Saturday, December 16, 2017

Actually, Ken Giles is Good.

I ran a scientific poll:

There are approximately 342.5 of the respondents who don't even think Ken Giles is good. I'm here to prove you wrong. The other nice 69% of you may casually go on about your day.

Let's get a baseline here: In 2017 the Average AL Reliever:
4.11 ERA/1.30 WHIP, with a .244/.318/.402 slash line, and a 2.62 K:BB ratio.

Ken Giles:
2.30 ERA/1.04 WHIP, with a .198/.268/.297 slash line, and a 3.95 K:BB ratio.

So that's cool. But we already know that Ken Giles should not be measured against dudes like Warwick Saupold. Now the basics, with ranks among 155 qualified relievers in 2017:
2.30 ERA (16th)
2.39 FIP (11th)
3.09 xFIP (16th) - Incidentally, Joe Smith ranks 3rd on this list.
11.92 K/9 (18th)
0.57 HR/9 (23rd)

Cherry-picking? A little bit. He had a 3.02 BB/9, which ranks 61st. But what is it about Ken Giles that makes 31% of respondents think he's Not Good? Confirmation bias. He had a bad April in 2016. He had a rough April in 2017, too. Ken Giles allowed 16 earned runs all during the regular season, but five of them came in his 3rd-5th appearances of the season (two straight 2ER outings against Seattle on April 6 and 11, and 1ER at Oakland on April 15). From that point forward (end of regular season) Giles threw 57.2IP, 39H/11ER, 74K:17BB, a .192/.253/.281 slash line, 1.72 ERA/0.97 WHIP, and a 4.35 K:BB ratio. All the hits he gave up? Giles allowed 2+ hits in just eight of his 63 appearances. He didn't allow a hit in 31 appearances (less than half, admittedly).

So what we're left with is the 2017 postseason, where Giles allowed at least one earned run in six of his seven outings (the Astros were 5-2 in his postseason appearances). ALCS G4 is on Giles. He pitched in two World Series games (G2 and G4), faced eleven batters, retired five of them and gave up 4H/5ER, 3K:2BB. You probably already know that Giles threw 7.2IP, 12H/10ER, 10K:5BB, 3HR in the postseason. Of the 12 hits he allowed, six went for extra-bases. This is decidedly Not Ideal, but does it make Ken Giles "bad?"

Let's not forget that Craig Kimbrel - who ranked in the top 2-3 of the above ranks among 155 qualified pitchers - allowed 4H/1ER, 2K:1BB in 2IP in the ALDS after having given up approximately four hits all throughout the regular season. Aroldis Chapman only pitched in two ALCS games (1.1IP) and allowed 2H/1ER. David Robertson, who had thrown 68.1IP with a 1.84 ERA in the regular season, allowed 7H/5ER in five ALCS innings. Kenley Jansen allowed 6H/3ER in 8.2 innings of relief in the World Series. Brandon Morrow (2.06 regular season ERA) gave up 8H/5ER in 5.1IP in the World Series.

Are those guys bad? No. We credit to the Astros for touching up The. Best. Pitchers. In. Baseball. to win the World Series. To say that Ken Giles is bad because he got roughed up in the playoffs is misguided at best. Everyone got roughed up in the playoffs - except Rich Hill, who dominated, and I will never understand how. Chris Devenski allowed 9H/8ER in 8IP and I don't hear anyone talking about how "unclutch" he is. Chris Sale had an 8.38 ERA in the ALDS. Zack Greinke had a 7.27 ERA in two games. Yu Darvish had a 6.14 ERA. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber was worse than Giles (in an obviously smaller sample), giving up 10H/9ER and 4HR in two starts totaling 6.1IP.

And don't forget that there may very well be a simple explanation: the postseason baseballs. The World Series balls were allegedly "slicker," limiting the effectiveness of the sliders of Giles and, thankfully, Yu Darvish. Verlander confirmed it:
I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, hey, something is different here. I think as a whole everybody is saying, whoa, something is a little off here. 

Giles threw his slider 47.3% of the time which ranked 5th-highest among 274 pitchers with a minimum of 60IP in the regular season. (Luke Gregerson - who perhaps wisely only threw 3.2IP in the entire postseason - ranked 6th in slider percentage.) Other pitchers who ran into some trouble in the playoffs and also threw sliders more than 30% of the time in the regular season include Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Luis Severino.

Ken Giles isn't bad. Is he a head-case? Maybe, a lot of relievers are. To say he's bad is to say that you really only watched the postseason.

Saturday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros continue to add righty relievers to A.J. Hinch's stockings by signing Hector Rondon to a 2-year/$8.5m deal. Rondon:
I'm blessed for this opportunity. I wanted to come here. I've already won a championship and I want to win another. I feel close to this group. After just a few hours, I already feel a connection with these guys.

Rondon, who will be 30 in February, was non-tendered by the Cubs after a 2017 that saw him post 57.1IP, 50H/27ER, 69K:20BB, a 4.24 ERA (4.12 FIP), 1.22 WHIP but with a career-high 10.8 K/9. He's two years removed from a 2015 season in which he threw 70IP, 55H/13ER, 69K:15BB, a 1.67 ERA/1.00 WHIP. The Astros will likely hope he's more like that.

But as relievers go, a few bad outings can ruin things such as the previous paragraph. In a six-appearance span between August 12-23, 2017 he threw 5IP, 12H/8ER and allowed more home runs (5) than he had strikeouts (4).

Essentially the Astros have replaced Luke Gregerson and Tyler Clippard:
75IP, 73H/41ER, 88K:27BB, 4.92 ERA/1.20 WHIP with Joe Smith and Hector Rondon:
111.1IP, 96H/47ER, 140K:30BB, 3.80 ERA/1.13 WHIP.

Richard Justice writes that the Astros strengthened their only area of need.

Preston Tucker was DFA'd to make room on the 40-Man roster, which now stands at 40 Men.

*This Cut4 piece asks Brian McTaggart who is the Team DJ, best dressed Astro, and if Brian McCann will make a good manager one day.

*George Springer sang Christmas carols for Harvey victims.

*Around the AL West:
-The Angels signed Zack Cozart and, in an effort to employ every former Ranger ever, Ian Kinsler. ESPN's Bradford Doolittle analyzes their playoff chances. Dave Cameron says the left side of their infield is going to be insane. FanGraphs' Travis Sawchik says the Angels have won the offseason. Ring ceremony in Anaheim come April.

-The Rangers traded two prospects to the Giants for Matt Moore and might have four lefties in their rotation.

-Plagued by "the Deals Itch," Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto acquired a bag of Sour Skittles from the vending machine for cash considerations.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Morning Hot Links

Sorry for oversleeping yesterday. Actually that's not true. Getting that extra 90 minutes of sleep probably kept me from getting sick. And then I got four hours of sleep last night. Expect the Saturday Morning Hot Links to get posted in time for Saturday 2nd Lunch.

*So by now you already know that the Astros signed sidearmer Joe Smith to a 2yr/$15m deal, who will be in his Age-34 and Age-35 seasons over the life of the contract. Smith:
(The Astros) have the best chance to win a World Series. You can tell they have a lot of fun. Why wouldn't you when you're winning 100 games? 

Smith posted a career-best 11.8 K/9 to go with a career-low 1.7 BB/9 in 2017. His 3.33 ERA between Toronto and Cleveland was belied by a 2.10 FIP and a 2.39 xFIP. He joins James Hoyt (12.04 K/9) and Ken Giles (11.92 K/9) to become the third Astros reliever in the Top 20 in K/9 from 2017. He'll make $7m in 2018 and $8m in 2019.

FanGraphs notes that Smith is a righty-killer and that his 1.56 FIP vs RHBs is better than everybody except Kenley Jansen (got 'em), Craig Kimbrel (got 'em), and Max Scherzer. Pretty good company. 

*In the Rule 5 draft yesterday, the Astros...

Gose was acquired by the Astros in the Roy Oswalt trade then flipped him to Toronto for Future Superstar Brett Wallace. I'm working on an "evolution of Anthony Gose" piece that should go up this evening on how he went from a "toolsy" outfielder to a lefty reliever who can throw 100mph and whose "stuff is legit." Friend of Lima Time Time Kevin Goldstein:
I don't think it's completely unconventional. World Series teams actually have taken Rule 5 guys in the past. I know it's a little strange, but I don't think it's crazy.

