2019 Astros: The most indispensable player


In a full disclosure statement from this blog – the idea for this post came from elsewhere.

Throughout the off-season, mlb.com likes to throw out these blurbs. Most indispensable player on every team, most critical spring training position battle on every team, top prospect for every team, best off-season pickup for every team, etc, ad nauseam. But hey, it is tough to fill the vacuum of waiting for the season to begin.

In this case, we would like to examine a little more closely the statement in this article that the most indispensable player in 2019 for the Astros is Justin Verlander.

The argument for JV

Since the trade from the Tigers at the waiver deadline in 2017, Verlander has been the Astros best starting pitcher. In the regular season, he has been 21-9 with a pristine 2.32 ERA / 0.867 WHIP / 12.1 K per 9 IP / 1.5 Walks per 9 IP. He has been 6-2 in the postseason and of course, helped lead the Astros to their first World Championship. He has been an extremely talented bulldog throughout and no one will forget him climbing out of the clubhouse in the classic Game 2 win in the WS and extolling his teammates to not give up even though they had just given up the lead in that crazy see-saw game.

In 2019 he would seem to be a critical cog as the Astros will be headed to war after losing starter Lance McCullers to injury, starter Charlie Morton to a team near his family and likely losing starter Dallas Keuchel, if anyone meets his price and years. As the Astros try to head back to the WS with different parts in the rotation and with youngsters as the first line of defense in case of injury, having the senior leader at the front of the starting five would seem extremely critical.

The argument against JV

This is a tough thing to argue, like trying to win an arbitration case against Gerrit Cole. Justin is a terrific talent, who looks like he is ready to emulate his idol Nolan Ryan and pitch past 40 years old without blinking. But the base question is this. Can a guy who plays in 20% of the games (at most) be the most indispensable player on the team? Won-loss is not the best measure of a pitcher, but just for comparison, Verlander was 16-9 (64% win percentage) and the team was 21-13 (61.8%) in his starts. That is compared to the team being 82-46 (64%) in games started by other pitchers. No doubt if they had to replace him for those 34 games, they would have had to either used a younger, inexperienced pitcher or pulled Collin McHugh or Brad Peacock out of the bullpen. They probably would have won fewer games, but would it have undone the whole season? Well, it might have dropped them behind the A’s, but it also might not have.

And of course the other side of this argument ties to the other candidates for the most indispensable player. Jose Altuve was the MVP of the AL in 2017 and his fall-off with injury helped hamstring the team in 2018. This was even truer relative to Carlos Correa and his bad back in 2018. Alex Bregman absolutely carried the team on his back in 2018 and George Springer has long been the straw that stirred the offensive drink of this team.

And these four players can affect up to 162 games in a season.

So, the questions for you…..

  • With the pitching rotation going through a big transition and with not as much major league experienced depth, is Justin Verlander the most indispensable player on the team?
  • Is one of the everyday players, Altuve, Correa, Bregman or Springer the most indispensable player? If so who?
  • What about Gerrit Cole, who might pass JV as the ace this season?
  • If the Astros re-sign Dallas Keuchel does that make JV less indispensable?
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65 comments on “2019 Astros: The most indispensable player

  1. The run support the Astros have given him since he came to Houston has been lackluster, to say the least. Time and time again you look up and see the Astros with no runs through five innings when he is on the mound.
    Yeah, he is indispensable because of his pitching and because of the credibility he brings to a club that never gets enough credit.

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  2. I agree Dan that it’s tough for a starting pitcher to be your most indispensable, especially on a really good team with another ace pitcher. I’d really love for Springer to have an outstanding season and be our primo hoss. He has the ability but has never really lived up to what I consider his potential. If he can excel and the others of the Core Four have a decent season we’ll be in good shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Have to tip my cap to Devin’s post at 8:46 this morning. Devin was apparently the one who created the third grade math questions I couldn’t answer: If a train carrying pinto bean seeds going west at 46 mph meets a train carrying potato seeds going east at 53 mph, what will be the location of the new barbecue joint a year from now? Chill, Devin. Even the choo-choo engineers be cryin’ over you.

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      • I think the name of the pinto bean train is the Flatulence Express and the potato train is the “Spuds McKenzie”. When they collide they will be the “Flatulence Spud train”.
        Ok it’s Monday so my humor isn’t in full gear yet.
        On another note, it looks like “Great White” has been to the local dentist and had his chompers removed. A lackluster .174 BA.

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    • I just want to add that Dan responded in a way that makes me think he’s every bit as good at evading doing homework as my second grader.

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  4. Framber Valdez *should* be headed over to the minor league camp, he isn’t ready for MLB yet.
    Answer to your question: YES…Verlander is the most indispensable player with the Astros. Without him they wouldn’t have made it to the World Series, much less win it all.

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  5. It is always an interesting argument – the same one that happens when MVPs are being voted upon. Should a pitcher be considered as MVP when he only comes in every 5th day or so? On the other hand, he has a huge hand in those 20% of the games, while someone who plays every day is one of nine hitters.
    If you believe in WAR as a comparative stat – Verlander was worth 6.2 wins against replacement while Bregman was worth 6.9 wins against replacement.
    I think JV will be the most indispensable because
    1) Of all the other things he brings as a veteran, as a great pitcher, mentoring others, etc
    2) The hole there would be without him in a rotation that is already having to fill three holes before the season
    3) When one of the every days is out of the lineup – there are a slew of guys who could be the hero on any given day

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    • dan i think alot of what makes a player indispensable goes beyond just on the field performance, as you pointed out above. a good example of that and still my favorite astro – jeff bagwell.

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  6. My heart says Altuve remains the heart of this team and therefore most nearly indispensable. But his overall health remains a question. Springer I dearly love. Alex Bregman has the chutzpah and backs it up almost without fail. JV is amazing, of course. I don’t think there is someone indispensable on the 2019 because so many things have changed. If they have a shot, and you’ll have to convince me they do, it will be because somehow the chemistry happens again and the team comes together in that unexplainable way. My heart tells me the guys have taken some psychological/emotional hits. When that happens, chemistry is usually the first thing to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear from you Diane….
      I would answer you here, but I see a good topic for my next blog post on why they have a shot – so I will answer you there.

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  7. If Verlander went down with an injury we probably win 90 games instead of 100. It really matters in the playoffs, but even then you never know. In 2017 Brad Peacock was far more valuable than Clayton Kershaw.

    I think the correct answer is just to tell the author of that article that, no, the Astros do not have a most indispensable player. If Correa goes down then Bregman has to carry some load at SS. If Verlander goes down we dip into the prospect pool a bit early. If Springer goes down, well, hmm, you might have me there. I guess we hope Myles and Jake can get it done and the other guys can pick up the slack.

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      • The point is an interesting one – “He’s getting the second most $$ for any pre-arb in team history. He’s in the top 10 of all pre-arb with this salary.”
        However, how many pre-arbs put up a season like he just did?
        It is not my money as usual – but he should have gotten as much or more than Correa. This is a guy we want running through walls for us for the next 15 years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Remember how we all yelled down bopert and his rants that Crane wouldn’t spend money? Well, Crane spent money, but it’s obvious he doesn’t have deep enough pockets or doesn’t want to spend freely enough for Luhnow to get a blank check. There were lots of breakdowns on how close we are to the luxury tax. We still have some breathing room, but at the same time I think they’ve been trying to add a guy who would make it really close to going over. I think it’s bad business, but ultimately we can see that Crane and Luhnow value not going over and not losing international money more than trying to keep the players happy.

