Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Setbacks of Francis Martes and David Paulino

Tuesday's clash against the Mariners will be the Astros fifth straight game without an off-day, and will be the first time that the squad has had to go beyond its five man opening day roster to find another starting pitcher. Let us first note how remarkable this is.  As of Friday, 304 men had started a game in the major leagues this year. That's an average of over 10 starters per team Even if you take the Tampa Bay Rays and all of their "openers" out of the equation (they've had 15 different starting pitchers), each team has averaged 9.96 different starting pitchers.  The Astros have used only 5.

Here's to having good starting pitchers, their health, and a speedy recovery for Lance McCullers.

On Friday, AJ Hinch announced that Tuesday's start would likely be a bullpen start.
Several factors are driving team management to this decision. 1)  The closeness to the September roster expansion means the team may have to do a bullpen start only once more this season. 2)  The closeness to October (and quit your yapping, we're going, this week's games be damned) has prompted the team to want Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock to remain in the bullpen and on routine, and 3.  the lack of a reliable option from Fresno. There is no clear candidate on the Fresno roster, though it is of course possible that they bring up that day's scheduled Grizlies starter and see if he can get through the Ms lineup two times.

Earlier this month, right after McCullers went on the DL, GM Jeff Luhnow gave a list of potential minor league candidates to take McCullers's place in the rotation.

To me, the most notable thing about Luhnow's list is the names that it does not include--Francis Martes and David Paulino. Both had started a handful of games in the majors in 2017 filling in for injured starting pitchers.  While both had graduated from prospect rankings, both had been ranked going into the 2017 season. Martes was a consensus top 30 prospect and Paulino was ranked in the top by 60 by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline (though Baseball Prospectus was more bearish, ranking Paulino 83rd).

Both started the year in Fresno, ready to answer the alarm if and when an Astros starter went on the DL, or a hard thrower was needed to make some bullpen appearances.  But the alarm never rang, and based on the seasons by these two, that turned out to be a good thing.

Martes never was able to harness his command while on the mound in 2018. At Fresno, he walked nearly a batter an inning--17 bases on balls in 18 2/3 IP.  The Astros thought they had found the culprit--injury. After only 4 stats, the Astros places Martes on the disabled list. But, as reported by Jake Kaplan in The Athletic,  tests showed no structural damage.  By early August, Martes was working his way back to the rotation when he had a "setback" while re-habbing in West Palm Beach. The setback turned into Tommy John surgery, and a 12-16 month recovery that will keep Martes out of the Astros plans in not only the rest of 2018, but also 2019 as well.

For Paulino, the story is similar, even if the end is different. Paulino was placed on the DL at the beginning of the Triple-A season. He returned to pitching in early May, and was ineffective. Paulino gave up 12 runs (11 earned) in 16 innings across four starts in Fresno. Paulino then returned to the DL, making 3 rehab appearances in the Gulf Coast League. And then, Paulino was traded along with Hector Perez and Ken Giles in the deal to acquire Roberto Osuna (whose value had dropped after details of his arrest for domestic violence against his girl friend came to light). Paulino has remained on rehab assignment with the Blue Jays.

In short, Martes and Paulino have gone from the doorstep of the majors with a chance to establish themselves as bonafide major leaguers to career crossroads in a short period of time. This year has been a disaster of epic proportions from the standpoint of both players

From an Astros standpoint, the travails of Martes and Paulino have had a more muted effect in 2018. The health and quality of the team's starting pitchers--as well as the development of Cionel Perez--has meant that the setbacks experienced by Martes and Paulino has not affected the major league squad so far.

But the impact of their lost seasons might be felt in 2019. Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton are both free agents at the end of this season, which will open up two spots in the starting rotation. With one injured and the other north of the border, Martes and Paulino are not candidates to fill it. Combine their setbacks with the frustrating season of Forrest Whitley (bizarre PED suspension, injuries), the Astros may lack an internal candidate to fill one of those vacancies in April 2019. Without a "cheap" option to fill those two spaces, the team may have to turn to the free agent market to find starters, either by re-signing Morton and/or Kuechel, or by identifying a player on another team to join the Astros rotation. This is, of course, not a cheap proposition.  The real cost of Martes's injury and Paulino's trip to Toronto is less their individual lack of development, than in compelling the Astros to spend a greater share of resources on their rotation in 2019.

Reinforcing the Astros - August 17 and 18

The Astros lead in the AL West has now entirely evaporated, along with any of this "run scoring" thing that the stats nerds are so obsessed with these days.  The argument that the Astros could do with some reinforcing is a strong one - in particular the roles of Evan Gattis (.194/.206/.452 in August), Yuli Gurriel (.183/.221/.268 over the last 28 days) and Josh Reddick (.200/.263/.343 in August) would be in danger from Tyler White and a cast of others... if only anyone were to be tearing the cover off the ball.  Stay posted to find out if any of the Astros farmhands are, in fact, doing that...

Corpus Christi:  Corpus managed a rare come-from-behind victory in their August 17 game against Springfield, winning by a score of 5-3.  Both teams managed only five hits - for Corpus that involved two hits to RF Stephen Wrenn (2-4, 2B, HR) and 3B Abraham Toro (2-4).  Anibal Sierra went 1-3 and was caught stealing, while DH Carmen Benedetti and LF Chas McCormick both walked once.

On the pitching side of the equation, Brandon Bielak threw 5IP, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks, which resulted in 2 runs but only one of those was earned.  He allowed a home run, as did the guy who replaced him (Brett Adcock), who allowed 2 hits, 1 walk and struck out 4.  Kit Scheetz finished the game with a perfect ninth, striking out two.

Springfield got their revenge on the Hooks during the August 18 game, with a two-run bottom of the ninth.  Corpus lost by a score of 4-3, after they scored two runs in the top of the ninth to take the lead.  Corbin Martin got the start, and he laboured through four-and-one-third, needing 81 pitches to do so.  He allowed 3 hits and 3 walks, while striking out three, allowing 2 runs on two home runs.  Alex Winkelman finished the fifth inning for Martin without incident while striking out one, then Ryan Hartman finished the game with three-and-one-third innings of 3 hit, 1 walk, 3 strikeout ball before allowing a 2-run walk off home run to something called a Johan Mieses.

Earlier, despite stringing together 11 hits and two walks, Corpus only managed to amass three runs.  RF Stephen Wrenn (2-4, 2B, BB), CF Ronnie Dawson (2-5), C Eduardo de Oleo (2-4, HR) and DH Chas McCormick (2-4) all managed multi-hit games.  Randy César was on base twice (1-3, BB) and 3B Abraham Toro and 2B Ryne Birk both went 1-4.

We have been mentioning Abraham Toro's name a bit lately, so I think it may be time to spill some ink arrange some pixels in his honour.  He is a switch-hitting infielder who ranks somewhere in the 20's in the Astros system, according to FanGraphs.  Also, according to FanGraphs, his walk rate and ISO have been impressive in spurts at AA, after he was promoted earlier in the season.  He is still only 21, so he remains young for the AA level.

I guess the reason that we are mentioning Toro is because of his last 10 games.  Over that time, he has 38 plate appearances, in which he has walked once and struck out 9 times.  He also has 15 hits (.405 average) and one home run.  His overall line for the season is only .237/.320/.389 at AA, so he nearly certainly isn't ready yet, but looking at how he is doing given the amount that we have mentioned him, having a look seems like a reasonable thing to do.  So consider Abraham Toro "reviewed".

Fresno:  Fresno smoked the Rainiers to the tune of an 8-1 victory on August 17.  Homering twice, for the second straight game, was one Jonathan Gregory Davis, otherwise illogically known as JD Davis.  That makes a .433 average with 7 HR in his last 10 games (some of which pre-date his most recent stint in the majors), but all 7 of those home runs have been hit in his last six games, which are all post-demotion.  All of this hitting (including this games' 3-4, 2xHR, BB, K) take his AAA line for the 2018 season to .349/.412/.604 in 308 plate appearances, with 58 strikeouts against 30 walks.  I was all for sending JD back down last time, but simply put, he is the hottest hitter in the Astros system right now.  By my calculations, he is eligible for a recall (barring an injury to an Astros player) on 20 August - so shortly.  Also of note, JD again played RF - in fact, all of his games since returning to Fresno have been in RF.  So there may be something brewing there for some time-share with Josh Reddick.

Talking of ex-Astros, LF Derek Fisher had himself a night as well - 4-5, 2B.  Myles Straw went 2-5 with a double.  3B Nick Tanielu went 1-3 with a walk and a double.  1B Taylor Jones went 2-4.  DH AJ Reed managed 1 hit out of 5 at bats, striking out 3 times.

Note is made that Fresno scored all eight runs off ex-Astros great David Rollins.  Current Astros great Trent Thornton pitched 6 innings, allowing 5H and 1BB, while striking out five.  The only run he allowed was on a home run.  Chris Devenski pitched an inning, allowing 2 hits while striking out the side.  Matt Ramsey finished with two scoreless innings.

On August 18, Fresno eeked out a tight win against the Rainiers by a score of 3-1.  Josh James got the start, which pretty much means that he will not replace Lance McCullers on Tuesday.  And he was, uh, inefficient, needing 107 pitches to get through four-and-two-thirds.  He worked around traffic, too, allowing 5 hits and walking 3, which striking out six.  He allowed the only run (unearned) that the Grizzly pitchers allowed.

Dean Deetz relieved, and he worked two-and-one-third scoreless, walking one and striking out two.  His ERA sits at 0.72 on the season.  Reymin Guduan walked two while retiring one, and Brendan McCurry allowed two hits in one-and-two-thirds scoreless, striking out one.

Let's get the important position-player information out of the way first.  JD Davis started in RF, and went 1-4 with a double.  But 2B Jack Mayfield was the offensive star, going 3-5 with a home run and a double.  Brian McCann caught, went 0-3, and was replaced by Jamie Ritchie, who went 2-2.  Hmmm.  3B Nick Tanielu went 2-4.  Myles Straw went 2-5.

So that brings us up-to-date with what is happening in the upper levels of the minor leagues.  Hope that this was informative.  Take home messages - JD Davis is belting the ball at the moment, and Josh James won't be called up to start on Tuesday, not after throwing 107 pitches in an inefficient outing.

Will look at other options for spot-starts tomorrow, but I think that the Astros will probably choose to bullpen it.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Reinforcing the Astros: August 16

So the Astros were off today, but the affiliates weren't.  On Springer Eve, let's see how everyone in the upper minors - players that could potentially Reinforce the Astros - are going...

Corpus Christi:  Corpus was scheduled to play against Tulsa, but their game was cancelled with rain.  Booo!!  They will send Brandon Bielak to the bump tomorrow against Springfield.

Fresno:  So Fresno copped a bit of an away shellacking at the hands of the 60-62 Tacoma Rainiers by an overall score of 10-6.  As you can imagine, the pitching was not good - especially Brady Rodgers (four-and-two-thirds, 9H, 1BB, 6R/ER, 7K) and Ralph Garza (2IP, 4H, 4R/ER. 4BB, 3K).  Reymin Guduan cleaned up (1.1IP, 1H, 1BB, 2K), recording his second scoreless outing in a row.  So there is that!!

On the offensive side of the ledger, things were healthy, just not quite healthy enough.  Brian McCann got the start at DH and in the two-hole, and we went 1-4 with a walk.  1B AJ Reed had a good night (2-4, 2x2B) whereas RF JD Davis had a great night (2-3, BB, 2xHR).  C Jamie Ritchie also homered (1-3, BB, HR) 3B Nick Tanielu went 2-3 with a walk.  So good to see McCann back, and note that JD Davis has homered 5 times in the six games since his most recent demotion, with 12 RBI.  He has also been playing RF regularly, too, so I wonder whether they have plans to spell Josh Reddick for periods between now and the end of the season.

Trent Thornton will start tomorrow against the Rainiers.

Let's look at spot starters tomorrow, then...

Friday Morning Hot Links

The Astros finally won since the last time I wrote for the blog, so now it is officially time to start putting forth a significant about of effort into writing Hot Links again. This will have to start Monday, however, as the Astros were hit with yet another off day yesterday. In fact, Oakland and Seattle didn't play either, so the only other semi interesting game to the Astros was the fact that the Rangers beat the Angels 8-6, because I guess the Angels still have time to pull off a miracle run and win the west.

Anyways, this means we are still 2 games up on Oakland and 4.5 on Seattle going into a huge series against Oakland. I don't want to alarm anybody, but there is a chance that we will be in 2nd place by weekends end. But let's not go there. Let's talk Astros.

Alex Bregman (#19), Justin Verlander (Tied for #23), and Jose Altuve(Tied for #23) are all in the Top 25 WAR leaders of this 2018 season. The only team with more is the Cleveland Indians (Ramirez, Lindor, Bauer, Kluber at #2,#7,#11, and #15 respectively).

Derek Fisher was sent down to make room for George Springer, who will be returning to action today!

A.J. Hinch won't tell anyone who will start in place of McCullers on Tuesday. McHugh, Peacock, Joe Smith? Whoever it will be, it will only be the 6th person to start a game for the Astros this season.

Tyler White cannot stop hitting.

Neither can J.D. Davis, but in Fresno.

Martin Gallegos asks the question: do the A's need to sweep the series this weekend to have a chance to win the division?

Jake Kaplan gives us some insight as to what the Astros plans are for Brian McCann and the catching situation ($).

Yankees bloggers are starting to freak out because they realized that they might have to face Justin Verlander in the one game playoff.

The Houston Astros RBI Softball team won its first softball World Series.

Speaking of the RBI Softball team, Kayla Robinson won the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest.

Charlie Pallilo tells why the Astros are clearly the best team in the AL West.

Post Oak broke out the rainbow jerseys at the Little League World Series.

Just in case you haven't been paying attention to just how good the Red Sox have been, they are currently 11-2 in August, a .846 winning percentage.

Watch umpire Manny Gonzalez catch a bat flip.

Shoutout to George O. May, the first ever inductee into the Accounting Hall of Fame. good stuff, George.

Have you watched the twelve and a half minute video about the literary analysis of the Google Chrome T-Rex Runner Game? None of you will, but I enjoyed it.

There is a 100% chance I will see Alpha in theatres either this weekend or next.


In 1973, Willie Mays hit his 660th and final home run.

In 1984, a stamp of Roberto Clemente was unveiled, the fourth stamp in a series of American sports heroes.

In 2008, Craig Biggio's number was retired.

Also in 2008, Josh Hamilton is the sixth player ever to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded.

In 2012, Clay Buchholz threw an immaculate inning. 

Also in 2012, Uganda became the first African team to play in the Little League World Series.

In 2014, Michael Cuddyer became the 3rd player ever to hit for the cycle in both the National and American League.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Daggum, Astros. Houston broke their nine-game home losing streak with an emphatic 12-1 win over Colorado. They had scored 14 runs over the course of their five-game losing streak. Houston had gone eight games between 10+ hit games, their longest such streak of the year. The Astros' divisional lead is back to 2.0 games.

*Before last night Houston had not hit five home runs in a single game since August 4, 2017 against Toronto. The last 5HR game before that one was July 9, 2017 also against Toronto. That August 4 game was also the last time, before last night, Tyler White hit two dingers in a game.

*The Astros struck out 32 Rockies in the two-game series and went 1-1.

*Evan Gattis was on an 0x20 before he hit the first of his two home runs in a single game for the 12th time in his career and the 4th time this season. It's his first home run against an NL team since September 11, 2016. The one before that? August 24, 2016 against Former Pirates Great Gerrit Cole.

*Current Astros Great Gerrit Cole: 6IP, 5H/1ER, 12K:0BB. He needed just 86 pitches to get through his outing. The Astros are 18-7 when he starts, and have scored 15 runs total in those seven losses - nine of those Astros runs scored against came in the disastrous bullpen meltdown in the Tyler Bauer game on May 27. He has seven double-digit strikeout starts in 2018.

Gerrit Cole, when he takes That L: 32IP, 25H/12ER, 34K:9BB, 3.38 ERA / 1.06 WHIP.

Gerrit Cole, 10+ strikeouts / 0-walk games, career:

2013: 0
2014: 1
2015: 0
2016: 0
2017: 1
2018: 3

*Gerrit Cole, 10+ K games:
2013-2017 (127 starts): 6
2018 (25 starts): 7

*Gerrit Cole has 219 strikeouts on the season, tying 1996 Darryl Kile for 10th most in an Astros season. Here's the list:

1. J.R. Richard (1979): 313
2. Mike Scott (1986): 306
3. J.R. Richard (1978): 303
4. Nolan Ryan (1987): 270
5. Nolan Ryan (1982): 245
6. Don Wilson (1969): 235
7. Mike Scott (1987): 233
8. Larry Dierker (1969): 232
9. Nolan Ryan (1988): 228
10. Gerrit Cole (2018): 219

Astros teammates with 200+ strikeouts in a single season:
2018: Gerrit Cole (219) / Justin Verlander (217)
2004: Roger Clemens (218) / Roy Oswalt (206)
1996: Darryl Kile (219) / Shane Reynolds (204)
1987: Nolan Ryan (270) / Mike Scott (233)
1969: Don Wilson (235) / Larry Dierker (232) / Tom Griffin (200)

Charlie Morton needs 29 more strikeouts this season to join the 1969 team as the only one in franchise history with three 200+ K guys in the same rotation.

*That's the 25th double-digit strikeout game from an Astros starter in 2018, a franchise record.

*Ryan Pressly struck out all three batters he faced in a 14-pitch outing in which 11 went for strikes. It's his 6th appearance for the Astros: 6.1IP, 3H/2ER, 9K:0BB.

*All of the seven hits Rockies starter Tim Tyler Anderson allowed went for extra-bases (four doubles, three home runs). That's crazy.

*Carlos Correa had his first 3RBI game since June 17. Also Correa:

*Since going 3x5 against the Los Angeles Silver Medalists on August 4, Josh Reddick is 5x32 with 6K:2BB and two extra-base hits.

*Holy crap Yuli Gurriel hit his first home run since July 7.

*Holy crap Kyle Tucker got a hit - the 8th of his career.

Kyle Tucker, 2018: .157/.259/.216
Derek Fisher, 2018: .165/.209/.392

*Eight of the 15 American League teams are over .500. Four of them are in the AL West. Cleveland, with a .575 win% and who are a lock to make the playoffs, have the 5th-best record in the American League. The Mariners, at .574, are 6th.

Here's the AL:
1. Boston (86-36)
2. New York (75-45)
3. Houston (74-47)
4. Oakland (72-49)
5. Cleveland (69-51)
6. Seattle (70-52)

*George Springer will be activated for Friday's game against Oakland. Derek Fisher has been sent back to Fresno.

*A.J. Hinch ain't saying crap about who replaces McCullers on Tuesday.

*The Astros OWN Oakland, says the SF Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins.

*guys Guys GUYS: Jose Altuve took grounders ON THE FIELD and ran and stuff and is expected to join the team in the Bay Area today. Hinch:
It's a good step. Look, anything he does moving forward towards playing is a good sign. Everybody wants to know a timeline. I do, too; so does he. We're going to meet after all this activity and put the next step in order.

And George Springer is "almost certain" to be activated ahead of Friday's game in Oakland.

*Check Jake Kaplan's story on Dallas Keuchel's Players' Weekend nickname, and why it has nothing to do with a rapper, and more

*Well I guess we'll see Frankie Tuesday again in 2020, as he underwent Tommy John surgery. Martes had made five appearances in 2018 - four in April at Fresno (18.2IP, 25H/14ER, 16K:17BB). Then he was out until August 2, when threw 1IP for the GCL Astros. Now he's done for all of 2019, so that's cool...

*Czech the Masked Marvel's Reinforcing the Astros post from this morning.

*2017 1st Round pick J.B. Bukauskas threw 7IP, 1H/0ER, 5K:0BB for Buies Creek. Six members of the Winston-Salem lineup that Bukauskas shut down are in the White Sox Top 30. Since returning from the DL, over nine starts since June 29: 37.1IP, 26H/6ER, 41K:10BB.

*Former Astros Great Ben Zobrist explained, very patiently, why the umpires should be replaced by robots.

*Jose Ureña and Don Mattingly and, what the hell, Derek Jeter and okay the entire trash-ass Marlins organization should be suspended for hitting Ronald Acuña on the first pitch of the game.

*Former Astros Bench Coaching Great Alex Cora talked about the similarities between the 2017 Astros and the 2018 Red Sox.

*Former Oakland 1B Nate Freiman has a really good article in FanGraphs about the differences in the minor-league strike zone

*Oh man Brandon McCarthy will retire after this season.

*The Mets are wasting Jacob DeGrom's 2018 season.

*If you want proof that there's no actual accountability in baseball, Joe West is now 2nd on the all-time Games Umpired list in MLB history.

Reinforcing the Astros: August 15 (& LHP Summary)

So the Astros have rediscovered where their bats are located, and suddenly we don't need any reinforcements!!  Excellent!!  Evan Gattis got his first hit of August (or perhaps he was 1 for 19 or something) and mashed a couple of homers in the process.  While he was doing that, Tyler White was also mashing a couple of homers, and making a case as Gattis' heir apparent.  Who would you rather have at DH??  The bearded guy hitting .240/.297/.491 or the bearded guy hitting .286/.389/.623.  Either way, you get a bearded guy, I guess.

Let's take a quick look at the box scores, before moving onto looking at lefty pitches:

Corpus Christi:  Another win for the Hooks, this one a 6-2 away win in Tulsa.  The Hooks managed five runs between the second and fourth frames, whereas the Drillers scored their only runs in the seventh.  Brock Dykxhoorn couldn't get out of the seventh in an otherwise solid start (6-and-two-thirds, 3H, 3BB, 7K, 2R/ER), but Ronel Blanco finished that frame and pitched another (1H, 2K) and Erasmo Pinales pitched a perfect inning (3 outs) while striking out four.  Ha!  Dykxhoorn was not on the mound when the two runs scored as he had left the bases loaded with two outs.  A ground-ball single up the middle was the result of the next at-bat, and he was hung with two runs.

The Hooks mashed three home runs, including one to RF Carmen Benedetti (1-3), one to LF Chas McCormick (1-4 with a stolen base) and one to 2B Ryne Birk (2-3, BB, HR).  C Lorenzo Quintana (2-3, BB, 2B, 3B) and SS Anibal Sierra (2-4) also managed two hits apiece.  3B Abraham Toro went 1-4.

Fresno:  The Grizzlies scored 4 runs in the first, allowed three runs in the second, and eventually lost by a score of 9-6 to the Las Vegas 51s.  So there were some hits, including home runs to DH AJ Reed (1-5) and RF JD Davis (2-4).  Jack Mayfield also managed 2 hits (2-5), CF Myles Straw was on base thrice (1-3, 2xBB, stolen base), and LF Yordan Alvarez was 1-3, but was the victim of a defensive substitution - immediately before the 51s scored 4 decisive runs in the top of the eighth.

As you can imagine, the pitching did not look good.  Rogelio Armenteros got the start, and he went five-and-two-thirds, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 7.  He was credited with allowing 4R/ER.  Dean Deetz relieved, and we went one-and-one-third hitless innings, walking one and striking out one.  Riley Ferrell gave up 4 runs in one inning of work on 2 hits (both HR) and 2 walks. Cy Sneed allowed 1 hit and 1 walk which resulted in 1R/ER.  So not great there, although Armenteros continues to post solid peripherals.

Lefty Pitchers:  Below is a quick summary of the lefties in the upper levels of the minors.

Kent Emanuel: Emanuel was drafted in round 3 of the 2013 draft, and is not currently on the 40-man roster.  He has spent all year at AAA, throwing 73.1 innings, allowing 84 hits, 9 walks and 76 strikeouts (a WHIP of 1.40).  His ERA at 4.42 is a little high, but over his last 10 appearances, he has managed an ERA a full run lower (3.42), while striking out 31 and walking 7 in 26.1 innings.  So perhaps his stock is on the rise, but that WHIP does not look great, and may not translate that well to the major leagues.

Reymin Guduan: Guduan is known to us all, and has managed 5 days in the Big Leagues this year.  He was promoted on June 10, and went on the paternity list on June 15, and was optioned to Fresno upon his return.  He has 48.1 AAA innings on his 2018 resumé, allowing 43 hits, 29 walks and 74 strikeouts.  He has a WHIP of 1.49 and an ERA of 4.28.  But he also pumps gas in the high 90's, is already on the 40-man, and strikes out a lot of hitters, so doubtless we will see him in Houston when the rosters expand at some point.

Guduan's last 10 games have not been good - 17 hits and 6 walks against 13 strikeouts in 9.2 innings pitched, and a 7.45 ERA.  Perhaps having a young child is ruining his life distracting him.

Framber Valdez:  Valdez has made only two appearances in AAA, totalling 8.2IP which has resulted in a 1.27 WHIP and 9 strikeouts.  He carries a combined 4.11 ERA on the year in 103IP between AA and AAA.  In AA, he pitched 31.1 innings against lefties, allowing 25 hits and 5 walks against a hefty 42 strikeouts, and a 2.33 ground-out-to-air-out ratio.  So perhaps he would be useful as a LOOGY or similar this year.

Valdez does not currently occupy a place on the 40-man roster.

Brett Adcock:  Adcock has had a solid year, earning a mid-year promotion from Buies Creek to Corpus.  He has pitched 22 innings in Corpus in five outings, the shortest being 3 innings.  He has allowed 17 hits and 12 walks for a WHIP of 1.32, against 17 strikeouts.  Things would look a lot better for him had he not given up 4ER on 10 hits in his last outing against Springfield.  Adcock does not occupy the place on the 40-man roster.

Ryan Hartman:  Hartman has spent the entire year in Corpus as a starter / tandem starter, throwing 105.1 innings in 22 appearances.  He has allowed 95 hits and 24 walks for a WHIP of 1.13, while striking out 124.  His ERA is a svelte 2.73.  He does not have striking platoon splits, especially around strikeouts (25K in 25.2IP against lefties, 99K in 79.2IP against righties), so perhaps he would be more suitable if the Astros wanted a spot starter or long man.  He does not occupy a 40-man spot, and as a 2016 draftee, does not need to be added anytime soon.

Kit Scheetz:  Scheetz, like Adcock, earned a mid-season promotion from Buies Creek.  He has 31 innings in 18 appearances, allowing 32 hits and 7 walks against 34 strikeouts.  He has a solid 2.61 ERA that is arguably outperforming his peripherals, but his last 10 games have been even better, with a 1.62 ERA in 16.2 IP (13H, 5BB, 21K) over that time.  He is also not on the 40-man.

Alex Winkelman:  Winkelman has spent the entire season in Corpus, throwing 71.1 innings in 27 appearances.  He has allowed on 59 hits, but walked 46 for a 1.47 WHIP.  77 strikeouts have balanced this a little, but his ERA sits at a solid 3.15 on the season.

Like Scheetz, Winkelman has performed very well over the last 10 games: 1.40ERA in 19.1IP, while striking out 20.  That is the good news.  The 13 hits and 14 walks allowed over that time is the bad news.  He does not have a spot on the 40-man roster yet, and as a 2015 draftee, does not need to be urgently added.

My Pick: Framber Valdez gets added to the 40-man and has a cup of coffee in Houston in September.  Reymin Guduan also gets promoted for mop-up duty.  Kent Emanuel may get a spot start, but I think there are a few guys in line before him.

Thanks for reading.  Perhaps tomorrow or the next day we can look at Starting Pitchers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Reinforcing the Astros: August 12-14

This isn't supposed to be a twice weekly post, I swear, but life gets in the way.  As the Astros continue their free fall, I will continue to look for players that could probably free-fall about as well as the Astros currently are (while being paid a whole lot less).  Lets look for some minor-league dominance!!

Corpus Christi:  Corpus concluded their series hosting the Springfield Cardinals on August 12 with a solid 6-1 win.  They never trailed, scoring three runs before the conclusion of the second inning, and when the Cardinals answered with their lone run in the top of the fifth, the Hooks replied with interest, scoring three in the bottom half of that frame.  The win was earned by Akeem Bostick, who completed 5 innings, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks against 4 strikeouts.  The only run was scored against Bostick, so Ryan Hartman (3IP 2H, 4K) and Carlos Sierra (1IP, 1K) must have held the Cardinal scoreless over the last four.

The damage was done by the Hooks' top part of the order.  In order: RF Ronnie Dawson was 1-3 with 2R, CF Stephen Wrenn was 2-4, DH Carmen Benedetti was 1-3 with a walk, 3B Abraham Toro was 2-4 with a home run and 3 RBI, SS Josh Rojas was 1-4 with 2 RBI and LF Chas McCormick was 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base.  Just the one extra-base hit for the Hooks - Toro's 2 run home run.

The 74-46 Hooks then started an away series with the 62-57 Tulsa Drillers.  This game was mostly a rout, with a 10-6 Hooks win.  3B Abraham Toro continued his hot streak with a 3-5 night, which included two doubles.  1B Josh Rojas went 2-5 with a triple and a stolen base, DH Carmen Benedetti went 1-3 with a walk and 3RBI, and C Eduardo de Oleo went 2-5.  SS Anibal Sierra went 1-4 with a HR and a walk.  RF Ronnie Dawson and CF Stephen Wrenn both managed a hit each, with the latter also lacing a double and stealing a base.

Forrest Whitley got the start, and he managed two hitless innings, walking two and striking out two.  He hit a batter, and threw 35 pitches overall.  Justin Ferrell added another two innings (2 hits, 1R/ER, BB, 5K) and Brandon Bailey got a rare 5 inning save (7H, 5R/4ER, 2BB, 3K).

Fresno: Fresno have also managed to get themselves on a little winning streak.  On August 12, they ran out 9-4 winners against Albuquerque to finish their series.  Josh James got the start, and he didn't really make a great case for his call up, throwing five-and-two-thirds, allowing 4 hits and 2 walks for 3 R/ER.  He struck out 6, and allowed a double, a triple and a 2R HR to Matt Holliday, who continues to toil at AAA in the Padres system.  One thing you could say about Josh James' night - he faced the minimum (walking one) over the first 4 frames, before allowing a run in the fifth and two in the sixth.

Matt Ramsey relieved and threw 2-and-one-third, allowing 1 hit against 2 strikeouts, and Brandon McCurry allowed 2 hits and 1 R/ER in a single inning of work, striking out one.

The most productive offensive player was none other that LF Yordan Alvarez, who went 2-3 with a walk and a home run.  RF JD Davis also hit a home run in a 1-4 night.  C Garrett Stubbs (1-5) and 2B Jack Mayfield (1-4) both hit doubles.  SS Alex De Goti and 1B Taylor Jones both went 2-4 with two doubles each.  So lots of extra base hits.

The Grizzlies then started a series hosting Las Vegas.  Fresno scored in three straight innings while holding the 51s scoreless, eventually winning by a score of 4-0.  Kent Emmanuel started, throwing six innings, allowing 3 hits (1 double) and 2 walks, striking out 8.  Dean Deetz relieved (2IP, 1H, 1BB, 4K) and Riley Ferrell finished the game (1IP, 1BB, 1K).

On the offensive side, C Jamie Ritchie managed 2 hits (1 double) in a 2-4 night.  SS Alex De Goti was on base three times (1-1, 2B, 2xBB) and CF Myles Straw and LF Yordan Alvarez both went 1-4 with a double.  1B Taylor Jones went 1-3 with a walk.

And last night, while the Astros were getting smashed by the Rockies, the Grizzlies doubled up the 51s in a 6-3 victory.  RF JD Davis was the hero (2-3, HR, BB), while CF Myles Straw and C Garrett Stubbs both went 1-4 with a walk (although Straw stole three bases as well).  2B Jack Mayfield went 1-4 without a walk.  LF Yordan Alvarez went 0-3 with a walk.   Alex De Goti (starting at 3B) went 0-2 but walked twice, and stole a base.

Of significant interest, Framber Valdez got the start, managing five-and-two-thirds, giving up 4 hits, 3R/ER and 3BB, while striking out six.  Valdez had faced two over the minimum through the first 5 innings (on a hit, a walk and an error, with a double play thrown in), but gave up all of his runs in the sixth.  The inning went like this: walk, K, flyout, walk, 2 run double, RBI single.  So Valdez was dominant for 80% of his outing, but some sequencing and an extra base hit with two outs did him in at the end.

Chris Devenski opened the seventh inning, allowing 2 hits while getting two outs (1K).  Matt Ramsey bailed him out of that inning, and threw one more (allowing 1 hit, 1BB and 1K).  Reymin Guduan got the save in one perfect frame, striking out 2.

So some things to note: Yordan Alvarez has started a whole bunch of games in LF recently.  Framber Valdez's start was pretty awesome until the sixth inning.  Chris Devenski was not dominant, but Reymin Guduan was (on this occasion).  Abraham Toro is raking in AA.

I keep promising to review the LHP's, and I promise that I will deliver on my promise tomorrow.  It is getting late, and I have an early start.  Apologies.

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

I am so sad this needs to stop Alexa play Pennyroyal Tea.

The Astros dropped another game at home last night against Colorado, 5-1. This is not at all a fun time to be an Astros fan. A.J. Hinch says the team is "frustrated". Thank you A.J. for the new information. I will not discuss another Astros game in detail until we win. Please respect my decision.

Big thanks to the national media for reminding us that the division will be a close race.

Big thank you (for real) to Hunter Atkins to update us on all the injuries so I don't have to go researching about every player.

The Crawford Boxes ask the question: who should be our closer?

Call to the Pen ask the question: is Gattis too streaky to keep?

Gary Pettis' son is hitting dingers in batting practice even though he plays the football.

Don't get scammed by illegitimate parking lot monarchs.

Brad Lidge is selling his big 'ol home for a whole lot of money.

A toddler knows the Astros lineup and their batting stances. 

Emily Moore from SI Kids got to see what a typical Julia Morales day looks like.

Some girl on Reddit wrote a 13 page research paper titled "Kiké Hernandez’s Tight Pants: A Longitudinal Study Comparing Performance and Pants Tightness".



In 1951, Willie Mays made an insane catch and throw against Brooklyn in 1951. Some believe it was allegedly better than The Catch, but sadly there is no video footage of the play.

In 1975, Orioles manager Earl Weaver was ejected twice in one day.

In 1990, Phillies pitcher Terry Mulholland threw a no-hitter and only faced 27 batters (a double play erased a throwing error).

In 2011, Jim Thome hit #600.

In 2012, Felix Hernandez threw the first perfect game in Mariners history. This was also the 3rd perfect game of 2012 (the most in a single season), as former Astros great Philip Humber threw his AGAINST the Mariners and Matt Cain threw his against, well, you know...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

The Astros were off last night, so they didn't win. Today is the 116th day of the 2018 season - out of 139 calendar days - that the Astros have been in 1st place in the division. Combine that total with the 178 days the Astros were in 1st place in the AL West in 2017 - out of 182 calendar days in the regular season, and the Astros have been in 1st in 294 out of 317 regular season days (92.7%) since the beginning of 2017. The Astros will play 43 games in the next 48 days. There are five off-days remaining in the regular season (Full Disclosure: I really messed up the "math" of counting the last time I did this.)

*After 119 games, the 2018 Astros are 73-46. After 119 games, the 2017 Astros were 73-46. The difference is their competition.

2018 AL West after the Astros' 119th game:

Houston: 73-46
Oakland: 71-48 (2.0 GB)
Seattle: 69-51 (4.5 GB)
Anaheim: 60-60 (13.5 GB)
Arlington: 53-68 (21 GB)

2017 AL West after the Astros' 119th game:

Houston: 73-46
Anaheim: 61-59 (12.5 GB)
Seattle: 60-61 (14 GB)
Arlington: 58-60 (14.5 GB)
Oakland: 53-67 (20.5 GB)

Off-Day Playoff Odds

FanGraphs (100-62): 93.1% to win division, 99.4% to make playoffs. 22.5% to win World Series
FiveThirtyEight (99-63): 77% to win division, 97% to make playoffs. 16% to win World Series
Baseball Prospectus (99-63): 86.6% to win division,  98.7% to make playoffs, 15.6% to win World Series.

*Kyle Tucker needs one more minor-league Prospect Team of the Week appearance to break the career record, a record I bet he doesn't actually want to break.

*Coupla Inboxes for your reading pleasure:
-Jake Kaplan in The Athletic
-Brian McTaggart at Astros dot cawm.

*And here's Jake Kaplan on what the weekend sweep by the Mariners means. Hinch:
It's a bad weekend. It feels like a really bad weekend. Which is all it is. We get a day off (yesterday). We come back for a new series (today). We see these guys over in Seattle in about a week. We'll be fine. This is not something we can't overcome. This is four games that was a bad weekend.

Via Jake: The Astros' 8-game home losing streak is tied for the longest home losing streak in their last 50 years. I love the Astros, and will fight someone to the death over them, but they are stupid at home and I need them to stop. Rangers fans, who have long given up on this season and the next, are walking around a little too happy for my taste. And I want to cram my socks - which are covered in puppy excrement because Bob Rogers (the puppy, as named by our 6-year old) can't figure out this whole "outside" thing - down their throats.

*Forrest Whitley returns from the DL tonight for Corpus. He's made six starts this season, throwing 21IP, 14H/10ER, 30K:8BB. But a lot of damage was done on June 24, when he allowed 5H/7ER, 6K:3BB in 4.1IP against Frisco. Take that start out, which you obviously can't do, and he's thrown 16.2IP, 9H/3ER, 24K:5BB.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown: Yeah, the A's are for real.

*Kenley Jansen may need a second heart surgery.

*When Dee Gordon was seven years old his mother was murdered by her boyfriend. He carries it with him to this day.

*Cleveland's Leonys Martin had a life-threatening bacterial infection.

*If you are upset that David Bote bat-flipped after a DOWN-BY-THREE TWO-OUT WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM then you need to go cover the PGA Seniors Tour and never waste my time again.

*How Jeets plans to build a winner in Miami.

*How did the Horizon Air baggage handler Sea-Tac hijacker guy learn to fly in the first place? Video Games.

*A mathematician made a bunch of word clouds to solve a 50-year old Beatles mystery.

*I never really had a favorite college basketball team before 2006. I love watching March Madness. I like watching Big Monday, especially when they show 7-foot tall dudes shiver as they get off the bus in Madison, Wisconsin in January. When I moved to Cooperstown, Syracuse was the only thing going in the winter, so I adopted them. Now I have a greater respect for Current Roggits Great Carmelo Anthony, and for this:

*Never miss an opportunity to punch a Fascist in the face.