Better late than never, huh? After a hectic day at work, I bring you this week's mailbag. Enjoy.
Would you name Sipp the arbitrary closer?
No, I would not. We're still dealing with an incredibly arbitrarily small amount of innings for Sipp. He won't be perfect forever. He may be a boost to Houston's injured bullpen, but given his track record, we can't expect him to pitch like this forever.
Instead, what the Astros seem to be doing may be best. Without a true stopper at the back of the bullpen, it frees the team to use guys when needed, not just because they're in the ninth inning. I know, I know, you couldn't disagree with that more.
But, if Chad Qualls or Matt Albers are the best relievers in the bullpen and you're facing the heart of the Rangers order in the eighth inning, wouldn't you rather see him pitch then instead of waiting to see the bottom of the order in the ninth?
Houston doesn't have a closer, but that's not a bad thing. What they need more than a label is more effective bullpen arms.
How is it that basically everyone is hitting so poorly all the time? Is it something with our coaches, player talent, line up shifting, or are they being dragged down by the air of suck that is hanging around?
It's hard to see, but everyone is not, in fact, hitting poorly all at the same time. Jonathan Villar is hitting a respectable .263/.322/.488 in the last 30 days. Matt Dominguez is at .292/.348/.448 over that same stretch while Jose Altuve is at .302/.349/.414. Heck, even Marc Krauss is hitting .222/.344/.426 over that stretch.
The problem is no one has been hot enough to make up for that wretched start. Plus, Chris Carter still is struggling to make contact, Dexter Fowler hasn't caught fire yet and the first base situation outside of Krauss has kind of been a mess. Also, what's going on in left field?
I do think that the prevalence of shifting across the league is affecting hitters. We're also in a run environment that more and more favors the pitchers, which means offensive benchmarks may get lowered some.
The biggest culprit is one you hit upon: player talent. Houston still doesn't have a ton of major-league caliber hitters in its lineup. Five is more than they had last season, but does not a lineup make. Add in another piece sometime in the next 12 months and see a prospect or two make an impact and Houston will be much better off offensively.
Sean York asks:
Is Clowney a viable bullpen option?
You're asking the wrong question. We need J.J. Watt to play first base. He'd hit 50 home runs by August and then jump over to the Texans camp, in time for Singleton to take over. Plus, his size would intimidate every single one of the opposing runners who get on base.
Make this happen.
Mukul Kanabar asks:
FO's ability build farm is evident. But should we worry about their pro personnel evals or too early? Many swings & misses.
Every team has swings and misses on personnel decisions. Look at the Cubs and Padres. Was it a bad personnel decision that left them to trade Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner? Wouldn't the Cubs want the kind of pitching Cashner provides? Couldn't the Padres use Rizzo's pop?
Look at the Diamondbacks. They made some huge moves in the offseason that were panned by much of the baseball pundit world. But, Mark Trumbo is a very good hitter and would be one of the best hitters on the Astros.
I bring all this up because you can question baseball decisions left and right. Good teams still miss on evaluations for one reason or another. The important thing should be that the team's decision-making process is sound.
We don't know what Houston's decison-making tree looks like. But, since they have an entire department dedicated to Decision Sciences, you can believe they look at every angle before making a call. And, that process also involves a department run by Kevin Goldstein, who is a more traditional, hands-on scouting type to balance the numbers crunchers.
Plus, some of the "misses" in Houston's evaluations are overblown. J.D. Martinez is hitting .250/.290/.357 in 11 games for Detroit. Justin Ruggiano had two good months for the Marlins. What has J.A. Happ done? Where's Brett Wallace, String? Some of the additions haven't worked out, but can you argue against adding Scott Feldman? Certainly not this season, you can't.
So, no, I'm not going to worry about the front office's major league evaluations just yet.