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They’re All Getting Better

Last night I took part in a podcast, which you can listen to here. I enjoy doing podcasts, even though we haven't done an LL podcast in a while. Podcasts provide a different way to talk about baseball - an easier way to talk about baseball, where I don't have to think about every single word and look at it on a screen. Writing can be hard sometimes. Talking out loud is a change of pace.

Over the course of the podcast, I took a few jabs at the Astros. I make Astros jokes the way a lot of people make Prince Fielder fat jokes, which is to say I make Astros jokes all the time. They're really bad. A lot of Mariners fans are looking forward to the Astros joining the AL West in 2013, because the Astros are really bad. They're so bad.

I went to bed having made fun of the Astros. I woke up to this news. The Astros have hired Mike Fast, effective immediately, or effective almost immediately.

Many of you are familiar with Mike Fast. For those of you who aren't familiar with Mike Fast...let's put it this way. I think, generally, there are baseball writers, and baseball researchers. Sometimes baseball writers do research, but Fast was a researcher. Mike Fast was a baseball scientist. Frequently leaning on PITCHfx, he generated so many fascinating studies, including this one on pitch framing from September. Fast was at the top of his field.

And now he'll continue with his analysis, only he'll do it as an employee of a team who'll soon become a division rival. There are people who do similar things to Fast, and for all I know there are people who are better, but Fast has the right blend of intelligence and creativity. And motivation. Definitely motivation.

This is by no means a doom-and-gloom post. Fast is one guy. One employee. He's not a player. He's very far removed from the players. There's no telling how much influence he's going to have, and there's no telling how useful he's actually going to be. Bad teams have hired smart people and stayed bad before.

But this is another sign that the Astros are on the rise. They hired Mike Fast. They have a new owner. They hired Jeff Luhnow. They have a guy whose job title is Director of Decision Sciences, which I'm not even smart enough to understand. The Astros' on-field product was laughable in 2011 and it'll probably be laughable in 2012, but there's reason for them to hope after a few years of misery.

The Astros aren't going to join the AL West as some kind of clown car. They're on their way towards legitimacy. And it's not just them. All teams are getting smarter. Some teams are getting smarter slower than other teams, and some teams are still run by Ned Colletti, but baseball's getting sharp. The intelligence gap between organizations is shrinking, increasing the significance of money and luck.

We trust the Mariners' front office. We think the Mariners' front office is smart, and usually knows what it's doing. Most front offices are smart, and most front offices know what they're doing. On a WAR scale, I don't know where the Mariners' front office would stand. I get the sense that the replacement level keeps getting pushed higher and higher.

Anyway, I don't know how this post ended up this long. The Astros hired Mike Fast. Mike Fast is brilliant, or something close to brilliant. Fast should improve the Astros organization to some degree. The Astros overall are getting better. The Astros are shortly going to join the Mariners' division. Hello to increased competition.

The Mariners better hope like hell that these young players pan out.