Sunday thoughts: The plan, the destination, second base and other thoughts


A few thoughts on a Sunday when the Astros wake up in their own beds with a 2-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.

The Luhnow Plan.

Teams across the majors are likely studying up on The Luhnow Plan, breaking it apart piece by piece, trade by trade, acquisition by acquisition. Those who scoffed at it five years ago aren’t scoffing any longer. Those who were skeptical are now lauding The Plan. Those who thought Luhnow would be fired soon are now wishing they’d hired him. To be sure, Luhnow learned on the job. There were failures, there was trial and error. His trade shrewdness has even improved to go along with his free agent and waiver wire pickups and he now looks like a genius. Luhnow will be named Executive of the Year on many ballots and by many outlets this winter and he’ll get a hefty pay raise if that hasn’t already happened.

How the organization got here.

You can point to the Verlander trade as the turning point to the season, but I submit to you the turning point to the 2017 season came with three straight 100-loss seasons. Those lost seasons (and throw in a 76-86 2010 season) resulted in Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Lance McCullers Jr, Mark Appel (see Ken Giles) and Daz Cameron (see Justin Verlander) joining the Astros in the first round of the drafts. Correa, Bregman, Springer and McCullers could/should be center piece of the organization for several years while Verlander and Giles have already helped to write Houston lore. Appel and Cameron are, at best, “we’ll sees”.

Let the debate begin…

I’ll follow-up with a post-season series (yes, just a little tease), but let’s kick it off with an obvious discussion. With three batting titles, four 20o-hit seasons, five All Star appearances and a possible MVP trophy this year, is Jose Altuve the best second baseman to ever play for the Astros? Careful now, you have Joe Morgan, Bill Doran, Jeff Kent and some guy named Biggio in that mix.

Just a few other notes…

  • The thrill of victory is especially sweet for Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel and Brad Peacock. They are still around from that 51-111 season in 2013.
  • How nice is it when you finally get it right? Luhnow had to go through two full-time and two interim managers to get to A.J. Hinch. Now, Hinch has become the Astros’ all-time leading manager in win percentage (271-215, .558). The last manager with a winning record as Astros’ manager was Cecil Cooper (171-170).
  • Marwin Gonzalez played six different positions for Houston this season (he didn’t pitch, catch or play center field). After leading the team in RBI (90) and cementing himself in left field during the post season, will he ever be a Super Sub again? Or has he — at the ripe ol’ age of 28 — become an everyday player?
  • Remember when Houston was also known as Whiff City, leading the league in strikeouts with strikeout specialists like Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, Jason Castro and Colby Rasmus? Remember when Luhnow said (at his initial press conference) that he’d focus on OBP and preferred walks? The Astros struck out fewer times in 2017 than any other major league team and led the majors in runs scored (896) for the first time ever.
  • How crazy is it that Sports Illustrated actually predicted this run back in 2014. Before Correa, before Bregman, before Josh Reddick, before Yuli Gurriel, Evan Gattis, Ken Giles or Brian McCann.
  • Charlie Morton is scheduled to go in Game 3, and the Astros have TBD for their starter in Game 4. No Peacock?
  • By the way, many of you were begging for the Astros to trade for Sonny Gray earlier in the summer and lamenting the fact he “got away” to the Yankees. Hmm, if that trade had happened, there would likely not have been an August blockbuster that brought Verlander over. Just sayin’.
Advertisements

60 comments on “Sunday thoughts: The plan, the destination, second base and other thoughts

  1. Nice job, Chip
    The whole thing with the Luhnow Plan is a bit funny because there were a lot of folks ready to ride him out of the city on a rail when the July trade deadline passed without a major acquisition. I have appreciated the fact that the team was a heck of a lot better than a few years ago and that the steps to get there are a combination of good and bad with more good than bad.
    It is just like with Hinch – I don’t support every darned thing he does, but when he makes a mistake it does not mean I want him fired, just like every time George Springer strikes out I don’t want him gone.
    Anyways it just feels so good to get to this spot and know that this team has risen from the depths to be excellent and sustainably excellent.
    My father-in-law were talking about the Altuve vs. Biggio debate the other night. We both thought that Altuve is performing at a higher level than Biggio did at 2B. Now, will he have a better career? He could, but very few guys can bring it for as long as Biggio did. Biggio did have to play in the Astrodome – but frankly most of what Altuve does is not stadium driven. He just seems to be able to get the good part of the bat on the ball more times than anybody else in the game. One heckuva hitter.
    You would think that the Astros would just make Marwin the regular LF, but who knows how that will go depending on off-season moves.
    The change in whiffs to contact since just last season is amazing with this team – we are seeing in the Yanks a team that is on the other side of that curve as they just seem to strike out way more than their talent would tell you they should. But the Astros went out and got guys who make contact and the ones they kept have improved too….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Credit Given! Keep up the “Good Work”.
      Do you sometimes wonder if JL wanted to het Verlander all along and was just seeing what the temperature was out there with the others?

      Like

  2. I’m surprised it is even a question if Altuve is the best (offensive) 2B in Houston history.

    Playing devil’s advocate, if Luhnow had stood firm or allowed another playoff team to acquire Verlander we are having a different discussion. If Houston bowed out in round one we would label him as a guy who couldn’t finish the 2nd half or win in the postseason.

    Like

  3. I’m satisfied that Craig Biggio is the best second baseman the Astros have had up to this point. I am also satisfied to say that Jose Altuve will end up being the best second baseman in Astros’ history before it’s all over with, if Altuve plays his career here. Every one of Biggio’s 3000+ hits came as an Astro and a majority of them came as a second baseman.
    I hope all of Altuve’s hits come in an Astros uniform. I hope he plays another 10 years here.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If the Astros win the World Series this year, the Verlander trade will be the greatest move of Luhnow’s career. It would be the second greatest trade in Astros’ history and one of the best trades in the new millenium in baseball.
    The $8 million the Tigers will pay next year on Verlander’s salary will cover the salary of about 10 or 12 of the Astros youngest players.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I just saw another angle of the replay last night. Castro was in RF pointing for Judge to throw to 2nd. Didi was not on second at the time. He had to back pedal a few feet to take the throw.

    I remember Joe Garagiola saying “He is a holler guy, he is a holler guy, he is a holler guy. Well 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth he gets lock jaw. THATS when you need a holler guy.”

    Like

    • The problem with the whole deal is that you can’t set up a relay play where the infielder doing the relaying gets a throw that’s bouncing. That bounce slows the play down and makes the relay guy have to adjust his position and feet and then he makes a weak throw on the bounce to the catcher, who has to field the bounce and then swerve to make the tag.
      I’m sorry, but if Judge throws that ball in the air to Castro, he has an open field on which to make a good throw and get Altuve with time to spare. The time that they lost on the bounce behind second, combined with having to try to make a throw through Correa sliding into second is what cost the Yankees that game.
      If Reddick had bounced his throw into Correa on the relay play at third earlier in the game, Gardner beats that relay.
      Those two plays illustrate perfectly the split second difference between doing it right and doing it wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

      • 1971 World Series Game 6 the Clemente Throw.

        The Yankees didn’t need a fake MVP in right field, they needed Roberto Clemente.

        When Judge does win both awards, anyone who touted him needs perspective on what a real MVP means.

        Altuve.

        Like

      • Greatest outfield arm I’ve ever seen – remember him grabbing a ball like that one and throwing out a guy headed first to third. Relay man – who needs a relay man?

        Like

      • 1OP, that was what I saw from CF camera. Castro didn’t want the throw. He pointed to Didi. Now if the Yankees had a “hollow guy” he would have let Castro know Altuve was the target because his back was to Altuve.

        Like

  6. Great job Chip! I’ve been quiet due to being busy at work. How much fun is it to be an Astros fan right now? We’ve got to get at least a win in NYC. How cool is it to hear the national sports media have to acknowledge the Astros as legitimate World Series contenders? Who do the Astros turn to as game 4 starter? Do we dare think that LMJ would get a chance? McHugh? Glad to still be playing baseball in mid October.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I know I am beating the last play to death. But I wish I could get the CF camera video on here. The infielders all slowly line up for a play at the plate. Castro is out in RF lined up to home. Didi moved over to the regular 2nd baseman position and lined up to home. 1st base goes toward the mound and lined up with home. For some reason, Castro takes his left hand and points to 2nd base. Judge throws to the base but Didi has to back pedal to get there. 1st baseman goes to the mound. No only does Correa bother the throw but 1st baseman has to drop out of the way. To me it looks like Castro never raised his hands. So Judge threw to where Castro pointed. Pettis saw the throw to nobody and sent Altuve.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I watched Kenley Jansen strike out the heart of the Cubs line up in the ninth last night, all on balls well up out of the strike zone. Except for Rizzo getting hit by a pitch, I don’t think any of the three K victims made significant contact with a Jansen offering. Given the chance, I don’t think our guys will go down so easily against him. They’ll at least make him throw strikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One of the things that maybe is not reiterated much is one of the differences between the Yankees players and the Astros players is their all around athletic ability and defensive prowess. Somebody like Aaron Judge or even Gary Sanchez are great offensive players, but not swiftest, quickest or best in the field.
    If the Yankees had Josh Reddick playing right field…
    1) There is a good chance he would have gotten to Carlos Correa’s home run, which barely made it into the stands.
    2) Would have cut off Correa’s double quicker and made a better throw into the infield

    Brian McCann has been an offensive liability in the playoffs, but I think he catches the throw from Gregorius and makes the tag on Altuve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, don’t discount the home field advantage of knowing a screwy park layout. We saw it in Boston and luckily benefited from it at home those first two games.

      FWIW, I don’t think Correa gets near enough credit for two parts of his defense. First, you always see him in the correct position for relays. Second, he can unleash some absolute rockets from the outfield on those relays. Paired with Springer and Reddick’s ability to get the ball in with strong, quick, accurate throws the Astros have a huge advantage (defensively) on a lot of teams there.

      Like

  10. I would think Gattis will get to DH today. Wouldn’t it be great to go up 3 – 0? I’m hoping my baseball hat I ordered will get here in time for the game so I can show my support amidst a sea of Yankee fans.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The last time the Astros visited Yankee Stadium the Yankees were hot, the crowd was jacked up for the Jeter Weekend, there was a rainout and a make-up double header and the Astros took 3 out of 4.
    The Astros won’t be intimidated. I just hope they can get to Sabbathia.
    The is the Saltman’s chance to shine.

    Like

  12. For what it’s worth and I don’t think it is worth a lot
    – Sabathia in his career – 2-1 vs. Astros with 4.15 ERA in 21.2 IP
    – Morton in his career – 1-1 vs. Yanks with 5.68 ERA in 12.2 IP

    CC last faced the Astros last year in a 6-3 win. Morton faced them in May in an Astros win – he gave up 4 runs in 5.2 IP but struck out 10….

    Like

  13. I’m a little uncomfortable withnGattis catching Morton. I know McCann needs a day off and there’s the lefty righty thing but I fear passed balls are a coming.

    Like

  14. Whew boy……I’m as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs!!
    I just hope Charlie isn’t!! Kinda cool up there tonight….50 degrees at game time.
    Good luck boys we’ll be cheering for you in Kingwood tonight!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Dang I’m confused. I thought it took four teams to play the championship series.
    But apparently it only takes three. The Yankees,Cubs,and Dodgers.
    Come on Fox. Where is the respect.

    Like

  16. Man it would be nice to see Charlie pitch 7 innings or more they way he started out, light outs right now, but dang, two consecutive hits in the 2nd, one a blooper

    Like

  17. I’m fortunate to have MLB Network on line down here on my outpost because rarely do we see any ML games on local TV. But almost between every inning of every game in this series, I’m forced to watch the “highlight” of Springer striking out in the 9th on the day the Red Sox backed into the AL East title. This is a highlight? It’s killing me. I need to see George come alive!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I can’t watch anymore of this game. Miss played balls, pass balls, using Harris when he hasn’t used the guy in almost 2 weeks. Nope…..I can’t watch anymore of this game, Pitiful…..simply pitiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Some thoughts…

    So let’s see…Judge can come get THAT just-foul ball, but the fastest guy on the Astros (Maybin) can’t get to a FAIR ball the previous inning.

    Altuve just comes to play every game…

    Is it tandem pitching for tomorrow? Peacock and McCullers?

    Like

  20. A combination of bad breaks on a few of those hits, bad fielding by Maybin who ain’t no JFSF, good hitting by Frazier, bad catching by Gattis and bad pitching by Harris (or rusty pitching) and we hope we get all this out of our system in one game

    Like

      • Perhaps, but there’s a lot to be said for bringing in a reliever in the middle of an inning rather than a starter… My guess is they were hoping to stop the bleeding to give them a chance to get back in an not have to waste McHugh/McCullers/Peacock…

        Like

    • Harris is not right. He hasn’t been good since he came back from the 2nd DL stint.
      Too bad, because we needed all hands on deck tonight. By the way…Maybin has very rarely played left field. Even in our ball park, he does not do well. He’s been a certerfielder for the past 8 yrs. Playing sloppy ball, and bringing a gun out on the field so they could shoot the pitcher is what happened to Charlie tonight. Welllllll……….we still have 4 more times to get 2 more wins, but they can’t do this cr*P and win ballgames. Trying too hard, not enough sleep, seeing the sights in New York, will do that to ya I guess.

      Like

      • We’ve burned through Harris in three straight years. It’s a shame because he is a fantastic pitcher when healthy.

        Like

  21. Thoughts:
    1. Joe Buck is the fan that goes wild thinking any routine fly will leave the park.
    2. Keith Hernandez must be seething as he sits between both Ortiz and Thomas thinking, “I should be remembered as a much better player than these guys, but they’ll both be in the HOF”
    3. McHugh looks great.

    Like

  22. Charlie Morton was just snake-bit tonight. He pitched a good game and deserved better. I won’t revisit the details but he didn’t deserve this. Judge can’t hit the low and away pitch and Harris served up a cutter right in his wheel house. What did one expect? And where in the hell has our high powered offense gone in these games. 4 runs in three games. Reminds me of 2005 (I hope not). Play of the game goes to Maybin for the Yankees). Springer continues to do zero. K with bases loaded and no body out. How about a 9th inning rally.

    Like

  23. McCullers to face Sony tomorrow night. I don’t have a good feeling about this start for McCullers. If Hinch hasn’t ripped their heads off……these guys had better come out playing clean ball, with fire in their belly’s. Charlie Morton deserved better from theses guys tonight.

    Like

  24. Nope…..I don’t feel good about McCullers starting tomorrow, game 3 in Boston he gave up two runs, walked 2 and struck out 4😝. You can’t give the Yankees walks and give up ANY runs!

    Like

  25. They wasted a good pitcher last night. The game was already lost when they put him out there. Should have saved McHugh for today when they can start over.
    Springer should not be leading off till he gets it going again.

    Like

  26. The game was so bad in so many respects that it simply needs to be tossed. A 2-1 loss would have been tougher to sleep over. We’ve got one of the best hitting teams in MLB. If we hit, we’ll win. If we don’t, we won’t. I’m not counting on winning two more on the strenngth of Keuchel and Verlander alone.

    A couple of things that stood out. I’m not sure if Maybin should get another start. He looks more like a bystander. Gattis, as much as Iike him, should not be behind the plate for any reason. I think McCann helps Morton stay in his groove if he’s back there. At this point, we’re going to need McCann to start the rest of the series.

    But good grief, we’re up in the series without hitting the baseball! I like our chances!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s