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Hammer’s All-Time Astros team: The Strategy

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For those of you who have been following along, the writers of the CrawfishBoxes have been doing a draft of all time Astros drafted into 5 separate teams. Here were the rules:

1.) Player must have spent AT LEAST 2 full years on the Astros

2.) Players are eligible at positions only if they played 2 full years with that position as their primary position.

3.) All teams must have 6 Pitchers, 1 of each at all positions (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B), and 3 Outfielders, plus a DH.

4.) The comparison will be done based on the following:

a.) Their best 5-year consecutive years (if they served less than 5, for the tenure of their

career with the Astros.

b.) Under the assumption of (3) Pitchers throwing 2 innings, and (3) pitchers throwing 1

inning. You must select a minimum of (2) relievers.

I was disappointed as I’ve been absolutely swamped at work, so I didn’t have much time to dedicate to really doing research or thinking through each pick. What I decided was I needed an over-arching strategy that would allow me to essentially “Auto-Draft”.

So given the rules, there were a few things that immediately came to mind.

1.) Longer tenured / record holders would likely be over-valued as they have a deeper impact in our memory. Truthfully, it’s much easier to have 2 insanely good seasons than 5 in a row, so longer tenure is largely a negative.

2.) Most of the positions are strong for a few picks but then drop off a cliff, positional flexibility could provide a lot more value.

3.)

So I started thinking through the strategy, and given that we had the parameters of how the “simulated” game would play, we could truthfully define the most to least valuable player, thus allowing me to “Auto-draft”. How did I get to that math? Well it’s simple. For position players it was WAR / # of Games played. (after all, this is a single game). For pitchers, I did WAR / IP. Since it’s 1 game and we had a defined number of innings pitched, we could calculate their WAR / game as well (SP with a *2 multiplier, RP with a *1).

<Insert Rankings>

The first thing that becomes IMMEDIATELY evident is that Pitchers value absolutely demolishes Position players given the rule set. I take a quick look at both their overall values as well as the drop off between the current best pick on different positions, and it’s notable that not only does pitching dominate in value, the drop off after the top 3 is crazy. With having to wait till picks #5/#6, I hoped that at least one of the Big 3 pitchers were still on the board. And as luck would have it.

1 Cody - Jeff Bagwell - WPG: .0373

2 Hatter - Craig Biggio - WPG: .0230 (positional flexibility is huge with C, 2B, OF)

3 Bilbos - Jose Altuve - WPG: .0282

4 Theo - Roy Oswalt - WPG: .0479

I was shocked that both were still on the board, and was excited as it made me believe that my assumption that people will draft with their heart over the heads and that I had a couple deep sleepers that could help dig me out of the hole if I missed a position since they may be overlooked. I will add the players stats for their entire Astros tenures on my draft picks.

#5 Gerrit Cole - SP - 0.0650 War per Game

35-10, 412.2 IP, 2.68 ERA, 2.75 xFIP, 13.4 WAR

While Verlander took home the Cy Young last year, Gerrit Cole has had the most dominant pitching tenure ever with the Astros (given 2 year minimum). His War per Game makes Verlander even fall significantly short.

#6 Justin Verlander - SP - 0.0594 War per Game

42-15, 471.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 3.09 xFIP, 14 WAR

Similar to Cole, Verlander has been the definition of an Ace pitcher since the day he put on the Astros uniform. These were by far the 2 easiest picks of the entire draft for me and they gave me a HUGE advantage by the math.

7.) Theo - Lance Berkman - WPG: 0.0323

8.) Bilbos - Clemens - WPG: 0.0564

9.) Hatter - Bregman - WPG: 0.0397

10.) Cody - JR Richard - WPG: 0.0405

11.) Cody - Carlos Correa - WPG: 0.0339

12.) Hatter - Mike Scott - WPG: 0.0308

13.) Bilbos - Larry Dierker - WPG: 0.0278

14.) Theo - Jose Cruz - WPG: 0.0256

So the first thing I have to say is waiting 8 picks between choices is gut wrenching lol. I understand it’s completely fair, but it’s much harder to speculate who will still be around when you are up again. I was not at my computer and somehow missed that a few players were already drafted as I tried to keep up while still working. When I got back to my computer, I selected:

#15 - Cesar Cedeno - OF, 1B - WPG: 0.0308

.289/.351/.454, 487 HR, 128 wRC+, 46.6 WAR

Since I had selected the top 2 pitchers, although there were still quite a few higher WPG, I would only have room for 1 more SP and there was a very large group that were very similar in WPG, so I decided to look towards position players. Cedeno technically was the 3rd highest WPG of the remaining picks (Carl Everett - 0.0367 & Moises Alou 0.0321), but the positional flexibility seemed like a larger value given the vast number of quality OF’ers. I also assumed that Carl Everett may slide past everyone as he didn’t have the length of career here.

