This is probably good bye for Uncle Mike

When the Astros announced that Michael Brantley was going for a second opinion on his injured shoulder, it felt like the writing was on the wall in giant fluorescent letters. Surgery was likely on the way, and with it, the end of his 2022 season.

And Friday it was announced that he had that surgery earlier this week.  With Brantley hitting the free agent market this off-season, there is a good chance his Astro career is over. Looking back at Jake Meyers’ shoulder injury, Brantley might not be ready to play when the 2023 season begins. He also may not be signed by anyone in the offseason, and he could possibly decide to hang it up for his career.

If he does leave, he leaves a team in the Astros that got (except for this injury-shortened season) all they could expect when they signed him in the offseason before the 2019 season. In 2018, when the Astros lost to the Red Sox in the ALCS, they were a very right-handed centric lineup. Of the players who got the most at bats only Josh Reddick was a pure lefty, and of course, they also had switch hitter Marwin Gonzalez. The main four outfielders were George Springer (.265 BA/ .346 OBP/ .780 OPS), Reddick (.242/.318/.718), Jake Marisnick (.211/.275/.674) and Gonzalez (.247/.327/.733). They weren’t disasters, but certainly, the Astros could use an outfielder who did a better job of making consistent contact and a better batting average.

Enter Uncle Mike……

After being drafted by the Brewers out of high school in 2005, he was traded to the Guardindians in October 2008 in a trade for CC Sabathia before Brantley ever played a game for Milwaukee. In ten seasons with Cleveland, he was a three-time All-Star who, when he was healthy, was a hitting machine putting up a slash of .295 BA/ .351 OBP/ .781 OPS. His best season with Cleveland was when he came in 3rd in the MVP race in 2014 with 45 doubles, 20 HRs, 97 RBIs, and a .327 BA.

So, what did he do in his 3-1/2 seasons with the Astros? Well, he was a two-time All-Star, who put up an excellent slash (in a time of declining offense) of .306 BA/ .368 OBP/ .832 OPS. He gave the Astros lineup some left handed balance as the team let Reddick go after 2019 and added Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker to the mix. In addition, he undoubtedly helped the young players, especially the young lefties Alvarez and Tucker, on what it takes to be a professional hitter.

He wasn’t the greatest at anything but was very good at almost everything. He struggled a bit against left-handed pitchers, as many left-handed hitters do, but he was a great weapon against the 75% of the pitchers who are right-handed. He was a solid outfielder and a good and smart base runner. He was the kind of grizzled veteran that a team with many youngsters needs badly.

If we have seen the last of Michael Brantley, it will be sad for the Astros’ fans. We will no longer see one of the prettiest swings in the game knocking the ball around for our team. But we have good memories of his time with the Astros to carry us forward.

39 comments on “This is probably good bye for Uncle Mike

  1. “Probably” says it best, but here’s a guy who has been a remarkably consistent hitter in his 30s, who keeps himself in shape. If he wants to still play at a reasonable price it wouldn’t shock me to see the Astros try to sign him. He’s made $100M playing baseball, so if he wants to ride into the sunset who would blame him? I don’t know if he’s interested in coaching, but a year -to-year deal where he pinch hits and DHs once or twice a week and keeps the youngsters on track might make a good transition to a coaching career.

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  2. He reminds me of Moises Alou – we didn’t really realise what an absolutely outstanding player he was for us, until he wasn’t for us anymore. Overshadowed by higher profile but not actually quite as good players. I’m too lazy to look it up but I think Alou was a better hitter for those four years than either Biggio or Bagwell. Obviously the year he ‘fell off a treadmill’ he wasn’t quite so good. Perhaps he glanced sideways at the Correa masseur and lost his footing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ok, I looked it up. Actually Bagwell was pretty amazing too. A better OBP and a shade more HR. But Alou definitely better than Biggio apart from 2B and SB. They were actually three pretty amazing hitters. What surprised me most was the relative lack of BB from Alou leading to a slightly lower OBP but also an AWFUL lot less SO from Alou too. We were lucky to have him.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Let’s see…
    Roadthriller – I liked what you wrote – I would be ok with Uncle Mike returning – if he’s healed by Spring Training
    Simon – love to hear from our UK buddy – yes good analogy – both great hitters but Alou with a lot more power (though he may have been taking ringworm medicine)
    Daveb – Javier is supposed to start tomorrow and I think you meant Mancini and McCormick not McCullers

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  4. I think you are correct in your thinking about this being Brantley’s final year in Houston. The injury isn’t good for a youngster, let alone a 35 year old with shoulder injury history.
    There is still a chance for Uncle Mike to get that ring this season anyway.
    The Astros are going to have holes to fill this coming offseason and they need to get younger. Replacing Brantley and Yuli with younger players would be a start, but they need to do something about CF, too.
    I like Mancini. I hope he plays well enough this year for the Astros to pick up his option. He plays 1B and LF and we will need both of those positions filled. It would be so nice to have a good LH hitting first baseman to give us options.

