Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Short one today. The Mariners won their first series against the Astros since August 2018. I hate this team as much as, but not more than, the 2016 Astros. Houston is 28-28. Even if the Astros win tonight against the Rangers, the Angels are off, so they can't clinch a spot until Friday. Houston is 2.5 up on Anaheim with four games to play. Houston is 8-20 on the road in 2020, which doesn't bode well for the postseason.

*Seattle SP Nick Margevicius came into last night's game with a career 6.24 ERA. His season ERA was 5.35 - when he left, it was 4.57. The Astros got the leadoff runner on in three of the first five innings. In the 5th, they had the bases loaded with Springer and Altuve up. They did not score. Gonna be a short stay in the "play offs" should that day come if they don't figure something out. 

*Alex Bregman:

We need to do a better job offensively; need to get better. It's getting down to the end of the season, so we need to start swinging the bats a lot better. 

The Astros got seven hits and five walks yet were 1x9 w/RISP - Altuve by himself was 0x3 with runners in scoring position. And that is all we shall speak of this game.

*Dusty Baker thinks Jose Altuve will come up big in the postseason. Dusty:

He's Jose Altuve. He's always risen to the occasion...The law of averages is on his side.

Hitting coach Troy Snitker:

Right now, I see a Jose Altuve that feels like he's on the up. I know he feels confident right now. He feels like he's going to finish his season strong, he feels he's going to carry us in the playoffs and throughout the rest of the year and down the stretch.

*Cristian Javier will get the start tonight, and Jose Urquidy tomorrow night. Saturday and Sunday are TBD if the Astros are able to clinch a playoff spot.

*Jake Kaplan's Mailbag addresses Altuve's struggles, Kyle Tucker's expectations, Dusty Baker's extension, the Astros' outfield in 2021, and whether the Astros would deal Correa for Verlander's replacement.

*SI's Emma Baccellieri: The Unbridled Joy of Being - And Watching - Fernando Tatis, Jr. 

*There have been three Major League Baseball players named "Aurelio." All three died in car crashes.

*A Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured QB Tyrod Taylor's lung before their game last Sunday, while trying to inject his ribs with a pain killer.

*NY Times: To protest colonialism, this man takes museum artifacts.

*A Musical Selection:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

I am growing tired of Base Ball, and am very ready for it all to end. But! The Astros beat the Mariners 6-1 thanks to stellar pitching from Framber and a massive moonshot from Machete. Houston is 28-27, up 3.5 on the Angels, and 4.0 on the Mariners, with five games to play. An Astros win tonight and an Anaheim loss means the Astros are going to the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons. I am running late, so let's get this done.

*The Astros scored five runs in the 6th inning, meaning they scored more in the 6th Inning last night than they have in any game since September 12. 

*Maldonado's three-run homer sealed the game for the Astros, finally getting the big swing they've been missing since...September 2019. It's Maldonado's 2nd 3-run HR of the season, and the 9th of his MLB career. Machete:

I would say probably the best [swing] I took all year, especially in the situation and the way I have been lately.

*Framber: 7IP, 5H/1ER, 8K:0BB.

Framber, 2018-2019: 107.2IP, 96H/55ER, 102K:68BB. 4.60 ERA / 1.52 WHIP, 5.7 BB/9

Framber, 2020: 70.2IP, 63H/28ER, 76K:16BB. 3.57 ERA / 1.12 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9

Chandler Rome: Framber has embraced an "attitude before everything" mantra this season, and it's showing. Maldonado, on Framber:

He's always had good stuff. Last year, even the year before, when I caught him, he was still the same guy. It seems like he cares more now. It seems like he's developing better. He's not letting stuff get into his head, I would say.

And the stat that I know everyone is tracking and celebrated on Twitter when it happened: Framber had a 5th-straight game with a Wild Pitch! He joins Joe Niekro (7), Darryl Kile (6), and Mike Fiers, Mike Hampton, Don Wilson, and Dave Giusti as the only Astros pitchers with a wild pitch in five straight games. 

*Since allowing 3H/4ER against the Giants on August 10, Josh James: 9.1IP, 6H/2ER, 10K:5BB. James has walked just one of the last 20 batters he has faced, after walking 16 of the 63 batters he had faced prior in 2020.

*Kyle Tucker was 4x5 - the 2nd 4-hit game of his career. 