        But I’m not totally on the player’s side here. Bregman and Snell should be getting more money. In my opinion the top three things the player’s association should address next winter are 1) MILB salaries and conditions 2) service time shenanigans and 3) forcing teams to reward players who have not reached arbitration but contributed like they were already veterans.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I guess we’re supposed to be worried every time an Astros player airs his disappointment with his salary. If Bregman doesn’t like it, let him complain to management and then shut up. Why am I supposed to get myself worked into a lather about somebody whose raise for this year is several times what I live on.
        If he wants to whine let him whine. He goes and gives money away to strangers and puts it out on social media so everybody can see how great he is. Then he complains about only getting $650,000 a year in salary.

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  8. I think Framber would benefit from pitching every fifth day on Round Rock for a spell

    I’m not happy that Bregman is not happy. I’ve been tossing him and Verlsnder back and forth as my most indispensable Astro.

    Yes Zanuda, Tubby is digging himself a bit of a hole. I hope his ample girth does not get him stuck in there.

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    • Wow Token
      Two quick observations
      – Was this release of scouting reports done with the Reds knowledge or was this a disgruntled former employee? Shades of the Cardinals and Hack-Gate
      – The Astros have been known for going a different direction than the rest of baseball, but this is waaaaaaay different. Maybe they have a bunch of part timers, since this list only accounts for full timers. Would love to know what is happening and what it means

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      • Dan: the numbers don’t lie. When the Astros cut down on their scouting, they took the money and invested it in equipment all over the country to gather info on players. They brought the evaluation of players out from the mid-1960s to the 2020’s and they did it starting in 2014.
        Having access to this tracking system in 54 college stadiums gives them access to every player who plays in those parks, including road teams.
        So, for instance, if the Astros pay for access for the info gathered in Rice’s home ballpark, they get access to the players at Rice and every other college team that plays Rice in their ballpark, including big schools and small schools.
        All the data that all the schools which the Astros have paid access to their Statcast info comes to the Astros front office which is stuffed full of analysts who spend their job time turning the data into scouting reports.
        Players who the Astros are interested in are then scouted by the remaining Astros scouts and Astros front office guys.
        Remember who went to see Bukauskas and Whitley? Elias, Goldstein, Nolan Ryan and even Luhnow went to see them pitch after analytics identified them as guys to go after.
        How did the Astros see the potential in Bielak and Solomon, when other didn’t? You figure it out. But my guess is they got to see all the spin rates and pitch data combined with video every time ND went and played in a college ballpark that had all the fancy equipment the Astros had helped pay
        for.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Not good if you want (*need*) a guy to play his best for you. Bregman knows it’s a business, but the Astros organization has got to see this through the players eyes. This pi$$es me off.😠
    Once again…WHO IS THIS TANIELU GUUY?!!!

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  10. Things I got from this game today:
    *Stassi, Reed and White had lousy days at the plate.
    *The biggest difference I see between Toro and Alvarez, vs Reed and Fisher is pitch recognition. They seem to go up there knowing what they are going to see and then recognizing spin when they see it.
    *When JB Bukauskas finished learning, he is going to be good.
    * Framber needs to stop holding back. When he tries to stop walking people by aiming the ball, his pitches lose their movement. Also, when he’s wild, batters get nervous and when he’s not, batters dig in against him.
    *Peacock was holding back on his fastball today and worked on his offspeed stuff. His fastball barely hit 90 in his first inning and topped out at 92 for the day.
    *If this spring training has changed my habits for the year, it will be me looking at Tanielu’s numbers in the minor league box scores this coming season. We do have the DH, ya know.
    *A couple of days ago, Toro made a diving stop to his right on a hot grounder and got the out. Today, he made a great diving stop to his left and got up and gunned the runner out at first.
    *After the game, Hinch made a point of remarking about how impressed they are with Stubbs’ improvement at the plate and behind it.

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  11. Kyle Tucker came up to bat Monday to face Jacob Rhame, who had the distinction of being called up to the majors TEN times last season. Apparently Tucker had noticed Rhames two main pitches, a fastball that came inside to lefties and a changeup that broke out and down from lefties. Tucker took a borderline fastball for a strike and let the changeup go outside for a ball. The third pitch was an inside fastball that Tucker was sitting on and he crushed it. Into the wind it never got more than 20 feet off the ground and was hit so hard that the right fielder just could not find it. The ball landed about five feet to his right and behind him and it must have been knuckling because the fielder couldn’t figure out where it was going. It was an RBI double. It was the second day in a row that Tucker looked like he knew what he was doing at the plate.

