March 17, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Chris Johnson (23) against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
It's been a while since we've done one of these, but I've got to round into regular-season form at some point, right?
1) More cuts made - Five more players were cut on Wednesday, leaving eight more cuts to go. The biggest name on this most recent list is Brian Bixler, the shortstop/utility man that was no longer on the 40-man roster. After Jason Bourgeois was traded to Kansas City, Bixler was thought to be a candidate for the fifth outfield spot so that the backups wouldn't be so right-handed.
With Bixler cut, that leaves three guys vying for the last two spots in the outfield. Both Travis Buck and J.B. Shuck are left-handed, meaning Justin Ruggiano could now be a favorite to land an Opening Day spot. The question is: does that mean Shuck or Buck don't make it?
That decision may come down to the health of Jordan Schafer. If Schafer can't go early, does that give the edge to Shuck because he can play center (somewhat)? Or, does that mean Buck will be the guy since he can start in right with Bogusevic sliding over to center?
All this roster intrigue should make for some interesting final few games.
2) Billy Beane says nice things about the Astros - In case you missed a very nice series of interviews over at Athletics Nation (the founding site of the SB Nation network), they interviewed Billy Beane in two parts. Included in the interview was a great note about the future of the Houston Astros:
And don't kid yourself, Houston is right around the corner. They're going to be a high revenue club in our division and they have a pretty bright guy taking over that club. They're going to do a good job and they're going to do it right and when they do they're going to have the capital to keep it around.
That's right, Billy Beane is already worried about us! Maybe that's all posturing, but I like the point about Houston being able to spend to keep these players around once they're developed. People forget Houston is a big market and can spend money if they want.
It won't put them on the same footing as the Angels, but it will certainly make them competitive for longer than a team like Oakland has the luxury of being.
3) Do spring training records matter? - I've made it a point to mock spring training records for as long as I can remember. They're meaningless. The games don't matter. The final score shouldn't either, right?
Well, there's an interesting study over at Beyond the Box Score that looks at just that. What did they find? There are plenty of outliers, but the fact is spring records can somewhat predict regular season success.
It's not a one-to-one thing, nor even a great indicator. As the post mentions, both the 2010 Diamondbacks and 2010 Indians proved exceptions to that rule. However, talent generally won out in both the spring and the regular season.
What does that mean for the Astros? Probably nothing. But, I'd wager that at the very least, there's more talent on this squad right now than there was at the end of last season. That means the Astros should win more games than they did last season. Not a lot more, but enough not to be the worst team in the league.