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  5. Elvis Andrus, who has has owned LMJ over their careers, sent the Astros pitcher a big message in the first inning last night: Don’t use your fastball to set up your off speed pitches! After cremating a first-pitch fastball into the LF corner, Andrus was standing on second and Maldonado was altering the plan.
    From then on the off speed stuff came in waves and the fastball became a secondary change of pace. and the off speed stuff dominated the Oakland batters.

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  6. Without a doubt, last night at the ballpark was encouraging. Lance still has a lot of work to do. He can’t walk four guys and his fastball was not moving as it has in the past. But the guy threw zeros after being away for 300 days.

    Then we saw a unique leftfield/centerfield combination that caught the ball and hit the ball. Pena suddenly looks engaged again. Bregman really is back. I don’t think we have to worry about Tucker either. We have the best catching duo in MLB. The pen got nine more outs. Alvarez will hit.

    Two very well played games over the last couple of nights. I hope we see an exclamation point win today.

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  7. I hate to say goodbye to any “good to great” player. Brantley is one of those. I remember his timely hits. The knock of not being good in the outfield yet making diving catches. A total professional. No controversies. No sulking. No showboating.

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  8. Recall I was against signing Brantley in the first place. He’s been really good and worth every penny relative to where they could have spent/wasted it instead. Before we start sending him off to play somewhere else, let’s see what Click gets done at the winter meetings. We need a plan for CF and 1B for 2023. Depending on what actions they take there it might be in their best interest to make a high risk offer to Brantley. I don’t want to put Alvarez in the field too often.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good game by all last night. LMJ wasn’t perfect but good enough. Hopefully he’ll get better. Good to see some runs scored also. Now time to get the broom out.
    Not good to hear about Brantley but we suspected it. Now we definitely need to be looking for another OF and 1st base for next year.

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      • Unfortunately, Mr. Smith is neither throwing hard nor well. To throw 91.8 max, he is getting way too much of the center of the plate. As a predictable result, he is getting shelled mercilessly by the very left-handed hitters he as a lefty is supposed to be getting out for us. He’s already been reduced to low leverage appearances [like today when we had a six-run lead], but he still can’t get the job done. Smith doesn’t just need to be concerned about not making the playoff roster; he needs to be concerned about getting DFA-ed.

        If the pitching coaches have a magic pill in mind to ‘fix him’, it’s time to double up on the dosage.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Seattle’s loss to Texas today puts them 13 games behind Houston.
    New York Yankees loss to Boston tonight put the Astros up by 2.5 games for the best record in the AL.

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  11. The ‘Sweet Sixteen’

    It isn’t going to be easy … but we should have both momentum and motivation!

    We have a pretty intense stretch of games coming up: 4 in Chicago vs. the always tough White Sox [still haven’t forgotten the way they dominated us in the 2005 WS]; 3 in Atlanta vs. the powerful Braves [they sort of beat up on us in a WS too!]; then 3 at home vs Carlos Correa and the pesky Twins, followed by 3 more at home against the suddenly surging Orioles.

    Back in July, faced with an even more daunting gauntlet of games, we dug deep and played our best baseball against the Yanks and Mets. How about one more time, with feeling – in August this time!

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  12. Back to your topic I really enjoyed watching Uncle Mike. He was the consummate player, team mate, and all around good guy. Glad we had him for these last few years. He will be sorely missed. He was definitely worth the money paid to him. Now can we find another like him is the question?

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  13. Small sample but – Odorizzi in 2 starts and 8.2 innings in Atlanta is 0-1 with a WHIP over 2 – somehow his ERA is only 4.15 (though he has given up an unearned run in there). Even if Will Smith is not much for us – maybe just getting that chunk of future money off the payroll and not having to “fit” him into the rotation was worth it…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Opponents are hitting .292 against Smith. The next highest BAAs for pitchers currently on our staff are that of Urquidy [.245] and Maton [.244]. Odorizzi’s BAA is 286 against Odorizzi.

      We traded our batting practice starter for their batting practice reliever.

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    • Dan, I agree that for multiple reasons moving Odorizzi was the right thing to do. It would have been nice to get a more reliable lefty out of the deal, but I’m guessing not many teams wanted to pick up the Odorizzi contract.

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    • Not having watched any of Smith’s pitching that I can recall prior to the 2021 WS, I was a bit surprised to see that his average velocities in 2022 are in line with his pitching from the prior 5 season. Those are down from 2014 and 2015, but slightly higher than earlier in his career. My recollection was the broadcast showing him throwing harder against us in the WS. It’s entirely possible this is fanciful nonsense by the broadcast team and MLB, but it’s also entirely possible he was giving it a little extra juice thanks to a predictable appearance schedule and known off time coming up. Odorizzi was only making the postseason roster if we had injuries to multiple players. Smith has a chance to make it on a series-by-series basis. After we buy him out for $1M this offseason it will end up saving the Astros quite a bit next year, but ignoring the financials, he is a veteran and as good or better than any lefty relievers we’ve had in years.

