Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Late night Hot Links suck to make when you have a nighttime oriented sleep schedule. Game wraps up around 1 a.m. EST (my time zone), then you gotta wait for the beat writers to write up their little articles and what not before I get to do my job because haha I'm not waking up at 5 a.m. like James does bless his soul. So if something doesn't sound right or is spelled wrong, it's because this is late for even me. 

For everyone that didn't watch the Astros game due to it being late, you made a good choice. The Angels won their 4th in a row and beat up on Framber Valdez pretty handily as they took the game 9-6.

Springer - 3/5, 2 HR, 3 RBI. With these home runs, Springer has moved up to 7th in the Astros all-time home run list.
Kemp - 2/5, RBI
Valdez - 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Albert Pujols tried to run last night.

Full Box:

Per Chandler Rome, the Framber Valdez experiment is over.

The Astros will most likely head into tomorrow doing another bullpen day.

Brian Arbour, of The Astros County dot com, wrote a piece addressing the state of the rotation as it stands, and the best moves for it going forward.

A.J. Hinch talked about Josh James' recent success and the improvements that he made to get here.

Kyle Tucker seems to be upping his trade value extending the versatility of his game. ($)

The Crawfish Boxes have taken the time to check out the likelihood and potential of a Roenis Elias deal.

The Astros are for real gauging interest in a possible Robbie Ray deal.

When Diaz and Correa come back, who gets the boot with White?

There are some weird things on TV at 3 a.m. I just went ahead and typed this because I'm living it. It's my life. It's my post.

Alex Bregman and Tony Kemp went out and presented the Houston Fire Department with a brand new truck.

The Athletic's Dallas sportswriter floated the idea that the Astros bent the rules regarding the Yordan Alvarez trade, but then realized what he said and quickly walked it back. Just a typical Monday on Twitter.

Siberian millennials are flooding to this very pretty, very toxic lake so they can take selfies next to it. 

Biologists have discovered a jellyfish bigger than a human, which is just the things I like to know before I go into water.

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1990, Steve Lyons dropped his pants on accident during live television.

In 1999, the New York Yankees ownership decided that after seeing the positive response to Trevor Hoffman's "Hell's Bells" warm-up song to select Metallica's "Enter Sandman" for their closer Mariano Rivera.

In 2006, Mariano Rivera became the 4th closer to ever achieve 400 saves.

In 2009, Ryan Howard became the fastest player to ever get to 200 home runs. He played 658 games at this point.

In 2010, Bengie Molina, the notoriously slow catcher, became the 8th player ever to hit for the cycle with the home run being a grand slam.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Why the Best Rotation Option Now is to "Grin and Bear It"

On Sunday morning, the Kansas City Royals scratched Homer Bailey from his scheduled start today. Speculation immediately began that Bailey was being traded, and, remarkably, a small part of that speculation came from Astros Twitter.

Bailey has had a bounce back season, avoiding injury and improving to an ERA of 4.80.  How is that an improvement you might say?  Well, Bailey had ERAs of 6.43 and 6.09 in 197 1/3 IP in 2017 and 2018 combined. In short, let's just hope that those who wanted Bailey were friends of his from LaGrange High School...or just big ZZ Top fans.

But the desire by a handful of Astros fans for Bailey reflects the frustration we currently have with the state of the rotation. While Verlander and Cole are Cy Young contenders and Wade Miley has been a revelation, the fourth and fifth rotation spots have been a revolving door. Brad Peacock (15 starts) has been injured, Collin McHugh  (8 starts) was ineffective, and Framber Valdez (5 starts) was not ready, and Corbin Martin (5 starts) hit the trifecta--he was ineffective, not ready, and is now injured.

And news came Sunday morning that Brad Peacock had a setback during a bullpen session yesterday, and he will not be able to start tonight in Anaheim as anticipated. As a result, the team will start Josh James on Monday as an "opener," followed by Framber Valdez, fresh off a start of 2/3 of an inning in Arlington on Thursday. Who will start on Tuesday?  We don't know yet, but the smart money is on a bullpen game.

