Astros’ off-season thoughts to ponder


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

https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/high-hard-indians-clevinger-takes-aim-cheating-astros-68687223

… 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?

46 comments on “Astros’ off-season thoughts to ponder

  1. I think it is fair to have Correa listed as the Astros best fielder if he is the best fielder when he’s on the field. If Andrelton Simmons were traded to the Astros and had the highest OAA on the team, you could call him the best fielder on the Astros, even though he had never made a play as an Astro.
    Honestly, using my eye test, Correa looks to me to be the best fielder on the team. He may have the best arm I’ve ever seen.
    I really don’t know what to say about the leadoff spot. Springer has been real good there, Bregman could be awesome there, Altuve would be good if he were more selective. That will be interesting to watch.
    I guess Crane’s decision on the deadline will depend on where the Astros are in the standings.
    I think the Astros need to wear as much padding on their body as they can and the umpires need to eject pitchers who they think intentionally throw at Astros players, like they are supposed to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This does get interesting. Will the umps take into account what some of these pitchers say in judging whether they eject pitchers when they head hunt? I think that the umps will be offended by what the Astros did and will not be on their side. I guess we will see.

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  2. I would agree that CC is probably the best defender based upon a percentage of opportunities, but you never know since he didn’t play a full season. I think Dusty might tinker with the line up in Spring Training just to see what the possibilities are as he gets comfortable with the team. I’ve always wondered what would be the results of Springer in the #3 spot. I don’t look for Crane to make any moves unless it’s a slam dunk deal, especially with the luxury tax to deal with. As for the potential for pitchers to throw at our batters I believe it will happen but looking at Clevinger’s comment, “it will be fun” is something it won’t be. If they thought it was happening previously, they should have take the action at that time and brought it to the forefront then. I suspect that had they done it then we wouldn’t be talking about it now because the message would have been loud and clear. To do so now only makes the situation worse.

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  3. As an Astros fan, I’m angry. But I get it…to some degree. Look, baseball players as a whole really aren’t very smart. It’s an occupational hazard, if you will, that you often get tunnel vision and can’t see the big picture. There is a reason why the only star who is saying much of anything is Cody Bellinger, though. Maybe that changes as people report over the next couple weeks and the reporters keep hammering them with questions. However, there is some value to guys like Clevinger advertising he’s going to make the Astros uncomfortable in the box. At least until he hits a few of them they may have it in the back of their mind and let him get ahead in some counts with soft stuff away. But, with him being on record that he may do some head hunting, the Astros are hopefully smart enough to already have built a case that the first batter he hits should result in an ejection, good suspension, and fine that will make other pitchers think twice.

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  4. Just like anything else, some umps will handle the situation well, others will address it erratically. But I’m sure MLB does not want any HBP injuries either. Historically the Astros have been very conservative in responding from the mound. I expect that to continue for the most part, but guys like McCullers and Verlander might be more apt to defend teammates without any prompting..

    Correa can do things that I’ve not seen any other shortstops do. And no infielder in MLB has that arm. We get to watch our guys every night. We know how good they are defensively. A few of us have been holding the candle for George in center for years now. He’s underrated. Screw defensive analytics.

    Altuve had an OBP of .353 last year, lowest since he matched that figure in 2015. If he goes to the lead off position, maybe he’ll take the role seriously and get it back up towards .400. Either way, we’ve got a heck of a lineup. I really, really just want to see similar offensive production out of our guys, with a similar low strike out high walk rate. That will quiet the detractors quicker than anything.

    If the Astros are right in the hunt this summer, the best way for Crane to react would be to go out and get more help. There could no better way to move on from this whole sordid episode than to win it all in 2020.

    I was talking to a friend of mine in Taos last night. I’d sure like to ski again, but winter there is too busy here. Anyway, Pete referred to this whole cheating scandal as the Astro “imbroglio”. I thought it was a prefect way to describe where my head is at right now. That’s a good word.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My son Adam who is one of the funniest people I know just texted me….

    Crane: Congrats you are the new GM! We are on high alert for any cheating, so if you see anything you can let me know by banging this garbage can.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I had a thought about Becky and others talking about pitchers throwing at the Astros. My solution is, especially in home games, is the Astros starting pitcher throw one around the chin of the first batter. Both sides get a warning and we go forward.

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  7. So much has happened with the Astros in the last few months, but they have remained who they want to be in the batters box for 2020.
    The four batters on the team who had the highest strikeout percentage in 2019 are no longer on this team. With those four guys, the Astros still led all of baseball with the fewest Ks.
    Max Stassi-34.7%
    Jake Marisnick-29.9%
    Tyler White-29.2%
    Robinson Chirinos-28.6%
    The Astros will probably lead the league in fewest Ks in 2020. That is a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 1. I don’t know if Carlos is the best defensive ever, but he is up there. George is up there but no as good defensively as Jake. I think George was in right because of his better arm than Jake. 2. No one ask me, but Jose, Alex, George and Carlos following by Brantley. I bat Jose first because he is not good at RBIs, advancing runners, and too many GDP due to pressing, again in my opinion. 3. I think Click will try at mid-season but I don’t expect a Verlander or Greinke type. Someone for part of a season left on the contract. 4. Answered a couple posts above. I think this team is starting off as solid as any team. Injuries hurt everyone, so those we don’t know yet. (Let’s hope NONE)

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  9. Bill Russell once told Dusty Baker the secret to winning was everybody loving each other. That’s what I believe, though we tend to call it chemistry. When you love your teammates, you root for them, not just you, and you always have that extra sumpin sumpin to dig down into. Don’t know a lick about Click but from what little I read, seems smart choice.

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  10. From what I’m reading the Rays were not too happy to lose James Click to the Astros. I look forward to see how he drives down this bumpy road. This team needs a guy who will do what’s necessary to bring in some calm for everybody.
    The 2020 motto is “For the H” I kinda like it!!
    Yeah….I saw where the Astros are interested in Hunter Pence, but does that mean that Shaw stays in Round Rock? Pence has had a little difficulty staying healthy…..but I’d be ok having him back, since I literally cried when he got traded!
    P.S. Buster Olney is getting on my last dam nerve with his endless articles about how “horrible” this team is😠….*JERK*.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Non-Roster Invitees for Astros:
    RHP Brandon Bielak
    OF Ronnie Dawson
    IF Alex De Goti
    RHP Dean Deetz
    IF Osvaldo Duarte
    OF Drew Ferguson
    RHP Riley Ferrell
    RHP Ralph Garza Jr.
    LHP Ryan Hartman
    OF Chas McCormick
    RHP Brendan McCurry
    IF Jeremy Peña
    C Lorenzo Quintana
    C Jamie Ritchie
    C Chuckie Robinson
    RHP Andre Scrubb
    IF Nick Tanielu
    RHP Forrest Whitley
    OF Stephen Wrenn

    Out of this list, does anyone have inside info as to if any have a chance to stick with the club? (Except Whitley)

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    • Chance to stick? Are you asking long-term, or this season? Those are two different questions.

      The list of players who are hanging on to the last few 40-man roster spots, and their ready replacements in parentheses; Biagini (Paredes), Pruitt (Javier), Blake Taylor (Cionel), Dustin Garneau (Stubbs) and Jack Mayfield (Straw, Pena). In theory, they could all be dropped from the roster by OD.

      Bielak and Whitley are NOT Rule 5 eligible until December! There is no rush to decide until then. If the Astros wait til mid-June to call up either up, they will have *one extra year of team control* Astros will obviously choose this course if they don’t feel a burning desire to start their clock on Opening Day. However, Whitley has Frontline potential, and Brandon Bieak has Middle Rotation potential. Both are fully capable of sticking. right. now.

      In the likely event we wait, then, these names are ready as back end starters; Armenteros, Javier, Sneed, Emanuel, Pruitt, Peacock.

      Some of those NRI names have “fill-in” potential, like Tanielu, McCormick, and possibly Deetz (if he has found his command). It would take more than one injury for these to be called up, or a HUGE Spring.

      No offense to Op, but No Way on Scrubb (if he were *that* good, we would have protected him). I watched his games last season, and was not impressed at all. Ralph Garza is a much better bet than Andre Scrubb today, and has proven it in the jackrabbit ball league, AAA.

      Quintana is not necessarily ahead of Ritchie, nor a surging Chuckie Robinson. A kid who didn’t get invited to ST, but who caught Whitley in AZFL is Colton Shaver. Not a great glove, but a huge bat! If none of the previous 3 catchers get in this year, Shaver will supplant them in 2021.

      Besides Bielak and Whitley, The Real Gem in this list is Jeremy Pena.

      The huge overachiever on this list is Alex De Goti, but like many of the top 2B prospects in the system, Altuve isn’t a FA til 2025, so they are thoroughly blocked.

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  12. Dodgers just traded for Mookie Betts and David Price – Twins as a third team got Maeda in exchange for sending top prospect to Red Sox

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    • I saw that. Just had a thought. “IF” the Astros do not make the playoffs and “IF” they can not get a deal with Springer I look for a sell off. I would suspect Springer, Brantley, Reddick, and Osuna to be on the trading block. You’ve got already committed $132MM for 2021 with the bulk going to Verlander, Greinke, Altuve, and Bregman. I don’t want to see the team disassembled but it could happen. Many clubs are looking to position themselves for the next group of upcoming players who they can control for 6 years. Obviously the RedSox are looking to do that. The big market teams can afford to keep those high payrolls but most teams can not.

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      • Zanuda, I don’t think we’re going to fall apart, but if all goes wrong this year, I’d hope that we move guys at the deadline. That would help compensate for the loss of first and second picks in 20 and 21. And it wouldn’t hurt to get younger either.

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    • Has Buster Olney written any articles saying Betts is the cleanest guy in the game and certainly didn’t benefit from any Astros influenced cheating in 2018, yet? It bothers me that Boston can unload those ridiculous contracts (Price) on the Dodgers again. I can’t stand the Yankees, but BOS and LAD might be just as awful when it comes to destroying any fair salary structure in the sport?

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      • Devin, we’ve had a pretty good run. And if our new GM manages resources well, then I believe we can remain in the hunt going forward. The Dodgers keep spending, but still have not been able to win those last four games. The Yankees look great on paper again, not not even Cole guarantees anything. I’d rather the Astros not be the favorites. It’s going to be a fascinating season that can go in many directions.

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