Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

First: RIP Valentin Jalomo.

*Toronto was able to surpass the Mets' bid (6yrs/$120-$125m) and ink George Springer to a 6yr/$150m deal last night. Never mind that I said in the Chronicle back in October that 6yrs/$150m would get a deal done with Springer, though it was believed earlier this month that he was looking for a deal in the $175m range. The Astros were apparently never really engaged in bringing back Springer. It was just last Friday that "GM" James Click said, regarding Springer and Brantley, "we're gonna go where the market dictates sometimes and sometimes we are gonna push the market and make it come to us." Apparently the market dictated that the Astros were going to go the Extreme Shift route and play with a one-man outfield. The Astros do not spend in free agency, that's just a fact. 

So what have the Astros lost, besides the spark plug for the best lineup in franchise history? 

*At 26.6 fWAR, Springer was 0.2 fWAR behind Terry Puhl for the 5th-highest fWAR for an outfielder in franchise history. 

*His 174 home runs are 3rd-most for an Astros outfielder, and 5th-highest for an Astro.

*His 134 wRC+ is 2nd in franchise history for an Astros outfielder who played more than 500 games for the team. 

*His .491 SLG and .852 OPS are both 6th all-time in franchise history.

*His 39 leadoff home runs are 2nd in franchise history, 14 behind Hall of Famer Craig Biggio which Springer could have passed by, I don't know, May? 

*His 19 postseason home runs are most all-time, and his 2017 World Series Game 5 home run that came minutes after his diving misplay in centerfield remains my favorite home run of all time. 

Despite me being mentally prepared for Springer's departure back in early November, the Astros also lost a whole lot of their heart and soul. It's entirely possible that Springer just didn't want to play in Houston, and I can get it. I'd been hearing whispers that Springer wanted to be closer to home in Connecticut and now he can live in Toronto, play in Boston and New York 20-ish times a year. Obviously summers in Toronto are preferable to summers in Houston (if you're from Connecticut). 

And let's not discount how fans around baseball have signed a personal services contract with Amnesia when it comes to badass members of the 2017 Astros coming to their team. Not getting booed everywhere has some non-monetary advantages, I would imagine. 

*Oh, and it's entirely possible that Michael Brantley follows Springer to Toronto. This is Drake's fault.

*Since the Astros gave Springer a qualifying offer, they'll get an extra pick after the 4th Round of the 2021 Draft, if that's something that matters to you. 

*Chandler Rome: A face and voice of the Astros' golden era is gone.

*Toronto is scheduled to play at Minute Maid Park May 7-9. 

*At some point soon I'll take a look at possible replacements, but not today.

*Former Astros Great Chris Devenski signed a deal with the Diamondbacks.

*Astros prospect Freudis Nova is trying to get to Houston this year.

*Former Astros Great Joe Musgrove is ready to bring a World Series to his hometown team.

*I read Maria Konnikova's book "The Biggest Bluff" last month and enjoyed it immensely. Here in Wired, she talks about poker and the psychology of uncertainty.

*Outside: A Nepali team just made the first winter summit of K2.

*I wrote about a fake plot to kidnap nuns and force them into sex slavery, Samuel Morse, the "Harper" in "Harper Collins Publishing," an inspiration for Scorsese's "Bill the Butcher," and the 1856 elections, if that's something you're interested in.

*A Musical Selection:


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Been a while, yeah? Because nothing - Astros-wise, anyway - is happening. Well that changed a little bit yesterday. A shame, really, I had gotten used to not having to think about the Astros.

*The deadline to settle arbitration cases was yesterday and the Astros could not come to an agreement with Carlos Correa, and so they will head to a hearing. Correa wanted $12.5m, the Astros offered $9.75m. That's quite a gap. 

I do not understand this decision. Let's recap what has happened since October 2019:

1. Brandon Taubman popped off at some reporters about domestic violence, getting himself fired in the process.

2. The Astros lost every home game of the World Series.

3. The Mike Fiers story dropped, which resulted in Luhnow and Hinch getting fired and the Astros becoming the most hated single team in Baseball since 1919. 

4. COVID-19. 

And through all of that, Correa became the face of the franchise, standing up for his teammates and bearing that burden to the public, allowing guys like Altuve and Bregman to sit back in the shadows (as much as that is possible, anyway). And you can't come up with the extra $2.75m to pay him? He is going to be a free agent at the end of the 2021 season, you think maybe, if you want a little goodwill in the negotiations with the best shortstop in franchise history?

*FanGraphs' WAR, Astros shortstops:

1. Correa: 19.4

2. Dickie MF Thon: 14.3

3. Adam Everett: 9.2

In 45 fewer games than the man largely considered to be the best defensive shortstop in franchise history, Correa has put up 10.2 more fWAR. Since he came into the league in 2015 - even given the injury-shortened seasons - Correa has the 5th most fWAR among shortstops, in more than 150 fewer games than three of the four players ahead of him. I know baseball economics are allegedly what they are in a pandemic/post-pandemic scenario, but it's also important to never believe a billionaire when they cry poor. I could have stopped that sentence after "billionaire." And so, now, approximately ten months before he's set to become a free agent in his Age 26 season, the Astros will go before a panel and tell Correa that he's not worth as much as he thinks he is. Seems real smart. Click:

We have nothing but the utmost respect for Carlos and his group. Again, I can't emphasize this enough: I think they came very well prepared and I think we were very well prepared, but we just see different things in the market and that's why the system is there to help us resolve those.

*In the last couple of weeks, the Astros have added veterans Ryne Sandberg Stanek and Pedro Baez to the bullpen. The back four of the bullpen will be Stanek, Baez, Joe Smith, and Ryan Pressly. Click that link and McTaggart will tell you the Astros are engaged on Brad Hand, Alex Colome, and Trevor Rosenthal. So obviously, the Astros are trying to shore up their bullpen and will just get to the 2/3 of the outfield that is apparently missing, exiled to Weiland Island. Click, on Springer/Brantley:

Those two guys are very special to this franchise and we will continue to have conversations, but we're, like I've said, gonna go where the market dictates sometimes, and something we are gonna push the market and make it come to us.

This is an excellent example of saying something and it's full of nothing at all.

To be fair, Click did say that they have discussed an extension with Correa. The Astros did avoid an arbitration hearing with Aledmys Diaz ($3m) and Lance McCullers ($6.5m). 

*ESPN is predicting Springer to the Blue Jays.

*I totally missed the rumor that the Astros are interested in Joakim Soria, who at this point just must be 52 years old.

*Houston signed 22-year old Cuban OF Pedro Leon to a $4m signing bonus, in a long-rumored move. Click:

He's a special talent. He has all five tools, and a sixth one if you count just how good he is at the game of baseball from an instincts perspective - tremendous off-field guy. There's just not enough good things that we can say about him.

Click said how quickly he rises through the system depends on Leon, but they're not planning on him immediately replacing Brantley or Springer. 

*The Tri-City ValleyCats, formerly of the historic New York-Penn League, have sued the Astros for lost revenue over the minor-league contraction/restructuring that got rammed through by Soulless Ghoul Rob Manfred (for a non-paywalled link, click here). The complaint:

MLB's intimidation tactics, which it used to pit MiLB teams against each other for the 'privilege' of not having their businesses destroyed, has gone on for years but was most vividly demonstrated by a May 2020 email in which Commissioner Rob Manfred emailed the ValleyCats' owner condolences on the passing of his father, and then in the very same email, issued a veiled threat that any public statement made about MLB's contraction efforts would be 'unwise.'

MLB is arguing that it wasn't really a threat, and there's nuance that is missing. Actively trying to remember why I even care about this sport. 

*Former Astros Great Jeff Luhnow is working with the group that brought you "Club de Cuervos" on Netflix to buy a Liga MX team.

*Leeds vs. Brighton: 9am. NBCSN.

*Minute Maid Park will host a vaccination drive today.

*Mental Floss: The Harvard Chemistry Professor Who Was Also A Murderer.

*Food & Wine: Ted Cruz's love for soup knows no bounds.

*Outside: Journey to the Center of the Earth.

*I've been a little busy over at Michael Bourn Identity, featuring interviews with musician Joe Firstman, Centro-Matic's Will Johnson and Fenway Park's Josh Kantor, and Hall of Fame play-by-play man Eric Nadel.

*A Musical Selection:

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Today in "Hello, I Am A Massive Nerd"

It's been a while since I've posted anything on this web site because it has been a while since there has been anything Astros-related to which I could respond. SO, I thought I'd let you take a look at how I blow off some steam. Some people use drugs recreationally. Others hunt humans for sport. Not me! I try to find random pictures of scoreboards to tell exactly when that picture was taken, and I thought I'd walk you through the process of how I do it. You do not have to read this. 

1. Start with the image. It's very important that, if the image on the Google Search comes from a newspaper article, to skip past the date of the article. Just load the image into a new tab. Here's one. Like I said, it's very random.

So how do we begin? Let's start with what we know:

1. This is Milwaukee at Wrigley Field. Look at the ivy, for crying out loud. Even if you didn't know what the outfield wall of Wrigley Field looked like, you can see the phone number for the rooftop seats and see that the area code is 773, which is Chicago. We know it's Milwaukee because Eric Thames is wearing a big ol' Brewers cap. If you didn't know that, then perhaps this is not the exercise - or web site - for you.

2. Due to the lack of greenery on the outfield wall, this is early in the season. Probably April. Also, Eric Thames' .417 batting average at the time of the picture being taken would indicate this is early in the season. You can also see that the Blurry People in the outfield bleachers look like they're bundled up. 

3. So now we start to narrow down the possible dates of when the picture was taken. Eric Thames played with the Brewers from 2017-2019. The Brewers played the Cubs in April in 2017, 2018, and 2019, but the Brewers/Cubs games in 2018 and 2019 were in Milwaukee. They played at Wrigley April 17-19, 2017, so that seems like it's our best bet. 

4. At the time of the pictured at-bat, Thames was hitting .417 with seven home runs. Thames hit his seventh home run of 2017 in the top of the 3rd inning off of the Cubs' John Lackey on April 17, 2017.  He hit his eighth home run of 2017 on April 20 at home against St. Louis, so to find the range of when Thames had exactly seven home runs at Wrigley Field, it rules out 2018 and 2019, so we're back to somewhere between April 17-19, 2017.

5. Now we have to figure out exactly which game this was. There's no score, so we can't look to see if either Milwaukee or Chicago had put up a big half-inning. The biggest clue isn't the 0x1, or the run scored, but the two walks. Thames drew two walks in a game at Wrigley Field twice in 2017: April 19, and May 19. But by May 19, 2017 Thames had 13 home runs, so it can't be that game. It has to be April 19

6. To the next, and final point: At what point of the game was Eric Thames up to bat after going 0x1 with two walks and a run scored at Wrigley Field on April 19, 2017? We see that the Cubs pitcher is named "Montgomery." That's Mike Montgomery, who threw 1.2IP in relief of Tommy Milone's 5IP start. If we look really close, Montgomery has already thrown 0.2IP and was sitting on 23 pitches. This is either the 6th or the 7th inning. Just simply by looking at the box score of the game (linked in Item 5), we know that the #2-hitting Thames drew a walk in the top of the 1st inning and scored a batter later on Travis Shaw's 2-run home run. Thames also drew another walk in the top of the 3rd, and grounded out to end the top of the 4th inning. There is our 0x1, and we already have the two walks and the run scored. Montgomery pitched to Thames in the top of the 6th with two outs. Thames would go on to ground out with the bases loaded to end the 6th inning. 

7. This picture was taken in the top of the 6th inning on April 19, 2017. The Cubs won 7-4. 

Please still be friends with me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tuesday Evening Hot Links

*Brian McTaggart straight up stole my idea put together a list of the best Astros to wear each number in franchise history.

*Enoli Paredes is MLB.com's pick for a breakout 2021 year.

*The Astros surprised a 7-year old and his team with a bunch of cool stuff.

*FanGraphs' Jay Jaffe has been a long-time student/scholar of the workings of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This year he was finally able to cast a ballot for real.

*I have no idea why I did this, but I figured up how each team's record and win% stand up from 2010-2020. The results are as follows (World Series winners in italics):

AL East

New York: 954-726 (.568)

Tampa Bay: 900-781 (.535)

Boston: 896-784 (.533)

Toronto: 826-854 (.492)

Baltimore: 780-900 (.464)

AL Central

Cleveland: 890-788 (.530)

Detroit: 805-870 (.481)

Minnesota: 801-879 (.477)

Kansas City: 784-896 (.467)

Chicago: 778-901 (.463)

AL West

Oakland: 875-805 (.521)

Arlington: 865-816 (.515)

Anaheim: 848-832 (.505)

Houston: 818-862 (.486)

Seattle: 785-895 (.467)

NL East

Washington: 905-774 (.539)

Atlanta: 878-801 (.523)

Philadelphia: 815-865 (.485)

New York: 819-861 (.488)

Miami: 738-940 (.440)

NL Central

St. Louis: 929-749 (.554)

Milwaukee: 853-828 (.507)

Chicago: 851-829 (.507)

Pittsburgh: 811-867 (.483)

Cincinnati: 806-874 (.480)

NL West

Los Angeles: 962-718 (.573)

San Francisco: 850-830 (.506)

Arizona: 818-862 (.487)

Colorado: 778-903 (.463)

San Diego: 776-904 (.462)

*The Cubs are "actively shopping" catcher Willson Contreras. In five seasons with the Cubs, Contreras has hit .265/.351/.463 and has thrown out 32% of would-be base-stealers.

*ICYMI: I interviewed artist/musician Joe Firstman, whose album The War of Women is one you desperately need to listen to, if you have erroneously not done so already. Episode 12 is coming on Monday.

*West Bromwich Albion 0 Leeds United 5 and, friends, it was a delight to watch. Leeds are currently at 2% to get relegated

*Baseball Prospectus (free): Baseball video games reinforce the worlds they create

*The Album Steve Earle Never Wanted To Make: A Tribute To His Son.

*Drew Magary: The only Hilaria Baldwin explainer you need to read.

*The BBC on the 2000 friendly between the United States and Iran.

*Vice: "How Do I Lose Weight" is the wrong question.

*A Musical Selection, related to the latest Michael Bourn Identity episode:

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

 Actual news, you say?

*MLB.com's Mark Feinsand is reporting that the Astros and Former Astros Great Jason Castro are "in serious talks" and a deal could be completed soon. 

It's kind of hard to believe but Castro, the Astros' 1st Round pick (10th overall) in 2008 will be in his Age 34 season in 2021. He's a career .230/.312/.390 hitter and, in 452 games from 2015-2020 has hit .218/.309/.380 for the Astros/Twins/Angels/Padres. Defensively, I guess it's fine, but this obviously means the Astros don't think all that much of Garrett Stubbs while it also doesn't address the Astros' most-glaring needs in the outfield and on the pitching staff. It's just...weird. 

*The Astros agreed to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training with 25-year old outfielder Jose Siri. In 594 minor-league games, Siri has hit .264/.313/.447 with 675K:147BB, reaching Triple-A for 30 games in 2019. As Astros.com notes, Siri was a Top-10 prospect for the Reds in 2018 and 2019 but was claimed off waivers twice in 2020, ending the year in the Giants' organization. He's hitting .281 in the Dominican Winter League right now.

*SI lists Jose Altuve as one of the MLB stars looking for a bounce-back season in 2021.

*McTaggart: How the Astros got their name.

*As many as 20 teams were in attendance for James Paxton's recent showcase.

*Former Astros Great Dustin Garneau signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers.

*FanGraphs has JAWS' take on Jeff Kent's HOF candidacy.

*Czech out the new episode of Lima Time Time, and also the new Michael Bourn Identity where I talk to Elsik's head soccer coach Vincenzo Cox.

*Current Leeds United Legend Marcelo Bielsa went on a 41-minute rant to explain how Leeds were better than Manchester United, despite United blasting the hell out of Leeds 6-2 on Sunday. Leeds are currently at 8% to get relegated.

*Why on earth is someone stealing unpublished book manuscripts?

*121 minutes with Guy Fieri.

*Vice: No New Years' Resolutions in 2021.

*Fast Company: The 26 best apps of 2020.

*My favorite musical discovery of 2020 was actually released in 1972: