A not-so-Free Blog Weekend


The normal formula around here is to throw out a couple of ideas for the weekend, but promote a Free Blog Weekend of thoughts on any Astros’ subject. Instead, today we will focus the discussion on “What Would You Do, If You Were In Charge?”

Let’s look on a few areas of potential change…..

Management and Coaching. Our blog friend, Diane, pointed to our multiple complaints about A.J. Hinch’s decision-making lately and wondered if that is a subject. We know that Hinch’s right hand man, Alex Cora is gone And leading the high-flying Red Sox. We know that Carlos Beltran, who was probably a quasi-coach/ player is now retired. First Base coach Rich Dauer is retired (thankfully surviving a near death episode at the Championship parade). So….If you were in charge…

  • Would you tell Hinch we know it was really Cora making the great decisions and stealing signs so Hinch is on the hot seat for his bullpen usage, lineup choices, substitution choices, etc?
  • Would you tell Dave Hudgens we now realize that with Cora and Beltran gone that the offense has sunk back to its 2015/2016, poor situational hitting and high K numbers and he is on the hot seat or gone? Look at friend of the blog, old pro’s discussion of offensive regression per Fangraphs in the last Chippie post.
  • Would you tell Brent Strom that his brilliant work with the starting rotation has earned him a lifetime contract?
  • Would you tell Brent Strom that his crappy preparation work with the bullpen, especially the closer spot has earned him a hot seat designation?

Front Office. What would you do relative to the front office and the GM Jeff Luhnow?

If you were in charge…..

  • Would you praise him for picking up two TORs in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole for prospects without gutting the team?
  • Would you dun him for again not finding this team a decent DH, when there were a lot of solid bats out there at reduced prices late in the Spring? Same for the LF spot.
  • Would you ask him what he was thinking in throwing big money at relievers Joe Smith who is giving up more than a run an inning and Hector Rondon, who has yet to be given a high leverage assignment?
  • Would you ask him when enough is enough relative to the terrible performance of Derek Fisher? Jake Marisnick? Evan Gattis? Tony Sipp?
  • Would you ask him why he moved J.D. Davis down just when he started hitting and kept Derek Fisher up?
  • Would you tell him – the heck with the Championship, you are on the hot seat young man?

Personnel. What personnel moves need to be done now or by the trade deadline? These include changing people’s roles and changing people….

If you were in charge….

  • Would you trade Dallas Keuchel and replace him with Collin McHugh? Would you move McHugh into the rotation and move Keuchel into the bullpen? Would you hand McHugh the closer’s role even though he has never thrown back to back games?
  • Would you hand Chris Devenski the closer’s role?
  • Would you conjure up a 10 day DL for Joe Smith and then have him work out his problems in rehab, meanwhile bringing up some help from the minors? Who would you bring up – James Hoyt?
  • Would you see if you can pry away a big time closer from another team, even though almost every big time closer on every team failed in the playoffs and the Astros beat the problem with using starters as closers?
  • Would you demote Fisher or Marisnick or both?
  • Who would you bring up? Tyler White? Davis? Drew Ferguson? Tony Kemp? Or the next big thing Kyle Tucker?
  • What to do about Evan Gattis and his $6.7 million salary (that drops about $1.1 million every month)? Wait for him to go on his inevitable hot streak? Move him back to back up catcher and send Max Stassi down? (Man that would  be mean to Stassi). Send him and $4 or $5 million bucks to someone for a single A level prospect pitcher?

Dan P’s thoughts….

  • I am an overall patient person.  Baseball is an up and down game. The Astros have stunk lately and are percentage points out of the division lead.
  • Hinch and Luhnow have been more patient than we would ever be. But that kind of patience kept George Springer in the lineup in the playoffs until he became the WS MVP. That kind of patience kept Brad Peacock in the organization until he became one of the best pitchers on a WS winner.
  • I understand Hinch has made some mistakes, but he is also responsible for the long view and if he stops using everyone who slumps he will soon have a full bench and an empty field.
  • I would do some tweaking with the bench. At the very least send Fisher down and bring back White or Davis. I know that hurts speed and OF flexibility, but you can’t steal 1B.
  • I would be looking hard at the hitters’ approach. Do they need a special consultant hitting whisperer (Carlos Beltran?) on the bench? Ask Carlos if he would like to hang around the guys again and make $X million….
  • I would explore what the closer market looks like. But very few teams think they are out of it and many times the closers that are available have been successful in low-pressure non-pennant race situations.

So……it’s your turn. What would you do? What would you wait on? What would you never do?

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115 comments on “A not-so-Free Blog Weekend

  1. This game gave me a migraine…….sooo looong and boring. Took 3 pitchers but we beat ourselves. Waking guys all over the place, not the same team we saw last night. Oh well…..there’s always tomorrow.

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    • I agree DanP, but this offense has been sputtering for over a month. And the bullpen is yet to shine. They have not imploded yet, but you can’t tell me that a little anxiety doesn’t creep in when the starter leaves.

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  2. Is like Hinch looks over in the bullpen and says LAWD have mercy, who can throw a baseball??? They are getting exposed. Personally I think more defined roles need to be addressed. Kinda like “Eeny meeny mind moe”!

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  3. Once again two things killed us. Situational hitting and walks. The game winning hit was I think a fastball right over the center of the plate. One may think I’m nut-so here but I was watching the game predicting what pitch was coming to our batters. I found that over a 2 inning stretch I was right 70% of the time. Not that doesn’t make me anything but a good guesser but I just cant get over why our guys continual take that first pitch strike over the heart of the plate and then flail at off speed offerings out of the zone. As I mentioned at the top, Pollack got a 1st pitch fastball that he was obviously looking for and that was the game. When our relief pitchers walk a batter where the pitches are no where near the plate, should Hinch pull them and try somebody else? Devo just didn’t look comfortable on the mound last night. Obvious to me he just didn’t have it.

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  4. I understand that fans tend to get reactionary after tough losses. I would like to point out that the Astros bullpen is 7th in baseball in ERA (I do not like using ERA to evaluate a bullpen as one bad outing, especially this early in the season can inflate the numbers), 4th in FIP and 6th in fWAR. The bullpen is fine, but we only remember the times they give up runs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I’m using my sortable stats app right – the Astros bullpen is 2nd best in ERA in the AL only at 3.39, but…..in late and close situations they are 12th at 4.65.
      And that seems to match our perception that they are great when it isn’t tight but choking a bit in close games.
      Can’t stop using them and can’t replace them all, just hope they can get on a better roll in tight games.

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    • I seem to remember the saying that goes, “Statistics are for Losers”. I really don’t care that much for quoting stats. I just want us to play up to our potential and no I don’t expect us to win every game but during our run last year it seemed as if the mindset was that the team felt like that were going to win every game. This year that seems to have gone away. From what I’ve heard, when you get to a certain skill level (golf, basketball, bowling, skiing, football, BASEBALL) the thing that separates the average, better, and best players is the mindset. I feel like these guys have misplaced that edge that they previously had. Let’s get our head-game back on track guys.

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      • No offense to you or any others Dan. I’m just really upset at the way our guys are playing these days. They are better than this and I (we) want them to play like it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Look – except for the starting pitching, this club is just nowhere as good vis-av-vis the league as last year’s team. We have regressed a little, and the teams we are playing have all gotten significantly better. And, to top it off, we have ZERO of the intangibles – call it ‘luck’, ‘looseness’, ‘mojo’, ‘comraderie’, ‘magic’, ‘momentum’, ‘esprit de corps’ or whatever. When we face a team that, unlike us, has more than one area of strength, if that team has even a little ‘mojo’, we hang in there for awhile, but then we inevitably lose the series.

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    • Bill, I disagree on the comraderie. The guys look very comfortable with each other in the dugout. I regularly see pitchers on their night off standing at the rail trying to help the bats get going. They are playing tight though. Out of our 12 bats, we’ve only got about 4 or 5 guys doing what we would have expected.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My biggest concern is that we can’t expect the rotation to keep being quite so good. So we’ve got to take a bit of the load off of them at some point.

    Tough call at third. The runner was aiming for the glove with his slide. He was successful in getting the throw to hit him. But he initiated the contact with Bregman. I think it should have been a non call.

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  7. Who leads the closed door meeting? It’s time to have that talk.
    They have a day off on Thursday, it’s time to let Jake go out to California and switch places with Kemp, or White….and I have NO idea what to do with Gattis.

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  8. We look like an exhausted, out of shape, outclassed boxer on the ropes, holding on to his opponent to prevent a total massacre, but completely unable to land any blows.

    The A’s are coming off a sweep of Baltimore, and are playing way, way better than us. Leading with this year’s pathetic version of Dallas Keuchel almost guarantees a loss of the first game of the series. Having to face Sean Manea the next night virtually assures a loss of game 2 as well. Heck, due to the total eclipse of our offense, I don’t even really like the odds on game 3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My job is to lower expectations, so my friends won’t suffer such severe disappointment when things don’t go well. And if by some chance this sleeping beauty can shake off the spell cast by the wicked witch, and wakes up, and decides to go to the ball and kill it in glass slippers, well . . . fantasia here we come.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pathetic version of Dallas Keuchel is part of a staff making history. Mr. Bill, your comments actually have the opposite effect of lowering expectations. I thought my own criticism in certain players was over the top, but after reading the tone of your comments the last six months, it’s not your happiest song, let’s say.. so, maybe put on a different way of looking at things and what you see will change. We’re on the verge of pitching greatness, maybe lower your expectations of our guys pitching “perfect games”?

        https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theringer.com/platform/amp/mlb/2018/5/7/17325468/houston-astros-starting-rotation-dominance-gerrit-cole-justin-verlander

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      • I certainly agree that, even with DK’s significant regression, the starting pitching as a whole has truly been beyond excellent. In fact, If DK was still capable of pitching anywhere close to the quality of DK circa 2014/2015, ours would truly be a historic rotation. But he is not, and that means we have 4/5ths of a historic rotation. But even if McHugh stepped in for DK, and had his best year, making this a historic rotation, that by itself, would not be enough to win consistently in this league. To win, your offense has to score runs. It has to have big innings. It has to produce bases clearing doubles. It has to contribute two and three run home runs. It has to make opponents pay for walking or hitting its players. And your bullpen has to be ready to come in, throw strikes, keep the ball off the backstop, and do effective damage control. Not happening – and unfortunately, not likely to happen. The rest of the league has caught up to – and in many cases blown right by – both our offense, which is listless and floundering, but likely to rebound slightly and our bullpen, which is in almost total meltdown, and not possessed of enough youth or talent to get anything but worse. So, unfortunately, unless we are playing the tanking White Sox, if our starters don’t throw a shutout, we tend to find a way to lose most series’.

        I love this team. And I will root for them even when, as now, I just can’t bear to watch them take blow after blow and have nothing with which to answer. But the box scores – not the heart – are what tells the story.

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  9. Pathetic certainly does not qualify. If Keuchel was mailing it in, then that would be pathetic. As it his, he’s the best four or five guy in the rotation that any team might have. And it’s entirely possible that he’ll settle in and give us what he did in the first half of 2017.

    I woudn’t even use that world to describe Jake Marisnick, but that would be on the right track. This team needs to hit. That will solve a batch of problems.

    It’s pretty simple. If we hit, we’ll score runs. That will make it easier on every pitcher on the staff.

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    • Keuchel is definitely not ‘mailing it in’. He is a fierce competitor. He just can’t handle the ‘new’ breed of hitters who thrive on softly thrown low pitches they can target for HRs with a ‘launch angle’ approach. That is why he has given up 8 HRs in 43 innings. That is UNHEARD OF for Dallas Keuchel. When he tries to counter the ‘launch angle’ strategy by throwing up in the zone, he gets lit up with base hits. He just can’t compete in the traditional hitter’s zone. So, his BAA has shot up to .248 – meaning he now gives up a hit to just about every fourth batter. All this has him so disconcerted that he has already added to his own woes – and the teams – by walking 12 and throwing a whopping [for him] 4 wild pitches. How does a guy who hardly ever breaks 90 mph throw 4 wild pitches in 43 innings? He overthrows everything.

      DK is not ‘pathetic’ in comparison to other teams’ 5th guy in the rotation. But he is pretty ‘pathetic’ when viewed in comparison to his 2014-2015 self.

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  10. I agree they are playing “tight,” but don’t think you can separate that from diminished spirit and chemistry. I get the feeling this is more of a job this year, less of a joy. Part of it is undoubtedly the monkey on their backs, only this time it’s the champ monkey instead of the loser monkey. I still think some thing or someone is missing from last year. But then again, it was meant to be in 2017, the year of Harvey. And I’ll pass on another storm this August to get us back in a fighting mood, thank you. Now if we get an imaginary rabbit, I’ll take it.

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  11. I am glad my ‘pathetic’ comment stirred up a few fans, and made them fighting mad. Now if someone would just stir up our team in the same way.

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  12. Not fighting mad here, not stirred up. In fact, I’m just not letting myself be troubled by it. We won a World Series. Odds are it won’t happen again in 2018. But I’ve also stated and fully believe that Luhnow will not stand by and do nothing. At some point, he’ll make adjustments. It’s still early. All that saiid, when that game starts tonight at 10:00 PM Atlantic Standard time, I’ll be getting into bed with a book.