INCORRECT #16 - Ryan Pressly - RP - WPG: 0.0337

77.2 IP, 1.85 ERA, 2.15 xFIP, 2.6 WAR

Soooooo, I was an idiot and had filtered to have a minimum of 2 seasons on the Astros, unfortunately this captured players that had a season and a half and were not technically eligible. The other writers were quick to point out that he was not eligible ... I was on a conference call at the time so I really could not put much thought into it, so I just selected the next highest reliever.

#16 - Billy Wagner - RP - WPG: 0.0266

225 SVs, 504.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 2.76 xFIP, 13.4 WAR

Honestly, this pick was a mistake. There was definitely better choices, but without time to think I figured I would grab another reliever as there was a significant drop off there as well after the top few and we would need at least 3 each, and the depth wasn’t great.

17.) Theo - Jimmy Wynn - WPG: 0.0271

18.) Bilbos - George Springer - WPG: 0.0331

19.) Hatter - Nolan Ryan - WPG: 0.0395

20.) Cody - Dallas Keuchel - WPG: 0.0296

21.) Cody - Moises Alou - WPG: 0.0321

22.) Hatter - Dickie Thon - WPG: 0.0258

23.) Bilbos - Carl Everett - WPG: 0.0367

24.) Theo - Joe Morgan - WPG: 0.0284

The most upsetting pick to me out of this group was Carl Everett. I really thought he would be a sleeper pick for me that brought me a lot of value, especially with so many players with more memorable Astros careers ahead of them. The other thing I noticed was that 2B was suddenly looking VERY thin. 2B is a position of depth for the Astros but it really fell off after the top 5, and I knew Hatter had the potential to use Biggio at C where the Astros have practically no depth.

#25 Jeff Kent - 2B - WPG: 0.0273

.293/.350/.521, 120 wRC+, 7.5 WAR

Although Kent had a much shorter stint than the big names in Astros uniforms, his production closely rivaled some of the best.

#26 Steve Finley - OF - WPG: 0.0267

.281/.331/.406, 107 wRC+, 14.9 WAR

The other item of note to me was there was quite a run on outfielders and with my “sleeper” pick of Everett having gone already and a need for 15 of them total across the teams meant I thought there would be quite a few picked between now and next round. Pitchers still looked extremely strong and since I only needed 1 more starter I hoped they’d be tempting to the other writers within that middle pack, using an earlier pick for similar value.

27.) Theo - Don Wilson - WPG: 0.0302

28.) Bilbos - Billy Doran - WPG: 0.0236

29.) Hatter - Andy Pettitte - WPG: 0.0428

30.) Cody - Ken Caminiti - WPG: 0.0177

31.) Cody - Dave Smith - WPG: 0.0128

32.) Hatter - Glenn Davis - WPG: 0.0247

33.) Bilbos - Bob Watson - WPG: 0.0184

34.) Theo - Morgan Ensberg - WPG: 0.0214

Another 8 painful picks. After my last sleeper pick had been grabbed, I decided I wasn’t going to risk it and choose Cliff Johnson for sure, and then had to make a decision. The pickings were starting to get slim with the fall off on a lot of these positions being huge, essentially not having much left as far as quality. Pitchers still looked surprisingly deep, which I guess makes sense since we’re only drafting 3 each vs having 5 every year. There were other sleeper picks still hidden in as well as some good names all still falling within the same general range in their value, so I figured I’d skip pitching this round.

#35 - Richard Hidalgo - OF - WPG: 0.0253

.278/.356/.501, 134 HR, 117 wRC+, 20.6 WAR

This pick was actually the really difficult one. I felt that essentially this was my last very solid pick, as the depth at most positions would not last another 8 rounds of drafting. Hidalgo was the highest remaining value of position players, so as I weighed my options, I decided that gaining the highest added value made the most sense since ultimately that gives us the highest chance of winning a single game.

