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Battle of the Astros GMs: Ed Wade vs. Gerry Hunsicker

A lot of events have come together recently for me. Like the Astros hosting the Rays, Gerry Hunsicker giving a long interview to Richard Justice, Stephen writing again about how to view Ed Wade, etc. They've all started to form this idea in my mind. How can we compare GMs? Is it possible to look at their moves with some semblance of fairness and equity? Luckily, they have a stat called Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and now, both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference offer historical WAR data.

This became the perfect storm of a research project for me. I got to look into Hunsicker's history as Astros GM AND compare it to Ed Wade's? SCORE! But, to make things fair, I just looked at the first three years of each man's tenure with the Astros. For Wade, that brings him up to now, but for Hunsicker, it stopped at the 1998 season. I looked at each man's trade history, their track record for free agent signings and, most importantly, what kind of roster each was given when they took the job.

The only thing I haven't analyzed here is the draft. I'll leave that up to you TCBers to come up with judgements on how each drafted over the years and if that gives or takes away points from their records. Without further ado...

First, a tale of the tape. Hunsicker was hired on Nov. 11, 1995 while Wade was brought on Sept. 9, 2007.

Here is a list of Husicker's signing in those first three winters:

Date Name WAR
12/7/1995  John Cangelosi 1.4
1/5/1996  Anthony Young -0.1
1/10/1996  Bill Spiers 8.9
4/24/1996  Xavier Hernandez -0.3
5/17/1996  Randy Knorr 0.2
7/23/1996  Terry Clark -0.5
12/2/1996  Sid Fernandez 0
12/2/1996  Pat Listach -1.3
12/4/1996  Thomas Howard 0.3
12/19/1996  Luis Gonzalez 1.7
12/19/1996  Mike Magnante 0.5
12/30/1996  Russ Springer -0.2
6/1/1997  Chuckie Carr 0.9
11/24/1997  Dave Clark -1.2
12/9/1997  Jack Howell 0.4
1/9/1998  Pete Schourek 0.4
Total WAR 11.1


Most of the total on this list came from Bill Spiers, who had 8.9 WAR in five seasons with the Astros. Half of that came in 1997, when he had 4.6 WAR. The rest is a list of bench players, pinch-hitting experts and relievers. It's not an impressive list, but he did get adequate seasons out of guys like John Cangelosi, Chuckie Carr and Luis Gonzalez (in his return trip to the club). The biggest problem here is that Hunsicker never hit a home run with anyone. Of course, he also didn't sign any big name free agents. With owner Drayton McLane leery of adding big-name starting pitching after the Greg Swindell and Doug Drabek disasters, Hunsicker had to play with the hand he was dealt.

And now for Wade's:

Date Name WAR
11/30/2007 Kazuo Matsui 0.7
11/20/2007 Geoff Blum -0.8
11/28/2007 Doug Brocail 0.9
12/7/2007 Mark Loretta 1.1
12/27/2007 Darin Erstad -0.9
2/20/2008 Shawn Chacon 0
4/3/2008 Tim Byrdak 1.4
12/1/2008 Mike Hampton -0.2
12/18/2008 Aaron Boone -0.3
12/14/2008 Jason Michaels -0.3
1/13/2009 Russ Ortiz -0.3
3/20/2009 Ivan Rodriguez -0.1
4/6/2009 Yorman Bazardo -1.1
12/10/2009 Pedro Feliz -1
12/11/2009 Brandon Lyon 0.3
1/20/2010 Cory Sullivan -0.3
1/8/2010 Brett Myers 0.9
Total WAR 0.00


Ouch. That's a zero WAR total for Wade in 17 signings. Sort of backs up Stephen's hypothesis from Wednesday, doesn't it? While Hunsicker clearly wasn't gangbusters at finding guys off the scrap heap, he did a better job than Wade has. Granted, Wade's numbers should rise a bit with full seasons from Myers and Lyon.

As for trades, here's Hunsicker's list:

Traded Received Total WAR Traded Total WAR Received
Raul Chavez, Dave Veres Sean Berry 4.4 3.8
Rich Loiselle Danny Darwin 2.2 -0.8
Rick Wilkins Kirt Manwaring 2.3 0.5
Kevin Gallaher, Pedro Santana Andujar Cedeno, Gregg Olson 0 0
Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski, Daryle Ward 13.6 7.3
Sean Runyan Luis Lopez 0.7 0
Luis Lopez Tim Bogar -0.2 0.2
Conditional Todd Haney 0 0
Alvin Morman Jose Cabrera 0.2 1.2
Julien Tucker Tony Pena 0 -0.1
Maneul Barrios, Oscar Henriquez, Mark Johnson Moises Alou -0.7 11.8
John Hudek Carl Everett 0 9.3
James Mouton Sean Bergman -1 2.2
No. of Players: 19 No. of Players: 18 21.5 35.4
1.13 1.97


The best trade of the bunch was three nobodies for Moises Alou. That was an absolute theft. 11.8 WAR in three seasons? For three players who didn't even break even? That narrowly tops the Carl Everett heist, though that should be adjusted depending on how you think WAR values relievers. Still, Everett provided MVP-caliber numbers when healthy for a guy who basically became a setup man.

Hunsicker's worst trade could have been Rich Loiselle for a 40-year old Danny Darwin. It was a half season rental, but Loiselle went on to have a nice six-year career. Funny how much Hunsicker tinkered with his bullpen, especially since we all give Wade so much crap for doing the same thing.

One of the trades that surprised me is how poorly the huge Detroit swap turned out. Granted, it only counted two Ausmus seasons, since he was quickly traded back to the American League. One of the big factors was Daryl Ward's negative WAR value for most of his seasons. It seems his terrible defense did not offset his prodigious power enough.

And Wade's trade history:

Traded Received WAR Traded WAR Received
Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo 0.3 5.7
Josh Anderson Oscar Villarreal 0.6 -1.1
Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Troy Patton, Luke Scott and Mike Costanzo Miguel Tejada 5.3 5.9
Chris Burke, Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls Jose Valverde 3.7 1.5
Chad Reineke Randy Wolf 0 2
Matt Cusick LaTroy Hawkins 0 1.1
PTBNL: Drew Sutton Jeff Keppinger 0.1 0.5
Ivan Rodriguez Matt Nevarez 1.2 0
Luis Bryan, Robert Bono and a PTBNL: Jorge Jimenez Matt Lindstrom 0 0.4
Total WAR 11.2 16
WAR per Player 0.62 1.60


There is not a horrendous trade in this bunch. Actually, most of them have turned out pretty well. Yes, Villarreal was a bad move. Josh Anderson hasn't shown he can be anything but a fifth outfielder, though. Wade's WAR values are also skewed some because he has so many relievers in deals. I have a hard time believing Chad Qualls is better than Jose Valverde and close to as good as Brad Lidge. It may be fair, but it seems low to me. The Tejada deal also turned out even now, but could look worse in a couple years, if Troy Patton ever makes it.

Some of Wade's trades are hard to define yet, since we don't have much info on guys like Lindstrom, Nevarez, Bono or Valljeo. Still, I was pleasantly surprised with his non-suckitude here.

What this doesn't answer, though, is what state the franchise was in when each man inherited his role. After all, the tinkering Hunsicker was doing to the bench was only necessary because many of his positions were tied up with the like of Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Derek Bell. Wade had a couple spots taken, but not nearly the production. Here's the complete breakdown:

Holdover Roster WAR Hunsicker Wade
Position Players 56.6 14.1
Starting Rotation 19.1 12.9
Overall 75.7 27


Wow, that Position Player WAR is just staggering, isn't it? That's almost 20 WAR per season! Most of it stems from three players: Biggio, Bagwell and Derek Bell. The starting rotations were basically even, only because Hunsicker had to let Daryl Kile walk after the 1997 season. Still, is there a better chart to illustrate just what an advantage having proven players on a roster can be?

Did I mention Wade's 14.1 WAR total includes Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee? Two players making over 30 million dollars between them? Not good times for Eddie.

I don't know that this means a whole lot in the scheme of things. It's very hard to accurately evaluate general managers, much less compare them. However, I definitely adjusted my opinions of both men to some extent. What did I miss?