Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

We did it. We survived the first stretch of 9pm starts. Three down, just 20 more to go - next 9pm start is May 7-9 at Oakland. Bats back? Bats back. 7-1 win over Seattle. The Astros are 12-7, 1-1 when the Rockets play a playoff game. The Rockets are 2-0 in playoff games when the Astros also play.

*Turning point in the game was Derek Fisher's over-the-fence grab of Jean Segura's flyball to left in the bottom of the 5th, when the game was 1-1. Hinch:
It was a big momentum play with the way the game was going. Everybody exhales and then we come back and score a lot of runs. So it obviously was a turning point.

*The Astros' six-run 7th inning is a new season-high for an inning - they had scored five runs in an inning twice this season. Eleven Astros came to the plate. FACT: Eleven Astros didn't come to the plate in the entire game combined against Bartolo Colon.

*Houston got five extra-base hits - all doubles - for the first time since April 2. They had four extra-base hits in their three previous games combined.

We're a good offense, don't forget that. It was coming and there's more to come. As the game went on our at-bats got better and better, which is encouraging. I don't think we can allow a rough patch to get in the way of the reality that we're a really good hitting club.

*Mariners SP Mike Leake:
I left a few balls up. And with a lineup like that, you don't get many chances.

*Jose Altuve grounded into two double plays, his first GIDPs of the season. The last time he GIDPd twice was April 7, 2017 against the Royals, and it's just the 9th time he's done it in his career.

*Marwin was 2x4 with two runs scored, yet has not had an extra-base hit since April 9.

*The Astros struck out ten more times, giving them 10 double-digit strikeout games in 19.

*Derek Fisher was 0x4 with 3K. Fisher and Marisnick are a combined 10x77 with 41K:2BB in 80 plate appearances.

*Gerrit Cole was lights out, throwing 7IP, 5H/1R (0ER), 5K:2BB. Only five strikeouts? Garbage. ESPN Stats says Cole is the 6th pitcher in MLB history to strike out at least 40 batters in his first four starts with a new team.

*Joe Smith and Collin McHugh retired the 8th and 9th inning in order.

*Last night was the 11th time in 19 games the Astros have allowed two or fewer runs.

*In The Athletic, Jake Kaplan breaks down where the worry spots are for the Astros' offense.

*Collin McHugh brought some grasshoppers down to the clubhouse last night.

*Check this slideshow from the Chronicle with 15 album covers reimagined with Astros players.

*The Dallas Keuchel Smoke Stack 60 claimed its first victim.

*Ben Reiter - the Sports Illustrated Guy who wrote the 2017 World Series Champs article back in 2014 - has a book coming out in July called Astroball: The New Way to Win it All.

*There's a debate over whether or not Allie LaForce - reliever Joe Smith's wife - should have asked LeBron for his thoughts on the passing of Pop's wife.

*Mike Scioscia thinks Ohtani's next start will come in Houston next week.

*Hardball Times: The physics of Bryce Harper's broken-bat blast.

*How Hiram Bithorn Stadium was salvaged in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

*From Eno Sarris in The Athletic: How Adam Ottavino designed a new pitch.

*Derrick Goold has a great piece about John Brebbia and minor-league pay.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

Another starting pitcher rolls, but the Astros actually come through with a few runs (though not as many as they should have), win the game, and we learn how to love again. Astros win 4-1. They're 11-7.

*McCullers' line: 7IP, 1H/1ER, 11K:1BB. 69 of his 102 pitches were for strikes. After allowing a 2-out home run to Cano, McCullers retired 19 of the next 20 batters he faced.

His career vs. Seattle: 55.2IP, 39H/17ER, 70K:21BB - a 2.75 ERA / 1.09 WHIP. McCullers:
Those guys can really bang. They've got a great hitting team and a great team in general. They have a lot veteran leadership over there, a lot of of guys who are the greats of our generation, especially Robby and obviously Ichiro. When you face those guys, you've got to be on top of your game. Maybe they bring the best out in me.

*Chandler Rome notes that McCullers threw 17 changeups in his first three starts of the season, and 16 changeups last night.

*Robinson Cano, on McCullers:
I don't think he changed anyone's approach because we all know how he goes to his pitch, his breaking ball. He's not a guy who's trying to beat you with his fastball. He's confident in what he's got and puts it where he wants. You have to give the guy credit. He knows how to pitch.

*Chris Peixoto notes that the Astros have seven double-digit strikeout games from their starters this year, the most in MLB history through 18 games.

*Lin-Ariel Miranda had not thrown a pitch in the Majors this season. The full and complete list of pitchers who allowed more home runs than Miranda in MLB in 2017: Rick Porcello. The Astros loaded the bases twice, and were 2x9 w/RISP. Josh Reddick was 0x3 w/RISP.

*Jake Marisnick: 0x4, 4 strikeouts. That's 24 strikeouts (and no walks) in 45 plate appearances. He got his 24th strikeout through 61 PAs last season, but also had a .914 OPS to go with it.

*Brian McCann was 1x1 with two walks and hit his first home run of the season last night, a 2-run blast that let the Astros breathe a little bit.

*Tony Sipp will be activated from the DL today, so James Hoyt is heading back to Fresno.

*Fresno got eight runs in the first inning and have won seven straight games. Fresno is also donating leftover food from home games to the homeless, and that's very cool.

*Shohei Ohtani left his start against Boston after 2IP, 3ER, and a blister on his finger.

*The Hardball Times: 10 interesting facts about Tommy John Surgery.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Hey guess who forgot they hadn't done their taxes and has/had (depending on when you're reading this) to be at H&R Block by 7am!? Last night was our first late night Astros Baseball Experience of the season, the first of three this week. So if you like not sleeping and extreme mood swings, then the next 72 hours are for you.

*This run that the Astros are currently on is impressive, actually. Oh, and hey, me predicting the Astros would get two hits last night was supposed to be a joke. They got three. The Astros are 10-7. As a team they are "hitting" .233/.317/.362 - a .679 OPS. "Good enough" for 18th in MLB, and 9th in the AL. They just dropped two of three games at home to one of the teams lower on the list. Their wRC+ (a stat that measures offense relative to the league in which 100 is average) is 97.

*Mariners pitcher James Paxton was typically dominant against Houston. Paxton vs Houston since the beginning of last season: 27.1IP, 19H/5ER, 27K:9BB. That includes his September 15, 2017 start in which he threw 1.1IP, 4H/3ER, 0K:2BB. Springer (who had two of the Astros' three hits), on Paxton:
He's tough. He throws hard and has a great angle on high ball. It's kind of one of those things where I'm looking for something to hit, and hopefully I don't miss it. 

*The Astros have six hits in their last 19 innings played. Since hanging ten runs on Baltimore on April 3, the Astros have scored 30 runs in those eleven games, and that includes the eight runs they scored in the 9-8 loss at Minnesota. They've lost five of their last six games. Hinch:
That's how it's been the last couple of days. We just have no margin for error, but our starter keeps giving us plenty of opportunities. If we keep doing that, we're going to be happy with it. 

*The Astros have scored 0-2 runs in six of their last ten games.

*Dallas Keuchel had an impressive complete game start: 8IP, 6H/2ER, 6K:1BB, but starts the season 0-3 for the first time in his career.

*The Mariners are now 6-20 against Houston since the beginning of 2017. The Astros are 7-3 at Safeco in that span.

*Gerorge hit his 4th home run of the year, the first against a pitcher not named Cole Hamels.

*Jake Marisnick was 0x3 with two more strikeouts, giving him 20 strikeouts in 41 plate appearances. He has not yet drawn a walk this season. In 41 plate appearances, Marisnick has worked the count to three balls seven times and has not seen a 2-0 or a 3-0 count. He's 1x11 with 6Ks w/RISP and two outs.

I think our at-bats over the last few weeks have been great. It's not like we're facing a bad guy out there. These guys are tough, these guys are good, that's why they're up here.

*With his first out of the game, Dallas Keuchel became the 16th pitcher in Astros history, and the 5th lefty, to throw 1000IP for the club.

*Tonight, Bob Dutton notes, Jose Altuve will play in his 1000th game for the Astros. Altuve:
I didn't know that, but thanks to God for the opportunity to be part of that club. To have 1,000 games in the big leagues means a lot to me. Hopefully, I can play many more. 

*Justin Verlander was named the AL Player of the Week after he threw 15IP, allowed one earned run, and struck out 20 Twins and Ramgers. In nine regular season starts for the Astros from 2017-2018, Justin Verlander has allowed eight earned runs in 60.2IP. Lance McCullers Jr. (whom I love as my own son) allowed eight earned runs in the 4th inning against the Twins last week.

*Tony Sipp is eligible to come off the DL tomorrow and the Astros will meet to determine if he needs a rehab stint.

*SI's Jon Tayler has an excellent look at just how unlikely Sunday night's game could have been.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown has another pair of eyes on Gerrit Cole and compares him to Max Scherzer. He also makes a really good point about all these cancellations that made me delete a paragraph I had already written about it.

*Here's Our Boy Jake Kaplan with a look at how A.J. Hinch is playing the late-and-close matchups, using three pitchers to finish games so far this season.

*The Athletic'$ Tim Britton brings it with an oral history of Patriots Day 2013, or how the Red Sox helped heal Boston after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

*Elite marathoner Shalane Flanagan needed to use the restroom. Desiree Linden waited for her, and then won the Boston Marathon.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

I mean...So the thing is...What happened last night was...

Justin Verlander pitched a great game and the Astros' offense has yet to really figure it out. Hats off to 44-year old Bartolo Colon, who was perfect through seven innings despite only throwing fastballs topping out around 91mph. Good work, Astros hitters [eyes roll out of head]. Over the course of a 162-game season there are going to be some silly stretches. But to be able to play at home - in two primetime slots - against your rival who, shall we say, is not projected to be anywhere near as good as your projection and still get shut down? These were two dumb losses.

The Rangers are 3-4 against the Astros. They're 3-7 against everybody else. Check Jexas' recap of this three-game stupidity.

And yet the Astros are still 10-6. The rotation is still rolling along doing incredible things. It's just...not happening on offense, at least not clustering hits together that results in this unfortunate stat called Runs that is used to determine the winner of the game.

*Verlander threw 8IP, 1H/1ER, 11K:1BB. Verlander:
It's fun, but at the same time, you're hoping for some runs there. He was painting. It's like, what are you going to do? You're going to tip your cap. He did an excellent job tonight keeping our guys off balance and not giving anyone anything to hit.

-His 86 Game Score is the sixth game this season in which the Astros have gotten a 70+ out of their starting pitcher.
-It's the highest Game Score by an Astros pitcher since Verlander's 88 on September 12, 2017 against Anaheim.
-It's the first time the Astros have lost a game while getting an 80+ from a starting pitcher since September 29, 2013, when Erik Bedard posted an 80 in a 14-inning 5-1 loss to the Yankees.
-It's the highest Game Score by an Astros pitcher with a loss since Roger Clemens threw an 87 in a 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh on August 13, 2005.

Astros record since the beginning of the 2000 season, when getting a 80+ Game Score start: 59-7.

* has some "cool" stats about last night's pitching duel.

*6-7-8-9 in the lineup last night: 0x15, with Gurriel's sac fly. Correa:
It's about time to turn on the hitting machines on this clubhouse. There's a lot of guys here that can do a lot of damage and we haven't been able to do that, but we've been there where we start slow and pick up the pace. For us, that time is now.

*Josh Reddick noted to Jake Kaplan in The Athletic ($) how quiet the Astros' dugout was:
It was actually pretty surprisingly quiet for our dugout, the way we're usually rowdy and going about it. Usually you hear a bunch of people saying, 'He's got a no-hitter going. He's got a perfect game going.' But we didn't hear that a whole lot.

*Robinson Chirinos accounted for all Rangers runs last night with a solo home run, and the two-run double in the 10th. He went 3x5 with 2HR/4RBI. He was 3x29 with two doubles and 18 strikeouts coming into this dumb series.

*The Astros are 12-19 since the beginning of the 2015 season at home against the Rangers.

*With a 101 wRC+, 15th in MLB, the Astros' offense has been perfectly average. Their .371 SLG ranks 20th in MLB, 10th in the American League.

*Games that were postponed yesterday: Blue Jays @ Indians, Yankees @ Tigers (both games), White Sox @ Twins, Angels @ Royals, Braves @ Cubs. Shohei Ohtani seems to be pitching every Sunday. With yesterday's postponement in Kansas City, he'll now pitch on Tuesday. If the Angels follow the once-a-week turn for Ohtani, it lines him up to pitch in Houston on April 24.

*Buster Olney writes about how the Astros/Angels rivalry could be one of the best in baseball.

*I spent way too much time on that Game Score thing, so now I have to get in the shower and hustle out the door without breakfast despite having been up since 4:45am.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Seres Recap: Astros vs Rangers 04/13-04/15

A little over two weeks into the season and The Astros have already faced the Rangers for a 2nd time. In the last series with The Rangers, The Astros had 22 runs while the Rangers had 11. This series the Astros had 9 while the Rangers had 11. Here’s how these three games panned out.

Game 1- Cole vs Hamels  
Take a look at this line from Gerrit “Not even our first starter” Cole: 7IP, 3H/2ER, 14K:1BB.
Yep. You read that correctly. Fourteen. He was so good that the fact that he didn’t get the W on this one is an atrocity, but that’s what happened because in the 7th Joey Gallo and Robinson Chirinos both hit two solo HR’s to tie up the game. Speaking of solo HR’s, George Springer had two in this game, the first being off the very first pitch of the game from Cole Hamels. In the bottom of 8th, Evan Gattis drew a walk and Derek Fisher came in to pinch run (which of course is always a good idea). Marwin Gonzalez hit a line drive up the middle which was misplayed by Drew Robinson and allowed Fisher to book it all the way home scoring the winning run.

Game 2- Morton vs Minor
Charlie “Shoulda Got This W” Morton struck out 12 Saturday to tie a career high. That’s all I have to say about that. The offense broke out in the bottom of the 4th. Single, Single, HBP, Double, HR and the Astros would lead it 5-0. In the 5th and 6th The Rangers scored two with Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Adrian Beltre each getting a solo HR. Brad Peacock allowed a 2 run homer from Joey Gallo and a solo Hr from Ronald Guzman. Tied at the end of the 9th after a clean inning from Ken “You can’t blame this one on me” Giles, Will “Are you serious” Harris came in for the 10th to walk Jurickson Profar, give Gallo a double, intentionally walk Beltre to load the bases and then allow a single from Guzman to put the Rangers ahead permanently. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve attempted to get the rally going in the bottom of the 10th but it was a no-go with Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick all taken out.
On a happier note, check out this throw from Bregman.

Game 3- Verlander vs Colon
Sometimes a game with no offense can be an epic bore but when you have two pitchers going at it the way Bartolo Colon and Justin Verlander did, it’s more exciting than the box score would let on. Bartolo Colon was perfect through 7 but in the 8th Carlos Correa walked, Josh Reddick  doubled and Yuli Gurriel hit a sacfly to get the Astros first and only run for the night on the board. Outside of a homerun to Robinson Churinos in the 3rd, Verlander allowed no hits while on the mound, striking out 11. As far as the Astros offense goes, there’s not much to say because not much happened.

And not much has happened the way I think most of us thought it would happen this season so far. It’s early, small sample sizes, etc. True. What is also true is the Astros are still looking to settle in this season offensively. Defensively we’ve seen the field take care of the SP’s pretty well. Seeing guys like Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Justin Verlander come up w a no decision because the offense is lagging is disappointing. Those guys deserve those wins. We know they’ll figure it out. This group is too talented not to. I just hope they do before the next time we face them damn Ramgers.

Up next, The Astros head to Seattle to start a seven game road trip.

Series W-L: 3-2

Sunday Morning Hot Links

Well the Astros' did the Dumb Thing yesterday, blowing a 5-0 lead with three home runs and an infield single that bounced off of Will Harris' glove. Houston is 10-5, having lost three of their last four games.

*Charlie Morton: 6IP, 6H/2ER, 12K:1BB. The twelve strikeouts tied a career high.

*Peacock and Harris allowed the four earned runs that led to the blown game. Hinch:
It was just not being able to complete the at-bats...A little bit of good hitting, a little bit of mistake lateral breaking balls, and both of them left the yard.

McTaggart notes that Peacock allowed eight home runs to lefty hitters in 243 plate appearances, and is already up to three this year - all of them on his slider. Peacock:
It just wasn't my day today. I've just got to be better against lefties. I haven't done a good job against them this year and I have to try to change something up and figure it out.

*The Astros had two on with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th, but Correa grounded to to third, Gurriel lined out to third, and Reddick grounded out to first. The Astros were 2x9 w/RISP - Correa's 2-run double and Gurriel's 3-run homer accounting for all the Big Hits. They're hitting .212 w/RISP this season.

1-5 in the lineup: 8x23, 2K:1BB, five runs scored.
6-9 in the lineup: 0x15, 5K:2BB.

*It was the first time this season the Rangers won a game in which they had trailed.

That (5th) was about the only inning that we threatened. We had a couple other innings where we had a guy reach scoring position...Really we just didn't put it together. A little bit of credit to them, but we have to continue to work to put up good at-bats, good innings, and capitalize when we can.

*Among the nine Astros hitters with at least 30 PAs, three of them have a wRC+ under 100 (meaning: below average):
Marwin: 87
Gattis: 71
Marisnick: 34

266 major league players have recorded 30+ PAs in 2018 and Marisnick 34 wRC+ ranks 238th. There are 27 players who have a lower wRC+. Among them: Jason Kipnis (30), Byron Buxton (29), Hunter Pence (17), and Logan Morrison (-4).

*The Angels asked three fans to be quiet when Ohtani was up to bat in Kansas City.

*Verlander goes against Bartolo Colon tonight on Sunday Night Baseball. Colon was born on May 24, 1973 - a full year before A.J. Hinch was born - and made his debut on April 4, 1997, five days after Alex Bregman turned three years old.

*Tyler White hit a 3-run home run in the 8th to give Fresno a 4-1 win. Rogelio Armenteros threw 7IP, 5H/1ER, 8K:1BB.

*Corpus had a 2-1 lead that quickly turned into an 11-2 deficit in an 11-6 loss to NW Arkansas. Erasmo Pinales' line: 0.0IP, 2H/3ER, 0K:3BB. Nick Tanielu went 3x5 and Randy Cesar went 2x4 with two doubles and 3RBI.

*Buies Creek held Salem to one hit in a 5-0 win. Brett Adcock threw 4.1IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:5BB. Jesus Balaguer threw 3.2IP, 0H/0ER, 3K:1BB. Troy Sieber went 2x3 with a home run and 4RBI.

*Pearl Harbor, Pan-Am, and the plane that accidentally circumnavigated the globe.