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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 150 vs. Reds

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Aaron Harang Matt Albers
13 - 11, 3.88 0 - 1 4.35

Don't look now, Luke Scott is hot again. Maybe not scalding hot , like before, not surface of the sun hot, not melt your flip flops hot, but pretty darn hot, just the same. He's reached in 10 of his last 11 games, he's had hits in 10 of his last 25 AB"s, and he's had extra base hits in four of his last seven starts.

Kinda gets you to thinking.

Unlike most of you all, I think it's Jason Lane and not Morgan Ensberg who has been the year's biggest offensive disappointment. Although he and the team will nevertheless look back at his season as something close to a disaster movie, Morgan was getting it done early on. Rather than calling his season the biggest disappointment, maybe we simply say that Morgan's shoulder injury--and thus the resultant offensive dive--was the biggest thing we all wish hadn't happened.

The, um, most unfortunate event.

Not to play the excuse card, or the blame game, but Lane was handed something, and he didn't produce. Morgan was doing well, then something bad happened to him.

Or such is the argument I feel like making tonight. Tomorrow, I might feel less charitable towards Morgan and more towards Lane, who knows?

But if we've identified the biggest disappointment in production, and the most deleterious onfield event, what about the decision making process? Is there anything there that might have been executed better?

Well, I led off with Luke, so you can probably see where this is going.

Yes, I'd like you to consider what might have happened if we'd never signed Preston, and instead Luke Scott, in the absence of any other viable Spring Training candidates, had broken camp with the major league club.

  G AVG OBP SLG VORPr
Luke Scott 52 .370 .464 .636 .640
Preston Wilson 102 .269 .309 .405 -.028

Now I hate to get all SABrific on you, but if you would, direct your attention to that last column, the one headed by VORPr. That's VORP rate, or Value Over Replacement Player rate, and the definition from Prospectus is "Runs/game contributed beyond what a replacement level player would produce." Since the denominator in runs/game is games, seems to me, if I took the difference between the two numbers then multiplied by games, I'd get the number of runs having one playing for you, rather than the other, might mean to the ball club.

That difference is .668. Multiplying it by 102 gives you 68.13.

There. Signing Preston Wilson cost you 68 runs vs. what going with Luke would have produced. And since a basic equivalency is that ten runs equals a win, and considering where the Astros stand in the Wild Card race, you might even say that signing Preston cost this team a meaningful second half of September.

OK. I'm stretching the data, I know it. Luke's numbers are still distorted by that amazing (and probably irreproducible) hot streak he went on upon callup. And there was a brief time between Luke's recall on July 15, and Preston's release after the game of August 8th, where they were both on the team, and I have no idea how that impacts my thought experiment.

But even more to the point, I stretch in making the argument that Purpura this past offseason even had the option of not making the Wilson signing, or at least of a budget free agent like him. If I recall correctly my own reaction, it was something akin to "well, the strikeouts are high, but I'm glad he did SOMETHING."

If Purpura had told us as they headed out to Spring Training that the Astros had pencilled Luke Scott into left field to go with Taveras in center, and Lane in right, what would your reaction have been?

And be honest when answering that.

Maybe, however, T-Purp could have cut his losses. On April 30, Luke had seven home runs and a .995 OPS, while PW had a .682 OPS, a below league average .407 slugging, and five homers.

Maybe then, it's not unreasonable to imagine a brave GM who says "Hey! I've got a guy who should be in the majors, and another one who's past his prime. Maybe we can make a switch."

Or maybe not.

Do we even WANT a GM who gives up on his biggest offseason project before a month has passed?

I guess my point is that it would have taken a superhuman amount of vision for a General Manager to see what Luke has become for at least this year's team. And it's certainly not fair to expect Purpura to have possessed that amount.

But you can't deny it's very likely that any such hypothetical GM would have been pretty richly rewarded by now--maybe even with a playoff team.

****
Andy--scratched. Why didn't I guess?