So Deputy Jason and I (your loyal, God-fearing Constable) traded some e-mails over the last couple of days about our chosen team. Right now it stands at three parts. Here's part one.
TC: We came into the season worried about the Astros' starting rotation and feeling solid about the bullpen, which I once described as being "among the best in baseball." Is the problem the rotation, or what?
DJ: Have you ever used the term "You get what you pay for?" There has never been a more truthful statement made about our staff going into the season. We had an Ace, a solid #2, a solid #4 and two has-beens. With a rotation of Roy, Magic Wandy, Bud Norris, BMo and Hampy we now have two Aces, a solid #3 and #4 and only one has-been at this point in the season. After Hampy's next outing, we may be having open auditions for the 5th spot, so things are better now than when we started the season. So no, I don't see our rotation as being the biggest question mark any longer.
Watching this team nightly, there are consistently three things we do not do well. One is catch the ball when at the limits of our range. Miggy simply does not cover enough ground, nor does Carlos. While both men, deserve a spot in the lineup for their bat skills, neither does much to help our pitchers get extra outs by making a spectacular play here and there.
Second, our handling of the bullpen has been horrific. Wesley Wright, Doug Brocail, Latroy Hawkins, Jose Valverde and Chris Sampson have all had run-ins with Cooper this season about their workload. Specifically, letting guys with injuries take the mound is just unacceptable and borderline retarded. (And we're about to do it again! Hampy will be his next sacrificial lamb)
The third thing we do not do well is baserunnning. Speed can make up for mistakes, but there are only 3 guys on this club who can outrun bad judgement. Couple a low OB% and a knack for getting thrown out when they do get there, and we are the opposite of Moneyball.
Two of the three can be attributed to coaching, so I see this being the AstBros biggest question mark for the remaining year.
So, I pose the question to you, "Do you make a coaching change now, or finish out the season?"
TC: Could the "Opposite of Moneyball" officially be coined "Dummyball?"
Totally agree on the Three-fold Sucking. When one player complains about the lack of communication with Cooper, you take it for what it's worth. When five or six guys have run-ins with the Manager, you look for the common denominator. Off the top of my head, I can think of six different instances in which a player publicly questioned Cooper. You can look at the overworking of the bullpen as an extension of the problems with the rotation - either injuries or not going deep enough in a game to spell them - but there comes a point where it's a managerial problem. Which leads me to your question on making a coaching change now or later? And I like the fact that your question implies that it's going to happen at some point.
It's a decision I go back-and-forth on. This has been a strange season, and not always in a good way. The handling of the bullpen has been atrocious, but it hasn't been helped by the likes of Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton. That said, when you let Wesley Wright throw so much that he has to be rushed to the hospital with dehydration (and with him currently on the DL with arm fatigue), you have to look at the manager. Before Cooper got his extension in April, my feelings were that he should have a chance to do something with this team. I can't think of any games this season that a brilliant managerial decision won a game, I can certainly think of a few where a managerial decision lost the game, and more than a few where a managerial decision landed someone on the DL. You can't fire the players, but you can fire the manager.
On the other hand, he was put in a situation where he wasn't working with a whole lot on the pitching side of the roster, but I don't think anyone thought that the Astros would be only two games under .500 on August 12. The Astros have won about 49% of their games, and it's important to remember that Baseball Prospectus pegged the Astros at winning just north of 40%. However, Colorado is an example of how a coaching change can ignite a team, and there's every indication that the catalyst in 2004 was the firing of Jimy Williams. Coop keeps saying the team is a win streak away from being back in it, but maybe he's the one holding that win streak up. One of my arguments against firing Cooper earlier this season was, "Who in the hell would replace him?" Well, there are some more options now. Every day that passes is a day that Manny Acta is inexplicably unemployed.