Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday Morning Hot Links

The Astros...I just don't know anymore. Lance McCullers threw a magnificent outing for seemingly no real reason and the Astros rewarded him with exactly what they had done for the past few starts: 0 runs scored. The Gun Barrel City Rangers win 6-1. Houston is 29-30. If they do not win today, they will be the first team to make the playoffs with a record below .500. Making history is what it's all about. Sub-.500 flags fly forever. Morons. 

*McCullers: 4IP, 2H/0ER, 9K:2BB.

His last three starts: 17.2IP, 7H/0ER, 24K:4BB. 

And the Astros' "offense" scored zero runs in those 17.2IP. McCullers:

[You] can't take away games or innings, but you want to look at the large sample size. Subtract a 30-minute hump in early August, I'm rocking a sub-3.00 [ERA] in my last seven or eight starts, I think [it] indicates the pitcher I am. I'm really proud of myself this season.

The lineup did not feature Springer, Brantley, or Correa. 

*It was a little bit of a head-scratcher as to why Lance McCullers pitched last night, but it does set up Greinke in Game 1, Urquidy in Game 2, and McCullers for a potential Game 3 (or Game 1 of the 2nd Round - I don't know how many rounds of playoffs there are yet - in an ideal situation.) Today will apparently be a bullpen game. Framber will likely be deployed out of the bullpen, since he has experience doing that sort of thing.

*Brandon Bielak: 2IP, 5H/4ER, 3K:1BB.

*Rangers SP Kyle Gibson vs. Houston, 2020: 15IP, 10H/0ER, 13K:4BB. 0.00 ERA / 0.93 WHIP

SP Kyle Gibson vs Everybody Else, 2020: 52.1IP, 63H/40ER, 45K:26BB. 6.88 ERA / 1.70 WHIP

I hate Kyle Gibson.

*Chandler Rome: The lack of power and clutch hits have defined the Houston Astros. Hitting coach Troy Snitker, on the lack of in-game video:

That was one of the biggest strengths I felt we had as an offense. We had a bunch of guys who were willing to make adjustments in the game, they wanted to be coached in the game. They didn't want to go 0-for-4 or 0-for-3 before they changed something.

*Last night in playoff seedings!

The Mariners won both ends of a double-header. The Twins beat the Reds, the White Sox beat the Cubs, the Pirates beat the Cleveland Spiders. 

2. Minnesota: x

3. Oakland: -1

4. Chicago: -1

If all of these results hold, it would appear that the Astros would play Oakland in a three-game series. Nothing bad has ever happened when playing an important series in Oakland. 

*Thoughts and prayers with Gary Pettis, who has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and will miss the rest of the season. Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that develops in the plasma cell. Pettis is expected to make a full recovery. 

*Carlos Correa is happy with his defensive effort in 2020.

Going into last night's game, Correa was hitting .256/.320/.362 with 13 extra-base hits out of 51 total hits (25.5%) in 2020. For example, Adam Everett hit .248/.299/.357 for the Astros in his career with an XBH% of 28.4%.

Correa, 2015-2017: 1573 PAs, .288/.366/.498, 83 2B / 66 HR, 137 OPS+

Correa, 2018-2020: 1008 PAs, .255/.333/.447, 45 2B / 40 HR, 109 OPS+

*With Ryan Pressly's blown save appearance on Friday night, it gave him the requisite number of appearances for his $10m 2021 contract to vest.

*Former Astros Great Hunter Pence retired from baseball. The former 2nd Round pick by the Astros in 2004 went on to finish 3rd in the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year vote (behind Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki), and had two All-Star appearances for the Astros before getting traded to Philadelphia. This is fun:

Pence was traded for Jarred Cosart. Cosart was traded - in part - for Jake Marisnick (who was traded for Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona), Frances Martes, Colin Moran (who was traded, in part, for Gerrit Cole), and a 2015 Draft compensation pick that turned out to be Daz Cameron (who was traded, in part, for Justin Verlander).

Pence was traded for Jon Singleton, who did nothing much except hit no fewer than 14 of the most magnificent home runs you've ever seen.

Pence was traded for Josh Zeid, who was released after the 2014 season. 

Pence was traded for Domingo Santana, who in turn was traded to Milwaukee for Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez. Gomez was released in August 2016. Fiers won a World Series with the Astros before getting signing as a free agent with Detroit and then burning down the Astros. 

Good trade all around!

*Jake Kaplan notes that with one additional walk, or one fewer PA, in 2018 or 2019, Kyle Tucker would have qualified for the Rookie of the Year race in 2020. How would he fare in voting?

*Brain-eating amoeba may be in Houston-area tap water, just in case you haven't 2020'd hard enough yet.

*I've been a vegetarian since the middle of May (a mixture of personal health, environmental, and moral concerns). So I love seeing that major restaurants are offering vegetarian options! Oh, wait

*Wired: The cheating scandal that ripped the poker world apart. Freakin Luhnow at it again...

*Leeds United plays Sheffield United at 6am today. GET UP.

*A Musical Selection:

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Huh. Well the Astros crapped the bed late, but the Angels out-crapped the Astros, and Houston is headed to the postseason for a franchise-record fourth straight year. Houston is 29-29. There are two games remaining, and the Astros need to win one to extend a season .500 streak to six seasons, tying a record set from 2001-2006. One more win also means the Astros won't be the first team in MLB history to make the playoffs with a sub-.500 record. Dusty Baker is the first manager in MLB history to take five different franchises to the postseason (Chicago, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Washington). 

*Houston was down 2-1, took a 3-2 lead, and then allowed the Euless Rangers to tie it in the bottom of the 9th, before scoring in the top of the 10th and allowing two in the bottom half of the inning. Alex Presley Josh Pressly Ryan Pressly and Enoli Paredes were the culprits, though the Astros "hitting" 1x10 with runners in scoring position was as big of a culprit. Ronald Guzman hit a two-out two-strike home run to ensure Pressly's 4th Blown Save of the season in 16 chances. Pressly was asked in the post-game if he was going to stay up and watch the end of the Dodgers/Angels game:

Who cares? We've got to take care of business first.

The playoff berth gifted by the [squints] Dodgers means the Astros don't have to start Lance McCullers tonight or tomorrow, instead being able to save him for the 1st Round. All of Greinke, Framber, and McCullers will be on full rest, however the matchups happen. Today is likely a bullpen game. 

*Game 4 Hero Jose Urquidy: 7IP, 7H/2ER, 5K:0BB. Urquidy has walked two batters in his last 20IP. 

*Something from the Rangers called a "Sam Huff" hit two home runs. 

*Alex Bregman hit homers in back-to-back games for the first time since September 24-25, 2019 - one year to the day. 

*Jose Altuve was 0x2 w/RISP last night. In 47 ABs with runners in scoring position in 2020, Altuve is hitting .149/.216/.255. He hit .255/.360/.638 w/RISP in 2019. 

*The Astros made the playoffs despite getting 6IP all season from Justin Verlander, nine total PAs from Yordan Alvarez (that's the reigning Cy Young and Rookie of the Year), 4.1IP from Roberto Osuna, and a .220 year from Jose Altuve, and injuries up and down the roster that led to 201 Innings from pitchers who had never pitched in the Majors before. Given that the Astros have thrown 508 Innings all season, that's 39.6% of their innings pitched by rookies. Houston is also 10-14 in 1-run games, and 2-7 in extra-innings. 

McTaggart: How the Astros got to the postseason.

*As of now, the Astros would play the Twins in the 1st Round, with Games 1-3 taking place from Tuesday-Thursday. As the 6-seed, the Astros will play the 3rd seed, likely whoever wins the AL Central. Here's 2-5 in the AL:

Oakland: 35-22

Minnesota: 35-23

Cleveland: 34-24

Chicago: 34-24

*With three games left in the regular season, Josh James was placed on the IL - likely with COVID, since they won't actually talk about it. It's decidedly not ideal, something we would have laughed at not a month ago. 

Josh James, July 27-Sept 9: 11.1IP, 13H/14ER, 14K:16BB, 11.12 ERA / 2.56 WHIP. 

Josh James, Sept 10-Sept 22: 6IP, 2H/0ER, 7K:1BB, 0.00 ERA / 0.50 WHIP. 

This is a massive blow to an already-thin bullpen (presuming that James had actually figured something out) going into the playoffs. 

*Check out Alex Bregman breaking down his own swing from Thursday night's breakout game.

*The Marlins are in the postseason for the first time since 2003, and they've won the World Series literally every time they've tried. 

*The Appalachian League will become a collegiate wood-bat league, as MLB continues its breathlessly determined effort to destroy the minor leagues.

*Texas Monthly: James Magee has been working on his masterpiece for decades, but completion isn't the point.

*An Italian couple met on their balconies during lockdown. Now they're engaged.

*Ode to Desolation: Life as one the last Fire Lookouts.

*A Musical Selection:

Friday, September 25, 2020

An Official Guide To Being "Shy of the Cycle"

On Thursday Night, Jose Altuve was a triple shy of the cycle in the same game that Alex Bregman was a single shy of the cycle. This led to an increase in my mentions because, 238 years and a day after the founding of This Country (whatever it is, now), I tweeted the following:


I'm going to guess that it was in reference to Albert F. Pujols' night on July 5, 2014, that saw the Astros take a 5-1 lead and then watch the Angels the next ten runs - including eight runs in the bottom of the 7th - to propel them to an 11-5 win over the Astros. Well, friend, that little tweet earned me a little capital for A Bit. So I thought I'd break down the other scenarios of being Shy of the Cycle.

Triple Shy of the Cycle:

Obviously: A Triple Shy of the Cycle is being "A 2nd Girl Shy of the Threesome."

Home Run Shy of the Cycle:

In 2019, MLB teams hit 6776 home runs and 785 triples. From 2010-2019, MLB teams hit a total of 51,931 home runs and 8,551 triples - a ratio of 6.07 HR/Triple. It's way easier to hit a home run than a triple. Thus, your partner has agreed to chat up a Third Party to gauge their interest. 

Double Shy of the Cycle:

You have one partner willing with an eye on a potential Third, and they've gone to the bathroom to discuss.

Single Shy of the Cycle:

Both partners are willing, but one might throw up at any given moment, so the whole thing is in doubt.

There have been 304 no-hitters thrown in MLB history. There have been 330 instances of hitting for the cycle in MLB history. As one who has been married for Quite A Long Time, I have no interest in the figurative Hitting For The Cycle, but seeing An Actual MLB Cycle would be very okay. 

Friday Morning Hot Links

Well that was fun. The Astros beat the North Mansfield Rangers 12-4. Houston is 29-28, and are three games up with three games to play. An Astros win or an Angels loss will clinch Houston's 4th straight playoff appearance. The Mariners were officially eliminated from playoff contention for the 19th year in a row.

*The Astros offense finally looked like the Astros offense. They scored 12 runs on 15 hits - double-digit runs for the first time since August 24 and double-digit hits for the first time since September 12

*Houston hit four home runs in a game for the 3rd time this season, after hitting four home runs total in their previous five games. Somehow the Astros are now 2-3 when hitting 3+ homers. They were 35-7 when hitting 3+ homers in 2019. It was the first time that Springer, Altuve, and Bregman homered in the same game since June 20, 2018Dusty:

It was big to break out like that and keep scoring. We usually have the big first inning, but we kept scoring.

*Bregman was (wink) a single away from the cycle. Springer, Altuve, and Reddick all had three hits each. It was Bregman's sixth career game with 3+ extra-base hits. Bregman:

I think that's what we should be doing. We're a very good offense. It's repeating. We've had a few games this year I thought we swung the bat well, but we didn't really repeat it, so now it's time to repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, and keep doing that.

