Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Smartest Guys in the Room

Maybe using a Smartest Guys in the Room reference to talk about a story originating from a place once called Enron Field isn't the most fortuitous analogy, but I'm going to go with it anyway.

George Postolos may be the Astros President, but GM Jeff Luhnow is rapidly becoming the face of the Astros, the one we look to in order to hear THE PLAN.  And there is a plan.  And he articulates it well and clearly.  At a "Talkin' Baseball" session at Saturday's Fan Fest, he talked about his philosophy for making the Astros a perennial winner through development of the minor league system.

In answer to an audience question, he talked about winning vs. development in the minor leagues.  He doesn't believe that you have to chose.  There may be some individual players from time to time for whom development has to be the guiding focus, but "the philosophy of the system as a whole should be doing both at the same time."  He talked about having done just that in the Cardinal's minor league system.

In discussing the young players that will be playing for Houston in 2012, he brought up the Astros MVP's that he had heard from and about on Friday evening at the Astros Baseball Dinner.  "One of the themes that I kept hearing was this guy came up and ... all of a sudden, boom, he had a breakout year one year and became a superstar.  It's going to happen to a couple of these guys out there.  Whether it's J.D. Martinez or Altuve or Lyles, somebody's going to have a breakout year this year."

He spoke of building the franchise around those breakout players, getting the first pick of the draft this year, spending money internationally and the need to "continuously add to your pipeline" in order to become successful and stay successful.  As I post this, Luhnow is in the Dominican Republic talking to the coaching staff and looking at our prospects there.

I was able to get a brief aside with Luhnow after the Q&A was over.  Since I have a minor league focus and since this front office has brought analytics to the forefront, I wanted to hear his thoughts about the use of Sabermetric analysis in the minor leagues.  He agreed with me that the use of stats such as BABIP and FIP, etc. are not particularly useful in analyzing minor league players, especially at the lower levels since the competition can be so uneven.  He explained to me that his staff will be delving much more deeply.  They will literally be tracking every single pitch and every single stroke of the bat in every single situation.  They aren't just looking at atoms; they are looking at quarks and neutrinos.  They will be able to view a player's performance at the most fundamental level in order to facilitate that player's maximum potential and predict future performance.  That's smart.

Next Up ~ Q&A with Brad Mills, Bud Norris & J.D. Martinez

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