Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

Folks, one week from tomorrow we will be pumping playoff baseball straight through our veins. But before then, we gotta take care of business. Framber was cooking once again as the Astros swept the series after being the LA Angels again 6-2. Charlie Morton left very early in the game, but is expected to make his final start this weekend in Baltimore. Full recap is here.

The Burgundy Bros. are off to Canada.

Ken Giles said in an interview that he's enjoying pitching with Toronto more than Houston.

The Astros have given away over 250,000 World Series rings.

The Tampa Bay Rays are 87-68 and are 6.5 back of the second wild card. This record would have them as the second wild card team if they played in the National League. The Mariners would only be 1.5 GB but are 8.5 GB now in the AL.

It seems as if Hector Rondon is still trusted by A.J. Hinch. There's still some time to find that form again before October.

LMJ should pitch either tonight or tomorrow.

These Astros are 16-4 in the month of September and that's quite alright.

Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, and Carlos Correa are the only three batters to strike out more than 100 times this season.

Today is the first Astros instructional league game against the Marlins. Seth Beer and Freudis Nova headline the big names of the team. Side note, there is no team in sports with better names than the names that can be found in the Houston Astros organization. Thank you, Mr. Luhnow. 

Gerrit Cole and his 16 K masterpiece was picked as the "best Astros game" of the season.

Take the "Country musician or baseball player" quiz. I got a 6/11 which is a failing grade please do not kick me off of the Internet.

Researchers pumped some ecstasy into this octopuses for science.

Uranus, Missouri went on ahead and named their local newspaper The Uranus Examiner.

I found this stock image of a husky and I believe that it is in everyone's best interest for me to share it.

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1957, the Dodgers defeated the Pirates 2-0 in the last game the Dodgers played in Brooklyn.

In 1974, Al Kaline picked up his 3000th hit.

In 2004, Pedro Martinez claimed that he was "the Yankees daddy."

In 2014, Phil Hughes fell one out short of receiving a $500,000 bonus due to a rain delay.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Social Media has broken me

I sat down to read a book. An hour later, I had read three pages. That's because there was a reference to London and it made me think about an article I had read a few years ago (that I've read more than five times since) about the test taxi drivers in London have to take to become a licensed cabbie. I read half of the article, got on YouTube and watched two or three videos about it, then got on Twitter and tweeted about it.

My wife and I recently started a side-business (trying to ramp up the Business side of it now). After I tweeted about The Knowledge, I checked the Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages for said business. Then I checked the analytics of the website to check page views. I now have no attention span. My attention span is 280 characters. If I say something remotely humorous to my wife I immediately think, "Would that be funny on Twitter?" My brain is broken.

Today I started a training plan for a half-marathon (I'm saying it out loud for a form of accountability). I took a selfie - I hate selfies - after my first "training session" and put it on Instagram, which linked to Facebook. What the hell is wrong with me.

That said, I'll be taking a step back. I've been better at staying off Twitter (sort of) during Astros games, and thank God that Flick is here to take Hot Links three days a week. I'll probably wait until the playoffs are over, because we all need each other then, but there's a day coming soon where I need to figure out what has happened to my brain, and why I can't focus on a book for more than five minutes at a time. While our daughter sprinted around the couch, and two dogs played, and I listened to three songs from Hamilton, my wife sat there reading a book for two straight hours. I used to do that.

I firmly believe that many problems in our society come from not being able to focus on one thing for more than 30-45 seconds. And narcissism - that's a problem, too. Because there's a certain number of people that follow Astros County and I place too much emphasis on it. I've contributed to that, and also fallen into that trap. I'm doing too many things: being a dad, a husband, a teacher, a coach, a writer, a small business owner (apparently), a friend - and I'm not doing any of them well.

My personality can generally be described as "addictive." Over the years I've learned that I can't have any bourbon in the house, or any kind of video game system, though - insert Borat voice - My Wife told me almost ten years ago to choose between video games and Astros County. It's been awesome, and I'm not saying it's about to end, but somehow Likes and Retweets replaced actual feelings and experiences. It's not about to end, but it's time to re-prioritize.

I don't like where my brain is, and I will be taking steps to remedy it...

...After the playoffs.

And I'm fully aware that even this post is self-indulgent, and I don't like that, either. Now, back to this book...

Sunday Morning Hot Links

What a crazy hellscape roller coaster ride of emotion that was. Clinging to a 1-0 lead off of Jaime Barria and wasting another dominant Verlander performance, only to watch Hector Rondon't and Joe Smith blow it in the 8th, only to watch the Astros look at either, say "screw it," and put up nine runs in the bottom half of the inning. Houston is 97-57. Oakland got a walk-off win for the 2nd night in a row off of Minnesota, which is a Sioux word for "completely useless." The Astros have a 3.5-game lead with eight to play. Oakland has seven games remaining.

Houston can go 5-3 and clinch the division. 4-4 means the A's have to go 7-0 to tie for the division, which the Astros would win because of the head-to-head record.

*Houston is 15-4 in September. A win today would give the Astros their 13th win against Anaheim. They have 12 wins against each of Anaheim, Arlington, and Oakland.

*Bottom of the 8th: Walk, Pop-up, Walk, Single (2-5), Walk, Single (3-5), Single (4-5), Error (6-5), Single (8-5), Homer (10-5), Single, Strikeout, Lineout.

Gattis:
I looked over at Dallas, and I was like, 'You know, they could easily hand us this game. I think everyone on this team believes that and knows that we are never out of it. 

*The Astros' 9-run 8th inning was the highest-scoring inning of 2018. Hinch:
It happened fast. Just guys doing their part and then we got a little fortunate that they made a mistake. A lot of quality at-bats, one mistake, a lot of key hits, three or four walks led to a huge inning.

*Houston scored 10 runs on just two extra-base hits. You have to go all the way back to September 15, 2018 to find the last time the Astros scored double-digit runs on two extra-base hits.

*The Angels have been outscored 42-11 in their last four games.

*Jose Altuve was 3x4 with a walk. He has 162 walks and would need 38 hits this week to extend his 200-hit streak. It's his 12th game with 3+ hits this season.

Altuve 4-hit games: 4
Altuve 3-hit games: 8
Altuve 2-hit games: 32
Altuve 1-hit games: 58
Altuve 0-hit games: 29

Altuve's home run was his 13th of the year, 3rd of September. It was just his 4th home run this season with runners on base.

*Yuli Gurriel was 3x5 with an RBI. Over his last 16 games he's hitting .371/.403/.629. Gurriel has an 8-game hitting streak in which he's hitting .438/.471/.719 with consecutive 3-hit games.

*Josh Reddick was 1x2 with 2BB, his first two-walk game since August 21. His one hit gave him exactly 100 hits, his 4th-straight 100+ hit season.

*Evan Gattis was 2x4 with 2RBI - his first multi-hit game since August 15. He was 4x44, .091/.130/.227 between the two games. 

*Tony Kemp has one hit in his last 13 plate appearances.

*Congratulations to Myles Straw, who stole his first career MLB base. It's his 71st stolen base of the year between Corpus, Fresno, and Houston.

*Justin Verlander threw 6IP, 1H/0ER, 11K:0BB. 77 of his 103 pitches were for strikes. He threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 20 batters he faced. Hinch:
He was just completely dominant. The back half of their lineup I don't think made contact against him. (Ed. note: They didn't) You just don't see that kind of dominance every day, you see it a lot with him. Really, really good fastball today. It felt like he could throw the ball where he wanted it.

It's the 12th time in Verlander's career that he has struck out 10+ batters without walking a single batter. Six of those starts have been for the Astros, four of them in 2018.

*Verlander re-took the #2 spot for strikeouts in MLB from Gerrit Cole. Verlander has a career-high 280 strikeouts to Cole's 272, giving them 552 strikeouts. The next-closest set of teammates is Cleveland's Carlos Corrasco and Tyler Bauer, who have combined for 432 strikeouts in 2018.

*Astros pitchers have struck out 1,615 batters, a new MLB record set by Cleveland in 2017. Astros starters have struck out 1,069 batters, a new MLB record set by Cleveland in 2017.

*Hector Rondon's last five appearances: 4.1IP, 13H/8ER, 5K:2BB, a 16.62 ERA / 3.46 WHIP. I said this last night, when Rondon was in the process of retiring one of the three batters he faced, that throwing Rondon in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game when you're trying to clinch the division is like getting on the top rung of a ladder to see if you're still dizzy.

Rondon has allowed eight earned runs in his last 4.1IP. He allowed 8ER from May 19-September 7 (38IP). He left the clubhouse before reporters were allowed in. Hinch:
The leadoff walk killed him. Arcia had the late decision base hit to left...Obviously it hasn't been a great stretch for him. My level of concern is more for him to stay confident and focused that his best pitches are good enough. It feels like everything happening for him right now is negative. I take him out of the game and his runs get cashed in. He'll be back out there in a couple of days.

*Joe Smith faced five batters and didn't get an out, allowing three hits - including the premature dagger of a three-run home run from Mike Trout - and a walk. It's the most batters he has faced without recording an out since August 29, 2015, when he was pitching for the Angels. Hinch:
Not a lot went right in the top of the eighth. That was as ugly an inning as we've had...

*Collin McHugh got the win, his 6th of the season. DID YOU KNOW: Collin McHugh's .643 win% is 2nd-highest in franchise history, behind Roger Clemens' .679? AND his 8.73 K/9 is 3rd-highest in franchise history, behind Billy Wagner and Nolan Ryan?

*Charlie Morton gets the start today and needs five strikeouts to join the 200K club. There has been one other Astros team with three pitchers with 200 strikeouts:
1969: Don Wilson (235), Larry Dierker (232), and Tom Griffin (200).

The 2018 Cleveland Spiders (that's what I'm calling them now) have four starting pitchers with 200 Ks.

*Lance McCullers is back and ready to pitch. Carlos Correa sounds downright despondent:
I'm trying to get better, healthy. My back just got tied up again and I want to make sure I'm ready to go for the playoffs. It's been a rough year for me when it comes to staying on the field and being healthy out there. It's been the toughest year of my career. When I came back, it's a grind every day. 

*Brian McTaggart has the top 10 moments of the Astros' 2018 season (last night's game is not included, as the article was published before the game).

*Hardball Times: The Worcester Red Sox and the problem of history.

*Guilford, Connecticut: The town evenly split between Red Sox and Yankees fans.

*Shoutout to my friend Melissa, whose Braves clinched the division yesterday.

*Pacific Standard: Meet Sjors Horstman, the man who lives at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

*Consequence of Sound: Oh whaddayaknow. Ticketmaster is actually all a scam.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Morning Hot Links

It's Yuli's world, we're just living in it. And in Yuli's world, he's the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man traipsing through the Angels' streets and wrecking everything he can find. Gurriel went 3x4 with two home runs and 7RBI as the Astros whooped the Angels 11-3. Oakland is now 13-5 in extra-inning games after beating Minnesota in the 10th inning. The Astros are 96-57 with a 3.5-game lead and nine games to play.

If Houston goes 5-4, Oakland would have to go 8-0 to tie the division. 6-3 is enough to clinch it, which is exactly what FanGraphs projects for the remaining nine games.

The Astros did, however, at least clinch a playoff spot and are headed to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 2004-05. It's the 12th postseason berth for the Astros in franchise history, third in the last four years. Gerrit Cole:
You've got to take it step by step so it's nice to acknowledge and celebrate it because you don't take it for granted. But we've got some more work to do.

The Astros celebrated the berth with a toast in the clubhouse from Jim Crane, Reid Ryan, Jeff Luhnow, and A.J. Hinch, and then got back to work. Hinch:
Our work isn't finished. 

*Gurriel hit a grand slam in the 1st inning. The 7RBI are obviously a career-high and the most for an Astro in a game since Once and Future King J.R. Towles had 8RBI in an 18-1 win over St. Louis on September 20, 2007. He had 4RBI in a game five previous times. It's his third career grand slam, first since June 24, 2018. Last night was his first 2HR game. Gurriel's brother Lourdes also hit two home runs for Toronto last night, marking the first time in MLB history that brothers recorded multi-HR games on the same day.

*George Springer was 1x4 with a walk and a three-run homer, his 21st of the season. In five seasons Springer has hit 20+ home runs four times.

*Marwin was 1x2 with 2BB. It was his 8th 2BB game of the year.

*Gerrit Cole threw 7IP, 6H/3ER, 12K:0BB, and has pulled ahead of Justin Verlander for the team lead in strikeouts, 272-269. Cole's 272 strikeouts are now the 4th-highest in a single season in franchise history, two ahead of Nolan Ryan in 1987. Verlander is 6th, one behind Ryan.

*Cole, 10+ strikeouts / 0 walks, career:
2013: 0
2014: 1
2015: 0
2016: 0
2017: 1
2018: 4

Cole recorded his 1000th career strikeout. He's now 48th on the active strikeouts list. Cole:
The guys took a moment tonight to recognize it and that meant a lot. There are a lot of really professional and special arms in this room so that kind of keeps you in perspective. 

Cole reached 1000 strikeouts 12th-fastest in MLB history.

*Tony Sipp, September: 4.1IP, 2H/0ER, 6K:3BB. He has retired 14 of the last 18 batters he has faced. Check this Chronicle story about his turnaround 2018 season.

*The Astros are headed for an ALDS showdown with Cleveland.

*Lance McCullers will rejoin the team today, though he won't pitch until Monday.

*Carlos Correa won't play this weekend. Hinch:
Carlos is still not right. We're going to give him a complete break this weekend to see if we can get him feeling better. We talked to the doctors, the doctors talked to Carlos, he just still is symptomatic. His back is bothering him, he hasn't felt completely himself for a while. 

Don't miss Tyler Stafford's article in The Athletic on how there's no quick fix to Correa's struggles. It may be April 2019 before Correa actually looks right.

*Jake Kaplan has some breaking news that Mike Fast, one of the key members of the front office, will not renew his contract when it expires in October. Fast:
It was time to move on, and I'm looking for other opportunities. I definitely would like to latch on with another team.

It is unknown what prompted Fast to seek employment elsewhere.

*Check out MK Bower in Forbes on the emergence of Josh Big Flames James and the possibility of finding himself on the postseason roster.

*Meet Nunee Oakes, Astros DJ.

*Levi Weaver notes that Jeff Banister's communication style didn't resonate with younger players.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Morning Hot Links

It's Friday everybody and you know what that means. Yep, it means Flick does your Hot Links, so prepare your bones for about 10-12 Astros related articles, a couple offbeat stories, and a few things that happened on this day in baseball!

The Astros did not play last night but depending on what Oakl-- wait. What.

Well, its back to a 3.5 game lead for Houston as we await the Angels. A miniature preview provided by Yahoo can be found here.

There are 10 games left in the season and the Astros need to go at least 5-5 to join the elusive 100-win club. Reminder: it's the Angels, Blue Jays, and Orioles left.

2018 just might be the best year of Astros baseball yet.

Reid Ryan makes it official: A.J. Reed will be playing in Round Rock.

No spoilers but they made a great choice for Best Astros Rookie.

It's time to play the cryptic game that is which pitchers will be playing for the Astros in October. It's quite the problem to have.

Josh James and Kyle Tucker were named Astros Minor League Pitcher and MVP respectively.

Dallas Keuchel isn't thinking about free agency right now, which I didn't think he would be.

Phillies targeting Charlie Morton in free agency this offseason?

Here's your feel-good story of the day.

You're the GM - Astros Edition!

Mike Fast has left the Astros, per McTaggart.

Alex Cora's first test as manager starts now.

Orbit, once again, was causing only the best mischief on Wednesday night.

Here's an article that is a crazy stats-lovers dream. It's about Ryan Pressly.

Bill Brown sits down with The Athletic to talk life after broadcasting. ($)

Amazon is making smart-microwaves and I absolutely do not understand the appeal for this. Don't worry, your smart fridge, blender, toaster, grill, and coffee pot, will be on the way soon.

Delaware has brand new "DMV Selfie Zones." I mean honestly what else can I say about this that will make this situation any better?

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1956, the Yankees left an MLB record 20 men on base in a 13-7 loss to the Red Sox.

In 1964, the Phillies lost to the Reds 1-0 after Chico Ruiz stole home. This was the game that started the Philly Phold.

In 1966, the Cubs beat the Reds 9-3. 530 fans attended the game at Wrigley Field, the smallest crowd in field history.

In 1988, the Astros beat the Braves 1-0 after Bob Knepper threw a complete game one hitter against Pete Smith, who also threw a complete game

In 2001, the Mets return to Shea Stadium for the first time since 9/11.

In 2008, Mariano Rivera closed Yankee Stadium.

In 2009, Cecil Cooper was fired as manager of the Houston Astros. He was replaced by Third-base coach Dave Clark.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Well. The Astros were held to a five-hit shutout as Seattle's Bullpen Day made Houston taste their Elimination Pain. Houston is 95-57. Oakland beat the piss out of the Angels much like Seattle beat the piss out of Houston, so it's a four-game lead with ten to play. Today is the last off-day of the regular season.

*The Astros end the season series with Seattle with a 9-10 record, outscoring them 80-74 even with last night's shellacking. Houston went 2-7 at Minute Maid Park against the Mariners. Houston did not win a home series against the Mariners in 2018.

Houston vs the AL West, 2017-18:
Arlington: 24-14
Oakland: 24-14
Seattle: 23-15
Anaheim: 22-13

It's the first time the Mariners have won a season series against Houston since 2014.

*The Astros were shutout for the 9th time this season, and the 9-run margin ties the July 22 14-5 loss to Anaheim and the July 27 11-2 loss to Arlington for the worst of the season. Chris Devenski pitched in both of those games. Eight of the nine shutouts have been at home.

*It's just the 3rd shutout of the Astros since the All-Star Break.

*Houston has been held to five or fewer hits 37 times this season.

*1-2-3 in the lineup (Springer-Altuve-Bregman) were each lifted early but combined for 1x7, 0K:2BB.

*Alex Bregman is going through a 1x17 stretch over his past six games, with 2K:6BB.

*Evan Gattis is 1x20, 8K:1BB in September.

*Houston had more GIDPs (two) than extra-base hits (0) or runs (also, 0).

*Dallas Keuchel had a rough one: 5IP, 6H/5ER, 3K:2BB, throwing 52 of his 81 pitches for strikes. It's the 7th time this season Keuchel has allowed 5ER, including two of his past three starts.

By the time Keuchel threw his 19th pitch of the night, Seattle had a 3-0 lead. Hinch:
They came out and ambushed Dallas. Within the first five pitches (Single, Double, Single), we were in a mess and never really recovered from it. They continued to tack on, and we didn't have an answer...You just have to chalk it up to a bad night. 

Keuchel, Innings 1-7, 2018:
1st Inning: 32IP, 45H/26ER, 22K:14BB, 7.31 ERA / 1.84 WHIP
2nd Inning: 32IP, 28H/11ER, 28K:7BB, 3.90 ERA / 1.09 WHIP
3rd Inning: 32IP, 27H/8ER, 23K:4BB, 2.25 ERA / 0.97 WHIP
4th Inning: 32IP, 21H/5ER, 20K:11BB, 1.41 ERA / 1.00 WHIP
5th Inning: 30.1IP, 31H/18ER, 24K:7BB, 5.34 ERA / 1.25 WHIP
6th Inning: 24IP, 31H/12ER, 22K:9BB, 4.12 ERA / 1.38 WHIP
7th Inning: 11.2IP, 13H/7ER, 7K:2BB, 5.40 ERA / 1.29 WHIP

Note: Couldn't tell in B-Ref this morning which of these runs were unearned, so there's a strong possibility the ERAs are a little lower than what is listed above. 

26 of the 88 runs Keuchel has allowed have come in the 1st Inning (29.5%). Keuchel:
I haven't really had a lot of success against the Mariners this season. It's kind of a coin flip with them right now. I tried to put my best foot forward and still gave up three in the first. I settled down. Just the way it goes. 

Keuchel was asked by a reporter if he thought this might be his final start as an Astro at Minute Maid Park (Keuchel's remaining regular season start(s) will be on the road):
Honestly, no. I've had some good runs here. Hopefully, there's a few left for us. That means we're doing well in the playoffs...It's not something I want to think about right now. 

*Dean Deetz allowed 3H/2ER in 0.2IP, including a home run to Mitch Haniger.

*Astros pitchers allowed three home runs for the first time since August 19.

*Chris Devenski got his first 1-2-3 inning since July 10.

*A.J. Hinch doesn't want to talk about the playoffs until the Astros clinch. Hinch:
We haven't won anything yet. We haven't advanced to the playoffs yet, so I don't think we can talk or consider any of that. When you start distracting yourself with scenarios...I will think about it, but let's qualify for the playoffs, let's go out and win the division first, then we can talk about it.

*Hinch says Rondon's struggles and his wrist injury are unrelated.

*Jayson Schroeder, Freudis Nova, Jeremy Pena, Seth Beer, and Alex McKenna will participate in the Instructional League starting today.