Of Two Minds: Building the Astros pitching vs. everydays


Baseball organizations normally have some kind of philosophy they follow in building their teams. Some lean heavily on internal development. Some lean heavily on trades. Some lean heavily on going the free agent route to bring in key pieces.

Especially when it comes to the key pieces’ part, the Astros’ organization seems to be of two minds. The pitching? Key pieces are almost all from external sources. The offense, especially the critical core? Mostly from internal sources. But is it that simple? Let’s take a quick look at this year’s team and discuss…

Every Days.

Internal. The following players have not known any other organization (and its quite impressive) – Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White, Tony Kemp, Derek Fisher, Myles Straw, Garrett Stubbs and Jack Mayfield. Gurriel probably belongs in a different category as he was a fairly complete player when he signed out of Cuba at 32 y.o. Alvarez signed out of Cuba with the Dodgers but never played a game in their organization.

Outside. Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and Robinson Chirinos (by free agency), Jake Marisnick and Max Stassi (by trade). It should be noted that Stassi never played in the majors with his former team (A’s) and Marisnick only 54 games (Marlins).

Pitchers.

Internal. Framber Valdez, Josh James, Corbin Martin, Cionel Perez, Reymin Guduan, Rogelio Armenteros, Brady Rodgers

Outside. Justin Verlander, Gerritt Cole, Brad Peacock, Ryan Pressly, Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski (by trade), Wade Miley, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith (by free agency), Collin McHugh and Will Harris (signed off waivers)

Discussion. Overall, the everyday players are very much the result of organizational development. It helps when you have a first overall pick like Correa, a second overall like Bregman and a mid-first rounder like Springer (by the previous regime). But they have also used their international strength to trade for Alvarez and to sign Gurriel right out of Cuba and again inherited Jose Altuve.

The pitching looks like an argument for the Astros inability to develop their young pitching as the “Internal” guys have barely managed a blip on the radar, while all the external guys have carried the weight. But it should be remembered that McHugh and Harris were dropped by their previous organizations, but became critical components over the last few seasons here. Devo was a player to be named later. Peacock spent a good bit of time developing into a valuable tool after coming here from the A’s. Verlander, Cole and Pressly all pitched better here than the season before they came here. Miley has turned into a second or third starter for the Astros.  Maybe these guys are not “Internal” guys, but the organization has gone and gotten guys that had high spin rates or who they thought they could tweak on pitch selection and “develop” into better pitchers.

Bottom line the Astros still have something to prove on developing their own pitching, but they have proven a lot in grabbing and developing other people’s pitching.

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128 comments on “Of Two Minds: Building the Astros pitching vs. everydays

  1. The Astros were able to trade Verlander because of Perez, a pitcher they developed.
    They were able to Get Cole because of Feliz and Musgrove, pitchers they developed.
    The Astros were able to get Brian McCann because of pitchers they developed.
    And the Astros are going to trade for more players by using pitchers they developed.
    The Astros do develop pitchers and then use some of them to acquire players they need in order to win.
    They have James and LMJ and Framber And Devenski whom they developed. But they like proven pitchers, too, and they use developed assets to acquire them.

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  2. If we experience the same rash of injuries to the top of our pitching staff that we’ve witnessed with our everyday players, I can’t identify where the help would come from in house. Whitney’s situation is a big blow. And being the cynic, my expectations of him are minimal at this point. But we also don’t have any other real difference makers handy, do we? Or at least the touted ones are not quite ready, for whatever reasons.

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    • It might come from a surprise spot like Jose Urquidy who is striking out more than 13 per 9 IP at RR or Tyler Ivy who has a miniscule ERA at CC or JB Bukauskas who started off badly but has been tough lately.
      Or maybe the help is coming from outside….

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      • Dan, that’s why I qualified by saying not quite ready “for whatever reasons”. I don’t think Luhnow wants to screw around with the 40 man yet, or bring up certain guys yet that might be the most valuable down the road. But if we lost a Verlander or a Cole, or a Pressly or an Osuna, we might be in the dookie.

