Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Morning Hot Links

*Astros pitching got lit up in the 8th in yesterday's 10-4 loss to the Rays. Michael Feliz allowed a single and a home run to make it a 6-3 game and then Tony Sipp allowed a three-run homer on his second pitch because that's what Tony Sipp does in 2016, apparently.

Hinch, on Sipp:
We're trying to work with his delivery. Today, they were saying his breaking ball wasn't breaking as much. His fastball leaks over the plate. Those are all bad signs for him. 

*Alex Bregman made another couple of errors at third base by seemingly over-correcting from the two errors on Saturday night. Hinch:
You have one shot at third base to judge whether to come in or go back. Yesterday, [Bregman] went back and the ball took the second hop and it hurt him. Today, he tried to come in, and he couldn't quite reach it, and the ball gets under his glove. It's still a learning curve for him. 

*Who won yesterday: North Cleburne (of course), Baltimore, Toronto, Kansas City
Who lost yesterday: Houston, New York, Boston, Detroit.

The Astros are 8.5 GB of Lower Wichita Falls and 3.0 GB of WC2. The Ramgers open a series at home against Seattle; Baltimore plays Toronto; the Yankees are at Kansas City.

*The New York Times says the playoff race isn't as chaotic as it seems.

*Will the potential lack of October baseball hurt Altuve's MVP chances?

*Joe Musgrove, who will start tonight against Oakland, is trying to be better at making adjustments in the middle of the game, rather than battling through it and waiting to adjust before the next game starts.

*Yulieski Gurriel will get a start in the field this week.

*Colby Rasmus may not need a rehab start and, depending on how he runs and swings, could be back in the lineup this week.

*Louisiana native Will Harris is helping out flood victims.

*Corpus has won 80 games for the second straight year. According to the Hooks' Michael Coffin, four Texas League teams have won 80 games in back-to-back seasons. The Hooks have done it twice.

*Watch Fresno's Andrew Aplin make a ridiculous catch in center-field.

*George Springer's parents were named Little League Parents of the Year.

*The Detroit Free Press' Mary Chapman spoke to a longtime umpire to talk about ejections. Like every link I put in here, it's well worth your time.

*Before you go: This is the greatest gif of all time.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros beat the Rays 6-2 last night, with Alex Bregman overcoming two early errors with a 2-run homer in the 3rd and a single in the 4th.

*Keuchel threw a strong quality start (7IP, 2ER), and is feeling as good as he has all season long:
I really feel like I've turned a corner and my body's caught up, so I've got it to where I want to be an the offseason workouts were predicated on getting my body ready for August and early September. 

*Carlos Correa: RBI machine.

*Hinch, on Carlos Correa:
He doesn't act like a 21-year old really ever, unless he's messing around with Altuve or Marisnick...He's been raised to thrive in these environments...He's been the most famous guy on his team since he was 12. 

*The Rangers won, because of course they did. The White Sox beat the Mariners, The Yankees beat the Orioles, Red Sox beat the Royals, the Blue Jays beat the Twins.

*The Astros have pulled even with Seattle, 7.5 GB of Arlington. Houston is 4.0 GB of Boston for WC1 and now just 2.0 GB of Baltimore for WC2. Two games separate the Tigers, Astros, Mariners, Yankees, and Royals.

*FanGraphs gives the Astros a 22.3% chance of making the post-season.

*Gurriel, on recovering from the hamstring issue:
I've done a ton of work with the training staff here in the last couple of days to get my body to where it needs to be. I didn't think I'd be feeling this good by now.

*Lance McCullers is feeling good after throwing for the first time since going on the DL but is still "a ways away" from throwing in a game situation.

*The Astros are just kind of waiting around on Luke Gregerson and his ankle. Gregerson wasn't available to talk to reporters, which is sort of weird.

*Evan Grills threw 6.2 scoreless innings for Fresno in his second Triple-A start.

*Francis Martes is growing as a pitcher.

*New Ranger/criminal Jeremy Jeffress had his reinstatement following a DUI arrest late Friday night/early Saturday morning blocked by MLB, with concerns that drugs were involved. And he peed on himself.

*Great read in the Boston Globe on the cost of the minor leagues.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros were off last night, and there are only three off-days left this season. The Astros close the season with 35 games in 38 days.

*Mike Petriello writes about how Altuve became one of the league's top sluggers

*Jake Kaplan writes that Alex Bregman needs to be the 3B of the future.

*September Call-ups are just around the corner, but the Astros probably won't add too many players.

*21st Round pick Jon Kemmer is busting it in Fresno with a 1.021 OPS since the All-Star Break.

*It is both hilarious and suicidal that Carlos Gomez ripped a 3-run homer in his first AB for the Ramgers. The Mariners lost

*The Tigers won, Red Sox lost, Orioles lost, Blue Jays lost, Royals won

*The Astros are 8.5 GB of the Rangers, 1.0 GB of Seattle in the division. They are 5.0 GB of the Red Sox/Blue Jays (tied for the AL East lead), 4.0 GB of Baltimore, with the Tigers, Mariners, Royals, and Yankees all within 2.5 games.

FanGraphs is giving the Astros a 13.5% chance of making the postseason.
FiveThirtyEight is giving them a 16% chance of making the postseason.
I do this too early to account for BP's playoff odds each morning.

*Jon Heyman: Lamenting trades that didn't happen is a cheap excuse.

*The Sunday, September 11 game against the Cubs will be on Sunday Night Baseball.

*Why did the Dodgers trade A.J. Ellis?

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. 

Musgrove:
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 AstrosCounty.com

*You can listen to the Astros.com 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.