Saturday, April 19, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G18: Astros @ Athletics

Brett Oberholtzer (0-3, 3.50) vs Scott Kazmir (2-0, 1.40)

Oh, goatpen. How we did not miss you. Shades of 2013 creeping in, as Houston took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th, looking to close out the win. But then it got tighter. And then it was tied. And then the game had slipped away. Astros lose a heartbreaker, 4-3, and the losing streak is now at 6. They fall to 5-13 on the year.

On the Mound:

*Brett Oberholtzer is trying singlehandedly to make that Michael Bourn trade look not so bad after all. He continues to show the solid command we came to expect last season, and hasn't had a bad start yet this year, today with a 5.2 IP / 8 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 2 BB / 3 K line.

*The bullpen today was actually okay until the 9th, as Anthony Bass turned in 1.1 scoreless innings, allowing only a walk.

*Matt Albers allowed two hits but no runs in his turn in the 8th.

*But then, Chad Qualls. Brought into the save situation, but instead he leaked like a sieve. A walk, four hits (including a solo homer), and three runs allowed in one-third of an inning. Blown save and an earned loss.

At the Plate:

*Jonathan Villar is starting to look like a major league shortstop, y'all. He's shown great strides on defense this year (still errorless to date), he's a burner on the bases, and now he's starting to bring some surprising pop with his bat. Today it was a solo HR, a double, and a run created with his legs after an Oakland error on a stolen base. He finished 2x3.

*George Springer's hitting streak still matches his big league career, and he recorded his first XBH today - a double - to go 1x4 with a K.

*Chris Carter is still looking for his first home run of 2014, but he added his fifth double today, going 1x2 with a BB, a HBP, and R.

*L.J. Hoes also doubled and went 1x4 with 2 K.

*Jose Altuve is 7x7 in SB attempts now after going 1x4 with a pair of steals today.

*Matt Dominguez was 1x4 with Houston's other hit and RBI.

Turning Point:

Chad Qualls' 9th, obviously. The Astros' 3-1 lead had held steady since the 5th, until Dickie Thon Jed Lowrie led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo HR against Qualls. That wouldn't have mattered, but a walk to Josh Donaldson and a single by Yoenis Cespedes put the winning run on base with no outs. Qualls got pinch-hitter John Jaso to K, but that was the only out he would record, as Alberto Callaspo and Josh Reddick followed with back-to-back singles, plating the tying and winning runs.

Man of the Match:

Jonathan Villar. Second straight multi-hit game, and after one HR in 210 AB last year, he's now got 3 in 52.

Goat of the Game:

Chad Qualls. Nope nope nope nope.

Delino DeShields got hit in the face with a baseball

In last night's game for Corpus, DeShields got hit in the face by a 90mph fastball and fractured his cheekbone. He walked off the field, because he's The Man. Want to see a picture? Courtesy of Diamond DeShields - Delino's sister and all-around incredible athlete:

And here's one more, from Delino himself:

From the Office of the County Clerk - G17: Astros @ Athletics

Jarred Cosart (1-1, 4.00) vs Sonny Gray (2-0, 0.95)

Well. Then. Houston managed to get some offense: George Springer and three other Astros had multi-hit games, and the team tied a season high with 10 hits. But the starting pitching was the worst it's been all year, so this one was over pretty much as soon as it started. Oakland stomps the Astros 11-3, sending Houston to their fifth straight loss, and dropping them to 5-12 overall.

On the Mound:

*Congratulations, Jarred Cosart, on Houston's official first disaster start of the season. 7 runs allowed and only one out recorded, so... yeah. Bad. Line: 0.1 IP / 3 H / 7 R / 7 ER / 4 BB / 0 K.

*Paul (Not Roger) Clemens got the undesirably early call from the bullpen, and wasn't worse than Cosart, but obviously that's not saying much. His line: 4.1 IP / 5 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 2 BB / 1 K.

*Matt Albers took over for Clemens to end the 5th and turned in 1.1 IP scoreless, allowing only a single and a walk.

*Raul Valdes made his Houston debut, but allowed a single and two walks in 0.2 IP, resulting in another Oakland run after he left.