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    • Jose Urquidy, Brandon Bielak, Corbin Martin have a chance to offer some help this year. Forrest Whitley, Bryan Abreu, Tyler Ivey, Brandon Bailey, Christian Javier and Peter Solomon have a chance to offer some help next year.

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  3. Huh! Brandon Bielak is the Astros Top Prospect Performer for Monday.
    7 IP, 1 hit, no runs, 1 BB 9 Ks.
    The single was to Iowa’s best hitter, their cleanup guy. The walk was to Ian Happ, who has spent most of the last two seasons playing for the Chicago Cubs.

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  4. I don’t think it so strange that pitchers are harder to predict than batters or fielders. If you look at Atlanta Big Three. Glavine came out of the draft with Atlanta, but Maddux was a Cub and Smoltz a Tiger. Or the current Yankees – Tanaka (Japan), Happ (Phillies), Sabathia (Indians), Paxton (Mariners)& German (Marlins Summer League).

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  5. Brandon Bielak talked about the huge difference between AA and AAA and how it took him by surprise. He went from riding buses all the time to flying to Reno and Tacoma and Salt lake and Memphis and Nashville. The teammates in RR are there and then gone and then they’re back and then they’re gone. The routine is so different, the time zones are different, the ball is so different and the players are different.
    Bielak said that the changes gave him a sense of urgency that caused him to rush everything on the mound, including his delivery. His performance yesterday was the result of him finally being able to adjust and slow himself down.

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  6. I was reading what op was saying above – which ties into what I wrote a while back about pitching development and using it to get top notch pitching….
    https://chipalatta.com/2018/06/14/where-have-all-the-flowers-gone-a-look-at-the-astros-pitching-prospects/

    Somehow it just seems counterintuitive (which is how the Astros seem to have gotten an edge on other teams). You would think you would be better off economically to develop pitching for your own use and fill in the roster with free agents and trades for the everydays. But the Astros have been built mostly on (to this point) cheap every days from their own system. Now in some ways they have been smart economically on bringing in other pitchers. Morton gave them far more than what they paid them, Miley is giving them as much as a much more expensive Keuchel would have. Even Verlander was brought in with the Tigers picking up some of his salary.

    I guess they did not get to be near the top of the heap by being idiots.

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      • It’s obvious that short stop is new to Straw. I’d rather not see there to start a game or be at short in a tight game late. But I think Hinch will find a time and place to start him there.

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      • Looking at Straw’s stat’s he’s a lot better than some at the plate. Yes it’s a small sample but I’d like to see him get more opportunities. Could he be the next JFSF? Maybe not so much power but a contact hitter. Maybe a good utility guy.

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      • He’s looked better at short than the time he’s played there would lead one to believe. OF would still be his best position but I think he’ll be at the very least decent enough to be a backup

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    • Helps with his range.

      Not saying we found Correa’s eventual replacement, just saying he could end up a decent back-up, or good in emergency situations.

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      • Actually, for an excellent, very mobile athlete who has spent his whole life on a baseball field, I was surprised how raw he he looked at short.

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      • Yikes. I don’t think “comfortable” and “Tyler” belong in the same sentence, unless we’re talking Golden Corral

        Liked by 2 people

      • 45, good line.

        On another note, seems Carlos Correa has said he’ll consider his appearance in the All Star game (if voted in) as part of his rehab. If this is accurate, I’m starting to have a bit of an issue with our shortstop. He’s the best in the business when he’s playing and playing well, but is he a team guy, or has he lost track of that concept? Or maybe has become misguided along the way?

        My hope is that Astro fans stop voting for him right now, and this potential issue can be avoided.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think he may have been drinking for the same Hollywood Kool-Aid as DK was (Dallas, not Donkey Kong, although his beard could probably hide a giant gorilla these days)

        Liked by 1 person

      • “No, I don’t think that’s realistic,” said AJ Hinch, emphasizing the first word and suddenly ending the interview.

