Some things to chew on while we seethe over losing to the frickin' Cubs...
1) Profiling Crane & Luhnow - The New York Times' baseball writer Tyler Kepner was given access to the Houston front office recently, including owner Jim Crane. Out of that access, comes a fantastic piece right here, detailing the transition this ownership group has made, what changes are coming and has lots of great, great quotes on a lot of different topics.
Obviously, the go-to line for hilarity is that GM Ed Wade's walls were adorned with a bunch of bulletin boards full of each team's depth chart. Luhnow had those carted off, because he's got that stuff literally a few clicks away at all times.
Just as important, though? This quote from Luhnow on what he wants out of a manager:
"If you end up changing your strategy based on hot or cold tendencies, more often than not, you’re chasing your tail and you’re actually destroying value rather than sticking to what you know is right based off the data over a longer period of time," Luhnow said. "It’s easy to say from up here, and it’s easy to prove from up here. But it’s a lot more difficult to implement down there."
We talk a lot on here about player moves, asking for guys to be sent down, brought up, given more playing time, etc. It's easy during the course of a season to lose track of the broader trends, to get caught up in the small sample size effect and be swayed into thinking differently about a player.
Did Carlos Corporan have a hot run while up with the big league club? Most definitely? Did it erase his struggles from last season? Not entirely, since he didn't even get half a season's worth of plate appearances combined between his two stints. He got hot at the right time, but you can't make decisions on a player when he's on a hot streak, just like you can't trade a player when his value is lowest. You want to find the middle ground, let the statistics even out one way or another.
The last part is really telling. It's very, very hard to do that. It's easy to call for Chris Snyder's head (to beat one example into the ground), but it's hard to separate what he does with this team defensively and in steadying a young pitching staff (that's still developing in some ways, BTW) from his other contributions. That is, unless you look at the big picture on things.
Maybe this is one of the concepts Mills is adjusting to. We've seen him bury a player (J.D. Martinez early), but we've also seen him play a guy a ton, even when he's slumping (Jose Altuve). The results for those have been mixed, and he's doing the same thing to Brandon Barnes after a slow start, while giving Tyler Greene a ton of playing time because he's hit immediately since showing up in Houston.
I don't think it's a great fit for Luhnow to keep Mills around next year, not because he's done a bad job. Much like Bobby Heck, I think Mills has done a decent job considering the situation he's been in. However, he's not a Luhnow guy, and that mattered in the Heck decision and it will likely matter in the managerial decision this offseason.
2) Minor league standouts - Subber generally has this covered, but I wanted to point out some interesting analysis over at Baseball America. They've been using some advanced statistical stuff to break down minor league performance in areas that the traditional stats don't go. For instance, they use Runs Created to make a leaderboard of the top performing hitters.
Wait, wait, who's the leader on that list? And who's just below him? Why, that's my guy from this week's TCB Boiling Pot, Robbie Grossman! Where's Preston Tucker? Oh, he made the comments section, well below the awesomeness that is the Grossman.
Not to be overlooked is the pitching leaderboard, featuring Mr. Nick Tropeano. He hasn't done as well in Lancaster as he did in Lexington, but his numbers are still solid, he's giving up hits about at the same rate and his strikeouts are still in the same range. If anything, his walk rate has crept up, but I'd argue that's to be expected. A guy like Tropeano would probably rather walk a hitter than give up a huge hit.
Minor league stat analysis can be hit or miss, depending on the league's competition level, a player's age, etc. But, isn't this an encouraging sign for a guy like Grossman? Has his performance since coming over in that Pirates trade adjusted anyone's outlook on him as the centerpiece to the deal?
3) Let's play the nickname game - A conversation on Twitter yesterday got me thinking about the current state of Astros nicknames. Specifically, I got called out for using MarGo. I like MarGo, but it's more shorthand for me and seems more nickname-y than just calling him Marwin.
So, let's throw this to the comments. Which do you like better? MarGo, Marwin, Captain Awesome? More importantly, how do you think the nickname battle is going between Barney (Mike Barnett) and Barney (Brandon Barnes)? Does Mills call them both Barney? Does he call them Barney I and Barney II? Or, did he just come up with a different one for Barnes, like Barnyard or Brand-y or something. Maybe he calls him BB.
Also at issue seems to be Brett Wallace's nickname. Seems the team calls him Wally a lot, Zachary Levine has thrown that around on Twitter, but it seems some folks like B-Dub. Personally, I like Brick, from Tim's awesome photoshop from last year.
Fire away, everyone. Maybe we can get enough rolling here to bring the discussion into this week's podcast.