Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

Position players officially report today.

*A.J. Hinch gave the Astros pitchers and catchers a short workout day, and they pretty much took him up on it. Except for Ken Giles, who has apparently added muscle mass in an effort to build stamina for what is hopefully a long season:
I don't take light days. That's the thing with me. I don't like taking short break days. I always go out there with a mindset of getting something done. I set a goal for myself and I'm going to do it. 

*Lance McCullers' most recent bullpen featured some tutorials with Justin Verlander. Verlander:
Spring training time, it's a time to have new ideas, tweak things. I'm trying to see some opportunities that I can help or impart some wisdom of a guy that's been around for a little while. Trying new things, hearing different opinions, that's how you get better. 

*Verlander is relishing his role as mentor before he goes out and throws 31 Quality Starts in 2018.

*Brad Peacock is pretty pumped about his "unlimited" role in 2018. Peacock reflected on his personal World Series run (four appearances, 7.1IP, 4H/2ER, 8K:3BB) and how he was able to keep his emotions in check:
I felt fine. It's what you've been working for your entire life. It's what you dream about since you were a little kid. You've got to be ready for it. I just felt ready, I felt calm. 

*You won't be able to get this Jose Altuve Funko Pop! figurine in stores until May.

*The Astros' Spring Training site buddy Washington Nationals, who have posted four 95+ win seasons in their last six and have not yet won a playoff series (they've lost in G5 of the NLDS in three of those four seasons), are a little salty about seeing the World Series Champion Houston Astros sign on the entrance to Spring Training. One Nationals player:
We should've been the team playing the Astros in that Series. 

*Something weird happened at FanGraphs as they're now projecting the Astros to go 89-73, ten games behind the Yankees for the best record in baseball.

*The Angels signed Chris Young to come off the bench and probably hit 100 home runs off of the Astros. The dude has a career .746 OPS but has hit .318/.378/.577 against Houston, .380/.417/.727 at Minute Maid Park. This is not a joke. They also signed Chris Carter to a minor-league deal.

*FanRag's Jon Bernhardt talks about the various Spring Training tropes.

*Congratulations to the New York Yankees, 2018 Pre-Season BP Champions.

*Teams are beginning to use sleep study data to push back workout times to later in the day.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*When the Astros acquired Gerrit Cole pretty much everybody said that, with a tweak in his mechanics, he should return to form. Well, A.J. Hinch says Cole doesn't need it:
Gerrit Cole is pretty damn good. He's been an effective big league pitcher. Did he give up a few home runs last year? Yeah. Did he have a slightly down season compared to his standards? Yes. That doesn't mean he can't be a top elite pitcher in the American League just given his stuff, his makeup and his ability to pitch.

*Brian T. Smith: Jim Crane knows he has a team that's built to last.

*Ken Giles worked on his endurance this offseason, and he cares not for your worries about him.

*In The Athletic (subscription required) Francis Martes has made the Astros well-pleased with his refined delivery.

Here's a similar story in the Chronicle. Hinch:
He's throwing as hard as anybody in camp. It's still really early, but he came really prepared.

*Brady Rodgers and Jandel Gustave - both coming off Tommy John surgery in 2017 - are on a restricted program that involves some "light throwing."

*Luhnow said that, had Colin Moran not fouled a ball off his face, the Astros might not have traded him to the Pirates:
I think had he been given that opportunity, I think he would have hit .300, I think he would have hit for power. We might not have traded him because we might have wanted to figure out a way to keep him on our club.

*Luhnow talked to Newsday's David Lennon about the slow offseason and the thinking behind the front office slow-play:
We all have great young players in our system and on our big-league teams. And because the investment is so high in young players, they get to the big leagues fairly early. They're still developing at the big leagues, and so swapping one of the young players out for an established veteran is not as attractive today as it would have been five years ago or 10 years ago...It could be that there's just simply fewer spots because a lot of the younger players are taking up spots and they're contributing. It doesn't explain everything, but part of the dynamic is that we're doing a good job as an industry developing young talent and valuing that talent. 

