Thoughts on Astros Weekend

As promised, here are some of my rambling thoughts on this eventful weekend that I'm only now starting to wrap my mind around. Since I haven't gotten a chance to wade through the 1,000-plus comments from this weekend, forgive me if I reiterate the same points another time.

I expanded my Oswat/Berkman/attendance thoughts into a post on SB Nation Houston. Go check it out for a look at the numbers. I don't know what it means yet, but it's not a bad sign.

As for the return in the Oswalt trade, I was extremely disappointed...at first. Anthony Gose was too similar to the players the Astros currently have in the system. To get another guy who does the same things would be silly. Then, after hearing about the Wallace trade, I felt much better. Wallace can mash. He may be struggling a little this season, but he's got more potential than many are giving him. No, he doesn't have great raw power, but he's got excellent pitch recognition skills and can hit for a high average. Prospect analysis runs hot and cold on this guy. I've read enough recently to leave me optimistic he can be more than just a league-average fill-in.

On that same note, after everything I've read and researched on J.A. Happ, I have no idea why Phillies fans and bloggers have such a problem with him. The quotes over at Crashburn Alley were brutal. I wonder, though, why these people don't give more credence to his sterling stats in the minors. How, for instance, does Bill account for Happ's K/9 rate? In almost 400 innings at Double-A and Triple-A, Happ has averaged over 9 K/9. I cannot imagine a pitcher doing that without missing bats. So, what changes in the majors? I don't know, but I'm willing to give Happ time before I label him as a "nice" pitcher and resign him to being a No. 4 starter.

I'm also optimistic about Mark Melancon being more than just a typical reliever. I think he has potential to be a big weapon in the bullpen and soon. With Danny Meszaros, Melancon, Wilton Lopez, Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom, the Astros have a huge asset in the bullpen. Every reliever they throw out would be a "late-inning" type, which is a good thing when you're building a pitching staff. Add in Sammy Gervacio, Jeff Fulchino and Alberto Arias at some point, and the Astros have a very, very deep bullpen. Oh, wait, of course they do. It's Ed Wade, right?

The other thing that struck me about these deals is how the Astros are starting to really develop a philosophy on players. The most common thing I read about their draft picks, signees and now trade targets is that the players are professional, gutsy, love playing the game, have great baseball IQs and are hard workers. Granted, a lot of that is chaff you have to sift through with every player, but I tend to think the Astros value guys who play a certain way. Call them "overachievers." That's not limited to the other main characteristic, very athletic with good to great speed. The Astros seem to pick up players who could play anywhere on the field and that can run like the wind. If I had to guess, that'd be Bobby Heck's main philosophy, that you can't teach athleticism, but you can teach a guy how to hit a curve.

At the same time, I think there is a reason behind this. Many of you have pointed to a quote from Wade that he wanted to build his team like the Angels. Call it the "Angelic Path to Lightness." What is that Angel's Way? Have lots of players who can post WARs of 2.0 or higher, but not many players who post 5.0 or above. I don't think it's by design that the Angels lack big WAR producers. They just would rather spend the money elsewhere. And, by developing all these players, they can make big trades, like for Mark Teixeira or Scott Kazmir or for Dan Haren. They supplement with stars like Vladimir Guerrero or Torii Hunter in free agency while still building mostly from within.

Over the past three years, they have had almost seven batters over 2.0 WAR each season while only three total who topped five. That kind of balance led to the team averaging 97 wins per season. When national guys complain that the Astros aren't getting much value from their picks and that the bats they have picked don't have superstar potential, I wonder if it's all part of the play. In 2013, the Astros could have Jio Mier at short contributing 2.2 WAR, Delino DeShields at second chipping in 3.1 WAR, Brett Wallace at first with 2.5 WAR, Chris Johnson at third with 2.0 WAR, Michael Bourn in center with 2.3 WAR, Dan Adamson in right at  2.5 WAR and J.D. Martinez in left with 3.5 WAR. Add in Jason Castro's 2.1, and the regular lineup would have 20.2 wins above replacement, good for 12th in the majors (going by 2009 numbers). if someone like Ariel Ovando pans out to put up a cross between Darryl Strawberry and Miguel Cabrera, they'd add another 3-4 to their WAR total and have a shot at being top five, even with a bunch of unspectacular players. That's all conjecture, but couldn't you see something similar to that in the long-term plans? Why couldn't a team thusly assembled win?

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