Spring training 2014: Astros storylines that don't really matter

At least, they don't matter nearly as much as we'll talk about them. Because we WILL still talk these all to death over the next few weeks.

Hey, remember when Astros County accused us of being hipsters about the Hall of Fame voting b/c we were totes over it before it even happened? Well, I'm pretty sure he strapped on a pair of skinny jeans this morning, grew out his beard and put on a fedora before taking to Twitter:

It's just sad, you know?

At any rate, we care about spring training, even if the stats, the analysis and most of what comes out of spring doesn't really matter. Still, being starved of baseball since October, we as fans are ready to begin talking about it. We want to know everything there is to know about what's going on with the Astros before they start real, live games in April.

That means we're going to talk about plenty of stuff that means absolutely nothing as if we're at the Malta Conference. Here is just a sampling of those stories.

1) Who will be the Astros closer?

It's already happening. Two different reporters have already gotten quotes from the principles involved about the closer role in 2014. Because "closer" is a title someone must wear, it also must be asked.

But, it could be completely useless.

As smart baseball fans, you probably know that saves are overrated. Most good relievers can probably succeed for a short time in the closer's role, even if they don't have "the closer mentality." If they have stuff, it generally plays in the ninth inning as well as the seventh or eighth.

Which is why it doesn't matter whether Chad Qualls, Josh Fields, Matt Albers or Jesse Crain win the job out of spring training. All of them can do the job, if their stuff is good enough. Who's in that role only matters for how much the Astros are willing to use it.

For instance, let's say they nominate Fields as "the closer." What if that allows them to use Crain or Qualls against the middle of an order in the highest leverage situations in a game, instead of being beholden to the final inning for saves.

Of course, the other reason it doesn't mean much is that Crain, who should be in that job by June, may not be healthy to start the season. If he's delayed out of spring at all, Qualls or Fields could be the guy before yielding to Crain later on.

2) Who will be the fifth starter?

Unlike some years, Houston will actually need a fifth starter twice in the first two weeks of this season. But, the Astros could probably survive with making those the only two starts that fifth guy gets.

Last season, Bud Norris had the fifth-most starts on the team with 21. But, that's not fair since he was traded, so the sixth-most starts went to Brad Peacock, who won that fifth spot out of spring after Alex White got hurt. Peacock started 14 games.

In 2012, Houston's fifth-most starter in games was J.A. Happ with 18, but he got traded too. The sixth-most starts went to Dallas Keuchel with 16. In 2011, there were no significant rotational trades and Jordan Lyles had the fifth-most starts with 15.

So, think about that when we're arguing over Keuchel, White or Cosart. The fifth starter will probably only be relevant for 15 games.

3) How Carlos Correa performs

He's very, very good. He will get plenty of run in spring training because he's young and he's the face of this future movement and this farm system. That does not mean his spring stats are more critical. You will read at least four gushing pieces on him, maybe just nationally, but that doesn't mean anything.

If he plays well and if he starts out in Corpus Christi, there's a chance he could force his way to the majors by September. But, that'd be solely on his own development. To get there, he'd have to show marked improvement in a lot of areas, none of which will be evident in his limited time in camp this spring.

But, you know, it's okay to get excited about him. Just not as excited as you are about George Springer.

4) When do guys report?

Not the actual date, mind you, but when guys make camp. For the most part, players get into spring training about the same time. Some make it a few days early. Some get held up by a day. Remember that time Carlos Lee was delayed and we all made jokes and thought the world was coming to an end? Turns out, he was just as bad as he was the season before, when he wasn't delayed.

On that same note, how many guys can you remember who showed up early for workouts and then had a fabulous year? Maybe their play is more about dedication in the weight room in the winter, holding up during the season and avoiding injuries, not when they get to Kissimmee in the middle of February.

It's not a big deal, but since reporters will be reporting it, we'll probably talk about it. Just like the rest of this list. And it won't be worth a hill of beans.

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