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  14. Some things I find interesting:
    * In 2012, in an outdoor sweatbox, the Texas Rangers averaged 42,719 fans per home game for the entire season. In 2022, in air-conditioned comfort at the same location, the Rangers are averaging
    25,094 fans per home game.
    My wife immediately said that it was because of ticket prices, and I replied that prices only account for some of the problems. The bottom line is that the Rangers have seemingly run off over 17,000 fans per game through the organizational management of the team.
    * How many times does a team have the best record in the league and not have enough good players to have a true starter in LF or CF?
    * The A’s never had a lead in the three game series with the Astros after Tucker’s grand slam in game 1.
    * The A’s lined up three LH starters against the Astros in the 3 game series and all three starters were the losing pitchers. The Astros have only 2 LH batters on their active roster, a situation which pretty much should destroy young, LH pitching, and it did.

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  15. The Rangers have never won a Cy Young. They have a total of 4 playoff series wins. Never won the big one. Their best pitcher ever is Kenny Rogers (for all you ol’ timers hanging out on chipalatta.com – not the singer).

    We are lucky to be in a division with two teams that have all the resources they need to win yet cosmically fail. Mismanagement. When I think about bad contracts given – the Rangers come in a close second to the Angels. It was fate that those two franchises are forever tied to Josh Hamilton. The A’s would love to have 25000 a game. They might actually compete with us if that was the case.

    I hope the door isn’t closed on a Brantley return. Would have to know what time frame you are looking at though. When LMJ was announced as missing the WS he said he wanted to pitch, but they wouldn’t let him. He would miss with a forearm strain. That turned into some forearm strain.

    Right now, we are going to work to compete to fill one outfield job next year and really we have help wanted signs up in 2 spots out there. The FA list is slim pickens. Those that can hold an every day job are going to be able to dictate the terms. I am sure the Astros will pick up the Mancini option, the problem is its a mutual option, so we’ll see. Otherwise you can add 1B to LF and CF as holes.

    That’s why I doubt assume anything about Gurriel or Brantley.

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  16. Rangers fire manager Chris Woodward.
    I guess they thought giving those huge contracts for Semien and Seager meant they could not fail.

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    • After I posted my comment about the Rangers, I had to go out for hours and run errands. I just read your comment about the Rangers firing their manager. I swear I had no idea.
      I was looking at the Astros home attendance this morning and I noticed the Rangers had only 25,000 per game, so I went back 10 years and was stunned how many fans they had lost.
      It’s such a coincidence because I almost never have any interest in the Texas Rangers, I went to one of the 7pm games in their old stadium and nearly passed out from the heat.
      How can a team be so bad about everything? They chose Jon Daniels over Nolan Ryan for one thing. After that it has been dookie soup. I guess a team can never recover from a misplayed Nelson Cruz messup in RF.
      $550 million for two shortstops at the same time. You just can’t make this stuff up.

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  17. Will Smith keeps being a pin cushion.

    Bottom line, a bad lefty reliever fits better on this staff than a bad right handed starter. Not to mention, it reminds me of basketball, where the expiring contract is actually a trade asset. The Braves were desperate to fill that spot in their rotation with someone that has a chance to go out and have a good start (which Odorizzi has). They are willing to take on that next year portion of his contract, and we get the guy that we will both pay less to the rest of this year and not pay at all next year.

    I do expect that Will Smith will be on the playoff roster, but only to get a specific out somewhere. But we can hope that he won’t be.

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    • The biggest problem with lefties like Will Smith is the 3 hitter rule for relievers. But I still believe the Astros’ pitching coaches might figure a way to get him past righties – at least at an acceptable level. And if they don’t he will be gone with the wind.

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      • Smith has never been a lefty specialist. His career splits – .223 against lefties, .237 against righties. He was never a LOOGY.

        I am sure the Astros did the move to save the money. It was probably the right decision unless some miracle happens and Odorizzi goes 18-8 next year.

        The question is – its a 3-2 game in the 7th inning. There are two outs. Stanek has walked Judge and Stanton. Rizzo is up. Do you stick with Stanek, or hope Smith can get that one out. I know Smith doesn’t necessarily project well to lefties, but Rizzo doesn’t hit lefties. Do you roll the dice on the three hitter rule, because if he doesn’t get Rizzo – Donaldson is on deck and he abuses lefties. Or do you stick with Stanek? Or bring in Montero?

        I’m glad I would never have those decisions, but Smith at least gives him another tool – granted one that may not work.

        Liked by 1 person

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