Houston Astros Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell encountered a conundrum this offseason after being welcomed further into the team’s Circle of Trust around Jim Crane: How do we take a World Series champion and completely alter its method of thinking?
According to Bagwell’s media availability following the Jose Abreu signing, the Hall of Famer believes the team is/has been too analytics-heavy under former GM James Click and his predecessors. He’s excited to see what shape the franchise takes under Crane and his hand-picked GM-to-come.
Of course Bagwell is somewhat right; the players are important. But analytics (and tanking, fueled by a ruthless analytical reality) are the main reason the Astros have found the players who’ve been beating the Yankees like a drum since 2015.
If Houston continues on its current path, churning Carlos Correa out and turning him into ALCS/World Series MVP Jeremy Peña in one calendar year, they’re going to be a relentless machine for the next decade. However, if team legends start whispering in Crane’s ear that the process is flawed and that Brad Ausmus should be the Astros GM — something Bagwell actually advocated for on Tuesday — then maybe signing a 36-year-old Abreu won’t feel like a foolish move that’s bound to work because of the Astros’ inherent magic.
Maybe it’ll turn back into … a bad idea.
Yankees had better hope Jeff Bagwell pivots Astros away from analytics, towards vibes
The world has given the Astros the benefit of the doubt on adding Abreu, a high-caliber hitter and person at this moment in time, but someone whose hitting skills could erode quickly and no longer be worth $20 million by Year 2.
So far, the consensus in the baseball media sphere is that Houston got better. Keith Law has been one of very few analysts to emphasize risk over reward, who set up his piece entitled “Astros Deny the Existence of Time by Signing Jose Abreu” with the paragraph, “The Astros’ three year deal with José Abreu is a big bet that age is a social construct. Or it’s just a bad idea.”
How much front office talent erosion will it take before it begins to feel like Crane is taking shots just for the sake of it, trying to remake the most talented roster in baseball simply to prove he can? How much wrong can Houston realistically do from here, considering the remarkable talent they already possess in the lineup and on the mound?
And if the GM’s not going to be Bagwell, and it’s theoretically not going to be Crane, how low can they really go?
Bagwell’s voice might be the loudest in the room, but until he starts advising the Astros’ brass to trade away Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez, the roster’s probably going to be just fine.
Realistically, the Yankees have no chance of surpassing the Astros in talent in 2023. The best they can hope for is to keep it close, while crossing their fingers that a few unique circumstances go their way.
The Astros pulling away from analytics certainly qualifies as one of those circumstances, at the very least.