Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*Bats woke up. The Astros end an 8-game road trip with a 2-6 record after beating the Dia'ond'ack' 9-4. The Astros are 73-46. Boston beat St. Louis and Washington beat the Angels. The Astros have a 12.5-game lead on Anaheim and a 5-game lead on Boston. There are 43 games remaining.

*The Astros had an 8-0 lead on Arizona before they got on the board. They had scored nine runs in their previous four games combined. Hinch:
We've had a rough week and a rough road trip, and it's nice to end it with a win and get home and get back to sort of how we're playing. We've led the league in offense in a lot of different categories, so I think today we looked a little bit more like ourselves. 

*Despite getting staked to such a big lead, Brad Peacock still couldn't make it out of the 5th after retiring the first nine batters he faced. Peacock's line: 4.2IP, 7H/4ER, 9K:1BB. He has 121 strikeouts in 92.2IP. Among pitchers with 90+ IP, Peacock's 11.75 K/9 ranks 4th, behind Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Max Scherzer.

*Frankie Tuesday struck out all four batters he faced yesterday, and is showing improvement as he makes his way through the Majors. In five August appearances, Martes has thrown 7IP, 6H/3R (2ER), 11K:6BB. Hinch:
His arm strength is incredible. When he's locked in the strike zone...he can be a really dominant pitcher...He's a real weapon when he's inside the strike zone. 

Martes is 21 years old.

*With a scoreless 9th inning, Francisco Liriano's 5.84 ERA is finally lower than the 5.88 it was when the Astros acquired him. Yesterday was Liriano's first time with the Astros to not allow a hit, though he did walk two batters.

*George Springer w/RISP, 2 out, 2017: .462/.570/.897

*Max Stassi, playing in his 31st career game in the Majors and first of the season, hit the 2nd home run of his career, and first since September 19, 2015.

*All nine hitters recorded a hit (yes, even Peacock, who had a 2RBI double) for the 17th time this season.

*Here's what would have to happen in order for the Astros to lose the division, should they go 22-21 over the rest of the season:
Anaheim: 35-7
Seattle: 36-5
Arlington: 38-6
Oakland: 42-0 (and that would only tie them with a 95-win Astros team)

How about the #1 seed in the AL, again with a 95-win Astros team:
Boston: 28-15
New York: 33-11
Cleveland: 31-14

*For what it's worth, here's how FanGraphs projects the AL at the end of the regular season:
Houston: 98-64
Boston: 92-70
Cleveland: 92-70
New York: 86-76
Anaheim: 82-80

*Brian T. Smith writes that the Astros are resilient.

*Jon Heyman spewed a load of bullcrap yesterday regarding the Astros and Justin Verlander, publishing a report on FanRag saying that a deal was in the works (page-VYEWS) before backtracking and saying they haven't actually talked since last week. Brian McTaggart says trade talks have stalled, though the Tigers would like to get a deal done this month rather than wait until the off-season. For Detroit, trading the face of their franchise wouldn't be easy. Verlander: "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind."

*Beyond the Box Score: The Astros should be buying.

*Lance McCullers, whom Jake Kaplan notes is unlikely to return to the Astros until September (and it is at this moment that I realized September is only a couple of weeks away), threw off a mound yesterday. Carlos Correa could take BP this weekend. Will Harris will throw a bullpen session today.

*Yulieski Gurriel is still getting used to Major League life.

*FanGraphs re-ranked the Astros' top 10 prospects after, what, 75-85% of the 2017 season?
1. Kyle Tucker
2. Forrest Whitley
3. Franklin Perez
4. Yordan Alvarez
5. Derek Fisher
6. J.B. Bukauskas
7. Gilberto Celestino
8. Daz Cameron
9. Cionel Perez
10. Colin Moran

Gilberto Celestino is a new one. In 45 games (prior to last night) Celestino, an 18-year old in the Appalachian League, has hit .280/.347/.412 with 41K:18BB. This is his first season in the States.

*Rogelio Armenteros is making a case for a September call-up, writes Jake Kaplan.

*J.J. Matijevic, Andy Pineda, Hunter Martin, and Reggie Johnson were named to the NYPL All-Star team.

*Hey what about Morgan Ensberg making an alphabetical lineup?

*Joey Votto has reached base twice in a game for the 20th straight time and should be the NL MVP. But the kid on the Dodgers will probably erroneously win it.

*NRG Stadium is in the running to host the 2026 World Cup.

*Leeds United tied Fulham 0-0.

*There are at least 600 people missing in a mudslide in Sierra Leone.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros got blanked last night by a very good pitcher named Zack Greinke who pitches for a rec league team out in Arizona. The Astros are 72-46. Anaheim didn't play yesterday so the Astros' division lead is currently 11.5 games. Boston lost, so the AL lead is at five games. There are 44 games remaining.

*Thanks to a 3-10 August, the 2017 Astros are now tied with the 1998 Astros for best 118-game start to a season.

*For the 42nd time this season, Astros pitchers allowed two (or fewer) runs. Their record in those games? 38-4.

*Last night was the 6th time this season that Astros pitchers have allowed 5+ doubles.

*Greinke struck out nine in 6.2IP, including a rare 3K game from Jose Altuve. Hinch:
He got chases when he needed chases. He pitched a really good game. He doesn't concede anything, especially when he has his command. 

*The last time Altuve struck out three times in a game was July 18, 2014 against the White Sox. Jake Kaplan notes that Greinke is just the 2nd pitcher to strike Altuve out three times in a game, the first since Matt Cain's 2012 perfect game.

*Diamondbacks Great J.D. Martinez, on Greinke:
He's a horse. There's a reason they gave the kind of money they gave him. You don't trick people to give you that kind of money. He's good for a reason. 

*Collin McHugh threw another good start, allowing 6H/2ER, 6K:1BB in 5.2IP. He wasn't terribly efficient, throwing 106 pitches to get through 5.2. Joe Musgrove allowed the RBI double that was charged as McHugh's 2nd run. The Astros are 1-4 in McHugh's five starts, but have scored a total of seven runs in his last four starts combined. Hinch:
...He was matching [Greinke] pretty early. They had a hustle double and another hustle double to get the run across...But, all in all, his breaking ball was a little bit better. His slider was back. That was a key pitch that he hadn't had the last start or two.

*Tyler Clippard made his Astros debut, throwing 1IP, 1H/0ER, 1K:1BB in the 8th. All five batters he faced got out to a 1-0 count. Clippard enjoyed being the one to break the news of his trade, for once.

*Clippard will wear #19, desecrating the number of Heroes like Orlando Palmer, Brian Bogusevic, Mark Saccomanno, and Colin Moran. Reymin Guduan was optioned to Fresno and Jordan Jankowski (whose wife is also named Jordan) was DFA'd to put the 40-Man roster at 39.

*But whatever. The best game of the night was out in Denver when Chad Bettis threw seven shutout innings in his season debut after battling testicular cancer.

*The Astros placed Brian McCann on the 10-Day DL with a sore right knee. Hinch:
He's had a sore knee for the better part of a couple weeks. I saw him favoring it a little bit yesterday, and he had a little bit of difficulty going up and down steps. So we talked after the game, and it had gotten to the point where it was affecting virtually every aspect of his game.

In the last 14 days McCann had played in seven games, hitting .120/.214/.160. Over the previous 28 days (15 games) he hit .145/.242/.291. So yeah, let's see what Hero Juan Centeno and Max Stassi can do in the meantime.

*Speaking of the DL, Carlos Correa took 25 swings yesterday and did some defensive work in his continued effort to rehab his thumb. Correa:
Swung hard and it didn't bother me at all. So it's a good start....Going to keep doing it for this week and see how the thumb starts feeling. They expect it to be a little sore because I haven't swung in a while, but I feel like today was a great start. 

*Astros currently on the DL: Correa, McCann, Gattis, McCullers, Harris, Feliz, Sipp, and Colin Moran.

*MLBTR has some possibilities for the Astros as they continue to look for more bullpen help.

*Buster Olney notes that Justin Verlander has an awful lot of leverage in any potential deal, such as only approving a deal if his $22m option in 2020 is exercised in advance.

*Baseball America notes that Forrest Whitley joins a pretty select group of pitchers drafted out of high school to reach Double-A in their first professional season: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, and Dylan Bundy.

