Houston Astros v Pittsburgh Pirates

Who, exactly, expects the Astros to be good?

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A silly column from Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com today. In it he looks at the Astros who, I think anyway, everyone expects to be a really bad team who will finish in last place.  Knobler, though, is reading people I haven’t read yet:

Someone’s going to be wrong about the Astros. Someone’s going to be very wrong.

Maybe it’s us. Maybe it’s them. Maybe it’s the baseball bloggers who love them. Maybe it’s the traditional baseball men who hate them.

To illustrate this alleged dichotomy, Knobler cites some scouts who, perhaps jokingly, predict 40 wins for the Astros. Or less. The best he can do in citing a “blogger” who “loves” the Astros is his CBS colleague Dayn Perry. Except what apparently qualifies as “love” is saying that the Astros will be terrible now but in four years they won’t be laughingstocks.  That’s the “love.”

At this point it’s probably worth noting that the last historically-awful team was the 2003 Detroit Tigers. They lost 119 games! Three years later they were in the World Series. As such, I don’t think saying the Astros won’t be comic relief in four years is the sort of irrational bloggy love Knobler makes it out to be.

And make no mistake, he is clearly of the view that there is irrational love on the part of we Internet people when it comes to the Astros. Why? Tribalism!

Luhnow was an easy target for traditional baseball types, and the way he built the Astros front office has only fed the perception he wants to change everything about how the game is run … They even hired writers and bloggers to help work in baseball operations … No wonder the bloggers love them.

I love the Braves, and they run their front office on moxie and Commodore 64s as far as I can tell. But if I’m wrong about that it’s no more wrong than Knobler is about the Astros’ big “bloggy” front office moves:

“I think a lot of people out there think it’s a lot of guys with spreadsheets making baseball decisions,” Kevin Goldstein said. “It’s just not true.”

Goldstein came to the Astros from Baseball Prospectus, and there were certainly eyebrows raised when he was named the team’s pro scouting coordinator. But in his first seven months on the job, Goldstein has proven to be a lot more scout-friendly than some in baseball (and in the blogger world) would have expected.

Kevin Goldstein has been writing from a scout’s perspective for years. When he was with Baseball Prospectus he scouted. And his biggest sources were scouts. He even wore a bad scout fedora years before he was hired by the Astros. And the Astros hired him to, you know, run their friggin’ scouting department. The dude is legit. In light of all of that, the only people who find Goldstein to be more “scout-friendly” than expected never read his work before and assume that anyone who writes on the Internet is informed by some outdated (if it ever was true) idea of a computer baseball enthusiast stuck in his mother’s basement. It’s funny. Knobler’s whole column is about how two camps have competing narratives but the whole thing itself is an exercise in narrative.

A phony one, really. I’d love to see links to any bloggers who think the Astros are actually going to be good this year. I’d love to hear how saying “they’re going to stink, but they probably won’t set all-time records for futility because such teams are really, really rare” constitutes “love.”

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.