Is it possible the most critical Astro doesn’t play?

It is a little bit of a trick in the title as the person we are talking about has never played for the Astros. He did play the game, pitching in 100 major league games in the 1970s, starting 75 of them, going 22-39 with a 3.91 ERA. Tommy John surgery was almost named after him as he was second in line for the groundbreaking arm surgery. But he may be the most critical person wearing the Astro uniform in 2021 and his name is Brent Strom.

He was an interim pitching coach for the Astros in 1996, but he has made his reputation in his second shot with the club between 2014 and the present. He came in the year after the three awful 100 loss seasons and lorded over the pitching staff as they rose from the ashes to the dominant team they were from 2017 to 2019.

He received his first big-time kudos with his work on reclamation projects (or in some cases clamation projects). Guys who had shown very little in the way of results, such as Collin McHugh, Will Harris, Tony Sipp and most notably Charlie Morton turned into good or great pitchers under his tutelage after journeyman type careers elsewhere.

But Strom was equally impressive in the way he worked with very accomplished pitchers such as Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who became Cy Young contenders under his direction. Houston was becoming a destination for pitchers based on his reputation for combining the old style baseball he grew up under with the next century electronic tools to improve his pitchers pitch choices, arm slots, etc.

Perhaps his most impressive job was what he did for the team in 2020. The team had lost top-notch starter Charlie Morton after the 2018 season and then after the 2019 season, they lost Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Will Harris, Hector Rondon and Collin McHugh to free agency. By the time the delayed 2020 season began, Joe Smith was sitting out due to his mother’s failing health, Jose Urquidy missed a big chunk of the season reportedly due to COVID, Justin Verlander, Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski made very short cameos before injury sent them to the sideline. Basically what Strom did was amazing as he held the pitching staff together, which was made up of Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Ryan Pressly and a whole lot of “who’s he”. Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Brooks Raley and Andre Scrubb all became solid performers under his hand.

It is impossible to picture this team making it to the cusp of the World Series without the masterful work that Dusty Baker and Brent Strom performed to bring the next man up and use him in the right situation.

So heading into 2021 without Verlander, Peacock, McHugh, and Devenski, 72-year-old Strom will again be so critical t the success of a team as he melds the leftovers from 2020 with newcomers like Pedro Baez, Ryne Stanek, and Steve Cishek, and prospects like Forrest Whitley, Bryan Abreu, Luis Garcia and many others. The staff will have to be handled in masterful fashion again to juggle the many pitchers who will need to fill out the rotation and the bullpen in 2021, especially coming off a 2020 season where no one pitched more than 71 innings.

So, again, a man who will not play a game for the Astros may be their most critical puzzle piece in 2021.

 

31 comments on “Is it possible the most critical Astro doesn’t play?

  1. Strom got us through the last 1.5 yrs of the Tony Sipp contract, a minor miracle. Brent does a great job of identifying the problem. In his in-depth interviews he talks about things he’s looking for, just a wizard at his craft. Fact is there are very smart guys in that business. Stros already pleased with pitching coach staff that surely Brent has a hand in. As he talks about “William,” he means Bill Murphy. Pretty big shoes to fill, mate, when Strom decides to hang them up. Hopefully, he’d like to see this young crop for a few more great years?

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  2. Brian Cohn had a good series of 5 articles on Strom, exploring some of the people like Perry Husband. Tom House and Mike Marshall who had an effect on his philosophies. One of the valuable things about Brent is that he’s a prayerful coach mentor for his players and a lifelong student, he does his best to makes sure they don’t get injured. Here’s one of those articles plucked with video of what goes into Marshall’s understanding of how to pitch with lesser degrees of injury.

    https://www.crawfishboxes.com/2021/2/4/22191559/brent-strom-pitching-coach-dr-mike-marshall-michael-mlb-houston-astros-dodgers-twins-iron

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    • Yeah that was an in depth interview that left you wondering. He seems to have a lot of insight into his pitches, but you get the feeling that he doesn’t listen to others much. Found it weird that he’s throwing fastballs low in the zone when the team was pushing throwing fastballs up. An enigma…

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    • Forrest continues to take the high road. He didn’t drop one dime unless you know how to read it. I always have a hearty laugh at “head-case” and maturity comments of a early 20’s young man.

      One thing I did not know was Gerrit Cole took a shine to the kid. Makes perfect sense too. Good for him!

      I’m not going to agree with 99% of fanbase on Whitley, that’s fine. Glad to know he doesn’t pay attention either. For now, I’ll just stick with the GM’s comments of him being utterly dominant in his last seen action. It was also encouraging to note & can’t wait to see this cutter in action!

      Expectations run high, if you can’t stand the heat … I see no retreat from the kitchen.

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  3. Some things we might talk about over the next few days:
    * MLB sorta controls the number of players a team can roster in the minors.
    Each team is allowed to have 150 minor league players rostered at a time, in the USA. That gives a team an average of 30 players on the four full-season MILB teams and 30 players on the rookie league team associated with their spring training facility. A player on the IL does not count against the 150 active player limit, so there is room for some legal manipulation there.
    That 150 player limit is how they keep the organizations equal in their number of minor league teams.
    *I see a number of comments referring to this year being the last year of the Astros run as contenders on other sites. Am I blind to this? I see this so differently. I see a contender this year while I see the Astros handcuffed in 2021 by the combination of: little income last year, High payroll this year, no premium draft picks for two years. My view is that in 2022 the Astros will be able to be unleashed. I think Click has a vision for this team that a lot of people aren’t even looking at.

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    • No milk and eggs at convenient stores, the gas pumps are finally on in Houston. ATT has no broadband service and canceled an appt to come fix it. Every house in the neighborhood has been without water or electricity and most require plumbers from exposed pvc pipes in attic or over garages which sprung leaks. Two days ago people lined up 30 deep at stores to get gasoline only to wait and find the pumps weren’t even on! Seriously, who sits in their vehicles at gas pumps when they don’t even function? Just try to go to the park and escape the madness — nope, closed. It’s almost like 2020 went, “Sham Wow But wait, there’s more!”

      I’m reading a book titled Losing Julia mostly about WWI — the main character reminds me a lot of you, Op. At any rate, it makes these simple trials I’m describing seem terribly trivial, even though I was banking on “flatten the curve”in 15 days since early March a year ago. It’s a constant discipline to adjust expectations..

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      • Old Patrick in your book is a lot older than me. I am like a 72 year old Clint Eastwood, only without the car and the gun and the money.
        OK, I have the gun.

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      • Btw, ol Patty is a smart cookie. That’s what I was referring to and not so much his age. Although that is the running joke isn’t it, Op, that you were in the Renaissance and US civil war, correct?

        Also, as many things as they’ve tried on Forrest the yellow switch might actually do the trick?!

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    • I’ve never wavered from that belief, mostly because Ryan needed just a little more time with the knee. He lost a few saves getting back in saddle but fully healthy we really like him just look at all the arms we passed on!

      We are still open I’m sure to use Báez in hiLev, or Enoli Canoli. Maybe Stanek or Javier throughout the season? If Whitley forces his way on to rotation (or insert any name), do you move Javier to ‘pen? It will be all about having options Le players for shuttling purposes.

      So many ways to skin an Athletic A, or Mariner so to speak.

      Astros window is OPEN, media cannot stop the solid base of players and development already in-house. If we stand pat we allow a blockbuster type deal at deadline. No need to panic over Mccormick or Abreu, Astros are grooming all these guys, it’s THEIR turn. Shawn Dubin is going to turn heads. Hunter Brown is way ahead of schedule. Torres and Conine have to be held back. Solomon or Ivey which will debut first? Who has a better yr Garcia or Whitley?

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      • And that’s why I am so gung ho for the Astros. They are going to have good players to insert onto their roster. They aren’t going to be in or win the WS every year. Teams are going to spend zillions to do that. But the Astros can be in that mix every year.

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  4. Jake Marisnick signs with the Cubs – basically – 1 yr $1 MM with incentives up to $1.5 MM. He has a second year via mutual option for $4 MM that will end up being a $500 K buyout.
    So it will cost them $1.5 to 2 MM for one year of Jake.

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  5. A number of media members carrying a comment about Dusty Baker seeing Yordan Alvarez and saying he was walking with a cool stroll and it is tough to walk with a cool stroll if something is wrong with you….

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  6. I’m hoping Bryan Abreu beats out Steve Cishek for a bullpen job because:
    1. It would save the Astros $2-3 million.
    2. It would mean we developed a pitcher instead of using a free agent.
    3. It would put a 24 year old hard thrower on the team rather than a 35 year old trying to rediscover his sidearm sinker.
    4. It would make Abreu an MLB pitcher with an option left instead of a MILB pitcher with no options left. More valuable!
    5. Keeps an additional 40-man spot open.
    6. Would keep any temptation away from Baker using Cishek with the game on the line.

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  7. Please remember that every team that won the World Series since 1968 first needed to make the playoffs. So, the main goal is to make the play offs. It will be another successful season if the Astros play more than 162 games.

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