Why the Rangers Not Making the Playoffs is a Worse Season Than Astros

Image

 

Let me begin before everyone jumps me by emphasizing this in no way reflects the two teams win-loss records. The Rangers are far (far, far, far, far) and away a better baseball team than the Houston Astros in almost every statistical category. As a team the Rangers hit .262 compared to a weak .240 for the Astros. Rangers on base percentage- .323 to the Astros .299. The Rangers scored 730 times to an Astros 610. See where I’m going with this?  The Rangers are a group of studs while the Astros are just another doormat for the rest of Major League Baseball to stomp all over.

So why can’t the Rangers take the next step? One year after losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, they lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the one game Wild Card playoff while this year they completely missed the playoffs all together. They are built to win a championship now. They haven’t won a championship before and they aren’t built to win one in the future. They have spent 112,939,500 million on payroll this year. Adrian Beltre makes 16 million alone. Not only did they spend on long term deals in free agency, but they depleted much of the farm system in the mid season trade with the Cubs to acquire Matt Garza to bolster the rotation, who did not turn out to be what they thought he would be. That deal sent highly touted third base prospect Mike Olt and four other future big leaguers to Chicago. This was supposed to be the year they take that huge step forward. Maybe it’s Ron Washington, maybe the players don’t gel as well as they appear on television, or maybe they just aren’t what everyone thought they could be.

Meanwhile down in Houston, The Astros are rebuilding and everybody and their mother knows it. They went into the season and made it well known they will not spend in free agency, rather use that money towards the draft. In my recent conversation with ESPN analyst Buster Olney, he said, “rival GMs say what the Astros are doing will produce a juggernaut in the 2-3 years.” Although he doesn’t agree with not spending money in free agency, the Astros are doing the right thing. They have completely stacked the farm system and are built to win sooner than most people think. They have more top 50 prospects than any other team in baseball. I digress.

What I am saying here is the Rangers were a complete bust this year, having World Series aspirations while the Astros were just one giant roster filler until the kids reach the bigs. For the Rangers to completely miss the playoffs this season is a huge let down to that “baseball town” up there in Arlington. The pressure is on owner Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels to make yet another splash in free agency this year. If after next season they don’t produce a true playoff winner, maybe it’s time for them to take the Astros route and rebuild through the farm with Jurickson Profar as the cornerstone of the franchise. Your move, Nolan.

Is There An End To Rebuilding?

Image

With the Astros clinching the number one draft pick tonight to the slumping Texas Rangers, this is question that is on every Astros fan’s mind. Those die hards that have stuck around throughout this three year debacle are wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The answer is yes, finally. In 2010, the Houston Astros finally realized that this team was paying for players that had no potential to be a part of a contending team in the future. Houston fans had grown to love players that were the faces of the franchise such as Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence. These three players alone brought many fans through the turnstiles for years, and ultimately it was time to go. Fans, especially my age, grew up idolizing Lance Berkman as he posted MVP caliber seasons since he arrived in Houston and it was a hard pill to swallow seeing him go. The word “rebuild” was never in owner Drayton McLane’s vocabulary and it held this franchise back for years.

Let’s take a look back at that year. The Astros were on the verge of being a terrible team for most of the year until a second half push propelled this team into only mediocre, en route to a 76-86 record and 4th place in the National League Central. For the majority of the season, many Astro fans had begun to wonder if this would be the year they finally lose 100 games, an abysmal feat that no Astros team had ever seen. Then general manager Ed Wade realized this is a sinking ship and it is time to rebuild. How he got Uncle Drayton on board with this is anyone’s guess. The first player to receive the honor of being traded to a winner was Roy Oswalt. Oswalt was the team ace since his rookie season in 2001. Oswalt was even the Astros ace with pitching staffs that included Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, so it’s understood that seeing him go was tough on a fanbase. Right before the July 31st trading deadline, Oswalt was dealt to Philadelphia for youngsters JA Happ and Brett Wallace. Unfortunately for the Astros, neither player has worked out. As if losing the staff ace wasn’t tough enough, the Astros continued to pour salt on the wound by dealing Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees for young pitcher Mark Melancon and infielder Jimmy Paredes. Meloncon has since been traded again and the book is still out on Paredes, who is only 24 years old. If delusional Astro fans thought this was the end of the rebuild, they were sorely mistaken, as this was only the beginning.