In short, the starting rotation is in a bad way.  What are the Astros going to do to solve the problem in the rotation?  As of right now, not much. Jake Kaplan of The Athletic interviewed GM Jeff Luhnow about the rotation yesterday in Arlington. Luhnow's take: "I think at this point we're going to have to grin and bear it."

Luhnow did say that "we've looked at some external options."  But the attitude of "grin and bear it" suggests that the Astros don't plan to make a trade anytime soon.

As unsatisfying as it is, I believe this is the right attitude.  Acquiring a middling pitcher like Bailey would help the team in the next couple of weeks, but that help would be minor. To acquire that pitcher, the Astros would have to remove a player from the 40-man roster (which is full) and carry that new pitcher for the rest of the season.

The benefit may be an extra win, but what's the value of one win to the Astros right now. Not much.  The Astros lead the As by 6 games and have a better than 90% chance of winning the division according to every major win projection. The team is on pace to win 100 games and are only a game and a half back of the Yankees for the best record in the AL.  In short, a move for an innings eater does little to help the team right  now.

Of course, the Astros are in the  market for a new starting pitcher. And they should be be. Astros fans should have every expectation that Luhnow will acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline later this month. But the primary standard on which to judge that acquisition is how well can that new pitcher do in October. If Bailey pitches in October, his team is in for a world of hurt that night.

But the top starters will not move until right close to the trade deadline. Teams that want to deal a star player will wait until as close to the deadline as possible to see if teams will increase their offer as they learn that other teams are interested. It would cost additional in terms of prospects for the Astros to do a deal now for a pitcher of the likes of Marcus Stroman or Madison Bumgarner.

In short, the benefits of making a trade now for an innings eater are small.  We can wait until around July 31 to get a better pitcher at a better price.  It's worth enduring a bullpen game or two to wait for our Game 3 starter in the ALDS.

Monday Morning Hot Links

Flick Nickem is back on the Hot Links, because James is on some trip to the Northeast and he needs me to fill in. I haven't done Hot Links in a while, and that's because he let me enjoy my summer and gave me the rest of it off, so I will be writing the Hot Links all week this week and then you most likely won't catch me again until the start of my fall semester sometime in August.

But anyways, lets kick Day 1 of Flick Week with the recap of the trouncing that the Astros just did of the Rangers yesterday afternoon:

Altuve: 3-5, Grand Slam, 3 R
Gurriel: 3-5, HR, 3 RBI
Verlander: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Smith: Season Debut - 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Full Box:

Up Next? More West Coast games. Houston is travelling to L.A. to play the Angels starting tomorrow. You can find the series preview here.

Brad Peacock is not getting better after all, which means we have more rotation spots to fill.

Yes, the Astros are using an opener or two this week. Hunter Atkins explains exactly what this means for the upcoming series moving forward.

Luhnow told Jake Kaplan on The Athletic that they're looking at both starting and relief pitching for the upcoming trade deadline.

What's going on with Roberto Osuna?

Correa and Diaz are reporting to Round Rock for their rehab assignments today. It won't be too much longer now!

The case for and against a Matthew Boyd trade.

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1960, Brooks Robinson became the first Oriole to hit for the cycle.

In 1973, Nolan Ryan threw his 2nd career no-hitter, which also included a Detroit Tiger going up to bat with a leg of a piece of furniture.

In 2005, Rafael Palmeiro collected his 3000th career hit.

In 2017, Cody Bellinger became the first Dodger to hit for the cycle in his rookie year.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday Morning Hot Links

A quick note before we get into the Hot Links: Starting at 2:45am on Monday, I am chaperoning a trip of 86 high school students to Manhattan. Pray for me. It also means that these West Coast games won't start until 10pm for me. Flick is taking over the Hot Links from Monday-Thursday. I may be back for the Friday Morning Hot Links, but I may just have to sleep until noon.

The Astros had leads of 2-0, 3-2, and 5-4 before getting pushed to extra innings and coming away with a 7-6 win. Errors were absolutely ridiculous. Houston is 58-35. They're 7-6 against East Fort Worth in 2019, with a 6-game lead on Oakland.

*Altuve, on his go-ahead double in the 11th:
We lost the first two games here so we were trying to win a game and get some momentum. I just wanted to put the ball in play. When I hit it, I didn't think George was going to score, but what he did was amazing. I hit the ball good, but probably 50 percent or more of the play was on him. I think we won because of him. 