#36 - Cliff Johnson - C, 1B, OF - WPG: 0.0184

.256/.370/.471, 52 HR, 141 wRC+, 7 WAR

Cliff Johnson was one of my big sleeper picks. The Astros have essentially no depth at Catcher, with Biggio coming in at the obvious #1 pick, Cliff Johnson actually takes second place, with the 26th highest WPG of all the position players and having the added flexibility of filling in multiple positions giving me more flexibility as we go forward. He was the highest non-OF pick remaining from a win per game perspective, and actually average a 141 wRC+ for his tenure which is astonishing. Taking this pick did hurt though as I knew my options at SS and 3B were going to be pretty rough, but I had some thoughts on how I’d approach that.

37.) Theo - Mike Cuellar - WPG: 0.0437

38.) Bilbos - Danny Darwin - WPG: 0.0120

39.) Hatter - Michael Bourn - WPG: 0.0218

40.) Cody - Brad Lidge - WPG: 0.0239

41.) Cody - Hunter Pence - WPG: 0.0210

42.) Hatter - Terry Puhl - WPG: 0.0176

43.) Bilbos - Mike Hampton - WPG: 0.0274

44.) Theo - Rusty Staub - WPG: 0.0150

As I expected, OF’ers went fairly quickly, and I started to see people grabbing pitchers. I had actually expected to be able to grab Mike Cuellar this round, so I was pretty disappointed that Theo grabbed him. After these picks there was only 1 remaining pitcher on the top 10:

#45 - Lance McCullers - SP - WPG: 0.432

29-22, 453.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.31 xFIP, 9.8 WAR

I think McCullers spot on this list will surprise some people, but he actually came in just ahead of Pettitte, Richard, Ryan, and a few spots before Morton. Being the last starter in the top 10 and with spots 4-10 being pretty clumped together as far as value for this simulation, I was really happy to grab McCullers to round out the rotation.

#46 - Ken Giles - RP - WPG: 0.0245

61 SV, 159 IP, 3.57 ERA, 2.95 xFIP, 3.9 WAR

Another name that I’m thinking many here will be surprised about. Giles was the second highest ranking relief pitcher, edging out Brad Lidge by a 0.0245 vs 0.0239. Due to his infamous descent to hitting himself in the face and cursing off his manager, his image has been tarnished a bit. With that said, I’m also glad that Giles won’t be facing the pressure of being our closer with definitely the greatest closer of all Astros history (with an argument from a rate stat perspective of the best ever) shutting the door behind him.

At this point, most of our selections will be a lot more limited in their value, but I feel my pitching is without a doubt the dominant leader and I’ll hope to snag a lesser remembered but effective pitcher to fill the last slot in my arsenal.

47.) Theo - Octavio Dotel - WPG: 0.0207

48.) Bilbos - Kevin Bass - WPG: 0.0148

49.) Hatter- Luis Gonzalez - WPG: 0.0203

50.) Cody - Charlie Morton - WPG: 0.0383

51. Cody Joe Sambito - WPG: 0.0134

52. Hatter - Joe Niekro - WPG: 0.0093

53. Bilbos Shane Reynolds - WPG: 0.0385

54. Theo - Yuli Gurriel - WPG: 0.0136

55. Luke Scott - DH - WPG: 0.212

.273/.366/.516, 125 wRC+, 4.9 WAR

I took a list through the remaining players, and Luke Scott had the highest wRC+ of any of the remaining players. His WPG was a touch lower but competitive with the remainder of the field. Technically, he wasn’t the highest WPG on the board, but given that I had planned on putting him at DH, I figured I would target the highest offensive upside.

56. Adam Everett - SS - WPG: 0.0148

.248/.299/.357, 69 wRC+, 9.2 WAR

Ahh, Adam Everett. Despite being an offensive black hole, his defense was unparalleled. He was vastly underrated by a majority of fans, but my strategy was not focused on fan perception but the pure statistical front. At pick #56, Everett provides a lot of value as one of the higher ranked WPG SS’s. As I looked through the next level down, there was a significant step down in performance, and since I had a plan for 3B, RP still looking strong, and flexibility on 1B vs OF with Cedeno, I decided it made sense to lock this position down.

