Altuve signing a prime step on a five-year run

The “D” word was used in the previous post (by me) in talking about the Astros’ future chances at building a dynasty. In truth, it is nearly impossible to evaluate a team’s chances beyond a few years. But just for jollies, let’s look at what might be involved in a 5 year run of championship contention for this Astros’ team, a run that would take them from the 2017 through the 2021 season. What types of challenges will be involved in that time period?

First assuming that the Jose Altuve five-year extension is announced, the following players would be under team control through that 2021 season:

So, season by season, what types of decisions need to be made, whose extensions to consider and is this team able to contend over even a 5 year period?


The areas coming up after this season (that they might also address at the trading deadline) :

  • Do they compete with the league to chase free agent SP Dallas Keuchel? He has looked strong in Spring Training, he has had multiple injuries, and he will be turning 30.
  • What do they do with Swiss army knife Marwin Gonzalez? The trend this off-season seemed to undervalue one-dimensional sluggers, while more flexible players like MarGo would seem to have risen in value. If he repeats his 2017 in 2018, he could be pulling down $12+ million a year?
  • Can they convince SP Charlie Morton, who will be turning 35 next November to come back for more seasons and will they have to compete for his affections?
  • Do they pick up the $15 million option on C Brian McCann for 2019? He was a true leader for them in 2017, but he only played in 97 games for them and will be turning 35 before next season. Do they convince him to come back for less for a couple of years? Do they convince him to be a backup? Do they go young with catching or go outside for another veteran?
  • Do they try to bring DH/C Evan Gattis back? If he is working only as a DH and they think they can get similar numbers out of a Reed, Davis or White…probably not.


The areas coming up after this season (that they might also address at the trading deadline) :

  • Do the Astros attempt to re-sign free agent SP Justin Verlander, who will turn 37 in the off-season leading into 2020? Probably not.
  • Or….do they attempt to re-sign free agent SP Gerrit Cole, who will only be 29 in the off-season leading into 2020? An attempt will depend on how he performs and what the other options are (Whitley, Martes, Paulino, Armenteros)
  • What about SP/RP Collin McHugh, who will be a first time free agent at 32 years old? He is an extra piece right now, but with the possibility of losing Keuchel, Morton, JV and Cole in the next two seasons, he could be a critical piece.
  • Should they exercise their $5.5 million team option on RP Will Harris? That may depend on whether his performance raises that $5.5 to 8.5 million.
  • Do they try to rehire new Astros RP Hector Rondon and RP Joe Smith?  Rondon will be 32 and Smith 36 by the time the 2020 season begins.


The areas coming up after this season (that they might also address at the trading deadline) :

  • Do they chase the big kahuna George Springer or do they try to extend him before they ever get to this point? He has been the heart of this team and played like crazy when they needed it in the World Series. Will it matter that he will be 30+ for this first FA contract?
  • Do they say buh-bye to then 36-year-old Yuli Gurriel? Do they consider that he has less mileage on his body than the guys who’ve played a lot more games per season than he has?
  • Is Josh Reddick playing elsewhere while Kyle Tucker is playing here? Similar question about Jake Marisnick vs. someone like Derek Fisher.
  • What to do about Brad Peacock? By this time will he be starting? Still a swing man? Will he see a better chance to start elsewhere?
  • And finally will extending Ken Giles be a consideration before the 2021 season? Or will he fall by the way-side as a closer before this time?

So many other things could happen during these coming years, from injuries to domestic violence, from PEDs to trades to amazing youth pushing up from the minors. But this list shows how difficult it is to have continuous excellence in this era of rampant free agency.

What do you think will be the biggest and toughest decisions in the next few seasons that can affect the sustainability of Astros’ excellence going forward?


Chipalatta: Survey of Astros’ fans

We are quickly drawing near to the beginning of the “next” season after the shortest off-season in Houston Astro history. It is a good time to step back and check the pulse of the ordinary Houston Astro fan. Or as ordinary as any of the wild variety of folks who are part of this particular blog can be.

  1. Does it seem real? As far as the championship goes are there any of you who are having flashbacks to the 1980’s and the famous Dallas / Bobby Ewing plot cheat? Back then they killed off Ewing at the end of one season, because he was leaving the show. They then had a whole season of the show without Bobby and then brought him back at the beginning of the next season. The explanation was that the whole middle season was a dream. Are any of you afraid of waking up and being told that 2017 has not yet occurred?
  2. DH – good or bad? The Astros have completed their fifth season following the American League rules and having the pitchers bat in only a handful of games against NL teams in their stadiums including four games in the World Series. Are you used to it? Good with it? Miss the old days? Want the NL to convert?
  3. New divisional rivalries – good or bad? It has been the same five seasons since the Astros last played in the NL Central against the Cubs, Pirates, Brewers and Cards. Do you miss it? Are you used to the new rivals? Is having the South Denton Rangers in the new division give it an edge? Are you glad we are not having to face the 2016 WS Champs Cubs 19 times a season? (Never thought I would write that).
  4. Is Jim Crane no longer branded with 666? Crane was blamed with selling out the fans who wanted no part of the American League in order to buy the team. He was blamed for lowering the payroll so far he could pay off the debt from his tip money. He was blamed for a TV deal that blew up and kept a majority of fans from seeing a really bad team for a number of years (and a minority of fans for a longer time). He was accused of being a sexist/racist in his other company dealings. He was accused of never planning on spending money to make the team competitive. Ancient history? Does anything stick in your craw?
  5. Is Jeff Luhnow great or lucky? A number of their prime players are from the Ed Wade era including Jose Altuve, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, and Chris Devenski. A number of the prime players are due to tanking and getting the top pick including Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., and Alex Bregman. A number of prime players were picked up due to tanking and having first choice off the waiver wire including Collin McHugh, Will Harris and early Tony Sipp. He made questionable trades for Carlos Gomez and Hank Conger among others and as we understand came within a couple minutes of not bringing in Justin Verlander. Was he lucky or was his overall plan great?
  6. Dallas or Dynasty? This survey started off with the night time soap opera Dallas and ends with the night time soap opera Dynasty. Do the Astros have the opportunity for an actual sustainable dynasty? Or do they have a single window do get it done and then fade away?

Where do you stand on the great questions of the day?

WTSWTM: Spring training edition

Today is a flashback to that popular parlor game “What They Said, What They Meant” where we take some real quotes from or (Spit!! Spit!!) and then translate them into real English.

Former Astros World Series Manager Phil Garner on WS Winning Manager and good friend A.J. Hinch

  • What he said. “We used to talk about swinging down on the ball, which is not actually what you did.  It was more of a level swing, and now it looks like they’re talking about swinging up on the ball. He was filling me in on how the new philosophies work. It’s all exciting to really talk ball and what’s going on. He’s really enjoyable.”
  • What he meant. “I’m more old school than Art Howe‘s twisted image in Moneyball. I’m glad A.J. won it all. I would go nuts with nerds e-mailing me spin rates in between innings. Retirement feels great.”

Hinch on Garner

  • What he said. “He really took me under his wing. He’s somebody I respect in the game, and he’s introduced me to a lot of great people that have turned into incredible friends. Just a great bond.”
  • What he meant. “I know he won the World Series as a player, but If I had one wish, it would be if Phil could have won it all in 2005. He took that team and this city farther than they ever had been and there is not a nicer person who could have taken them to the promised land.”

Anthony Gose on Anthony Gose

  • What he said. “I just idolize Anthony Gose. Ain’t no sense in tryin’ be nobody else on the mound. You’ve got to go out there and be yourself.”
  • What he meant. “I love me. Why doesn’t anyone else?”

Hinch on Gose’s first and last Astro appearance, walking the 3 batters he faced

  • What he said. “We know he has arm strength. He was throwing hard, even harder than he was in the bullpen [sessions] and in his live BP. But I think we saw the raw part of him transitioning to pitching. It’s tough. I mean, he has a great arm and flashes some pretty good stuff, but obviously struggled with command today.”
  • What he meant. “Well, at least he has someone who really loves him…”

Verlander on being named the Opening Day Starter

  • What he said. “It’s an honor, especially on this team with the pedigrees that we have.  Obviously, I wasn’t expecting it or hadn’t really even thought about it, to be honest with you. It’s always an honor to have your name called.”
  • What he meant. “Absolutely it is an honor. But, ‘I wasn’t expecting it’? Sure and my wife looks like the girl next door.”

Keuchel on Verlander being named the Opening Day Starter

  • What he said. “I’ll gladly let him go Game 1 and try to replicate the success he’s going to have and move forward from there.  I’ll get to see the Opening Day festivities and enjoy J.V. throwing a gem.”
  • What he meant. “I would love to follow his 6 shutout innings during a win with my 7 shutout innings during a win. Not that I’m competitive….”

