Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Note: The Hot Links are late this morning because for an hour I thought the air conditioning at our house went out. It healed itself, and the kingdom rejoiced. 

*Mike Fiers and a big 6th inning were the keys to the Astros' 5-1 win over Oakland last night. The Astros guaranteed their first series win in their last five series (Boston, Arlington, Anaheim, Kansas City).

Fiers threw 6.1IP, 3H/3ER, 5K:3BB and got three GIDPs. The Astros are 26-8 on the road this season.

I felt really good. Just needed to throw in the zone a little bit more. I was able to get back, get back to throwing a lot of strikes. Honestly, they did a good job of taking a lot of pitches, taking some close curveballs, working the count deep...But overall, it was a good outing, and I'll take that every time. 

*Every Astros starter got a hit, except for George Springer who was 0x5. Bregman was 1x2 with 2BB. A's starter Sean Manaea:
They're unbelievable. One through nine, you don't catch any breaks. They've got power, they've got speed. They're a really, really good ball club, and they're playing really good baseball right now. 

*Oakland is searching for answers against the Astros, who have won nine straight games in Oakland and 14 of the last 15 games. Stephen Vogt:
Any time you are getting beat by the same team over and over, it's frustrating. But that is a really good team and they are going to win a lot more games. We have a chance to take one and salvage the series and it will still have been a pretty good homestand. 


*Correa had a great game, both offensively and defensively.

*Jose Altuve got a hit off Sean Manaea, his first, and is now 1x14. There are now just two pitchers Altuve has faced 10+ times without a hit: Wade Davis and Bronson Arroyo.

*Reliever Jandel Gustave had Tommy John Surgery yesterday morning.

*No one has in baseball has seen more sliders than Alex Bregman.

*"I think Marwin can be in the conversation among the best players in the big leagues." - Lance McCullers. This is an excellent profile on Marwin.

*San Antonio announced that they will be a Triple-A franchise in 2019, sparking rumors that there could be some reshuffling - possibly with the Ryan-owned Round Rock franchise returning to Houston. Houston's PDC with Fresno expires after the 2018 season.

*13th Round pick Jake Meyers has signed for "somewhere around $125,000," or the exact number the Astros can sign a pick from Rounds 11-40 without it counting against their overall bonus pool. Check the updated 2017 Draft page for details.

*Doug Fister, anyone? No, okay.

*A Canadian sniper killed an ISIS target from two miles away. I demand a movie be made about this, eh?

*Soon you'll be able to visit secret WW1 tunnels underneath London.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros put up a 5-spot on Sonny Gray in the 1st inning last night and rode it out to an 8-4 win over Oakland. Gray needed 38 pitches to get through the 1st as the Astros sent 10 men to the plate, including George Springer and his 8th leadoff homer of the season. The MLB record for leadoff homers in a season is 13, by Alfonso Soriano. Reddick, on Springer:
It's special to hit behind that guy. Eight leadoff homers, 21 homers out of the leadoff spot, you just don't see that a whole lot. It makes you wonder what he would do out maybe in the three-, four-hole in this lineup. But you really can't move him. 

The average leadoff hitter in baseball (including Springer) is hitting .261/.330/.419. Springer is hitting .284/.356/.567.

Our at-bats were exceptional. Springer sets the tone with the big home run, and then we continued to do some positive things against [Gray] and put up positive at-bats. 

For all the damage the Astros did against Sonny Gray in the 1st, they didn't get a whole lot more until he left the game. Consider:
Gray, 1st inning: 38 pitches, 5H/5ER, 0K:2BB
Gray, 2nd-5th: 70 pitches, 2H/0ER, 5K:2BB, HBP

*Gray, on his start:
It has been one inning for numerous starts now where things kind of escalate. I'm gonna have to figure this thing out. Whether it's getting off the mound and slowing myself down, I've gotta figure out a way to shut the inning down when I get two outs. 

*Frankie Tuesday threw 5.2IP, 6H/3ER, 4K:3BB for his second ML win in two starts, holding the A's to an 0x6 w/RISP with him on the mound. Within that link we find that Martes could be optioned back to Fresno when McCullers comes off the DL on Saturday, or the Astros could place Brad Peacock on paternity leave and let Martes throw in his spot on Sunday.

*Luke Gregerson faced three batters and struck them all out.

*Astros are 6-1 against Oakland in 2017, and haven't lost in Oakland since July 19, 2016.

*Houston is 24-10 against the AL West.

*Alex Bregman's last seven PAs (most recent to previous): Out, double, walk, HBP, single, double, double.

*Hinch told 790 that Charlie Morton is throwing mid-90s. He'll start for Fresno on Thursday and throw 2-3IP.

*If the Astros have "any opening whatsoever," they're bringing back Derek Fisher

*Wall Street Journal: The Astros don't like strikeouts anymore

*Tom Verducci has a good piece on the Astros' trade needs and a couple of good stories about how the Astros landed David Paulino and Francis Martes. Verducci:
Yes, it will hurt Houston to shoot high. But the time for bargain shopping is over. The Astros already know the question they face next month, and it is the same question the Cubs faced last July: If not now, when?

*What's it like to be Latino in MLB? This is a must-read.

*Hardball Times: Examining what Cuban League stats actually mean

*Patrick Hruby in Vice: The plot to disrupt the NCAA with a pay-for-play HBCU basketball league

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Most Productive Astros Draftees, by Round

There's no reason to post this, other than that I thought it would be interesting. Even I don't know what I'll find. Here are the most successful Astros, drafted by the Astros, sorted by round (by bWAR). Let's get after it:

Note: Players denoted with a * did not acquire any WAR with the Astros. Players had to have signed with the Astros initially in order to be considered (hence the absence of Michael Bourn). 
Also: There were 96 Rounds of the 1990, 1991, and 1994 drafts. There were 98 Rounds in 1990 and 1994, and 99 Rounds in 1990. 

1st Round: Craig Biggio (1987), 65.1 bWAR
2nd Round: Hunter Pence (2004), 29.0 bWAR
3rd Round: Ken Caminiti (1984), 33.3 bWAR
4th Round: Luis Gonzalez (1988), 51.5 bWAR
5th Round: Cliff Johnson (1966), 16.2 bWAR
6th Round: Ben Zobrist (2004), 43.2 bWAR*
7th Round: Dallas Keuchel (2009), 15.7 bWAR
8th Round: Dave Smith (1976), 12.1 bWAR
9th Round: Morgan Ensberg (1998), 13.8 bWAR
10th Round: Jamie Walker (1992), 4.2 bWAR*
11th Round: Gary Gentry (1965), 6.1 bWAR*
12th Round: Johnny Ray (1979), 24.0 bWAR*
13th Round: Hector Mercado (1992), 0.4 bWAR*
14th Round: Mike Easler (1969), 12.9 bWAR
15th Round: Mike Flanagan (1971), 26.3 bWAR*
16th Round: Brian Meyer (1986), 0.3 bWAR
17th Round: Kenny Lofton (1988), 68.2 bWAR
18th Round: Ken Forsch (1968), 26.4 bWAR
19th Round: Aaron Miles (1995), 1.0 bWAR*
20th Round: Wade Miller (1996), 14.8 bWAR
21st Round: N/A
22nd Round: Bob Watkins (1966), 0.0 bWAR
23rd Round: Roy Oswalt (1996), 50.2 bWAR
24th Round: Jeriome Robertson (1995), -2.1 bWAR
25th Round: Charlton Jimerson (1997), 0.3 bWAR
26th Round: Jim Dougherty (1990), -1.2 bWAR
27th Round: N/A
28th Round: Tom Funk (1983), -0.2 bWAR
29th Round: Tom Shearn (1996), 0.3 bWAR*
30th Round: Darryl Kile (1987), 20.3 bWAR
31st Round: N/A
32nd Round: Tim Hamulack (1995), -1.1 bWAR*
33rd Round: Tyler White (2013), 0.0 bWAR
34th Round: Eric Anthony (1986), -0.2 bWAR
35th-38th Rounds: N/A
39th Round: Alvin Morman (1991), 0.4 bWAR
40th-42nd Rounds: N/A
43rd Round: Julio Lugo (1994), 13.6 bWAR
44th Round: Bry Nelson (1993), 0.0 bWAR*
45th-67th Rounds: N/A 
68th Round: Otis Thornton (1965), -0.2 bWAR
69th-99th Rounds: N/A

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*Brad Peacock threw 5.2IP, allowing 4H/1ER, 8K:2BB. The Astros are 4-2 in Peacock's starts this season and he has thrown 28.1IP, 22H/12ER, 44K:14BB in those starts, on a .356 BABIP. The Astros beat the A's 4-1 behind home runs from George Springer, Jake (Roger Maris)nick, and Derek Fisher.

*Hinch, on Peacock:
Peacock had a really good breaking ball tonight, and he could throw it whenever he wanted to...Really only had one inning where he ran into a little bit of traffic and trouble, and Will [Harris] came in and bailed him out. Excellent, excellent start by him. 

Peacock's 13.3 K/9 rate is 2nd on the team, behind only James Hoyt.

