Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Morning Hot Links

*Charlie Morton and the Astros got slapped around by the Marlins yesterday 15-7:

Morton threw 3.1IP, 11H/9ER, 1K:3BB.
Yoanys Quiala threw 1.2IP, 4H/4ER, 2K:0BB
Joe Smith, Will Harris, and Ken Giles combined for 3IP, 2H/0ER, 6K:0BB.
Erasmo Pinales allowed the final two runs of the game.

I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand well, but everything else was awful...Getting hit around that bad, that's something that gets me going a little bit, which I think is good.

*Chandler Rome writes about how Justin Verlander helped Jose Altuve figure out this whole "massive contract extension" thing.

*Could Tony Kemp unseat Derek Fisher for the Opening Day roster? It's possible. Hinch:
He's putting on a pretty good push late to be an extra bench player for us. He's battling Fisher for the spot in the outfield that I think most people thought coming into camp Fish was the leading candidate, if not the guy to do it. 

*Mike Lupica writes that Brian McCann is playing for the right club at the right time. McCann:
We were all so exhausted by the time Game 7 was over. I honestly think it took a while to take a step back, or two, or three, and fully appreciate what we'd done. But we did appreciate it in the moment. I know I did. I know how many players in this game might play their whole careers and never even make it to the postseason, much less play in a World Series and win one.

*Jon Heyman gives the Astros 7:2 odds to win the World Series again in 2018.

*Heyman, who must be jockeying for election to the National Scouts Hall of Fame, wrote about how the Astros are better this year than they were last year...right after slamming them (again) for getting rid of some scouts.

*While there is much love for Jim Crane here on this weird cul-de-sac of the internet, what the MLB owners did to minor-league players - getting language in the new federal spending bill that exempts minor-leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act - is reprehensible and all 30 owners should be ashamed of themselves, if they're even capable of such an emotion. That said, FanGraphs' Nathaniel Grow has a good look at the language in the Save America's Pastime Act:
Rather than entirely excluding minor leaguers from the right to the minimum wage - as had originally been feared - the provision's focus was actually a bit narrower. Instead, it simply provides that minor leaguers are not entitled to overtime benefits when working more than 40 hours in a week, so long as they are otherwise paid a weekly salary compliant with the federal minimum wage (at least during baseball's regular season).

*Yahoo Sports' AL West Preview has a section on how the Astros "could" win the AL West:
The Astros are the best, and possibly deepest, team in baseball. It's possible World Series fatigue is a thing - many of the Cubs' pitchers saw some decline last season - so staving that off will be key. But unless the Angels find a way to clone Mike Trout three times, the Astros are winning the West.

Even though I kinda sorta debunked the idea of the World Series Hangover in The Athletic, let's take a look at the Astros rotation's total IP in 2017, regular season and playoffs, and compare it to the Cubs rotation's total IP in 2016, regular season and playoffs:

2018 Astros' rotation IP in 2017:

Justin Verlander: 242.2
Gerrit Cole: 203
Dallas Keuchel: 173.1
Charlie Morton: 170
Brad Peacock: 144.1
Lance McCullers: 139.1
Collin McHugh: 69.1

2017 Cubs' rotation IP in 2016

Jon Lester: 238.1
Jake Arrieta: 219.2
Kyle Hendricks: 215.1
John Lackey: 201.1

All four of the Cubs' returning starters in 2017 had thrown over 200IP in the previous season. In the Astros' case, Verlander threw a ton of innings (but he's used to throwing a ton of innings: he's averaged 225 regular season IP in his 13-year career). Cole threw 200IP, but super-cautious DL stints for Keuchel, McCullers, Morton, McHugh, and Peacock's transition to and from the bullpen limited the wear on their arms. I'm tired of doing all this work for the media for free.

*Tom Verducci on the launch angle era.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

One week from tonight we will watch the Defending Champion Houston Astros play a game that counts.

*Collin McHugh is getting used to the idea of being EveryPitcher:
I think for A.J., it will be kind of his new responsibility to figure out the best way to use me, the most effective and best way to keep me sharp, but also fit me into an already talented bullpen and rotation.

*James Hoyt is dealing with a strained oblique and, while he's "not completely shutdown," not pitching in the final week of Spring Training could be the opening the immortal (and not necessarily in a good way) Tony Sipp needs to make the Opening Day roster.

