Some things to talk about while you read this Hardball Times article on five Astros questions and check out the newly redesigned SB Nation MLB page...
1) MLB's salary structure
Amid all the hand-wringing over Mike Trout being paid more than pretty much everyone else who's commenting on it, there was a very cool bit of analysis up on FanGraphs by the imcomparable Dave Cameron (who is not me).
Cameron looks at MLB's entire salary structure and how it's weighted to 40 percent of the players in the league last year being paid around $550,000. That means the top quartile in the league makes an average of $10 million while the rest of the players make far less.
By raising that league minimum up to a million or more, it'd help a ton of players around the league. But, as Cameron notes, there is not an infinite amount of money in baseball (did you hear the Astros were broke for the past five years??). By raising the floor, it'd be limiting the upside of the top 25 percent, which is something the MLBPA may not be too keen on doing.
Obviously, that would also affect the Astros, as roughly 35 percent of those players making $550,000 or less this year should play for Houston. Would a higher minimum have affected how this front office tries to rebuild? Would it have made them even less likely to spend on free agents?
2) Don't make Bo mad
Apparently, Bo Porter got pretty upset at all those defensive errors the Astros committed on Monday. Do you know how many errors the Astros committed? Two.
That was enough to send Porter into a full-on worked-up state of upsetness.
"This is the thing: Either you’re going to make the plays or we’re going to find somebody else who’s going to make them," Porter said. "This is major league baseball. And to play in this league, you have to make those plays."
On the podcast this week, Brian T. Smith mentioned that Porter fully believes the Astros lost 20-30 games last season just because they didn't make the play when they needed to, that they needed more mental toughness to execute.
Obviously, that plan didn't go perfectly against the Tigers. The question is, can we differentiate between expectations and performance?
What I mean is this: it's all fine and well for fans to expect this Astros team to lose a lot of games because the talent just isn't there. But, maybe the manager SHOULD expect his players to do those things. Maybe he should hold them to that higher standard, instead of lowering his expectations for a bad team. Because, if he lowers them now, there is no guarantee they can be raised again when the team is ready to compete.
More than likely, those 20-30 games were lost because the Astros didn't have the talent to make the plays when the needed to make them. This season, they may lose another 20 for the same reason. However, if the Astros are going to turn the corner, maybe they need someone like Porter getting mad at them from spring training onward and expecting them to be better.
I just already feel bad for Porter. It's gonna be a long year for his blood pressure.
3) Luck is the residue of design
That quote is from Branch Rickey, via an aside to Jonah Keri's latest article on Grantland. You know why that gave me pause?
We've talked quite a bit about luck already. Luck in Houston getting a player or two to break right and break out this year. Luck in Jordan Lyles rebounding to have a solid season. Luck, luck, luck.
It seems, though, that this front office is leaving as little up to luck as possible. With the analysis of guys like Mike Fast and the different things they seem to be doing in the kinds of pitchers they go after, maybe Houston is designing a system that gives them a better advantage to be lucky.
It's the same thing in the minor leagues, where Jeff Luhnow just took a flier on a ton of pitchers who may or may not pan out, but there's a good chance one or two definitely will. In essence, Luhnow stuffed the ballot box, hoping his lottery ticket will be pulled.
There's a good chance everything breaks bad and this team collapses like everyone predicts. But, if we accept that the baseball side knows what it is doing, that they have a plan in place and are executing it, maybe the luck we see this season is just a part of that bigger picture.