Astros are World Series Champions!!!

… in 2018 or something like that.

Houston Astros win the 2005 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals

Houston Astros win the 2005 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals

The Houston Astros have a team that may have the least amount of talent ever on a Major League Baseball team, but it didn’t use to be that bad. They were in the World Series in 2005. It has all gone downhill since then. The team made a variety of moves in that off season. They signed an outfielder and moved Lance Berkman to first base, which signaled the end of Jeff Bagwell‘s career. They tried to compete for the next couple of seasons, but failed miserably. They haven’t been to the playoffs since that World Series appearance. They started dealing their best players for prospects. They continually tried to gather talent in the off-season to compete. They made a deal in the off-season prior to the 2008 season with the Phillies, which could be looked at as their first deal looking towards the future. They dealt Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo. They continued to give away players for decent prospects. Specifically, they gave Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt, in different deals, to the Phillies as well and never got Domonic Brown in return. Some people believe that happened because Ed Wade was with the Phillies prior to working for the Astros. The only guy that has had an impact in the majors from those Phillies deals, so far, is Michael Bourn. Bourn grew into an on-base and steals machine in Houston. They Astros were able to flip him in 2011 for Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

In November of 2011, the Astros were purchased by Jim Crane and announced they would move to the American League in 2013. Crane hired Jeff Luhnow as his General Manager. Luhnow came in with a plan to basically completely trade away all their valuable talent, and sign guys to short term contracts. They cut costs and started to stockpile valuable minor league talent. Their minor league talent will probably turn into an incredible core in a couple of seasons.

There was plenty of talent in the system before Jim Crane purchased the team. They had Delino DeShields Jr. (Son of Delino DeShields), Michael Foltynewicz, George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, and Jarred Cosart. DeShields, Foltynewicz and Springer were drafted by the Astros and Singleton and Cosart were given to the Astros by the Phillies in exchange for Hunter Pence. These players should be valuable for the Astros with Singleton and Springer being middle of the order bats. DeShields will be at the top, or bottom, of the order with plenty of speed. Foltynewicz as a project starter, and Cosart, who was supposed to be an ace, looks to be a potential closer.

Their 2012 and 2013 drafts were two key moments in acquiring talent. Their 2012 draft decision turned out to pay major dividends in 2013 and they had NO idea it would. Mark Appel was the top prospect heading into the 2012 draft. He was a junior at Stanford University. With the leverage of going back to Stanford, Appel was asking for the full allotment of bonus dollars given to the team with the first round pick (this amount was 7,790,400 in 2013). Teams do not have to give the full amount of bonus money and can spend more money on picks later in the draft. A high school player that falls into the “sandwich round” could be paid more than his bonus allotment to convince him to go pro instead of attend college. The Astros were not going to be pushed around by Appel and try to deal with Scott Boras, Appel’s agent. So, they went in a different direction and drafted the best position player on the board in Carlos Correa.

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa

Correa, from Puerto Rico, wanted to play professional ball and was able to sign a contract within a week or so and start playing in short season ball for the Astros. The kicker in this one is that he only signed for a 4.8 million dollar bonus. The Astros were able to save able 3 million dollars for their other draft picks. When high school star pitcher, Lance McCullers Jr, fell to them in the “sandwich round” (explanation of “sandwich round”), they selected him knowing they could pay more than the allotted bonus and convince him to play professional baseball. They signed him to a 2.5 million dollar bonus, the Astro’s 4th largest bonus at the time. Correa looks to be the best bat in the Astros future line up and McCullers will, most likely, end up being a top of the rotation starter.

Mark Appel

Mark Appel

Now back to Appel, he was drafted 8th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates. They did not have the amount of money to offer Appel to convince him to go pro. He turned down their contract and went back to Stanford. He decided that he would reenter the draft in 2013. Turns out, the Astros had the number 1 pick again! Appel had lost his leverage because he could not go back to school and who wants to go play in the independent league when you’re that talented? He was the top prospect, again. And this time, the Astros took him number 1 overall. He just signed this past week with a signing bonus between 6 and 6.5 million dollars. The Astros took a different approach this draft and chose to get the clear top prospect and a future ace. Appel could fly through the minors and be in the majors by the end of the year, but the Astros do not want to lose years of service time before he can get to free agency.

The Astros will also have a really high pick in the 2014 draft, but probably not the number 1 overall (that honor goes to the Marlins). If they trade the rest of their older MLB talent and continue to draft well at the top of the draft, the Astros are looking like a future World Series winner. I would be willing to bet they win one before 2020. They have to deal with 2-3 years of being the worst team in baseball, but it could lead to 7-10 years of being one of the best. I am excited to see this line up in 3 years. It is going to be one that is feared. Struggling teams are going to start following the Astros strategy of selling everything and building from the bottom up. Then again, some teams can build a good farm and be amazing, like the St. Louis Cardinals. This strategy is one of many used in baseball to build a team, and I think it is going to work out extremely well and will be competing for their first American League Pennant and their first World Series title.

