Whatcha think? Spring training version

Since we have some of the best and smartest readers in the world (if you were dumb you would be somewhere else), we here at chipalatta are always interested in your opinions. Today, let’s play a quick game of Whatcha Think……

Whatcha Think

  • Will the Astros 2018 hitting be better, worse or the same as 2017? Remember the Astros had the best offense in baseball in 2017.
  • Will the Astros 2018 starting pitching be better, worse or the same as 2017? Remember they had Justin Verlander for 5 starts and Gerrit Cole for 0 starts and the guy who started the most games for them in 2017 was Mike Fiers with a 5.22 ERA.
  • Will the Astros 2018 relief pitching be better, worse or the same as 2017? Keep in mind that Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Luke Gregerson, and Francisco Liriano are gone and Joe Smith and Hector Rondon have been added. The bullpen could also include former starter Collin McHugh and swing man Brad Peacock.
  • Are the Astros, who have had three minor league players put on the suspended list (Jon Singleton, Dean Deetz and Forrest Whitley) being targeted by MLB?
  • Will the pace of game rules including limiting the number of mound visits hurt the Astros? Will they actually shorten games?
  • How big is the Astros’ window (how many seasons) for competing for the World Series title? Which potential free agent(s) loss(es) would do the most to close that window?
  • Who is the biggest AL threat to the Astros in 2018? The Yanks? Indians? Red Sox? Other?
  • Who would be the biggest NL threat to the Astros in 2018? The Dodgers? Cubs? Nats? Other?

There are no wrong answers to these questions….yet.

72 comments on “Whatcha think? Spring training version

  1. Thanks for the new post, Dan!

    Regarding the first question:

    I cannot say enough good things about the way the team hit in 2017. I am an OBP, BARISP, find-a-way-to-score-runs, and ‘just win’ guy – so the offense was right up my alley.

    Looking at the team this year, I find it hard to believe we will not be at least as good offensively this year as we were last year. The only thing that could derail this freight train would be . . . well, the unspeakable.


  2. Regarding the starting pitching . . .

    I am in the minority. I expect us to have some frustrating problems with starting pitching this year – especially early on. While on paper we should be dominant in this area, I have my doubts that will translate to real dominance on the field. I am not sure why – except:

    1. realizing that Justin Verlander was pretty horrible for Detroit at the start of the season last year;
    2. a really bad sinking feeling in my gut concerning DK;
    3. a concern that Gerrit Cole is not going to be ready, especially early on in the year, to keep from giving up a ton of home runs to the likes of the powerhouse offenses he is about to have to face in the AL; and
    4. concern about LMJ’s ability to get through a line-up the 3rd time without giving up – or at least opening the door for – the ‘big inning’ in the 6th;

    The one guy I am not in the least worried about is Charlie Morton – so he’s probably going to turn out to be the weak link.


  3. I think the offensive production from the team as a whole will be down a little bit. I think it will be because the pitching in our division will be improved on three teams while the Rangers’ pitching will be lacking. We also face the NL West this year, rather than the pitching-poor AL East of last season.
    I do expect a natural drop to the mean in production from Marwin and Josh.