*Josh Fields came in with the bases loaded in the 7th and walked in Valdes' run, but recorded four straight outs after that to finish the 8th.

At the Plate:

*In better news, George Springer got his first start in the cleanup spot, his first multi-hit game, his first stolen base, and his first RBI, finishing 2x5 with a K.

*Dexter Fowler got his first multi-hit game since the season opening series against the Yanks, going 2x4 with a R, a BB, and a RBI.

*Jose Altuve led off tonight and went 2x5 with a R.

*Jonathan Villar also went multi-hit, with a 2x4, R, K night.

*Jason Castro had a double to go 1x4 with a BB and 2 K.

*L.J. Hoes had Houston's other hit, going 1x4.

*Chris Carter went 0x4 with 3 K, but had Houston's other RBI on a sac fly.

Turning Point:

The peak of the game for Houston was getting Jason Castro to third base on a double and an error in the 1st, but he didn't score. Then Jarred Cosart's disaster began. So it went: walk, ground out, wild pitch, walk, walk, single, 3-run homer, walk, 2-run homer, shower. 7-0 Oakland before the second out was recorded. Mmyep.

Man of the Match:

George Springer. Three game hitting streak with three games in the majors so far.

Goat of the Game:

Jarred Cosart. Could not throw strikes. Could not get outs.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A timeline of Bo Porter's rage

CSN Houston posted a clip of the press conference in which Bo Porter stared at reporters for 17 seconds before answering how he felt about Matt Dominguez running like a ninnymuggins into the 1st out of the inning with Carter at third base. Here's a break down of those 17 seconds...

 The reporter - presumably Evan Drellich - is in the process of asking Porter about Dominguez's running play. Bo looks down and to the left, recalling the event. In his mind he is rewinding innings 6-9 back to the 5th inning. 

Bo's right eye narrows as he sees Dominguez take a wide turn at first base. The anger is starting to rise in his heart.

The fire is getting stoked. There is a fog of anger creeping up out of his bowels and covering his eyes. Bo is watching, but not seeing. He is present, but also not present. His gaze is set firmly on the 5th inning and Matt Dominguez running like a toddler into the waiting arms of Omar Infante.

Bo looks back towards Drellich at first, but mainly towards the clubhouse where it happened. His eyes show regret. Regret for the crime - the unspeakable crime - he committed. It went too far. And Bo knew it was going too far as his teeth punctured Dominguez's neck..

No matter. The deed has been done. No taking it back now. Gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelette. They'll get the blood out of the carpet. They'll call up another third baseman, another third baseman who knows not to run to second on a single to shallow left. Smile knowing that you have complete control over the clubhouse. The remaining 24 know. They all know.

What you need to know about the offense, in one graph

ESPN's Mark Simon tweeted a graph this morning that pretty much sums up the Astros' "offense" right now:

"WHAV" is the "hard-hit average." So the Astros fall solidly in the quadrant indicating that - when they're hitting the ball (which is not often) - they're not hitting it hard. If you have seen Games 2-15 this season, this graph represents Jack's complete lack of shock.

That said, there are some encouraging things to be found here. Amazingly, they are hitting the ball harder than the Mets, Padres, Cubs, Royals (who of course just swept the Astros). I wonder what would happen if you took out the Astros' 5HR game earlier this week. Also, this crap is just not sustainable, so hopefully it's a matter of time before balls* start falling in.

*May or may not be referring to genitals.

Bo Porter was not happy with Matt Dominguez

If you saw the Royals finish off their sweep of the Astros last night, then you saw Matt Dominguez hit a single to left-center, sending Chris Carter to third base. At the time I thought, "Nice." Because the Astros were down 5-0, which is as insurmountable a lead as the Astros are going to have to overcome lately, there were no outs with runners on 1st and 3rd. AND THEN MATT DOMINGUEZ CAME LUMBERING DOWN THE BASEPATH TRYING TO STRETCH A WEAK SINGLE INTO A 135-FOOT DOUBLE. He was easily thrown out. Like, I could have thrown him out, and my shoulder is all messed up. Like, he didn't even have a chance to try to slide. Like, Omar Infante may have farted out of surprise that Dominguez was even there.

