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Who, exactly, expects the Astros to be good?

Mar 25, 2013, 11:38 AM EDT

Houston Astros v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

A silly column from Danny Knobler of CBS 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.”

  1. icanspeel - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    For some reason I root for the Astros the same way I rooted for the Bad News Bears

    • huffdaddyco - Mar 25, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      Makes sense. After all, the Bears did have that game in the Astrodome.

  2. Jason Collette - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    I would love to see them go 63-99 in 2013. If they do, they should have a champagne celebration because that will be a good year in the context of what 2013 holds for them as most expect 110 or more losses.

    • bancacentral - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      110 or more losses? Wow, that would be historically bad. They are certainly not going to be good this season, but 110 losses implies that apart from performing under replacement level as a team, they would be unlucky as well.

  3. stex52 - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    They are a worse team at the season opener than they were a year ago. It’s hard to see much help at AAA this year (and probably not next). There are some intriguing young prospects at AA and a little starting to filter in at AAA. But having a top ten farm system still only yields them 4 of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Discussion about their #1 and #2 pitchers still centers on when they will be traded, not whether they are a core for the future. Second base is the only position that is in a clear lock by a positive WAR player.

    Where is the depth to think that they have a team that is a couple of years from contention? The owner has made it clear that he won’t spend more than he has to. Absent the entire starting lineups for Texas LAA and Oakland getting busted for PEDs, it’s hard to see < 100 losses as achievable.

    I'm still wondering whether current management really sees Tampa Bay as their model, or if they aren't a little more interested in the KC/Pittsburgh business models.

    • jeffa43 - Mar 25, 2013 at 4:01 PM

      Stex… I want to be on your side because we are the few who post on all Astro articles, but put the crack pipe down!

      This team has so much more talent, and so much stronger all around it is not close. I may be wasting my time, as I know you don’t think Harrell is good (11-11) for a team that lost 107 is pressive… 2 hits allowed in 17 starts, kid would have had a shot at 18 wins with any team.

      Castro is finally healthy, and is looking great. We have an all star coming back at 2b. Carter from Oakland, Wallace for his first full year, Ankiel is a big step up from our 4 Rf we had.

      Norris, Harrell, Humber, is a huge step up for first 3 starters. All prospects are one yr closer.

      You also recently said Dominguez can’t hit… In Sept he came up and hit 5 hr, and he a rediculous good glove ( unlike poor hands Chris Johnson we had last year)

      Not saying we are good (not for 2 years), but we are a lot better than last year… Like comparing a flat tire to a brand new tire.

      We know, it will be tough for a couple of years.. We don’t need the poor outlook from uneducated Astro fans.

      Pitching, hitting, minor leagues and attitude is all superior this year to last year.

      • stex52 - Mar 25, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        Minor leagues are much better. But not in a way that will contribute much this year. Lyles may get it back together. Cosart has a chance later in the year. Singleton’s schedule is probably thrown off for most if not all of the year. They might decide to jump Springer up, but he’s not ready yet.

        Now, about the MLB team.
        Last year we had Johnson at 3rd and Lowrie at SS. Not saying we should have kept either one, but they were better proven hitters than Dominguez or our SS options (which are dreadful). I didn’t say Dominguez couldn’t hit for sure, but Gator didn’t like the chances. 1st base has a lot of names but who will step up? Pena is a clubhouse presence, but he strikes out at a frightening rate, pushing the mendoza line. Wallace is to put up or shut up time, and he doesn’t have much power. Maybe Carter will show up big time. We can only pray. In the outfield, Ankiel hasn’t hit .700 OPS since 2010. He’ll have a good arm, but Bogusevich had that and speed.

        Harrell and Norris were here last year. Along with Wandy. And Brett Myers in the bullpen. Humber is a reclamation project. I hope he succeeds, being a fellow Rice alumnus. But he wore out his welcome at Chicago, even with a perfect game. He finished the season with a 6+ ERA and a 1.54 WHIP! So where is pitching improved?

        I would love for them to be better. But I don’t favor rose-colored glasses. Very little says they will this year.

      • jeffa43 - Mar 25, 2013 at 6:16 PM

        Who is this Gator you speak of? Dominguez is 22, MLB network was unanimous in their thoughts of gold gloves in his future. I only saw him hit in Sept and he crushed the ball. I saw him last week vs Verlander and he turned one around deep to left. He is going to be solid.

        I was in Bogeys corner all year, and love what he is doing this spring in Chi, but Ankiel provides a lot of leadership that will pay off even when he is gone next yr.

        Wallace has power, and Carlos Lee really slowed his path. Pena is one player I am not excited about, but Carter and Wallace should provide plenty of pop.

        Again these are things all pointing toward improvement.

        Humber appears to have found his stuff, and is throwing the best he has in a year. Norris is not a number 1, but would be a good 3 on most teams. Harrell is going to be a star, a stand out star. I pitched through college and understand what it takes to break out… I don’t see that in anyone on the staff, but I would put Harrell up against anything the Rangers have.

        Bullpen will be shakey, but this season will as well.

        Losing Lowrie sucks, but getting Carter does not…. A lot of K’s, sure, but there are signs his discipline is getting better. At SS, we have issues, but! We have the best ss in the minors and we are not going to compete this year anyway.

        They will not be good, but I won’t be shocked if Texas opens up 1-2 after visiting Houston…. That’s progress, even if they the lose 95-100

        Barns is 100x better than Schaffer, Springer is better. They both start in aaa, but both will be up soon. Cosart and Singleton are knocking on the door. All this points to them being a lot better than last year at this time.

      • stex52 - Mar 25, 2013 at 6:49 PM

        You need to spend more time on this blog! Old Gator – retired professor, cook, gourmand of all things ethnic, scourge of “And That Happened” and probable international criminal. Everybody on the site knows Gator. He also has the misfortune to be a Marlins fan. One group that Astro fans can feel sorry for.

        But he knows his baseball and his prospects.

  4. chacochicken - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    To answer your question…Brett Wallace’s mom.

    • crispybasil - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      She’s the new Colby Rasmus’s dad.

      • chacochicken - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        She’s Reverse Rasmus. Calls after every loss and tells Brett how well he played and she was sure they were going to win that one.

        *Disclaimer: I know nothing about Brett Wallace’s mom.

  5. rbj1 - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    I’m going to go ahead and blame any and all spring flooding on the 2013 Astros. They’re gong to be that bad.

  6. tcbdavid - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    I’m one of those Astros bloggers who loves the front office, but even at my most optimistic, I don’t think they’re going to be good. Here’s what I wrote last Wednesday

    None of the Astros blogs I follow have said anything remotely like they’ll be a good team. The boldest of predictions say they might, MIGHT, win 70 games.

  7. richyballgame - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Baseball is baseball,crazy things happen.. But realistically,considering that they’re just entering the AL,they’ll sink. Give it a few years,and they’ll be able to hold their own.

  8. gloccamorra - Mar 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    I’m not a blogger and I don’t play one on TV, but the dire predictions are overblown. It’s a young team filled with inexperienced players that the experts can’t read due to a lack of a track record. A LOT of baseball people can be wrong, all at the same time. Otherwise, why was Jake Peavy a 15th rounder? Why was Albert Pujols a 14th rounder? Who is Todd Van Poppel?

  9. Francisco (FC) - Mar 25, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    Who, exactly, expects the Astros to be good?


  10. officialgame - Mar 25, 2013 at 1:38 PM

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

    And that person would be….
    Danny Knobler.

  11. Jason Lukehart - Mar 25, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    If you’re interested in seeing how the 2011/2012 Astros stack up among the worst back-to-back seasons, here’s a look at each franchise’s worst, along with the very worst in modern history and the expansion era:

    If the Astros end up with the worst record in baseball again this year, they’ll be the first team since the 1962-65 Mets to hold that distinction more than two seasons in a row.

  12. JB (the original) - Mar 25, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Well, the Twins play both the Marlins and the Astros this year so I guess we’ll actually get a true gauge of who’s team is worse than who’s.

  13. chill1184 - Mar 25, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Its quite obvious that Knobler doesn’t realize that the Astros are doing a full tear down start from scratch rebuild. Rebuilds are supposed to be ugly thats one of the cold realities of it. As the old saying goes, its gets worse before it gets better.

  14. jeffa43 - Mar 25, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    One more thought…. Among a few there is excitement about Astros baseball. The fact is there has been nothing exciting about the last 7 years… Nothing!

    Any progress is exciting. We may… May be really good in two years with all the moves geared toward improvement. If you cant understand the big picture and be excited about watching a young team grow and develop, and you say I can’t be excited about it…..

    Then piss off! We are getting better and I am excited about the long road ahead…. This year we paved the road, and we start our journey.

    Pessimistic thought are for the weak hearted.

    • stex52 - Mar 25, 2013 at 7:29 PM

      Take a deep breath, man. It’s a baseball blog. Everyone gets an opinion. I see the flaws, you have great hopes. Unless you have Comcast, neither one of us will be watching them. Chances are they will be better than I think, but less than you hope.

      If they lose < 100, I will buy you a drink at the Four Seasons in October.

  15. jeffa43 - Mar 25, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Well said Stex… Wings & a round of beers on me, not at the Four Seasons… If they do not improve by 8 games.

    I am in Orange County, Ca. ….. Direct TV.

    • stex52 - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:26 PM

      Oh. I’m in Richmond, just outside of Houston.

  16. largebill - Mar 26, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Some of this is hyperbole. Writers can’t just say they’re going to struggle and are very likely going to finish last. They have to go overboard and make it out as if they will lose every game. Nope. Difference between good and bad at Major League level is not that great. Take any AAA team and have them play 162 MLB season and they’d win a good number of games (45 minimum). Astros have some talented players (heck, you don’t get drafted without some talent). Altuve is a potential star player. Carter, while striking out a lot, will hit around 25 homers. I think they could possibly win 65 games. I wouldn’t bet on more than 58 (over/under). Every team has a high/low range of wins depending on whether they catch some breaks or not. Astros’ range is fairly narrow. I’d guess the Yankees have the widest range of possible records.

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