Some things to talk about while we cope with the world nearly ending this weekend...
1) Josh Byrnes fired
This weekend, the San Diego Padres fired Josh Byrnes, their GM and sabermetric darling. Byrnes came to San Diego from Arizona, when the two teams executed a bit of an executive swap with Kevin Towers going from San Diego to the desert. Byrnes also worked for Theo Epstein in Boston before being hired by the D'Backs and had a reputation for player evaluation and for analytical decisions.
Keith Law's article on the move is really a must-read for Astros fans. It's Insider-only, so I'm not going to pick anything up from it. But, pay particular attention to the points he makes about long-term contracts given out by Byrnes that didn't work out. Even though it made sense to lock up Cameron Maybin or Jedd Gyorko to team-friendly deals, when those players didn't work out, those deals looked terrible.
Similarly, his caution about trading Anthony Rizzo and Mat Latos should give any Astros fans pause as they talk about trading away the fruits of the farm system. It's one thing to jettison Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon. It even makes sense on some level to trade away Bud Norris. But, deals for younger players can look pretty bad in a hurry.
We're entering the middle phase of Luhnow's tenure as GM. What he does now will resonate much more than what he did at the beginning. And, those moves could make him into Houston's savior or be the cause for his downfall.
2) Chris Young may be released?
One-time possible Astros free agent target (and native Houstonian) Chris Young may be searching for a new team soon. According to MLBTR, the Mets are considering releasing Young and eating the rest of his one-year, $7 million salary.
First, the nuts and bolts. If the Mets release Young, they will be responsible for all of his contract this year, less any salary he signs for with another team. So, if he signs with the Astros for the league minimum, the Mets would cover the difference between that and the rest of his $7 million salary. If the Mets choose to waive Young first and Houston claims him, the Astros would be responsible for all of his remaining salary. This is similar to the situation with Kyle Farnsworth from earlier this season.
Next, do the Astros need Young? He's hitting .201/.284/.313 this season with a .234 batting average on balls in play in 202 plate appearances. He ranked dead last on the Mets in fWAR this season at -0.4, with unfavorable defensive metrics combined with a 71 wRC+ that ranks fifth-worst in the majors among outfielders.
As bad as that is, Houston's left fielders have been worse, combining to hit .206/.283/.308 this season in 387 combined plate appearances. That's good for a wRC+ of 68, meaning Young is an upgrade even if he doesn't hit any better than he did with the Mets. Plus, Young's -5 Fielding Runs in the outfield is quite a bit better than Houston's -13.6 Fielding Runs total for left fielders this season.
Of course, the last 30 days has seen Houston's left field spot perk up some. The combo of Alex Presley and Robbie Grossman have hit .241/.353/.277 in 134 plate appearances over the last 40 games. Young has never posted an on-base percentage that high in nine major league seasons.
If Houston wanted to take a chance on Young, they'd do so based on his power and defensive potential. Very recently, Young has been a plus defender in the outfield. He'd also bring some power to the left field spot, which hasn't been there all season.
Would you like to see Houston take a chance on Young if he's released? Do you want to see Presley and Grossman get more time?
3) Pitch framing check-in
Over at Baseball Prospectus, they have some handy pitch framing data. It collects data, tries to find which catchers got extra strikes and attempts to pin a run expectancy on how important that is.
Catcher defense is hard to quantify, but we should use pitch framing as a solid addition to any backstop evaluation. For Houston catchers, things are looking up quite a bit.
Jason Castro has added the eighth-most runs in baseball, according to the ball-strike context of when he got his calls. By this measure, he's already saved Houston 9.3 runs. Carlos Corporan isn't far behind, saving 4.0 runs by this measure in much fewer time. Meanwhile, Corporan has also added another 1.0 runs on passed balls and wild pitches, while Castro is just about even-par in that area.
What that means is Castro and Corporan have both been very valuable defensively for Houston behind the plate. Even though Castro is slumping offensively, he's added quite a bit of defensive value. Ditto Corporan, who provides enough at the plate to be a very good backup catcher.
In short, don't think Houston will be moving either of them any time soon. If I had to bet, I'd put my money on Houston holding onto Corporan until he gets too expensive. Otherwise, he's a good defense, power-hitting backup that fits perfectly on any roster.