  4. Dan, you are remarkable with your faithful in depth writing for Chipalatta.
    1. Concerning the hitting, I think we will be better. I think our utility guy (Marwin) will regress closer to his career norm as will Reddick. If Springer can stay healthy, I believe that he may come close to the same type of season as 2017. I think that the two catchers /DH will probably do about the same. I think Correa if healthy might just explode and be MVP quality. I think Bregman just might approach allstar status and Guriel will improve on his numbers from 17. I wouldn’t be surprised if Derek Fisher not only takes the LF position, but becomes a positive in the lineup.
    2. I would be shocked if the starting pitching is not better because of our additions of Verlander and Cole and the subtraction of Fiers.
    3. Relief should be better with the subtraction of Gregerson and especially Liriano. I believe our two additions are definitely a plus with the relief. I like that Giles has strengthened himself for the long season. Maybe he just ran out of gas in the playoffs.
    4. I have no idea if the Astros are targeted, but remembering the Selig dislike for anything Houston, I wouldn’t be shocked. That said, it is a disappointment especially with Whitely with superstar written all over him , that he would violate the rules. Because the suspension is 50 games, I imagine that he smoked a joint or two.
    5. I don’t know if this will hurt or help the Astros, but I just wish they would that they would leave this historic national game as is. This latest rumor to allow a team that is behind in the 9th to bring in their top 3 hitters is very boneheaded to me. It’s as bad as the College football overtime rules.
    6. Just keep Springer, Altuve’, Correa and Bregman and we can fill in the rest as long as Whitely throws his pot away, Martes keeps his weight down and the Astros don’t trade Tucker.
    7. The team I would hate for the Astros to face the most in the playoffs is Cleveland because of their pitching. After this season if not this season, it will be the evil empire.
    8. From the NL, I fear the Nationals the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Almost exactly what I was going to say. The hitting was so good last year, no surprise if it falls off slightly overall but still be the best in the league. And I agree on the Nats. I keep thinking they are going to put it all together.


  5. 1. Hitting – about the same, maybe a small regression
    2. Starters – Not having Keuchel, McHugh, and LMJ on the DL would indicate an improvement to me. Adding in Verlander and Cole should guarantee it…but you never know. Also, Fiers was great for a stretch before turning back into Mike Fiers. We should give him credit and thanks for his contributions.
    3. Relief – worse. I don’t see the improvements that others do. Relievers are volatile, however, so this really is a crapshoot.
    4. Targetting – not a chance. MILB has drug tested longer and more seriously than MLB. I’ve known quite a few guys who failed drug tests over the years – most of them claimed that the trainers must have given them steroids without their knowledge, etc. However, I’m convinced the commissioner’s office is looking the other way on a certain set of star players. There is no chance the Astros get that sort of benefit.
    5. Pace will not change. This is a dog and pony show.
    6. I’d put the window at 2018 and 2019. Players get older, hurt, more expensive, etc. Luhnow’s team has to do a better job scouting to keep the pipeline flowing if we want it extended.
    7. I think CLE, BOS, and HOU are the three teams clearly on the top in the AL. This changes quickly if certain players get injured though. I could see the Yankees playing closer to .500 than the experts believe.
    8. I’d rank the threats as Dodgers – Nationals – Cubs – field.


  6. I think the Astros pitching will be improved in 2018 over 2017 because I think the Astros have better pitchers in the rotation and the bullpen than they did last year. It would be hard to believe that this rotation isn’t capable of an ERA below 4.00. If the Astros don’t force themselves to include Sipp, I could see a real improvement in their pitching.


  7. I like the Astros bullpen with the additions of Peacock, McHugh, Smith and Rondon over last year’s bullpen. I like their experience, their stuff and I like what Hinch learned last year about using the bullpen.
    I think the astros went out and found guys who they could trust to not come in and walk batters.


    • Alas, the worst offender in that regard is still with us -Kenny Giles. At least he has the stuff to come in and occasionally strike out the side after walking the lead-off guy and moving him to 3rd on wild pitches.


      • Ken Giles’s strand rate was 10 points higher than Aroldis Chapman’s was last year.
        His WAR was higher.
        His walk rate was lower than Chapman’s.
        He had 12 more saves than Chapman.
        His home run rate was slighly less than Chapman’s.
        His FIP and his xFIP were lower than Chapman’s.
        He pitched 12 more innings than Chapman did.
        They had exactly the same number of blown saves(4).
        Aroldis Chapman made $17.2 million last year.
        Ken Giles made $550,100 last year.
        Roster resource ranked Giles as the sixth best relief pitcher in baseball in 2017 in their power rankings

        Liked by 1 person

      • Re: pace of the game rules . . .

        I think the Commissioner’s ‘pace of the game’ rules are to make a statement [Manfred: “I am a tough guy, see there!”] – and to appear to the media to be proactive on something minor – rather than to have any real effect. The hullabaloo about ‘pace of play’ rules just takes the media attention off of the real, pressing issues of the game, which include:
        1. the cost of tickets;
        2. bad -or retributive – calls by home plate umpires;
        3. the danger of line-drives hitting inattentive fans, esp. children; and
        4. pitchers/managers intentionally throwing at opposing hitters’ heads and hands to ‘make a statement’.

        The only thing that will actually significantly affect the pace of the game is to shorten or eliminate the delays associated with commercial breaks – and for obvious reasons, that is not going to happen.


  8. Regarding relief pitching . . .

    To me it depends on four people: Peacock, Devenski, Harris, and Giles.

    If these four guys all have good years, I don’t figure Rondon, Smith, McHugh or Sipp/Gose/Martes can be bad enough to hurt us significantly even if they are not stellar.


  9. Regarding ‘targeting’ . . .

    To me I think it is about ‘bang for the buck’. The MLB and the MiLB knows whose and what level of ‘suspension’ will get the attention of [a] the media, and [b] the young players. So, in any given year they are more likely to concentrate their faultfinding efforts on the top prospects in the system of the World Series Champions -unless, of course, making that call would adversely affect one of the ‘big money’ teams, namely: [a] the Yankees, [b] the Red Sox, [c] the Cubs, [d] the Dodgers, or [e] the Cardinals.


  10. Regarding the ‘pace of play’ rules. It appears the Commissioner may also be making a statement to pitchers and catchers that, as a league, ‘We don’t give a tinkers’ *!%^ about folks stealing your signs. The more the hitters know what’s coming, the more home runs they hit, and all we care about is that home runs sell!’


  11. Off subject. I recorded the Women’s gold medal hockey game last night which ended around 12:30am. Then I stayed up watching it til 2:00 this morning.
    This game was as good as any hockey game I have ever seen. The stick handling and lack of turnovers was terrific. Every line change brought new energy to the ice and both teams skated up and down the ice all night long, including the 20 minute sudden death overtime.
    The shootout to decide the game had three lead changes in six shots.
    In the end, the Americans beat the Canadians with a 20 year old goalie stopping a shot from Canada’s all-time best woman player.
    These two teams gave everything and in the end, they still didn’t want much to do with the other. The Canadian women cried out of total sorrow and the American women cried out of total joy.
    The American team accepted their gold medals and then stood arm in arm and every player sang the national anthem out loud as it was played. It was a great game to watch, because there was no politics involved, just great hockey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • OP, I have seen a clip showing one of the Canadian players taking off her silver medal right after it was placed around her neck. I didn’t see the game. Was there some controversy, or allegedly bad calls, or was it just extreme disappointment showing through from a young athlete?


      • I saw one of them take her medal off right after the official moved on to the next player and I saw a couple others on their team remove theirs when they saw the first one had done it. It wasn’t mentioned by the commentators and it did not bother me.
        Hockey is the national pastime in Canada and those women gave it everything they had and the Americans dominated them in possession of the puck the last half of that game. I think Canada never thought they would lose and that there was not another medal for them other than gold. They did not make a big deal about anything after the game. They were tied with two overtime one-on-one shots left in the game and the American woman made her shot on a fabulous double-deke on the goalie and the American goalie stuck to her position and the Canadian shooter deked herself out of position and missed and that was it. If any controversy has arisen, it has arisen in the talk about the game, not in the game itself.
        Maybe it was not the best thing to do to take off your medal, but it didn’t seem to be any big deal when it happened.


  12. Re: The teams constituting the biggest threats to the Astros in 2018 . . .

    AL teams: LA Angels, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Oakland A’s. If we don’t beat those guys, and handily, we will lose momentum.

    NL teams: Not the Marlins.


  13. If you are Marwin Gonzalez, you are on a team with Bregman, Correa, Altuve and Gurriel on the starting infield. Would you rather head into 2018 as a super utility player who gets 300 ABs or a starting LFer who gets 450 to 500 ABs? I see Marwin playing lots of LF.


  14. I will post my answers to the above later, but first I have been wanting to compose a post but still can’t determine the exact words to say. When the FA list was first listed after the WS, I found myself saying, “The Astros are better with ?” An example (and just an example) was which third baseman that was a FA would you trade for Bregman. Position by position, I thought we had equal or better than what was on the market. That is a totally different feeling from any previous year. JL has put together as good a team as anyone and didn’t break the bank. Lots of smarts and a little luck.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. I don’t know if y’all know how much you mean to me coming here and checking in and living and dying together. Hard to believe it is time for our team to play another game – even if it is not a “real” game.

    So how do I answer my own questions that made up in a 20 minute flurry this morning before heading to an all day meeting at a plant in Baytown….

    Offense – I think they will be in the same area of success as last year. The optimist in me says that the regression I believe is coming for Marwin and Reddick will be more than offset by a full season of Correa, a leap forward by Bregman and Gurriel and a DH better than Beltran.

    Starters – The Astros had 50 games started by Fiers, Musgrove, Paulino and Diaz who had ERAs of 5 all the way to 10 as starters. (Even though Martes had a high overall ERA – his 4 starts were at a little more than 4 ERA).
    It is hard to see any circumstance of this team having 30% + of their starts ending in a 5.00 or more ERA with the top 7 they have in hand. This will be a better starting rotation.

    Bullpen – The Astros had a lot of bad bullpen outings covered up by a big time offense last season. I think there will be some improvement as they replace Gregerson (65 G/4.57 ERA), Feliz (46 G / 5.63 ERA), Clippard (16 G / 6.43 ERA), Diaz (10G 9.00 ERA) with Joe Smith and Hector Rondon. But will they replace Joe Musgrove who was excellent as a reliever? Will Sipp make the team? Will Martes pitch better when not starting if he is on the team?

    The Astros are not being targeted by the league but they will be targeted by the other teams in the majors.

    I am concerned that when the playoffs come around, the inability to use mound visits to keep from having signs stolen will bite our team.

    I think this team can be in the mix for the championship the next 3 seasons. After that they may have to rebuild a tad.

    I am worried about the Indians and the Nats the most this coming season.


    CF Brian Goodwin
    SS Wilmer Difo
    1B Matt Adams
    2B Howie Kendrick
    DH Taylor Gushue
    C Pedro Severino
    LF Ryan Raburn
    3B Chris Dominguez
    RF Rafael Bautista
    LHP Tommy Milone
    CF Jake Marisnick
    RF Derek Fisher
    SS Alex Bregman
    DH Evan Gattis
    1B A.J. Reed
    3B J.D. Davis
    2B Tyler White
    C Max Stassi
    LF Tony Kemp
    RHP Rogelio Armenteros

    Liked by 1 person

  17. When the Rays traded Jake Odorizzi last week, their intention was to go with four starters in their rotation for April, because of the new type schedule giving teams more off days.
    The Rays were then going to make a decision on a fifth starter, with top pitching prospect Brett Honeywell in the discussion on filling that #5 role.
    Yesterday , Honeywell threw eight pitches in his bullpen and then cursed out loud. Forearm strain! When you see those words, just wait for it: An MRI reveals a torn UCL, TJ Surgery and he’s gone for at least a year.
    It’s a huge blow for the Rays and Honeywell and now they are really in trouble in their non-rebuild-rebuild.


    • Brent Honeywell’s injury sounds similar to Gustave, having lost his bid last season. The Florida teams are in free fall..

      Going back to your Marwin in LF, I don’t see any reason why Hinch would change his way of making out the lineup card beginning with Gonzales, until he ACTUALLY regresses. And I don’t see any let up from Fisher happening. Not much room in the inn for guys like Kemp Davis White Reed Kemmer / Hoyt Martes Paulino Rodgers Armenteros without an other-worldly Spring.

      My guess is that if any one of these forces Hinch’s hand, Stassi will be the chafe by keeping Gattis as primary backup.

      The person posting the lineup for the Nationals wrote that we won’t recognize the names, like the Mariners article I read last night that said the bright side to the Astros future domination is that they lack starter depth beyond the top 5. The current state of truth finding in journalism (sports, and real world) is staggering feckless.


  18. I don’t see the Astros getting targeted by MLB. At this point, I see players being tested and failing the tests.I have to admit that I don’t keep up with many players from other team’s systems, but I’m pretty sure we aren’t the only team with guys failing these tests.
    However, if I were the Astros with all these smart guys in the front office, I would figure out a better way to address this problem.


    • The watchword I’ve noticed JL and AJ using is, “monitor.”

      It makes more common sense though that the reason the Astros are experiencing more of these – it’s increasingly more difficult to break into the big leagues on this team unless you’re a beloved bonus baby given every chance to snap an O-fer 30. Otherwise, the leash is short.


  19. I believe the Astros window is big in the same proportion as Jim Crane’s wallet. I am not being flippant here. I sincerely think it will take a payroll of 190 to 200 million dollars for the Astros to remain competitive starting in 2020 and going through the 2025 season. That puts them in the top 10 in payroll and it fits in with what Crane has talked about in the past. The teams that are going to be at or above that level are Philly, Washington, Boston, NYY, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, Texas and San Francisco.


  20. Even before Stassi goes yard, I was going to comment on his framing style of starting the glove outside the strike zone toward it, instead of vice versa. It’s very impressive on breaking pitches.

    Advantage Stassi.

    I was so intrigued by Armenteros’ late movement! On the 2-2 to Kendrick that hand cuffed him and got called a ball, that ball broke 5″ from the back of the plate to glove. I like that he doesn’t stride too long, with a toe high kick that loads late on his push off. Both he and Boshers (pronounced Bosheerz) looked solid – get to know his name, Tony Sipp!


  21. Well, Matt Ramsay’s first appearance for Houston was a little bit intriguing [2 Ks] and a whole lot horrible [3 H and a BB, 2 runs allowed so far – and he leaves with runners on 1st and 3rd]


  22. Good to “see” Stassi with a Homer today. The young man could cement a spot this spring.
    Ramsay’s a guy who pitched great AA and below – pitched poorly at AAA and not at all in the majors.


      • Young pitchers who have 0 chance of making the team out of ST trying to impress by overthrowing…but most of them worked around the walks.


    • Guduan worst offender couldn’t find the plate again.

      When Ramsay was in trouble, Stassi looked over at Hinch to give the hook, but left in, the Nats tied it at 2.

      Thornton B+
      Hauschild B
      Boshers A-
      Armenteros A

      Kyle Tucker hit the ball well and got robbed on a great jump and had him positioned well. Davis with a big swing! Jake with a circus catch! Stassi gets the wrestling belt.


  23. It is in the books. Baseball is being played again. Marisnick still has great hair, and can still cover a lot of ground. Max Stassi and J.D. Davis can both still hit the ball out of the park. A lot of youngsters on both sides got the first round of ST butterflies out of their stomach. And, of course, the Astros still can’t buy a hit from the DH position – but don’t seem to need to.


  24. Rogelio Armenteros appears to be above his AAA competition.
    Victor Robles is the Nationals top prospect for a reason.
    AJ Reed still looks like AJ Reed at the plate.
    The Astros were better fly ball hitters than the Nationals were today.
    Reymin Guduan looked not sharp.
    Lightning knocked out the TV and satellite and I missed the National’s runs.
    Wander Suero looked nasty today. Nobody could pick the ball up coming out of his hand.
    Washington practices their TOOTBLAN.
    The box score says Jacob Dorris got Matt Ramsey out of a real pickle. I did see Dorris sidearm that guy back to the dugout when the TV got straightened out.
    It would be great if the Astros announcers told us who was out on the field during the game. Would be nice to know who those guys were playing for our team.


  25. Hitting- slightly worse.
    Starting- slightly better.
    Relief-worse. If you took away a couple games from Giles, Gregerson, and Harris, their stats would be stellar.
    Targeted- No. Reminds me of the guy explaining about the small East Texas town being “a speed trap.” His friend asked “Do they give you a ticket for driving slower than the speed limit?” He replied “NO”. To which the friend replied, “Then they are only enforcing the law.”
    Pace: No, it will be junked during the year. Remember back a couple years when batters could not leave the box.
    Window: Specific to WS, it is already closed. It opens only after each season. The Astros will need to be at their best to repeat this year.
    Other Teams: Other to both. I know several teams are “rebuilding?” a team like the Twins or Brewers may add a “Verlander “ at the deadline and go to the WS.


  26. Gattis will hit much more than any DH we’ve had in recent memory. Bregman and Correa are just getting started. Springer is entering his best years. Yeah, Marwin and Reddick might be expected to do a bit less. The other guys are a push, including a push by Jose. We’ll be better.

    Verlander and Cole. That’s a huge difference. And if given a shot, McHugh can be a 15 game winner. Even if Keuchel and McCullers spend significant time on the DL, we’ve got depth that no other club has, including the guy we’ll be talking more and more about. Armenteros was pitching to good Cuban hitters as a teenager. He’s crafty. He’s got a mature mound presence. He’s got a bunch of pitches.


  27. There is no room in this years pen for a mediocre arm. If we don’t have a lefty that is effective, we’ve got enough talented right handed pitchers that will get out from either side of the plate.

    Poo on the targeting. We’ve just got young guys doing young things. Dumb things.


  28. A couple of our guys, like Marwin or maybe Giles will have to speed up their process, but every team has guys that will have to adjust. We’ve also got guys that are always itching to swing the bat, not leaving the box. We’ll be fine. At the end of the day, all the foolish tweaking might save 5 minutes. Just cut 30 seconds off the commercials and save more without screwing up the game.

    I think we’ve got a good 5 years (at least) to remain in the mix. Springer might hurt more, because I think Bregman will be able too step into Altuves role should Boras make signing him here impossible.


  29. If the Astros stay healthy, they remain the best group in the AL pretty easily. It all comes down to what might happen in a short series.

    And then teams like LA and the Cubs will be waiting.

    The regular season will be to a degree, a celebration of our talent, and matchups in series against those traditionally better teams like the Yankees and Sox.


    • I think the most important thing is health. The Astros had quite a few injuries at different times last year, but the only one who could not face the bell was Marisnick.
      Of course you can just run into a buzzsaw in the playoffs but that is where you hope your multiple TORs kick in and stop any losing free fall.


  30. https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/unnecessary-post-the-astros-look-amazing/#.WpAqbPxVxEo.facebook

    You’re probably getting tired of hearing me say this, but if, by now, you don’t think Luhnow and his nerd cave are one of the very best front offices in MLB then I can’t help you. They have built us a juggernaut and the Astros will be strong contenders for many years. After reading this article I just have a nice warm and fuzzy feeling with the leadership behind our team, and this includes Jim Crane who, in my opinion, is the smartest baseball owner this city has every seen. McLane would have, more than likely, rested on his laurels and just rolled with the same team as last year (of course, I have my doubts he would ever have let any GM build such a strong team). Crane, being the fiery competitor that he is, decided to add 2 big bullpen arms to improve what may have been the only area on this team that wasn’t tops in baseball, and he approved the trade to acquire Gerrit Cole. There has never been a better time to be an Astros fan and this team is in great hands. It makes me proud to be an Astros fan and I get the feeling we are about to embark on a Spurs/Patriots run as the model baseball franchise. That is how much confidence I have in this organization.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re preaching to the choir who always hoped, but were haunted by the ghosts of 1980, 1986 and 2005 to name a few.

      I can see these guys are still hungry in the sense they’re working their butts off physically, and there are plenty of prospects itching to replace them [think JD Davis getting passed up by Bregman]. But the real question about hunger is – remember seeing Springer hit the home runs and running around the bases screaming, “Let’s Go!” – will they have the same FIRE if they’ve already been to the peak? So much of last season hinged on the impossibility that Houston could win. Now, we have to find a new competitive edge!



      • Braves bringing the house with Acuna, Albies and Ruiz. McHugh dispenses with them! Very nice to see the young man come in prepared this Spring. He’s pulling the string, and precise. Looks like if our starters happen to falter, we’re in good hands.


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