*Springer is the first Astro to hit 20 home runs before the All-Star Break since Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee did it in 2008.

*Four of Marisnick's nine home runs have gone 440+ feet.

*Josh Reddick is coming off the DL today and Derek Fisher is headed back to Fresno. Hinch:
I'm proud of him. He's a part of this. It's not an easy send down because he's done nothing wrong. But the way our roster's configured, where we're comfortable right now, we've got to make the move. 

*ESPN's Dan Szymborski: Should you hop on the Astros' bandwagon?

*Alex Bregman had two doubles last night in the #8 spot - his first extra-base hit in 25 plate appearances and his first 2XBH-game since May 24 against the Tigers. Jeff Blogwell wrote that Bregman is, in fact, good and is, in fact, about to get better.

*Lance McCullers is on track to rejoin the rotation this weekend.

*Dallas Keuchel played catch and Charlie Morton threw 50 pitches in a bullpen session before heading to Fresno on a rehab assignment.

*Luhnow, on the injuries to the rotation:
I don't characterize any of these are major injuries because all of these guys are expected to be back and expected to contribute in the second half. But to have them all happen at the same time is a little frustrating and really stresses our organizational depth.

*Tonight's game features Sonny Gray vs. Francis Martes. A preview of a trade to come?

*If Houston is Gray's destination, the A's may wait until next week's series with the Astros is over before dealing him. Click the link and read about how one NL team wants to turn him into a closer. Probably the Mets.

*Martes is totally fine with a Johnny Cueto comp.

*James Hoyt made Dustin Pedroia spit up blood.

*Watch Kyle Tucker hit an opposite-field home run:

*Hooks manager Rodney Linares has been pushing for J.D. Davis to get promoted.

*Rosenthal: A trade deadline guide for the Orioles, A's, and Tigers

*Check the updated 2017 Draft page.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Alex Bregman Has Been Good And He Is About To Get Better

From now until the end of the season, Alex Bregman will be the fourth-best hitter on the Astros, right behind Correa, Altuve, and Springer. Book it.

After being taken second overall in 2015, Bregman made his debut with the Astros on July 25, 2016. He struggled right out of the gate, going 1-for-34 to begin his career before seeming to catch fire and finish the season with a .915 OPS.

One of the biggest debates this offseason with regard to how “real” the Astros were as contenders was which version of Alex Bregman we were going to see. So far in 2017 he has been underwhelming, but I don't expect that to last long.

Fewer Pitches Inside:
Look at the chart below. You can see in 2016 pitchers tried to come inside on Bregman much more than they do in 2017.

The reason for that is simple -- Bregman likes to hit pitches inside and pitcher generally do not like their pitches hit. With that many balls down and away, it's pretty unreasonable to expect Bregman to slug as high as he did last season. When the alternative is seeing pitches crushed, pitchers are going to everything down and away and hope the batter will swing and miss. I don't need to explain this to you, you watched Chris Carter.

More Walks, Fewer Strikeouts:
There are very few things that we as humans can agree on, for instance Chicago vs. New York Style pizza (New York), or which starter Pokemon to choose (Charmander), or whether a hot dog is a sandwich (Trick question: hot dogs are gross and weird and should never be eaten). However, if there is one thing I think most of us can agree on it is that a hitter walking more and striking out less is probably a good thing.

Enter Alex Bregman.


So while Bregman has had a slightly worse stat line, you can see that his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate has gone from Nice to nicer. His ability to lay off those pitches down and away is going to pay dividends when pitchers realize they are going to have to come back towards the plate if they want to get him out.

Silly BABIP, Hits Are For Kids:
Luck is a factor in any sport, and doubly so in the AFC South. Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is one way to measure luck in baseball. In 2016, Bregman had a .317 BABIP, in 2017 it has been .274. League average is around .300.

Bregman batted .264 last season, but has hit just .244 so far this year. He has 55 hits in 225 at-bats this season with that .274 BABIP we talked about earlier. If we adjust his BABIP to .300 (which is league average) he "should" have five more hits for a total of 60.

Those 60 hits would give him a batting average of .266, or almost exactly the same as last year. He's fine.

What Have We Learned?
First, math is hard and I was not planning on using it during my summer break from teaching. Also, Bregman has essentially been producing at the level he did all last year when you adjust for luck and the fact that is walking more, striking out less and having to adjust to major league pitching trying to figure him out.

Bregman is a great hitter who is 23-years-old with just over 100 career games played. The fact that he is hitting like this at all is remarkable and I think we're about to see that he is capable of much more.

