Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Morning Hot Links

Well friends, it was a good effort. We did what we could, but unfortunate events, bad misplays, and poor health ended our season quicker than what we wanted it to. I'm not going to go over the game in detail. There just wasn't a lot that stood out besides the Marwin home run and I don't really want to relive it, so I will turn it over to Tags' recap here.

Before I get started on any Hot Links, I would like to talk what a fun thing I'm adding during Offseason Hot Links. Since the amount of links has a good chance of decreasing since, you know, the Astros won't be playing anytime soon, I am planning on creating online Astros-related quizzes to attach at the end of the Hot Links. There will be no prize, because you could easily just Google the answers. I highly suggest that you don't do that though, because it kind of takes the fun out of the whole thing and c'mon nobody is really going to remember you "the guy who knows everything about the Astros because of his Astros quiz scores" This might decrease the amount of actual links posted on Fridays since I will have to make them from scratch, but it brings more interactivity to the daily posts. Anyways I have a few ideas lined up, so stay tuned for those starting next Friday.

~Now Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Programming~

Was the Justin Verlander trade the best deadline deal in baseball history? Michael Baumann has the answer.

Sure we lost in the ALCS, but it gave us this cool stat.

Remember when Erik Kratz tripped in our 2016 intros? That was on purpose.

2018 playoff games are running long. Is that a problem? Can we fix it?

The Astros were cleared from their sign-stealing allegations and other teams are not happy about the ruling.

No matter how good your team is, you still need at least a little luck on your side.

The fans who tried to catch Altuve's Home Run Ball That Wasn't open up about what they experienced.

There is a report that Lance McCullers was pitching through a torn UCL. LMJ would not comment on the report. Potentially no Keuchel, Morton, and LMJ heading into 2019. We'll see.

Let's start looking at some thoughts about upcoming free agents:

Marwin Gonzalez: I Hot Link'd this video a couple weeks ago and it seems as if Marwin is seen as part of the "core" of Astros, so there is a better chance than not of him returning to Houston. (pls)

Dallas Keuchel: Likely gone. He's going to get paid big money by somebody this free agent season (like the Yankees, probably). He has the 2nd highest 2018 WAR for a free agent pitcher going into this offseason.

Charlie Morton: likely the biggest question mark of them all.

Maldonado and Gattis are both free agents. Which one do we bring back? Or is this Realmuto trade still a thing?

Tony Sipp: Believe it or not, Tony posted a decent 0.9 WAR, but it's good enough for the 7th highest available relief pitcher on the market.

We Might Finally Know What Smacked Uranus Sideways (welcome back, funny headlines. I missed you.)

This is like the third drunk bird story I've shared, but dangit it's just so funny every time.

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1972, the A's beat the Reds 3-2 in Game 4 of the World Series thanks to four 9th inning singles, three of which were hit by pinch hitters.

In 1981, the Expos were eliminated and were never in the playoffs again after Rick Monday hit a 2-out 9th inning home run to move the Dodgers to the World Series.

In 1999, Andruw Jones won the Braves a pennant by taking ball four with the bases loaded in the 11th inning.

In 2004, Alex Rodriguez was called out for interference after swatting the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove. The Red Sox went on to force a Game 7 after winning this game, the first team to ever do so after going down in the series 0-3.

In 2005, the Houston Astros decided they wanted to go play in their first ever World Series.

In 2008, the Rays went on to play in their first ever World Series after defeating the Red Sox 3-1, the first time in franchise history.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday Morning Hot Links

Note: I woke up three hours late this morning. These are abbreviated. I'm still mad. 

I don't even know where to start. The Astros "lost" last night 8-6 in Game 4 after Jose Altuve's game-tying home run in the first was erroneously ruled as fan interference by someone who gets paid to do their job, and also by replay officials who are also presumably paid to get calls right. They did not. Astros pitchers failed in big spots and now the Astros need three straight wins in order to win their second consecutive pennant and World Series.

*The Red Sox are now 86.5% favorites to win the series, via FanGraphs.
FiveThirtyEight says the Red Sox win 88% of the simulations, though Houston wins 60% of the Game 5 simulations.

*Altuve, on the call:
I've got zero control, so it's hard for me to say something when it doesn't matter what I said. They're not going to change it. I normally don't get mad about umpires' calls. That one I was a little upset. I looked at the replay, and it's tough. That's the only thing I can say. It's really hard.

I'm pissed off, we're all pissed off. That's the best way to describe it. Frustration, and beyond that, to being pissed off because it would have made a big difference. We talked about it during the course of the whole game.

Professional dick Joe West:
Here's the whole play. [Altuve] hit the ball to right field [Ed. Note: Correct.] [Betts] jumped up to try to make a catch [Ed. Note: Correct.] The fan interfered with him over the playing field. [Ed. Note: Incorrect.] That's why I called spectator interference. The replay official said I was right. [Ed. Note: Incorrect.] That's all. He said I have nothing that can change it. 

Joe West is a moron and those idiots in Chelsea aren't any better.

The liar Mookie Betts:
I'm 100% positive I was going to be able to catch that one. But as I jumped and went over, reached my hand up, I felt like somebody was kind of pushing my glove out of the way or something.

And that, right there, is the reason it should have been a home run. Betts was over the wall. Rule 6.01(e) clearly says:
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator's interference.

What the hell else do you want? The fan was not over the fence, not on the playing field. Betts went over the fence into the stands. Whichever Houston-area Golden Corral bathroom Joe West is currently destroying, he needs to be shouted out of there.

*FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan says the fan interference call was more Good than Bad. I disagree with FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan.

*So many things were inches away. Christian Vazquez's double that hit George Springer's glove was followed by Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-run go-ahead home run. Correa flipping the ball to Marwin to start the double-play rather than missing the bag by about 2" and only getting one out. Lance McCullers walking in a run. Tony Kemp getting thrown out at second in the 8th. All of the breaks that the 2017 Astros caught on the way to a World Series title are suddenly going the other way.

*Carlos Correa:
Two tremendous teams going at it. It was well-played baseball. They came up with the win. I had some flashbacks of Game 5 of the World Series last year. That's the type of game it was. Nobody gave up. We didn't win, but it was a great game.

*The Athletic: An oral history of Game 4.

*The bullpen, ALCS: 6.89 ERA. 15.2IP, 17H/12ER. Unacceptable.

*Tony Kemp's home run was the softest-hit home run of the postseason. And it didn't go as far as Altuve's.

*The Ringer: Is the Verlander trade the best deadline deal in baseball history?

*The Red Sox had a coach kicked out of the ALDS and the Dodgers and Rockies lobbed accusations about cheating at each other, too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

UPDATED: Are the Astros stealing signs?

Sometime yesterday someone who calls himself "Danny Picard" published an article on something called "Metro US" that alleged the Astros were trying to cheat, and have been for quite some time. Picard:
In the third inning of the first game of the [ALCS], security removed a man claiming to be an Astros employee from the media-credentialed area next to the Boston Red Sox dugout, according to multiple security sources who were on the scene at the time of the incident. The man had a small camera and was texting frequently, but did not have a media credential.

After the man was removed another Astros staffer intervened - according to sources who were on the scene - and tried to convince security that he was authorized to be in the area next to the dugout. The man was not allowed back into the credentialed area, but was allowed to remain in the ballpark. 

Picard noted that MLB acknowledged this event happened, in an email on Tuesday. Picard also noted that, while no one would comment, no one - the Astros included - would also deny anything.

We can go back a couple of years for this. It started a while ago:

*April 19, 2016: Even though the Rangers beat Houston 7-5, Derek Holland (who had allowed three straight doubles to open the 2nd inning, scoring two runs) thought the Astros were up to something. Holland:
Yeah, they knew what was coming....It looked like they were telling each other what was coming; that's what it felt like. I could be wrong, but we were hearing some things...for them to be jumping on fastballs inside and curveballs, it's like they knew something was coming...They would whistle every time we went inside. It was just weird. We could hear it, big time, and it was only when I went inside. Now, that could be - it sounded like it was coming from their dugout, but...we could be totally wrong. 

*After a 7-1 loss on June 2, 2017 to the Astros, Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos had the following to say:
Knowing when we played with Carlos Beltran here last year, the guys (on the Astros) steal signs like crazy on second base. That's why I was going to the mound every pitch, switching signs, making sure those guys wouldn't relay signs to the hitter. I think when we struck out Correa, we switched the signs just before we went to hit; if you see his swing, he was late because they thought we were trying the's because they were relaying the wrong signs from second base. We knew that when we went to play in Houston, that's just something we have to do...because we know those guys are relaying signs when they have a guy on second base. 

All seven of the Astros runs were scored with a runner on second base.

*September 2017: A Boston Red Sox trainer was found to be using an Apple Watch to steal signs, according to an MLB investigation, and commissioner Rob Manfred issued a warning to all 30 teams.

*In January 2018 Ken Rosenthal published a piece in the The Athletic saying that teams trying to switch signals and patterns in order to prevent their signs from being stolen was a major factor in MLB's efforts to address pace of play issues. Rosenthal notes that the 2016 Yankees liked getting signs but the 2017 Yankees didn't, because the signs were "a distraction." One of the pace of play initiatives was limiting mound visits, a decision with which Lance McCullers was none too pleased:

*August 25, 2018: The Astros beat Anaheim 8-3. Opposing pitcher Jaime Barria allowed 5H/4ER, 1K:2BB. Of Barria's 26 starts in 2018, this was tied for his 2nd-shortest outing of the season. Jaime Barria thought the Astros were stealing signs in the 1st Inning, in which he threw 36 pitches and allowed four hits and three earned runs. He said he recovered and changed the signs afterwards (line after the 1st: 2IP, 1H/1ER, 0K:2BB) but his outing drained him. The Astros won 8-3

*August 27, 2018: Oakland's Brett Anderson faced the Astros. In his second start of the season - which happened to come at home against Houston on May 7, Anderson allowed 10H/9R (7ER) 0K:3BB. The next time he faced them, on August 27, he allowed 7H/5ER, 1K:0BB in 2.2IP. In his previous four starts combined Anderson allowed 12H/2ER, 14K:2BB, in 26.2IP.

In 17 starts in 2018, Anderson allowed a 4.48 ERA / 1.28 WHIP. Against the Astros? 5IP, 17H/12ER, 1K:3BB, a 21.60 ERA / 4.00 WHIP. After that August 27 start, Anderson said:
I don't know if I was tipping pitches with guys at second or something but they seemed to be laying off good pitches and on certain pitches. So I've got to look at video, re-evaluate that. 

Anderson admitted in that article that he didn't have a good feel for his slider. Anderson would make four starts in September after getting a couple of weeks off following the 5ER in 2.2IP outing, he would throw 15.1IP, 21H/11ER, 13K:1BB, a 6.46 ERA and an .813 OPS-against.

August 31, 2018: Barria starts against Houston again, and the Angels won 3-0. Barria threw 6IP, 3H/0ER, 4K:1BB.

What was the difference?

October 16: 9:18pm. Cleveland beat writer Paul Hoynes says that Cleveland has filed a complaint with MLB over an Astros employee "holding a cellphone camera" being removed not once but twice, from the photographer's pit trying to film inside Cleveland's dugout during Game 3.  The next day (October 9) "Boston officials called the Indians to find out what happened." Bob Nightengale, I guess, confirmed this via an AP report.

This is a weird point because if Boston knows that someone was kicked out of Cleveland's media pit while the Astros' employee was trying to record on the Indians' dugout area, and not the other way around, then Boston was also keeping AN AWFULLY CLOSE EYE on Cleveland's dugout area.

For almost two weeks before the ALDS, the Indians worked hard to protect their signs because of Houston's reputation for stealing signs. The Astros reportedly try to train cameras on the opposing catcher, manager and bench coach in an effort to steal signs and pick up tendencies. 

*Jeff Passan, who is ALL IN on this, reported that the "someone" is Kyle McLaughlin, who was removed from both Progressive Field and Fenway Park. Passan, who went fishing on Instagram, noted that McLaughlin has pictures with Jim Crane AND Crane's private plane, and had removed "Astros" from his Instagram bio. Among the other things Passan alleges, according to sources:

-The Astros will sometimes clap from the dugout to signal pitches.
-The Astros will sometimes hit a trash can to signal pitches.
-The Dodgers thought the Astros were stealing signs in the World Series.
-MLB tried, and failed, to corroborate those allegations (something that seems like it should be mentioned earlier in the piece).
-The Astros have not been punished by MLB.
-Other teams do the same thing.

