Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Morning Hot Links

It's high time the Astros were able to beat the cream of the AL Central. Astros win their first series against the White Sox in their last three attempts, last one coming May 17-19, 2016.  The Angels - specifically Yusmeiro Petit - are absolutely useless, losing 6-5 to the Indians last night, so the Astros are still 1.5 GB of Cleveland. The Astros have won 14 of their last 19 games and seven of their last eight, and are 93-58. There are 11 games left.

*The win moves the Astros into a tie for 4th with the 2001 and 1980 Astros. A 7-4 finish will guarantee them 100 wins for the 2nd time in franchise history.

*The Indians have won 27 of their last 30 games and the Astros are still only one back in the loss column.

*Brad Peacock threw 6IP, 1H/0ER, 6K:2BB, giving up a 2-run home run to Yoan Moncada (who is hitting .471/.591/.882 in five games against Houston this season). Hinch, on Peacock's outing:
He was good again. I don't think he was particularly sharp, which is funny to say for a guy that gave up one hit. But he did battle through his outing and didn't give up many hard hits. 

Brad Peacock's MLB wins, 2011-2016: 11
Brad Peacock's MLB wins, 2017: 12

As McCullers' arm seemingly takes forever to recover from fatigue, Peacock is looking like a stronger and stronger candidate to get a postseason start. Peacock:
I'm just not thinking about it at all. Whatever they decide to do, like I've said before, I'll be happy. Whether it's bullpen or starting, just to get the chance to play in the playoffs is going to be cool.

*Joe Musgrove got the final four outs of the game for his 2nd save of the season. Musgrove:
Every time coming out of the bullpen I'm trying to strike everybody out, to be honest. 

*Francisco Liriano threw his second straight perfect inning. Liriano in September: 4IP, 2H/1ER, 5K:1BB, retiring 12 of the 15 batters he has faced.

*Yuli Gurriel was 3x4 with 2RBI. Over the last seven days Gurriel is 10x19 with 3RBI. His 57th extra-base hit of the season broke Hunter Pence's rookie record.

*Altuve Watch: The Toovs was 1x3 with a walk last night, giving him 195 hits on the season. Altuve has a 15 point lead on the AL batting crown (.348 to the White Sox' Avisail Garcia's .333).

*Josh Reddick was 2x4 with a double and a triple.

*Luke Gregerson took a batted ball of the heel of his hand, but X-rays were negative.

*Jake Kaplan notes that Will Harris' fastball is coming back.

*Mike Lupica writes that the Astros are bringing a welcome distraction to Houston.

*Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Juan Centeno, Alex Cora, and Alex Cintron are among the Astros with family in Puerto Rico waiting on word from their families and friends. Correa:
My grandparents are my concern right now. My grandma couldn't fly here when the hurricane hit because my grandpa has Alzheimer's and he's very sick, and he can barely move and he can't fly. She had to stay with him and take care of him. Hopefully when this all goes by and everything...goes back to a little bit more normal, I can fly them over here so they can have a house and power and be able to eat.

*Justin Verlander will be the one starting pitcher the Red Sox don't face in the regular season series finale. I'm pulling for the Astros to catch the Indians for a few reasons, chief among them is I don't want to hear from Sully Sawx-Fan for potentially nine straight games.

*The Ringer's Michael Baumann asks who is the best team in baseball?

*Joel Sherman: Is there such a thing as too many home runs? Including Sunday's division-clinching game against the Mariners in which they hit four, the Astros have seven home runs in their last ten games. So, no.

*Doubtful that Pat Neshek gets a Christmas card from Zack Greinke this year.

*A girl at the Twins/Yankees game was hit in the face by a foul ball and hospitalized, prompting calls for protective netting down the lines. I, a grown man, am terrified of getting hit in the coconut by a foul ball and would support this 100%. As one who likes to sit behind home plate at minor-league games (and for one MLB game), you don't even notice the net after about, I don't know, six seconds.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*Collin McHugh's fingernail presumably stayed firmly on his finger and he pitched the Astros to a 3-1 win over the White Sox, backed up by some strong bullpenning. The Indians beat the useless Angels. The Astros have won five straight and are 92-58, still 1.5 back of Cleveland. There are 12 games remaining.

*The win moves the Astros into a tie with the 2004 Astros for 6th place on the all-time franchise wins list. They'll still need to go 11-1 to beat the 1998 Astros, but 6-6 will give them 2nd place.

*The Astros are 12-5 in September, eclipsing their monthly win total for the August That Never Was.

*McHugh, on the fingernail:
Obviously when you're warming up it was the biggest thing for me, making sure I wasn't feeling it, I wasn't compensating for my finger in any way. It was all good today. I didn't have any issues and I didn't think about it when I was out there. Mentally getting over that was probably the biggest part.

He threw a wonderfully symmetrical 5IP, 5H/1ER, 5K:1BB, with 56 of his 87 pitches going for strikes.

*The bullpen of Harris-Gregerson-Devenski-Giles threw 4IP, 1H/0ER, 9K:1BB - and the walk was intentional. It was Harris' first perfect outing since August 29.

*Giles recorded his 32nd save of the season. Astros saves, post-Wagner:
-2008: Jose Valverde - 44
-2005: Brad Lidge - 42
-2017: Ken Giles - 32
-2004: Brad Lidge - 32

*George Springer dove head-first into home plate to give the Astros a 3-1 lead (after the initial out call was overturned). Hinch:
I told him I was proud of his hustle, and don't ever do that again until October. 

*Jose Altuve tied his career high with his 24th home run of the season and at 194 hits, he needs six more get his 4th-straight 200+ hit season. Prior to Tuesday's game Altuve was given the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. Hinch:
He's the perfect example for what's right about the game. I love everything he does on and off the field, how he interacts with his teammates, his desire to go great, the way he shows up every single day ready to play. There's so much to admire about Jose, and our fans are lucky they've been able to watch the entire journey.

*Yuli Gurriel had two hits and is hitting .316/.366/.526 in September.

*Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci: The Astros are surging toward October, and Justin Verlander is leading the way. Verducci:
To watch the Astros play baseball recently is to see a team that might even be better than the one that started 42-16.

Lots of great lines and anecdotes in the article, like this one on Francisco Liriano:
Houston has learned not to have Liriano aim for corners - his command isn't nearly as good as his stuff - and now positions its catcher over the center of the plate and just tells Liriano to get it over and let it move.

*FanGraphs: George Springer -  Baseball's improbable contact hitter. Jeff Sullivan:
This isn't just a young Astros player doing better at baseball. This is *George Springer,* making contact on a consistent bases, and if that doesn't immediately grab your attention, perhaps it's because you've forgotten what Springer used to be.

*Colin Moran is back.

*Please keep the people of Puerto Rico in mind as yet another hurricane hits them (and others in the Caribbean). Correa:
It's going to crush the island. My thoughts and prayers to everyone over there. I have most of my family over there, so I'm really worried about that. My parents and siblings are the only ones over here, so I have a lot of people over there. 

*The Angels, who are paying Albert Pujols $26m, saved themselves $750,000 by re-ordering the rotation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*That was it. That was the last off-day of the regular season. Six games at home (Chicago, Anaheim) followed by seven on the road (Arlington, Boston) and then it's playoffs time.

*Here's how rotation schedule looks to shake out:

* = confirmed

White Sox
Tuesday: McHugh*
Wednesday: Peacock*
Thursday: Keuchel*

Friday: Verlander*
Saturday: Morton*
Sunday: McHugh

Monday: Peacock/McCullers
Tuesday: Keuchel
Wednesday: Verlander

Thursday: Morton
Friday: McHugh
Saturday: Peacock/McCullers
Sunday: Keuchel

Now let's project the ALDS schedule based on this, which has probably already changed since I started looking at it:
ALDS G1 (Thursday): Verlander can pitch on seven days' rest
ALDS G2 (Friday): Keuchel pitches on regular rest
ALDS G3 (Sunday): Could go in a number of directions here, since it will have been at least a week since any of the G3 options have pitched.
ALDS G4 (Monday): Same
ALDS G5 (Wednesday): Verlander

*Video: How the Astros got to the postseason

*Jexas wrote about the fiasco surrounding the ALDS ticket pre-sale yesterday.

*Jake Kaplan tried to predict the postseason roster.

*The "man who saved the world" died at 77.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Houston Astros Are Guaranteed A Spot In The Post Season. Fans are not.

Sunday, September 17th, 2017, game number 149, The Houston Astros took their place as The AL West Champions via a shallow outfield pop up caught by Carlos Correa. An exuberant on field celebration, that could very well be the first of many to come this post season, led to more celebrations in the clubhouse, in living rooms of those watching on TV, at Academy stores across the city that were swarmed with fans eager to acquire their post season merchandise and of course, on Twitter.

Monday, September 18th, 2017, a well deserved off day for The Astros, Houston fans waited for their designated hour to buy the first round of post season tickets to finally arrive. Hour one, for the season ticket holders, came and went smoothly.

It was hour two that sent fans (including me) into a slight panic. At 11:00am CST, those who were fortunate to be randomly chosen to purchase tickets in a presale, clicked the link sent by email & entered the password given only to be told that the password was invalid. When I first saw this message come up, I referred back to the email to make sure I had read it correctly. I thought, "That's what I thought I entered. Probably just a typo". The same message came on my screen after a second attempt. I then decided to copy & paste. Still not working. Turn Caps Lock on. Nope. Turn Caps Lock off.


I, along with many other fans, took to Twitter to see if I was alone in my predicament. I was not.

Some folks had some interesting theories:

While others...

 Many decided to wait for the public sale at noon, but...

In the noon hour on Sports Talk 790, Reid Ryan called in to speak with Matt Thomas. Thomas asked him about the presale debacle. Ryan said the post season ticket process is run out of New York and the website and phone lines were crushed by the demand and that the only way to get a sure thing when it comes to post season tickets is to be a season ticket holder.

As much as the reality of the situation completely stinks, the lottery pool is probably the most fair way to hand out the chance to purchase post season tickets. Unfortunately, technology can be fickle & unpredictable. I am hoping some viewing parties are organized around the city for those who want to experience post season excitement with other fans. I went to two of those viewing parties in '05 downtown and had a great time.

I am also hoping that those New Yorkers up there figure out how to run ticket sales for the next round of the post season so that the fans who were chosen to participate in another presale don't have the headache so many had today

Monday Morning Hot Links

The Astros beat the Mariners 7-1 yesterday to clinch their 1st division title since 2001 and their seventh division crown in franchise history. The Indians won because it's a day that ends in "-y" so they're still 1.5 back of Cleveland for the best record in the American League. Houston is 91-58, and have 13 games remaining. Their next win will tie them with the 2004 team for 6th-most wins in franchise history. Houston is off today, so if you want to go ahead and buy stock in Gatorade and Ibuprofen, you stand to make a tidy profit off of the franchise in the next 36 hours.

*A benefit of clinching the division in mid-September is that it should be around the All-Star Break when players go on paternity leave.

*The Astros have won 12 of their last 17 games - four of those losses coming in an inexplicable and, frankly, non-existent series in Oakland.

*The Astros clinched the division earlier than any of the previous six division winners, in Game 149. The previous best was the 1998 team, who clinched in Game 152. The Astros previous-best season-ending division lead was 12.5 games. They're 15.5 up on the division going into Tuesday.

*Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals, who just declared themselves 2017 AL West Co-Champions.

*Justin Verlander was dominant again, throwing 7IP, 3H/1ER, 10K:1BB. Verlander's three starts with Houston: 21IP, 10H/2ER, 26K:3BB. He struck out six consecutive batters at one point.

*Hinch, on Verlander:
The story is almost too good to be true. We trade for him for this exact reason to come up in big moments. He was locked in from the very beginning. Nobody better to have on the mound and nobody better to celebrate with.

I don't think you could ask for a better introduction for me to the city of Houston than this. First home start would have been great. First home start and a win would have been great. First home start and to win in a division-clinching game - you can't make that up. And I'm looking forward to hopefully many more wins.

For us, this is just the beginning. We are just getting started.

*Homerz and homerz and homerz and homerz: Fisher, Marwin, Springer, Correa. All seven of the Astros' runs yesterday came on home runs. As Our Boy Michael Connor noted, it was the first time since September 10 the Astros hit a home run.

*Holy Toledo. Yesterday was the 2nd anniversary of Milo Hamilton's passing.

*Altuve got the day off, so he has 13 games to get seven hits to get his 4th-straight 200-hit season.

*Brian McCann:
You don't get this feeling every year. You embrace this. There's a lot of things that go into this. And I'm just so thankful that I'm a part of this team.

*ESPN's David Schoenfield says Verlander is trusting his fastball more, and that the Astros have their swagger back.

*McCann, on Verlander:
He brings a calmness. There is a calmness when he is on the mound. He is in full control of what he is trying to accomplish.

*Sports Illustrated would like to remind you that the Astros are one of the best teams in baseball.

*Richard Justice has a good piece from the Astros' clubhouse.

*Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Stefan Stevenson:
Does anyone in the division stand a chance against the young and talent-laden Astros over the next several years? The flippant answer is a resounding heck no.

Read more here:

Read more here:

We know we're going to have three days off [before the ALDS starts], so there will be plenty of time to rest guys. I think at this point, it's all hands on deck to try and win the games and get that lead back.

*Indians vs AL Central: 46-26
  Astros vs AL West: 45-25

*Do you have a ton of money laying around? You, too, can get the Astros 2017 AL West champs gear.

*Via McTaggart: Colin Moran has been activated from the DL and will join the team in Houston on Tuesday.

*Jake Marisnick is predictably bummed about missing what everyone hopes will be a deep playoff run.