Monday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros had baserunners all game long and couldn't push enough of them across including a repeat of Friday night when the potential tying run got thrown out at home. Also Xander Bogaerts had two home runs entering last night's game, and so of course he hit two home runs last night. Frustrating game. The Astros had 14 hits (three doubles, three home runs) and six walks but were 3x15 w/RISP and left 13 on base.

*The 14 hits were the most for the Astros in a loss this season. They're 28-7 when getting 10+ hits in a game this season and are 9-2 when hitting 3+ home runs in a game. The Astros are 4-8 since the 11-game winning streak.

*Derek Fisher was thrown out at second to end the game. Hinch:
Took a perfect throw in a perfect spot to throw him out. It's a risk you're going to take (vs. Kimbrel)

The Astros are now 34-for-51 on stolen bases, a 66.7% success rate that ranks 24th in MLB. The only teams with a lower SB% are Oakland (64.7%), Philadelphia (64.3%), Chicago White Sox (58.7%), Pittsburgh (57.4%), Detroit (56.1%), and Colorado (53.5%). The Astros' success rate seems low for a team full of fast guys.

George Springer is 0-for-3 on stolen base attempts and has been thrown out in 13 of his last 22 attempts dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season. He hasn't successfully stolen a base since August 30, 2016.

You look up and down the order and we had a tremendous amount of good at-bats. Maybe not at the right time when we needed it the most, but even some of those we didn't come through with runners in scoring position were pretty good at-bats. 

*Joe Musgrove was shooting for 100 pitches - he threw 90, allowing 5ER (3ER on two home runs) - the third time this season he has allowed 2HR and his third 5ER start of the season. He didn't pitch poorly.

*Yuli Gurriel was thrown out of the game after arguing about a strikeout. Hinch:
It sucks when it doesn't go your way and you feel you have to cover more than the allotted plate. 

*Dustin Pedroia left MMP to go to the hospital for X-Rays after James Hoyt hit him in the ribs, right after hitting Mookie Betts.

*Jake Marisnick hit a 454-foot home run, his 8th of the season and is one HR shy of tying his career-high. Marisnick has hit 30.8% of his career home runs in 9.1% of his career plate appearances (104 this season).

*Since Opening Day 2014, Jose Altuve leads MLB with a .331 average (min. 1500 PAs). Miguel Cabrera is 2nd at .316.

*At 46-24 here are the Monday Morning Playoff Odds:
FanGraphs: 99.0% to win the division, 99.8% to make the playoffs
Baseball Prospectus: 97.9% to win the division, 99.7% to make the playoffs
FiveThirtyEight: 92% to win the division, 98% to make the playoffs

*Hinch provided updates on four injured starting pitchers:
Keuchel: Playing catch for the first time tomorrow
McCullers: Bullpen today or tomorrow, could return to the rotation against Seattle this weekend
Morton: Looking at a rehab start Thursday in Fresno
McHugh: Will fly today to West Palm Beach to essentially begin a Spring Training

*Brian McCann changed his swing this past offseason

*The Mariners will activate Felix Hernandez from the DL in time for him to face the Astros on Friday.

*Rogelio Armenteros threw four perfect innings in relief for Corpus yesterday, striking out three in a 2-1 Hooks loss. In 60.1IP this season, Armenteros has allowed 39H/11ER with 69K:19BB - a 1.64 ERA/0.96 WHIP.

*Mack Hayes, of "Go Go Astros" fame, is still going strong.

*Spiritualized, The Verve, and 1997's Biggest Secret Love Triangle

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Morning Hot Links

Shorter Hot Links this morning. Happy Fathers' Day.

*David Paulino balled out, throwing 6IP, 3H/1ER in just 81 pitches, and getting his first Major-League win in the process.

*The Astros got three runs in the 1st and three runs in the 3rd off Rick Porcello, with homers by Altuve and Beltran in the 3rd.

*Pitchers are throwing Jose Altuve fewer fastballs.

*Joe Musgrove is shooting for 100 pitches in tonight's Sunday Night Baseball tilt against the Red Sox.

*Lance McCullers may rejoin the rotation this week, and Charlie Morton could be headed for a rehab assignment, as well. God bless us, everyone.

*Nick Cafardo is reporting that the Astros and A's have "mutual interest" in a trade involving Sonny Gray. Both teams are familiar with each other, both with Double-A affiliates in the Texas League, having completed a trade for Scott Kazmir two years ago, and traded Jed Lowrie to each other approximately 46 times.

*The Yankees could make a play for Jose Quintana.

*The County Mountie wrote up some of the pitchers connected to the Astros

*ESPN's Scott Lauber: Is any team having more fun than the Astros? (In which we find out that Brian McCann is "the funny one.")

*Kyle Tucker could be on the fast track to Houston.