Saturday, May 25, 2019

Should We Astros Fans Care About the Super 2 Deadline

George Springer’s hamstring injury last night led Astros fans to quickly go through the stages of grief:
·         denial (“No, no, no, no, no!”)
·         anger (WTF?!?!)
·         bargaining (Take my hamstring, George!)
·         depression (Dang. Now we’re only gonna win 99 games)
·         and finally, demanding that Yordan Alvarez be called up.

Astros Twitter can confirm the demand.
Some used gifs to convey their point.
Some gave survey answers that make no sense, but make perfect sense

 But seemingly all agreed with this sentiment.
The Astros responded by calling up Derek Fisher to take Springer’s roster spot, leaving Alvarez in Round Rock.

So why did the Astros ignore the wisdom of the Twitter masses and keep Alvarez in AAA for now. Chandler Rome gave the answer in his most recent mailbag “Houston appears ready to wait until the ambiguous Super 2 cutoff passes” to call up Alvarez.  

Now, as a fan who doesn’t spend his life obsessing over the details of the MLB Collective Bargaining Unit, you may be asking “What in God’s name is the Super 2 Deadline?” Click the link for details.  The most important thing to know is that while the Super 2 cutoff date is ambiguous, it is usually between June 3 and June 13.  In short, we are unlikely to see Alvarez in Houston for a couple of weeks still.

I focus in this article on the question of why we Astros fans should care about the Super Two deadline.  There are two reasons to care—saving money and staying under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold (also known as the Luxury Tax).

The first reason to care about the Super Two deadline is that the Astros will save money if they hold back Alvarez until after the deadline.  And by the Astros, I mean Jim Crane.  As a result of holding back Alvarez, Jim Crane will now have more money to pass on to his children and his children’s children, and so on.  Congratulations to the yet-to-be-born Crane heirs on their purchase of new ivory back scratchers.

But saving some money on Alvarez may hold benefits not just for future heirs of Jim Crane. It may hold some benefit for the Astros teams of the future. Holding back Alvarez past the Super 2 deadline means that the Astros will be able to offer a contract at or near the league minimum of $550,000 in the 2022 season. If the Astros call up Alvarez now and he never gets sent down to the minors, Alvarez will be eligible for the salary arbitration process that season.

How much money is the arbitration process worth?  Here is one example. George Springer qualified for arbitration under the Super 2 provision after the 2016 season, He signed a one-year contract for $3.9 million. Carlos Correa was held down in the minors until after the Super 2 deadline (June 8, 2015). As a result, the Astros avoided arbitration with Correa in 2018. They paid him $1M that season and are paying their star shortstop $5M this season.

Avoiding the Super 2 deadline is thus worth about $3-4M for the Astros payroll in 2022, assuming that Alvarez is an everyday player. But there are also implications for seasons beyond 2022. The arbitration system is designed to increase salaries of players as the increase in service time. So a player who gets $3.9M his first year in arbitration gets a salary increase his next season, and the next, and the next, and the next.  In short, the team saves $3-$4 million in future years as well. In the case of Alvarez, those savings will continue in the 2023 through 2026 seasons.

Does that savings matter?  Well, it depends on what the budget is for the Astros payroll. Like many baseball teams, it appears that the Astros are using the luxury tax as a salary cap

And the Astros are bumping up against the luxury tax threshold. Cot’s Baseball Contracts currently estimates that the Astros will spend $188.6M on payroll andbenefits this season.  And while that is $17.4M under the luxury tax threshold, we can expect the Astros to add salary in a trading deadline deal, pushing them closer to the luxury tax.

One would expect that the team’s payroll will remain near the luxury tax threshold for the next several years. The team already has $138.9M in guaranteed payroll for 2020. And that does not include salary figures for players up for arbitration (Correa, Springer, Roberto Osuna, Lance McCullers) and any free agent signings (we are again going to sign a catcher in free agency next year).

The Astros have a team of good players and they are going to want commensurate salaries. If the team is going to bump up against but not go over the luxury tax threshold, saving $3-$4 million dollars a season might by very valuable.  This off-season, the team signed Robinson Chirinos for a salary of $4.5 million. 

Now, the question of whether the Astros should stay under the luxury tax threshold is a separate question.  I have posited that future Astros teams (and thus us as their fans) will benefit from staying under the luxury tax threshold. But all it costs to go over the tax threshold is Jim Crane’s money. So staying under the tax is just another way to save Jim Crane’s great-grand children money.  And while I’m sure they will appreciate it, I will note that they do not yet exist. Yordan Alvarez certainly does.  He’s right down there in Round Rock, where he will remain for the next several weeks.

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Good news/Bad news. Yes, the Astros won, but it looks as though George Springer will spend a decent amount of time on the IL after doing something to his hamstring. Wade Miley dealt. Pressly and Osuna are human. Houston won 4-3. They're 34-18, having played 34 games in the last 36 days. It'll be 39 games in 41 days when they have their next day off, on Thursday.

*First up, let's get to George Springer. After missing the last four games with a sore back, Springer did something to his hamstring making a sliding catch. It is being described as "significant." Springer:
It sucks, to be honest. It's hard, but I'll make it through. I've just got to support the team the best way I can.

Remember that Altuve has missed over two weeks for something they didn't think was that big of a deal. Hinch:
I'm not looking forward to the diagnosis, to be honest. It doesn't look very good. He never pulls himself out of a game like that. He was limping from the very beginning...Our best team has George Springer in the leadoff spot.

Have a nice cup of bleach and look forward to seeing Springer around the All-Star Break.

*Against Boston since the beginning of the 2017 season (postseason included), the Astros are 15-12, outscoring them 134-115. Fourteen of those games were decided by two runs or fewer.

*Anyway, on to the game, which the Astros won. Houston got four hits and one extra-base hit - Jake Marisnick's 6th home run of the year. It's the first time since September 5, 2017 that the Astros have gotten four hits, one extra-base hit, and won the game.

*Top four in the lineup (Springer-Bregman-Correa-Gurriel): 0x14, 1K:1BB.

*The Astros were 0x7 w/RISP. Reddick-White-Marisnick were a combined 0x5 w/RISP. That said, Marisnick made two great catches in center field to help seal the win. Hinch:
There's not much not to like (about Marisnick) in a game like that. When you're a bench just want an opportunity. You just want a chance to show it. And he's doing great things on the field. It's pretty impressive.

Anytime you get a chance to get in there and get consistent reps and see pitching consistently it makes it a little bit easier to make adjustments. When you're not playing every day and you're trying to make adjustments and make things work it's hard. So it's been nice to play every day.

*Wade Miley changed his attack plan on the Red Sox, throwing way more cutters this time. Miley: 6IP, 4H/1ER, 8K:2BB. The last time Wade Miley recorded 8+ strikeouts? June 17, 2017.

*Jackie Bradley Jr hit a home run in the 8th Inning off of Ryan Pressly, breaking his 40-game streak without allowing a run. Roberto Osuna allowed a home run in the 9th to Christian Vazquez, breaking his 18-game streak without allowing a run. It's the first time this season that the Astros have allowed a home run in the 8th and 9th innings.

*What. A. Slide. by Aledmys Diaz:
*Asked whether Yordan Alvarez's continued presence in Round Rock is Super-Two related, Luhnow:
There is no rush, but there is a methodical plan that we're going through to make sure that when he get here we have him contribute and don't find out a month later that he wasn't ready or isn't able to play left field.

*Jake Kaplan says Corbin Martin's leash is longer thanks to McHugh's injury, though Framber might get sent back to Round Rock to stretch out. Good piece on Martin's struggles with pitch usage.

*Everyone, myself included, is kinda sorta wondering just WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO FORREST WHITLEY. Chandler Rome, who has Access, did some digging. [Hey Siri, figure out how to get Access]. Luhnow says he might be hurt:
I think there's some arm fatigue, something in that area. There's no pain necessarily, just he's mentioned a couple times some discomfort.

At this point, it's probably better just to give him 10 days off and reset.

*The Astros' SLG is their most interesting stat.

*A.J. Hinch had to buy a bottle of wine for Gerrit Cole.

*Danny Knobler: What Verlander is doing right now, at Age 36, is unreal. Nolan Ryan comes to mind.