Hinch on the contest between J.D. Davis, Tyler White and A.J. Reed to fill in for Yuli Gurriel

  • What he said. “He (Davis) is helping his case (with a .455 BA in ST).  The question for him is how comfortable he can get at first base and left field to make himself more versatile. Whitey moves around the field a little bit; Reed can get a little bit hot with the home runs lately. I think that race is going to come down to the final decision. They’re all making their case known.”
  • What he meant. “It’s the last spot on the roster, of course it will come down to the final decision. Talk about expressing the obvious. Did you see my giant wink when I said that?”

Hinch on Kyle Tucker and his .400 average and 4 HRs

  • What he said. “He continues to get to pitches and put some good swings on it. Man, this guy can really hit. He’s got great balance in the batter’s box. Obviously, when he gets a pitch to hit, he doesn’t miss too many of them. It’s an impressive showing.”
  • What he meant. “Can you imagine floating back to 2013? This kid might have been the best or second best hitter on that team. Today we can let him work on a few things and bring him up at the right time for him and us.”

Keuchel on his first outing (1.2 IP, 4 hits, 1 BB, 2 Runs and 43 pitches)

  • What he said. “That’s one of the things that I was very happy about, was the couple of times I was looking back at second base after the pitch and I saw a few mph on the scoreboard and it was above what I’m usually at my first start.  That’s encouraging.”
  • What he meant. “Though the scoreboard, shows bigger numbers when all the other starters pitch…..”

Under the radar prospect “Super” Jack Mayfield on playing next to Jose Altuve

  • What he said. “It was awesome.  I was excited for it, and being out there and throwing it around the horn with him is a great experience. I definitely think it’s helping me slow the game down. When you get out there, it gets quick, especially at this level. All these big-name guys coming up and you’ve got to slow it down.”
  • What he meant. “You’ve got to be kidding! I’m playing next to the frigging MVP of the American League. I’m standing here surrounded by the heroes of last year’s World Series! I watched all those games. I stayed up until 1 or 2 AM or whatever it was. Pinch me! I can die happy now!”

Hinch on Nolan Ryan helping out at Spring Training

  • What he said. “With Nolan, across the board — young, old, Latin, American — everyone knows [that] you don’t find that kind of presence very often. We utilize it. [Ryan] can capture the room talking pitching and is a great storyteller, obviously. He’s the definition of a living legend.”
  • What he meant. “Hey Super Jack – get a load of this!”

Bonus Quote: Hinch on Tony Sipp

  • What he said. “The way Tony Sipp has thrown the ball so far in camp is encouraging, which doesn’t necessarily lock everything up.  At full health, if he’s throwing the ball well and shows the signs he can help the bullpen, it’s a pretty tough team to make when you think of a couple of starters [Peacock and McHugh] making the ‘pen.”
  • Your turn. what do you think he meant?

Spring training: Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts

A couple of weeks into Spring Training and it is a day of contemplation. Here are some random thoughts and questions…..

  1. Considering the intensity of the last time the core players were on the field for the World Series, what is going through their collective minds in playing these games that mean nothing after playing games that meant everything?
  2. Along those lines, are they likely to be relaxed and playing loose or relaxed to the point of not being on point during ST?
  3. The Astros have had a few games where they were just booting the ball around like crazy. Of course, a lot of this is by folks who will not be anywhere near Houston for opening day and many who will not be with the big club anytime this season. But does an error by Carlos Correa in a Spring Training game mean anything?
  4. The Astros probable starting rotation (other than Dallas Keuchel, who has not pitched yet while this is being typed) has been nails in small samples so far. Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton both have two shutout innings, Justin Verlander has five shutout innings and newbie Gerrit Cole has given up one run in five innings.
  5. Dan P still has not written a post about the other teams in their division, because there are still 8 or 9 of the top 50 free agents still unsigned, who could change the outlook for some of these teams. At some point they will end up in the fold or this writer will throw his hands up and write something anyways.
  6. So far (in small doses) Joe Smith and Hector Rondon have not been too impressive and neither has Ken Giles…..
  7. It is more important to the Astros future to figure out how to keep George Springer long-term than Dallas Keuchel. Discuss among yourselves….
  8. All clubs go to Spring Training thinking they have a shot at the gold ring – in some cases these are delusional thoughts. But is there any player that truly thinks, “I have a better shot at winning it all playing for Team XYZ than if I were playing for the Astros”?
  9. We saw a million+ people show up for the World Series parade. Now if each of them would go to 3 games apiece….the club would hit the 3 million attendance mark again.
  10. Though injuries are always bad things, how bad is the Yuli Gurriel injury? It hits early in the season, does not last long and gives the Astros a chance to test their next man up concept.