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    • That is the fun thing when you can watch some of these games – you get to see these one on one battles and get to see if the young players “get it”

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    • I understand the way things work but hopefully our mgmt. told Bregman that they realize his value to the team and that he “will be taken care of”. I don’t think we are in the business of doling out empty promises.

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  12. 39 comments into this post and I went back and read each comment again. Not one person has predicted Carlos Correa as the most indispensable player on the 2019 Astros.
    Think about that for a minute. This guy was “The Captain”, the future, the core.
    What has happened?

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    • I’m sure this may not be too popular a take, but I would like to point out that sometime in mid-April, Correa will be the same age that Springer was when he made his mlb debut. (Springer should have debuted before then, but an argument for another time).
      My point being that Carlos can certainly improve (like Springer) in the next few seasons and may even learn to stay healthy (like Springer mostly) in the next few seasons.
      He may not be the most indispensable heading into this season, but if he stays healthy and channels his 2015-2017 self – he may be the most important person on the team going forward.

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    • I specifically mentioned him as not being the most indispensable and cited Bregman as the reason. Correa came onto a team already being led by the hustle and determination of Altuve and Springer. Verlander came into the clubhouse and immediately exerted veteran leadership, although you can argue McCann and Reddick had really begun providing that early in 2017. The real answer is that Correa is still on his upward trajectory. Whether he is ever indispensable comes down to the other moves Luhnow makes around him…assuming the Astros are able to retain him long term.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Justin Verlander- 8.1 IP, 7 hits, 1 ER
    Gerritt Cole- 6.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER
    Wade Miley- 8.1 IP, 7 hits, 2 ER
    Brad Peacock- 8 IP, 4 hits, 0 ER
    Collin McHugh- 3 IP, 5 hits, 4ER
    Roberto Osuna- 4G, 4 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER
    Ryan Pressley- 3G, 2.1 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER
    So far, this spring.

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  14. Pitching impressive so far

    Something to throw out on Correa – in 2017 Altuve led the majors with 8.3 WAR. Correa had 6.3 in only 110 games. That is on pace for above 9 WAR. He could be the best player not named Trout if…… of course that is the magic word isn’t it?

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    • Just great – I always get confused on this. Does he have to sit out 80 games after recovery from his surgery?
      Some of the comments on mlbtraderumors are calling the Astros cheaters and wondering why pitchers Deetz, Martes, Paulino and Whitley (who was caught with recreational not PEDs) are all getting nailed.

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      • No he doesn’t. Remember Cano’s situation last year where he was on the DL and serving his sentence, too. Same thing here. Martes does not get paid during his suspension, though, and he would have been paid for being on the DL.
        As far as the Astros being cheaters, why would anyone think that way? Everybody gets drug tested and the organization knows that. I believe it is the players being out there in the offseason on their own and being tempted to do something foolish, thinking they can get away with it.

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  15. So Tucker goes down. Fisher sticks around. Wonder if someone is interested in him?

    Tubby just does not seem to have his head screwed on straight right now. I hope he gets his dookie together.

    I have no confidence in Devenski right now.

    I’m glad to see Toro getting so much work with the big club. I sure like him.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A couple former Astro notes:
    – Tony Sipp signs a one year contract with the Nats
    – Charlie Morton basically says he will retire after this two year stint with the Rays

    As always we wish them both great success except against the Astros

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t really complain about doing away with the bonus trade deadline. Call it the Verlander rule if you’d like, but it really does not make a whole lot of sense.

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  17. So do we blame old pro (see his comment at 1:59 PM yesterday) for having Verlander and Cole give up four runs and 2 runs apiece (so far)?

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