*Jayson Stark's Useless Info Department column is very Fun this week.

*From AstrosFuture: Go get Max Scherzer.

*FanGraphs: The cost of signing Keuchel or Kimbrel.

*Cavan Biggio made his MLB debut last night, just in case you had any hopes of holding on to any semblance of still being Young. BGO:
Obviously, it's hard to put into words. I can't tell you how exciting it is for our family and for him. He put the time and the effort and the work into it, and now to be able to be a big leaguer. We're excited about this evening.

Between the Bautista Bat Flip and Biggio, we're all okay with the Blue Jays doing well. Biggio was 0x3 with 2Ks. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.

*Good Gesture:

*How the Fenway Sports Group built Liverpool.

*Yes, this photo of the line to summit Everest is real.

*A Musical Selection:

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Morning Hot Links

The Astros brought shame upon their families and split a home series with the Chicago F. White Sox, who will be Very Good soon, but that does not exempt the Astros from heaping burning coals upon their heads. Let us continue to keep in mind that the Astros did not have George Springer in the lineup, nor Jose Altuve. Houston is 33-18.

*The last time a starting pitcher threw a CGSHO against the Astros was May 2, 2018, when Luis Severino did it for the Yankees. The last time the Astros did not get an extra-base hit was April 29 in the 1-0 loss to the Twins.

*The Houston Astros' consecutive games with a home run streak ended at 19, tying a franchise record.

*In 20 games from April 26-May 17 the Astros grounded into 13 double plays. In the six games since, the Astros have grounded into 12 double plays, eight of them in the last three games. For a team that makes a lot of contact it's going to happen, but for crying out loud. Houston's 53 GIDPs are tied with the Angels for the MLB lead

*Hinch, on Lucas Giolito:
He was doing really anything he wanted to. He was really good, so hats off to him for coming in and throwing all of his pitches for strikes. He's changed his delivery, his arm action a little bit. He came in and really commanded the game from the very beginning.

*Corbin Martin threw just 3.1IP, 6H/4R (3ER), 3K:1BB and was actually not good. Hinch:
I was watching him, like a lot of young pitchers, carry one bad pitch into the next bad pitch into the next bad pitch. It's a learning experience for him and I know he'll be better for it.

*A bullpen of Framber, Josh James, and Chris Devenski threw 5.2IP, 5H/0ER, 8K:2BB.

*Make sure you check out Chandler Rome's latest Mailbag, covering Gerrit Cole, the lineup, Yordan, etc.

*The Astros hope that Springer is BACK in the lineup tonight against Boston. Also, there is no word yet on when Jose Altuve will begin his rehab assignment and every day that passes is just another reminder that the Astros don't owe us an explanation regarding injuries, and also do not feel obligated to.

*Kyle Tucker was 3x3 with his 13th home run and a walk. Yordan Alvarez went 0x5 with 2Ks, and Forrest Whitley allowed 6H/7ER, 1K:3BB in 2IP as Round Rock got beat by San Antonio. Forrest Whitley has a 12.21 ERA. Whitley's last five appearances: 13.1IP, 25H/25ER, 16K:10BB.

*Former OU reliever Austin Hansen (8th Round - 2018) has been converted back to a starter, but has leaned on Quad Cities pitching coach Erick Abreu as well as conversations with Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey while they were workout partners, and has been rewarded with 23 straight scoreless IPs.

*Colton Shaver (39th Round - 2017) has an eight-game hit streak for Fayetteville. He's 23 years old, hitting .297/.396/.490 in 40 games.

*And over at Baseball Prospectus, Our Friend Tyler Stafford has a piece on the Astros' offense, back when it was Good.

*Cavan Biggio - you might have heard of his dad - and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr - you might have heard of his brother - are getting called up by Toronto today.

*FanGraphs' Jay Jaffe: The Indians retain baggage in their lineup that was entirely foreseeable. As it stands, FanGraphs' Playoff Odds for Cleveland give them a 44.7% chance of making the playoffs. The AL Central is hot garbage, so take that for what it's worth. But damn you'd just hate to see Tyler Bauer miss the playoffs.

*Jenny Dial Creech: Baseball helps Santa Fe High School get back to normal. Related: four more school days and I will have successfully made it five years without getting shot while at work.

*Hardball Times' Alfonso Tusa: The Pianist and Satchel Paige.

*Richard Ashcroft is/was the frontman of The Verve, a band I saw live in Houston at the Aerial Theatre on August 9, 1998 (about a week before I went off to college). As you know a part of my psyche is stuck on 1990s BritPop. It is tied for 1st with Pink/Lenny Kravitz on the Worst Concert I Have Ever Attended List, mainly because their opener - Massive Attack (whom I very much enjoy/enjoyed) -  had quit the tour and instead of finding a new opener they just turned off the lights and played house music for the duration of their set. So the lights were off and everyone was waiting for anyone to show up and perform for, like, an hour. Also, The Verve was about to break up. Anyway, you probably know The Verve for their one hit song "Bittersweet Symphony." There are other really good songs on that Urban Hymns album. But Richard Ashcroft has spent the last 21 years not earning a penny off of it because there was an uncleared sample from a Rolling Stones song about which their manager sued, and won. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards got all the money from that song. Now they've given the rights back to Richard Ashcroft and The Verve.

*In yesterday's Hot Links I made referred to Brexit leader Nigel Farage as an "Actual Ass Clown," in part because of his innate stupidity and more because he was trapped on a bus because there were a number of people waiting to throw milkshakes at him. I found this to be very funny. Some of you disagreed. One comment:
Please leave your left wing politics at the door. Thanks

...Most university faculty are liberal, left-wing sad little people. I guess it bleeds down to the little public high school teachers.

I, predictably, got pretty mad about this. Then I reflected about it and I got more mad that someone actually got so enraged about me laughing at Nigel F. Farage that they wanted to leave a comment. I've been knocked On Here before for "trying to force my Lib views" (paraphrasing) on the good folk who just want to read about the World Series Champion Houston Astros. I will be more mindful about that going forward. But honestly how sad and tribal are you that you can't find something funny about a politician - on either side - being trapped in a bus so they don't get blasted by a crowd of people just waiting to throw their milkshakes at them. If it was [INSERT LIBRUL POLLATISHUN HEE-YUR] and that happened, I'd still laugh my ass off. Also, and I thank the anonymous commenter - for the first time in history - for mentioning that you are not obligated to click absolutely every link. You are also not obligated to read this blog, for what it's worth. For those of you that commented in support of me laughing at this utter douchebag, it's appreciated.

*A Musical Selection:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday Morning Hot Links

The Astros got shut down by Ivan Freaking Nova, GIDPd and GITPd all over the damn place, messed around, and lost to the White Sox. Houston is 33-17. The White Sox win snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Astros against Chicago.

*Ivan Nova still leads the AL in hits allowed (79) and Earned Runs allowed (42). It makes perfect sense that the Astros got 10 hits and only three runs off of him. The Astros hit into three GIDPs and a triple play. It was their first triple play allowed since April 19, 2018 against Seattle.

*Inning 1: GIDP
  Inning 2: GIDP
  Inning 3: Triple Play.

Hinch, on the triple play:
It takes a perfect alignment of the stars. It was not our night.

Do you, baseball. Last night was the first time since August 16, 2014 that the Astros struck out four or fewer times, got 12 or more hits, and lost. The White Sox are the 4th team in the last 40 years to hit a grand slam and turn a triple play in the same game.

*Gerrit Cole has allowed 97 home runs in his career and 64 of them have been solo home runs. Of the 30 home runs he's allowed with Houston, 18 of them have been solo shots.

Gerrit Cole's two starts on April 20 and May 22: 9.1IP, 16H/14ER, 15K:4BB.
Gerrit Cole's other starts through the season: 56.1IP, 38H/16ER, 85K:13BB.

*Jake Marisnick's double play is the best revenge since John Wick.

*Springer was not in the lineup against last night, but did take BP in the indoor cage prior to last night's game. Jose Altuve took BP and did fielding drills and has been pain-free since Monday, but will go out on a rehab assignment soon.

*Here's a great article from Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic on how the Astros are able to get so much out of their pitching staff. Rosenthal:
The reality is more complex than a simple paint-by-numbers exercise, involving a combination of analytics, coaching suggestions and the pitchers' respective curiosities and skills. The common denominator is the Astros' emphasis on maximizing strengths. But within that framework, the pitchers also are free to navigate their own journeys.

This article - which ranges from Verlander to Cole to Pressly - is an absolute delight.

*ESPN's Joon Lee: How Michael Brantley, "MLB's best free agent bargain," could impact the World Series. Springer, on Brantley:
He's always watching...He doesn't miss a beat and he knows what's happening with everybody. He's very observant and he can tell if there is something wrong with my swing or Jose's swing. He's only been here three or four months and it's a testament to him because he's watching everything that happens.

Michael Brantley has the 2nd-lowest swing-and-miss rate in the Majors, at 3.1%.

The Astros are going to win the World Series again. I say this on the evening of May 22.

*Ho hum Yordan Alvarez's 19th home run of the year. Cy Sneed carried a perfect game into the 8th inning.

*2018 2nd Round pick Jayson Schroeder joined Quad Cities yesterday and made his 2019 debut, throwing 3IP, 3H/3ER, 4K:3BB in a 9-3 loss to Kane County. Austin Dennis was 4x5 but the River Bandits went 2x17 w/RISP.

*Two nights ago Round Rock's Jose Urquidy struck out a franchise record 12 batters, allowing only three hits and a walk.

*Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons has a Grade 3 ankle sprain, which means he's done until July-August. Simmons is one of four Angels hitters currently over a 1.0 fWAR and also the owner of the 8th-highest Defensive Rating on FanGraphs. It's a big blow.

*Is Nick Francona a Whistleblower, or is he just pissed?

*19-year old pitcher Carter Stewart - whom the Braves drafted with the 8th overall pick in 2018 but refused to sign after the Braves reduced their offer due to an alleged injury -  has apparently signed a 6-year/$7m deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Japanese League. Doing so could see him join MLB as a 25-year old free agent.

*Hey look. Another miscommunication between noted miscommunicators Pat Neshek and Gabe Kapler.

*Danny Knobler on Jerrion Ealy, "more of an athlete than Mike Trout" at this point, but also choosing between baseball and football.

*Cue Buster Olney's hand-wringing columns about what the Orioles are doing to the competitiveness of Base Ball, like he did about the Astros from 2011-2013:

*Rolling Stone: Timothy Olyphant on "Deadwood: The Movie."

*Nigel Farage, an actual Ass Clown, was trapped on a bus surrounded by British patriots armed with milkshakes.

*Jalopnik: NYC has a super-villain pulling emergency brakes on subways and destroying commutes.

*A Musical Selection:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

Unsurprisingly, we curb stomped the White Sox again, this time 5-1. Verlander took a no-hitter into the 6th. It was dominant. Notes:

Gurriel: 2-4, Solo HR
Brantley: 1-4, 2 RBIs
Diaz: 2-4
Verlander: 8 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K

Full Box:

Actually, everyone in the Astros organization brought home a win last night. ranked the top 7 most important unsung heroes for the Astros so far this season.

As you can see from above, Aledmys Diaz is back. Altuve is not, but he is being "encouraged" to do "more and more activities" so whatever that means.

Collin McHugh landed on the IL yesterday and Cionel Perez Brady Rodgers got the call. Here's a couple potential reasons why.

Is Madison Bumgarner seriously an option for the Astros at the deadline?

Check out these baby pictures of the 2019 Astros!

Seth Beer made his AA debut with the Hooks. See how he did along with some other familiar faces.

Roger Clemens son Kory was hit with a DWI.

Erik Kratz got traded to the Rays, which means he is playing with probably his 37th unique MLB team.

Plano, Texas is making dog-friendly movie theaters. These are the headlines I like to see.

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1999, Mark McGwire became the 3rd player to ever hit a ball out of Dodger stadium. It traveled an estimated 483 feet.

In 2006, Jake Peavy fanned a Padres franchise record 16 batters in a 3-1 loss to Atlanta.