2011 brought the Astros first ever 100 loss season, and it was tough to come to the realization that this team was FAR from contending again. The Astros continued their rebuilding efforts as we saw franchise cornerstone Hunter Pence get dealt, also to the Philadelphia Phillies. This one deal could have been the greatest return a team could ever imagine, as the Astros received top first base prospect Jonathan Singleton, top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart, and reliever Josh Zeid. Singleton is still the number one first base prospect in the game and should be on the opening day roster come 2014. Jarred Cosart came up to the show in July, and dazzled in his MLB debut, tossing a no hitter into the 7th inning against American League East contender Tampa Bay Rays. Cosart finished his year with an unbelievable 1.95 ERA and appears to be one of the best young arms in the game today. Zeid is also on the big league roster, as one of the future anchors of the bullpen. Back to 2011 though. 2010 trade returnees Mark Melancon, Brett Wallace, and Jimmy Paredes all received significant playing time in 2011. Jimmy Paredes recorded a more than solid .286/2 homeruns/ 18  RBI’s batting line and all things considered, had Houston fans salivating about his future. Two days after the Hunter Pence trade, center fielder Michael Bourn was traded to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Jordan Schafer and young pitchers Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer. Clemens is currently on the Astros roster as a starter/reliever swingman and Brett Oberholtzer is absolutely tearing up Major League hitting, posting a 2.65 ERA and only issuing SEVEN walks across 54.1 innings pitched. Oberholtzer could be the steal of that deal for the future rotation. Lastly, Jordan Schafer did not work out with the Astros, accumulating a .220 average with the club and was released following the 2012 season.

Following the 2011 season, the Astros fired Ed Wade in favor of general manager Jeff Luhnow. In what might have been the greatest hire the Astros have ever had, Luhnow has completely turned this franchise around. Admittedly, he has received plenty of help from Wade, but that does not hide what Luhnow has done with this team. His first day on the job, Luhnow traded Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox for Jed Lowrie, who was eventually swung to Oakland for three young pieces who could play pivotal roles with the future club. As the July 31st trading deadline rolled around, Luhnow somehow traded Carlos Lee to Miami for their number one prospect, Matt Dominguez. Dominguez is flourishing as the Astros everyday third baseman, hitting .231 with 21 homeruns. People will look at his average, but most people don’t understand that he is only 23 years old, and to have that many homeruns while playing excellent third base is huge for a rebuilding team like the Astros are.  The Astros finished 2012 with their second consecutive 100 loss season.

General Manager Jeff Luhnow is full steam ahead with rebuilding and continues to trade veteran pieces for young talent. The current season is a lot of the same thing, as the Astros officially have their third consecutive 100 loss season, and the fans in Houston who do not fully understand the process are vastly dwindling. The fact that the Astros do not have a TV deal outside of Comcast is greatly hurting the fan base, and with the Houston Texans playing so well, nobody really cares to show up to games anymore. That is, until this team is relevant again. This summer, the Astros traded pitcher Bud Norris to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for outfielder LJ Hoes and young minor leaguer Josh Hader. Luhnow also received an extra first round draft pick in 2014, which could prove to be huge.

Along with all the trades and furious dealings over the last three seasons, the Astros have drafted extremely well. in 2011, the Astros drafted current top outfield prospect George Springer as their first round pick, and is proving to be a steal as ten other teams passed on Springer. Springer hit a combined 37 homeruns with 55 stolen bases with AA Corpus Christi and AAA Oklahoma City. Springer appears to be ready to take over center field in Houston on Opening Day 2014 when the Astros take on the New York Yankees at home. In 2012, the Astros got creative with their draft picks, taking Carlos Correa number one overall, saving a couple million dollars not taking Byron Buxton or Mark Appel (who was eventually drafted by the Astros, but more on that later). Correa is widely regarded as the best shortstop prospect in the game.  By saving that money, the Astros were also able to take Lance McCullers Jr 41st overall, and could be a fixture in the Astros rotation for many years to come. Mark Appel fell to eighth overall to the Pirates, who failed to sign him. Appel went back to Stanford, and continued to refine his mechanics and was the Astros number one pick in 2013. Appel, like McCullers, Appel figures to be a huge, huge piece to this giant puzzle the Astros have started to piece together.