*Chandler Rome writes that the Astros have a tough choice between J.D. Davis and Tyler White. Hinch:
It's 1A and 1B, it's not like one is separating themselves from the other. Eventually, we'll have to make a decision.

Won't we all, A.J., won't we all...

*Yuli Gurriel may not open the season on the Disabled List.

*Carlos Correa is FanGraphs' top shortstop. FanGraphs:
This is a special, special player, and on a Houston squad already at the top of its game and with no immediately discernible weaknesses, he continues to stand out as one of the league's brightest stars.

*Ben Lindbergh writes in The Ringer that tanking hasn't killed baseball's hope and faith:
When baseball has a period of atypical parity, some commentators complain that there are no great teams. When the great teams return, other pundits worry that there are too many terrible ones. The purported crisis varies, but baseball abides.

*SI: How Charley Pride went from Negro League player to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros were off yesterday. We are ten days away from Opening Day, nearing the end of the most interminable offseason ever. FanGraphs has given us a gift, however, and there will be more on this later, but their first Playoff Odds projection has gone live.

The Astros, as of the projections, are at:
96.3% to win the AL West
98.7% to make the playoffs
60.1% to win the ALDS
36.3% to win the Pennant
24.5% to win the World Series

World Series odds as of this morning:
Houston: 24.5%
Chicago: 13.4%
Los Angeles: 12.3%
Cleveland: 12.1%
New York: 11.6%
Washington: 7.6%

God bless us, everyone.

*Check out Jeff Sullivan's pre-season explainer on the 2018 Strength of Schedule.

*Mike Lupica says GMs are looking for their own A.J. Hinch.

*Sports Illustrated made their prediction: Nationals over Yankees. Oh and be sure to check out the sweet two SI covers that feature the Yankees (of course) and the [squints] Angels.

*The Astros as a team are excited for Jose Altuve. Justin Verlander, on Altuve's extension:
Even in my short time here, I've easily seen what he means to that city and how that city has embraced him. In this clubhouse, I think everybody is ecstatic for him. This is a very unique seems like family; everybody gets along so well. I think everyone is so excited for him and his family and truly, truly happy to see somebody like Jose be able to sign a contract like that. 

*Hunter Atkins writes that, if Jay Bruce can steal a base on the Astros' catchers, the rest of the league is probably going to try.

*Jenny Dial Creech: Alex Bregman is living his best life.

*Eno Sarris has a good look in The Athletic ($) on the two adjustments that J.D. Davis made this offseason.

*Jonathan Mayo has a Q&A with 2017 1st Round pick J.B. Bukauskas, in which he talks about getting ready for his first full season of pro ball and working on his changeup.

*There will be a free event - Domecoming - on April 9, where you can go inside the Astrodome before the renovations start. Registration starts today.

*Jesse Rogers talked to Ted Barrett about life behind the catcher.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*I feel like the Astros are in one of those New England college basketball conferences, ones where it feels like (just by watching the ticker at the bottom of ESPN) Iona, Siena, Albany, and Binghamton play each other 100 times during the season. The Astros are in that conference, only playing the Mets, Nationals, and Cardinals.

Iona beat Siena 2-0 yesterday. Carlos Correa hit his 1st home run of the Spring. Justin Verlander was dealing: 7IP, 5H/0ER, 3K:1BB. Verlander:
I was around the zone a lot, my offspeed stuff probably wasn't as sharp as it's been this spring today. But I was still able to make some good pitches, quality pitches when I needed to. If anything, I might have been around the zone too much, but overall, it was a good day.

*Big news of the day yesterday was the Astros officially announcing the Altuve extension. Here are the details, year by year:

Upon approval by the Commissioner's office: $1m
2018 salary: $6m
July 1, 2018: $10m signing bonus
2019 salary: $6.5m
July 1, 2019: $10m signing bonus
2020 salary: $26m
2021 salary: $26m
2022 salary: $26m
2023 salary: $26m
2024 salary: $26m

So the Astros will officially pay Jose Altuve more in 2018 than they will, say, Tony Sipp. I'll have a breakdown of future payroll soon. Notice that the deal kicks in right in as Verlander's deal comes off the books.