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  13. Can we still bring back Cora and Beltran, I miss our true baseball minds? On the the hand, Rockets another big win, the showdown coming with GS!

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  14. It Happened- thru 36 games Alex Bregman has five errors and the entire rest of the team has five errors.
    The Astros are ranked 20th in baseball in slugging percentage, .395. They ranlked #1 in that last season.
    The Astros are a half game in front of third place Seattle and one and a half games in front of fourth place Oakland.
    How wrong could I have been about Gattis? Of all the teams who have actually used a DH this season, Houston ranks second to last in OPS at the DH position at .544.

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    • You’re not the only one who got Gattis wrong. Question is, how long does Luhnow wait before bringing up Davis or White to take his place? I think it’s going to be awhile.

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      • But, does that mean that when something breaks you let it go and try to let it fix itself? I think winners have to be proactive and reactive. Getting Verlander last year is a real example of reaction paying off. Getting Cole this season is an real example of proaction paying off.

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      • May not have explained myself fully there. I was always taught in business to expect the unexpected and have a plan. That means you don’t wait till you hit the iceberg, you try to avoid it but if you do hit it, you have a plan to get everyone off. Much like the line in the movie Patton. When they had meeting after the Germans broke through in the Ardennes, Patton already had a plan ready to go to combat the Germans.
        Barring a total collapse with the Astros, I would think we’d look at our
        contingencies and react to the situation. We talked about these before the season even started:
        Jake not hitting
        Gattis not hitting
        Marwin regressing
        Fisher being an unknown
        Bullpen not getting the job done
        No we didn’t think our whole offense would take an extended vacation but we thought there would be a little drop off in production and the starting pitching has exceeded our expectations.

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  15. Of all the players in the majors who have at least 20 ABs, Colby Rasmus has the highest K-rate at 56.5%
    Marisnick is fifth at 48.6%
    Fisher is seventh at 46.7%

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  16. What would I do?

    You start where you are bleeding the most profusely – that is in the bullpen, followed closely by the offense.

    1. Will Harris looks – and pitches like – he is hurt. He goes to DL. We bring up Hoyt to replace him while he rehabs – and cross our fingers that Hoyt doesn’t screw it up even worse than Harris has been. He’s a bit of a Mary, Mary Quite Contrary type.

    2. Kenny Giles appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Put him on the DL – probably extended – and bring up David Paulino. If Paulino has walk problems, send him back down and bring up Brendon McCurry, and hope against hope you never have to use him in a high-leverage situation.

    3. The ‘closer’ role, if we need one, would be Devenski’s and/or Peacock’s to lose. Devenski’s been a little bit better lately than Peacock (though he still has too much trouble throwing strikes), but Peacock seems to be more suited to the role. Peacock has just been wild as a march hare so far – and needs to get control of his ‘stuff’.

    4. The new ‘7th inning guy’ is the tandem of Rondon and Hoyt – no, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than we’ve got now.

    5. The new ‘8th inning guy’ is a tandem of Colin McHugh and whichever of Devenski or Peacock you don’t anoint as the ‘closer’. This, again, may not be ideal – and is certainly nowhere near as good as the Yankees’ 8th inning options -but it is a stopgap until the trade market opens up.

    6. Sipp and Smith are nothing but mop up guys. If we are blowing someone out, or are getting blown out, they get a chance to see if they can throw strikes. First time they get behind on a lead-off batter, or issue a walk or throw a wild pitch, they hand the ball back to A.J.

    7. Turning to the offense, the biggest holes [though no one is performing very well right now] are at DH and extra outfielder. If Gattis can’t find an injury, he is DFA-ed. Tyler White is given his DH job, and told to sink or swim, hit or get a day job. Meanwhile, Marisnick is kept as a bench guy only – getting ZERO starts ever. Fisher is sent down to Fresno and Tony Kemp is given his spot. If he doesn’t shine this time, he knows KTuck isn’t far behind.

    8. These changes may stop the bleeding [a profuse flow of series losses], but it won’t get us back to first place in the AL West or to the playoffs. We need more consistent situational hitting – a whole lot more, in fact – from at least three of Springer, Altuve, Correa, Gurriel, Reddick, Bregman, and Gonzales if we have a chance of building a lead over teams like the Angels, the Mariners, the As, or for that matter even the Rangers. See if Beltran or Biggio would consider coming on staff as a special hitting coach and motivator.

    Liked by 1 person

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