Astros 2021: The toughest decision of the season

Between the manager and the general manager of a baseball team, how many decisions do you think they make in the course of a season from Spring Training through the playoffs (with God’s good grace)? 10,000? 20,000? More?

Those decisions run the course from how much and who to play in the spring, who makes the team, who is on the 3 man travel squad, who gets called up first for every eventuality, to how to handle the 40-man, how to handle the IL, when to sit out players, who is in the rotation, who gets a spot start, who gets called when from the bullpen, who gets released, who gets picked up, who gets traded for, who gets traded away, and on and on.

But many of those things are just noise, whose effect is gone after a game or two. But occasionally, some decisions really have a more significant effect. Potentially, one of those significant decisions is right around the corner for the Astros.

Lance McCullers Jr. is working his way back from the IL and should return in a week or two based on the latest buzz. But isn’t it a good thing to have a guy with a sub 3.00 ERA back in the rotation? Sure, but the decision on who is pulled from the rotation could be a significant one based on the impact on the team.

Who are the candidates to leave the rotation?

As they say in some of those reality shows…..Lance McCullers (3-1, 2.96 ERA), Framber Valdez (1-0, 1.64 ERA), and Zack Greinke (6-2, 3.38 ERA) – you are safe. After that, it gets really interesting.

Luis Garcia.  By most standards, the very hot Garcia, after winning his last 5 starts in a row with a terrific 2.75 ERA and 1.000 WHIP, should stay in the rotation. But the Astros already set a precedent by pulling the very good Cristian Javier out of the rotation when there were not enough spots to go around. They could have real concerns about upping Garcia’s innings from so few last year to a full season starting at 24 years old. However, Garcia is not built like a wimpy 24-year-old – he is really built solid, pitching so well, and Dusty likes him….Would they really move him to the bullpen?

Jose Urquidy. Urquidy seemed safe, and maybe still is (4-3, 3.76 ERA), but his last outing where he really got lit up (9 hits, 6 runs in 4.1 IP) had Dusty voicing his unhappiness about him leaving so many balls in the wrong parts of the zone. Is that enough to move him onto the potential list to head to the bullpen?

Jake Odorizzi. When my kids watched Sesame Street (and yes, that is a looooooong time ago), they used to have a segment with this little song –“One of these things is not like the other….”. They would have like a banana, an orange, an apple and an SUV for the kids to pick the outlier. Well, Jake’s 0-3 record and 7.16 ERA are surely filling that role amongst this set of starters. The problem is that they pony’d up $8 MM for him for this year, and it is not likely they did that to move him to the bullpen after 5 starts.

So, what will the Astros do when LMJ returns to the rotation? Dare they move to a six-man rotation? Do they move the worst pitcher, Odorizzi, to the bullpen, where he may not help much? Do they hope Odorizzi gets his mojo back and send Garcia or Urquidy out to the bullpen, where they will likely help things out? Or will one of the rotation go down with a nondescript injury?

This will be a fascinating decision, and the fallout from it may be critical for both the rotation and the bullpen.

67 comments on “Astros 2021: The toughest decision of the season

  1. Greinke – $35 Million, LMJ – new $85 Million, Odorizzi – $ 9 Million. Those are the safest. If Joe Smith and his $3 Million is still “safe” we can assume the Astros are not going to cut or demote anyone under a hefty contract. MLB was noting that several teams are going to a 6 man rotation in order to save arms.

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  2. If Odorizzi can’t make the grade it’s stupid to keep sending him out there every 5 days no matter what we’re paying him. Are we in it to win it or something else? I have no issues with a 6 man rotation especially when we have to play a bunch of games together w/o a day off. But I think Greinke should have a say so in that matter.

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  3. Odorizzi will get a long look in the rotation even if he sort of stinks. As long as the Astros are hanging with the A’s and Urquidy and Garcia and Javier don’t have to throw too many innings, that will be the plan until the stretch run.

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  4. I’m willing to give Ordorizzi *ONE* more start….if that turns to be another ugly day, put his butt in the bullpen. Who knows maybe he WASN’T ready when he signed, but so far for the exception of that one start, his signing was a failure.
    Zanuda…you’re on to something, let Greinke have a say in any decision concerning the rotation.
    So far McCullers has NOT been missed!

