Thursday's Three Astros Things....

ST. LOUIS, MO -Altuve!! (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)


Your occasional change up, when someone besides David writes three things.

1. Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve has been flirting with a .300 batting average throughout the season. And he pushed it back up to .305 during the Cubs' series. I know that batting average isn't the most explanatory statistic, but in Altuve's case, it will be a major part of his value as a major league hitter. So, it would be nice to see the batting average end up at .300 or higher this year.

I love the new filter applications that are available on fangraphs' leaderboards. So, I thought I would use the feature to obtain some comparable performers to Altuve. This can give us a hint of his potential career. I applied the following filters to 22-24 year old hitters since1995 (min. 400 PA): less than 7% BB rate; less than 14% K rate; greater than .290 batting average; less than .150 ISO.

Here are the comparable young performers to Altuve: Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Juan Pierre, John Mabry, Placido Polanco. I have seen people use Polanco as a comparable for Altuve, and this search supports that view. In general, the comparables are reassuring for Astros' fans. Nobody on the list had a bad career which is unusual when you develop these kinds of lists. John Mabry is probably the least impressive name, since he was mostly a utility or platoon player over his career, but you can't really get upset with a 13 year career. If Altuve can produce a Crawford or Polanco career, we should be pretty happy.

Also notice that Atluve, Crawford, and Ellsbury all produced nearly identical wRC+ offensive numbers (105-106) at this age. Perhaps this indicates that Altuve will be a better offensive player than Pierre, Mabry, and Polanco. A good portion of Crawford's and Ellsbury's offensive value is tied up in their base running---but as David recently pointed out, Altuve may turn into a 30 steal per year player.

Where Altuve really needs improvement is on the defensive side. He is the only one on this list whose defensive WAR component is negative. Altuve can make spectacular fielding plays, but he also has more than his share of awkward or poor fielding plays. If Altuve continues to be rated as significantly negative as a defensive infielder, this will detract from his future value.

The fact that Altuve has the capability to produce the occasional spectacular play makes me believe that he can become at least an average fielder with more experience. He is, after all, only 22 years old. Think about the learning experience required to be a good fielder. For instance: understanding how various pitch selections will affect the likely path of batted balls, and realizing which plays can and can't be made at the major league level. I have a feeling that Altuve has the dedication to improve this part of his game.

2. Scouting Blood Bath?

Keith Law tweeted:

Hearing it's a bloodbath in Houston with a bunch of scouts being told they're not being renewed for next year

I have no inside knowledge about the reason for the scouting changes. So all I can do is speculate. But this seems like an extension of the decision to replace Bobby Heck. Luhnow probably wants his own people in the scouting department, and he prefers scouts who will be compatible with the system he is putting in place.

Zachary Levine's blog entry earlier this week, comparing Luhnow's transition in Houston with Mozeliak's transition in St. Louis, may have foreshadowed the changes.

In his news conference after the Elias promotion, Luhnow didn’t comment on further changes. But Monday he didn’t sound like a man afraid to shake the organization, contrary to the transition in St. Louis. “If you’re having success, you want it to be as smooth as possible,” Luhnow said. “Our situation is a little different in that it’s the second year in a row where we’ve not had much success on the field, so there’s maybe a little less premium on maintaining the status quo than there would be.”

Luhnow took over the reins of the Astros' front office at a very late stage, thanks to MLB's tardiness in approving Crane's ownership group. The draft evaluation process was well underway by the scouting department. As a result, Luhnow didn't have time to make major changes in the scouting department before the amateur draft. Luhnow tells Levine that the fall scouting season "really kicks off mid-September,” Thus, if Luhnow and his new scouting director intend to replace personnel in the scouting department, there isn't much time left before mid-September.

The scouting profession is somewhat itenerant, with scouts changing organizations with a fair amount of frequency. So, this is not something that is totally unexpected. I also suspect that the Astros want to make changes early enough that inside information on the Astros' thinking about the draft isn't made available to other organizations. Let's hope that Luhnow's changes will improve the efficacy of the Astros' scouting department.

3. Tango's Study

Since the Astros are likely to again pick at the top of the draft, we may have more interest than most fans in Tango's study of teams' draft success. He describes it:

"I looked at every draft from 1985-2002. That’s 18 drafts. I considered a draft pick a success if he was able to get a total of three career WAR by the time he was 29. That standard is pretty low, but, I still only got 499 players. That’s an average of only 28 players per draft."

The conclusion:

I need to emphasize here that I am NOT saying there is no talent to scouting. Indeed, I believe that starting sometime in 1985, there was some huge shift in scouting, as the top-level talent discovered in the first round since then is far higher than in the twenty years prior. I have no doubt that there is great talent to scouting.

What I am saying is that there doesn’t seem to be much differentiation or variation team-to-team. It doesn’t look like one team acquires more talented scouts than another. They seem to be pretty well spread-out. That scouts move around alot would seem to indicate that as well. Basically, no team is really trying to corner the market on a bunch of scouts, even though they are the lifeblood to finding that top-level talent.

I'm not sure how this fits with the previous point about the Astros replacing scouts. One take may be that teams should come up with new ways of developing scouting data and using scouts, assuming that teams want to gain an advantage in player acquistion. Perhaps the system that Luhnow is installing to integrate scouting, statitical data, and medical data will be an innovation that allows the Astros to gain that advantage. We can hope, anyway.

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