Monday's Three Astros Things

Some things to contemplate while you go vote for Mike Kvasnicka...

1) Race for No. 1 - Another day, another loss. To think, there was a time this year that I realistically thought the Astros could finish ahead of the Cubs. I thought this team was at least half-way decent, with a positive run differential and better-than-expected pitching.

Then, Jeff Luhnow took a wrecking ball to this team and restocked the farm system. Steve Goldman has an absoutely fantastic piece on the Astros and how they're the best team in baseball...at being terrible. He makes some very solid points, compares the Astros to the Orioles (something I've done on here before), and generally makes some astute conclusions.

So, what kind of chance does Houston have at scoring the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight season?

Well, here are the Bottom 5 teams and their expected win totals, thanks to Cool Standings.

1) Houston - 36-73, 56 wins

2) Colorado - 38-68, 61 wins

3) Chicago - 43-63, 68 wins

4) San Diego - 46-64, 69 wins

5) Kansas City - 45-62, 69 wins

Houston has a hefty lead on Colorado right now, even though the Rockies are only two games back in the win column. There's a chance Houston could go on a run in the next two months, but it looks like they've got the No. 1 pick locked up right now.

2) Pitching, the Rockies and Houston - Speaking of the Rockies, who knew that team would so bad? Turns out, the owner didn't necessarily see things coming either, and held Dan O'Dowd responsible.

Well, sort of.

The front office shakeup in Colorado is very interesting, as O'Dowd wasn't fired, but certainly seems to have been demoted, without a change in his title. Instead, Bill Geivett, who interviewed for Houston's open position, was given control over the Rockies' major league team, including the pitching.

That's what caught my eye. Turns out, Geivett looks like he may be hiring a Director of Pitching Operations. Which is a fantastic idea. There is so much that goes on with a pitching staff, doesn't it make sense to have someone in the front office who's job is nothing but pitching? Heck, Houston should probably just give Mike Fast this title right now.

With the unorthodox ways Houston has been talking about using its staff this season (4-man rotation, 6-man rotation, no closer, 5 pitchers an inning, etc.), it certainly seems like a lot of the new analytic push for this front office has paid dividends in the pitching staff. Why not take the next step and put someone in charge of doing just that in an official role?

All this pitching talk also makes me feel pretty good about Luhnow going to the market for pitching in the offseason. I think he could find some great value out there.

3) Justin Maxwell - So, I spoiled this point in the live podcast Sunday night, but I've been really impressed by the run Justin Maxwell has been on lately. As Zachary Levine notes in this article, Maxwell is 10 for 21 in his last seven games.

More than that, Maxwell is .324/.361/.676 in his last 10 games, with three homers, a triple, a double, two stolen bases, two walks and eight strikeouts in 36 plate appearances. That gives him 12 homers and a 1.7 WAR total for the season, the third-best on the team.

Maxwell is on pace to hit 17 homers this season with under 325 plate appearances. That's a pretty rare combination and puts him in the company of guys like Chris Davis, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and, yes, Daryle Ward.

Ward is the only Astros player to top 20 home runs in under 325 plate appearances. If Maxwell picks up his pace in the second half, he could get there too. Just for reference, as we mentioned on the podcast, Maxwell's feats, if here were the regular center fielder, would put him in the power company of Colby Rasmus, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutcheon and Josh Hamilton. Obviously, he won't be that elite, but he can certainly be just as good as B.J. Upton, who his hitting for just as low an OBP with less power and mediocre defensive numbers.

Houston may not want him starting every day, but deployed sensibly? Maxwell can make an impact on this team next year.

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