You look at who would make a list of the Great GMs in the game right now, and it's a fairly short list: Theo, Luhnow, Dayton Moore, Billy Beane (?), Brian Cashman. How did they get there? It's through drafting - and developing - that talent. We are now in a cycle in which GMs that rely on trades and free agent signings to bolster their team aren't doing so well (see: Dipoto, Jerry). Perhaps the most important "skill" for a GM right now is the ability to draft well.

Look at the playoff teams from 2017 and how many players on the current 40-Man roster - with 1.0+ years of service time - were acquired through the draft, signed as an amateur free agent, or a Rule 5 pick:

Colorado: 14
Washington: 13
Cleveland: 12
Minnesota: 12
Arizona: 11
Boston: 10
Houston: 9
Los Angeles: 9
New York: 8
Chicago: 5

Okay, I'll be honest, I didn't think Chicago would rank last here, but it is what it is. The average number of players who meet this criteria for 2017 playoff teams is 11.1 players/per roster.

Let's look at the teams that finished under .500 with the same criteria:

New York Mets: 15
San Francisco: 13
Detroit: 12
Arlington: 11
Baltimore: 10
Pittsburgh: 9
Cincinnati: 9
Chicago White Sox: 8
Philadelphia: 8
Toronto: 7
Anaheim: 6
Kansas City: 6
Miami: 6
Seattle: 6
San Diego: 5
Tampa Bay: 4
Oakland: 3
Atlanta: 2

The average number of players who meet this criteria on sub-.500 teams is 7.0 players.

There are a host of asterisks that could go along with this list: maybe you traded for a guy in A-ball and you developed him into a Major-Leaguer (see: Martes, Francis) and, as a result, he's not on this list. Maybe your team sucks, and the guys that have made this particular cut simply aren't very good, and that's why your team was 64-98 (cough, Mets/Tigers, cough). There are also issues with making this an annual exercise: the White Sox, Padres, and Braves are going to be good soon, but they won't show up as highly on this list because the building blocks they're using were acquired through trades. But I'll let the point stand. I guess.

*Riley Ferrell talked about getting notified of his Spring Training invitation while duck hunting:
About 3:30pm, birds [were] about to start coming in, [and] I was excited for that. I get this text message, and I'm like, 'I don't know who this is.' Looked at it, and I was like 'Oh, I got invited to big league camp. That's pretty cool.' No longer was I worried about birds. 

*2016 4th Round pick Brett Adcock (117Ks in 107.2IP at Buies Creek last season) is ready for the season:
I obviously have things I need to fine-tune. If I didn't, I'd be in the big leagues right now. I'm just trying to make myself 1 percent better each day. If I can do that, hopefully I can end up in the right place. 

*Josh Reddick, in all his Josh Reddickness (Reddickulousness?), talked about the ballistic missile scare in Hawaii:
I went back to my room (after it was clear that the alert was not real) and it was actually frustrating, because me and my girlfriend were going to visit with the Dolphins that morning. We got there on time. We got to play with the dolphins that morning. It was plenty of time. She wasn't even worried about dying; she was worried about seeing the dolphins. I said, 'Those dolphins can wait, we can see them tomorrow if we're still here.' Still had a great time. 

*Rich Hill has chilled out about the 2017 World Series. In a sample poll of Rich Hill and myself, 50% of respondents have chilled out about the 2017 World Series.

*If you find yourself in Fresno on May 12 you can pick up this sweet Carlos Correa Starting Lineup figure.

*Eric Hosmer signed an 8yr/$144m deal (with an opt-out after five years) with the Padres.

*The Rangers have backed out of the deal to sign reliever Seung-Hawn Oh after concerns about his MRI. So here comes a bunch of editorials comparing them to the dastardly Astros and their treatment of Brady Aiken, yes?

*Chris Archer says the Rays could have the best rotation in MLB. And then they traded Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, so who knows now?

*Fernando Abad, who signed a new deal with the Phillies for 2018:
2010-2012 w/HOU: 84.2IP, 5.10 ERA / 1.56 WHIP, 1.97 K:BB ratio.
2013-present:            233IP, 3.13 ERA / 1.21 WHIP, 2.58 K:BB ratio.

*The Haunting of Lindsey Jacobellis.

*From No Depression: A musician's life on social media.

*The Globe and Mail's Michael Harris: I Have Forgotten How To Read.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Six days until the first Grapefruit League game of the year. Forty days until Opening Day at East Weatherford.

*The Astros are looking at viable lefty relief options in what basically amounts to an open tryout for that spot, which Hinch admitted they might not even bring one along for the Great Adventure of 2018. Could be Tony Sipp, Buddy Boshers, Anthony Gose, and Reymin Guduan. Hinch:
I think, going into this camp, the hope is Tony Sipp returns to form and that he has the stuff that made him a high-leverage reliever a couple of seasons ago. He has the capabilities to do that. We want to take the best team we can.

At $6m for 2018, Tony Sipp will cost the exact same amount of money as Jose Altuve.

Later in that link, Carlos Correa talks about what the Astros can build:
We don't want to be just a team people are going to remember for one year. We want to be able to build a dynasty and be able to win two, three years in a row if we can do that. We have the team to do it. It's just on us to put in the work and do what we need to do to win again.

We're as strong as it gets top to bottom. A lot of these guys came up together's a big reason for our success. Everyone's pulling in the same direction and everyone knows how special this group is and we want to make the most of it.

*The Astros could possibly carry three catchers, and that's good news for the out-of-options Max Stassi.

*Bovada is giving the Astros' O/U a 96.5, 12 games better than the Angels.

*Would Dallas Keuchel shave his beard?

*Riley Ferrell grew up an Astros fan and talks about getting invited to Camp.

*The new Bob Watson Educational Center will be a part of the Astros Youth Academy complex.

*Here's a cool report from the Miami Herald about Miami-Dade County suing the ever-classy Jeffrey Loria over the sale of the team to a group PR'd by De2ek Je2er.

Meanwhile Real G and Former Astros Great Dan Straily is happy that his whiny-ass teammates Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich are gone.

*The Rangers are reloading their rotation with the likes of Bartolo Colon and Edinson Volquez, who won't pitch in 2018.

*True Heroes Jon Heyman and Buster Olney got into it about who broke Eduardo Nunez's Red Sox deal first.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Morning Hot Links

*Collin McHugh won his arbitration case and will make $5m instead of the $4.55m the Astros offered him. McHugh:
It's not always a comfortable process. That's kind of built into the idea of it, but it's an important privilege that players have negotiated, and I feel honored to be able to go through it as a second-year [arbitration] player. 

*Hector Rondon, who won the 2016 World Series with the Cubs, said he doesn't see the same Spring Training clubhouse hangover in Houston that he saw in Chicago last year. Rondon:
I feel like right now we don't feel that hangover here. I know the Cubs, we felt it a little. We felt too comfortable. Here, these guys are ready, and I'm ready to compete. This year is a new year and we'll try to win it again, and I think that's the goal for us. 

*Danny Knobler writes that a full season of Justin Verlander can be the key to a Repeat. Knobler:
The other contenders essentially stood by and allowed Verlander to become an Astro. They allowed the Astros to get the last piece they needed to win a championship. And because Verlander still had this year and next remaining on his contract, they allowed the Astros to go into 2018 as favorites to win again.

*Hunter Atkins writes that this offseason's slow free agent market could impact Dallas Keuchel's free agency next year.

*I like this Anthony Gose guy. Gose told reporters that he didn't like talking to the media, but then he sure didn't act like it. Knowing he's a Rule 5 pick, someone asked him about his confidence level. His reply:
I throw 100. It's high. 

*The NY Post's Kevin Kernan says the Gerrit Cole trade is a "killer" move. Cole:
It's a special vibe here. The hellos are genuine. The hugs are genuine. It's not like you can't get that on other clubs, but you can just see it and feel it here. When we get in the room and have a meeting, the manager is not walking around the room preaching to everybody. Everybody is kind of sitting down, the same level. There's an atmosphere that just fosters that unselfishness, which ultimately is what separates you in meaningful games.

*Brad Peacock will pitch exclusively out of the stretch this season.

*SI released the final installments of their 2018 Top 100 MLB Players. In the 20-11 segment:
#19: Justin Verlander

And in the Top Ten:
#9: Carlos Correa
#2: Jose Altuve

So, to recap, here's how the Astros ranked in the Top 100:
#2: Altuve
#9: Correa
#19: Verlander:
#27: Springer
#66: Reddick
#69: Bregman
#71: Keuchel

*Jim Callis says that Frankie Tuesday is maybe 8th on the SP pecking order right now, but does have the stuff to stick in relief.

*Jon Heyman links some of the major free agents to the Astros, like Greg Holland and Jonathan Lucroy (I still don't get that one).

*From June 21-23, the Hooks will honor Corpus' naval heritage and play as the Blue Ghosts, and the logo is sweet.

*Jeff Sullivan: When Super Teams fail

*If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Cooperstown on February 23, there will be a special guided tour of the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros exhibit at 11am. Astros Weekend is August 4-5, 2018.

*Pace of play rule changes will go into effect before the 2018 season.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown: Anthony Rizzo - graduate of Douglas High School - heads home to mourn and heal.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

*While ESPN and Chris Russo are busily dry-humping the Yankees and Shohei Ohtani, Justin Verlander reminded the media that the Astros are the team to beat in the American League:
Obviously, the old saying, "To be the best, you've got to beat the best," and I think we proved we were last year. This is a new year. Bottom line. Everybody's entitled to their opinion. Everybody in this locker room thinks we have a championship-caliber team here. We're not resting on any laurels. Everybody is excited to get back to work and excited for a good 2018.

*Evan Gattis:
I don't want to hang out and talk about last year forever - maybe off the field or away from work, talking to fans. It's incredible what we did as a whole for the city. Like I said, I still can't believe it. All that being said, you can't win the 2017 World Series in 2018. 

*A.J. Hinch, on setting the rotation, and what his staff need to do in Spring Training:
It's not a plug-and-play operation. Last year was not a magic carpet ride. We earned every bit of our 100-plus wins, the division title, the run in the playoffs. I want to maximize. I want to be perfect. It's hard.

*Dallas Keuchel, who will be a free agent after the 2018 season, said the negotiation window closes when the season starts:
If there is something, it's going to happen before the season. There's going to be no contractual negotiations during the regular season. I feel like that would be a negative light on some of the teammates while those guys are busting their butts. I don't want anything happening behind the scenes with me that would affect those guys.

In that link, Hinch said that he's not going to be as cautious with his pitchers like he was in Spring Training last year.

*Collin McHugh wasn't in camp yesterday as he was at his arbitration hearing. McHugh wants $5m in 2018, while the Astros would like to give him $4.55m in 2018. The result of the hearing is pending.

*Mike Lupica talked to Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton about their Game 7s. Morton:
It's such an emotional thing, the postseason. There's all this drama, and all this buildup, and then, just like that, it's over. And now we're back trying to do it again.

*Gerrit Cole - whose brother-in-law is Brandon Crawford - attended Game 2 as a fan.

*David Paulino apologized for his 80-game ban last season after his elbow was bothering him:
I was in a situation where I thought that my body wasn't responding. I needed to do something for my health and the ability to play baseball...I ask the fans to forgive me and to give me a second chance, and to the kids that play baseball to not follow my example and do it the right way.

*There will be a minor-league mini-camp for a few "select players" on Feb. 23.

*Alex Bregman stopped by an Angleton elementary school and donated a bunch of iPads for special needs students.

*The Astros didn't have a player make Richard Justice's 10 Players to Watch in Spring Training list.