A few Astro questions on a dreary Saturday


It is another dreary Saturday in Houston as it feels like we can’t string more than one sunny day in a row into our weather forecast. Perhaps the beginning of the baseball season, still about three weeks away will bring a cure to the weather blahs as well as the baseball blahs.

Here are a few questions to chew on today….

Would the Astros be better off with Dallas Keuchel or not in 2019?

The knee jerk answer is that you can never have too much good pitching and while he may not be great again, he certainly should be good.

Pros. Sliding DK into the rotation would allow the team to better solidify the bullpen by moving Brad Peacock (current likely 5th starter) back there. It would give the team a pitcher who put up more than 200 innings last season (200 is the new 300 for us oldsters) and who has been excellent in 2015 and 2017 and good in 2018. Don’t ask about the injured 2016 season.

Cons. The money used to sign Keuchel might handcuff the team for future moves during the season as it would have them approaching the luxury tax limit. It might discourage the good soldier Peacock or the good young potential starters like Josh James or Framber Valdez. Peacock or James or Valdez might pitch better than Keuchel…they have done that in small samples before. Oh, and if Keuchel signed today, he would be behind in getting ready for opening day.

What is going to happen to the bench type (AAAA type) players the Astros have around?

Is there any future here for an A.J. Reed? Derek Fisher? Has time passed them by?

Are Jake Marisnick and/or Tony Kemp just place holding until Kyle Tucker and Myles Straw climb the ladder?

The injuries the last few years have told us that depth is good and some of the trades the Astros have made tell us that depth is good when you are trying to chase a Justin Verlander or a Gerrit Cole. Of course position depth is not always as important as pitching depth.

Do the Astros need to prepare for Arm-ageddon in 2020?

After the 2019 season the Astros will have the following “Arms” heading to Free Agency – Verlander, Cole, Collin McHugh and Wade Miley. They have a lot of good, young arms in the system – but they are lacking experience. Do they give up some wins in 2019 to get some of the youngsters experience in 2020?

Well, a normal amount of injuries for the starting five will certainly give some of the youngsters experience in 2019. But what might the Astros’ rotation look like in 2020 any way?

They will certainly try to extend Verlander and/or Cole. Verlander feels like the more likely of the two to sign for 2 or 3 seasons and even at his advancing age, he sure feels like a larger reincarnation of Nolan Ryan. So let’s speculate here.

2020 rotation

1) Justin Verlander

2) Lance McCullers Jr

3) Brad Peacock

4) Josh James

5) A free agent pickup or Framber Valdez or Francis Martes or Corbin Martin or J.B. Bukauskas or ??

What do you think?

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31 comments on “A few Astro questions on a dreary Saturday

  1. Thanks for the new blog, Dan. It’s not in the normal place but I found it anyway.
    I love question #3 so that is where I’m headed.
    The Astros will prepare for Arm-a-get-it-on, but maybe not in the way people may think.
    The Astros have a real veteran pitching staff lined up for 2019. Whether people believe in them or not, JV, Cole, McHugh, Miley and Peacock are good veteran pitchers with lots of stuff, tons of experience and playoff credentials.
    The Astros have a real good idea of what JV and Cole are thinking. How the Astros deal with their free agency all starts with what they know.
    1. If Peacock is a starter this year and performs well, he would definitely be a candidate for a starting job in 2020.
    2. I have got to put LMJ in there as a TOR candidate for 2020.
    3. Forrest Whitley will be in the 2020 rotation if he is healthy. His grades are higher than Buehler’s were coming into the 2018 season and I think he will be ready.
    4. The Astros will sign in free agency or trade for a starting pitcher for 2020.
    5. The final rotation spot will be taken up by another of the Astros prospects: James, Valdez, JBB or somebody else who breaks out in the minors this coming year.
    How do you plan on an extension for Cole or Verlander? At this point in time, accomplishing that may be easier than counting on it, because you just throw a figure out there that you are comfortable paying and see if it sticks. If one of them takes it, there’s your plan. If not, then you plan on going after someone else in the offseason.

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  2. i would hope (1) that we can resign Verlander and (2) LMJ is ready to go and is what we want to expect from him (3) Peacock can make that #3 spot (4) JJ or one of the up and coming guys is ready and (5) should go to Forrest Whitley. Now the other thing is the bullpen because I don’t see too many of the current guys here in 2020. Devenski, Rondon, Smith, and Harris probably won’t be around. We have talent in the minors and I think it’s time they get a shot. We could save some $ too. But it’s early in the game so we shall see.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Seeing pretty good pitching from the BP today. McCurry, Bielak, Guduan. Correa looked to be making pretty good contact today too.

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    • So, Z, basically you and I are on the same page, with you thinking that Verlander goes with the other four I mentioned. But even if the Astros can’t come to an agreement on Verlander, there is probably going to be some really good starting pitchers that they might choose from in free agency in the offseason or who might be entering the trade market, if the team they are on decides to sell.
      So I will add this link that names the starting pitchers whose current contract are up at the end of the 2019 season:
      https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/free-agents/2020/starting-pitcher/
      There are some interesting names there. Some of these could opt out and some of whom could have their options bought out. And many will just be at the end of their current deal.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Leave Dallas Keuchel alone. He would mess up the team’s options for the next couple of years. Good cheerleader, I am grateful that he helped get Verlander in here but I hold my breath when he pitches. Reed and Fisher have been passed by. Sad, Reed could have been a stud if he took care of his weight. Tucker will probably remain in Round Rock for the season which allows Jake to stay on the big club… unless he hits himself off of it. Kemp over Straw for now. Absolutely extend Verlander, he is a leader on the club. I can still remember him coming out of the clubhouse, after leaving a game in the world series, and telling the dugout to get their heads out of their buckets and win the game! That, my friends, is a winner and they are difficult to come by. Offer Cole something reasonable. If Cloe takes it, great, if not, then go after one of the pitchers that OP offered in his post.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In other news, Maldonado signs with KC, 1 year deal for 2.5MM and 1.4 incentives. We supposedly offered him 2 years and how much $? Strange to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When we look back on what experts, who are not part of a major league ball club, predicted what they thought what the market should have been at the beginning of the offseason, we can easily see why fans were fooled and ballplayers are crying foul about.
      GM’s are tired of being burned and forces outside of the ball clubs themselves are the reason San Diego and Philly caved in and gave what they can’t afford for the two big free agents.
      Here is a great example of what I’m talking about:
      https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/11/mlb-free-agent-predictions-2019.html
      The difference between what experts(who want the players to love them) project and the reality of what those players can earn is pretty staggering.

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  5. A couple of random thoughts.

    Straw is more a threat to Jake than Kemp.

    I’d still pay Keuchel for a year if he’s sitting around in a week or two. It might sound cliche, but he’d anchor the back of the rotation and allow us to not force the issue with new guys that might benefit from more time. And yes, maybe then we don’t lose both Peacock and McHugh from the pen.

    I’m not convinced either Harris or Devo are going to be much help this year. Smith is already gone. Rondon is a question mark, in my mind anyway. Maybe I’m a bit parinoid , but there are question marks in the pen. Keuchel lightens that load.

    I’m also not convinced Miley is going to give us anything close to those 80 plus quality innings he produced in 2018. But I did say something similar about Morton a couple of years ago.

    All in all though, we’re going to hit the heck out of the ball and we’ll have young arms from the system have a big impact in 2019.

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  6. 1. DK in 2019 Yes. In 2020, probably not. Beyond that NO NEVER. 2. You need more than 25 to get through the injuries. So they are marginal backups. You can throw Tyler White into that group is you like. When you hit 26-27, you better be good enough to crack the 25 man because when the arb clock is ticking, you become too expensive. I think Gattis is an example this year (but older). He is worth $2-3 million but he was at $6.7 million and looking for a raise. 3. At some point, Cy Young had to retire. Our chance of winning the WS is greater this year than next – it would appear – but we don’t know what pick ups will be made in July and then FA signing next winter. 4. Let’s enjoy this year.

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    • Salvador Perez goes down and Machete Maldonado gets a job. I would imagine a starting pitcher goes down and DK gets a job soon. Just hope it is not one of the top 4 with the Astros.

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    • Noticed that he quoted it missed 500 calls in April when they were just setting up the system and testing it. Better than screwing up calls in October because you can’t move your fat a$$ closer to the outfield stands than 200 ft away.
      Not that I’m bitter.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As far as the so called AAAA players the Astros have, I believe the Astros will keep them on the 40-man roster as long as they have room for them. Bringing these players to ST every year and giving them a shot in the majors every year until they run out of options is about all a team can do. Neither Fisher nor Reed are great defensive players like Marisnick is, so they must rely on their bats. If their bats don’t produce, they are stuck in AAA. Eventually, their options run out and things happen.
    Honestly, Reed seems like a left-handed Brett Wallace at 1B, but with a great arm that 1B doesn’t require. Neither of them has been able to hit major league pitching, and neither has Fisher. Little Tony Kemp and Big Tyler White have had some success against MLB pitching and therein lies the difference.

