Every-Thing Sports

Jeff Luhnow is frustratingly smart and frugal

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has done a tremendous job since being hired on December 8, 2011. That was a month and a few days after he helped the St. Louis Cardinals winning their eleventh title. He's used his analytic/Moneyball style of team building to build the Astros organization into a perennial contender. The crowning achievement was the World Series title in 2017. Not too bad for a guy who was hired into the Cardinals organization in 2003 without any prior experience in baseball besides playing in high school. He had previously worked for McKinsey & Company, a global strategy and management company.

He's made a career of analyzing data, making sense of it, and using what he's found through analyzing said data to give an advantage to whoever he's working for. This is a valuable skillset, whether in the business world, or in MLB. Luhnow has proven he can provide an extremely high level of efficiency and production with his work.It's the same qualities that make Luhnow a pain in the ass when it comes to making trades involving high ranking prospects.

He won't quit Kyle Tucker

As presently constructed, this team needs another arm in both the starting rotation, as well as in the bullpen. The Mets wanted a package centered around Tucker, the tall, lanky left-hand hitting outfield prospect for perhaps their best pitcher Noah Syndergaard. When I heard Luhnow was unwilling to send Tucker, I was upset. Tucker came up last season and couldn't cut it. Yordan Alvarez has more than proven himself in the opportunities that he's been given this season. So much so that manager AJ Hinch finds ways to get him into games, despite Alvarez being a defensive liability. If Tucker was deserving of the nickname "Ted" (as in Ted Williams because of his supposed sweet lefty swing), he'd be up taking the at-bats Alvarez currently occupies. Alas, Tucker is still in the minors while Alvarez is putting up rookie of the year numbers.

Ditto for Forrest Whitley

The same can be said for Forrest Whitley. Whitley is the organization's best pitching prospect. He was hurt this year and not able to be called up when Alvarez was called up. He was originally thought to be called up in June so the team would hold off another year of arbitration. However, his injury set back those plans. Not to mention he hasn't been as sharp as everyone would have liked for him to be. That being said, he could've been flipped into a big leaguer that can help this team now instead of hoping he develops into a top of the rotation guy later.

Hoarding prospects has its advantages

Remember when Alex Bregman was a hot prospect? Remember when it was thrown out there that the Astros should trade him for Chris Sale? Remember when last season Bregman finished top three in the AL MVP race and earned a five-year $100 million dollar extension? Sometimes Luhnow's stubbornness pays off. He's shown that he's made the right calls so far for this organization. Winning that World Series title gave him some equity. So did restocking the minor league system and building a stacked big league roster. Maybe this guy knows what he's doing after all?

Bottom line: Luhnow knows what he's doing. Whether we believe in his methods or not, he's rebuilt this franchise from the ground up. However, it is still quite frustrating to see guys out there that can help this team win another title and Luhnow not going after them for fear of having to part with prospects he holds in high regard. Where does the chase for another title outweigh the potential future of the franchise? In my opinion, the title chase now outweighs the future. Winning another title can seal your legacy, as well as the legacies of everyone involved. Luhnow needs to realize that the guys he's trading away aren't future Hall of Famers. They'll probably be really good, but that's not enough to turn down proven big league talent that can help you now. I truly hope this article is rendered inconsequential by Wednesday at 3PM. That's the hard trade deadline. That's when we'll know if Luhnow thinks this team is ready for a World Series run as constructed, or he's made a move to reinforce what he's already built. As hard as it is for me to say it, in Luhnow I trust.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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