Well, Bo Porter was not at all happy.

It’s just not smart, obviously...I went and asked Matt Dominguez, ‘Do you think you’re invisible? You are down (5-0) and the ball is right in front of you.’ So, to answer your question: No, I don’t like it. There was nothing smart about it, and next question.

Matt Dominguez:

I kind of thought I could get there and then realized I should have went back to first.

UPDATE: Bo Porter stared at reporters for 18 seconds when they asked him about Dominguez's play.

PreStros Morning Report: April 17


*Affiliates go a big ol' 0-4.
*McHugh and Tropeano hold Colorado Springs to four hits through 8.2IP but OKC falls in extra innings.
*Preston Tucker was 2x4 with a double and a homer, but Corpus falls to Frisco on a walk-off.
*Josh Hader allowed 5ER in 2.2IP in an 8-4 Lancaster loss to High Desert.
*Gonzalo Sanudo threw four scoreless innings but Quad Cities gets shutout, 5-0.

Oklahoma City (10-5)

Colorado Springs carried a 1-0 lead into the 7th before newly promoted Enrique Hernandez walked, stole 2nd and scored the tying run on a deflection off the shortstop. A Gregorio Petit sac fly gave OKC the lead in the top of the 10th, but Colorado Springs got it back in the bottom half and then got the walk-off on a double, sac bunt, sac fly for a 3-2 extra-innings win over OKC. Collin McHugh allowed 3H/1ER, 3K:0BB in 5IP; Nick Tropeano gave up just 1H/0ER, 2K:0BB in 3.2IP; Darin Downs took the loss with 3H/2ER in 2IP.

Enrique Hernandez was 2x3 with two walks in his Triple-A debut, Austn Wates was 1x3 with two walks and three stolen bases. Jonathan Meyer (RBI) and Ronny Torreyes (3B) had your other hits.

Man of the Match: McHugh and Tropeano

Corpus (8-5)

Corpus had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th, allowed the tying run, and then gave up the walkoff to Frisco in the bottom of the 9th in a 3-2 loss. Colton Cain gave up 2H/1ER, 3K:3BB in 4IP; Pat Urckfitz threw a perfect 5th; and Brady Rodgers allowed 6H/2R (1ER), 2K:1IBB, HBP to take the loss.

Preston Tucker was 2x4 with a double and a solo homer; Leo Heras was 0x1 with three walks. Rene Garcia, Telvin Nash and Delino DeShields (2B) had your other hits.

Man of the Match: Preston Tucker

Lancaster (10-5)

Lancaster scored three runs in the bottom of the 7th to get within 5-4, but High Desert answered with three of their own in the top of the 8th for an 8-4 win over Lancaster. Chris Devenski allowed 5H/3ER, 5K:1BB; Mitchell Lambson got out of the 5th by striking out the two batters he faced. Josh Hader allowed 6H/5ER, 2K:3BB in 2.2IP; Juan Minaya gave up a hit and struck out two in 1.1IP.

Rio Ruiz (RBI), Brandon Meredith (2BB), and Jake Rodriguez had two hits each; Carlos Correa was 0x4 with a walk; Teoscar Hernandez was 1x4 with a walk and a stolen base. Carlos Perdomo was 1x2 with two walks.

Man of the Match: Brandon Meredith

Quad Cities (7-7)

South Bend scored two in the 5th and three in the 9th and held the River Bandits to five hits in a 5-0 shutout at Quad Cities. Gonzalo Sanudo got his first official start since 2012 and threw 4IP, 3H/0ER, 2K:0BB; Albert Minnis allowed 3H/2R (1ER); Adrian Houser allowed 5H/3ER, 3K:0BB in 3IP and Pat Christensen allowed a two-run hit charged to Houser.

Brett Phillips, Jack Mayfield (2B, BB), Brian Holberton, Tanner Mathis (2B), and Chan Moon (2B) had your hits.

Man of the Match: Gonzalo Sanudo

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good work, everybody

Thursday Morning Hot Links

*LHP Kevin Chapman has been sent down to Triple-A OKC. Chapman - the lone LOOGY in the bullpen - walked the only batter he faced last night. Which has been something of a problem for Chapman this season so far. In six appearances (3.2IP) Chapman gave up 5H/5ER, with 6K:7BB and 2HR allowed. He walked at least one batter in every outing he enjoyed, so in this new weird thing with the front office where, if you can't the job done, you'll get sent down, he's out for now. Raul Valdes has been brought up to take his spot. Valdes gave up a run in his season opener, and in the three appearances since (2.2IP) has allowed 2H/0ER, 4K:0BB. This season 50 of his 76 pitches have been for strikes.

*Justin Maxwell recalls playing with Springer in the minors.

*Evan Drellich says to check back on bringing Jon Singleton up on April 19, which would be the approximate deadline for getting an extra year of team control. Singleton was 3x5 with a double, triple, homer, and 2RBI yesterday for OKC. In 2014 he's hitting .358/.460/.792 with 12 of his 19 hits going for extra bases.

*Mark Appel is getting used to his regular season routine in Lancaster.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G15: Astros v. Royals

Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 3.55) vs Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 3.75)

Happy #SpringerDay! Of course the arrival of George Springer in Houston meant that the Astros were going to go 148-0 for the rest of the season, sweep the World Series, and get baseball reinstated to the Olympics. Of course that didn't happen, either. Even Springer (shockingly) couldn't carry the entire team by himself, and Houston fell to Kansas City 6-4 in 11 innings. The Astros drop to 5-10 on the season.

On the Mound:

*The trend of solid starts by Astros not named Harrell continued, as Dallas Keuchel was on again. Six solid innings, and he left with a 4-2 lead, so no complaints. Line: 6 IP / 6 H / 2 R / 2 ER / 1 BB / 5 K.

*Unfortunately the bullpen couldn't hold that lead, and the trouble started with Brad Peacock in the 7th. Two hits in two thirds of an inning led to two runs charged to his ledger after he left.

*Kevin Chapman got his second scoreless appearance of the season... but faced only one batter and walked him.

*Then Matt Albers' very first pitch resulted in a two-run single that plated both of Peacock's runners. He also had a walk and a K over 1.1 innings, but Albers turns in an officially scoreless outing and gets tagged with a blown save, while Peacock is charged with the tying runs and gets credit for a hold. Reliever stats are stupid.

*Josh Fields at least turned in a perfect 9th, assisted by a force play at first that was originally ruled safe, but challenged and overturned.

*Jerome Williams got the call for free baseball, and allowed two singles in a scoreless 10th, but then allowed two runs in the 11th to earn the loss.

At the Plate:

*But George Springer! George earned the first of his 3000 career hits with an infield single in the 3rd, and scored Houston's first run of the night. But he was also caught stealing after a walk in the 5th, so he finished his obviously much anticipated big league debut going 1x5 with a BB, a R, and 2 K.

*Jason Castro plated Springer for that first run, and himself for the second, with a two-run bomb in the 3rd. The homer was Castro's third of the year, and he finished 2x4 with a BB and a K.

*Marc Krauss got in on the action with his own two-run dinger, going deep in the 6th for his first of the season. He finished 2x4 with a K.

*Jose Altuve is Jose Altuve, going 2x6 with a K.

*Marwin Gonzalez also had a multi-hit night, going 2x4 with a BB and a K.

*Matt Dominguez was 1x5 with Houston's other hit. Jesus Guzman was 0x4 with 2 K, but he did walk once, and scored on Krauss' home run.

Turning Point:

Both teams ended the 10th with two runners aboard, but neither scored. But then Mike Moustakas took Jerome Williams deep on a 2-1 changeup leading off the 11th. The Royals added another run thereafter on a single, steal, sac bunt, fielder's choice exchange, giving them a 6-4 lead going to the bottom of the frame. Then the Astros got two on with two out and Jose Altuve at the plate, but Alex Gordon made a sliding catch on a sinking liner to left that could have tied the score, instead ending the game.

Man of the Match:

Would typically choose a better performance, but on #SpringerDay, it's gotta be George Springer. The kid is legitimately special.