*McTaggart's Notes column features info on Ryan Pressly's resurgence, and Enoli Paredes' transition from the rotation to the bullpen in 2020.

*Prior to Tuesday night's game, Josh Reddick:

We're running out of time right now and if we don't step up, we're going to be in trouble.

With me? Yes. 

*Perhaps understandably, SI didn't even list the Astros in their Top 10 World Series contenders rankings.

*Yahoo's Tim Brown: "Slogging through 2020, the Astros reach for a postseason spot no one wants them to have." These are great to read - for the heart and for the soul. 

*Rob Manfred, for whatever reason, gave an interview to USA Today and said the following:

-The postseason in Arlington will have fans, pending approval from Texas officials (which will, obviously, approve it). Expanded playoffs are here to stay, but not this season's format. And who knows what rule changes, be they 7-inning doubleheaders or runners on 2nd to start extra-innings, will stick around in 2021?

*The Astros Foundation is teaming up with the Texas Council on Family Violence to give over $900,000 to 90 domestic violence organizations.

*Tim Kurkjian: "This isn't fun." How everyone in baseball has navigated a very different season.

*The Yanquis are fighting a court-ordered release of the infamous "Yankees Letter," and team president Randy Levine is going to argue on the team's behalf. Sounds like the contents of something you definitely would have no problem seeing the light of day.

*The New Yorker: The Race to Redesign Sugar.

*Vice: The Italian Mafia is on TikTok.

*Vox: The best alternative streaming services.

*Nairo Quintana is being investigated for doping practices at the 2020 Tour de France.

*The last two days have featured songs from Semisonic, the Most American Band of the Last Twenty-Five Years. Neither of these songs were "Closing Time," which many consider to be the hallmark of a One-Hit Wonder's musical career. I scoff at your insolence. That said, I apologize. Also, the following is the Hot Links Playlist's 400th song, which now features over 25 hours of basically my favorite songs of all-time. Yeah, I sort of get it if you don't listen to all 25 hours...

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

First up: Heads-up, Houston. Check the roads before you bounce to work.

I did Monday's Hot Links on Sunday night, because I thought I might want to sleep later than my usual alarm of 4:30am. Why do I get up so early? It's not all Hot Links, though it does take a little bit of time in the mornings. I wake up, have a cup of coffee in the dark like a serial killer, meditate, read the Good Book, and I've been doing yoga since this persistent foot injury just sort of refuses to get back to normal (after almost three months). Anyway, I was awake at 3:45am because I had a dream my dog's leg fell off in the kitchen and when I jerked awake I thought, "Well that's it for sleeping tonight. Let's try again here in about 20 hours." There was absolutely no chance of me staying awake for last night's game. And I, and my blood pressure, was better for it

The Astros and Mariners met for the most important September series for Seattle in quite some years (I have zero interest in going back through Baseball-Reference to see just how long it's been since the Mariners have been four games out of a playoff spot in September). The Astros...crapped the bed, 6-1. Four of the Mariners' six runs were unearned, thanks to Altuve kicking a double play ball. The Astros were 1x8 w/RISP. It's eight straight games of scoring four or fewer runs, and 11 of their last 13. The loss also means that Oakland wins the 2020 AL West, not that it's any kind of surprise. Houston was 24-2 against Seattle in the last two seasons and are now 24-3. 

*Dusty:

What are you going to do, just going to give them the next two days? They have to earn the next game first. The Angels are knocking at the door behind them. We've just got to take care of our own business.

*Prior to last night's game, the Astros' playoff odds sat at 99.7%. This morning it's...99.1%. FanGraphs feels way better about it than I do, apparently. Though, Houston is three up with six to play. 

*Jose Altuve had two hits and a walk. It's the 6th time Altuve has gotten on base three times in a game in 2020, and the first since August 25.

*Michael Brantley: 3x4, his 4th 3-hit game of the season. 

*On September 7 Carlos Correa went 2x4 against Oakland and was slashing .301/.367/.441. Since then he's "hitting" .122/.178/.146, lowering his season line to .261/.325/.375. 

*Lance McCullers didn't allow a hit until the 6th inning: 6.2IP, 3H/4R (0ER), 7K:2BB. 

McCullers' last two starts: 13.2IP, 5H/0ER, 15K:2BB...and the Astros scored zero runs through all of that. 

*Dusty Baker, on the Astros' offensive offense:

I was talking to the batting coaches tonight and they're not sleeping. They're trying to figure it out. I'm trying to help them figure it out.

Six of the Astros' nine hits were singles. Brantley:

We're all right. This is a professional team. A great team. We've been here before. We lost tonight. That's why you play the series. We'll come back tomorrow, hopefully even up the series and then win it. 

*Springer was not in the lineup last night because "of all the running he did" on Sunday.

*Jake Kaplan: It's looking like the postseason rotation will be Greinke-Urquidy-McCullers, with Framber going to the bullpen.

*Yuli Gurriel reiterated his stance that he wants to re-sign with Houston:

It's been an unforgettable experience for me playing in Houston. Regardless of whatever happens in the offseason...the city will always be in my heart.

*Brent Strom is confident that Justin Verlander will return to form...in 2022. Strom himself was the second pitcher to have Tommy John surgery. Strom, on the news that Verlander wouldn't return:

As much as he brings to the table, both on and off the field, the group we have right now was not really planning on it happening. There was a lot of noise out there on Twitter and a lot of noise in the media about this, and the fact we came to a tipping point didn't cause any alarm or cause any consternation or anything like that. I think we're ready to go with what we have, and I feel confident in them.

*Former Astros Great Ken Giles will undergo Rob Manfred Tommy John surgery.

*There will be no Arizona Fall League this year.

*Jake Marisnick is done for the year with the Mets. He played 16 games, and the Astros got Blake Taylor for him.

*Ken Rosenthal: Might A.J. Hinch be the next Tigers manager? If he is, I'm buying a Tigers hat, I don't even care what you think.

*Shoutout to Baltimore's Trey Mancini, who completed his chemotherapy yesterday.

*Buzzfeed: The FinCEN Files offer "an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that fail to stop it."

*A neighbor asked me for a tomato. This is where the story gets weird.

*Outside: The Books Our Endurance Expert Loved This Year (So Far)

*A Musical Selection:

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Monday Morning Hot Links

It was the last home game of the 2020 season, but the Houston MF Astros won back-to-back games for the first time since September 2-3, and won consecutive series for the first time since taking both games of a double-header against Oakland and the following Rangers series (August 29-Sept 3). Houston is 27-26. There are seven regular season games remaining. Oakland got the dog piss beaten out of them by San Francisco, and Seattle lost to the Padres, giving the Astros a 4-game lead in advance of their three-game series that starts on Monday. Thanks to the postseason Bubble, the Astros will not play another game at Minute Maid Park in 2020. 

*George Springer was 3x4 with two home runs, two RsBI, and is basically responsible for the Astros winning this game (in the lineup, anyway). One was a beauty of an Inside-the-Park variety, one was a straightforward Dinger. It's his 14th 2HR game and his first since [squints] September 5. Springer's OPS is .874, the highest it's been since the second game of the season, when he hit a home run. Springer's second home run of the day was the 2000th Astros home run hit at Minute Maid Park. Dusty:

I certainly hope we get to the point where [Springer] puts enough pressure on the Astros to sign him. This guy is a heck of a player and I think his best years are still ahead of him, and this ballpark is perfect for him.

*Game 4 Hero Jose Urquidy: 6IP, 6H/2ER, 2K:2BB. Urquidy threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 23 batters he faced.

Urquidy's last three starts: 19IP, 11H/5ER, 10K:5BB. That's a 2.37 ERA / 0.84 WHIP.

The Bullpen of Scrubb-Taylor-Pressly: 3IP, 1H/0ER, 4K:0BB. They needed 44 pitches to get through the 7th-9th innings.

*Michael Brantley was 0x3 with 2K:1BB. It's the 5th time in 2020 that he has struck out twice in a game. Brantley hasn't struck out three times in a game since May 24, 2018 when he did against [squints] the Astros. That game featured a pitching staff of Morton-Rondon-McHugh. RIP to all.

*Kyle Tucker was hitless but drew two walks for the 4th time this season. He had drawn two walks in his previous 21 games combined (79 PAs). 

*Should the Astros make the playoffs in 2020, it will be playoffs for a franchise-record 4th-straight season, breaking a streak set by the 1997-1999 Astros. 

*That said, Teh Astors would have to win out, and Oakland would need to lose out, in order to win the division. One more Oakland win gives them the division on a tie-breaker, two more and they win it outright.