*Bloomberg: The last American baseball glove maker (based in Texas) refuses to die.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros acquired a new Dallas Keuchel, one who looked a whole lot like the old Dallas Keuchel, in a 2-1 win over the Farmer's Branch Rangers of East Tarrant County. The win snapped a 5-game losing streak and a 7-game road losing streak. The Astros are 72-45. The Angels swept the Mariners, so the Astros lead is 12 games with 45 games remaining.

*It was the first time the Astros won having scored two or fewer runs since May 26. In 23 games in which they were held to 0-2 runs, the Astros are now 5-18.

The 27th out was about as good as it gets, to get to the finish line with a win. We've won so many games this year, it's funny how you really feel like you need one. Obviously, it's been a bad week for us, results-wise. It's a pretty hard-fought win.

*Keuchel: 6.2IP, 6H/1ER, 7K:3BB. He threw 60 of his 97 pitches for strikes. Keuchel, speaking directly to you and me:
It's amazing how many people start freaking out when you don't have a couple good starts. The world's ending or you're not as good any more. You're a scrub. Stay the course, and that's good. That's what you've got to do if you want to last in this game.

*Chris Devenski faced three batters - one to close out the 7th, and two to open the 8th. He walked both batters to begin the 8th inning, he's walked four of the past ten batters he has faced. Devenski's last ten appearances: 7.1IP, 5H/4R (3ER), 5K:5BB.

*Ken Giles recorded a six-out save, the first of his career. Giles:
There was a lot of adrenaline. Luckily, I was able to control it really well today, just take deep breaths in between pitches and just focus on the main goal, and that was to get Devo out of the jam and then going for the win after that. 

Giles, in save situations, 2017: .191/.253/.303, 36K:8BB.
Giles, in saves, 2017: .129/.195/.143, 30K:6BB.

*Ramgers starting pitcher Andrew Cashner - who looks like he walked off the Appalachian Trail and found a jersey - recorded a 60 Game Score. It's the 26th time the opposing pitcher has recorded a Game Score of 60+, and the Astros are 10-16.

*Jose Altuve hit his 18th home run of the season. Last year, when Altuve hit a career-high 24 home runs, he hit one home run every 29.88 plate appearances. This year he's hitting a home run at a pace of one every 27.78 plate appearances.

*Yulieski Gurriel hit his 31st double, a franchise rookie record.

*The biggest news of the night was not the fellating of the entire Northeast region by ESPN, but rather the Astros FINALLY PULLING THE TRIGGER ON A TRADE FOR A WHITE SOX PITCHER. The Astros traded a PTBNL/Cash to the White Sox for Tyler Clippard. Clippard was acquired by the White Sox in the Todd Frazier trade with the Yankees on July 19, so the Astros will be his 3rd team in a calendar month.

Like most relievers, their dashboard numbers can get blown up by a couple of bad outings. In 46.1IP this season, Clippard has allowed 36H/22ER, 54K:24BB, a 4.27 ERA/1.29 WHIP. Clippard had a seven-game stretch from June 20-July 7 in which he threw 6IP, 10H/13ER, 8K:7BB. Since then, which is really since the All-Star Break, Clippard has thrown 12IP, 10H/2ER, 12K:5BB, a 1.50 ERA/1.25 WHIP.

Clippard will be a free agent at the end of the season. He's making $6.15m this season, so the Astros will take on the remaining $1.7m(ish) of his deal. Good move to bolster the bullpen at very little cost.

*The 40-Man roster is now full, and the Astros will have to make a corresponding move before tonight's game at Arizona. And the Astros are still looking to make more moves.

*Will Harris threw a bullpen session and reported no pain. Hinch said Harris will throw multiple bullpen sessions before going out on a multi-appearance rehab assignment. I'd look for him to come back around the end of the month.

*Boston Herald's Michael Silverman sets a record with eleven straight one-sentence paragraphs to open a column saying the Red Sox should go ahead and take the best record in the AL from the Astros.

*Derek Fisher played at Globe Life Park this weekend, six years after getting drafted in the 6th Round by the Rangers but going to the University of Virginia instead. Fisher:
I think a lot of it had to do with, honestly, as it got closer to feeling like I was going to be in professional baseball, I felt like I wasn't really ready for it as a person. 

*LA Times: Capturing camaraderie in a minor-league baseball team.

*Chad Bettis will return to the mound tonight after fighting cancer.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*I want to start off this morning with a little sermon. In my previous career I was fairly data-driven. I ran an education department at a major museum. I had people working under me, and about a $250,000 budget. Some of you might laugh at that, but for a history major, that was sort of a big deal. I wanted/needed to show that the department was improving over the previous years. As we started going through the year I would keep a monthly track and make projections about where the department might end up the year. At the bottom of my spreadsheet I would make notes such as, "Remember: three days of rain in mid-May," or, "X School cancelled field trip because of funding issues." These were things that could impact our numbers. Not that I was planning on not improving, but I wanted to have a couple of easy things to point to just in case we fell short.

This is what concerns me about the Astros. The Trade Deadline had no impact on this 16-game stretch. As Grant Brisbee wrote last week:
It's not fair to look at the Astros' record since the trade deadline and make any sort of point. It's not just unfair, but it's also incompetent, brainless, and rude. The Astros didn't make a trade at the deadline, the Astros are 2-4 [now 2-9] since then, and I need new tires for my car. Those three facts correlate with each other roughly the same.

And it's easy to look and see that Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish have definitely not made any starts for the Houston Astros since July 31, so that explains why the Astros suck right now. It's not the case. But there's a creeping thought in the back of my mind that guys like Keuchel and Reddick have this ready-made excuse for why things aren't going well, and that in their minds, the Astros' record and the Astros' inactivity at the end of July are very much linked. That kind of mindset can snowball on you because "Well we didn't get any help, that's why we suck," and then they go out and do exactly that: suck. So it would be real nice if the Veteran Presence guys like Beltran and McCann could smack some dudes around in the clubhouse (maybe they have, I don't know) and get everyone on track.

*Mike Fiers gave up a 3-run homer to #9 hitter Brett Nicholas - his first home run of the season and the third home run of his career - as the Astros lost their fifth straight game, 8-3. The Astros are 71-45. The Angels beat the Mariners to take over sole possession of 2nd place, and are 12 games back. In their last five games the Astros are 0-5 while the Angels are 5-0. This is just kinda starting to get old. There are 46 games remaining.

Times like this will always feel miserable, bleak, frustrating. But every team goes through them. Now while you're going through them, they're hard to describe. It's the same thing over and over again.

*Mike Fiers: 4IP, 5H/6ER, 2K:4BB, 2HR, 1HBP. Fiers:
That's pretty much the key to failure and success for me I think is the walks and the home run again. One home run turns into three runs.

More Fiers:
Hopefully Dallas can get us back on track, but it starts with the starting pitcher. I think we need to really go out there and attack these hitters and not give them too much credit and just be aggressive and things will start turning our way [Ed. note: that is a run-on sentence]. It's a rough stretch right now, but we'll be able to pull through and go back on a run.

*In this 16-game stretch where the Astros are 4-12, Astros pitchers have thrown 139IP, 163H/95ER, 137K:67BB for a 6.15 ERA/1.65 WHIP. They've lost seven straight road games.

*Carlos Gomez got HBP'd twice: once by Fiers and once by Francisco Liriano (who, once again, allowed both inherited runners to score). Gomez:
I don't know what's going on, I've got nothing to say.

Oh great here comes Hacksaw Jeff Banister:
It's puzzling.

More Gomez:
Everything that I do, I'm the trouble-maker so I have to take it. When I do something, they talk about it really good. When they do it to me, nobody says nothing. I understand. 

Neither pitcher is exactly the picture of command. Greg Maddux isn't up there. Fiers leads the league with 12 HBPs and has 51 walks in 128IP this season. Liriano goes through patches where he couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. He has 46 walks in 85.1IP this season. Nothing's going on, Carlos Gomez. For once in your life try to remember that it's not about you.

*Tyson Ross threw 5.2IP but allowed four hits and five walks. The Astros were 2x6 w/RISP and left seven on base.

*Astros catchers haven't thrown out a baserunner since June 18, with opposing baserunners taking a base in 27 straight attempts.

*Alex Bregman's K-less streak ended at 54 plate appearances.

*Congratulations to J.D. Davis, who drove in his first MLB RBIs and got his first MLB extra-base hit.

*ESPN's Bradford Doolittle asks if the Astros have enough pitching for the postseason. The answer: Maybe!

*Brian T. Smith asks if this is a slump or the beginning of the end.

*The Astros released lefty Ashur Tolliver yesterday. In 35.1IP for Fresno, Tolliver allowed 39H/28ER, 28K:33BB.

*The Astros promoted pitchers Forrest Whitley and Cionel Perez from High-A to Corpus. Whitley made seven appearances for Buies Creek, throwing 31.1IP, 28H/11ER, 50K:9BB. So this season Whitley has 117 strikeouts in 77.2IP with a 3.01 ERA/1.29 WHIP. He'll be 20 next month.

LHP Cionel Perez made five appearances for BCA, throwing 25.1IP, 27H/8ER, 18K:5BB.

*Riley Ferrell faced six batters last night and struck out five of them in a Corpus loss to Springfield.

*Sean Pendergast tweeted out the original feel-good story of the Astros acquiring Randy Johnson.

*Inside the thriving subculture of eclipse chasers.

*Dallas Keuchel will take the mound today in an attempt to have a Game Score higher than the number of baserunners he allows.

*Closing note: at some point in the last two or three days Astros County reached five million page views. I used to care way more about page views than I do now, but I just want to thank you for visiting this dumb little web site. It's a labor of love, and I love all of you. Unless you're a Nazi.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday Morning Hot Links

The Dallas Rangers of North Oak Cliff beat the Astros 6-4 last night, carrying some sort of hangover to Arlington. The Astros are 71-44. Seattle lost, so the division lead is now 13 games over both the Mariners and the Angels. There are 47 games remaining.

*It's the Astros' first four-game losing streak of the season. The Astros have lost their last six road games. They've lost eight of their last ten games, and 11 of their last 15. Having lost nine games in July, the Astros are 2-8 in August.

*Charlie Morton got roughed up in the 3rd inning, allowing 4ER on the following:
Morton error

*Joe Musgrove, since moving to the bullpen: 12IP, 7H/1ER, 14K:1BB. 72% of pitches for strikes.

*Altuve represented the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs in the ninth, but watched an off-speed pitch cross the plate to strike out looking. Altuve:
I thought it was a ball, but it was a strike. Now tomorrow I have to apologize to the umpire. 

*Springer hit a two-run home run in the 8th, his 28th of the season. Springer:
Obviously, I want to be able to play and perform, so I just have to get back out there and get my game eyes back and help the team. 

*Alex Bregman hasn't struck out since July 30, a span of 51 plate appearances.

* did a nice thing and talked about the worst stretches of the season endured by teams that went on to win the World Series - like the Cardinals, who had two eight-game losing streaks in their World Series year of 2006.

*Dayn Perry argues for straight-up buying Justin Verlander. Jeff Passan went on 610 yesterday to talk about panicking, and Justin Verlander.

*Will Harris hopes to throw a bullpen session off a mound this weekend. Lance McCullers has played catch, but hasn't thrown off a mound yet. Evan Gattis, who has been out with a concussion since August 3, won't return until after the Astros come back from Arizona next Tuesday.

The Astros have a 13-game lead despite playing like absolute dog crap for the last three weeks. They're not rushing anybody back.

*Jayne brought the noise this morning.

*Jose Abreu had a traditional Cuban meal waiting for Yuli Gurriel when he got to the clubhouse in Chicago last week. Abreu:
I know the importance - and how difficult the adaptation process to this league and this country can be. Being able to find a little taste of our culture in the places we go is very important and reminds us of home. That is why I always try to help my fellow countrymen and make them feel comfortable here. 

*J.R. Richard received the Sam Lacy Pioneer Award from the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans.

*Jon Singleton broke up Springfield's no-hit bid with a double in the 9th inning as Corpus took a 7-0 loss.

*Paul Janish is going to be a part of Rice's coaching staff next year.