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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Astros make first dumb move of season

By David Schoenfield

What's more difficult: pitching 200 innings or saving 30 games?

Well, consider it like this: Every team has five starting rotation slots, so that's 150 rotation slots throughout the major leagues. In 2011, 39 starters managed to pitch 200 innings, or 26 percent of all potential slots.

Each team has a closer. In 2011, 19 closers saved at least 30 games, or 63 percent of all closer slots.

Finding a guy to save 30 games is pretty easy; finding a guy who can pitch 200 innings is difficult.

Which is why I don't understand the Astros' decision to move Brett Myers to the bullpen. New Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is supposed to be bringing a new mindset to the downtrodden Astros, one with a more analytical bent than the previous regime. So it's a little discouraging to see him use old-school thinking in explaining the move: "We have some candidates and depth with the rotation," he told the Houston Chronicle. "Having an experienced guy who's done it before takes some pressure off of Brandon Lyon and guys like David Carpenter and Wilton Lopez."

Now, Luhnow is being a little kind here, at least to Lyon, who is experienced as a closer but not very good at it. By the way, after Lyon bombed out of the closer role in 2011, the Astros eventually turned to Mark Melancon, an unheralded reliever with 37 career innings before the season. He was fine in the role, saving 20 of 24 opportunities after assuming the job, and was flipped to the Red Sox for Jed Lowrie in the offseason.

So instead of taking a similar approach in 2012, the Astros turn to Myers. Look, is he a great starter? No, but his 4.46 ERA last year on a terrible club wasn't embarrassing. He can give up too many home runs, but he had a quality strikeout-to-walk ratio of 160-to-57. He's making $10 million this year (with a $10 million club option for 2013 that becomes guaranteed based on 2012 performance). I have to think Myers' trade value is a higher as a starter than a closer if the Astros are thinking of shopping him around. As this winter proved, the market for $10 million closers isn't a big one.

The other possibility is the Astros think Myers is their sixth-best starter, and manager Brad Mills just doesn't want to say that. However, once you get past Bud Norris and Wandy Rodriguez and maybe Jordan Lyles (although I think a little more time in Triple-A for him would be a good thing), you're talking about ... Henry Sosa? J.A. Happ? Aneury Rodriguez? Non-roster invitees Zach Duke and Livan Hernandez?

And there's this obvious situation: The Astros aren't going to win many games. Whether they win 58 with Lyon or one of the youngsters closing or 60 with Myers closing is irrelevant. In fact, that gain in fewer blown saves will almost assuredly be lost in using a starter who either won't be as good as Myers or incapable of giving the 215-plus innings he's provided each of the past two seasons.

I don't get it.