Myles Straw redeemed himself after getting picked off 1st right after replacing Michael Brantley as a pinch-runner in the 9th, getting a single that scored Altuve to provide the 7th Astros run. Straw:
You want to redeem yourself, and to get out there and get that insurance run...Obviously we needed it...It was awesome.

We could easily talk about missed opportunities or mistakes, but we hung in there and I'm proud of our guys for being able to just get through the game and get a win, in a game where we didn't play our best. Perseverance went a long way tonight.

*The Astros are 8-1 in extra-inning games, 17-11 in 1-run games. They were 5-6 in extra innings in 2018, and 24-24 in 1-run games. Since dropping three consecutive one-run games at Cincinnati, Houston is 5-2 in 1-run games.

*Houston has allowed 146 home runs in 2019, 1.57 HR/game. They allowed 152 home runs in 2018, 0.94 HR/game.

*The Rangers got six hits, five of them for extra-bases, and drew three walks. They were 1x8 w/RISP. How this game was so close is beyond me. Errors by Altuve, Bregman, and Springer, I guess. The last time the Astros committed three errors in a single inning was in May 2013.

*Wade Miley threw 6.2IP, 4H/5R (3ER), 5K:1BB, and 3HR allowed. Lower McKinney has hit eight home runs, drawn eight walks, and struck out 29 times in the last two games. It's the 7th time in his career that Miley has allowed three home runs in a game.

*The bullpen threw 4.1IP, 2H/1ER, 7K:2BB. Osuna allowed 2H/1ER, 0K:1BB in the 11th. Osuna:
It was a tough inning. I got up [in the bullpen] three or four times before that inning. The last three hitters, I was running out of gas. I was grinding and thank God I got the job done.

*Jose Altuve was 4x6. It's his 2nd 4-hit game of the season, and his 2nd 4-hit game in July. Since returning from the IL Altuve is hitting .306/.326/.459. He has 30 4-hit games in his career, one more than Babe Ruth. Bregman, on Altuve:
He's battling every single day and he's a great leader for this team.

*Alex Bregman returned to the lineup after taking a 98.5mph grounder off the chin. I hit my little toe on the side of the dishwasher and didn't run for a week. Bregs was 2x5 with a walk and a solo home run, his 24th of the year. It's his 82nd career home run, nine of them have come against the Rangers (tied with Oakland for most against an opponent), six of them at Pizza Oven Park.

*Tyler White got his 10th 3K game of the season, going 0x5.

*Brad Peacock is on track to be activated for Monday's game at Anaheim.

*Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz will begin rehab starts on Monday for Round Rock. Hinch, on Correa:
He's more likely, given the schedule, to stick in Triple-A longer on rehab, and we're excited to get him into games as well. He's got a little longer on rehab projection based on the injury and how long he did virtually nothing in terms of baseball.

*The Chron's Hunter Atkins, on Gerrit Cole regaining his rhythm. Hinch:
He was trying to be too disruptive with timing. He would change his delivery a little bit. He's got a handle on that better now, where he can disrupt the timing of the hitter a little bit without negatively impacting his pitches.

Here's the rotation for 2020 as contracts stand right this minute:
SP1: Justin Verlander
SP2: Lance McCullers, Jr.
SP3: Brad Peacock

That's it. That's the entire rotation that is currently under contract for 2020. Cole, Miley, and McHugh are free agents at the end of this season. Maybe the Astros have a trade or two up their sleeve in the next 17 days to shore that up, but Corbin Martin is out for most of next season. Forrest Whitley's 2019 hasn't gone exactly as expected. Neither has Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez and Jose Urquidy's. J.B. Bukauskas has a 6.81 at Double-A Corpus.

The Astros have a committed payroll of $121.4m for 2020 as of right now. That's a reduction of $37.1m from 2019 payroll. We'll do some payroll shenanigans later, but right now I don't know how the Astros can afford to not keep Gerrit Cole, if they're going to keep this window open. I have zero issue with using my Astros County Official Extremely Limited Megaphone to yell that not re-signing Charlie Morton as a 2-year insurance policy was freaking stupid, especially after what we've seen so far this season. Even if the front office had concerns over his shoulder, it was silly to think that you could lose 500IP from 2018 (Keuchel, Morton, McCullers) and not hit a significant road bump.

While you can reasonably assume the Astros will win the AL West and the ALDS, you can no longer assume that a World Series Championship, let alone an AL Pennant, will happen. That is, of course, if you ever assumed those things would happen. I did.

*Jonathan Lucroy:
The last thing I remember, I was kind of inching my way up the line and reaching for the baseball. The first thing I remember after that is when they put me on the golf cart. He knocked me out.

*Check out this sweet throw from Round Rock's Josh Rojas.

*Now that Myles Straw has graduated off the MLB Pipeline Prospect List, Taylor Jones takes his spot.

*Cristian Javier threw 3IP, 1H/0ER, 6K:0BB in a 7-6 extra-innings Corpus loss to Midland. Seth Beer was 0x3 with 3BB. Granden Goetzmann was 3x5 with a walk and 3RBI.

*The Red Sox sent two minor-leaguers to Baltimore for Andrew Cashner. The two minor-leaguers were 17-year old IF Noelberth Romero, who has a .700 OPS in the Dominican Summer League, and OF Elio Prado, a 17-year old with an .818 OPS for the same team. These are notes for making comps for future trades. Cashner has a 1.8 fWAR this season with a 3.83 ERA belied by a 4.25 FIP and a 4.88 xFIP. Orioles starting pitchers have recorded 21 wins, Cashner has nine of them.

*A masseuse tried to kill Kenneth Giles and gave him nerve inflammation. Fire all of the massueses.

*Former Astros Great Juan Minaya was DFA'd by the White Sox.

*Minnesota's Max Kepler's last 6 PAs vs. Tyler Bauer:
Top 4th, July 13: Strikeout
Top 3rd, July 13: Home run
Top 1st, July 13: Home run
Top 7th, June 6: Home run
Top 3rd, June 6: Home run
Top 1st, June 6: Home run

No hitter had ever hit five consecutive home runs against the same pitcher in a single season before.

*Division leads, by games:
-AL East: 6
-AL Central: 7.5
-AL West: 6
-NL East: 6
-NL West: 13.5
-NL Central: Every team is within 5.5 games of 1st.

*Scott Miller: Why young players step into bad contracts.

*HOFer Bob Gibson has been hospitalized with pancreatic cancer.

*If you are in Houston and need legal assistance related to immigration, call 1.800.468.4664.

*A former grandmaster was suspended for using a phone during a chess tournament.

*The impending global water crisis.

*A Musical Selection:

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday Morning Hot Links

GOOOOOOOOOODDDDDD I hate the Rangers. They make zero sense. This game should not have even been close. Houston blew an 8-4 lead in the middle of the 7th and lost 9-8. Just a terrible pitching performance from anyone not named Gerrit Cole or Ryan Pressly. Houston is 57-35 with a 6-game lead on Oakland.

*Gerrit Cole allowed five hits and gave up four earned runs, three of those came on solo home runs. This is Snidely Whiplash-lookin ass booiiiiiiii Rob Manfred's doing. Piece of crap commissioner. It's the first time in his career that Gerrit Cole has allowed three home runs in a start. It's the 16th time this season that a starter has allowed five or fewer hits with three of those leaving the park. Manfred, you idiot. Cole had allowed 4ER in his previous 27IP combined. Two of the home runs he allowed came on 0-2 pitches.

Cole has struck out 13+ batters four times in his career. All four times have been with the Astros and two of them have been against the Rangers.

*Gerrit Cole threw a first-pitch strike to 23 of the 26 batters he faced. He has 182 strikeouts, two more than Max Scherzer for the overall MLB lead. He has a 3.23 ERA and these idiots are 13-7 when he starts. Cole:
It was like a heavyweight slugfest. Came up short, but it was an entertaining game. It was quite a game.

*Astros pitchers allowed 5HR for the 5th time this season. What in the actual hell.

*The dumbass bullpen blew an 8-4 lead in the middle of the 7th. Hinch:
We just couldn't keep them from scoring. They did a better job of finding ways to win the game. Credit them for an offensive approach that worked for them tonight, especially as the game went on.

*For whatever reason, Ryan Pressly exited the game after throwing exactly nine pitches.

*The Astros hit four home runs and lost. It's the 22nd time in 2019 it has happened to an MLB team, the 3rd time it's happened to the Astros this year.

*Yordan Alvarez was 3x3 with a walk and two home runs, his 8th and 9th of the year. He has played in 21 games.

*Jose Altuve hit his first home run since June 23. The Astros are now 9-1 in games where Altuve homers.

*Yuli Gurriel hit another home run. On May 2, Gurriel was hitting .234/.289/.360. Since then (55 games) Gurriel is hitting .298/.325/.547 with 12 doubles, a triple, and 14 home runs. Since June 9 he's hitting .337/.383/.735.

*Robinson Chirinos was ahead 3-0 in the count in the top of the 8th and struck out on six pitches without ever taking his bat off his shoulder. It was the 9th time in 87 PAs in his career that he was ahead 3-0 and struck out. Benedict Arnold lookin-ass boooiiiii. In his last 20 starts (dating back to June 9) Chirinos is hitting .160/.256/.253 with 35K:9BB in 86 PAs.

*Joe Smith was activated from the IL after sustaining a ruptured achilles tendon in December. To make room on the 40-Man, Carlos Correa was placed on the 60-Day IL, which means it's a minimum of two weeks before he's ready to rejoin the team. Cy Sneed was optioned to Round Rock to clear room on the active roster.

In that link we also find that the Astros might go with an Opener on Tuesday to try to help Framber Valdez out. Hinch:
I think we have to look at it. We haven't discussed it internally. The reason I've been reluctant is not because I don't believe in it or I don't see it as an option, it's just we haven't had a rotation that's been built that we've needed [an opener].

*Jake Kaplan: Who is SP5?

*Aledmys Diaz will begin a rehab assignment on Monday.

*J.B. Bukauskas had himself a decent little start: 6IP, 2H/1ER, 6K:4BB in a 5-2 Corpus win.

*Forrest Whitley made his first rehab start for the GCL Astros and got five outs, all by strikeout, but allowed 1H/3ER on 3BB. He threw 29 pitches in a 4-2 GCL Astros loss.

*The Angels threw a combined no-hitter against Seattle in Anaheim as they honored Tyler Skaggs. Today (Saturday, 7/13) would have been Skaggs' birthday. Mike Trout noted that the Angels scored seven runs in the first and ended up with 13 runs total.

*Baltimore will extend netting from foul pole to foul pole.

*A Musical Selection:

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday Morning Hot Links

I missed the Hot Links yesterday because it was my daughter's birthday, and she was so pumped to eat All The Sugar in the World that I had to stop and accommodate this request. So the Astros had a chance to put their foot on the neck of the Waxahachie Rangers and Framber crapped the bed. Bregman took one to the chin. It was a shameful performance and everyone should feel bad about themselves, especially the Rangers, who actively use Devil Magic when playing the Astros. Houston lost 5-0 and are now 57-34. They are seven games up on Oakland and eight games up on Farmer's Branch.

*Framber Valdez became the first starting pitcher in MLB this season to allow four hits with three walks and record less than three outs. It's only the sixth time that has happened in Astros history and Framber's the first Astro to do it since Bud Norris on April 17, 2013 against Oakland. Hinch, on Framber:
We've seen this out of him. The good version is really good. And the version that struggles, it's tough for him to manage innings and get out of innings.

Framber's three appearances from June 3-15: 17IP, 11H/3ER, 18K:4BB
Framber's three appearances from June 16-July 11: 7IP, 16H/15ER, 5K:7BB

*Shoutout to Cy Sneed, who threw 5IP, 6H/1ER, 7K:1BB. Hinch, on Sneed:
He's a consistent strike-thrower, which is good, and his stuff is good...This game was still in hand when I brought him. For him to go five innings was critical for us to stay in the game.

According to Our Dude Steve Grande, Sneed is the first Astros pitcher with multiple 5+ Inning appearances in relief since Danny Darwin in 1988.

*Last night was the third time this season the Astros got 7+ hits and did not score a run.

*Houston was 0x4 w/RISP.

*George Springer was the only Astros with multiple hits, going 2x4 with the team's lone extra-base hit.

*The Astros had a chance to cut into the Rangers lead in the 2nd, with Reddick on 1st and Alvarez on 2nd with one out:
-Tyler White struck out swinging
-Robinson Chirinos struck out swinging

That was pretty much it.

*Alex Bregman was taken out of the game in the 3rd Inning when he got popped in the chin by a 98.5mph groundball from Shin-Soo Choo. Hinch:
He was bleeding when I got out there. It took a really nasty hop for him. We'll see how he is.

*Brad Peacock threw 2IP, 0H/0ER, 4K:1BB on Wednesday night for Corpus. Seth Beer hit his 11th home run for Corpus and his 20th of the season in a 6-5 win over Midland last night.

Peacock and Joe Smith were both with the Astros in Arlington last night. Peacock:
The big test was today, and I played catch and felt pretty good. We'll see what happens tomorrow. I feel good right now.

Joe Smith:
We got the volume up and got some people on base, and I had to try to work out of it. It's good to have that because it's going to happen at some point. Knowing the strength and stamina is still there to be able to do that is good.

On Diaz and Correa, Hinch:
We want [Diaz] to do a few things around our Major League team, and he's going to join either Double-A or Triple-A. He's going to stop in [Arlington] on his way to his next stop, and Carlos is only a couple of days behind him. We should have both of those guys on rehab by the early parts of next week to start their work to get back to us in the big leagues.

*The next 13 games are against divisional opponents. Michael Brantley:
The stretch is very important. Right out of the gate, it's a division rivalry. Texas has been playing great baseball. We have to come in ready to go, look fresh, and have a great series.

Gerrit Cole told Chandler Rome (previous link):
I'd like to see us add. I'd like to see us add some good pieces, some impact pieces. I think with the people that we're competing against - not just in our division; we're looking for home-field advantage against the Yankees and the Red Sox and ultimately against the best team in the National League as well - I think those things weigh heavily on some of the outcomes of a series. It certainly makes it more challenging when you have to go on the road.

*Jake Marisnick was suspended two games and fined an undisclosed amount for his efforts to try to get past Jonathan Lucroy, who was blocking the plate. Joe Torre:

After thoroughly reviewing the play from all angles, I have concluded that Jake's actions warrant discipline. While I do not believe that Jake intended to hurt Jonathan, the contact he initiated in his attempt to score violated Official Baseball Rule 6.01(i), which is designed to protect catchers from precisely this type of collision.

It's more fun if you read this quote, especially in which Torre says "Jonathan," in the same voice as Ian McShane in John Wick.

Obviously, I still feel terrible about it. It was a rough couple of days just going through...just kind of everything that happened. Had a chance to sit back and digest it. I've seen a lot of takes on it, and obviously everybody has their own opinion. But I know deep down in my heart that I had no intent to hurt, or make contact with [Lucroy].

A two-game suspension would cost Marisnick just over $27,000.

*Mike Petriello talked to A.J. Hinch about the Astros' current pace of becoming the first team in MLB history to not intentionally walk anyone.

*Do you want Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz? The Mets "want to be overwhelmed" by an offer.

*The Padres, Cubs, and Red Sox join the Dodgers, Braves, and Rays with the Astros as teams in on Detroit's Matty Boyd. Chris McCosky:
Boyd, with three years of team control remaining, is the Tigers' most valuable trade chip. There are a lot of teams that like, want and need Boyd. Interestingly, among those tracking Boyd are the analytically-savvy teams like the Dodgers, Braves, Astros and Tampa.

*Fireworks have been avoided as the Cheatin'-Ass Cardinals put Yadier Molina on the IL with an injured thumb, likely from popping off like an internet tough guy on Instagram. He'll miss three weeks, including the Astros' visit to St. Louis later this month.

*From The Athletic's Levi Weaver: Coffee, Magic, and the Ineffable Joy of Hunter Pence.

*Ruthless "superhuman" poker-playing computer program makes elite players fold.

*Insider hired the writer of Black Hawk Down and the art director of Archer to present the Mueller Report in a way that people would actually read it.

*50 facts about the Apollo 11 mission on its upcoming 50th anniversary.

*A Musical Selection: