Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

LOLOLOLOL at the dumbest snow day ever.

*Joe Musgrove is pretty excited about his opportunity in Pittsburgh's rotation:
That's where I think I'm going to really develop as a pitcher. Going to the bullpen last year in Houston, I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher and really learned how to work out of jams and how to keep myself calm in uncomfortable situations. All those things I did in the bullpen are going to make me a lot stronger as a starter.

*Forrest Whitley is good and knows he's good. He is also good at soundbites as he prepares for the 2018 season:
There's extra excitement. I'm going to try to stay in my lane, stay where my feet are and be humble as possible and just play the game.

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranked Whitley the #2 RHP prospect in baseball, behind the Anaheim Babe Ruth Guy. Mayo:
The Astros' first-round pick in 2016 wasn't on the top 10 RHP list in 2017. After pitching across three levels and reaching Double-A as a teenager in his first full year, the 6'7" right-hander has jumped all the way up to No. 2 on the list.

*Brent Strom was at a Long Island baseball academy talking to kids about throwing offspeed pitches. Strom:
We use a lot of technology. We videotape the ball coming out of the hand to try to create backspin, try and create the proper depth to breaking balls.

*Astros analyst Mike Stanton stopped short of using the word "collusion" to describe this off-season's lack of activity.

*Alex Bregman established a new non-profit to help kids with autism and Down's Syndrome.

*Deadspin: The story behind the iconic photos of the Olympics' dirtiest record

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

*After the Gerrit Cole trade, the Astros are projected to go 98-64 with a +173 run differential. There are just seven teams projected for 90+ win seasons, four of them in the American League (Houston, Cleveland, New York, Boston). Mike Petriello says the Astros could add Lucas Duda and net two more wins in the win column.

Here's how the AL West shakes out:
Houston: 98-64
Anaheim: 88-74
Seattle: 81-81
Fort Worth: 78-84
Oakland: 77-85

*Eno Sarris writes that Houston might be the perfect destination for Gerrit Cole. Sarris:
The next breakout for Gerrit Cole might arrive by throwing more sinkers and high-spin breaking balls. The good news is, he's now headed to a team that's all about that sort of change. The defending champs just got better.

*It looks like the Astros will open 2018 with Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh in the bullpen. Luhnow:
We're just trying to load up and have as many top-notch pitchers as possible. Clearly, Peacock was a big part of our year last year. McHugh was a big part of our second half. There's roles for both of those guys on our team....It will sort itself out. I'm not going to tell you I know who's going to be in the rotation, who's going to be in the bullpen at this point or, quite frankly, that we're done making moves.

*Peter Gammons looks at Gerrit Cole and sees Max Scherzer.

*It's pay-walled but Ken Rosenthal cautions everyone not to jump to conclusions about the Gerrit Cole trade.

*Joe Musgrove hand-wrote a note to Houston. I hope he dominates in Pittsburgh.

*A scout reviewed the trade for Pittsburgh:
I think it's a brutal deal for Pitt. Musgrove and Feliz both have (major league) value, but both as relievers. Moran and Martin to me are throw-in types.

*The updated workings of the July 20, 2012 trade with Toronto:
Houston receives:
Joe Musgrove: Traded to Pittsburgh for Gerrit Cole, January 2018
Francisco Cordero: Released Sept 2012
Ben Francisco: Traded to Tampa Bay for T.J. Geith, August 2012
Asher Wojciechowski: Selected off waivers by Miami, May 2016
Carlos Perez: Traded to Anaheim with Nick Tropeano for Hank Conger, November 2014, who was purchased by the Rays, December 2015.
David Rollins: Drafted by Seattle in the 2014 Rule 5 draft
Kevin Comer

Toronto receives:
Brandon Lyon: Granted free agency, October 2012
J.A. Happ: Traded to Seattle for Michael Saunders, December 2014
David Carpenter: Traded to Boston with manager John Farrell for Mike Aviles, October 2012

*Minor League Ball hopes Tony Kemp gets traded, because there's nothing left for him to do in Fresno.

*Sports Illustrated looks at the rarity of Dustin Fowler's lawsuit against the White Sox.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Morning Hot Links

Able to take a little time this morning and work on these. Thanks for your condolences to my wife's family.

Gerrit Cole Links
*Gerrit Cole was at his wife's birthday dinner when he got the news he'd been traded to the World Series Champion Houston Astros. Cole:
I wouldn't say it was a gut-punch but I was shocked, for sure

Jerry Crasnick notes that the Pirates thought the Moran-Musgrove tandem was a better return that what the Yankees were offering.

*More Cole:
(I'm) flat-out elated. It's just an unbelievable opportunity.

*Friday Gerrit Cole and the Pirates signed a $6.75m deal for 2018. He's arbitration-eligible in 2019 before hitting free agency.

*The Ringer: The Astros are not here for your World Series Curse talk.
The Astros' lineup is already the most potent in the majors, and a rotation of Justin Verlandere, Dallas Keuchel, Cole, Lance McCullers, and World Series hero Charlie Morton is the best at least in the American League, if not all of baseball...As is, with likely long-term relievers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, corner infielder Colin Moran, and fringe outfield prospect Jason Martin leaving the Astros' system, Luhnow has completed the steal of the off-season.

*FanGraphs (from Wednesday) has a piece on Cole's pitch usage in 2017.

*Richard Justice:
So if Luhnow could add Cole for two seasons, he could shape a super rotation for 2018 and a really good one for 2019. To have Verlander, Cole and Keuchel lined up in the first three spots gives the Astros a group as good as almost any. And there's quality depth in Morton, McCullers, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh....There may not be any perfect fits, but this one is close.

*NJ.com's Brendan Kuty talked to a scout who said Cole will benefit from a change of scenery.

*Sports Illustrated's Jon Tayler:
All told, it's a disappointing return for Pittsburgh in exchange for a young, cost-controlled ace. Moran should help fill a persistent hole at the hot corner for a team that has been searching for a solution there since Pedro Alvarez went bust. But you can't help but feel that the Pirates could have done better, particularly given the expressed interest of the prospect-rich Yankees.

*Grant Brisbee: What the Astros and Pirates were thinking.
If the return (for Pittsburgh) seems a little underwhelming, that's because it's not just what's coming back for an All-Star pitcher - it's what's coming back for an official white flag.

*Pirates GM Neal Huntington:
It's the balance of immediate and moderate and longer-term...we felt this was the right move to get these players that are major-league ready with 15 years contribution combined.

*FanRag's Jon Bernhardt:
Could the deal turn out okay for Pittsburgh? Sure, if a bunch of things break right. The point of trading a surefire guy like Cole, though, is to get a return in which you don't have to hit maximum upside on every single guy for the deal to be positive.

I only have one goal, and that's to win the World Series again and bring it back to Houston. And hopefully, bring a lot of these in the near future to this city and turn Houston into the next powerhouse in baseball.

*SBNation: The Gerrit Cole trade is bad news for the Yankees.

*Washington Post:
With Cole now out of the picture, and few other front-line starting pitchers on the trade market, the Yankees may be forced to revisit the free agent market and fork over a nine-figure contract to the likes of Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. Such a move would allow them to answer the Astros' deal for Cole, but would also push their payroll past the $197m luxury-tax threshold that they seem determined to stay under. 

*MinorLeagueBall wrote up some thoughts on Moran, Musgrove, Feliz, and Martin.

*Keuchel, Bregman, McCullers and Verlander are pretty excited.

*On Friday, Baseball America ranked the Top Ten Astros prospects:
1. Forrest Whitley
2. Kyle Tucker
3. Yordan Alvarez
4. J.B. Bukauskas
5. Freudis Nova
6. Jairo Solis
7. Hector Perez
8. Jorge Alcala
9. Colin Moran
10. David Paulino

*Whitley, Tucker, Alvarez, and Derek Fisher were declared off-limits.

Other Stuff

*More than 42000 fans showed up at MMP yesterday for FanFest.

You probably saw it, but just to get it on the record, here are the arbitration numbers for 2018:
Dallas Keuchel: $13.2m
Evan Gattis: $6.7m
Lance McCullers: $2.45m
Brad Peacock: $2.44m

Springer wants $10.5m while the Astros offered $8.5m. Ken Giles wants $4.6m, the Astros offered $4.2m. Collin McHugh wants $5m, the Astros offered $4.55m.

*Lance McCullers will revamp his changeup in Spring Training and work on his four-seam fastball with Justin Verlander. Also in that link we find that Altuve, Keuchel, Justin Verlander, and Derek Fisher are already working out in Florida. Pitchers and Catchers have their first official workout one month from today.

*Yuli Gurriel completed his league-mandated sensitivity training.

*The World Series Trophy Tour keeps the celebration rolling through Texas.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The View From Over The Pond (@AstrosFansUK)

Astros search for a front line SP- oh, hello Gerrit!
So, I was going to put together a few words on which starting pitcher the Astros were going to try and acquire after Jim Crane’s interview confirming we were seeking a front line addition... and as I began writing it was revealed on Twitter that Gerrit Cole IS joining the Astros after all:

After the has-he, hasn’t-he Hokey Cokey of a few days ago this would appear to be done and done. 

I will be honest, I have not seen Cole pitch before as it is hard enough keeping up with the Stros from London let alone keep tabs on other clubs in detail. What should I and we expect to see from Gerrit Cole?? Feel free to let me know please! I’m a sucker for shiny new things so I am excited about this in any case...! Welcome Gerrit to the World Champions.

I had posted a pretty interesting poll a couple of days ago on Twitter asking Astros fans who they wanted to see join the club out of Cole, Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer and Yu ‘World Series hero & Houston Strong t-shirt owner’ Darvish (https://twitter.com/astrosfansuk/status/951577291867525121). Stroman won the day narrowly over Archer and they would have been incredible acquisitions themselves but I think Cole joining puts this issue to bed.

With joy, however, comes a little sadness, as we bid a sad farewell to Colin Moran and, particularly, Joe Musgrove. Thank you for your efforts with us and I wish them all the very best in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. As ANY part of our first ever championship season they will never be forgotten. Thank you.

MLB in the UK
As mentioned previously, 2018 is a huge year for us in the UK as far as pushing the presence of MLB here. The rumblings over a MLB series to be held in June 2019 once again saw US airtime and the need for action here could not be more urgent - baseball has next to no profile in Britain at present. 

In the past week I noticed that the BBC broadcast a weekly NFL show on Sunday nights at a reasonable hour and this was followed a few days later by the latest NBA game held at the O2 Arena in London. I cannot stress enough as a baseball fan how frustrating it is to see NFL and NBA have a light-year head-start over MLB in terms of UK interest. Put simply, the inaction of MLB and MLB UK to sufficiently attempt to cultivate enthusiasm amongst our sports fans here is nothing short of unacceptable when contrasted with those other two American exports. 

The establishment of NFL and NBA as acceptable sporting interests in Britain has been an unqualified success; MLB needs to stand up and dare to take on a potentially fertile market.

As it stands, at present it has been left to us fans to develop our own movement in the absence of greater support from above. 2017 saw an exciting few weeks in June/July, with a Facebook live event in west London that brought a small number of us together for the first time (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1729342623760646&id=211342592227331&_rdr) followed by the MLB Battlegrounds home run derby event in Hyde Park on 4th July featuring former MLB-player Carlos Peña and cricket’s Jos Buttler. It was a huge success with around 20,000 in attendance but has been followed by a somewhat extraordinary level of silence from MLB UK when considering what (we hope) lies ahead in 2019. 

If a series took place here now it would be a throwaway novelty - we must not let this happen. A series in Britain has to be the seeding of thousands of new MLB fans across the UK. We have so much work to do, I cannot even begin to tell you... but we will do it.

Keep tabs on what I will be doing with @MLBUKCommunity as 2018 progresses, we have a few really exciting ideas we are looking to implement. My involvement is more strictly involved with promoting MLB in the UK, however for a more British baseball-centric focus please make sure to check out the @batflips_nerds podcast and their excellent work.

Of course, it is not just the powers-that-be who we have to convince to invest in MLB in the UK but also the general public themselves.

Tweets like these below show what we’re up against at home:

And what we’re up against from the USA:

...and you know what? That’s absolutely fine. We expect this and we will relish the challenge of taking on the established anti-British baseball development mindsets both in Great Britain and the United States. 

Watch this space.

-George Martin

The first overseas Houston Astros fan group, proudly supporting our team from far afield, please do follow us!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

I have approximately 14 minutes before I have to go, so let's get to it.

*Check Jeff Blogwell on the Astros career of pitching legend Gerrit Cole.

*Yu Darvish has narrowed his preferred list of destinations to New York, Chicago, Arlington, Minnesota, and Houston, though the 2017 Silver Medalists seem to still be in the mix.

*Forrest Whitley hears his name in them trade rumors.

*Brady Rodgers, who had Tommy John surgery on May 2, feels that he can be ready for Opening Day.

*Jay Bruce signed with the Mets, which is interesting because the Astros apparently considered Bruce as a fall-back option had they traded Derek Fisher.

*First pitch on Opening Day (March 29) will be at 2:35pm.

*Yo here's a wild story about the head of CSE Talent's baseball division getting fired for allegedly filming his clients in the shower.