New Astros GM Jeff Luhnow participated on the baseball analytics panel today at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. A few highlights:
- After the panel, I mentioned to Luhnow that his decision to move Brett Myers to the Astros' closer role has raised a few eyebrows. I asked if he thought Myers will have more impact in the bullpen than the rotation, and the GM replied, "I think for our team, right now, where we are and what we need, Myers in the bullpen is going to help us. We've got some options in the rotation and we really didn't have good options for that [closer] role. He's excited about it, and I'm excited to see how it works out. If it doesn't work out, we can always go back to the other way." As to whether the two parties would "re-restructure" the contract in that case, Luhnow said that would not be necessary because it's currently structured so it can go either way.
- During the panel, Luhnow explained what it's like to make a move that is not well-received. "It's frustrating, because you wish you could tell the fans everything that went into the decision. You go on FanGraphs and you read stuff about the player, and if that's all the information you had, you might make a different decision. But you've got a lot of information from the clubhouse, medical information, you have a lot of other pieces that are relevant that you really can't discuss. You're going to be second-guessed no matter what, so you just have to take it and move on."
- "You can't go wrong" with the first overall pick in the draft, Luhnow told me. He's never picked higher than Brett Wallace at #13 in 2008 for the Cardinals. He says there's already a short list of candidates for the Astros' 1-1 pick in 2012. I mentioned the huge expectations for such a pick, and Luhnow replied, "No question about it, there have been 1-1s that have not worked out well and we hope that we're one of the 1-1s that turns out to be a franchise player. That's the
expectation, that's the goal. There's risk in any player you select in the draft, but hopefully we'll take one that will move quickly and be an impact player."
- "There's no question that sports analytics helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series last year," said Luhnow on the panel. He said the Cardinals didn't have much with respect to analytics when he arrived in 2003, and the Astros are similar nine years later. He considers a blank slate "a huge opportunity to gain an edge." Luhnow says he's hired ten people since being named Astros GM, and "four of them were geeks, nerds, computer guys."
- Luhnow says the Dominican amateur market is almost inverted from the bargains of 10-15 years ago, and likes the limitations imposed in the new collective bargaining agreement.
“I asked if he thought Myers will have more impact in the bullpen than the rotation”
Why ask this question? What other response than yes did you expect?
So he’d explain why he felt that Myers was best suited for the bullpen.
Then ask him WHY he thought Myers would be better in the bullpen, not IF. He obviously thought he would make a bigger impact or else he wouldn’t have done it.
Ironically, his answer WASN’T “yes.” He simply said, in short, that the Astros had more options for the rotation than for a closer.
“”You can’t go wrong” with the first overall pick in the draft, Luhnow told me. ”
On a day a certain guy named Brien Taylor got arrested. Guess he knows his stuff.
(In all seriousness, before I get angry rants, I don’t think he was a bad pick, but just unfortunate how he hurt his shoulder. I mean, was there another major/minor leaguer who hurt his body parts in a fight?)
“Luhnow says the Dominican amateur market is almost inverted from the bargains of 10-15 years ago, and likes the limitations imposed in the new collective bargaining agreement.”
Hundreds of thousand of Dominican kids (and other kids playing baseball internationally) dreaming about million dollar bonuses say nay.
Bryan Bullington and Matt Bush (Verlander in Petco three words that will make Padres fans cry)
Wouldn’t take it too literally, I think he just meant it’s obviously a great pick to have.
Baseball would be better if those kids, whether they are American or International, WEREN’T paid million dollar bonuses (you know, like MOST kids coming out of high school or college and who are getting their first job).
By paying these kids so much with them never having done anything to earn it, they have TREMENDOUS pressure to live up to that paycheck. On the flip side, with the kids being paid so much, teams have pressure on them to promote the kids and to get a return on their investment as soon as possible (even if the kids aren’t ready). Another problem is that a lesser paid kid might be more prepared for the Majors than a higher paid kid but the higher paid kid is going to get the benefit of the doubt more often and is going to get promoted faster.
By having a set, low dollar figure to begin with (and possibly a larger bonus to be paid if and when they make the Majors), the kids wouldn’t have so much pressure on them to perform, the teams wouldn’t have so much pressure on them to promote a certain player and the Agents wouldn’t have leverage (I am going to suggest to my guy that if you don’t pay him X amount then he shouldn’t sign with your team) or (my guy will sign with the Yankees or Red Sox for $4 million but it is going to take $8 million for him to sign with the Padres, Royals, Astros or Pirates).
With the money NOT paid to unproven young players then the Major league minimum salary could be raised and teams could then spend more on proven talent.
A couple of years ago, the Reds spent $30 million dollars on Aroldis Chapman and gave him a six year contract. He has been in the Majors for two years now and they STILL don’t know what they have. Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? Is he a closer? Who knows.
With a much lower dollar value contract, the Reds could have kept Chapman in the Minors these past two years and figured out EXACTLY what they have and EXACTLY how they were going to use him. Then, they would STILL have four years left for him to perform in the Majors.
i cant even begin to describe how dumb that was
Houston needs to hit a HR with the #1 overall this June and not target someone they can sign on the cheap. this June may just show the fan base just how devoted they are towards starting over and developing somewhat with new ownership.
this team has top $$ this draft.. 12m to spend, which is more than twice the amount they spent last season. If I was an Astros fan? Would be VERY upset if they didn’t spend virtually every dime to show renewed commitment.
Agreed 100%. I’m a partial stro fan and it would be frustrating if they go the cheap route with the #1 pick.
Unfortunately, Houston sports franchises have shown a tendency to use top picks on the “signable” player rather than the top player available. Let’s do hope the Astros don’t blow this one.
Historic Astros’s statistics don’t mean anything when a totally different ownership takes over.
Also other Houston sports franchises draft histories have nothing to do with the Astros.
yao ming…great pick…not cheaper
mario williams….so much better than bush so far…not cheaper
does houston have a wnba team or something?
Who has the most talent/upside in this years draft? I’m hearing names like Appel, Giolito and Buxton. I’m not a talent evaluator and I’m curious to which of these guys you can build a franchise around? Astros NEED this pick to pan out and atleast become a quality/superstar player!!
As far as i know, their has never been a #1 overall pick High School pitcher if you wanted to think they might pick Giolito. They might, never know.
Of course he’s for the limitations of the new CBA: it levels the playing field for poor teams to have a glimmer of hope at signing top talent. A tiny glimmer.
Does anyone else think it’s odd that the Luhnow tries to justify Myers to the bullpen, and then says this:
“You go on FanGraphs and you read stuff about the player, and if that’s all the information you had, you might make a different decision. But you’ve got a lot of information from the clubhouse, medical information, you have a lot of other pieces that are relevant that you really can’t discuss.”
Maybe you should hold your cards tighter, Jeff.
Yep…he said this quote before I talked to him, so the two things may only seem linked together because they’re next to each other in my post. But, as I asked him the question I mentioned that I thought the decision might involve some factors he can’t tell us, and he smiled as I said it. I don’t want to read too much into that, but yeah, for a savvy guy like Luhnow to make the Myers decision, it’s fair to assume we’re not getting 100% of the reasoning.
I guess that the only problem with that is that I dislike the idea that he is trying to justify his moves. Clearly, I disagree with the idea of Myers to the bullpen, but it isn’t my call, and if he tips his hand to justify his move, there is a little bit of a concern. Then again, perception might go a long way in an organization that won’t have much short-term success.
I have liked everything so far from Luhnow (with the exception of the Myers), and I’m excited for the future in Houston.
Perhaps lower signing bonuses will keep the relatives safer from the kidnapping trades.