Greg Danchik

Posted in MLB

AL MVP 2012– Cabrera vs. Trout


Player Runs HR RBI SB BB
Cabrera 109 44 139 4 66
Trout 129 30 83 49 67
Trout Prorated 140 32 90 53 73




.330 .393 .606 6.9 7.5 -4
.326 .399 .564 10.7 8.6 21

WAR, Offensive WAR and Defensive Runs Saved above the Average from Baseball Reference. Trout prorated stats are if he had the same amount of PA as Cabrera.


AL playoff picture if the season started the day Mike Trout got called up.

AL West Champ- A’s 83-58

AL Central Champ- Tigers 78-64

Al East Champ- NYY 84-59

AL Wild Card 1- Angels 83-59

AL Wild Card 2- Orioles 81-61

Out of the postseason- Rangers (78-64), Rays and White Sox

Cabrera vs Trout

Here’s the debate… who should win the AL MVP? Miguel Cabrera did something that hasn’t been done since 1967. He won the Triple Crown, a mystical goal that seemed it would never be reached after players have been close the past three years. He also did it with sole possession of each of the categories. Mike Trout, a rookie called up April 28th, had a remarkable season and turned around the Angels season. He is the first player in baseball history with 125 runs, 40 SBs and 30 HRs. He is also the first player to join the 30/40 club as a 20 year old, the youngest member.

Using classic statistics, this debate is pretty close. Cabrera was first in BA and Trout was second by 4 points. Cabrera had more HRs and RBIs (obviously), but Trout had more runs (Cabrera was second in runs), more walks and over 10 times as many steals. I think the most impressive statistics here are the walks and steals. Obviously Trout would have more steals, he is much faster and it is a big part of his game. However, think of how many times he put himself into scoring position after hitting a weak single. This is probably one of the reasons his runs are so high as well. This definitely puts more value towards Trout. Also, the walks are extremely impressive to me. Trout, a rookie, came up into the majors and had enough plate discipline to draw more walks than Miguel Cabrera, one of the greatest hitters of this generation. Granted, Cabrera had Prince Fielder as his protection and pitchers probably feared walking him. I still believe Trout had a great accomplishment by having more walks than Cabrera. Also from the leadoff spot, he helps out a team so much by being able to be on base for the strong part of the lineup.

Now using sabermetrics, this debate turns toward Trout in a heartbeat. Using wins above replacement (WAR) from Baseball Reference, Trout has a WAR of 10.7. The last player to have a WAR above 10 was Barry Bonds. Miguel Cabrera has a WAR of 6.9. This actually a great WAR. However, according the Baseball Reference, an MVP level WAR is 8 or higher and 6.9 is not that. The first thing that will come to mind is “oh that takes into account defense too much.” Wrong. According to just Offensive WAR, Trout still has a higher WAR, 8.6, to Cabrera’s 7.5. The difference in this WAR comes from the difference in steals because of how important they are offensively even though they are often over looked. They help create runs by simply being in scoring position and by throwing pitchers off their game. When a speedster, like Trout, is on base, it will get into the pitcher’s head. Pitchers start to focus on the runner and not the batter. That usually leads to a pitch that is left up in the zone and then is driven into the gap. That’s when Trout comes all the way from first to score.

Defensively, the argument isn’t close as to who should win the MVP. Trout saved 21 more runs than the average OF this season, while Cabrera cost his team 4 runs compared to the average. Also, center field, I would argue, is the 3rd hardest position to play in baseball besides catcher and shortstop. He covers so much ground and he robbed HR’s and had one of the best plays of the year. Cabrera did switch positions to have Fielder come to the Tigers, but that shouldn’t be relevant in the voting because it is about this year and this year only. This year, Cabrera did not have a great defensive year.

From the team perspective, I had the AL playoff scenario if the season started when Mike Trout was called up. First we see that the Angels have a better record than the Tigers by FIVE games… FIVE! That’s huge. And clearly the Angels played in harder division with the A’s beating them because of the uneven schedule at the beginning of the year in this hypothetical scenario. Also another key aspect of this scenario, the Rangers are OUT of the playoffs and they clinched a playoff spot before anyone else in the AL in the actual season. That puts into perspective how important the beginning of the season is compared to the end. Each game counts the same until you are into the postseason. So the argument that Cabrera played better down the stretch is irrelevant; especially when the MVP is for the whole season, not just the month of September. Each game counts equally, a win is a win and a loss is a loss.

Trout also basically brought the Angels back from the dead. They were in last place and it was hard to even watch the games. They just could not hit the ball and nothing was going their way. It was awful. Once Trout got up, everything changed. The team had a new fire and clearly shown by their record since he got called up, he had a huge impact, offensively and defensively.

Overall, Trout deserves the MVP. I think if there was an offensive player of the year award, Cabrera would win and Trout would be an extremely close second. However, the MVP is about offense and defense and clearly combining both of these parts of baseball, Trout had the better season. He saved runs for his team and did not cost them any. He created runs on offense with his power, speed, and ability to get on base. It was an incredible season and he is only a rookie. He could be on his way to one of the best careers in baseball history, but only time will tell. In reality, I think the baseball writers will vote Miguel Cabrera the MVP. They are old school guys and the Triple Crown, an amazing achievement, is such a mythical achievement that I believe that they think if someone wins the Triple Crown he deserves the MVP. In my book, it will be Trout. In reality, we will find out after the World Series.

October 4, 2012

Greg Danchik

Posted in MLB