Houston vs the AL West, 2020: 17-16 (.515). 

Houston vs the AL West, 2019: 56-20 (.737)

Houston vs the AL West, 2018: 46-30 (.605)

Houston vs the AL West, 2017: 50-26 (.658)

Houston is 7-13 against the Angels and A's in 2020. 

*A Musical Selection:

Sunday Morning Hot Links

The Astros won. Arizona had a 2-0 lead and Houston scored the final three runs of the game. Michael Brantley started a fantastic double play. The Astros are 26-26. Oakland and Seattle both won, so the Astros are still 7.0 back of Oakland and 3.0 up on Seattle. The regular season ends one week from today.

*The Astros have gone six straight games without scoring 5+ runs. 

July-Aug: 176 runs in 33 games (19-14) - 5.33 runs/game
September: 70 runs in 19 games (7-12) - 3.68 runs/game

*Cristian Javier threw 4IP, 4H/2ER, 6K:1BB, coming out of the game after just 77 pitches, though it had been 12 days since his last start. Javier:
I felt good. I felt healthy. I felt strong. There were a couple of pitches that didn't land. They were outside the zone, not where I wanted them, but I was able to make the adjustments and have a good outing.

*The bullpen of Paredes, Raley, James, Pressly: 5IP, 0H/0ER, 4K:2BB. 

*Jose Altuve was 1x4 with his first two RsBI since August 20. Dusty:
We just want to be there to get our best baseball ahead. Under a normal 162-game season, you wouldn't be that worried about Jose because you figured he had another 300 or 400 (at-bats) to go. The only reason guys are concerned and pressing a little is because of the shortened season. Our best baseball is ahead of us.

FanGraphs' Dan Szymborski: Is Jose Altuve still on track for 3,000 hits?

*Alex Bregman was 0x4 with 2K:0BB. It's the 17th time in his career, and the first since July 24, 2019, that Bregman had four plate appearance without getting on base and two strikeouts.

*I don't know how many of you actually thought you might get to see Justin Verlander in an Astros uniform again, but...you probably won't. Verlander announced that he will undergo Rob Manfred surgery Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of this year and 2021, after which he will be a free agent. Darkness spread over the land. Verlander:
I was hopeful that I would be able to return to competition in 2020. However, during my simulated game, unfortunately the injury worsened. Obviously, I'm extremely disappointed, but I will not let this slow down my aspirations for my career. I will approach this rehab the only way I know, attack and don't look back.

Of course Chandler Rome said this was the outcome all the way back on July 27, and he caught all sorts of hell for it. I don't fault Justin Verlander - or the Astros - for giving this season a shot. If he had the surgery at the beginning of August, he likely wouldn't have been back for all of 2021, regardless. As it was, they were hoping to get something out of this year, couldn't, and he'll miss all of 2021, anyway. He's going to make $33 million in 2021 regardless, so why not see if it's something that could be fixed with rest and treatment? I get why they slow-played it. 

From 2006-2019 (14 seasons), Verlander averaged 32 starts per season, and that includes a 2015 season that limited him to 20 starts. Your Games Started leaderboard from 2006-2019:

Verlander: 451
Hole Camels: 421
Jon Lester: 411
Felix Hernandez: 406
James Shields: 405
CC Sabathia: 403
Zack Greinke: 390

This has everything to do with shutting down Spring Training in March, having three and a half months off before being told to report in early July because games started in less than a month. That is negligent on MLB's part. There were eight Tommy John surgeries in all of 2019. Justin Verlander will be the sixth in the last two months. That doesn't account for guys like Roberto Osuna, or Chris Devenski, who are out for an extended period of time because of the quick ramp-up. Those stories are out there for every single team. This is MLB's fault. 

*McTaggart: Who will fill out the postseason rotation?

*Chandler Rome: The impact of losing Verlander beyond 2020. James Click:
It's impossible to say that, on some level, it does not shrink the window. No team can lose even the anticipation of having a Justin Verlander come back and look themselves in the mirror and say honestly that that doesn't hurt your chances of winning a championship.

*Check out last night's update on Tropical Storm Beta from Space City Weather.

*My Dude US Cocksman and I both enjoy a writer named David Grann. David Grann does what I aspire to do one day: write freaking bizarre yet compelling non-fiction. If you are unfamiliar with David Grann's work might I suggest The Devil & Sherlock Holmes, Killers of the Flower Moon, or this piece that The Cocksman sent me: The White Darkness

*I just picked up Norco '80, and think you might enjoy it.


*The Atlantic: How we survive the winter.

*You need to watch The One I Love on Netflix, with Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss, and Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss. This is not a typo. 

*Leeds 4 Fulham 3. Leeds United gets their first Premier League victory since April 10, 2004 and it was squeaky bum time for the last 30 minutes. Check out this beauty of a goal that gave Leeds what seemed to be an insurmountable 4-1 lead over Fulham, only to watch two Fulham goals go in within minutes. Three points, one for each year this game took off of my life.

*A Musical Selection:

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Morning Hot Links

The Astros squandered away yet another game, loading the bases with nobody out in the 1st before striking out three straight times to end the threat. It's maddening, really. Houston was up 2-0, then down 3-2, tied 3-3, and finally lost 6-3. To Arizona. The Astros are 25-26. Houston is 6-11 in September. Oakland won, and Seattle lost, so the Astros are 7.0 back of the A's with nine to play, and still three up on Seattle. The Astros have the 17th-best win% in MLB! I thought I was maybe four years away from saying this, but I just don't think the Astros are very good. 

*Dusty, on the 1st inning:

That was real frustrating, especially to go down twice looking and once swinging. It's real frustrating. We could have blown the game open and maybe gotten him out of the game in the first inning, and the only run we scored was on a wild pitch. Yeah, it was real frustrating for all of us.

Indeed. Asked if the Astros have just given up, Dusty:

We didn't check out. That's the wrong choice of words. It might have looked like that, but there's no way that that's possible.

*The Astros were 2x10 w/RISP. 

2020 w/RISP: .268/.354/.426

2019 w/RISP: .268/.353/.504

Interestingly, the rest of the AL, 2020 w/RISP: .250/.340/.424

*Zack Greinke: 5IP, 6H/3ER, 9K:0BB.

*Jose Altuve had a double and a walk, the second time in the last three games in which he has gotten on base twice in a game. It was his first extra-base hit since August 22. 

*Alex Bregman was 0x4. Since returning from the IL with a hamstring strain, Bregman is hitting .179/.250/.303.

*Kyle Tucker got his 40th RBI of the season in the team's 51st game.

*Justin Verlander will throw another simulated game on Monday. 

*Bread Peacock was placed on the IL with shoulder discomfort - the same one that has been bothering him since last season, and won't pitch in any potential postseason. Peacock is a free agent after this season, so his time in Houston is likely done. Peacock was the last Astros tie to the trade with Oakland that brought him, Chris Carter, and Max Stassi to Houston in exchange for Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez, Jr. An OG Astro dating back to 2013, if Peacock is done with the Astros then he'll go down as a 32-30 pitcher with a 4.08 ERA / 1.30 WHIP. Except that's not really the whole story. 

From 2016-2018, Peacock appeared in 105 games in both the rotation (27 starts) and the bullpen (30 games finished) and went 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA / 1.17 WHIP. He struck out 11.2 batters/9 in those years. Peacock got the save after throwing 3.2 scoreless IP in Game 3 of the 2017 World Series, striking out four and walking just one. Peacock also saved Game 7 when Lance McCullers got pulled in the 3rd Inning and Peacock threw 2IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB to bridge it to Liriano (who else amongst us completely forgot that Francisco Liriano pitched in Game 7) and Devenski to get through the 5th, before Charlie F. Morton finished off the last four innings. God bless Bread Peacock.

Blake Taylor was activated from the IL to take his place. 

*Jake Kaplan: Should the Astros make the playoffs, who should start Game 3?

*Friend of Astros County Daren Willman: The Astros make a ton of contact, it's just mostly not good contact.

*A fun story from 2018: Does Greinke yell "Swing!" when he pitches?

*The White Sox called up their 1st Round pick from the 2020 draft.

*New York Magazine: Injured? Bruised egos, gobs of money, and the bitter feud that took down Cellino & Barnes, New York's absurdly ubiquitous accident law firm.

*There's a tricky time trial in today's stage of the Tour de France, the penultimate stage of the 2020 Tour.

*Continuing the European Sprots, Leeds United plays Fulham at 9am today. 

*A Musical Selection: