Chipalatta and the winter, off-season writer’s block


Sometimes it is just really hard to write about baseball. The season is over. The season has brought us all any of us could ask for from a Houston Astros’ season. All the whining and complaining we all did before and during the season and the playoffs seems pretty silly at this point. The team we waited for all our lives arrived and delivered Houston’s first World Series championship on the most glorious silver platter against the media darlings times three.

So what to write about? The two biggest baseball stories have to do with the eventual landing spots for Giancarlo Stanton and for Shohie Ohtani and right now that landing spot will not be in our little hamlet by the Gulf.

At some point I will finish a post about the top 10 games of the year for the Astros, but that one is a ways away from ready. I could write about relievers we could possibly sign or trade for, but it is boring me even writing about writing about it.

We already hit on the top 30 prospects and already talked about possible holes in the team. We mulled on one of the biggest holes in the 2017 Astros’ armor… designated hitter. We threw out 10 random questions for all to chew on or to savor.

Last off-season we were in an interesting transition as Jeff Luhnow put a brake on the youth movement and one by one brought in the veterans who helped the young guys bring home the trophy.

This off-season we are not out trying to buy a brand new ring, but just getting the beautiful ring we own buffed up. Not nearly as intriguing, but potentially interesting. But it will be more interesting as we actually see who is brought in and how they get here.

The off-season stretches out ahead of us for a couple months until the Boys of Summer return to spring training in Florida…..

So, what types of articles would you like us to cover in this off-season? Can’t promise to hit them all, but it would sure help to have some input from our loyal readers.

Your turn – what are you starving for from your favorite bloggists?

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57 comments on “Chipalatta and the winter, off-season writer’s block

  1. Dan it would be of interest to me to know what the Astro’s have in mind to further develop certain players who are in danger of being AAAA players like A.J. Reed etc. What will happen to Paulino this year? Is there a chance Beltran could join our coaching staff?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good thoughts Larry. I was thinking about Reed the other day. What if he worked his ass off and lost 30 pounds, spent hours and hours working out and became chiseled like a Springer. That would be a great self development plan!

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      • i think if Reed was that motivated t be a serious contender for the 25, he would have put down the Dorito’s and Twinkies by now. Thinking he is Singleton without the herb.

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  2. -How winning a ring might change the Astros as an organization, as a team and individually. Why is it so hard to win another one?
    -What do we really expect from the Astros’ top 10 prospects. No, I mean what does everyone of us expect from them? That means you, because all of us have an opinion.
    -What does every one think about the Dodgers having 12 major league players actually inked so far for 2018 for $180 million vs the Phillies having only one player actually inked for 2018 for a total payroll of $5.85 million, almost half of which is owed to former players.
    -Are the Marlins better off today than they were with their previous ownership? How does MLB feel about the best player in the league being forced to accept a trade, with his salary possibly being added to the biggest spender in baseball? How does baseball keep their league from becoming like the NBA, where players get together to form their own dynasty teams?
    – Where will the line be drawn in the sand when people stop buying tickets because they are too expensive because every baseball player is so overpaid?
    Gotta stop and take the Mrs to the doctor. Later

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  3. I would like to see some discussion of the areas of the game in which our World Champion Astros were not particularly good vis-a-vis the rest of the league last year, and what could or should be done about tightening up those areas in the offseason, ST, and 2018.

    Examples of areas we were not good offensively include:
    – BBs [we ranked 20th in the MLB];
    – PH BA [we ranked 20th in the MLB];
    – SB% [we ranked 22nd];
    – GIDP [we were the sixth worst team in GIDP];

    From a pitching standpoint:
    – complete games – we had one -tied for last in the league;
    – shutouts – we were 13th in the MLB;
    – quality starts – we were 18th in the MLB;
    – save per save opportunity percentage – we were 12th in the MLB;
    – caught stealing % – we were last in the MLB
    – WPs we led the MLB in wild pitches
    – HBPs we were 6th in the MLB in hitting guys

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill, I like this batch of questions.

      20th in BB’s, but easily first in fewest K’s. We attack the early fastball.

      At only 64 PH at bats, I guess we didn’t need too many pinch hits.

      We don’t steal bases well. I think we’ll do it less and less.

      We put the ball in play. (see low K’s and low BB’s) We also hit the ball hard. The result is a significant amount of GIDP. I think we live with this.

      With that .823 OPS, no other team was close. And I do believe we’ll have a better offense in 2018. Yes!

      Disclaimer: My pitching comments are admittedly opinions without any real statistical support. Sorry Tim but I’m not ashamed in any way.

      I think shutouts and complete games are overrated.

      18th in quality starts? Maybe our skipper was pretty good with his pen after all.

      I’m still not very impressed with our closer. Would Zack Britton or Brad Hand help our save op %?

      We don’t hold potential base stealers close very well. Our pitchers don’t get to the plate very quickly. Our catchers don’t throw very well either. This is a significant area to me and one our opponents will try to exploit in 2018 as they attempt to beat us. That’s why Gattis will not be back there. We could give up some offense in exchange for a defensive standout. I think Luhnow improves here too.

      Lot’s of breaking balls in the dirt and not so good backstops lead to all those WP’s. That defensive guy Luhnow puts back there will help. By the way, I don’t think McCann catches more than 75 or 80 games.

      I’m okay with the HBP’s for the most part. Got to get guys off the plate sometimes.

      That was grueling. It does not take long to get out of shape in the off season.

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  4. How do we avoid the dreaded World Series hangover that the past 4 champions have experienced? They showed the records of the past 4 champions at the ASB and I think the Cubs this past season at 45-43 was the best of the bunch. I think we have the right manager to get these guys focused when they arrive for spring training, but I think it is human nature to have a bit of a letdown after such an exciting and fulfilling season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim. As much as hate to bring it up, take a look at the NE Patriots. year end and year out always in contention and seem to always make the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl. What are they doing to keep the fire in their belly? We need some of that.

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    • Luhnow significantly improves the bullpen. Fisher provides a big spark. OP’s Cuban rookie catcher plays a significant role. Rogelio Armenteros forces his way into the rotation. Marwin and Reddick will step back a bit, but Bregman will pound the ball. And then we’ve got some other guys whose names I’ve forgotten.

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  5. Dan, I’d really like to see some hard hitting analysis on the roster coming back where you tell us which Astros player would play which role in the Broadway hit Hamilton.

    In seriousness, things should heat up in five days when the winter meetings start. Aside from recapping some AZ Fall League or Carribean winter league action by our prospects I’m not sure what to suggest. We have talked about needing another LHP in the bullpen. I’d like to see Luhnow think outside the box on this one – there are likely MILB lefties from other organizations who can’t be starters but could perhaps transition to the bullpen available for some of our prospects who are (seemingly) blocked. Since our system lacks these lefties it might make sense to make some swaps and reload. Any other ideas for fixing that roster hole?

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    • I like the thought of doing something different, but what would it take in prospects to get Brad Hand?

      I was thinking this morning that Hinch will have his third bench coach in as many years. Wondered what his relationship with Cora was like, and this article appeared this morning. Part of the challenge in writing new stories is that this Luhnow crew runs a tight-lipped ship.

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/articles.masslive.com/redsox/index.ssf/2017/12/alex_cora_boston_red_sox_manag_2.amp

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      • Wow – interesting article Grayson. Funny that we have to get this kind of news from the outside – though I don’t think it means he had a long term bad relationship with Hinch.
        So, what happened when the Red Sox checked with the Astros on Cora’s background? Did they do a complete cover-up of this? Did they tell little white lies “No, there are no conflicts with Cora (whispered”Now”). Maybe this was a one 0ff problem and they did not want to sink his chances of getting the new job. Maybe this was a consistent problem and they wanted him gone.
        And where are the chron.com folks on this type of story? Are they not in the loop or part of the cover up?

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      • Hand is a good example. Miami used him as a starter about half the time and out of the pen the rest. His K/9 and WHIP weren’t terrible, but pointed to a guy unlikely to have real success as a starter. SD moved him to the pen exclusively and he posted an 11.2 and 11.8 K/9 over the last two years. He’ll be 28 to start the season in 2018, so it’s reasonable to expect a few more good years despite the high usage on his arm. He’s under team control this year and next, but depending on how much he gets in arbitration this winter it is conceivable SD would move him.

        However, the cynical part of me thinks a guy like Hand is better to acquire during the season when you have a number of innings in which to monitor his velocity, location, etc. before making the move. I’d like to find “the next Brad Hand.”

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      • Dan, it brings in many question about the nature of his relationship with Hinch. I’ll bet the next bench coach is more of a “yes man.” I can sort of see Blum being a bit of a straight lace/”has been” turned local analyst; Cora with his star rising, feeling his oats. Hinch trying to always stay in control. I never thought Hinch and Cora seemed very chummy.

        One thing that will definitely be different relating to Op’s comment about how we’ll come into next season as the champs – I bet Tuve and Correa have a bigger leadership role.

        I remember a vivid scene when Hinch pulled McCullers in Game 7. On his way out to the mound Lance was livid, but who was it consoling him saying, “we got you, shake it off!”? Correa. Who was it translating for Martes (a bit of a hot head)? Correa.

        The team is full of leaders and Hinch’s job is made that much easier.

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      • Not sure this relates to the attitude of Cora, but don’t forget, late in the season in the first inning I believe, Cora was tossed by the home plate umpire. Cora threw his papers in the air, and went to the clubhouse. Not saying he is Billy Martin, but he is not mild mannered apparently.

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  6. B/R: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in the last few months?

    Springer: I can push through a lot of things, whether that’s failure or success. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve learned how to overcome things that get thrown at you. In this game, nothing’s for certain, just like life. You have to roll with the punches. If you get knocked down, you need to stand up.

    https://www.google.com/amp/syndication.bleacherreport.com/amp/2747739-world-series-mvp-george-springer-we-made-a-beer-funnel-out-of-the-trophy.amp.html

    George’s style and character is awesome!

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  7. Jeff Luhnow was interviewed today for MLB and said that the bullpen was priority #1, but that the club was also looking into starting pitchers and maybe a LFer.
    I’m wondering if he might be looking for a starter in order to move one or more of the current starters to the pen.

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  8. I wonder if Steve still lurks around here. I haven’t seen him post in awhile, but I always enjoyed reading his opinions, even when I disagreed with him. Hopefully, he is lurking, reading this and will post again.

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  9. I have to believe our lady friends have an opinion on the kind of posts they would like to see covered here. Becky? Sandy? Diane? Anything?

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  10. Thanks for still calling me a friend, Dan. lol. I’m always interested to hear more about the players themselves, their families, their lives, where they live and what they do in the off season. What Tuve said to Correa in the middle of Game 5, why Correa decided on a public proposal, what Springer said to McCann or what McCann said to Morton, or what Hinch decided not to say, or how Hinch uses his psych degree on his players, or how any of the wives fit in and play their roles, something about the little ones and so on. I never get enough of that type of information. How do you get it to write about it? Don’t know.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never seen Arauz valued that highly. There were other surprises.

      On a team that’s already set, thank you, and while the baseball prospectus (JP) claimed, “this is not a very deep system now,” I beg to differ.

      You asked what us fans think of playing time for prospects next season, and since the Top 10 varies from each author, I’ll give you a good early list of favorites to breakthrough, or break into the majors (who may not even make some top 20 lists).

      Prospects Who Will Play in 2018
      1. Stassi
      2. Guduan
      3. Moran (blocked)
      4. Armenteros
      5. Paulino
      6. Davis (blocked)
      Outliers
      7. Tucker
      8. Ferrell
      9. C Perez
      10. Alvarez
      11. Framber
      12. Bukauskas (relief)

      While we traded 3 of our top 15 for JV, we still have Fisher and Martes who will likely break camp.

      Since we have several potential elite prospects in Whitley, Hector Perez and Tucker, this list will not include those who may develop more quickly than projected. Of those mentions, I’ll add Jon Kemmer, Drew Ferguson and Garrett Stubbs as possibles to get a cup of coffee.

      It’s a long season. All hands on deck is a thing for a manager who asks for more horses, always more studs!

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      • Why are you trying to move Bukauskas to the bullpen? He had a huge workload last spring and only got a handful of innings late in the season. I’m confidant the Astros are going to look for about 100 innings out of the rotation from him next summer.

        Is your #7 supposed to be Preston or Kyle? I’m in the minority among Astros fans, but still believe Preston has potential to be a legitimate hitter in MLB. It might take a different organization – kind of like JDM – but if he can lay off the high fastball and not swing at as many sliders in the dirt he’ll do some major damage. You can be sure there are teams hoping Luhnow has to cut him loose so they can pounce.

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      • I should’ve prefaced not in order of any kind.

        I just think that if (longshot in ’18) Bukauskas gets a call up, it will be in relief having a plus fastball.

        The list is sort of a “hopefuls” to see some action, because obviously it will take injury or long slumps to allow even a Fisher or Jake consistent play.

        And to your point, I am all for keeping starters that way as long as they prosper. Martes and Musgrove will spot start at least next season IMHO.

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    • 1OP, when I read this yesterday, I am not schooled in exactly what 45-50-55 mean. But it appears that either BP grades very hard, or they don’t view many prospects above mid-level MLB players. Not everyone can be a star, but these don’t appear in the Good and Bad to be pressing any current player out of a job.

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      • AC45, you’ve seen more baseball than most of us combined, but very few in the front office thought Fisher would replace Aoki so soon. As of last Spring, Derek was still having contact issues, as obviously numbers given for hitting and power can change, just as the grade A-, A. J. Reed’s grade in the Spring of 2016. How quickly he simply disappeared off most lists. In effect, no longer an “A” prospect? However, he too has a shot at forcing his way onto a team that seemed to have forgotten him, but conspicuously hasn’t traded him.

        Grades like 80 speed in the case of Myles Straw means he’s faster than Mike Trout by a 10th of a second to first base. That likely won’t change much.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I’d like a look back at the blog post at this point after our first 100 loss season, to see where we came from .

    On a different note, and I’ve said this a few times over the years, but if we had kept that core of the 1991 team together, we’d have kenny lofton, Ken caminiti, curt schilling, craig biggio, Steve Finley Jeff bagwell, Luis gonzalez, all on the same team. Pete Harnisch may have been a jerk, but he was a good pitcher for a few years. How would that team have done in future years, and would they have been a 90s equivalent to our current team?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We have :(a) a lot of positions on the big club locked up (yay!) and (b) a bunch of AAAA players that are getting well past the prospect stage. Players like Kemp, PTuck, White, Reed. Moran, Davis, Stassi (all of whom will be 25 or older by May 1 next season) can probably fill a spot cheaply on some MLB team that is in rebuild mode: KC, Tigers, Marlins, maybe Pittsburgh if they go that way. I think we will see some of those guys moved along if they can’t take a spot on the 25-man out of ST. Hopefully JL can figure out a way to get something for them.
    Sorry Dan, not a “Writer’s Block” contribution, but not out of context to the way the thread has developed.

    Liked by 1 person

      • My guess is people knew, like the General who wore a pitch over his eye. A perfectly good eye but his men fought harder for him. Keuchel likens himself to a warrior for continuing his starts through pain (based on what he said after the fact last season). Even so, in his post game after Game 7, he said matter of factly the balls were juiced but that he didn’t get to help the team in the WS as much as he’d liked to. Given that he left his injury out, I’m thinking he just internalized most pain, but the team is so close, they all knew. He’s still always mentioned in the same sentence as Verlander. Saying that he’s back on a workout schedule tells me he’s planning on putting up big numbers in his walk year!

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  13. Been reading but I’ve been pretty busy, with my daughter’s birthday the 18th, one grandson 21 tomorrow, and another grandson 15 on the 15th! PLUS all our grandkids Christmas presents! We have 8 grands! It will be interesting to see who Luhnow goes after for the bullpen, and another starter. I think left field will be Fishers, so show up in good shape kid and write your name in the dirt!! Sorry, but I don’t want ANYTHING to do with Lucroy. He had a chance to come here, and he chose the arlington little league. Stay in Colorado. I find it interesting that some rumors are starting to mention Chris Archers name in trades. I thought the Rays said no way, no how ,would they trade Archer. He sure would look good in a bright orange Astros uniform! Got an email yesterday that my World Series DVD’s, we’re shipped and I should get it by Sat.!!! Luhnow is feeling the heat, I expect him to make a move soon.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I’d like to talk about our competition in the AL West.
    A lot of our success last year was due to our dominance in our division.
    This year LA of A, Seattle, and the Rangers are in pursuit of Ohtani. I wonder what else they have in mind to derail the us.
    Last year St Louis and Milwaukee jumped all over the Cubs and gave them stiff competition.
    Wonder who will be our albatross in 2018.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Sandy for the idea and thanks everybody who contributed. I’m taking notes for the discussion in the winter here…..Now – as though you don’t have enough to read, I’ve posted another pretty long blog with lots of links….

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    • Hey Sandy!
      Short answer, very little competition in the A. L. West. I imagine we’ll be incredibly dominant and deep. Nothing will come easy, but we already know that. With a settled and rested up Starting Rotation, we’ll be the favorites to repeat. To put that in perspective, putting money into a prediction – the Astros are 6/1 to win the 2018 World Series. Our nearest competitor is Seattle at 30/1.

      Like

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