*Collin McHugh will get the start Tuesday night against the White Sox against Lucas Giolito. Hinch:
He threw a couple of bullpens. I was going to pitch him in a game two days ago and it didn't materialize. Any given time you have a nail problem it could come up again, but we feel like it's fine.

Given that the Astros are apparently worried that McCullers' arm is literally going to fall off if he throws another pitch, I bet McHugh is okay.

*World Series Odds Check:
-FanGraphs: 19.1%
-FiveThirtyEight: 12%
-Baseball Prospectus: 11.5%
*Carlos Correa is giving 500 more beds to kids affected by Hurricane Harvey.

*The craziness surrounding the bidding for Shohei Otani.

*The Girl Gangs of El Salvador 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Did the Astros win the division?

Yes. Today.

Sunday Morning Hot Links

Dallas Keuchel did Dallas Keuchel things yesterday afternoon as the Astros fought off Frankie Tuesday and Tony Sipp in an 8-6 win. The Angels beat the Rangers. The Indians beat the Royals to stay 1.5 up on Houston. The Astros are 90-58, becoming the 7th Astros team to win 90 games. The Magic Number is at 1. An Astros win today means we go dogpiling.

1998 Astros: 102-60
1999 Astros: 97-65
1986 Astros: 96-66
2001 Astros: 93-69
1980 Astros: 93-69
2004 Astros: 92-70
2017 Astros: 90-58

The Astros will need to go 13-1 down the stretch to overtake the 1998 team, but going 8-6 will put them in 2nd place in franchise history. Whatever happens, Cleveland needs to go a couple of games worse. 

*Hunter Atkins notes that the Mariners only got one hit on a Keuchel pitch that was at chest level or above. 

*Carlos Beltran, who was 3x4 yesterday:
Winning the division (will be) great but at the end of the day all you want is home-field advantage. 

Beltran has four hits in his last two games after collecting four hits in his previous 13 games (45 PAs). It was his 5th 3+ hit game, and his 27th multi-hit game, of 2017. His double tied him with Cal Ripken, Jr for 24th All-Time with 1,078 extra-base hits. 

Beltran has more extra-base hits than every Astro has hits, save for Jose Altuve and Brian McCann. 

They're getting after it. They see what's at stake. They're playing hard. They're playing well, which is a good sign. 

*Jose Altuve had two hits, raising his season total to 193. 

Francis Martes and Tony Sipp combined to throw 20 pitches, recording zero outs on five hits and a walk. To be fair, Sipp only faced one batter, who got a hit. Martes allowed 4H/4ER, 0K:1BB to the five batters he faced. Martes' last six appearances: 6IP, 9H/10ER, 8K:5BB. Dude is young and inconsistent. In his prior eight appearances he threw 10.2IP, 10H/4ER, 15K:8BB. Then he gave up 5H/6ER, 4K:2BB in the two appearances before that. Gonna be interesting to see what his role is next season. 

*Joe Musgrove got his first career save. 

*Hunter Atkins did some work yesterday and has another good article on how the injuries to McCullers and McHugh means that their role in the postseason is somewhat up in the air. McCullers was not available for comment (and Hinch wouldn't talk about him yesterday) while McHugh opened up:
It's a good problem to have for us. More guys able to throw and ready to throw than there are spots to do it....I've been starting for the last four years. I'm a starter until they tell me different...There's a reason that nobody's saying what's going to happen because we don't know what's going to happen. Time is going to sort itself out.

*2017 1st Round pick J.B. Bukauskas is at Minute Maid Park this weekend:
I've never been down this far on a professional field like this, so it's cool taking it all in. It's a big deal for me to experience it this year as opposed to going into next year, like completely having not seen it. It's going to benefit me. 

*Derek Fisher is running out of time to prove he should be on the postseason roster, but is staying magnanimous about it.

*Jake Kaplan has a great recap from the Astros side of the Verlander deal.

*Congratulations to the 2017 Quad Cities River Bandits on their Midwest League championship! Quad Cities won 12-2 last night. Ronel Blanco threw 6.2IP, 4H/0ER, 10K:0BB while 21st Round pick Chuckie Robinson went 4x5 with a home run and 3RBI to earn Finals MVP.

*You have to scroll down a bit but there's a cool note about catcher Abraham Toro-Hernandez in David Laurilia's FanGraphs column.

*Former Astros Great Jesse Crain is holding a Harvey benefit at Karbach on Monday

*Jerry Crasnick: Why hasn't MLB fixed this roster expansion madness yet?

*According to Jon Heyman, the Mariners are the best guess to land approximately 30 of the Top 25 Free Agents this winter. CTRL-F indicates Heyman thinks the Astros' winter will be quiet.

*Ken Burns and the Vietnam War? Okay.