How the Houston Astros Disrupted Player Development to Become the Model MLB Franchise

Within one year, the developmental trinity of Castro, Altuve, and McHugh provided powerful proofs of concept. All three went from sub-replacement level—less valuable than a theoretical fringe player promoted from Triple-A—to cornerstone-type players. Even more encouraging, the tweaks affected every aspect of performance: fielding, hitting, and pitching. Based on those early returns, there was no facet of the game the Astros couldn’t optimize.

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The Astros learned from both errors. Their reluctance to change their prior opinion of Martinez highlighted the need for technology that could quickly determine—and, when proactively applied, alter—a player’s true talent. As for Appel, Fast says, “That failure was a huge impetus for what happened the next spring training, which was getting a pitching-development plan, including TrackMan data, in front of every pitcher in the minors and having a front-office person present to explain it to them.”

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Boddy recalls hearing about how the pitching coaches for the Astros’ minor-league affiliates had defied Luhnow’s orders to implement long-toss training in 2012. In hopes of softening their resistance, Luhnow sent one of the skeptics, his 60-something first-year minor-league pitching coordinator and former major leaguer Jon Matlack, to the Texas Baseball Ranch to learn more about the controversial technique. “Matlack comes back and he’s like, ‘It’s stupid. They’re gonna hurt their arms,’” Boddy says. “And Jeff’s like, ‘All right … I can believe that. What’s your report? What’s your backing behind that? What’s your reason?’ Matlack’s like, ‘It’s just dumb.’ And Jeff’s like, ‘You’re fired, just leave,’ and canned him. And canned all the pitching coaches. And one of the other people in the organization was like, ‘Did you set out to fire all the pitching coaches?’ And Jeff said, ‘No, but I’m not gonna tolerate insubordination.’”

Source: Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik, The Ringer

Click on the link and read the whole piece – it’s fantastic.

1 comment for “How the Houston Astros Disrupted Player Development to Become the Model MLB Franchise

  1. Eraff
    June 17, 2019 at 6:04 am

    fantastic reading

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