Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Bleak 50-game stretch of 2012

Facebook's Memories feature is a pretty cool way for me to remember jokes I told on that dumb website that no one thought was funny, or for me to see old pictures of my daughter, or to remind me how much weight I've lost (40-ish pounds in the last four years, if you're counting. I am.) But sometimes they also remind me of how terrible the Astros were during the rebuild.

Patrick and I talked about this on Lima Time Time the other night: we knew that those Astros years would be terrible, which is sort of akin to finding a gold coin in your boxers after you gambled on a fart and lost.

But August 23, 2012 marked the end of one of the worst stretches I had ever seen on a baseball field. It didn't start out that way. 2012, the Astros' final year in the National League, saw them stay remarkably close through the first 25% of the season. Lucas Harrell beat Clayton Kershaw (let that sink in) on May 25 to get the Astros to 22-23, three games out of the division lead. This was the high point of the 2012 season. That win against Kershaw (again: wtf) was the first of a seven-game road trip in which the Astros dropped the next six games by a total of 24 runs.

On May 25 the Astros had 22 wins. They would win 33 games in their next 117. The worst stretch was a 50-game stretch from June 28-August 23. On June 28 the Astros dropped the last of a four-game series to split with the Padres at home.

Then they got swept at Wrigley. Swept at Pittsburgh. Lost a series at Milwaukee. Swept at San Francisco. Lost three of four at San Diego. Swept at Arizona. Swept by Cincinnati. Dropped three of four to Pittsburgh. Swept at Milwaukee. Dropped a series at Atlanta. Swept by Washington. The 2012 Astros got two walkoffs against Milwaukee, and then lost two of three at Wrigley. Swept by Arizona. Finally, in the 48th, 49th, and 50th games of this stretch that ended four years ago last night? Swept at St. Louis.

The final tally: 7-43. From 3.0 GB on May 25 to 9.5 GB on June 28 to 36.5 GB on August 23. 3-26 on the road.

As a team in this 50-game stretch they hit .225/.292/.342 with more GIDPs (40) than home runs (36). More strikeouts (422) than hits (373). Six players got over 100 Plate Appearances in this stretch:

Jose Altuve: .296/.365/.369
Scott Moore: .227/.287/.426
J.D. Martinez: .231/.277/.314
Marwin Gonzalez: .217/.280/.313
Brian Bogusevic: .171/.287/.210
Justin Maxwell: .240/.295/.433

You also had Chris Johnson with a .773 OPS and Jordan Schafer (.157/.263/.229) with over 80 PAs. Other players with a decent amount of playing time? Ben Francisco, Chris Snyder, Brett Wallace, Steve Pearce, Matt Downs.

Well if they couldn't hit, at least they couldn't pitch, either. Starters recorded only five wins, three of them by Lucas Harrell. In this stretch Harrell was 3-3, Bud Norris was 0-7, Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel were 0-6. Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happy provided the other two wins. Armando Galarraga was 0-4.

Starters allowed a .282/.351/.459 line in these 50 games. Relievers, not to be outdone, allowed a .297/.378/.467 line.

By the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ my daughter was born towards the beginning of this stretch, so I was largely occupied and/or not sleeping. There was a lot of 3am SportsCenter for me, staring in disbelief at what was unfolding before me. But hey, rebuilds and silver linings and whatnot. It can always be worse. Astros Fever: Catch It!

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

The Astros got slapped around by Ivan Nova in a 7-1 loss at Pittsburgh, with Nova taking a shutout into the 9th inning. Joe Musgrove allowed four runs in the 1st inning to set the tone for the night.

Hinch, on Musgrove:
That's part of the nature of having young starters. He's got to learn to battle himself through his first back-to-back games of adversity. He has pitches to do it. He has a ton of competitiveness in him. 

I had the right plan going out there. I just didn't execute, and that's kind of been the problem the last two outings is just executing. I've been through failure before and I know I'm going to go through it again. Just going to process things, learn from it and be ready to go next time out.

Tony Sipp struck out the side in the 5th, but allowed yet another home run with two outs. It's the 11th home run he has allowed this season, after having allowed only ten home runs in the previous two seasons combined. Or: 11HR in 34.2IP in 2016 compared to 10HR in 105IP in 2014-2015 combined.

Nova was efficient, needing only 98 pitches to throw the complete game. Jose Altuve saw six pitches in 4 ABs, Springer saw nine pitches in 4 ABs, Jason Castro saw eight pitches in 3 ABs.

In the 3rd inning, Nova needed five pitches to retire the side and still left a runner on third. Astros gonna Astros.

*The Rangers lost, The Orioles won, the Blue Jays won, so did the Royals, Red Sox, Tigers, and Yankees (who beat the Mariners). Basically the Astros lost a game in the Wild Card on everybody.

FanGraphs gives the Astros a 9.7% chance of making the postseason.

*Eno Sarris wrote about Joe Musgrove's weird one-seam sinker.

*Correa was pulled from the game early, but apparently has been sick, and with today's game starting early, Hinch wanted to give him a rest.

*Luis Valbuena will have season-ending surgery on a tendon in his hamstring. Hinch:
(Valbuena) really recovered from a difficult April for him. But again, it's the next-man-up mentality where someone has to come up and get the at-bats.

On May 3 Valbuena was hitting .175/.288/.238. He had four doubles and four RBIs. From May 3 until his injury on July 27 Valbuena hit .285/.377/.522 with 27 extra-base hits. Then Valbuena injured his hamstring and the season went to hell: The Astros were 2.5 GB of the Rangers after the game in which Valbuena was injured, and then have proceeded to go 10-15.

*Speaking of dumb hamstring issues, Yulieski Gurriel was not in the lineup for a second straight night, following the Astros' M.O. of bringing a player out for "precautionary measures," and then having him dead by Saturday. Hinch:
I considered playing him at less than 100 percent and then I just decided that it's better to give him another day. We'll see how (Wednesday) is. If not (Wednesday) we have a day off and then Friday he should be at full strength. 

Donations to the Yulieski Gurriel Memorial Fund can be made at

*You can listen to the podcast in which Hinch talks about how Bregman has been so good at 3B that he has changed their plans as far as what to do with him.

*Preston Tucker will start a rehab assignment for his shoulder at Corpus today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros beat the Pirates in what was the 3rd-shortest game of the year.

*Teoscar Hernandez's 2-run homer in the 5th provided the margin for the Astros' 3-1 win. Hernandez:
I just try to be patient at home plate, try to make some adjustments. The past couple of games, I was swinging at pitches out of the zone. I'm just trying to do the best I can - see the ball and try to hit it hard and do some damage. 

Hinch, on Hernandez:
A year ago, he was struggling in Double-A and was all over the batter's box...Our development staff did a really good job of honing him in and getting him in the strike zone...He's staying with his approach and recognizing pitches at a much better level than we expected, given how his career track had been.

*Doug Fister's seven scoreless IP means he has now thrown over 150IP, giving him an extra $1m in the ol' bank account. Fister:
Guys feed off of one another and that's something we've done the last few days. We've bounced back from rain delays and tough outings in Baltimore, but we're playing well and that's what it comes down to.

*Via Daren Willman, opposing hitters are 8x93 with 61Ks against Ken Giles' slider.

*Scoreboard watchin': the Orioles won, as did the Red Sox, and the Mariners beat the Yankees. The Rangers, Royals, and Tigers were off.

So the Astros are 8.0 GB of West Forney, 2.5 GB of Seattle in the AL West.
The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles are in a three-way fight for the AL East/WC spots: Right now Toronto and Boston are tied at 70-54 the Orioles a game back for three of the AL playoffs spots. The Astros are 3.5 GB of the WC2 with the Mariners and Tigers between them.

*The Ringer: The evolution of Jose Altuve's strike zone.

*Vice Sports: Yulieski Gurriel's debut was the end of an era for Cuban baseball.

*Luis Valbuena will meet with a specialist tomorrow (Wednesday) to determine if he needs surgery on his hamstring.

*Preston Tucker is getting close to a rehab assignment in advance of the September 1 Call-Up date.

*Carlos Gomez will be the starting LF for the 1st place Ramgers:
I have no hard feelings toward the Astros. I did not do my job, and they released me. I take it like a man. Now I refresh everything. My new season starts today. Whatever I did from the last five months is gone. The only thing that counts is the next five weeks. I've got a lot left to give. 

*Fresno's Jon Kemmer is hitting .346/.411/.704 with seven homers in August. Kemmer:
It wasn't really a ton of big things, I just put the right work in the cage and I've taken advantage of my opportunities. There have been a lot of outfielders get called up to the big leagues and stuff, so I had a couple meetings with the coaches...they told me to be patient and take advantage of my opportunities.

*Corpus' J.D. Davis was the Texas League Player of the Week after going 10x23 with 6RBI last week.

*Scott Miller writes that there's more to Rougned Odor than one punch.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros weathered (ha!) a four-hour rain delay and beat the Orioles 5-3 to take three of four of the series. Dallas Keuchel threw 8IP, 5H/2ER, 7K:1BB. Correa and Reed each had two hits and Ken Giles got his 3rd save of the year.

Best fastball command I have had all year. That really jump-started a lot of things for me. 

I'm absolutely thrilled to leave here winning three our of four on one of the toughest days to play in a while. We were here all day. The conditions weren't the easiest to play in both mentally and physically.

*Keuchel wasn't happy about a 30-minute delay after the 1st inning.
Nobody really told me anything. Gallardo wasn't out there when I initially went out there, so I knew something was up. Withholding information and not sharing it with us is pretty bogus, so I got pretty mad about that and kind of just channeled that into the way we played today.

Keuchel's mad about the weather? He IS one of us!

*The Rays beat the Rangers; The Brewers beat the Mariners; The Angels beat the Yankees; The Tigers beat the Red Sox; the Indians beat the Blue Jays; the Royals beat the Twins.

So the Astros are 8.5 GB of the Rangers; 2.5 GB of the Mariners.
They are 5.5 GB of Boston for WC1; 3.5 GB of Baltimore for WC2 with the Mariners, Tigers, and Royals between them.

FanGraphs gives the Astros a 2.5% chance of winning the division and an 13.6% chance of making the postseason.
FiveThirtyEight puts it at 3% to win the division and 16% to make the playoffs.

*Over the last 14 games, George Springer is hitting .357.

*He's an Astro now, so of course Yulieski Gurriel strained his hamstring in his first MLB game. Hinch:
He'll be day-to-day. He could have stayed in the game, but I wasn't going to take any risk with the way the weather was and this being his first day.

Gurriel says he can play today at Pittsburgh. Hinch said Gurriel might have been off, anyway.

*The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo writes that the Astros are interested in the Rangers' Mitch Moreland, but the loss of Prince Fielder may prevent that trade from happening.

*We recorded Episode 23 of Lima Time Time last night.

*It seems as though Danny Valencia hurt Billy Butler in a clubhouse altercation over spikes.

*The victim in Ramgers reliever Matt Bush's DUI crash is still suffering, four years later.

*Darryl Strawberry is trying to save Doc Gooden's life.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Morning Hot Links

So the Astros hammered the Orioles for a second straight night with a 12-2 win.

We've hit the ball hard the past two nights. And when we do that, it goes far. It gets contagious a little bit with guys getting comfortable at the plate. I like how we've paired up some at-bats to where one guy after another is performing pretty well. I like what I see. We're a good offense when we get going like this. I know we've been streaky throughout the season.

*The Rays beat the Rangers, the Mariners beat the Brewers. The Tigers lost, the Yankees won. The Astros are 9.5 GB of the Ramgers, 6.5 GB of WC1, 4.5 GB of WC2 with the Mariners, Tigers, Yankees, and Royals between them.

*Yulieski Gurriel will make his Major League debut today in Baltimore. Luhnow:
He got up to 50 at-bats with us in the Minor Leagues. That's a normal Spring Training for him. We've bounced him around the country. But from a baseball standpoint, he's ready and he's ready for this challenge. To add him to this group is exciting for us, certainly fun for us, our guys will be excited about it.

Tyler White has been optioned to Fresno.

*I'm still working through thoughts on this Liz Roscher piece regarding Jeff Luhnow and the attractiveness of Houston as an organization.

*Luis Valbuena might not be coming back, y'all, after reaggravating his hamstring injury.

*The Astros extended their PDC with Tri-City through the 2018 season.

*In what could be the ultimate troll job, the Rangers have signed Carlos Gomez to a minor-league deal with the idea of adding him to their major league roster fairly soon. Ramgers GM Jon Daniels:
Sometimes things just don't work out the way acquiring clubs intend, and obviously we're taking a chance on him, thinking he's better than his most recent performance in Houston.

Hacksaw Jeff Banister:
This is an impact player. We've got to get some positive energy going with him...We made a move that we feel has an opportunity to impact us.

Gomez is totally gonna hit .310.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Morning Hot Links

LOLOLOLOLOL. The Astros managed five runs on seven hits in a 13-5 loss at Baltimore in a "statement series." Yes, there is a statement being made, but I'm not sure it's one they'd want to make again.

*The Astros are 10.5 GB of the Rangers and 6.5 GB of the Wild Card. Not even about to link to other scores. They've lost 16 of their last 23 games.

*But hey! Bregman and Reed homered! A.J. Reed has had two hits in four of his last five starts.

*The Astros gave up six (!) home runs - the most they've given up in a single game since May 29, 2010.

They just continue to come at you. This is how they score. We didn't keep them in the ballpark the entire night. 

*In their last 24.1IP, Astros starters have allowed 28ER.

*Jake Marisnick is hitting .280 with nine extra-base hits since July 1. Marisnick:
I feel like a lot of my at-bats - even if I'm not getting hits - have been a lot better and making solid contact. That comes with playing every day.

*During a 20-minute hearing, Danry Vasquez's fiancee asked to have a restraining order changed so she can be with him. The judge refused. Vasquez, 22,  and the 19-year old woman have been dating for six years. I'll just leave that there.

*Luis Valbuena is getting closer to a rehab assignment, possibly while the Astros are on this road trip.

*Lance McCullers will be evaluated in a week, and then the Astros will know if he's available for the rest of the season. (I'm the captain of Team ShutItDown)

*Jon Heyman talked to scouts who wonder if the Astros need more of a veteran presence.

*The bus from Corpus to NW Arkansas broke down.