What are your thoughts about these thoughts….or anything else you may want to hit on today?


Astros Spring Training: Fighting for the last spot?

The Astros are a few games into their 2018 Spring Training regimen and on paper (and this is more than what dogs do to paper) they have the deepest and best team they have ever taken to ST.  Listening to and reading a number of stories it would seem that the only decisions to be made are on the very last spot or spots on the bench.

While that may true, just remember that one of the most under the radar critical occurrences in Spring Training 2017 was Collin McHugh being injured and not being able to start the season or play for most of the season. Brad Peacock was nails in Spring Training and was given a spot on the roster and was perhaps the most important and flexible pitching cog in the Astros run-up to the World Series. But assuming the Astros are looking at the end of the bench only who do they see working to get that last spot or two?

Note – This post was started prior to Yuli Gurriel‘s injured hand and subsequent surgery.

Tony Kemp. Tony from Vandy is no dumby. He knows that versatility is cherished in the organization, so the natural 2nd baseman has been working on his arm strength so that he can be an option to play the left side of the infield and the outfield too. He quietly hit for good numbers last year at AAA (.329 BA /.375 OBP/.825 OPS) which he has not matched in two short stints at the majors.

Tyler White.White started the 2016 season on-fire but eventually the fire caught his wings on fire and he plummeted back to earth. He only played 22 games in 2017, but he was the most effective of the call-ups with a .279 BA/ .328 OBP/ .853 OPS with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs. It does not take a lot of imagination to see Tyler slide into Yuli’s first base spot, while the Astros rookie of the year heals and then serves his Non-PC five game suspension.

J.D. Davis. J.D. had his moments in 2017 with 4 doubles and 4 home runs in 62 ABs. He showed power and is known for lack of speed (though he only had one SB less than Carlos Correa).  He is likely a next man up type player as he is not quite as versatile as some of the other folks on the cusp.

A.J. Reed. As friend of the blog, Billy C wrote – he has been Jon Singleton without the drugs. He has had some good stats in the minors, but the foundation is shaky as he just strikes out too much, which matches what he has shown in his cups of coffee in the majors where he just looks like he has a slow bat. He came into camp “in the best shape in his life”. But he needs to show something other than a svelte figure or he will likely end up in some mid-season trade as a player who needs a new situation….

Max Stassi. He is not a shoo in, but if the Astros plan on resting the aging Brian McCann and they plan for Evan Gattis to be the full time DH, then they need another catcher on the roster. He has only played in small samples in the majors, which were good samples the first 3 times he was called up and poorly the last two times. He had a very good 2017 AAA season (.266/.383/.852). He has looked good in the early ST and the Astros hope that like the other player not named Chris Carter that they picked up in the Jed Lowrie trade (Brad Peacock) that he is a late and good bloomer.

Kyle Tucker. He will probably not make this squad out of spring training. He does not need to make this squad out of spring training. But with a couple of early homers he is showing that he should be on the short list for a call-up if the need arises.

Rogelio Armenteros. The young Cuban was arguably the best minor league pitcher not named Whitley in the Astros system. He has shown well in the early going and it is not impossible to think that if someone in the bullpen falters or gets hurt that he would get the call.

David Paulino. He made it to the majors. He was working through an injury. He went for chemical help and paid the price. No one has more to prove and to apologize for than this young man. He has a terrific arm, but can he earn another shot at the Bigs.

Francis Martes. Due to a rotation inflicted with the injury bug, Martes spent a lot of time in the majors in 2017. He was bad as a reliever and decent as a starter. He really has no chance of making the rotation out of spring training, so he will need to show improvement as a reliever to make this team. The more likely scenario is that he spends most of the season in the minors as a starter maneuvering for a shot at a more wide open rotation in 2018.

So ….

Who do you think has the best shot to make the team out of ST?

Who will need some injury luck to have a shot?

Who will be on speed dial if help is needed during the season?

Do you think the “moment” would be too big for any of these young men, if called upon to play in the majors this season?

Who else should I have listed? Garrett Stubbs? Reymin Guduan? Riley Ferrell?


To jinx or not to jinx: The question for ’18 Astros

Superstition is sewn into the tapestry of baseball as deeply as hot dogs and mascot races. Which is to say that it is part and parcel of baseball, but in many ways a side-show to the real thing.

There are many traditions (superstitions) in baseball running the gamut from not talking to the pitcher who has a no-hitter going (or not speaking of it over the airwaves) to players not stepping on the foul line running onto or off of the field. Some have to make a sign of the cross, others kiss a medal or as Yasiel Puig showed us in the World Series, lick their bats (EWWWWWEEE!!!) before stepping in against the pitcher.

And then there are the fans…..There was much angst last season for Astro fans as the magical season unfolded as we did not want ourselves or the team to wake up and realize how far above the earth and most of the other teams they were flying. It reminded one of the old kids’ saying “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”  “Praise Dallas Keuchel. Send him to the DL.” Folks around the blog here dealt with this in many ways. Half way through the season and then halfway through the playoffs…”They haven’t proven anything yet.”  “Those Indians killed us and could sweep us right out of the playoffs.” “My heart was broken in 1980 and ’86 and 2005, etc. so I can’t fully dive all in.” We were all afraid that a boastful remark, a comment about how great the team was or certain players would lead to a 20 game losing streak or 9 torn ACLs.

Last season, this writer finally decided that treading lightly had never done me or the team any good over the last 56 seasons. So I wrote posts like these:

It just seemed like the time to let it rip and results be damned.

I no longer fear being positive about my favorite team. They may not win it all this season, but it won’t be because I said that this is the best team in Astros history and what I’m sure is the best team in the major leagues.

But for you…..

  • Where do you stand on the idea of superstition?
  • Are you afraid of jinxing your favorite team(s)?
  • Do you feel any different after what you went through last season?

Whatcha think? Spring training version

Since we have some of the best and smartest readers in the world (if you were dumb you would be somewhere else), we here at chipalatta are always interested in your opinions. Today, let’s play a quick game of Whatcha Think……

Whatcha Think

  • Will the Astros 2018 hitting be better, worse or the same as 2017? Remember the Astros had the best offense in baseball in 2017.
  • Will the Astros 2018 starting pitching be better, worse or the same as 2017? Remember they had Justin Verlander for 5 starts and Gerrit Cole for 0 starts and the guy who started the most games for them in 2017 was Mike Fiers with a 5.22 ERA.
  • Will the Astros 2018 relief pitching be better, worse or the same as 2017? Keep in mind that Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Luke Gregerson, and Francisco Liriano are gone and Joe Smith and Hector Rondon have been added. The bullpen could also include former starter Collin McHugh and swing man Brad Peacock.
  • Are the Astros, who have had three minor league players put on the suspended list (Jon Singleton, Dean Deetz and Forrest Whitley) being targeted by MLB?
  • Will the pace of game rules including limiting the number of mound visits hurt the Astros? Will they actually shorten games?
  • How big is the Astros’ window (how many seasons) for competing for the World Series title? Which potential free agent(s) loss(es) would do the most to close that window?
  • Who is the biggest AL threat to the Astros in 2018? The Yanks? Indians? Red Sox? Other?
  • Who would be the biggest NL threat to the Astros in 2018? The Dodgers? Cubs? Nats? Other?

There are no wrong answers to these questions….yet.


Astros are living in the land of Never Before

The whole off-season for Houston Astros fans has add an odd, dream-like feel to it.  After the superior 2017 World Championship season, there have been three plus months that have felt like a sea level denizen being thrust into a life in the mountains. The thin air up here has made us all feel wonderful, but a little bit off.

And our team, the best team we have ever cheered and died for has had a full off-season that has culminated in another training camp. And the camp is the spring time home of the Land of Never Before….

Never before have the Astros finished a post season by winning its last game.

Never before have the Astros entered an off-season with such a tiny laundry list of needs.

Never before have the Astros entered a season with the best team in the majors.

Never before have the Astros had the best hitting team in the majors paired with the best rotation in the majors.

Never before could this front office look around at an abundance of still available free agents and say, “Nah, we are good. We have a royal flush in our hand. Don’t need to draw any more cards.”

Never before have the Astros had an MVP like Jose Altuve, who may have to fight off teammates like Carlos Correa and George Springer and Justin Verlander to hold on to that honor.

Never before have the Astros had the opportunity to repeat.

But all is possible in 2018.