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      • I have no problem with Correa’s remarks. I also would have no problem with him playing in the All Star game if his rehab had already begun. There are a few reasons for this. First, Correa will be going to arbitration again this offseason and is playing on a $5M salary. He’s lobbying for votes knowing that 1) it is a huge accolade and 2) it will increase how much he earns this offseason. Next, the All Star game is an exhibition where players go through the motions. As long as he’s not participating in the HR derby he isn’t likely to overdo it there. Finally, it raises our team’s profile among both fans and other players we’d like to come to Houston. My only complaint would be that he’d miss a couple rehab starts being at the All Star festivities…but I haven’t actually checked the calendar to confirm that. I guess I’m also concerned they may try to pamper the players during the event with such perks as massages in the clubhouse. That could be a problem.

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  7. daveb7……I won’t cry when he leaves us. He’s a DANG GOOD short stop, but he likes to think he’s the best that ever played the game. I say it only because the way he acted when he won Rookie of the Year. I’ll shut up now.
    What I wanted to ask you guys is, do you think the ball Alveraz hit off his left knee is serious? JEEZE….I hope not!

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    • Alvarez looked like he was in a good mood talking to Yuli (standing up)in the dugout last half inning – so I’m hoping that is a good sign.
      We will see how he reacts in his next at bat in the bottom of the 6th

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      • How many times have you seen an grounder bounce on the infield dirt and go all the way to the warning track before an outfielder gets to it? Yordan is special. I’m pretty sure he will be ok, but he’ll be sore tomorrow.

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  8. I keep thinking Alvarez is going to connect with a ball one of these days and it is going to just vaporize – turn into a puff of smoke

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  9. Good win for the good guys. Solid hitting – clutch starting pitching and very good relief outings. Nice to have Springer with his first hit back and a scoreless night from McHugh. Good job giving Pressly and Osuna the night off

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    • 50 wins in 80 games. And they did this with most of the team injured, missing two starting pitchers (or was it three), a lousy bullpen, no backup catcher, blind or just guessing umpires, bad managerial moves, and a front office that never gets a trade when we need one. Just flat out amazing.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. We are on pace for 101 wins. If I were told at the start of the season that Correa, Springer, Altuve, Diaz, McCugh, Stassi would all miss significant playing time I would take the under on a 90 win bet.

    If these guys all come back and stay healthy for the second half I see no way that we don’t have a better record over the second half of the season than we have in the first half.

    Alvarez alone adds 2-3 WAR to the best lineup we fielded in the first half.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Since we are talking about developing pitchers I would like to offer a list of the pitchers the Astros drafted this month that they have already signed. I’ll add the school they attended. The number preceding their name is the round they were drafted in:
    5. Hunter Brown- Wayne State
    7. Blair Henley- Texas
    9. Peyton Battenfield-OK State
    11. Ryan Gusto- Fla Southeastern State
    12. Garrett Gayle- Rice
    13. Kevin Holcombe- Glendale College(Ca)
    14. Derek West- Pittsburg
    15. Cole McDonald- Iowa
    17. Daniel Cody- Baldwin Wallace College(OH)
    20. Alex Palmer- SFA(TX)
    After Breakfast I will finish this.

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    • 2019 Hunter Brown (Wayne State(MI), 357 BF, 26 BF/G): 98 Overall (33 OHB/99 SHB), 57 Ctl, 98 K, 89 Batted Ball (98 GB,6 IFFB,85 LD Avoid,91 OFFB Avoid,89 PullOFFB Avoid)

      For the most part Brown dominated the 252 RHB faced (99 Overall: 65 Ctl, 98 K, 97 Batted Ball), while being subpar (half minus) by conference SP standards against the 105 LHB (33 Overall: 29 Ctl, 63 K, 16 Batted Ball). The OHB struggles reflect a presently short vs LHB offspeed arsenal as well some lack of favorable primary fastball movement relative to LHB perspective. Should be patiently developed/slowly promoted in ‘19 & ’20 owing to the volume of OHB arsenal work ahead and the 3-year D2 background (was more of a swingman RP/SP as ’18 So & ’17 Fr). Logically projects as GB/K RHRP barring larger OHB arsenal gains in Houston’s trademark pitcher development laboratory.