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  8. The slate of rule changes to be implemented in the Atlantic League are as follows:

    -Home plate umpire assisted in calling balls and strikes by a TrackMan radar tracking system.
    -No mound visits permitted by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues.
    -Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters, or reach the end of an inning before they exit the game, unless the pitcher becomes injured.
    -Increase the size of 1st, 2nd and 3rd base from 15 inches square to 18 inches square.
    -Require two infielders to be on each side of second base when a pitch is released (if not, the ball is dead and the umpire shall call a ball).
    -Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45.
    -Distance from pitching rubber to home plate extended 24 inches, in the second half of the season only; with no change to mound height or shape.

    Maybe also change the name of the game to Manfredball.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ac – I was reading about those – note if anyone wants to check these out locally – the Sugar Land Skeeters are part of the Atlantic League.
      I can’t believe they are going to lengthen the distance mound to the plate in the middle of the season. How is a pitcher supposed to adjust to that? What is the over/under of pitches being low balls after the change? And then what if one of these pitchers gets signed out of independent ball into the majors or high minors during the season. Just seems so weird.
      For those who hate the shift – here is an adjustment to it.
      Manfredball indeed.

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      • Dan, you’re the engineer so I’m going to ask you to check my math. A ball travelling 90mph is equivalent to travelling 5,702,400 inches per hour (or 1584 inches per second). For simplicity, let’s assume the ball is not slowing down much over 60 ft 6 inches (726 inches) and just keep that a constant. This means the two factors impacting the drop of the ball on the way to the plate are the initial trajectory and the acceleration due to gravity (9.8 m/s or 386.09 inches/s according to the internet). If we increase the distance to 750 inches that’s only a change of ~1%. Our 90mph pitch should take .458s to reach home plate. The longer distance would take .473s to reach home plate. This would mean the ball thrown from further away would have an additional 5.8 inches of drop due to gravity during it’s flight than the one thrown from 24 inches closer. For fastballs, which is obviously my assumption, the answer is that pitchers will subconsciously correct their release angle to compensate. The breaking pitches are where I’m anticipating more impact. I was certainly not talented enough to control the spin on the ball to make it break at a particular point in flight. The pitchers will have to make some adjustment or their pitches will begin their break slightly earlier allowing the hitters a fraction of a second better chance to adjust. Or I could be wrong and there might be fewer “hanging” breaking balls resulting in less offense overall. Major leaguers will tell you nothing goes further than a hanging slider.

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      • Devin – I am an engineering manager, which means I do a lot more herding of the cats than calculations these days.
        In my head I’m thinking the following:
        – Since the pitcher pitches from a mound and is already on a downward slope, I kind of expect a little more drop. Maybe wrong
        – I’m assuming that the pitcher’s release point is tied to getting maximum velocity out of his pitches and changing that release point in the middle of the season is a big deal. I also worry that the pitchers might strain something making these changes
        – Yes, I feel like the biggest affect will be on the breaking pitches. I feel like there will be a lot of balls not making it to the plate.
        – I don’t know how pitchers who have spent the last 15-25 years pitching one way will adjust in the middle of the season. Seems ridiculous to me

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  9. Reading about Felix Hernandez being upset about breaking his streak of opening day starts. I know the guy is a Mariners franchise icon, but if you want to start opening day shouldn’t you post better than a 5.55 ERA?
    James Paxton should be the one who is upset after being their best pitcher for a number of years without an opening day start before moving on…

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  10. Things I think this morning:
    * Moving the rubber back two feet is going to make a game last longer because there are going to be more baserunners. There will be more bunts because pitchers are farther away. Pitchers will have a split second more time to protect themselves from a line drive, but there will be more line drives because pitchers will be easier to hit off of. Pitchers will have less time to get to 1B on a grounder because they are farther away.
    * Garrett Stubbs will be catching Astros top pitching prospects for the rest of spring training, for them to learn him and him to learn them.
    * Watching Trevor Rosenthal pitching to Matt Stassi yesterday in the ninth inning was like watching a horror film.
    *The Astros top position player prospects are looking pretty darn good.
    * I won’t be surprised if Wade Miley is in the rotation for the Astros in 2020.

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