So what does all this mean? Well, essentially the Astros will be a force to be reckoned with. They went from dead last in farm system rankings to number four, according to Keith Law of ESPN. According to Baseball America, they have the number one overall farm system, and while clinching yet another number one pick, it will continue to improve.  As of right now, the best overall talent in college baseball is left handed pitcher Carlos Rodon of NC State. If the Astros do indeed draft him, the process will look that much better. For those fans who don’t know what this whole process is all about and only looks at the current team’s win-loss record, well they are in for a pleasant awakening come 2015. Until then, enjoy the ride of future hope. One day I can just about guarantee we will all look back at the 2011-2013 years and laugh. Come on down Mr. Rodon, you’re next.  Stay tuned.

Kel Shannon

Get Out Now, Lucas

Image

This season has been an absolute nightmare for the Astros, their fans and Lucas Harrell. After such a great rookie season last year, it appears as if Harrell believes he is owed something, like he is the greatest pitcher to wear an Astros uniform. When things don’t go his way (which is almost EVERY outing) he just puts on this pitiful crybaby act that we, as fans, are just sick of. He blames shifts, he blames the coaches, he blames errors, he blames the freaking weather, but never his ability. Which is odd because it appears that he currently has none at the MLB level anymore.

Last year he won 11 games and had a sub 4.00 ERA which, all things considered, was a great rookie season. Everybody around here was pumped at the beginning of the season to have a solid 1-2 punch of Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell at the top of the rotation. Well, Harrell apparently wants none of it. This guy really simply just does not want to be here anymore. It would be music to my ears to see this load of crap designated for assignment tonight after his one inning and FIVE earned runs performance. It’s like we are beating a dead horse when he walks to the mound and you almost know how this story ends. He has struggled to throw strikes all year. walking 77 with only 76 strikeouts over 133 innings of work. Need any more reason to get rid of him? Well, just for kicks, I’ll give you another one. He’s 28 years old, so it’s not like hes a young guy. I believe he hit his ceiling last year as a 27 year old rookie. There’s a reason the White Sox let him go, and there’s a reason why he was a rookie at age 27.

Time to take all the terrible posters of Lucas Harrell that are plastered all over Houston down. Sorry Lucas, but you cant blame 3 walks and a three run homerun on infield shifts. Time to go. Hope to see you never.

H-Town Has Hoes

Image

Finally, after months of speculation, Bud Norris has been traded. One of the three speculated teams landed Norris right at the 3:00 pm central time trade deadline. The Baltimore Orioles acquired Norris, and for them it was much needed as the Red Sox landed RHP Jake Peavy last night.  The newly acquired Norris had to just walk across the hall to the home clubhouse as the Astros are currently in Baltimore for a three game series. The same can be said about 23 year old outfielder L.J. Hoes. Hoes had just been called up to the Orioles and was in the starting lineup tonight. He, like Norris, had to just switch clubhouses.

Hoes was hitting .304 in Triple A for the Orioles with a .406 on base percentage. If you don’t know Jeff Luhnow, this is exactly the type of on base guy he likes. Also coming in the trade is left hander Josh Hader and a compensation draft pick. Jeff Luhnow can work wonders with two first round draft picks. As mentioned before, the Astros have one of the top farm systems in baseball, if not the best, and they just got even stronger. LJ Hoes is in the starting line up, batting second and playing right field for the Astros tonight.

It remains unclear if the Astros received boats along with Hoes.

Jake Peavy changing Sox

Image

According to NBC Sports, Jake Peavy is been dealt in a three team trade involving the White Sox, Red Sox and Tigers. The Red Sox have acquired Peavy from the White Sox and reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers. The Tigers aquired shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston. The White Sox are getting outfielder Avisail Garcia (AKA Minny Miggy) from the Tigers and three single-A and rookie level prospects from the Red Sox. Caught up yet?