Goat of the Game:

Astros relievers besides Fields. None but Fields did well tonight, and they spoiled Keuchel's solid start and #SpringerDay.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lucas Harrell said all three of his starts were different

With all due respect to Lucas Harrell, he's kind of wrong. He told Mark Berman this morning that, "All three of my starts were way different. The ball caught here, the ball caught there. Bounce this way, bounce that way....all three of my starts were way different. Just one of those things, bad luck."

First, let's start with the inefficency. In his season debut, an 11-1 loss to the Angels, 38 of his 76 pitches were for strikes and there were only three swings and misses. That's a 50% strike-to-pitch ratio. In his second start, a 7-3 loss at Toronto, Harrell threw 107 pitches and got 59 strikes...six of them swinging. That's a 55.1% strike-to-pitch ratio. And in his third start, last night's 4-2 loss to the Royals, 56 of his 101 pitches were for strikes with seven swinging strikes - a 55.4% strike-to-pitch ratio.

In all, Harrell threw 284 pitches, and 153 of them for strikes for a 53.9% Strike rate. So far this season, starters across the other 29 MLB teams have thrown 37646 pitches with 23957 of those pitches for strikes - or a 63.6% Strike rate. In those three starts, 32% of his pitches were in the strike zone. That's not efficient.

Even less efficient is his pitch per out ratio. Harrell needed 284 pitches to record 37 outs, or 7.68 pitches per out, and he faced 66 batters - 4.3 pitches per batter. If we use the total pitch data from the previous paragraph, the other 29 teams' starters needed 37646 pitches in 2313.1IP - or 6940 outs, which works out to be 5.42 pitches per out. Also, the other 29 teams' starters have faced 9821 batters, working out to 3.83 pitches per batter. So Harrell was throwing an extra pitch to every second batter, and needed an extra 2.26 pitches per out. And we're not just talking about every other team's ace.

Now was Lucas Harrell unlucky, as he mentioned? The Astros are shifting far more than any other team in baseball and the problems he's had with the shift are well-documented. And, despite the hell that (Not Hank) Aaron has caught for mentioning BABIP, it's worth noting that Harrell's BABIP is .370, where the rest of MLB's starters are averaging a .295 BABIP. It's also worth mentioning that Harrell generated a groundball rate right at 50%. And 18.2% of the flyballs he's giving up are leaving the yard. Considering that the Astros - as a team, including Harrell - have an 8.2% HR/FB rate, he's the outlier.

In short Harrell threw too many pitches and the pitches that did cross the plate were getting tattooed.  Opposing hitters had a 100% contact rate on pitches thrown inside the strike zone. If they hit a fly ball, there was a higher-than-average chance that it would leave the yard.

Nope, Lucas Harrell's starts were pretty much the same.

Happy George Springer Day!

A running post of George Springeralia:

3:08pm: George Springer will hit 2nd tonight.

12:32pm: Luhnow wants to see Singleton establish a track record of success at OKC before bringing him up. Chris Carter breathes a sigh of relief.

12:31pm: Morgan Ensberg would like everyone to chill out about Springer.

11:45am: The rest of you Astros are on notice. "Guys that don't produce aren't going to stick around." - Jeff Luhnow

11:40am: Baseball America on what to expect from Springer.

11:39am: Jerome Williams or Brad Peacock will likely take Harrell's rotation spot.

10:44am: "We've got a lot of good guys in the system, hopefully this is the first of many really good ones to come." - Jim Crane

10:39am: Lucas Harrell told Mark Berman, "All three of my starts were way different. The ball caught here, the ball caught there. Bounce this way, bounce that way....all three of my starts were way different. Just one of those things, bad luck."

10:18am: Scott Feldman has been reinstated from the Bereavement List, so there's your corresponding Harrell move.

10:11am: Crawfish Boxes has What To Expect from Springer

10:10am: The Astros still have one 40-Man roster spot.

10:08am: Mike Acosta posted this beautiful picture:

9:15am: "Excited for my boy (George Springer) debut! Couldn't have happened to a better teammate! #bestplayeriveeverplayedwith" - OKC's Erik Castro

9:11am: "Good seats available for tonight in case you aren't doing anything." - Jeff Luhnow

9:06am: "Good job by astros to call up future star George Springer without a longterm deal in place. And there is no long deal yet." - Jon Heyman.

8:56am: Check out a special edition of the Astros County Morning Drive (thanks to Tim & the Crawfish Boxes for hooking me up)

8:52am: Exclusive photo of George Springer getting off the plane:

8:28am: "Good to see astros calling up multialented OF george springer. some scouts say ss carlos correa, 19, is ready for bigs too." - Jon Heyman

8:24am: Brian McTaggart has a list of notable Astros debuts.

8:16am: Check out David Coleman's thoughts on the last 12 hours, as well.

8:15am: Jayne at What The Heck, Bobby has some good thoughts about what this means.

7:52am: Springer will wear #4 - formerly worn by Craig Biggio.

7:26am: "Happy first day of Springer!" - Keith Law

Springer up, Harrell/Grossman down


Lucas Harrell - fresh off a 5IP, 5H/4ER, 4K:3BB loss last night to drop his ERA to 9.49 - has been designated for assignment and Robbie Grossman - who was 0x4 with three strikeouts, and a misplayed Harrell ball that allowed a run to score - was optioned to Oklahoma City last night.

Harrell - who actually did strike out the side in the 2nd, and was hurt by a couple of defensive mistakes:
Things happen. No matter what happens you got to make pitches. Sometimes bad luck is really not bad luck. It's making bad pitches.

The corresponding move? George Herman Babe Springer has been called up. Springer was hitting .353/.459/.647 after scoring four runs and hitting a grand slam in last night's win at Colorado Springs. In 75 Triple-A games (327 PAs) dating back to last season, Springer hit .319/.431/.630 with 21 homers, 26 stolen bases, 80K:50BB.

Springer's reaction:
It's just an indescribable feeling. I'm speechless right now.

Same, George Springer. Same.

PreStros Morning Report: April 15


*Astros affiliates end up going 2-3 on the day.
*Former RedHawk George Springer hit a grand slam as OKC wins their 6th straight road game.
*Matt Heidenreich threw three perfect innings with five strikeouts, but Corpus dropped their 2nd straight 2-1 game to Springfield.
*Teoscar Hernandez knocked in Tony Kemp in the top of the 9th for a 5-4 win at High Desert
*Quad Cities split last night's double-header with West Michigan on Austin Elkins' Game 2 walk-off.

Oklahoma City (9-4)

The RedHawks have now won six straight road games after jumping out to a 7-0 lead at Colorado Springs, and then having to hold on to win 11-9. Mike Foltynewicz had a nice bounceback start, allowing 4H/1ER, 6K:2BB in 5IP; Rudy Owens got lit up for 6H/5R (4ER), 1K:0BB in 1.1IP; Chia-Jen Lo allowed two homers for two runs (plus one of Owens'); Jason Stoffel gave up two hits but no runs, and Josh Zeid recorded his first save of the season despite allowing a 9th inning homer.

George Springer - more on him in the next post - went 3x4 with a grand slam - and four runs scored; Jon Singleton and Max Stassi (2RBI) were each 2x5 with a double. Austin Wates and Carlos Perez each had a hit and a walk.

Man of the Match: George Springer

Corpus (8-4)

Corpus dropped their second straight 2-1 game at home to Springfield Tuesday night. Tommy Shirley allowed 5H/2ER with 6K:1BB in 4.1IP to take the hard-luck loss. Andrew Robinson allowed a hit in 0.2IP...and that was it for Springfield hits. Matt Heidenreich threw three perfect innings with five strikeouts and Theron Geith and Jorge De Leon finished out the 9th with no hits allowed.

Preston Tucker was 2x4 with a double and an outfield assist; Leo Heras was 1x2 with a walk and the lone RBI, driving in Enrique Hernandez who was 1x4 witha double.

Man of the Match: Matt Heidenreich

Lancaster (9-4)

With Lancaster and High Desert tied 4-4 in the top of the 9th, Tony Kemp drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Teoscar Hernandez did what Teoscar Hernandez does, doubling in Kemp for the game-winning go-ahead run. Kyle Westwood threw 5IP, 3H/2ER, 1K:1BB with 10 groundball outs to three flyball outs. Vince Velasquez allowed 3H/2ER, 3K:1BB in 3IP, and Jamaine Cotton got his 2nd save of the year.

Teoscar Hernandez (2B, RBI) and Carlos Correa (3B, RBI, SB) were each 2x5. Dan Gulbransen was 2x4, and Tony Kemp (RBI), Rio Ruiz, and Roberto Pena each had a hit and a walk.

Man of the Match: Carlos Correa

Quad Cities (6-6)

Double-header to make up the 4/14 game canceled by snow.

Game 1: Quad Cities had a 3-0 lead heading into the top of the 4th, but West Michigan scored six of the next seven runs in a 6-4 win. Kent Emanuel allowed 7H/4R (3ER), 3K:1BB (and picked off two runners at first base) and Chris Cotton allowed 6H/2ER, 1K:0BB in 3IP. James Ramsay was 2x3 with a double, triple, and a walk. Brian Holberton hit his first homer of the season, and Jon Kemmer had an RBI double. Conrad Gregor was 1x2 with a walk, RBI, and run scored.

Man of the Match: James Ramsay

Game 2: Jon Kemmer doubled to lead off the 8th (extra-innings, remember) and Austin Elkins drove him home for the walk-off. Jandel Gustave gave up 5H/1R (0ER), 6K:2BB in 4.2IP; Pat Christensen threw 1.1IP, allowing a hit and two strikeouts. Andrew Walter got the win with 2IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB. Austin Elkins had the game-winning hit; Conrad Gregor and Jon Kemmer both had doubles, and Tyler White had a hit and a walk.

Man of the Match: Jandel Gustave

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Diagnosing the Astros Offense

We've all been seeing a lot of weeping and gnashing of the teeth after this weekend saw the Astros lose 1-0 twice and score in only 2 of the 31 innings during the three game set against the Rangers. A lot has been made of the teams' abysmal .189 batting average. That's really bad. So bad, its actually impressive the Astros have managed to score a hair under 3 runs a game on the young season.

So what's the culprit for the putrid offense? Its easy to blame the strikeouts. The Astros struck out in 24.5% of their AB's. That's a high number, but not the leagues worst. (Just for fun, if you take out Kris Karter, its a much more reasonable 23%, which would be middle of the pack.) The walk rate is roughly league average as well, and much better than last year. The batted ball numbers, such as line drive rate, groundball rate and flyball rate all seem fairly normal, though they could be hitting a few more line drives. Nothing there that would explain the incredibly low batting average, worst in the majors by 30 percentage points.

The real culprit is the .218 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). That number excludes all strikeouts and homeruns, and calculates the remaining batting average on everything put in play. .218 is ridiculously low, trailing the second to last place Blue Jays by over 30 percentage points. It would be the lowest in baseball history, besting the 1968 Yankees by over 20 percentage points. Its even rare for an individual player to have a BABIP this low, let alone an entire team. In fact, the .218 team BABIP would place the Astros in the bottom 30 for an individual player, since 1920.

Believe it or not, this is actually really good news. The .218 BABIP does not represent some fatal flaw in the Astros approach or roster construction. It is nothing more than bad luck, stemming from small sample size, and nothing more. BABIP hovers between .280 and .320, and anything different than that, especially to the extreme found here, is due for a regression. The 2013 Marlins had one of the worst offenses of all time last year and had a .280 BABIP. The Astros' BABIP last year was a healthy .304. On an individual player level, every player struggling right now is battling an absurdly low BABIP. Dominguez, Villar, Castro, Krauss and Grossman are all sporting BABIPs below .200. The exception is Carter, who is doing fine on the balls put in play, but is just not doing that very often.

A century plus of baseball history tells us these numbers will regress back to the normal range. Base hits will start to fall. Balls will find the gaps for doubles and triples. The solo homeruns the Astros have been hitting will start to be two and three runs shots. This will all happen without the help of Springer and Singelton, who will hopefully help the offense even more, when those moves are made.

None of that is to say the offense will be good. That remains to be seen. But right now the offense is being weighed down by a ridiculously low BABIP. Once that weight is, inevitably, lifted, we will get a sense of what this offense can really accomplish. In fact, we can expect that regression to start to happen tonight.

More scouting reports out of Lancaster

Yesterday I gave you the skinny on a couple scouting reports for Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel. Well, Baseball Prospectus was holding out on us, and posted a few more this morning. In this post, they look at Teoscar Hernandez (who has 5 triples already this season,) Tony Kemp, Rio Ruiz, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Appel again. There's a lot of good info in their reports, but let's look at the bottom line for each player.

Teoscar Hernandez - "I like the bat and I like his glove; I'd put a 5-plus on his ceiling, with a fourth outfielder as the most likely."

Tony Kemp - "ceiling to me is a utility guy who can play second and all the outfield spots; Skip Schumaker–type player."

Rio Ruiz - "young for the level, let's see if he makes some adjustments....not going to write him off after two subpar games."

Carlos Correa - "Man, I'm in love with this guy...just give it some time"

Lance McCullers - "delivery routinely gets out of whack...Had no clue where the ball was going...eighth-inning guy long-term"

Mark Appel - "much more athletic than I thought going 2 starter ceiling with a workhorse no. 3 as the floor."

As much as I pulled for those quotes, there's so much more in their fairly detailed scouting reports. Definitely worth checking out.

PreStros Morning Report: April 14


*Astros affiliates get their first 0-3.
*George Springer homers but OKC pitching blows it open in a 14-8 OKC loss to New Orleans.
*Luis Cruz and Ross Seaton hold Springfield to three hits, but lose 2-1.
*Rio Ruiz and Teoscar Hernandez combined for a 7x10 night with four doubles, a homer, and 9RBI, but the High Desert moonscape ballpark leads to an 11-10 JetHawks loss.
*Quad Cities' game with West Michigan postponed due to snow.

Oklahoma City (8-4)

Well. New Orleans jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first inning, tacked on five more in the 5th and then two in the 8th and 9th for a 14-8 whoopin' of OKC. No pitcher did all that well - David Martinez gave up 6H/5ER, 0K:2BB in 4IP; Bobby Doran allowed 4H/6ER, 2K:3BB in 3.1IP and Darin Downs allowed 4H/3ER, 1K:2BB in 1.2IP.

Still, OKC did get eight runs. George Springer was 2x3 with a solo homer, Jon Singleton (RBI) and Erik Castro (2RBI) were each 1x3 with two walks. Gregorio Petit, Max Stassi (2B), and Domingo Santana each got a hit and a walk.

Man of the Match: George Springer

Corpus (8-3)

Springfield scored a run in the first and the second inning, and that was all they needed in a 2-1 win at blustery Corpus where a 24mph wind blowing in from left field. Luis Cruz threw 5IP, allowing just 2H/2R (1ER), 3K:2BB; Ross Seaton threw 4IP allowing just 1H/0ER, 5K:0BB.

Andrew Aplin was 3x4 with the lone RBI while Nolan Fontana was 2x3 with a double, triple, and a walk. Leo Heras and MP Cokinos got your only other hits on the night.

Man of the Match: Cruz and Seaton.

Lancaster (8-4)

Wild one at High Desert. In a back-and-forth game, Lancaster had a 10-9 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th, but the Mavericks got two runs and held on for an 11-10 win over Lancaster. Mark Appel threw 3IP, 5H/3ER, 4K:0BB with two of those runs coming off a homer - but he did record four groundball outs and zero flyball outs. Juan Minaya allowed 2H/1ER, 1K:1BB in 1IP; Mike Hauschild allowed 8H/5ER, 3K:3BB in 3IP; J.D. Osborne faced two batters, walked them both, and Jamaine Cotton allowed both of those go-ahead runs to score.

Rio Ruiz was 4x5 with two doubles, his first homer of the season, and 5RBI; Teoscar Hernandez was 3x5 with two doubles, a walk, 4RBI and an outfield assist. Carlos Correa and Jordan Scott (2B, 2BB) had two hits each.

Man of the Match: Rio Ruiz

Quad Cities

Postponed - snow. Yep. Snow.