Spring training: Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts

A couple of weeks into Spring Training and it is a day of contemplation. Here are some random thoughts and questions…..

  1. Considering the intensity of the last time the core players were on the field for the World Series, what is going through their collective minds in playing these games that mean nothing after playing games that meant everything?
  2. Along those lines, are they likely to be relaxed and playing loose or relaxed to the point of not being on point during ST?
  3. The Astros have had a few games where they were just booting the ball around like crazy. Of course, a lot of this is by folks who will not be anywhere near Houston for opening day and many who will not be with the big club anytime this season. But does an error by Carlos Correa in a Spring Training game mean anything?
  4. The Astros probable starting rotation (other than Dallas Keuchel, who has not pitched yet while this is being typed) has been nails in small samples so far. Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton both have two shutout innings, Justin Verlander has five shutout innings and newbie Gerrit Cole has given up one run in five innings.
  5. Dan P still has not written a post about the other teams in their division, because there are still 8 or 9 of the top 50 free agents still unsigned, who could change the outlook for some of these teams. At some point they will end up in the fold or this writer will throw his hands up and write something anyways.
  6. So far (in small doses) Joe Smith and Hector Rondon have not been too impressive and neither has Ken Giles…..
  7. It is more important to the Astros future to figure out how to keep George Springer long-term than Dallas Keuchel. Discuss among yourselves….
  8. All clubs go to Spring Training thinking they have a shot at the gold ring – in some cases these are delusional thoughts. But is there any player that truly thinks, “I have a better shot at winning it all playing for Team XYZ than if I were playing for the Astros”?
  9. We saw a million+ people show up for the World Series parade. Now if each of them would go to 3 games apiece….the club would hit the 3 million attendance mark again.
  10. Though injuries are always bad things, how bad is the Yuli Gurriel injury? It hits early in the season, does not last long and gives the Astros a chance to test their next man up concept.

What are your thoughts about these thoughts….or anything else you may want to hit on today?


57 comments on “Spring training: Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts

  1. At this point in ST I’m not too concerned about the team as a whole. Do have individual concerns on Giles and the jury is still out on Rondon and Smith. I’m just not sure those were the wisest of acquisitions in the off season. Cole is a different matter. As for Springer, I guess we’ll wait until next year to see what the future holds there. They better start getting their ducks in a row for Altuve however. Keuchel can wait till the end of the season (his words). We’ve seen some decent pitching from some of the Milb types that show promise in the coming years. Also some of the position players.
    I hope to make a trip to Houston this summer to see friends and attend a few games. I want to help the Astros hit that 3MM mark too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. *What is going through their collective minds?*

    All athletes are competitive by nature. So to a professional athlete, all games mean something. It is just that these games just don’t count in the standings or the official stat books. Every player still wants to play well when he is in the game. Every player still has something to prove – or work on – or both. Starters just know that they are not in control of whether the team wins the game, so they focus on things they can control – their focus, their performance, their attitude, and their comradery with the other members of the team.

    I suspect that by and large, however, there is less stressing about results -personal or team. But less stress about results doesn’t mean less desire to perform well as an athlete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. * Are they likely to be not on point*

    Occasionally, yes – especially in the first two weeks. Getting into focus and rhythm takes awhile. But as soon as the number of innings played by the regulars starts to increase, we should start to see more consistent excellence from them.


  4. *Does an early error by Carlos Correa in an ST game mean anything*

    It probably means Carlos will get a bit of good-natured ribbing from his teammates. He might find a fake bill for a $500 fine in his locker signed “with love, Craig Biggio (#7) and Jeff Bagwell (#5)”.

    Other than that, Carlos probably will pound his glove, spit, and move on. And so will we.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rondon and Smith were both on the Cubs in 2016, although Smith was not on the WS roster. Rondon knows the difference between the 2016 Cubs and the 2017 Cubs and he will relay that info to people who know what to do with it.
    I just can’t see Justin Verlander, Alex Bregman. Brian McCann or Will Harris putting up with any half-hearted efforts by players around them. I would expect these guys to make sure that things stay sharp.
    Baseball is made harder if a player is too relaxed or too tight. The middle ground is FOCUS and I think Hinch has that covered.
    The great thing about the Gurriel situation is that he will have time to recover while the team is playing games that don’t matter and when he is healthy and returns, the team will be better off. A lot of teams don’t have that.
    Correa’s concentration is what I’m more worried about, because he and everybody else just expects him to be able to kick things up a notch and play like an MVP, and I haven’t seen him do that yet in the majors.
    Raising ticket prices and expecting a huge increase in attendance is a great expectation, when the two don’t exactly go hand in hand. If it happens, then it’s because the under 30 generation views MMP as the place to be and they want to be there when it’s all happening.
    I suggested the idea of reviewing our AL West competition, but I understand perfectly why it hasn’t happened yet and am cool with it.
    I like the Astros seven starting pitchers. I think we will use all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dallas could not complete his two innings. 2 runs in [so far] on 4 hits, 2 BB, 1 HBP, and 3 Ks. He leaves with a runner on 2nd and 2 out. Devenski in to try to hold his line.