How does this affect Bud Norris and the Astros? Each time a player on the trading block is dealt, it increases the chances of a team over paying for Bud Norris. With the Red Sox acquiring Peavy, the American League East just got a little bit tighter, and the Baltimore Orioles need to respond. They are very much involved in the Bud Norris sweepstakes. The ball is in the Astros court here, as they have all of the leverage. General Manager Jeff Luhnow will get the guys he wants, or nobody gets Bud Norris. The Orioles, Diamondbacks, and Pirates are the three teams currently in the mix, but anything can happen with Luhnow. (Example, Carlos Lee for Matt Dominguez)

Side note: The Astros are currently in Baltimore for a three game series. Would be interesting if Norris has to change clubhouses and pitch against Astros.

Astros Pull Off Rare Feat

Image

Remember all that talk about Jarred Cosart and Johnathan Villar? Well Astro fans, we weren’t disappointed. All Cosart did was toss 7 innings of only 1 earned run ball and Villar went 3-4 with two doubles in his second ever Major League game. And score the winning run with his legs alone.

So what was this rare feat? Well, it’s two for one really. One. The Astros have not beaten the Oakland Athletics all season. The A’s were a whopping 10-0 against Houston this year. Two. Grant Balfour, the A’s closer had not blown a save since April 29th of 2012. That is 44 straight save opportunities. Who would that thought he would have his first blown save in that span to the lowly Houston Astros? Baseball is a funny game.

So how did it happen? Well, some luck and some sloppy play propelled the Astros. Justin Maxwell led off the bottom of the 9th by working a deep count and hitting a weak ground ball back to Balfour. It ricochet off his glove and he threw it into right field so Maxwell could advance to secondnd base. Enter Matt Dominguez. 0-3 on the night entering the at-bat. Dominguez worked a 3-2 pitch and made Balfour throw eight pitches before launching a game tying two run homerun to left center field and giving Balfour his first blown save since 2012. Later on in the inning. Johnathan Villar ripped a double to left, followed by a Jose Altuve walk. With Jason Castro at the plate, Balfour bounced one in the dirt. Villar, who was on second, started going to third but realized the ball wasn’t far enough away from the catcher Derek Norris to risk it. Altuve, seeing Villar make an initial break to third, started going to second but was caught in no mans land between first and second base. Norris promptly threw the ball to the first baseman Brandon Moss and the throw was wide which allowed the speedy Villar to race home for the walk off win.

Walk off wins by errors. Just how they drew it up right? Altuve’s stupid base-running is what won the game. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. And boy were the Astros lucky.

To see the wacky play, click the link below

http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=29079249&c_id=hou

Cosart Makes Return, Villar Debuts

ImageImage

The future of the Houston Astros is starting to take shape. Finally. After so much clamoring from the fan base to start seeing some of the young guy called up, general manager Jeff Luhnow has responded. After Sunday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Mariners to complete the three game sweep, designated hitter Carlos Pana and shortstop Ronny Cedeno were sent packing. The Astros are prone to either sign cheap free agents who nobody else wants (Jason Michaels, Carlos Pena, Ronny Cedeno, Hector Ambriz, Chris Snyder, Pedro Feliz, Matt Kata, Kevin Cash, Justin Maxwell, and the list goes on and on and on) or call up some washed up minor leaguer who is well past his prime. Not in the recent past as Luhnow finally has recalled two key parts of a soon contending whole. Those two keys are Jarred Cosart and Johnathan Villar.

We’ve discussed Jarred Cosart multiple times on this blog, so I wont bore you with him again. Although there is nothing boring about him, mind you. Lets meet Johnathan Villar. Villar came over in the 2010 Roy Oswalt trade with the Phillies and has widely been considered the Astros shortstop of the future. Villar hit .278 in Triple A OKC with eight homeruns and a .342 on base percentage. Villar projects as a top of the lineup hitter with plus speed, as evident last night when he made his Major League debut. Last night, Villar went 1-4 with a bunt single, stolen base, and a run scored. His speed and plus defense ability was on full display, and has Astros fans excited.

Tonight at Minute Maid Park, you can go see Jarred Cosart make his home debut and Johnathan Villar play some slick shortstop behind him against the Oakland Athletics. Come on, what else do you have to do that’s better?

http://houston.astros.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=hou