*Jose Altuve was (wink) a triple away from the cycle, and got his first home run since August 6, a span of 32 games in between home runs, matching his 32-game streak without a homer from May 16-June 26, 2015. Longest span of games between homers, by season:

2020: 32

2019: 20

2018: 25

2017: 17

2016: 29

2015: 32

2014: 47

2013: 42

2012: 71

Springer, on Altuve:

It's a long time coming. I think his swing actually looks great. He's hit the ball hard a lot but doesn't have a lot to show for it. He's our guy. He's our leader. He's been extremely positive and upbeat all year. To see him have this night...it was awesome.

*And still somehow the Astros were 2x8 with runners in scoring position.

*The Kennedale Rangers' SP Lance Lynn was roughed up: 5.2IP, 12H/10R (9ER), 5K:2BB, 3 HR allowed. Lynn had never allowed 12H/10R before. Lynn has only given up 3+ home runs seven times in his career - three of them have come against the Astros. 

*Cristian Javier: 5.2IP, 5H/3ER, 6K:1BB. He gave up a 2-run homer to Kole Willie Calhoun.

*MLB Standings Insanity! Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the Astros are currently slated to face the A's. There are six NL teams within one game of the final four playoff spots. In the AL Central Minnesota, Chicago, and Cleveland are within two games of each other. 

*The A's are a popular pick to get bounced in the first round for SI staff.

*Yahoo's Zach Crizer: Why can't the Angels make the playoffs with Mike Trout?

*Alex Gordon retired after 14 seasons with the Royals.

*Smithsonian: Did the Northern Lights play a role in the sinking of the Titanic? Yeah I didn't see the Northern Lights shimmering when Jack froze to death while Rose had at least an extra 14 square feet of space on that Big Ass Raft so I'm calling BS.

*REALLY interested in Utopia, which premieres on Amazon today.

*Three NYC MTA employees got busted for building a Man Cave beneath Platform 3 at Grand Central Station. I think it's genius, also, Grand Central Station is my literal favorite place on earth. 

*An Extremely-Friday Musical Selection:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Short one today. The Mariners won their first series against the Astros since August 2018. I hate this team as much as, but not more than, the 2016 Astros. Houston is 28-28. Even if the Astros win tonight against the Rangers, the Angels are off, so they can't clinch a spot until Friday. Houston is 2.5 up on Anaheim with four games to play. Houston is 8-20 on the road in 2020, which doesn't bode well for the postseason.

*Seattle SP Nick Margevicius came into last night's game with a career 6.24 ERA. His season ERA was 5.35 - when he left, it was 4.57. The Astros got the leadoff runner on in three of the first five innings. In the 5th, they had the bases loaded with Springer and Altuve up. They did not score. Gonna be a short stay in the "play offs" should that day come if they don't figure something out. 

*Alex Bregman:

We need to do a better job offensively; need to get better. It's getting down to the end of the season, so we need to start swinging the bats a lot better. 

The Astros got seven hits and five walks yet were 1x9 w/RISP - Altuve by himself was 0x3 with runners in scoring position. And that is all we shall speak of this game.

*Dusty Baker thinks Jose Altuve will come up big in the postseason. Dusty:

He's Jose Altuve. He's always risen to the occasion...The law of averages is on his side.

Hitting coach Troy Snitker:

Right now, I see a Jose Altuve that feels like he's on the up. I know he feels confident right now. He feels like he's going to finish his season strong, he feels he's going to carry us in the playoffs and throughout the rest of the year and down the stretch.

*Cristian Javier will get the start tonight, and Jose Urquidy tomorrow night. Saturday and Sunday are TBD if the Astros are able to clinch a playoff spot.

*Jake Kaplan's Mailbag addresses Altuve's struggles, Kyle Tucker's expectations, Dusty Baker's extension, the Astros' outfield in 2021, and whether the Astros would deal Correa for Verlander's replacement.

*SI's Emma Baccellieri: The Unbridled Joy of Being - And Watching - Fernando Tatis, Jr. 

*There have been three Major League Baseball players named "Aurelio." All three died in car crashes.

*A Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured QB Tyrod Taylor's lung before their game last Sunday, while trying to inject his ribs with a pain killer.

*NY Times: To protest colonialism, this man takes museum artifacts.

