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Wednesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about an interview with David Stearns, replacement-level players and national rumormongering...

Bob Levey

Some things to talk about while the A's add another flawed piece to their team. Is that a cut at Lowrie? It sounds like a cut...Oh, and the Astros also got a new sport radio home. Maybe they can get some new sports radio announcers while they're at it...

1) Another great interview by KevinBassStache

This time, Steve gets to talk with assistant general manager David Stearns. They cover a wide range of topics, like if he's every been confused with the NBA commissioner, the new CBA and how he can help, etc. Here's a small excerpt, but you should really read the whole piece:

Q: Regarding international free agency, it sounds like baseball is moving closer to an international player draft. Is this something you expect will happen?

A: I honestly don’t know if we’re headed for an international draft or not. I think that’s certainly a possibility. There are some tremendous administrative hurdles that you have to get over to register every amateur baseball player in the world. I think baseball could probably employ it—if it wanted to—sometime over the term of this agreement, but that’s a discussion that’s ongoing between the commissioner’s office and the player’s association.

2) Replacement level players

There's been a lot of discussion around the web about Wins Above Replacement as a statistic, how important should it be and if it's being misused. While I think that it's a handy way to compare how a player did or might do based on projections, it doesn't tell the entire story of performance. That's why we never just use WAR to describe a player. You have to fill in the details.

One question that no one asked, but is still relevant to that discussion is what does a replacement level player look like? Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs did just that and came up with a list of players who might fit that profile. Cameron argues that the concept of replacement level isn't really as arbitrary as it seems, and wanted specific examples of players who could fill out a roster while still being absolutely league replacement-worthy.

It's a good read, and he goes into good depth about his selection process, what hurdles a team like that might have to overcome. So check it out for that.

But, also check it out for the list of players he mentions as replacement level. Five of them were on the Astros roster at some point last season but are not any more. Those names include Tim's boy Matt Downs, Sean's boy Jordan Schafer, no one's boy Ben Francisco, Jason Bourgeois and the recently signed Chris Snyder.

So, great, we have an understanding of why the Astros of 2012 were so bad. One-fifth of their roster was basically replacement level. That's not going to win many games, and they probably led the league in most replacement level players.

If we assume this year's team will be worse, does that mean there will be more replacement-level or worse guys on this year's roster? I'm almost encouraged that the Astros identified who these guys were and worked to improve upon them.

Anyways, it's an interesting read that gives some depth and real-world application to a statistic we throw around all the time. Should be a good use of some afternoon reading time.

3) Is Bud Norris on the market? Is that news?

If you don't follow me on Twitter or weren't on Tuesday evening, you may have missed a fascinating exchange between Brian T. Smith and Ken Rosenthal. Basically, Rosenthal wrote an article saying that the Astros had now put Bud Norris, their highest paid player, on the trading block after dealing off Lowrie.

Smith retorted that it had been a known fact that was reported as far back as the Winter Meetings that Norris was available and that he had never been un-available. Through some best-of-intentions back and forth, the two hashed it out in a professional way, but it made me think about the role of national reporting again, and how these rumors national guys use can undermine beat writers.

Smith had nailed down the Norris stuff long ago, but Rosenthal gets a tip and makes a big deal of it, like it's news. It may be new to national audiences, but it's not new news. He said he carefully worded his story to reflect that; maybe he did, but I think the whole concept would be misleading to a bunch of readers outside the scope of the Astros fan base.

When all Astros fans hear from the national media is that the payroll sucks and the team will lose a bunch of games and it's killing baseball, that gets old. When they recycle stuff that our own beat guy had first, that gets really old.

But, hey, Norris is available, so maybe that will be a story soon, too.