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  5. LMJ was fabulous in his second to last start and then was hurt. You have to put him back into the rotation. You can’t give a guy an extension like that and then insult him.
    You have to put Odorizzi in the rotation and give him some starts and let him regain his rhythm.
    In the meantime you give Urquidy his turns and let him find his good stuff.
    A bunch of starting pitchers is a good thing. A really good thing.

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  6. If our pitching and “better” bull pen along with our continued decent hitting I see no reason why we can’t be a .600 club. That should be more than enough to win the division.

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  7. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/o/odorija01.shtml

    Perhaps my first post was not clear. I was not suggesting that because Odorizzi is the second highest paid pitcher, he is therefore our second best pitcher. My point was FO of all teams will ride a bad decision into the ground. Another way of saying that, the FO made the correct decision but the player did not keep up his end of the bargain. But if we look at the career numbers, especially in Minnesota, Odorizzi is producing about the same as could be expected. He was an expensive insurance policy brought on board due to Framber’s and others injuries in ST. By any measurement TODAY, and with only a few starts, he is not our 2nd best pitcher.

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  8. Well let’s skip 2020 when Odorizzi only pitched 13 innings.
    Between 2014 and 2019 he was 62-52, 3.88 ERA, averaged 30 starts and 165 innings. Again that would not be our #2 pitcher, but he surely would be a solid veteran starter. Now whether he can be that guy or will struggle with nagging injuries, I don’tknow.
    I think they will stick with Jake for a while, but if he struggles long term he may end up on the IL or in the bullpen.
    Yes, it is a good thing to have lots of pitchers, but it will eat at us if Odorizzi stinks it up and Garcia or Urquidy are sitting in the bullpen pitching once in a while.
    Now if they made Garcia their 8th inning guy or 7th/8th inning guy – that would be interesting.

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    • It would not be a tough decision to put Garcia in the bullpen. He’s pitched there before and did well.

      Odorizzi has not pitched in relief since 2013, and they are paying him to be a starter so I think he remains a starter for now. Maybe we make him a Rays-type “starter” and let him pitch 3 innings before relieving him with Garcia.

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    • I’ll interject here, thinking this is a good comment, Dan, and to push coversation along.

      The discussion of bringing in Odo was probably prior to Framber (not that important who is correct on this), but my read on some of Jake and Castro’s comments weas that it was in the works a while, and why he held out so long. He wanted to see if Jason came here, and the opportunity to work with Strom was a real draw. Castro has kept his home in HOU and raised kids here, his wife integral and they remained w/close ties over the yrs.

      Calling a pitcher a #4 or whatever has more to do with what place he fits in this rotation. In my mind, he is a classic SP3, and I’m very very excited he’s here. Evidence the terrible pitch coaching in LAA, their fanbase was livid Angels didn’t go harder after him. In the end, it’s the player’s choice anyway, right? You see that Cole and his parents are lifelong fans of Angels and even he [italics] wouldn’t go there. It’s quite a different subject that now their trainer is implicated in giving out special stick ’em for pitchers of all teams, Cole was probably well aware that after Skaggs died of a drug cocktail on their watch, the Public Relations dept would be on double duty squashing these stories. Then there is Mickey callaway, but I digress.

      I consider Jake a sold innings-eater, and other than a few mistakes this year that got powdered, I’m actually “ok” with where he’s at for a few reasons:

      1. Teams are maniplulating rosters under guise of covid protocols, and using either “fake injuries” or what ever you want to call it, to rest their players and shuttle in fresher arms. An example is LMJ who said I don’t feel bad, but then now he’s been resting longer than the 10-days initially. (He hasn’t had “arm issues,” he had a SEVERELY TORN UCL and pitched on it over a year. What we see now is shoulder inflammation that all pitchers experience pushing it a little too hard). “Coincidentally,” we have a rotation crunch with Framber back and now Garcia Javier having to scratch out staying in roation. It’s a long season, why not rest Lance longer for less wear & tear, for playoffs sake? There are 400 players!! on the 10, or 60 day IL. Either there’s a REAL epidemic, and/or teams are simply needing to deal with the “load management”. Of course no establishment reporters will bring light to it for reasons I won’t get into. Just makes sense that if Pete Solomon is ready to be called up, and McCullers needs rest anyway, this is a way to accomplish both. Where there’s a suspicion on my part is Austin Pruitt was traded from Rays because they don’t keep players without options. The only way to “hide” Pruitt in HOU is under auspices he’s hurt. Otherwise, we’d have to DFA and leave him exposed, thereby losing the Battenfield trade.

      2. Jake working very closely with Strom, using analytics (came from a TOP pitching coach’s instruction, Wes Johnson at MIN) and that learning curve is steep. Evidence Joe Biagini who claimed they had a book full of plans to utilize his strengths and he was overwhelmed with information. What we are seeing is trying to simplify, codify, pare it down.

      3. Lastly to be brief (sorry, dave)… look at Jake’s deal with the Astros. The incentives for not missing starts and innings accumulation doesn’t kick in til next year. So, frankly, we & the player are not losing out on AS MUCH until we HAVE to give him the starts we both (his agent player and our FO) agreed upon. If that makes any sense. We are keeping him for 3 yrs if all goes as planned.

      I am revealing a bias I have though too, because I wanted Odorizzi on our team since he was with Tampa, that long ago. I may be too forgiving overall & forward. Just an opinion, what’s yours?

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      • I had to scroll up a bit to find that “Reply” button! I’m good with Odorizzi. I suspect he’ll give us good innings at some point. And Urquidy, Javier and Garcia will all be better off down the road a couple of months when we’ll need their fresh arms.

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      • No, dave, you don’t “have” to do anything. It’s your choice.

        What I’ve run into with you repeatedly is when I write fewer words, you want them qualified, and every time I write longer posts you say it’s too long. But this is your safe place with lots of good friends and fellowship; I will respect that by commenting much less as I have done this past year.

        If you would actually stick to the half dozen other points you always glaze over, instead of the apparent exaustion you experience scrolling, then we’d have baseball things to talk about.

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      • You’re a good guy, I think probably some gets lost in translation after all.. and aside from the here and there, I imagine face to face we’d get along just fine. I do like when you talk about your past yrs living here and abroad, memories of the team you have shared. My apologies for the short fuse..

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      • Guys – y’all are both interesting people with good baseball takes. I don’t always get what the friction is about. Maybe if GoStros split his posts into 2 or 3 Dave wouldn’t get annoyed?
        Dave just pretend you are reading one of my posts?
        Agree to disagree and have a beer?

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      • The dos Equis guy is interesting. I don’t think we qualify. And my benign attempt at lighthearted banter obviously does not go over with the whole crowd. Good game last night. If Bregman and Alvarez start to hit, someone else can slump for awhile. Peace on earth.

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    • Not surprising about Bauer’s spin rate.

      I think if MLB really wants to stop this, they should ban the use of pine tar entirely. Why do batters need pine tar when they can use batting gloves?

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    • Interesting Dan. There was also an article you tube on Cole on his last outing after the enforcement memo came out. It said his spin rate was noticeably lower than it had been previously. He also became very hittable. If these guys are doctoring the baseballs “throw the bums out”. And that includes any of our guys doing it too. Remember, the line in League of Their Own? “There’s no cheating in baseball”. Oh, sorry, it was crying. But Bauer might be. He’s beginning to rank right up there with Fiers in my book but not quite their yet.

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    • Something, something, karma.

      …but truthfully, anything that gets PEDs, sticky substances, and other forms of cheating out of the game is good in my book. If it’s not a fair competition we may as well start watching the video game leagues.

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    • Bauer’s is down 250 rpms and Cole’s is down 350 rpms, I noted a few days ago elsewhere.

      This is an important subject especially related to Astros forward, because if our pitching maintains or gets better, it will prove we’ve been doing it the “right way.” Having said that, one guy I’m looking at closely is Ryan Pressly who famously had a greased up arm prior to this year.

      When the sign stealing scandal first broke, I wrote an article of outrage, highlighted mainly by saying this subject is really a battle between pitchers and hitters, not organizations. Everyone was using video to steal signs; not everyone was using a loud mechanism to communicate to the hitter, but it was still “cheating” by the letter of the rule, simply by using video. My bigger points were that using foreign substance was always much more egregious because the rule stated the ump should throw the pitcher out of the game immediately! Sign stealing was a subject the commissioner knew ALL about and in 2015 it was a topic on bargaining table, the league’s position was that it was prolonging the game, and THAT is what they worried about, not the cunning involved in ascertaining signs. Hypocrisy, and not enforcing rules that were already in place.

      And that is why I was so upset that they singled out of all people, Tyler Ivey in 2019 in Corpus for foreign substance when they obviously turned a blind eye to 99% of the MLB players. Last night on Locked-On podcast Brett/Eric interviewed Kent Emanuel and asked him about these substances. Instead of making Kent get himself in trouble by saying too much, they essentially put words in his mouth by saying that all teams actually don’t mind the stick ’em because it simultaneously helps pitchers not too wildly miss and bean the players. So, frankly, it’s always been one of those nudge nudge wink wink, nobody says a word. The timing of it now is most curious, since Bauer experimented with it in 2019 season, and Fangraphs even analized his findings. Why wasn’t he punished then? Hmmm?

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  9. I know I will be the Lone Ranger on this, but I have some sympathy for Bauer. Back in the beginning he was screaming about this and claiming he wasn’t one of the ones doctoring the ball (his spin rate backed that up) and wanting baseball to step in. They didn’t do it. He said fine – the heck with you guys – I’m going to be over the top about this myself until you have to finally do something. Now that they are finally paying attention to it he is going to throttle back. If they had enforced this when he complained – he would not have done it, is the way I look at it.

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    • Didn’t recall that Dan but I still think Bauer’s a jerk (I’m being nice). However, I don’t excuse his contention that “everybody else is doing it so why shouldn’t I?” I agree he is a top of the line pitcher but he seems to carry his swagger a little too far.
      Kind of like the 2017 Astros “It scandal”. They were good enough w/o doing it. That’s what I don’t understand. Maybe I’ll be around for the “Tell All Book” by those players directly involved. Until then, I’ll be content to look forward to our next championship season.

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    • I agree Dan. But Bauer is also not a very likable guy. I hope MLB does not toss all the guilty pitchers at once. SI claims it’s 80 to 90% of the hurlers in the league. We might have to bring in a Woodpecker or two.

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      • Dave, with everything that is going on up here, I can’t for the life of me, place the Don Henley song you used in the previous blog. This is the first time it has happened in all the years you have been doing this. Help, please!
        When you tell me which song it is, I will slap my forehead and probably knock my glasses off.

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    • Solid win for the team old pro:
      – Martin Perez never threw more than 15 pitches in an inning last time – and tonight they made him throw 26 in the first and knocked him out early
      – Carlos Correa killing it now he abandoned the leg kick – though that 1st inning HR looked like a foul pop when he hit it
      – Lordy that Yordan blast was hit so perfectly – what a blast 451’
      – The only run Framber gave up was because of a hit by pitch that probably wasn’t, a squib infield hit and two lightly hit ground outs. He later on was superb getting out of a 1st and 3rd and no out
      – Enoli started out with a walk and then settled down and Taylor ended it with minimal drama in the 9th
      Good game

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  10. * Well into his seventh(and possibly last) year with the Astros, Carlos Correa has given up the high leg lift and it is paying off.
    * Somewhere, deep in the well of the Astros minor leagues, is another Luis Garcia. Who will it be?
    * Somebody thought Framber could be the guy. My one Astros claim to fame.
    * Pedro Leon hit two home runs last night in a Hooks win. They needed it.
    * The one explanation I can think of to account for Peter Solomon’s wildness is pitch tunneling. He has got to be working on his arm slots, among other things.
    * I assume the Astros would move Emanuel to the 60-day IL if they wanted to add a player to the 40-man roster.
    * In the past, when you would go to MLB.com for batting stats, it would always jump to BA leaders when you entered the site. Now it always jumps to HR leaders. No one needs to read between the lines to figure out where MLB’s focus is.