57. Theo - Marwin Gonzalez - WPG: 0.0097

58. Bilbos - Brad Ausmus - WPG: 0.0042

59. Hatter - Doug Rader - WPG: 0.0172

60. Cody - Jason Castro - WPG: 0.0175

61. Cody - Art Howe - WPG: 0.0190

62. Hatter - Darryl Kile - WPG: 0.0113

63. Bilbos - Phil Garner - WPG: 0.0153

64. Theo - Alan Ashby - WPG: 0.0101

65. Will Harris - RP - WPG: 0.0175

297 IP, 2.36 ERA, 2.99 xFIP, 5.2 WAR

To me, Harris is still one of the most underrated players the Astros have had on their rosters in recent times. He was recently named as the #5 Reliever of all time. Interestingly, in this simulation, the math came up exactly the same, with the results showing Wagner>Giles>Lidge>Dotel>Harris. He was not the closer, so he never received the same attention, but his results outpaced most of the competition. Considering he was my 3rd reliever, I felt like I not only had the strongest rotation, but I now assured myself as having the strongest bullpen with #1, #2, and #5 on the rankings.

66. Lee May - 1B - WPG: 0.0129

.274/.317/.471, 120 wRC+, 5.8 WAR

I now faced a tough decision. In honesty, I should have taken Derek Bell, put him in outfield and Cedeno at 1B. That would ultimately give me the highest WPG for this simulation, but I just couldn’t bear to put a 5x Gold Glove outfielder at first. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much depth left at 1st, and although May was not in the league of some of our other all time greats, he was no slouch either.

67. Theo - Ken Forsch - WPG: 0.0123

68. Bilbos - Larry Anderson - WPG: 0.0173

69. Hatter - Turk Farrell - WPG: 0.0150

70. Cody - Derek Bell - WPG: 0.0178

71. Cody - Carlos Lee - WPG: 0.0103

72. Hatter - Brian McCann - WPG: 0.0169

73. Bilbos - Miguel Tejada - WPG: 0.0133

74. Theo - Wade Miller - WPG: 0.0156

75. Geoff Blum - 3B - WPG: 0.0059

.259/.317/.394, 85 wRC+, 3.4 WAR

Although Blum’s legacy will often be tied to his efforts as a White Sox player, Blum provided a stable option at 3B. During his time with the Astros, he covered the Super Utility Role that we often think of Marwin in. There was not a large differentiation between the next grouping of 3B - and Blum’s versatility and my love for him for his interaction with the fans was the selling feature to me.

End Totals:

Bilbos - .3533 War Per Game (57.18 Team WAR for Season)

Theo - .3536 War Per Game (57.28 Team WAR for Season)

Hatter - .3557 War Per Game (57.62 Team WAR for Season)

Cody - .3651 War Per Game (59.15 Team WAR for Season)

Hammer - .4189 War Per Game ( 67.86 Team WAR for Season)

To clarify, every single one of these teams are absurd in their own right. The biggest challenge here is that many people’s perceptions will be based on the players longevity instead of the pure statistical sense. With that said, given there were very specific rules, the design of the team is less of looking for Hall of Famers, but who will give the greatest chance to win in the 1-game play off with the specific pitching format.

I completely understand some fans will look at this and revert back to their favorites and memories of the players, but there’s a HUGE differential between my team and the others. You could add Jeff Bagwell’s value (without removing any of their existing production) and every team would still be 2.5+ WAR short of matching the production.

So let’s take a look

1 - Cedeno - CF - .289/.351/.454, 128 wRC+

2- Scott - DH = .273/.366/.516, 125 wRC+,

3- Johnson -C - .256/.370/.471, 141 wRC+

4- Kent -2B - .293/.350/.521, 120 wRC+

5- Hidalgo -RF - .278/.356/.501, 134 HR, 117 wRC+

6- May - 1B - .274/.317/.471, 120 wRC+

7- Finley- LF- .281/.331/.406, 107 wRC

8- Blum -3B- .259/.317/.394, 85 wRC+,

9 - Adam Everett -SS - .248/.299/.357, 69 wRC+

Pitchers:

Innings 1-2: Gerrit Cole 35-10, 412.2 IP, 2.68 ERA, 2.75 xFIP

Innings 3-4: Justin Verlander 42-15, 471.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 3.09 xFIP, 14 WAR

Innings 5-6: Lance McCullers 29-22, 453.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.31 xFIP

Inning 7: Will Harris - 297 IP, 2.36 ERA, 2.99 xFIP

Inning 8: Ken Giles 61 SV, 159 IP, 3.57 ERA, 2.95 xFIP

Inning 9: Billy Wagner 504.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 2.76 xFIP, 13.4 WAR