Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros failed to take advantage of early baserunners, going 0x8 w/RISP - now 1x28 in this series vs Detroit w/RISP - and ended up losing 6-3. Charlie Morton made it through the 7th for just the second time this season.

*After a 9th inning homer, Alex Bregman finished (wink wink) a triple shy of the cycle.

*For only the second time this season Chris Devenski didn't strike out a batter. Hinch:
It was a little bit of bad luck, little bit of rough start to the inning, and they found a way to push across a couple of runs. 

*Notably, Jordan Jankowski made his major-league debut, striking out the side but allowing a 2-run homer to Jose Iglesias in between the 2nd and 3rd strikeouts. Jankowski:
I felt fine. I thought I made some pretty good pitches. Iglesias just beat me. I hit my spot, and he just beat me. 

Given the velocity and launch angle, Iglesias' home run is a home run 1% of the time.

*Dallas Keuchel is ready to come off the DL:
I didn't really want to go on the DL in the first place...It's not like I was on my death bed or anything. It was one of those things where it wasn't feeling right, and I decided to get right just based on how we're playing and the situation we're in.

Also in that link we find that Correa has been out of the lineup for two games because of a "sinus-induced sickness" that led him to sleep all day yesterday. While the sinus issues are nothing to envy, I'd do just about anything to just sleep all day.

*Since posting consecutive 2-hit games on April 11/12, Carlos Beltran is hitting .210/.269/.370 in his last (arbitrary end point alert) 32 games - 30 starts - with 32 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances.

*A strengthened lineup top-to-bottom means the Astros are stealing far fewer bases this year compared to the last two years.

*Jerome Solomon writes that the Astros faced their biggest challenge this past weekend, and still found ways to win.

*Recently DFA'd outfielder Andrew Aplin was traded to the Mariners yesterday for Cash Considersations or a PTBNL. Aplin, the Astros' 5th Round pick in 2012, had hit .245/.341/.329 in four seasons at Triple-A. When he was drafted, Baseball America said that Aplin was good defensively but profiled more as a 4th outfielder-type.

*Eno Sarris: The Astros have played the 10th-toughest schedule in baseball to date.

*Want a new lefty reliever? The Padres are open to dealing Brad Hand and his 12.1 K/9 rate.

*The Astros' marketing folks are up to it again, revealing a Chris Devenski/Dragon bobblehead promotion (June 20) on the day the new Game of Thrones trailer was released (whatever "Game of Thrones" is...)

*Coming up tonight: Verlander vs. Fiers, which should be just fine.

*Before You Go:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

*Juan Centeno - playing in his first game as an Astro - and Yulieski Gurriel both hit solo homers and Lance McCullers held the Tigers to 1H/0ER, 5K:2BB in 6IP (now 22 scoreless IPs and counting for McCullers) for a 6-2 Astros win. Jake Marisnick had three hits, and the Astros are 31-15 with a 7-game lead.

*Hinch, on Centeno, who went 2x3 with an *intentional* walk and the Title Belt:
Given that's his first game this season with us, I'm glad he was in Spring Training with us to be very familiar with our guys. Fun night. He should be very proud of his effort, and our team responded well to him. 

Centeno, with maybe the quote of the year:
I don't hit that many homers, so that was an experience. I never saw the ball. I just put my head down and kept running.

*The Astros are 2-0 against Detroit despite going 1x20 w/RISP in two games.

*Carlos Correa was sick yesterday.

*Tom Verducci: The curveball is taking over baseball (featuring Lance McCullers)

*The Baseball Assistance Team gave Bob Watson its lifetime achievement award. And if you're looking to kill a little time you can read about Watson scoring the one millionth run in Major League Baseball.

*Brian McCann and Dallas Keuchel are both looking at returning on Saturday.

*Alex Bregman talked to the Detroit Free Press about hanging out with Ian Kinsler during the WBC.

*The Nationals and Red Sox have been scouting Jose Quintana.

*Jeff Sullivan and the meaning of a team's 50-game record.

*Here's a big ol' scouting report on Japanese superstar Shohei Otani.

*Check out Chris Archer and his mindfulness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros beat the Tigers 1-0 yesterday behind Brad Peacock's ridiculously strong spot start and a Jose Altuve RBI. Peacock threw 4.1IP, 1H/0ER, 8K:2BB. Devenski, Harris, and Giles combined to throw 4.2IP, 0H/0ER, 6K:0BB in relief.

*The Astros are 30-15 (.667), tied for the best start in franchise history, and the first team in MLB to 30 wins. They would need to go 64-53 (.547) the rest of the way to hit 94 wins.

*It's the Astros' first one-hitter since July 20, 2013 against Seattle when Erik Bedard, Jose Cisnero, Travis Blackley, and Jose Veras combined to hold the Mariners to one hit with 15 strikeouts and six walks. The Astros managed to lose that game 4-2. Perhaps you better remember it as the game where Erik Bedard had a no-hitter through 6.1IP, but had thrown 109 pitches and asked to be taken out of the game.

I felt great out there tonight. I haven't felt that way in a long time. 

That was an excellent effort in production. Everything you could ask for going into the game, just by being able to get into the fifth is one thing, and get into the fifth with all those punchouts and really keeping the game under control is another. And on top of that, it's a one-run game. That's a pretty special performance. 

*The Astros got nine hits on the night but were held to just one run, going 0x9 w/RISP.

*Brian McCann, who thinks he got his concussion taking a 97mph foul ball off the mask against the Yankees but didn't go on the DL until almost a week later, is feeling much better.

*Vice Sports: The Astros have baseball's new Murderer's Row

*Ol' boy Dave Raymond said that Houston fan reaction to the Astros start was "laughable."

*Yesterday I took a guess as to why Kyle Tucker and his 1.004 OPS are both still in High-A.

*Jordan Jankowski's wife is named Jordan.

*Nolan Fontana, the Astros' 2nd Round pick in 2012, was called up by the Angels yesterday.

*NY Times: Where did the great Hollywood baseball movie go?

*Before you go, the Marlins' Southern League affiliate in Jacksonville has this promotion...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Report: Astros to call up Jordan Jankowski

Brian McTaggart is reporting that the Astros will call up reliever Jordan Jankowski from Fresno today to fill Ashur Tolliver's spot, who filled Dallas Keuchel's spot when he went on the DL.

Jankowski turned 28 last week and has been in the Astros' system since 2012, when they drafted him in the 34th Round (four years after they drafted him in the, yes, 34th Round). Over six seasons, Jankowski has posted a 3.20 ERA / 1.16 WHIP with 478 strikeouts and 131 walks in 399.2IP.

This season for Fresno, his 3rd season at Triple-A, Jankowski has posted a 1.42 ERA/1.16 WHIP with 22K:9BB in 19IP. It will be his first appearance in the majors.

Andrew Aplin was DFA'd to make room on the 40-Man Roster.

Why isn't Kyle Tucker in Corpus yet?

The average Carolina League hitter is 22.5 years old and is hitting .253/.328/.388. Kyle Tucker is 20 years old and is hitting .311/.401/.603. Why is he still in Buies Creek?

Tucker is a RF, and Corpus' RF - 24-year old Drew Ferguson (19th Round - 2015) is holding his own with a .313/.391/.433 slash line through 39 games (150 ABs). And the average Texas Leaguer is just a shade over 24 years old, so Tucker would be facing pitchers who were basically four years older than he is whereas Ferguson is right on the average age of a Texas League player.

In just his third professional season, and let's not forget that Tucker has only 928 PAs as a professional - 57 games at High-A between Lancaster and Buies Creek - there's not a need to force the issue. There's a domino effect at play here, too. Fresno has been playing Teoscar Hernandez and Preston Tucker at RF. Teoscar Hernandez is hitting .287/.364/.521. Preston Tucker, Kyle's older brother, is working back from a shoulder injury and is hitting .261/.291/.438. Luhnow isn't likely to send Ferguson and his .824 OPS to Buies Creek, where he would be two years older than his competition.

There are only two players in the Texas League still in their Age 20 season, with polar opposites in terms of results:
Michael DeLeon (who plays for the Ramgers affiliate in Frisco) is hitting .240/.282/.315.
Luis Urias (who plays for the Padres affiliate in San Antonio) is hitting .344/.429/.485 with 20K:25BB.

Perhaps there's a reason 20-year olds don't typically spend much time in the Texas League. Obviously if Tucker keeps the 1.000+ OPS up long-term, then he'll need to be challenged further, but there's not an obvious reason to bump him up yet.

Monday Morning Hot Links

Well folks the Astros did it again, they lost to the Cleveland Indians, getting swept for the first time this season. They've only lost three series all season, one to Kansas City and two to Cleveland, meaning the Astros are 2-7 against the AL Central and 27-8 against all other divisions.

*Joe Musgrove had a terrible outing, allowing 8H/7ER, recording just six outs in 3+IP. Musgrove sounds like he's hit rock-bottom::
It's tough right now. I've been going through a real rough route the whole season, really. I've put together a couple good ones here and there, but I haven't been myself and I haven't felt normal really the whole year...I think right now the important thing for me is to really not give up on myself. I've always been really mentally strong. But as soon as your mind and your heart start to become enemies, one of them's got to lose. So, I've got to really do a good job of staying on top of that. 

Jake Kaplan notes that Keuchel and McCullers have a combined 2.21 ERA while Musgrove, Morton, and Fiers have a 4.99 ERA. ERA isn't the be-all end-all but it's a statistic, nonetheless.

Nothing went really right today after the first inning. This is a good team across the way. We all know that. They're an excellent team when you give them an extra 90 feet, and we did that multiple times with some walks...

Yan Gomes, who had 5RBI today:
[The Astros are] the hottest team in the AL. It was good to come in here and know that, at some point, we're the hottest team in the AL.

*The Astros managed to *only* strikeout nine times against the Indians, so that's nice. They've struck out 9+ times in 17 of 44 games this season, with an 8-9 record in those games.

*This series:
Jose Altuve: 3x12, HR, 2RBI
Carlos Beltran: 2x9, 2K:2BB, HR
Josh Reddick: 2x10
Alex Bregman: 2x10, 2B, HR
Carlos Correa: 1x9, 3K:2BB, HR
George Springer: 1x11, 8K:1BB
Nori Aoki: 0x9, 2K

*The Astros are 16-3 when scoring 6+ runs. Two of those losses are to Cleveland.

*Brian McTaggart notes that Sunday's game is the first time the Astros have hit four home runs in a game and lost since May 24, 2013 against Oakland.

*Ashur Tolliver made his Astros debut, allowing 2H/1ER with 5K:2BB in 4IP. After a rough beginning (Flyout, Wild Pitch, Walk, Single, Fielder's Choice, HBP, Infield Single/Throw-out at the plate) Tolliver got nine of the next ten batters he faced. That said, he's headed back to Fresno as the Astros need another arm for tomorrow's game against Detroit.

*Tony Sipp threw another scoreless inning today. Tony Sipp, May: 6 appearances, 8.1IP, 1H/1ER, 9K:2BB.

*Luke Gregerson's WBC eagle sculpture was auctioned off for $51,000.

*Watch a drone fly into some fans during the Padres game.

*FanRag: Derek Fisher is the real deal.

*Sports Illustrated: Cleveland, 1954: The Browns, the Indians, and a Murder Trial

*Rolling Stone, 2014: Chris Cornell on 'Superunknown,' depression, and Kurt Cobain.

*Please note: I hate Chelsea and I'm glad John Terry is retiring.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Door Number 1, Door Number 2, Door Number 3

Let's play a little game. You choose which Door you want. Click the comments to see which adventure you chose.

Door #1

28-year old LHP. Under team control through 2018 with team options in 2019 and 2020. Career 20.9 WAR through 160 starts. Career 3.44 ERA / 1.24 WHIP. Career 3.49 FIP. 3.11 K:BB ratio. 38.4% Groundball rate in 2017, down from 40.4% in 2016, which was in turn down from 47.1% in 2015. Three straight seasons of 4.8+ fWAR. 24 walks through 57.1IP in 2017. Career 20.0% K-rate, 6.4% BB-rate. 7th in pitcher fWAR since the beginning of the 2013 season.

Door #2

28-year old RHP. Under team control through 2019 with team options in 2020 and 2021. Career 11.0 bWAR through 135 starts. Career 3.53 ERA / 1.20 WHIP. Career 3.46 FIP. 2.95 K:BB ratio. 46.3% Groundball rate in 2017, down from 47.8% in 2016. 5.2 fWAR in 2015, 3.1 fWAR in 2016. Career 25.1% K-rate, 8.1% BB-rate. Currently posting a career-high 36.6% Hard-Hit Rate. 18th in pitcher fWAR since the beginning of the 2013 season (Dallas Keuchel is 17th).

Door #3

26-year old RHP. Under team control through 2019. Career 11.2 bWAR through 103 starts. Career 3.20 ERA / 1.19 WHIP. Career 3.03 FIP. 3.68 K:BB ratio. Career 48.2% Groundball rate, 50.3% in 2017 - his Major-League best. 12.5% HR/FB rate in 2017, up from 6.8% in 2016. One career season over 2.5 fWAR. Currently has a 22.2% K-rate, 5.3% BB-rate. 20th in pitcher fWAR since the beginning of the 2013 season.

Which door do you give up 5-6 prospects to go through?

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*Steve Clevinger shut the Astros offense down, wasting a perfectly good Mike Fiers start in the process, in a 3-0 Cleveland win in which the Astros didn't get a hit until the bottom of the 7th. Houston struck out 10+ times in consecutive games for the first time since April 26-27, also against Cleveland, and also the last time the Astros took consecutive losses. The Astros are 1-4 against Cleveland this season, and batters have struck out 53 times in those five games. The Astros got three hits, tying a season low (April 20 vs. Anaheim, and they won that game).

*Reddick, on Cleveland:
They're a good team. We saw that last year when they went to the World Series and what they did. They're going to be good. They've got a great bullpen. Their [starting] staff is pretty decent, too, and their lineup is stellar.

*Correa, on Clevinger:
He did a great job. Sometimes you have to give credit to a pitcher, and today was one of those days.

*Fiers threw 6IP, 6H/2R (1ER), 3K:1BB. His 56 Game Score matched his best of the season - his season debut against the Royals in G5. Of course he gave up a home run, making this the 8th straight start in which he has allowed a homer, matching a career-high from when he allowed homers over the last five starts of the 2015 season and the first three starts of 2016.

*Biggest news of the day was probably Dallas Keuchel's trip to the 10-Day DL with a pinched nerve in his neck. He'll only miss one start as it's retroactive to Wednesday. Keuchel was scheduled to pitch tomorrow (Monday) against Detroit, but now Brad Peacock will get that start. Lefty reliever Ashur Tolliver has been called up in Keuchel's absence. Keuchel:
Nobody wants to be hurt or miss time, so that was kind of the double-edged sword...I don't anticipate this being a lengthy issue. It takes a lot for me to say something. 

*And just this morning we find that Brian McCann has been placed on the 7-Day concussion DL. Hits just keep on coming. Juan Centeno has been called up. Centeno is hitting .368/.395/.487 in Fresno this season with nine strikeouts in 83 PAs.

*Brian T. Smith writes that this Astros team could make a championship run. Correa talked about the difference in chemistry from 2016 to 2017:
We have leadership this year and we have great team chemistry. We don't have a guy that's going to mess with that team chemistry. Last year, the chemistry was not that great. We didn't have a leader to lead us on the right path. This year we have two. We have Beltran and we have McCann leading us on the right path. 


*One of Nick Cafardo's major league sources says the Astros are "very interested" in Gerrit Cole. Cole is arbitration-eligible for two more years and won't be a free agent until 2020.

*Joel Sherman has a quarter-season awards update that prominently features Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel.

*FanRag's Kate Morrison: Are the Astros the new Cubs?

*Jon Heyman reports that the White Sox signed Cuban OF Luis Robert.