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    • Lots of good points OP.
      – Yeah Carlos had mentioned that maybe a week ago and has been on an absolute tear
      – I re-watched Yordan’s home run last night – what a perfect swing. It ended a career long 17 game drought without a home run for him
      – Between Framber, Garcia and Greinke – I’m not sure who I look forward more to pitching. They are all completely different but always worth the watch
      – I feel so bad for Emauel – somebody who had already gone through a big absence for TJ surgery and had worked so hard to get here and looked like he belong. I hope that when they had him pitch 8+ innings it did not strain him
      – Let’s face it when you watch MLB highlights – they don’t lead it off with the top singles of the day
      – Mr. Leon is on fire and boy we as an organization could use a new wave of position players
      – Great to see Brantley back and his classic swing

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  11. Interesting thing going on up the road in Arlington….
    Giants pitcher Sam Long, who has bounced around the minors since 2016 makes his MLB debut in relief coming into the game in the second inning.
    Between he and the “starter” they have given up 0 hits to the Rangers thru 4 innings (which is really not that big a feat the way the Rangers hit).
    Let’s see how far he goes in the game or how fast I jinx him.

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  12. Old pro – the reason Dave doesn’t know the answer on which Don Henley song that was – is because that was a Mr Bill post
    And I don’t know what song it is either….

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  13. Since I didn’t get to see the game how did Odorizzi look? Understand he had a pretty awful 1st inning, but after that how did he appear? Lost, under stress? AND why pull him after 77 pitches?? Just when Brantley comes back and runs like heck to score….Baker says he’s not playing tomorrow! Just because the Red Sox is starting a lefty? If that’s the reason why not take out Straw and Tucker? I’m sorry….I don’t get Dusty’S mind set about Brantley.
    *You know I’m not a fan*
    Thought this was interesting: Alex Cora said he was “troubled” by the Red Sox booing the Astros, because “I was part of that cheating”. He can be troubled all he wants….but it was he and Beltran that brought that poison to this club….and he gets “troubled”???? J*RK😠

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  14. Encouraging outing by Odorizzi. Javier is a luxury most clubs don’t have. But maybe a bit rusty last night. One hit rusty. Threw a few fly balls early that were just missed. With the first seven guys in our lineup all sporting an .800 plus OPS, it can’t be much fun for the guy on the mound.

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  15. Last night Corpus pitching was not good. Pedro Leon walked 4 times and with no hits in one official AB. Marty Costes continues to hit at .355 with limited power. Dave as to Pedro Leon, the MILB TV cameras are very limited in most parks but he has a strong arm with 3 errors in 21 games. He plays some Short and some OF. Sugar Land did not play.

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  16. I loved the 3rd inning rally. Altuve gets a single, Correa walks, and Bregman brings Altuve home. No wait. Maybe the double by Yordan was the one that brought him home. We will never know.

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  17. Bad Zack pitched tonight but the Astros have their hitting shoes on tonight.
    Loved Tucker’s three run triple to make it 7-4.

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  18. Tucker has been hitting the ball great, sometimes just to the defensive player but he’s due for a big breakout. Bielak can’t pitch worth a damn. Blows a 3 run lead. Why is Jones in their anyway? At least put Chaz McCormick in their.

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  19. What a two out bases clearing triple by Tucker! But where is Chas tonight? Did he offend management? I can’t fathom Jones out there unless McCormick is sick or hurt. I don’t think we’ll ever figure Grienke out. This could be a 4 plus hour 25 run event. Nice to have won the series, but leaving the rat hole with all three would be especially rewarding.

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  20. Just in case one thinks our team is brain dead. The headline on this was not written by the umpires. The umps disagree. (Someone posted that Witt always does this bunny hop dance at home plate on home runs)

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    • One of the stats I looked at was the inherited runners scored. Paredes 2-2 and Raley 3-2. There’s the ball game in a nut shell right there. Of course Bielak and Taylor stunk it up too. All in all they stunk!

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  21. I won’t group Taylor in with the other three – Tucker’s dropped fly ball was the key play when he was out there. He might have got out with no runs scored if Tucker caught it.

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