In 2009, Michael Cuddyer completed the cycle with a broken bat triple.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Good morning. So back on March 31 I ran a half-marathon. I made a Big Deal about it. It was fun and I would do it again. But my right knee has hurt pretty much non-stop for the last seven weeks. Tendinitis, or something. It started to get better last week, I gave it some more time. This morning I ran two very slow miles and now, 30 minutes removed, it still feels okay. Today is a good day.

The Astros, minus George Springer and Jose Altuve, beat the White Sox' bullpen last night 3-0. Houston is 32-16 with an 8.5-game lead on 2nd place Arlington. They have won 14 of their last 16 games and are 14-4 in May.

*It was Houston's 5th shutout of the year. Houston has hit a home run in 17 straight games, two shy of the franchise record.

*Brad Peacock threw 5IP, 2H/0ER, 9K:0BB and he now has a 3.59 ERA. A bullpen of Devenski, Harris, Pressly, and Osuna held the White Sox to 2H/0ER, 4K:0BB.

Since getting shelled for 7ER at Minnesota, Peacock's last three starts: 17IP, 8H/1ER, 24K:5BB, 0.53 ERA / 0.76 WHIP.

*Houston pitchers struck out 13 batters and walked 0. There have only been 24 instances of 10+ K/0BB in MLB this season, and last night was the 5th time this season that a team has thrown a 10+K/0BB shutout. It has happened to the Marlins twice, the Orioles twice, and now the White Sox.

*Ryan Pressly ran his consecutive outing scoreless streak to 40. He needed 10 pitches to get through the 8th. It's the 10th time in 19 appearances that he has needed 13 pitches or less to record three outs.

*Since striking out twice in back-to-back games on May 14-15, Alex Bregman (1x3, BB) has struck out once in his last 19 PAs.

*Tyler White hit his first home run since September 11, 2018. He credits watching Kris Bryant and his axe-handle bat. White:
I'm going to use it as long as I do well. I don't know if it helped or not, but Kris Bryant had been talking about it a lot and I was just like, 'Well, I'm going to try it out.' I've never used it. I know George is a guy that uses it always and a couple of other guys in here...It worked today.

*Jake Marisnick hit his 5th home run of the season. In 89 PAs in 2019, Marisnick has 12 extra-base hits. In 235 PAs in 2018, Marisnick had 19 extra-base hits.

*Jose Altuve took BP prior to last night's game and the hope is that he can start his rehab assignment later this week. Other updates: Springer could be back (pun intended) this week, and Aledmys Diaz could return to the lineup tonight.

*George Springer was not in the lineup last night, but had an MRI and got "good news," whatever that means. It probably means he still has a back.

*The Astros jumped into the top spot in Alyson Footer's Power Rankings for

*SI's Michael Beller: It's the Summer of George Season of Springer.

*Kyle Tucker, April 2019: 22 games, .173/.221/.407, 21K:5BB.
 Kyle Tucker, May 2019: 17 games, .355/.459/.823, 18K:11BB

*The Ellen DeGeneres Show will be at Minute Maid on Wednesday.

*Former Astros Great Luke Gregerson was unconditionally released by the Cardinals yesterday. After a 3-year stint with the Astros in which he threw 179.2IP, 148H/78ER, 196K:48BB (3.66 ERA / 1.09 WHIP), Gregerson has spent the last 1+ seasons with St. Louis, throwing 18.1IP, 25H/15ER, 14K:7BB (7.36 ERA / 1.75 WHIP). Gregerson threw 5.1IP in the 2017 postseason, allowing 2H/0ER, 5K:2BB. And then went and messed up the Cardinals. Legend.

*Yoenis Cespedes is likely out for the season after suffering a "a violent fall off a non-horse" and receiving several fractures in his ankle. I too have taken a fall off a non-horse (a skateboard) and we shall move right along.

*The Dodgers almost moved to the San Fernando Valley, and then the Angels blocked it.

*The Hardball Times' Mark Armour: A look back at the celebration of the "modern game's" 100th anniversary.

*Watching "Inglourious Basterds" in the Trump Era.

*I'm part of the way through Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and I'm really enjoying it. It's $1.99 for Kindle right now.

*Mental Floss: Eight tips for beating a claw machine

*The New Yorker: The Undercover Fascist.

*A Musical Selection: