red Sox, Rays, Dodgers, etc.


  4. We’ll never know what options Luhnow had this past week and what he needed to give up to get a significant deal done. It is what it is. Yes, I wanted more pitching too. We won’t win in October with slow pitch scores. We will not be the favorites. But we have hit Darvish and Gray before. If we’ve got a healthy roster (I’m still taking rested for granted) anything can happen.


    • If you trust the smart guys in Las Vegas (and the betting sphere) the Astros are still the favorites to win the A.L. pennant. Obviously, the Dodgers are the favorites to win the World Series.


  5. Of all the SP that makes me the most nervous is LMJ future, He is to young to be hurt this much, he is starting to get head issues like old Jarred Cosart.. I like the kid but man he is becoming a bit High maintenance. I have no doubt we can score runs, but man we have a lot of pitching a tweak away from the DL.

    We need Strom to Figure how to get the BP back the way they were early, we can’t except to only win games we score 8 or more runs.

    I’m hoping we can pull something off through waivers.


    • I can agree that McCullers’ injuries are a concern, but I have never seen any evidence of him being high maintenance or has issues with the front office like Jarred Cosart. Is there an incident that I am not aware of that leads you to say this?


  6. Almost everyone seems to think McCullers is our sure fire #2 but if one were objective and dispassionate about it he has shown tantalizing flashes of brilliance in his career and equally dismaying inconsistency. Do we want McCullers to be a stud so much that we ignore his real performance? Although its a super small sample I really like what I’m seeing from McHugh and his experience should fare well the rest of the way.

    Chip, in your original post you did not mention Peacock who is PITCHING like a real #2, not merely pretending. As much as I would hate to see him “demoted” I wonder if they might consider Liriano as a mediocre at best starter but shift Peacock to the seventh or eighth inning guy. Without Harris there is a huge hole there. Not sure Musgrove is up to the task but certainly Sipp, Guduan and Martes are proving they’re not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Bill, I thought that one of the ways to strengthen the bullpen was to trade for a quality starter and move Peacock back into the role he relished and performed so well in to start the season. Yes, I would like to see him there in the 7th or 8th, but on THIS roster, he may well be more suited for the rotation.


    • We have seen so few pitchers in Houston that have knee-buckling stuff that Lance’s potential makes us a little giddy – and somewhat blind. Not since Oswalt has our system produced a pitcher that can make people look foolish the way the ‘good’ Lance can. If he could just get his head on straight, use his legs more [like Oswalt did] and keep his delivery consistent, he would not only be a whole lot healthier but a ton more consistent. Right now, however, I see him as losing both battles, and pretty decisively. What he needs is a wise, experienced, self-less mentor who has less of a chip on his shoulder than Lance does. Unfortunately, no one in our rotation or on our staff even comes close to that.


      • In my opinion, the only issue with Lance is his health. When he is healthy he is as nasty as they come on the mound. I should also add that I love that he pitches with a chip (no pun intended to our blog inventor) on his shoulder and a bulldog mentality. Many of the great pitchers have that attitude on the mound.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love a chipy attitude. I think he may have moved passed that to a guy that cant control his emotions to the determent of the team. I’m just hoping it’s emotional immaturity not the Cosart/Norris Syndrome.

        In short get over yourself and start pitching and acting like a Pro.


  7. Regarding Derek Fisher. In a very small sample size of 11 games, here are his stats:
    BA: .317
    OBP: ,404
    OPS: 1,014
    HR: 3
    2B: 1
    RBI: 8
    SOs: 10 in 47 PAs
    BBs: 6
    1 SB in 3 tries

    I have no illusions that Derek will keep up this pace the rest of the 2017 campaign, but especially in the absence of George Springer, it has sure been nice to see!


  8. Think of that future line up with Springer back in center, CC at SS, and DF in LF
    Nice. Now how about some good ERA’s coming out of the pen again.


  9. When asked about the trade deadline Keuchel said “I’m not gonna lie, dissapointment is a bit of an understatement”. Says it all.


  10. I rang “the” bell when I left Millennium Oncology this afternoon, told all the nurses goodbye and swiftly walked out the door. This has been a looong 2yrs, and this girl is beyond glad it’s over. Thank you for your friendship, and especially for your prayers! My PET scan was *CLEAR* so I’m going to be ok. Now all I have to do is feel better.
    No more chemo…..no more wait and see, I’m going to be ok. I get rather cranky after I have a chemo treatment, so I’ll try to curb my sharp tongue! On to baseball.
    What do you do when two guys out of your bullpen self destruct nearly everytime they pitch? Put them on the DL. Sipp has a calf boo-boo, and Feliz has a hurt shoulder…..riiiight!! Jankowski came up from Fresno to warm a seat down in the pen.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. I was disappointed that the Astros were not able to add more at the deadline and it appears they had a deal agreed upon for Britton until Angelos decided the people he hired weren’t competent enough to make the right decision on trades. However, even if we had added Zach Britton it would not have helped at all if Keuchel and McCullers are not healthy. Every contender has health concerns with their pitching. Do you think the Yankees are comfortable Gray, Tanaka and Severino will be healthy for the playoffs? Do you think the Indians are comfortable Salazar and Carrasco will be healthy for the playoffs? Do you think the Red Sox trust Price and Pomeranz to be healthy in October? How about the Dodgers with Kershaw, Wood and Rich Hill? Although I was disappointed the trade for Britton fell through I still believe the only thing this team needs to be serious playoff contenders is health. Healthy and the Astros should win the A.L. If they are not healthy any other additions they could have added yesterday wouldn’t have made a hill of beans because they wouldn’t have gone far without the health of their main players.

    Eventually, I am sure it will be leaked what the Astros offered to get Britton. While many of us are frustrated that Angelos nixed that deal yesterday in 2 years we may be sending Thank you cards to Peter Angelos for not approving the agreed upon deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m just going to throw out a theory that Fiers pitches best when his back is against the wall and he knows his rotation spot is on the line. When he feels comfortable we see a home run derby worthy performance.


  13. Not counting today, if the Astros play .500 ball they will end with 97 wins. For the Mariners to win the division, they need to win 43 of 55. A percentage of .781. Starting today the Astros are playing .657.

    Now the playoffs may be a different story, but lets cheer them on and enjoy this fantastic season.


  14. The regular season is a moot point. Anticlimactic at the beginning of August.

    How good can we get before post season play?

    Lance might well be a guy that won’t ever throw 200 innings. Is his future in the pen?
    Is Keuchel going to be healthy? I’m not concerned about him shaking the rust off. Have we seen the best of Fiers? Peacocks stats out of the pen are more valuable, easily better than his starts, but we might need him in the rotation for the duration. McHugh has plenty of innings in his arm. Can he give us another big second half? Morton needs to find a groove and stay there.

    We’ve got six bats having career years. Can they finish? Bregman has the OPS over .800. He’s a hitter too. Wasn’t Altuve’s under .700 in his first full season?

    Will Harris and Liriano be enough of a difference? I’ve got to think that there is going to be one more guy, so far unidentified, that will make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. David Barron and Brian Smith of the Chron both bemoaning, and very loudly, the lack of a major acquisition, along with Dallas Keuchel. Jose Altuve: “I didn’t go to college to be a GM. We have a manager and GM who do everything they can to help the team. If they do good or not, that’s on them. I try to stay away from [judging].”

    I’m inclined to think Mr. Luhnow may still have something up his jersey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope so Diane.
      I tend to agree with the thought there just wasn’t any one out there to make a major difference at this point. If McCullers and Keuchel were in top form, then yes a starter and a couple of relievers would put us in good shape. The quality of the available guys was so so at best.
      I was disappointed but I’m beginning to see the reasoning here.


  16. After Teoscar was traded, its seems everyone behind him in the top 30 prospect rankings moved up a notch and Dean Deetz was added to the list at #30.


  17. Look, with all the injuries and all the minor minor leaguers pitching this year – Team pitching stats in the American League.

    5th best in ERA 4.20
    2nd best in BA .238
    4th best OBP .310
    4nd Best in WHIP 1.26

    What about Home Runs? 3rd in Total Bases allowed.
    I know it doesn’t count but 1st in wins by a margin of 10 wins.

    Here it is. I knew they were crap. Next to last (14 out of 15) in caught stealing at 13.75%.


    • 45, those are a great set of stats. But they really don’t mean a whole lot at this point. Ideally, we come close to duplicating those same numbers over the next two months, get well, get rested and still enter the post season on a roll. I’ve been a bit leery of our remarkable record over the first 100 plus games. I’d much rather see those numbers over the last 100 games.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The only reason I posted that was to give my Nemesis (JL) a little cover. Perhaps, just perhaps, he only saw 1 or 2 that would be an upgrade at any price. Concentrated on them and couldn’t close the deal for some reason. My opinion is too many people saw several upgrades on the table. I just didn’t see that he had a lot of options. Liriano is not a BIG upgrade but he just needs to be better than Sipp. We have three serviceable arms in DK, LMJ and Morton. We don’t know if they will be healthy. But we don’t know that Verlander, et al. will be healthy in October. I don’t want to play Chicken Little until we are down to a lead of only 2 games.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. So where does everyone stand on this Dallas K statement about the lack of a trade?
    – It is one thing for fans to say something – in fact it is our job to complain
    – Does this subconsciously tell his teammates -“Y’all just are not good enough”
    – Does this subconsciously tell his front office – “After two seasons of no real help at the trade deadline – I may be less willing to sign on for the long haul when my time comes up.”
    – Does this give him an excuse to fail?

    On the radio they were saying – this means Dallas better come out throwing great or he will look like a fool.

    What do you great baseball minds think?


  19. Me I was disappointed that any one would share that with the media, That needs to be kept in house between him and management. I said the other day , how about pitching more that 1/2 season the last 2 years. Shows a lack of any kind of leadership qualities. How about being the confident alpha dog and saying me and theses guys have all the talent we need to get us a Championship, whether u believe it or not It was bad look DK

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I think he’s just venting….and I agree with Kevin, keep it to yourself. BUT…I’m in his corner, non of us (including Keuchel ) know why Luhnow was not successful in bringing in another starting pitcher, unless the experiment of using Liriano out of the pen doesn’t work out. Yes, August is here and there may be another club willing to trade a pitcher if they fall out of contention…..but that’s an iffy move. Keuchel go out tonight and MOW ‘EM DOWN!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I don’t think Keuchel’s comments were vicious and that’s where most people go off the deep end in his era…they become personal and show animosity in their comments. We also don’t know if he had other comments that may have put it into better context…For example, did he say, “yes, I’m disappointed, but Jeff has done a great job thus far etc. and we’ll trust the GM.” In this day and age, his comments were tame I think and Luhnow, by now, has pretty thick skin. I mean, I think it would have been worse, if he’d said “no comment!”, then you and I would have been here filling in the blanks.

    Just half of my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I watched the video 3 times I never said say Vicious, I just think unnecessary at the time. I watched it again , and I still fail to see any positive form his comments, he could have said more along the lines I stated above , not no comment.

      I still believe a guy who has missed half the season, just be “the Guy” and take care of your own business the next 3 months. Over and out on this subject


  22. Absolutely no problem with him being candid as far as I’m concerned. If guys like Sipp, Musgrove, Felix or Martes were offended, then they should get back to work or get another job doing something else. I doubt they were bothered in the least though, maybe except for Sipp, the guy making far more than Sonny Gray!

    In spite of the injury, Keuchel is still 9-0 and that leads the team. That’s a pretty good argument for help in the rotation right there. He has also won a Cy Young, so he gets to say something. As Chip noted, his remarks were pretty benign. And I’m sure every bat on the roster including Altuve was thinking the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Make that 9-1 and with two rather 2016-reminiscent outings in a row coming off a long DL stint in the middle of the season. I don’t care what any player says about anything. I DO care how they perform on the field.


    • Yeah, thanks for asking. I’m extremely disappointed in the failure of the GM of my favorite team to help his team get more ammo at the deadline.
      I’m not surprised that his small group of adoring groupies are saying we still have the best team out there. I am not the best of hearing but my corrected eyesite is 20-20 and what I see are a bunch of pitchers who will not match up well against the pitching of other playoff caliber teams.
      In answer to those who say our hitters are better and they could carry us I say that I look back at how we have faired lately against other team’s #1 and and #2 pitchers in the last month and we did not hit those guys.
      I’ll just name the two this week who beat us, Verlander and Archer.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I’m afraid you are 100% correct. Personally I think the trade line sucked the breath out of this team. I sincerely hope I’m wrong……but I don’t think so.


      • Gee, I wonder who he’s talking about when he says “group of adoring groupies”. Of course, I’ve seen you flip flop on this team and the GM more than anyone here. During the off-season you were praising him and when we started the year red hot you were doubling down on the team and the additions Luhnow made, but the second the team hits a rough patch you complain about the same GM and team you were praising when things were going well. This has been your M.O. since I have been on this blog. Oh well, you can choose to wallow in your own contradiction. I will continue to be happy that this team is still one of the best teams in baseball and see how the season plays out before I call any moves, or lackthereof, a mistake by the front office.


  23. So the Tigers just put Verlander on revocable waivers. He can refuse any trade. So does mean he can pretty much pick the one he wants?


    • If a team selects him off those waivers, that team alone has negotiating rights with the Tigers. If Verlander says “nope”, the Tigers pull him back. IF he gets through waivers without being chosen, it’s just like July all over again. The Tigers can negotiate with anyone and he has the veto power of his contract.

      Is that what you’re asking?


      • Chip, if Verlander says nope, I understand that the Tigers pull him back. But can the next team in line begin negotiating at that point, with Verlander owning the hammer until hypothetically a situation comes along that he likes?


      • Dave, no sir. At that point it’s game over as far as a trade. It’s the claiming team or none at all. They either negotiate a trade with that team or pull him back.


      • Thanks for that Chip. I’m glad that Luhnow likely will not have a chance to over pay for Verlander. With the heat he’s getting right now, he might be tempted.


  24. I’m guessing Keuchel is done after 15 outs. I think he threw an 86 mph fastball in the 5th. He had nothing again tonight. I’ve got to give him credit for keeping his team in the game. But is he healthy?


  25. Man, 1OP, I have been called names, cussed out, ridiculed but I have never had anyone be so hurtful as to call me a “Luhnow Groupie.” A comment like that just might be a federal crime. My lawyer is looking into it.


  26. As to tonight and last night’s games. The Astros have got into the “lets play for two” mode. But it is when they are batting that the double play shows up. DK did not have his best stuff, but the Rays got a lot of nubbers, bleeders, cue shots. And the Astros have put the warning track power on display for two nights. Plus Beltran hit 800 feet of foul ball home runs.

    That normally adds up to a couple losses.


  27. As to my “back atcha” to 1OP, Chip/DanP were have to have a sarcasm font.

    It makes no difference today, but this is an interesting read from Ken Rosenthal (who may know nothing)

    Inside the deadline: What happened to the #Astros, and how it related to the #Orioles, #Dodgers and #Cubs. facebook.com/kenrosenthalsp…


  28. 45, I just found and read the Rosenthal story on FB. If it’s all accurate, a couple of things come to mind. Luhnow was looking for three guys to help in the pen. If that’s the case, he was/is very concerned about that weakness on this club.

    Allegedly he also made a late run for Darvish. If that is also the case, he can’t be real thrilled about his rotation. I don’t blame him.

    And did he really keep a half dozen prospects out of any trade talks, depending on what piece he was trying to trade for? I that ever gets confirmed, I can understand why nothing got done. You”Ve got to pay!

    I had no expectations of getting any real help at the deadline. So I’m still not pissed with the outcome. But if Luhnow really had such big plans going in, he didn’t do so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is already old news that Luhnow had a deal in place for Britton, which would’ve been as big a splash as any other trade, but Angelos nixed it (the same is said of the Ravens owner re Kapernick).

      The blame is not on Jeff Luhnow who was weighing-in on virtually all the deals in play prior to the season too (which turned out pretty well; Morton, McCann, Reddick, Aoki and Beltran).

      If anyone feels better because it’s easier to blame one person for the failure of a UNIT to come up with wins … well, please get serious and make relevant comments instead?

      Get this! No baseball team not named the Astros wants Houston to cake walk into a WS. It’s a competition and without unlimited funds, you are handed nothing. This team was going to have to work for everything in the first place. Keuchel and Co. will do well to remember and act.

      Now, put Peacock back in the rotation, and play Fisher, Marwin and Jake more often. They’ve earned it!

      The recent slump goes to show how vital Springer and Correa are to our success. It easily explains the need for better team play, which boosts pitching confidence. Both DK and LMJ are injured (not 100%), so that covers 4/5 of our core players on the mend. We’re certainly not going to resurrect them by patchwork in trades!

      Liked by 1 person

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