Off-seasons are notoriously slow and this one where Astro fans only want to get back to watching real games rather than the conjured up games of the cheating scandal seems to be going backwards. It has been three months since the jarring end of the 2019 season and it feels like the start of the 2020 season is moving farther and farther away.
So, today just some wandering thoughts…..
- Is Carlos Correa really the Astros best defender? Over at mlb.com they fill the off-season with such tomes on any subject you can imagine. This week they looked at each team’s top defender.
They used a stat called OAA (Outs Above Average) to decide that Correa is the top defender on the Astros with George Springer behind him despite Correa missing more than half the season.
Defense is an odd thing to judge statistically in this modern world of shifts. The Astros have a number of very good defenders, who don’t always show up as such statistically. I can’t pick Correa as their best defender because I can’t trust him to show up for most of the games in the season. Springer has been terrific especially in centerfield and by some defensive stats would be considered their best fielder, but was often replaced by Jake Marisnick (maybe that was not always justified). Alex Bregman has been very good at third base and Yuli Gurriel has done what Jeff Bagwell did and turned from a good third baseman to a very good first baseman. Josh Reddick made impactful plays throughout the season and Michael Brantley makes few mistakes but does not have the range of the other OFs. Jose Altuve is very good and his speed helps make up for his lack of reach. Zack Greinke showed in his short time here that he may be the new Dallas Keuchel (or beyond) as far as top fielding goes. Martin Maldonado is back because of his fielding and his ability to handle pitchers.
Who do you think is the Astros’ best defender and how much will Gerrit Cole miss having all this great leather around him with the Yankees?
- How will Dusty Baker handle the lead-off spot in the lineup?
Will Dusty use George Springer as A.J. Hinch used him throughout his time here? This may be an area where we see just how much Baker will listen to the existing staff and the analytics folks. If you look back at his time with the Nationals in 2016 and 2017, he tended to have more traditional speed guys like Trea Turner (79 SBs in the two seasons) or Michael Taylor (31 SBs in the two seasons) in the leadoff spot. They both had some power, but not George Springer type of power and certainly, George is no SB threat like Turner and Taylor were.
The player who stole the most bases in 2020 for the Astros (10) is gone – Jake Marisnick. Jose Altuve recovering from his knee injury barely ran at all last season. Their biggest stealing threat may be someone who is not starting – Myles Straw.
Will Dusty leave George up top or will he move the slugger down the lineup?
- Will Jim Crane give the go-ahead on any in-season pickups up with the luxury tax looming?
Even with very good teams the last few seasons, the Astros have been very active on in-season trades. Pickups have included Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Ryan Pressly, Roberto Osuna, Martin Maldonado (twice), Cameron Maybin, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini. I’m probably forgetting someone.
If they need a boost due to injuries or lack of performance will Crane allow any addition to the payroll in 2020? Or will any pickups need to be off-set with salary dumps?
- Will the Astros lead the league in being hit by pitches and how will Baker allow his pitchers to respond?
When you read items like the following from Indian Pitcher Mike Clevinger…
… it makes you wonder how much high and hard inside is going to happen this season. Will it just be for a short time or every game they play?
How will the umpires handle this? To “punish” the cheaters will they warn both teams immediately after the Astros get hit so there can be no brushbacks by our team without ejections? Will Dusty tell his players to take it and smile or will he go all old school medieval on their a——es?
How will the Astros and their new manager handle this situation and how will we feel about this?
These are just a few thoughts and questions rattling around today. Where are your heads here in early February?