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Friday's Three Astros Things

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Talking about rotation costs, Kris Bryant and A.J. Reed and Manager of the Year predictions...

Some things to talk about while a player intentionally tries to hit popups...

1) Rotation costs and payroll stuff

Why did the Astros choose to invest so heavily in the bullpen in each of the last two seasons? Why did they feel they could pay Scott Feldman $10 million a season to be a third or fourth starter?

Well, it could be due to the payroll space the Astros are saving by all those low-cost guys who also make up the rotation. This piece at FanGraphs breaks down the spending of teams on their rotations and finds the Astros are at the bottom of the list.

But, wait! That doesn't mean they're bad. it also shows they have one of the five most cost-effective rotations in baseball, even if its not necessarily a good thing.

In determining cost-effectiveness, cheaper is better. The Indians are getting the most bang for their buck with a projected win coming in at less than one million dollars. The next half-dozen teams are well-known for their frugal spending habits. However, simply because a team is not spending much for a win, that does not automatically equate to smart spending. If a team does not spend very much money per win, that bodes well for the team, but if the team is not actually spending to accumulate a decent amount of those wins, the apparently smart spending does not do a whole lot for the team. While they are in different stratospheres in terms of spending, the Dodgers and Tigers would not want to trade rotations with the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros simply because they look to be spending money wisely.

Meanwhile, we see in another FanGraphs post on payrolls that the Astros have the fewest number of arbitration-eligible players in baseball and maybe the most minimum salary guys.

That's a good thing for keeping costs down, but it's a bad thing if you think they'll spend big money in the free agent market any time soon. Those minimum guys will get paid soon, even if its just in arbitration. That will inflate the payroll by itself.

2) About Kris Bryant and A.J. Reed

Lots and lots and LOTS of Kris Bryant talk lately. Most of it centers around the same debates we went through last winter, when George Springer was held down in the minors to preserve his seasons of team control.

Yet, the more interesting thing for me is this piece talking about collegiate players of the year and how often the end up being successes in the minors.

The piece revolves around Bryant, but the Astros just drafted their own Golden Spikes winner: A.J. Reed. It finds that, while there has been some variation in the past, most of the recent Golden Spikers who are currently playing have been successful in the majors.

In any case, what one finds in this second list is a group of players who might be regarded as Kris Bryant's peers. The PECOTA and ZiPS projection systems utilize comparable players to the end of producing forecasts for any one player's current season, under the (probably correct) assumption that similar statistical profiles at similar ages will also yield similar statistical profiles at future ages. Here we find essentially another, definitely cruder method of compiling a list of comparables — in this case, those players who were recognized for their performance in college. The current, still active crop of former top collegiates has produced a median figure of about 20 WAR, and still climbing. That's one, not entirely random, projection for Bryant's career at this point.

Again, I think this applies to Reed, too. He may not get the scouting buzz that Bryant does, but he could fly through the system just as fast. And, he'll make a great pairing with Gattis when he does get to the majors, once Chris Carter gets too expensive.

Oh, and if he, Derek Fisher and J.D. Davis all turn into above-average regulars? That 2014 draft looks pretty sweet.

3) Forecasting the Manager of the year race

Finally, this is a fascinating bit of research done by TCB favorite Zachary Levine. Did you know that no manager has ever won back-to-back Manager of the Year awards?

I voted for the dang thing last year and didn't know that.

What's funny is that I tried not to fall into the traps Levine mentions here:

The Manager of the Year Awards, we'€™ve learned over their 32-year existence, have pretty much nothing to do with who the best manager was that year. They use the manager as a proxy for things like improvement, performance above expectations or depth (a much more boring way to say the handling of adversity).

Win it once, and you probably can'€™t improve again, and moreover, the Plexiglas principle will probably pull you down anyway. Win it once, and you'€™re now the team that has the expectations.

When I put together my list, I tried to figure out which manager had done the best job. I talked to different people who followed specific teams. I valued the impact of all that Joe Maddon stuff, like baking bread or roasting meats in the clubhouse.

I sort of hit on another Zach's philosophy. In discussing his NBA Coach of the Year ballot on a recent podcast, Grantland's Zach Lowe talked about how he usually always votes for Greg Popovich, just because he's clearly the "best" coach and he didn't want to fall into the trap of going with the trendy choice for all the reasons Levine mentioned above.

So how do you judge Manager of the Year? Who are the favorites to win it this year? Levine mentions John Farrell of the Red Sox and Kevin Cash of the Rays as possibilities in the American League. Could you see anyone else sneaking in there? Any way Hinch gets some love if he gets the Astros over .500?