(Side link: Deadspin has a fun piece on how he's actually the only Joe Smith in MLB history).

-Added 27-year old lefty Chris Nunn from the Cubs in the Triple-A phase. Nunn has only thrown 22IP since 2015 and walked 10 batters in 17IP last season at Double-A. Goldstein:
Nunn...took almost a couple years off to pursue a master's degree and kind of decided to come back to pitching and all of a sudden was bumping 97, 98. He's a little bit on the older side, but a 6'5" lefty with that kind of power arm was just something that appealed to us.

-Lost 22-year old RHP Elieser Hernandez to the Marlins, who immediately sold him for a bag of Hot Cheetos to go in one of Jeter's gift baskets to the fans he's screwing (rumor). Hernandez threw 73.1IP, 61H/30ER, 88K:22BB between the GCL and High-A Buies Creek. 

*Brian McTaggart thinks the Astros could be done for the Winter. Luhnow:
We could sequence a trade or signing with another trade potentially and free up even more at-bats, but at this point I like the position we're in because we're going to be opportunistic. If there's a situation that presents itself, a player that makes us better on offense and we can make adjustments, we'll look at that for sure. 

*Hey don't forget you can help out yer ol pal Astros County if you buy these sweet Houston shirts from Breaking T. Give them to your friends and co-workers.

*Read the age-old heart-warming Christmas tale of the successful Wall Street guy who finally caught a break with the Astros. (It's actually a cool story, I'm just being a ninny).

*Buster Olney: MLB will investigate whether or not a team leaked the Shohei Ohtani UCL news to the media.

*It apparently sucks to work at ESPN.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

Day Three of the Winter Meetings is upon us, spreading like a virus that will claim at least one of us (I haven't slept a lot lately.)

*A.J. Hinch plans to use the DH similar to the way he did in 2016, and that Evan Gattis would spend a decent amount of time there:
I'll spread it out enough, but Evan Gattis is probably the beneficiary of the way the roster is right now. 

16 different players saw at least one game at DH in 2017, albeit with 13 players getting three or fewer starts (Beltran - 107; Gattis - 29; Springer - 7). In 2016, however, Gattis led the team in DH starts with 71 while five different 2016 Astros got 10+ starts in which they didn't need their glove, including two starts at DH from someone who called themselves "Danny Worth."

Evan Gattis' 2016 splits, by position:
As C (206 PAs): .295/.345/.647, 19 HR
As DH (285 PAs): .219/.248/.419, 13 HR

Kaplan also says within the above link that left field will get spread out a little bit, with surprise name Colin Moran as a possible fit for LF. Luhnow:
When you start trying to figure out the at-bats for Fisher and Marwin and Gattis and Stassi, et cetera, you'd have to really do a lot of moving around to figure out how to get Moran a large enough number of at-bats to really feel like he's getting a proper look.

*I'm going to have to break some people down this week, but Ken Giles is a good closer. A.J. Hinch said that anyone freaking out about Giles' October performance isn't seeing the whole picture:
He had a rough stretch on the national stage in front of a large audience, but it doesn't make him any less equipped to be an elite closer. I think his stuff is top notch across the board. I think it was frustrating for him in the World Series to not be delivering the outs that he delivered during the season, but emotionally, physically we expect him to be fine. I expect him to be elite again.

Brian McTaggart noted some of the relievers the Astros have taken a look at:
LHPs Jake McGee, Tony Watson, Fernando Abad (!), Jorge De La Rosa, Brian Duensing
RHPs Addison Reed, Joe Smith, Anthony Swarzak

Again, I'm going to revisit this later (maybe today! who knows?!) but yes, Ken Giles is a good closer.

*Jesse Sanchez tweets that the Astros have "some interest" in outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

*Need a reason to watch Spring Training games? Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley will see some time.

*On the heels of yesterday's SI article in which an anonymous Astro noted that Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches, Dave Roberts told the LA Times that he wasn't surprised:
We had conversations about that with Yu, trying to kind of pin it down. Obviously, we weren't successful. I think there's something to (tipping) but there's also a lot more, for me, to execution.

*A.J. Hinch brushed off the whole "controversy" with Alex Cora on the team bus thing.

*Daryl Wade, the director of the Houston Astros Youth Academy, has an incredible story.

*Mike Fiers is looking for a bounce-back year in Detroit:
For me, I started off OK. Had a really good June and July. Kind of fell off at the end. Everyone goes through tough times. Everyone's not 100 percent towards the end of the year...It's not an excuse or anything...Yeah, I had a bad late last four or five starts. But other than that I felt like I pitched very well.

On being left off the postseason roster:
Something that I wasn't too happy about, but at the same time I gotta support my guys. Winning a World Series is definitely a dream. 

*In a straight up kick to the nuts, the Angels' newest savior Shohei Ohtani has a damaged UCL. Jeff Passan reports that it's a Grade 1 strain, which doesn't automatically mean Tommy John surgery, but further damage could result in exactly that. The Angels say he's fine. This should end well.

*The Pirates are apparently willing to deal Gerrit Cole, if you're interested.

*Tyler White will be the guest on Astroline tomorrow at Plucker's. Someone go thank him for hooking my students up, please.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

The first day of the Winter Meetings is in the books. Let's see what did and didn't happen:

*The Astros are looking to add two arms to the bullpen. Luke Gregerson, Tyler Clippard and Francisco Liriano account for 89.1IP in 2017 - of course the majority of which were Gregerson's IPs. Luhnow:
At this point, it's a lot of feeling each other out and trying to see where the market is going on some of the players we're interested in. I think it will be a productive three days. Even if we don't get a deal done while we're here, we're certainly going to put ourselves in a spot where we'll have an opportunity to potentially (do so) after. I'm optimistic we're going to do something to improve the club while we're here or shortly thereafter.

We find in McTaggart's link that the Astros did offer a contract to Mike Minor, but the Rangers gave him the opportunity to start.

*With Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton's contracts set to expire following the 2018 season, the Astros could look into adding a starter. Here's a non-quote from Luhnow:
I think the reality is if we're going to improve our rotation, it's going to have to be somebody that's better than what we have, and we've got a pretty good rotation penciled out for next year. So we're not going to be looking at fourth and fifth starters. We're probably looking at something north of that. There's not a big population (of available starters who fit that criteria), but we'll probably touch base with maybe not all of them but some of them.

More Luhnow:
Typically the ones that we like require much more significant commitments and we're not sure that's the best path for us to take right now.

*Ken Rosenthal writes in the (subscription-only) Athletic that the Astros have shown interest in Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, which would be, uh, interesting.

*Jon Heyman used pretty much all 280 of his characters and said that the Astros never came very close but did try on Giancarlo Stanton.

*Jerry Crasnick notes that Marwin Gonzalez - a free agent following 2018 - has also hired Scott Boras as his agent. Stros looking to get PAID.

*An anonymous Astros player told Sports Illustrated how they knew Yu Darvish was going to his slider before he threw it:
The players said it worked like this: Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.

*Did the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton change the Rays' mindset? Maybe Chris Archer is available (for a steep price).

*The Astros signed catcher Tim Federowicz and reliever Matt Ramsey to minor-league deals with an invitation to Spring Training.

Federowicz, a 30-year old catcher, was the Red Sox' 7th Round pick in the 2008 draft. In 403 games at Triple-A, Federowicz has a .304/.374/.503 slash line. Federowicz was part of the three-team trade at the 2011 deadline that saw him get sent to the Dodgers while the Mariners sent former Astros great Erik Bedard and Astros World Series Hero Josh Fields to the Red Sox. Then in December 2014 he was part of the trade that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers and Yasmani Grandal to the Padres.

Matt Ramsey, a 5'11 205lb, 28-year old RHP, posted a 3.65 ERA/1.35 WHIP for Double-A Biloxi in 2017 with 58K in 44.1IP. In his five-year minor-league career Ramsey has 239 strikeouts in 198IP. He did hit Triple-A briefly in Colorado Springs (5.1IP), but that's been it so far.

*Kate Upton had a whole bunch of details I don't really understand for Vogue about The Wedding. Except cornhole, I know that. And the Uplander Games sounds legit.

*Red Sox GM(?) Dave Dombrowski:
If we can get better, we're going to do that. But it's really not based on the Stanton move. We're not changing based upon that. It was already our plan to get better. We not only have to beat the Yankees, we have to beat the Astros, world champs, because our goal is to not only win our division but to be the world champs.

Pretty much never going to get old seeing "Astros, world champs" in a row.

*A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD: Rangers sign Chris Martin.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Morning Hot Links

*Random 2017 Astros Fact:

Luke Gregerson saved 47 games for the Astros, which is the 4th-most in the franchise since 2006:

1. Jose Valverde (69 saves)
2. Brad Lidge (51 saves)
3. Ken Giles (49 saves)
4. Luke Gregerson (47 saves). 

*Gregerson signed a 2-year/$11m deal with the Cardinals. There's a vesting option for a 3rd year based on the number of games in which he pitches.

Gregerson's FIP, 2015-17: 2.86, 2.99, 4.62.

His three-year deal was perfect. Gregerson was good over the first two years (which included the Astros' first post-season berth since 2005), and it expired the year he posted a 0.0 fWAR. Gregerson pitched in 188 games for the Astros over the last three seasons.

*Dallas Keuchel switched agents and signed with Scott Boras. Keuchel, who will be in his Age 30 season in 2018, is arbitration-eligibile for the final time this offseason before going into his first shot at free agency for the 2019 season. 

April 2014: Scott Boras:
The Cubs and Houston are major markets not choosing to spend. They might as well go around carrying a sign, 'Please help me finish last.' Where's the integrity in that?

November 2013: Boras goes all in on the Mets, Cubs, and Astros for their rebuilding strategy. For the Astros he says, "They're like Disneyland. If the kids come, it's a great attraction."

June 2013: On the eve of the Astros' 2nd-straight #1 overall pick (which they would use on Boras client Mark Appel) Scott Boras says he thinks the Astros will spend for talent. Brian T. Smith wrote:
Boras thinks highly of the person charged with directing the Astros' rebuilding and believes the organization is open to selecting the best available player based on talent, not just monetary.

You can't run a successful baseball organization by refusing to deal with Scott Boras, who represents the best players in the game. What we see over the selected excerpts from a few years ago is that Boras wants what's best for his clients. He was mad at the Cubs and Astros because they flat-out wouldn't spend money on his clients, thereby reducing the negotiating pool by two clubs. That's not good for Boras or his clients, so you're not going to see him come out at the beginning of free agency and say, "Not paying my guys is pretty smart." That said, this front office hasn't been in a position to lock up one of its players heading into free agency (with the Astros, anyway.)

If the going rate is $8m per 1.0 fWAR then Keuchel, who will be entering his Age 31 season in his first free agent season, could reasonably get in the $20-25m range per year. I just don't see the Astros paying that. 

Jose Altuve (who signed his current deal after dropping Scott Boras before re-hiring him), Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers, Jr are all Boras clients currently on the Astros' 25-Man roster.

Should the Astros and Keuchel - who told Evan Drellich in October that he hopes to stay in Houston -  not come to an agreement on a longer contract, he would be one of the top-liners in next year's free agent class of starting pitchers.

*The Winter Meetings start today in Orlando or whatever faceless Disney suburb in which the hotel is located. Jake Kaplan expects some bullpen movement, but not much else:
The Astros' franchise-altering Aug. 31 blockbuster for Justin Verlander eliminated their need to seek a front-line starting pitcher ahead of 2018. With almost their entire World Series-winning roster returning, they need only tinker.

*At least six teams have shown interest in pitcher Tom Koehler, and I'd be surprised if the Astros weren't one of them. Koehler's dashboard stats are absolutely God-awful, but he fared much better in 14 appearances as a reliever (.711 OPS-against) than in 13 starts (.918 OPS-against) in 2017. And, as MLBTR notes, he almost abandoned his slider as a reliever in favor of more curveballs. 

*Dallas Guy thinks it's time for the Rangers to rebuild.

*The Cubs signed Brandon Morrow (5.1IP, 8H/5ER, 4K:1BB in the 2017 World Series) to a 2-year deal between $10-11m per year with an option for a third year.

*Jon Heyman talked to agents who think there will be a run on relievers this week.

*Jack Morris got into the Hall of Fame because of one good game.