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Monday's Three Astros Things

Talking about Dominguez vs. Altuve, how Houston almost passed on Appel and Bo Porter's fire...

Some things to talk about while we recover a bit from all the awesome draft coverage our team produced last week...

1) Dominguez vs. Altuve

Last night on the podcast, we discussed Matt Dominguez and his horrible walk rate so far. It's pretty epic in his horridness, but someone said that if Jose Altuve could improve, then it stands to reason that Dominguez can too.

There is some truth to that. Dominguez had decent, if not stellar, walk rates in the minors and all he needs to do is raise his walk rate to around six or seven percent to become a staple in this lineup with his power and defense.

However, the differences in their approaches extend beyond just walk rate. Look at their plate discipline stats over at FanGraphs. First up, Jose Altuve, who had a walk rate in his rookie season similar to what Dominguez is posting now.

Season Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
2011 Astros 43.7 % 70.3 % 55.9 % 76.5 % 95.7 % 87.5 % 45.7 % 68.4 %

6.7 %

Now, let's compare that to what Dominguez has done this year:

2013 Astros 33.1 % 64.0 % 48.1 % 66.7 % 91.8 % 82.9 % 48.4 % 59.3 % 8.0 %

Dominguez is swinging less, making less contact, seeing less first pitch strikes and swinging through more strikes. That speaks to a player who is just having trouble making contact, not someone who is a high-contact hitter who just likes putting his bat on anything he can. That's what Altuve did his rookie season and moving back from that is what has helped his walk rate improve in the past two seasons.

Dominguez doesn't have that luxury. He's just not as good at putting the barrel of the bat on the ball, and that's going to affect his contact rates, his batting average on balls in play and his walk rate. Yes, there is time for him to improve, but how much he can improve is up for debate.

2) Astros almost didn't take Appel

Brian T. Smith wrote a great article on the Astros draft process of deciding on Mark Appel this year. It's behind the Chron's paywall, so I won't link to any quotes from it. However, I did want to discuss two things.

First, my title may be a bit disingenuous, as was the title on Smith's story. It seems the Astros didn't have a firm idea who they were drafting until right before this year's lottery took place, but there is nothing in the story to suggest they were super close to taking a Kris Bryant, either.

What stood out in reading this is how many decision makers and advanced eyes they put on Appel this year. Enos Cabell scouted him. Roger Clemens scouted him. Everyone scouted Appel.

And, it also sounds like there were plenty of people in the room this year who liked Appel better than Carlos Correa last year. That's not to say Correa wasn't the Best Player Available on Houston's draft board a year ago, but that not everyone viewed him that way. Thus, there were plenty of happy people when the Astros nabbed him here.

It's a great read, so definitely take the time if you can.

3) Porter upset...again

Here's my question for the day: How many times can Bo Porter get mad at this roster and still be effective? When is his anger used purposefully and when does it start to governed by the laws of diminishing returns?

That's what I wondered when I read this note from the weekend, on how upset Porter was over the team's lackidaisical play on Saturday.

"It’s something that was addressed with the ballclub," Porter said. "I explained to them. I just said, ‘Losing the game is one thing. Playing the game the right way is another thing. As long as I’m here, we’re going to play the game the right way.’ That right there was not playing baseball the way it’s supposed to be played."

Plenty of managers can get by for many years by bringing that hard-nosed, fiery persona. Porter is certainly a change from the player's coach that was Brad Mills, who was in turn a change from the fiery Cecil Cooper. In fact, if you go back to the mid-90's, Houston has alternated between player coaches like Larry Dierker and Phil Garner, and more fiery guys like Terry Collins and Jimy Williams.

The reason for those switches? Fire and brimstone only works for so long, and the laid-back attitude also only works for so long. The most successful managers find ways to bridge those two and stick around for many, many years.

I don't have a handle on where Porter falls on the spectrum yet. I believe he can bridge the gap between his competitiveness and being a player's manager, but I'll be watching situations like this one to see how the team responds.