*A Musical Selection:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

I am growing tired of Base Ball, and am very ready for it all to end. But! The Astros beat the Mariners 6-1 thanks to stellar pitching from Framber and a massive moonshot from Machete. Houston is 28-27, up 3.5 on the Angels, and 4.0 on the Mariners, with five games to play. An Astros win tonight and an Anaheim loss means the Astros are going to the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons. I am running late, so let's get this done.

*The Astros scored five runs in the 6th inning, meaning they scored more in the 6th Inning last night than they have in any game since September 12. 

*Maldonado's three-run homer sealed the game for the Astros, finally getting the big swing they've been missing since...September 2019. It's Maldonado's 2nd 3-run HR of the season, and the 9th of his MLB career. Machete:

I would say probably the best [swing] I took all year, especially in the situation and the way I have been lately.

*Framber: 7IP, 5H/1ER, 8K:0BB.

Framber, 2018-2019: 107.2IP, 96H/55ER, 102K:68BB. 4.60 ERA / 1.52 WHIP, 5.7 BB/9

Framber, 2020: 70.2IP, 63H/28ER, 76K:16BB. 3.57 ERA / 1.12 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9

Chandler Rome: Framber has embraced an "attitude before everything" mantra this season, and it's showing. Maldonado, on Framber:

He's always had good stuff. Last year, even the year before, when I caught him, he was still the same guy. It seems like he cares more now. It seems like he's developing better. He's not letting stuff get into his head, I would say.

And the stat that I know everyone is tracking and celebrated on Twitter when it happened: Framber had a 5th-straight game with a Wild Pitch! He joins Joe Niekro (7), Darryl Kile (6), and Mike Fiers, Mike Hampton, Don Wilson, and Dave Giusti as the only Astros pitchers with a wild pitch in five straight games. 

*Since allowing 3H/4ER against the Giants on August 10, Josh James: 9.1IP, 6H/2ER, 10K:5BB. James has walked just one of the last 20 batters he has faced, after walking 16 of the 63 batters he had faced prior in 2020.

*Kyle Tucker was 4x5 - the 2nd 4-hit game of his career. 

*McTaggart's Notes column features info on Ryan Pressly's resurgence, and Enoli Paredes' transition from the rotation to the bullpen in 2020.

*Prior to Tuesday night's game, Josh Reddick:

We're running out of time right now and if we don't step up, we're going to be in trouble.

With me? Yes. 

*Perhaps understandably, SI didn't even list the Astros in their Top 10 World Series contenders rankings.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown: "Slogging through 2020, the Astros reach for a postseason spot no one wants them to have." These are great to read - for the heart and for the soul. 

*Rob Manfred, for whatever reason, gave an interview to USA Today and said the following:

-The postseason in Arlington will have fans, pending approval from Texas officials (which will, obviously, approve it). Expanded playoffs are here to stay, but not this season's format. And who knows what rule changes, be they 7-inning doubleheaders or runners on 2nd to start extra-innings, will stick around in 2021?

*The Astros Foundation is teaming up with the Texas Council on Family Violence to give over $900,000 to 90 domestic violence organizations.

*Tim Kurkjian: "This isn't fun." How everyone in baseball has navigated a very different season.

*The Yanquis are fighting a court-ordered release of the infamous "Yankees Letter," and team president Randy Levine is going to argue on the team's behalf. Sounds like the contents of something you definitely would have no problem seeing the light of day.

*The New Yorker: The Race to Redesign Sugar.

*Vice: The Italian Mafia is on TikTok.

*Vox: The best alternative streaming services.

*Nairo Quintana is being investigated for doping practices at the 2020 Tour de France.

*The last two days have featured songs from Semisonic, the Most American Band of the Last Twenty-Five Years. Neither of these songs were "Closing Time," which many consider to be the hallmark of a One-Hit Wonder's musical career. I scoff at your insolence. That said, I apologize. Also, the following is the Hot Links Playlist's 400th song, which now features over 25 hours of basically my favorite songs of all-time. Yeah, I sort of get it if you don't listen to all 25 hours...