Not much news is made during the weeks Major League Baseball wants the attention placed on the field so the Astros won't be making any big headlines however they announced Monday that they will be retaining their entire coaching staff for 2017, including some that might invite some controversy.
Pettis (l): Back for another year
(c) Getty Images
Retained with manager A.J. Hinch are bench coach Trey Hillman, pitching coach Brent Strom, batting coach Dave Hudgens, first base coach Rich Dauer, third base coach Gary Pettis, bullpen coach Craig Bjornson and assistant hitting coach Alonso Powell.
Hudgens has received his share of criticism over lack of offensive production. The team batting average dipped from .250 in 2015 (10th in the AL) and a .752 OPS (2nd) to .247 (13th) and .735 (9th) this season. Run production dropped slightly from 729 (5th) to 724 (8th).
Both squads had numerous rookies making big league debuts. One would have expected to see progress from both Carlos Gomez and Colby Rasmus this year but both seemed to regress significantly which, in turn, affected the squad's ability to score runs.
Pettis is often criticized for his aggressive (some might say risky) approach to baserunning, often waving runners to try for an extra base that took them out of an inning. The way I see it, Pettis wouldn't be doing this if the front office didn't see some statistical advantage to forcing the action so perhaps criticism should be redirected to the decision scientists who seem to endorse the concept.
The Astros have let some talented coaches go because they wouldn't buy into some of the statistical theories being handed down from upstairs so it would be incorrect to think Hinch or his staff are doing anything significant that deviates from what they have been told.
For the life of me, I still don't understand the sense of taking a speedster who manufactures runs (Jose Altuve) and batting him third while putting a 29-HR, high-strikeout man with average speed (George Springer) in the leadoff spot. It did seem to give the club a spark when they first tried it but not for long.
Meanwhile, the Astros are bidding farewell to the California League and Advanced-A affiliate Lancaster. They will begin next year in the Carolina League with a team-owned club in Fayetteville, NC. The odd thing about this is they won't have a stadium ready until 2019 so the club will have to find a temporary home for two years.
Frankly, I'm glad to see Houston leave the Cali League. The circuit (and the location) had become so offense-friendly that some pitchers were intentionally skipped to AA Corpus Christi so as to not discourage them. Wacky offensive numbers (remember Koby Clemens' 121 RBIs there in 2009?) skew the assessments of hitting talent. Hopefully, the Fayetteville site will be more even in their gameplay.
By the way, I guess the infamous HB2 that had led to boycotts of sporting events in North Carolina was not a consideration of the Astros' ownership in making this move. Just sayin'.
While it is too early this Friday morning to know how severe the damage might have been to the new spring training site in West Palm Beach that the Astros share with the Washington Nationals, it seems they escaped the worst of Hurricane Matthew. We at Astros Daily join millions of others offering our prayers and support of those who are suffering through the destruction of this massive storm.
- Bob Hulsey