Thursday's Three Astros Things

Talking about the HOF reaction, new minor league field staff and comparing bullpens...

Some things to talk about while I make a decision two days late #TeamDrellich...

1) Hall of Fame reaction

As you can guess, we weren't the only ones with reactions to the Hall of Fame vote on Wednesday. Before we begin our journey through the hand-wringing, let's get some wisdom dropped by Zachary Levine:

Now, onto proving Z wrong!

First up, here's a column on Grantland about how the baseball writers covered steroids back in the day. It's well worth your time.

The relationship between reporter and subject was never more vivid than between 1988 and 2010. In 1988, a Washington Post columnist leveled the first serious charge of steroid use in Major League Baseball. In 2010, McGwire confessed his own use and put a period on the era. (Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez continued the story from there.) Below, I recount scenes from that span in the form of a detective story - one in which the detectives were brilliant, buffoonish, or thoroughly uninterested in the job. For baseball writers, this period is when innocence was lost, when their jobs changed forever. The Hall of Fame vote is not some new expression of professional grief. It is an echo.

Grantland also brought the ruckus in this Jonah Keri article about the #BiggioSnub.

The combination of that surge in full ballots and Biggio falling short by such a painfully small margin means we might soon see a change to the 10-vote limit. Eliminating that cap certainly wouldn't solve all of the electorate's problems; not when voters are submitting protest ballots featuring one or zero players, or after three voters picked Biggio last year but not this year despite having open slots on their ballots. But for an organization as set in its ways as the BBWAA is, baby steps matter.

The BBWAA responded to Dan LeBatard givings his ballot to Deadspin and it sounds like he'll be stripped of the privilege in the future and may face sanctions from ESPN.

"When you accept a baseball writers' card, there's a certain way you need to go about your business, a certain conduct you need to have at all times," Neal said. "It's disappointing that someone would decide to manipulate his vote in that way."

Keep in mind that this isn't an official statement from the BBWAA, rather the president of the board offering his personal opinion. It's under his newspaper's masthead, not the BBWAA's.

I'd love to hear what JJO thinks of the vote-giving.

Meanwhile, Jesse Spector with a great take on why it's a fools errand to look for meaning in the votes of 571 different people.

Trying to affix labels like that is a mistake, because there are no voting blocs, no grand debates, no campaign platforms - only 571 voters who have been members of the Baseball Writers Association for 10 years. Each voter has his or her own personal opinions, and while the statistics of each player are concrete figures, checking off names on the ballot is a highly subjective process. For instance, would anyone argue the point that performance-enhancing drugs are the only thing keeping Bonds and Clemens out of Cooperstown? So, why is it that Clemens got 202 votes, but Bonds only 198? How could anyone say yes to one, but no to the other? Because Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice and Clemens was acquitted of perjury charges? That's a hypertechnical reading of the Hall's character clause if there ever was one.

On the local front, Jerome Solomon talks about why the drop for Bagwell was more concerning that Biggio being two votes short:

Yes, despite his worthiness, Biggio isn't the Astro with the strongest case against BBWAA voters.

That would be Jeff Bagwell, a Biggio contemporary, who was denied for the fourth time.

Astros aside, the museum, which is supposed to celebrate the greatest stars of the game, the history of the sport, is several superstars short. Roger Clemens (35.4 percent) and Barry Bonds (34.7) are at the front of the line of those who already should be in but aren't getting in anytime soon.

At least Biggio and Bagwell finished ahead of them. (No, that isn't worth celebrating.)

Finally, here's some knowledge dropping from Jay Jaffe on the stats from the HOF vote.

In all, there were 571 ballots cast, two more than in 2013 but two fewer than in 2012, and 10 fewer than in 2011, which still holds the record. The ballots included an average of 8.39 names, the highest total since 1960, when it was 8.6. That mark came when the BBWAA was voting on a biennial basis; the writers returned to voting annually in 1966. A whopping 50 percent of the voters used all 10 slots, up from 22 percent last year - a figure that points towards the organization recommending that the Hall of Fame change its rules to allow for more votes per ballot. There was only one blank ballot this year, compared to five a year ago.

2) Astros announce MiLB field staff

From the team press release, we find out that Houston firmed up its minor league staffs. No decisions on actual field staffs at each level, but we do have a couple changes:

The Houston Astros announced today the club's three minor league coordinators, two roving instructors, special assignment coach and medical staff members for the 2014 season. The Astros coordinators are Paul Runge (field coordinator), Dyar Miller (pitching coordinator) and Jeff Albert (hitting coordinator). Doug White will serve as a roving pitching instructor, while Adam Everett will return to the club as an infield instructor. Morgan Ensberg is returning to the club in a new role as minor league special assignment coach. Brendan Verner (strength and conditioning coordinator), Jamey Snodgrass (medical coordinator) and Daniel Roberts (rehab coordinator) make up the club's minor league medical staff.

Runge and Miller stay in their same spots. Albert gets a promotion from roving hitting instructor to hitting coordinator. Doug White also gets a promotion, moving up from pitching coach in Tri-City to roving pitching instructor.

What's interesting is that Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett move out of that weird specialist only-at-home roles they were in and into more overview-type roles. From the reaction of all the minor leaguers, it sounded like Ensberg did a fantastic job coaching last season. If he can be injected in different levels for weeks at a time in this role, that'd be a great use of his abilities.

I can't remember when they announced the unusual deployment of Everett and Ensberg last season. I imagine they could still do that this season, when they name the field staffs for all the levels. Plus, we didn't get word on Vince Coleman, who was in that special home-only role last year.

Any thoughts?

3) Comparing the Dodgers and Astros bullpens

Thanks to Steve (aka Kevin Bass' Stache on Twitter) for passing along this story comparing Houston's upgraded bullpen to the Dodgers. The premise is to see whether the Dodgers massive payroll and huge investment in relievers makes them better off than Houston's modest way of rebuilding the bullpen.

Guess what? There's not much difference:

Are the new Dodgers really worth twice as much as the new Astros? Well, of course not - but they do have more value to the Dodgers than they do the Astros. The difference between 91-71 and 93-69 could be huge for Los Angeles, but the difference between 62-100 and 60-102 does nothing for the Astros. Houston's revamped bullpen isn't going to suddenly turn them into contenders, but it is a wise usage of money to improve the confidence of the team's young pitchers. Also, when July rolls along, Crain, Albers, and Qualls could be attractive trade pieces for contenders looking to bolster their bullpens down the stretch.

Check out the entire story, because there's some good insight into reliever worth in there. it also explains why teams may be jumping over smart buys like Qualls and Albers more often in the reliever market, instead of paying high prices for Brandon League or Jonathan Papelbon.

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