We'd love to keep all the guys I'm looking at here for their entire careers. Jim is committed to keeping the best team on the field for as long as possible and giving us a chance to win multiple championships, and part of that is developing our own players and keeping our own players and bringing in the right types of players. And we've done that. We'll see what the future holds but we certainly have a desire and an intention to keep our core together as long as possible.

*Sean Pendergast has four thoughts on the Altuve deal.

*USA Today's Jorge L. Ortiz says Altuve can make more money with bonuses for awards and a no-trade clause. Agent Scott Boras:
This was a goal of his, because he was able to stay in Houston, he got a value he was proud of. This contract represents a five-year, over $30 million commitment, which only one other (position) player has in all of baseball at that: his countryman Miguel Cabrera. It gave him respect.

*Brian McTaggart says the Astros back-to-back tour has started.

*Brian T. Smith writes that it's easy to believe the Astros have a decent encore prepared.

*A couple of pieces from Jake Kaplan in The Athletic worth reading:
-After years of discussions, the Astros and Altuve struck another long-term deal.
-Q&A with new bench coach Joe Espada. Espada was the Yankees' 3B coach, and about that ALCS:
...How clean (Houston) played in that series, credit goes to the coaching staff and how good these players are. That's one of the reasons why I said, 'I've gotta be an Astro.'

*A.J. Reed came to Spring Training down 25 pounds, hit .298/.365/.511, and just got optioned to minor-league camp. It's obviously now between J.D. Davis and Tyler White on who makes the Opening Day roster - and I still think the bulk of the 1B reps while Gurriel is out will be held down by Marwin.

*Gerrit Cole can't stop smiling.

*Baseball America posted their Bold Predictions for the 2018 season which includes the Astros winning the AL West but only one writer picking them to win the Pennant, and then lose the World Series.

*"Can Derek Fisher play left field" is one of Richard Justice's ten burning questions for 2018.

*Here's a cool story in his hometown paper about Astros' manager of research & development Colin Wyers.

*Brandon Bailey - who came to Houston from Oakland in the Ramon Laureano trade - has a fun blog post about a recent day in camp.

*Further proof that Jeff Luhnow is an omnipotent cyborg: Franklin Perez, the center-piece of the Verlander deal, has a lat strain and will be out for three months minimum.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

The Astros lost to the Braves 6-3 yesterday. Tony Sipp allowed 1H/1ER, 0K:1BB in 1IP. Collin McHugh gave up 2H/2ER, 3K:1BB in 1IP. Carlos Correa was 2x3.

Opening Day is 10 days away.

*A.J. Hinch set the starting rotation to open the season yesterday. It'll go like this:
SP1: Justin Verlander
SP2: Dallas Keuchel
SP3: Lance McCullers, Jr.
SP4: Gerrit Cole
SP5: Charlie Morton

The guy who won two Game 7s last postseason is this year's fifth starter. Deep. Hinch:
I think we could go any order and have an argument. Really from the beginning of the rotation, that's a tribute to the pitching staff that (Luhnow) built to give us a deep rotation. 

This is the order, in part, because Hinch is giving the home opener start to Charlie Morton. Hinch:
I think that's something special that he's earned. 

*The Astros sent five players to minor-league camp yesterday: Kyle Tucker, Garrett Stubbs, Jack Mayfield, Jon Kemmer, and Francis Martes. Hinch, on Martes:
We want him to start, which is the main reason we wanted to send him out. His development has come fast, he got up to the big leagues very quickly and got pushed to the bullpen very quickly because of need. We want to make sure that he's continuing to develop as a starter. 

*Jake Kaplan has a good piece in The Athletic about Tucker, and how we'll see him again soon.

*Jose Altuve is getting a signing bonus: $1m on approval, $10m in 2018, $10m in 2019.

*Cody Bellinger, famous for prematurely shushing the Minute Maid Park crowd in Game 5 and also for hitting .143 with 17K in 28ABs in the World Series, hasn't watched the World Series replays:
I already knew. I knew what was coming and I still didn't...hit.

*The new federal spending bill could include an exemption of minor-leaguers from federal labor laws...which would result in continuing to play baseball for billionaires for less than a living wage.