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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Gammons: Astros taking their thinking far outside the box

As Kevin Goldstein just FB’d-up…“One quote, and I’m mis-quoted. Welcome to the other side.”

There were a couple of emails, a half-dozen texts and voice mails after voice mails. “Luhnowtics,” raged one voice. Another said, “Luhnow’s really gone and done it—he hired a guy from Baseball Prospectus, a writer.” And on and on.

The Houston Astros are bad, historically bad, like the Cleveland Spiders or ‘62 Mets. Believe it or not, they were 22-23 on May 25, which means they are 20-72 since then. They are 10-52 since June 27, during which time they’ve been outscored by 163 runs. As ESPN’s Dan Schulman pointed out, the Reds have won more games in Houston since the All-Star break than the Astros.

They dismissed manager Brad Mills, they’ve let go of a bunch of scouts. General manager Jeff Luhnow has unloaded Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, J.A. Happ, Wandy Rodriguez ...

And hired a writer.

Truth be told, Harry Dalton was one of the great general managers of the last 50 years, and, he, too, was a writer, but so am I.

“I didn’t take this job to be popular,” says Luhnow, who was hired by owner Jim Crane and club president George Postolos last fall. “I didn’t take it to put a team Band-aid on it. I took the job to try to win. Kevin Goldstein is an important part of what we’re doing. Scouting is evolving, and we believe he’s part of the evolution.”

“Thinking outside the box should be respected, not ridiculed,” says Beane, “because sometimes when you don’t crawl out of that box, you’re stuck in a mobile with the Memphis Blues, again.

Timely…because it has Joe South on guitar.

Repoz Posted: September 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, sabermetrics

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   1. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: September 06, 2012 at 07:42 PM (#4228756)
They only need to go 1-24 to match the 2003 Tigers. It's difficult to overcome a 22-23 stretch when historical ineptitude is on the line.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM (#4228781)
For those who missed the big news, Ben Francisco has gone to the Rays on waivers. The Astros now have no players on their active roster who make over $750,000. (Jed Lowrie and Francisco Cordero are on the DL)

If it wasn't for Chris Snyder, they would have no players making more than $515,500. The major league minimum is $480,000.
   3. Joe Kehoskie Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:26 PM (#4228784)
Kevin Goldstein is an important part of what we’re doing. Scouting is evolving, and we believe he’s part of the evolution.”

I wonder what Luhnow meant by this in terms of actual skills or responsibilities. I assumed Luhnow hired Goldstein because he seems to be very good at aggregating scouting information, but some of Luhnow's quotes have seemed to indicate that he sees Goldstein as bringing new/different skills vis-a-vis other pro scouting departments.

As discussed in last week's thread, Goldstein was great at mining scouting contacts across MLB, but one has to assume those days are over. From here on out, it seems like Goldstein should only be as good as the Astros' pro scouts.
   4. base ball chick Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:28 PM (#4228787)
ben francisco was traded

naturally coco cordero will be gone after the end of the year - he's dead meat. i mean dead weight.

agree that luhnow is implying that golfstein has some other skill than any other head of scouting. not sure what that is, but we'll just have to see
   5. asinwreck Posted: September 06, 2012 at 08:48 PM (#4228806)
"Well, uh, whadda you writin' for?"
   6. JRVJ Posted: September 06, 2012 at 09:46 PM (#4228844)
Nothing wrong with this column by Gammons.
   7. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:15 PM (#4228880)
As ESPN’s Dan Schulman pointed out, the Reds have won more games in Houston since the All-Star break than the Astros.


Holy crap.

   8. Mike Emeigh Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4228886)
Goldstein was great at mining scouting contacts across MLB


He's also great at coordinating and synthesizing information without imposing his own biases on it, which I think is what Luhnow is looking for in that position.

-- MWE
   9. KT's Pot Arb Posted: September 06, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4228898)
agree that luhnow is implying that golfstein has some other skill than any other head of scouting. not sure what that is, but we'll just have to see


Shouldn't there be some sort of skill in it? I mean do we expect that randomly filling the spot with college grads will generate similar results?
   10. JH (in DC) Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:12 PM (#4228935)
Did everyone forget that Luhnow hired a BP writer back in January?
   11. Comic Strip Person Posted: September 06, 2012 at 11:23 PM (#4228939)
“Thinking outside the box should be respected, not ridiculed,” says Beane, “because sometimes when you don’t crawl out of that box, you’re stuck in a mobile with the Memphis Blues, again.


So, I thought Peter Gammons would love Billy Beane quoting Bob Dylan, but this looks like Peter (or whoever edited this) didn't get it. What would it even mean to be stuck inside a mobile? Dangling over a crib?
   12. rlc Posted: September 07, 2012 at 03:20 AM (#4229008)
What would it even mean to be stuck inside a mobile?


Calder me maybe.
   13. shoewizard Posted: September 07, 2012 at 03:25 AM (#4229009)
agree that luhnow is implying that golfstein has some other skill than any other head of scouting.


It should be noted that Scouting Coordinator is not "head of scouting" . There are quite a number of people in Scouting on higher rungs of the totem pole. He probably is reporting to Ricky Bennet. Or at the very least , to Mark Elias. Astros FO Page Scouting Coordinator job description can be quite different from organization to organization, but clearly Goldstein is going to be used in an analytical and evaluation mode. But there are plenty of other more mundane tasks associated with the job.

   14. Joe Kehoskie Posted: September 07, 2012 at 03:48 AM (#4229010)
He probably is reporting to Ricky Bennet.

Bennett's contract wasn't renewed.
   15. shoewizard Posted: September 07, 2012 at 05:15 AM (#4229018)
Ah....got it. Well, we'll have to see if he is taking Bennett's place or reporting to the guy that does.

In either case, the point is that Scouting Coordinator is not running the scouting department. It's not as high a position as BBC (and perhaps others) seemed to think.

Helen Zelman held the position of Scouting Coordinator when she was with the D Backs.
   16. depletion Posted: September 07, 2012 at 07:58 AM (#4229044)
Geez, fellas! It's "stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again". As in Mobile, Alabama. How can you get that wrong?
   17. asinwreck Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:18 AM (#4229175)
I believe Kevin said on his final podcast that his job is to compile and interpret the reports Houston's scouts and analysts provide on minor leaguers throughout baseball. The idea is when Jeff Luhnow starts trade talks with a team, Kevin tells him which prospects are the ones he should ask for.

Seems a reasonable use of his existing skills.
   18. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: September 07, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4229191)
Geez, fellas! It's "stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again". As in Mobile, Alabama. How can you get that wrong?

Billy Beane should never have written that song.
   19. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: September 07, 2012 at 11:25 AM (#4229265)
I can't recall another total teardown like this with any other organization. To my eye, they have about one above average player active right now (Altuve). Can anyone else recall a team that was taken apart like this in rebuilding mode?
   20. The District Attorney Posted: September 07, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4229289)
Can anyone else recall a team that was taken apart like this in rebuilding mode?
I think it's quite similar to the Pirates just a couple of years ago. I mean, the Bucs had Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez, but that's just a question of having a non-totally-bare farm system, not a question of the depth of the rebuild. They traded Jason Bay and Xavier Nady in '08, and basically every other "name" they had -- Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Nate McLouth (a star at the time), Adam LaRoche, Tom Gorzelanny -- in '09. They then lost 105 in '10. Many articles were written about how terrible it was that they had traded all their "proven vets" with seemingly nothing to show for it.

So far, it seems to be working out well for them. Although, I will say that the Pirates' turnaround doesn't seem to have much to do with the "cash-in" trades, other than getting Jason McDonald for Octavio Dotel, and it's not like only exceptionally "deep" rebuilding teams trade 36-year-old journeyman relievers. Similarly, if the Astros do turn it around, it doesn't seem likely that it'll be due to their cash-in trades, as only the Pence deal seems to have yielded much.
   21. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 07, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4229328)
Xavier Nady for Tabata, Karstens and Ohlendorf helped. All the other trades brought in absolutely nobody who could play in the majors. Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen, they should have just asked for fifteen A-ball players instead of these so-called stopgaps.

Even the Pirates hung on to Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm during their teardown. The Astros hung on to no one and acquired no stopgaps except Chris Snyder. They currently have one player making more than 107% of the major-league minimum, Snyder at $750,000.

The Pirates teardown was similar to the Brewers one a few years before. The Brewers had several seemingly valuable players (Jeffrey Hammonds, Alex Sanchez, Ronnie Belliard, Mark Loretta), and they either just waived them or traded them for worthless no-names. (with the exception of the amazing Richie Sexson trade) They hung on to just a couple of their established players (Geoff Jenkins, Ben Sheets) and replaced everyone else with waiver claims and short-term free agents nobody else wanted. But they reemerged soon anyway.
   22. base ball chick Posted: September 07, 2012 at 01:09 PM (#4229434)
i'm glad to see MWE's input

the astros have done stuff with the FO that other Organizations, to my knowledge have not and i don't know exactly what titles MEAN or what people are actually responsible for doing.

i know mike fast is number crunching stuff on mejdal's analysis team. i haven't asked him exactly what kind of numbers they are crunching because he's a friend and asking would be bad manners

ricky bennet was on the fer sher to be gone list and i had thought that kevin was replacing him, but i am not sure. i know that bobby heck has been replaced by mike elias. but who is completely in charge of all kinds of scouting, i don't know. i don't even KNOW if they have an actual head of scouting in the traditional job sense.

the only other player on the team worth anything besides altuve is starting pitcher lucas harrell. not that he's an ace, but he's not bad. neither is bud norris. i think that both guys would have much better numbers on a better team because they both pitch as if they give up so much as 1 hit, the fielders won't make plays and they won't get run support anyway. which is true.

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