  7. Keuchel does not impress in his first outing. My prediction (hope I’m wrong) He’ll be a .500 pitcher with a 4+ ERA this year. There just doesn’t seem to be the consistency that’s needed.


  8. Through 3 innings, though being issued 5 free passes, the Astros have responded by striking out 5 times and leaving 7 men on base. In the 1st, with the bases loaded and two out, T. White struck out swinging. In the third, with the bases loaded and only one out, J.D. Davis struck out looking. Kyle Tucker then promptly struck out looking as well.

    This looks like one of those ‘glad this doesn’t count’ days, for sure.


    • The call on a 3-2 count to strikeout Davis was pathetic! The ball almost landed in the dirt. I thought he was not rewarded for a good eye there.


  9. This comment has nothing to do with today’s job by Dallas Keuchel, but I think George Springer, likely entering his best years, is far more valuable to this club than Dallas Keuchel. I also think Dallas is much easier to replace than George at this point in time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In Keuchel’s defense, the first hit in the second inning was a ten hopper to CF. The second hit was a bloop that looked like it should have been caught by somebody, but the CF and RF couldn’t make up their minds. The third hit was a ground ball Tyler White should have fielded and thrown the runner out at first and the sac fly that scored the second run was very shallow and Kyle Tucker made a throw that would have gotten the runner easily if it hadn’t been so far off line.


  11. * Regarding Keuchel’s start today *

    I am on record predicting = unpopularly – that DK struggles this year. But I don’t see today’s start as meaning much of anything. For the past several years, DK’s attitude toward ST has appeared to be either that it is beneath him. He takes it less seriously than anyone else on the team. So today’s start neither confirms nor debunks my concerns over his performance – or durability – this coming season. The only thing I am interested in regarding his start today is ‘how was his velocity’?


    • Im not sure Bill, if you go back on many of my posts, I have said DK’s best years are behind him , and guessed 12-11 this 3.94.02 ERA. It’s tough to be great throwing 90 MPH having to hit the corners consistently.


  12. Dan P’s opinion (notice I’ve twice talked about myself in the third person in honor of Anthony Oddwad Gose) is that along with Gose not being able to throw strikes, the odd personality he showed in his interview the other day was one that was not fitting in with the rest of the “kids”. Or the coaches could tell he really hated having to switch over to pitching and was never going to put his whole heart in it.
    Either way… they did not waste any time ending his stay here.


  13. I said since day 1 that he’d hit the mascot, he’s so wild.

    Fortunately, Orbit survived Anthony Gose.

    In real news, Will Harris brought out a new Stroman-esque wrinkle yesterday that seemed to offset the hitters rhythm. With his command back, I think that pushes out Paulino with Armenteros still a very real possibility. While the Stros are going to say that Rogelio has a few things to learn about pressure situations — he can just ask his friend Martes who was clapping so hard in the dugout in Rogelio’s debut — but the tools are all there in these three names to be first callup if the Astros go conventional; Rondon, Harris, Sipp.

    I sat next to a guy who just got back from west palm yesterday, and tried to soak in everything he said about the guys. Everything sounded just like I’d imagined.

    Jake and George are inseparable. Once Jake was in the cage and Springer yelled out to try a different stance. Joltin’ Jake sends a mammoth shot out and Springer yells, “See, I told you.” Emphasis on, “I!” The fan said Jake signs every autograph and Altuve is equally giving. Said Giles looked like crap, but Verlander and LMJ were impressive.

    This is two Spring’s in a row that potty-mouth Giles and his reported pizza diet show up to camp dismissing past failures. I will tell you, this year I am very open to the possibility of Peacock, or anyone else like Devenski when unhittable for the highest leverage situations. I know the team supports Giles as he didn’t lose a save at home and his peripherals are still elite. But as Sickels said of Armenteros — he knows how to pitch — Giles is a flame thrower with a wicked slider. I’d like him to have better feel for the ball and command a bit better.

    An excellent article written yesterday by Jason Marbach in a coming series of our rotation pointed out that Morton has a chance to be improved, and one key areas that I think would aid Giles that he mentioned of Salt as well was to try and elevate more, in order to get more swings at eye level where his slider begins. I have my own theories about why Giles wasn’t executing later in the post season, but all is forgiven as long as you WORK now.


    [side note, crawfish lost their readership’s loyalty recently after Dunsmore left, and talk about Astros brainiacs – they have a few. It sounds like all the work done in research by these single dad types, which are then copied by large syndications as their own, or like Dan P who does it for the love of the game … all realize that Houston basically sucks in terms of getting quality information on the team. Nevermind if you live in the hill country or Waco, or out of State. If it weren’t for blogs like this, Jayne on the farm, Bill Hulsey and Astros Future, a huge segment of knowledgeable fans wouldn’t be able to share new info.]


  14. My apologies for posting yet another of their articles, and this one I haven’t read yet.

    So before I look, I do want to say that literally I believe Lance McCullers, Jr. is the new co-Ace of the team, and Keuchel is no longer the co-Ace. I think this is a breakout year for LMJ, and I don’t worry about injury any more. If he goes 150 innings, I’m completely satisfied as long as he’s ready for post season.

    My own personal desire is to see a four man bottom end rotation. That is, to sprinkle in bullpen innings to starters who aren’t getting enough work.

    Hey, if it’s good for the Peacock, it’s good for the gander! Give McHugh a few starts in May. If Cole struggles, replace him with Peacock and let Cole throw ‘pen. We’re going to have to think outside the box with Armenteros and others pounding on the door.


    Also, not to be overbearing but I noted yesterday that after Phillies’ Vasquez pitched his three innngs(?) he went right over to the pen and kept going as if he were working up to a full load.

    I asked the fan who got back from ST about whether our guys are continuing on after their few innings, and he said there are many fields where former players and coaches are working with invitees, etc., but he didn’t notice our guys being worked that hard.

    I think it fits with our system through the tandem practice to pull the reigns on our horses, with the vision that our team actually will need them for a future Game 7. Verlander will bring that Nolan Ryan approach to wanting his 200 innings, though, so those 5th inning mound visits by Hinch will probably be rare.


  15. Tim – here is the article about Gose from the Chronicle (spit! Spit!)

    Thought this was an interesting article that I found linked from ac45s link above. Especially the part where they speculated in Tiger-ville that Cameron Maybin and Alex Presley!!! had both passed Gose in the outfield conversation in Detroit….


  16. Astros have already have had two base runners picked off today by the Mets’ Jason Vargas. Springer got picked off of 1st in the 1st, and Derek Fisher got picked off of 2nd in the 2nd. This trend surely cannot continue long!


    • can you be picked off at home? closest thing to that i ever saw was in the WS between oakland and cinn. johnny bench had 2 strikes and 2 balls, rollie fingers throws ball 3 and the runner on 1B steals 2B. manager comes out and gestures in a way indicating an intentional walk. the catcher stands for the pitch then jumps back into position as a slider comes in for strike 3 with bench unable to recover quickly enough to swing.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Well it was split squad with split results today as Salty Morton leads a 10-5 lead over the Nationals, while Collin McHugh gives up 3 runs in 3 innings and then after the Astros take the lead, the bullpen spits the bit three times in a 9-5 loss to the Mets.
    Highlights from the two games:
    – Kyle Tucker (hitting .400) had a couple more hits including his 4th homer of the spring.
    – J.D. Davis hitting .455 had three more hits today
    – A.J. Reed had two hits and homered for the second straight game
    – Jon Kemmer went 3 for 3 with a home run
    – David Paulino threw 3 shutout innings of 1 hit ball
    – MarGo had 2 hits and a home run
    – Morton had 6 Ks in three shutout innings
    – Gile had a 2 K shutout inning

    Lowlights from the two games
    – Tyler White went 0 for 4 with 2 Ks and a fielding error
    – Buddy Boshers gave up the tying run in the 7th immediately after the Astros had fought back to a 4-3 lead.
    – Rogelio Armenteros blew a 5-4 lead in the 8th inning and then gave up a walk-off grand slam in the 9th
    – Hoyt and Guduan combined to give up 3 runs in 1 inning of work
    – Correa went 0 for 3 with 2 Ks


  18. Right now, J.D. is making it tough for nephew to get the nod. Rogelio is going to have to regroup and throw a batch of quality innings to have a shot at the 25 man. No excuse here, but I wonder when he last entered a game in the 8th? If Tucker keeps blasting away, we might see him before the All Star break, especially if injury issues come up.


  19. Saw where Seth Romero the young pitcher the Washington Nationals drafted last year got sent home from Spring training today. He broke the team rules…..not the first time, because he got sent home LAST year after he was drafted by the Nats. A real shame, because he was the number one draft choice, but got kicked off the University of Houston’s, team. The National got him at #25, he really is making a name for himself. You can’t cure *STUPID*.


    • As I predict, Rondon is not ready. He’ll start on DL if we have a no-brainer that Fresno can’t hold anymore.

      J. D. Davis
      Teddy Too Strong
      David Paulino

      I get that Spring stats are meaningless. What I’m seeing are guys who powder the baseball, and a few arms that look above replacement. The team is set except for a few spots that I think clearly have frontrunners.

      On the Davis White Reed Kemp question, you have to give nod to Davis. Anyone digging in like a tick here — it’s the 24th man for goodness sakes, and not going to kill the team if any of these guys don’t make OD — a long season ahead.

      I’m guessing Tony Sipp is the last man standing in another year that management has thrown him a lob ball with the likes of Ashur Tolliver, Anthony Gone and Reymin Guduan. Let’s hope he’s serviceable and given some mother’s milk situations before we hand him the keys to the Cadillac.

      On the loogy question, we have the best LHH stopper in the game in Devenski, along with several others who are throwing changeups, and arm side movement designed to miss lefty bats. It’s a sort of non factor … yet.


      “We value leverage a lot differently than we did a decade ago,” Hinch said. “Managers are judged by how much they recognized leverage and how much they use it for situations offensively or defensively. That attention to the unconventional [bullpen role], the trust and support and value of that role, has grown over the last five years.”


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