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  • That's the Ticket: Failure to Launch

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    Among many in baseball circles, the Houston Astros organization may be considered the Smartest Team In The Room™.

    Their front office is loaded with brainiacs. They have field staff who carry out the philosophy from the lowest levels to the majors. They even have broadcast teams who attempt to advance the mission statement on TV and radio, but that is mostly to fans who are left wondering why the team is not winning.

    The Astros have a five-year plan to improve the team and losing is an acknowledged residual effect of that overhaul. And, though in last place in the AL West, there are some signs of improvement -- after all, they are not the worst team in baseball. The Rays, Cubs and Diamondbacks have worse records than the Astros.

    Obviously it is hard to throw stones while in last place in the AL Central, mind you, but if you are a Twins fan looking for tickets and a win, you have to feel good about the odds of walking away with a series win.



    Failure To Launch

    In 2010, the Astros boasted a payroll of $92 million. Two seasons later, they pared the budget and fielded a team that earned a collective $22 million.

    It wasn’t a fire sale. It was a plan.

    The directive from ownership was to go young. The year prior, former Cardinals draft guru Jeff Luhnow was hired away from St. Louis and he revamped the player selection and player development process in Houston. The roster went from being in the late-20s and early-30s to the mid-20s -- since then the youngest (and least expensive) in the game.

    Along with Luhnow’s five-year plan to make the team more sustainable, the Astros sustained numerous losses. Two-hundred and fifty-three since 2012 to be exact.

    Of course, mixed into to the squad has been some intriguing talent that has the potential to form the nucleus of the championship team the Astros envision. The five-foot-six second baseman Jose Altuve is leading the American League in hits (80) and stolen bases (20). Outfielder George Springer (10) is only trailing the White Sox’s Jose Abreu (17) in home runs by a rookie. First base prospect Jon Singleton recently signed a five-year contract -- with options that could make it eight years -- despite not having played a single game in the bigs. On the mound, Dallas Keuchel, who the Twins will face on Friday, leads all pitchers in ground ball creation at 66.5%.

    While not yet a competitive team per se, this team has plenty of players of interest to follow.

    The Match-Ups

    Friday: Dallas Kuechel vs. Phil Hughes @ 7:10 PM

    Are you a fan of pitchers’ duels? Two-to-one ballgames? If so, this is the game for you.

    The best pitching matchup of the series will be conducted with two wildly different pitching styles but both contestants rely on the fastball. Kuechel is a lefty who doesn’t throw hard (maxes out at 92 miles per hour) but has been difficult for hitters to elevate. Hughes, on the other hand, throws his heat over 95 at times and because he throws it up in the zone, it is rarely put on the ground.

    Despite these differences, they have both been successful: Since April 30 Hughes is the owner of a 1.74 ERA while Kuechel has an equally impressive 2.14 mark.

    Saturday: Scott Feldman vs. Kyle Gibson @ 1:10 PM

    Not a fan of pitchers striking batters out? Good. Here’s the game for you.

    Both Feldman and Gibson have been very democratic when it comes to sharing the ball with teammates. Feldman is the owner of the league’s worst 4.25 K/9 while Gibson is separated by just Seattle’s Chris Young at 4.35 K/9. In Feldman’s case, his curveball has not inciting the same number of swing-and-misses it once did. Gibson, however, has struggled to advance the count to two-strikes, as the majority of his opponents have put the ball into play before that pitcher’s count.

    Over his last three starts, Feldman has worked 15.3 innings and allowed 28 hits leading to 14 earned runs. Expect the Twins offense to come out swinging against Houston’s right-hander.

    Sunday: Collin McHugh vs. Samuel Deduno @ 1:10 PM

    This one is the matchup of the guys who were not wanted by their previous organizations.

    Deduno went through multiple organization and even the Twins exposed him to all the other teams, who all passed. Since returning to the rotation in May, Deduno has made six starts and has gone 2-2 with a 4.36 ERA. Whereas the fastball was his weapon last year, his curveball has become equally impressive now that he has been able to keep in down in the zone.

    For Houston, McHugh started in the Mets organization and then was traded to the Rockies who waived him this past December. Picked up by the Astros, the 27-year-old has thrown 50 innings and struck out 54 while flashing a vicious curveball with Bugs Bunny-like bend. The pitch carries a 17% swinging strike rate. Trevor Plouffe has been very susceptible when it comes to the curve this year -- he is just 1-for-12 with 7 strikeouts versus curves.



    For Friday’s projected pitchers’ duel, seats in the infield area are recommended to see the detail in their work. Saturday’s game should feature more offense (and a bit of rain) so find a good ticket in the left field bleachers. On Sunday, bring the family and have the kids run the bases after the game. All are an even better deal if you use the promo code DAILYDOUBLE, which will get you 10% off and supports Twins Daily. Whatever your needs, your local ticket supplier,Ticket King, can help.
    Comments 10 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      I'm not sure that losing 253 with a pretty clearly articulated plan is that much worse than losing 222 with a bit of a muddled mess.

      It does look like both teams may be starting to turn things around a little. The Astros are 10-3 over their last 13 games while the Twins are .500 over their last 10 and hovering near .500 for the season.

      It will be interesting to see how this plays out. And I'm really hoping that Phil Hughes can continue with his streak of stellar performances.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      I'm not sure that losing 253 with a pretty clearly articulated plan is that much worse than losing 222 with a bit of a muddled mess.
      I was thinking the same thing. We have 2 more wins, this year, with a not sure what the plan is.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      They clearly committed to a strategy. And, it is already showing fruition in YOUNG players playing well. The Twins took a different approach (and are actually over the median age for teams this year)......
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      I'm not sure that losing 253 with a pretty clearly articulated plan is that much worse than losing 222 with a bit of a muddled mess.
      By no means was I attempting to paint the Twins as a team in a better overall position. I just believe they are in a better position to win this series at home given the pitching match-ups.

      While I do enjoy Houston's forthrightness about their strategy, it still is not clear if it will work out. And, while Houston's front office draws accolades for being stat savvy and analytical, we must also remember the Twins have built one of the best current farm systems in the game as well.

      Ultimately, I envy the Astros for having the long-term vision and, as a student of the game, I appreciate their ability to communicate that vision to the fan base.
    1. SwainZag's Avatar
      SwainZag -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      They clearly committed to a strategy. And, it is already showing fruition in YOUNG players playing well. The Twins took a different approach (and are actually over the median age for teams this year)......
      The Twins took a different approach in it was not a planned rebuild. The 2010 team won 94 games and had a roster that was primed to do it again in 2011. What they didn't plan on was missing 328 combined games from Mauer, Morneau, Kubel and Span. The only position players to appear in more than 100 games were Cuddy, Valencia and Revere. There was also the fact Nathan was just coming of TJ surgery, Baker was great...until injuries derailed him in July and Liriano & Pavano were shells of what he was the year before.

      You go from a playoff team to a team that lost 99 games with a similar but injury ravished roster in one season. 2012 they had hope that 2011 was just an aberration with the injuries, but the team had no pitching and last season was obviously a rebuilding year.

      Talk all you want about the age on this team, the fact is the only guys over 31 won't be here long (Willingham, Guerrier, Bartlett (already gone), Correia, Burton, Kubel and Fuld). No player on that list is in the long term plan and there's a great chance all of them are gone after this season. There's a chance that when they break camp next year, Mauer at age 32 might be the elder statesmen of the entire team.

      After that most of the starters on the team are under the age of 30. Taking Nolasco and Mauer out of the equation (Both above average starters at age 31) you have Plouffe at 28, Hughes 28, Dozier 27, Gibson 26, Pinto 25, Hicks 24 and Arcia 23. The core of this team is between the ages of 23-28 and not to mention has one, if not the best system in baseball.

      As much slack as a lot of posters, including myself give the front office, IMO the Twins have done a pretty decent rebuild considering it didn't really start until after the 2011 season and realistically into the 2012 season. The future is bright my friends.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by SwainZag View Post
      As much slack as a lot of posters, including myself give the front office, IMO the Twins have done a pretty decent rebuild considering it didn't really start until after the 2011 season and realistically into the 2012 season. The future is bright my friends.
      Here's where we differ significantly. I started posting about the need for a rebuild on October 10, 2010 immediately after the Twins had been eliminated from the playoffs in 3 straight games (again). At that point, it was apparent to me that this team needed to do something very, very different.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Not to mention, it's the job of the front office to continually assess where the organization is situated. It's not really a defense of the front office to say they didn't realize they had to rebuild - on the contrary, it is a serious indictment of the organization's leadership.

      The problem continues through the present, with inconsistent moves like handing Hicks the CF job while relying on short-term, mediocre or worse starters like Correia and Pelfrey.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So take out all the old players and they aren't old?
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Here's where we differ significantly. I started posting about the need for a rebuild on October 10, 2010 immediately after the Twins had been eliminated from the playoffs in 3 straight games (again). At that point, it was apparent to me that this team needed to do something very, very different.
      I don't think you're wrong, but because you started calling for a rebuild doesn't mean the FO thought it was time. I, like many Twins fans, was disappoined with the playoff losses, but thought the team could rebound with an addition of pitching (that never came), but then injuries did what they did and Twins fans began to wonder what exactly "Bi-lateral leg weakness" is (and they're still wondering).

      But I think we're on the same point going forward. I like the direction the Twins are moving and there is legitimate hope for the future and even some not so irrational hope for 2014.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      I know where they were coming from PP but for me, that 2010 series was one of, if not THE, most disheartening thing I'd seen in 50 years of watching the Twins.

      While even I did not predict the abysmal depths to which they have sunk the last 3 years, it was just apparent that it wasn't going to work. The pitching wasn't there and more importantly, the leadership wasn't there and I couldn't see that changing for 2011.

      But you're right, the bandwagon for significant change was pretty small at that point and I'm glad we have some hope going forward even though I'd still like to see some changes in management's old guard.
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