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Checking in on the Astros’ latest experiments

May 1, 2013, 9:13 AM EDT

Jeff Luhnow AP

The Astros coming to New York meant that they’re getting a lot more of a national spotlight this week. And two columns came out about them yesterday. One by Ken Rosenthal and one by Danny Knobler. Each looks at a different part of the Astros new directions.

Rosenthal’s focuses on the Astros’ use of duel starting pitchers for each game in the minor leagues. Each team carries eight starters, with the first one going abut 75 pitches, the next coming in and a closer finishing up if necessary.  GM Jeff Luhnow explains how it works and why they’re doing it. It makes an awful lot of sense for a team in the Astros’ competitive and developmental position. Actually makes a lot of sense at the lower levels for any team, I would think.

Knobler looks at the Astros’ use of defensive shifts. Shifts are all the rage these days, but the Astros are using far more of them and far more complicated ones than anyone. Coach Eduardo Perez is the shift guru in Houston, and he talks about how it has been implemented and adapted as the season has gone on and various Astros pitchers have weighed in on how they feel about it all.

I imagine some will make fun of the Astros for being unconventional. Or look at what will certainly be a poor record at the end of the year and say “see, it didn’t work!” But there is absolutely zero reason for the Astros to not try to innovate and learn as much as they can now, when the games are comparatively unimportant for the franchise. If they help them find one player or one strategy that traditional developmental methods would not have, and if it helps them win any more games when the team is truly competitive, it will have been worth it.

  1. mattdubya - May 1, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    *DUAL starting pitchers. They’re not making them fight to the death with pistols at dawn.

    Oh wait, are they??

    • jeffa43 - May 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      Not to the death…. To the pain!

      • mazblast - May 1, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        There’s one thing I forgot to tell you. I’m not left-handed.

    • Cris E - May 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      I’ve seen that roster – pistols might be more entertaining for everyone.

  2. proudlycanadian - May 1, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    I read both stories and applaud the Astros on their approach. Other teams have done similar things, but the Astros are taking it to an extreme. They are also winning more games than expected.

    Regarding the pitching, the Jays tried something similar early last season with their single A Lansing team. There were 4 very good starting prospects on that team. They would take turns between starting and middle relief, but by the end of the season all 4 would be starting. 2 of those pitchers were subsequently traded to the Marlins and one was traded to the Mets.

    • crispybasil - May 1, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      Checked the standings, and it’s of course interesting (and a little funny) to see the Astros at 8 – 19 versus the Angels at 9 – 17.

      • jarathen - May 1, 2013 at 12:15 PM

        Especially considering that the Angels’ gameplay style at this point couldn’t be more staid, more about plugging in the same nine guys as oftne as possible and hoping it all works out.

  3. danaking - May 1, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    I like the dual starting pitchers idea. Teams should always look to develop as many starters as possible. Once a pitcher shows he isn’t cut out to start (not enough pitches, durability, whatever), making into a reliever is a lot easier than finding enough starters.

  4. Old Gator - May 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    You think a remake of Brewster McCloud at Enron Field would go over well? I’d sure pay to sit in the stands and watch the active set. Might generate some revenue, no?

  5. mazblast - May 1, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    When you’re down as far as the Astros, you may as well throw some sh** against the wall and see what sticks. Doing things the same old way and expecting different results is one definition of madness (can you hear that, Mets? Pirates? Royals?).

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