      Visit the Twitter FaBIO oracle… @reillocity

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  12. Continuing:
    22. Shea Barry- UC Santa Barbara
    26. Chandler Casey- Lubbock Christian
    27. Kevin Dickey- Seminole State(OK)
    29 Whit Drennan- Rollins College(FL)
    30. Michael Horrell- Campbell U. (NC)
    33. Bryan Martinez- Connors State(OK)
    So, I count sixteen pitchers signed so far, all from colleges. I foresee a couple more signings of pitchers.

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  13. Musings:
    * I don’t see any conceivable was that we will be either willing or able to sign Cole to the type of contract he will be seeking in FA.
    *I don’t think it would be wise to pair this lineup with too many untested arms as we chase another WS title next season without Cole.
    *I think the Astros trade for a TOR arm before the deadline that is controllable for the next 2 seasons that we have JV locked up.
    *I sure would like to see Max Scherzer next to his old teammate JV, but I really can’t see how they could make that trade work. The way Max’s contract is set up it very well could make him untradeable.
    *I wouldn’t mind seeing Stroman or Matthew Boyd, but Stroman is most likely going to be wearing pin stripes and the Tigers are surely going to want a steep package built around Tucker for Boyd.
    * I think Framber will be closely watched between now and the deadline to see if he can step up and be a reliable difference maker.
    *I am not going to assume that Miley and Peacock will have anything left in the tank by end of season if they continue at current workload.
    *I think McHugh is more valuable and effective as a reliever.
    *I’m looking forward to seeing this lineup with both Alvarez and Tucker in the middle of the order.
    *I don’t think Brantley should hit cleanup over Alvarez, especially against RH pitching.

    Liked by 3 people

    • vewill1,

      Toss 2018 and give me the average of Carlos’ production during his other seasons, even 130 games a year and I’d take it. Of course, we’ll never know exactly what Hinch/Luhnow are thinking until he gets sent or signed.

      I agree that Cole will be a very tough guy to sign. And I still believe we’ll be getting a top three starter by the deadline. But again, I’ve got no clue what the experts are getting ready to do over the next 35 days or so. I know I’ll be shocked at least once though! Our 4 and 5 guys might end up on vacation at different points in an effort to have them fresh for October. But same goes for Verlander and Cole too. Both are already on pace for 200 plus regular season innings. And I agree again, McHugh is a really valuble pen guy for us.

      Brantley hitting 4th? He keeps producing and being in front of the kid can’t hurt the pitches he sees. And I’m sure Alvarez does not care a bit. Now if Correa comes back and is put in the 6th slot, he might be offended.

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      • I love Brantley and I love his production. Brantley is a waiter. Alvarez is a busboy. One’s job is to set the table, the other’s job is to clear the table. Busboys hit in the cleanup spot.

        I don’t care if Correa has problems with hitting in the 6 hole. Man up, stay healthy, produce like a top of the order hitter and earn/ force your way into a better spot. Otherwise go get yourself another “massage” and shut up.

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  14. I might be wrong, but “I” think Correa wants the$$money. He’s been in MLB for a few years, and he might think he should be paid more money…like *MILLIONS*!!! Like I said just MY opinion.
    Sandy is reading and she says HI to everyone. I voted…did you?!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow, the Stanton formerly known as Mike is back on the DL with knee issues. He is still owed $234M through his age 37 season in 2027 and has only played 9 games so far in this, his age 29 season. No way he opts out of this goldmine after 2020 season, so yanks are on the hook for all but $30M of his remaining salary. I love it!

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  16. 6-1
    Gonna be a VERY, VERY looong night for Valdez tonight. Sorry dude but it’s your game. No use to burn the bullpen for one game. Too bad.

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    • So Valdez ended up eating only 9 outs. Do we need another arm for tomorrow? What time is the last Southwest flight from San Antonio? On a serious note, what’s the rule on taking Martin off the 40 man?

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  17. Great to see GS still has the magic going. Now if only his teammates would give him some help. We keep putting runners on with no outs and they end up getting tickets for loitering on the bases every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Dropping another game to the arlington little league is going to pi$$ me off BIG TIME. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t see all the keystone cops debacle, my dog gets to live another day. The cupboard is bare for someone to come up and spot start for us. Maybe I’m jumping the gun right now, but I assume Luhnow is trying like heck to trade for another arm…..at least I hope he is.

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  19. On a totally tangent note I’m reading about Texans’ QB on a trip to Israel getting baptized in the Jordan River.
    Nothing to comment here – just thought that was cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To answer your question, BC, Stassi was in uniform and looked very neat and professional on the mount. Neither White nor Stassi are the answer to the bullpen, however neither of them got hit any harder or more often that Framber. So maybe that is the “positive.”

      So for now, the legend of Shohei Ohtani is safe.

      Liked by 1 person

      • uh, White got slaughtered at least according to the box score. I’d turned it off earlier.

        I was mainly asking as I was hoping Stassi would be the new blowout emergency pitcher. Put another way, and I feel bad for saying this…I want White off the roster. I want him to have success elsewhere, but it won’t be here.

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  20. Valdez was sent back to Round Rock after the game. He is just not ready for the majors. His start tonight also hurt his stock in case he would have been included in a trade. I have no answers….and I don’t think our GM does either. Using position players to pitch is not fair, that was a total disaster for White.

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  21. Maybe they should try what a lot of other clubs are doing. Starting relievers for a couple of innings and then changing. What they are doing now sure isn’t working.

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  22. Hinch has got to be tired of not having a full roster to work with. Last night he took a lot of grief for saving bullets in the hope of a series win this afternoon. Sound judgement. All the injuries are nobody’s fault, well maybe most of them, and now losing Martin to an elbow problem along with Whitneys head problem and the problem of not having even one guy step up from the minors , well that’s a real problem.

    Urquidy has to be rushed up at this point. He’s the most likely guy to take Frambers start next week. But is it fair to say at this point that we really lack pitching depth at the higher levels of the system? I think it is.

    Luhnow has a tough job ahead of him. His trade partners will make every effort to exploit that weakness. They are certainly going to want what we don’t want to give up.

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      • 45, the 19 is actually the total of all runners left stranded when combining all the missed opportunities by our hitters. The actually number of guys LOB was 8. Regardless, that guy on the hill last night got his first MLB win in our park.

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  23. Zanuda has an idea that seems to be working for the Ray’s…..an opener. Until they could get McHugh’s pitch count up, would starting James for an inning or two and bringing in McHugh work? Just thinking outloud here folks, since both of them were starting pitchers in the past. I will be surprised if Hinch doesn’t get a phone call from MLB on last nights horror show. I’m getting ready to head to the game, I sure hope that “flu” our guys had last night doesn’t effect today’s game.

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  24. I’m going to go find the stats leaders for the PCL and put them up here. You will not believe the ERA leaders in the PCL. As of yesterday Cy Sneed was #8 amongst all QUALIFIED PCL pitchers in ERA. That’s how bad the situation is in AAA. The ball is flying so fast there that all pitchers look like crap!
    Urquidy is not listed there because he doesn’t have enough innings there to qualify. If he did have enough innings he would be the 2nd best pitcher in the AAA PCL. His ERA after his start last night is 2.89 in 43.2 innings.
    http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?t=l_pit&lid=112&sid=l112
    Jake Buchanan is listed as having the 18th best ERA in the PCL with an astounding 5.72.

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  25. It takes a pretty special team to lay down and die in front of 39,000 of your fans who showed up on a Wednesday night and spent all that money.
    Special.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Certainly a fair statement 1OP, but the option might have been to burn a couple of more guys from the pen, or use a starter. That would have made today potentially worse.

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      • One way to beat the “nightmare” is to beat up on Joe Musgrove. Remember in 2017 how we went through the first half of the season with a make shift rotation due to so many injuries to the pitching staff? We hit the crap out of the ball and gave that makeshift rotation a ton of support. That’s what’s needed now.

        Like

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