*Boston's Dave Dombrowski confirmed that the Red Sox were aware of the possibility that the Astros were trying to gain an "unfair advantage." Alex Cora:
I'm always concerned about that throughout the season. So I mean we do a good job changing sequences and paying attention to details. And we don't get caught up on the whole paranoia thing of the signs. We try to slow it down. If we feel there's something going on we switch the signs. 

Forbes reporter Maury Brown has a source who says the Astros' connection was trying to see if the Red Sox were doing it again, a plot twist of a reason for Chris Correa's current imprisonment (I'm doing this questionable thing to see if someone else is doing this questionable thing).

It's a mess. It's a bad look for sure. If you already didn't like the Astros then it's fuel for your hatred and a reason to dismiss the organization as a fraud. It's an unwelcome distraction from the very pressing matter at hand: the Astros need to win three games out of four against a team that won two games out of three all season long.

Either more will come out and clear it up - in the Astros' favor or otherwise - or nothing more will come up, and the Astros will have to deal with the whispers for...the remainder of their existence. For now, it's yet another black eye for the organization.


2:50pm: MLB released a statement regarding the entire situation:

*So I guess the situation is resolved. Maury Brown's source was correct. Jeff Passan was ultimately correct that other teams are doing it, too. And no one's opinion about the Astros will change.

Wednesday Morning Hot Links

So #blessed to be able to recap the abomination of this baseball game that happened yesterday evening. True story, I was unable to get yesterday and tomorrow off of work, so I had to listen to the radio call was I was hanging out at work. When Osuna gave up that grand slam, people were worried about me. Somebody literally gave me candy to cheer me up. I was sad. I am still sad. And I'm gonna be honest: I'm terrified for tonight. The way I see it, if we win this game tonight with Morton on the hill, we have Verlander at home for game five and another David Price start for game six (who was bad, even though the Red Sox won that game Sunday). If we lose tonight, sure we still have that going for us, but the problem is there are absolutely no room for error down 3-1 and I can't live with that.

~Dallas Keuchel had another rocky first inning and got his 6.88 first inning ERA inflated once more. He has given up 26 earned runs in the first inning and 24 earned runs in innings 2-4.

~Y'all hated Ken Giles but Roberto Osuna is sitting at a quite unfashionable 67.50 postseason ERA.

~Meanwhile, the Red Sox bullpen that I was told was bad has only given up 3 hits and only one run over 6.1 innings in the last two games.

~One of the positives to come out of this game, however, was Tony Kemp. I love Tony Kemp.

~So, uh, FiveThirtyEight now gives the Astros a 22% chance to win the World Series and a 33% chance to win the ALCS. HOWEVER, we have a 57% chance to win Game 4 tonight.

~FANGRAPHS ON THE OTHER HAND gives us a 54.2% chance to still escape the ALCS and a 35.2% chance to win the World Series. I like this one.

Betting lines are up on OddsShark for Game 4. I have no idea what these numbers mean, but you might.

~Ah yes, and after the game finished, we found out that the Astros might have been trying to steal signs. My unimportant take that nobody cares about: sign stealing is absolutely a part of the game, everyone does it, and it's part of the mental battle of this sport. However, taking pictures of the visitors dugout before the game and snooping around to somehow gain a competitive edge, that's too far in my opinion. I really hope that this story ends up becoming nothing, because I really don't want to try or listen to people try and defend this action. But, we have no other information. For all we know, this is just the media trying to find something to talk about. Anyways, Passan had the original story here if you're interested.

~Anyways, it's Charlie tonight. He hasn't pitched in a game in 18 days and has only thrown one simulated game in that stretch. Hinch says he will be aggressive with his bullpen if need be.

~ESPN writes that players like Marwin Gonzalez give this team a championship edge. 

~ESPN also writes that being down 2-1 brings up an awful lot of questions going into tonight's game.

~In the final ESPN article of the morning, Bregman is getting Bonds'ed.

~The Astros Foundation announced they had donated nearly a quarter of a million dollars towards multiple different women's shelters.

~Ryan Pressly.

~The Astros already know that they are a terrible awful baseball team so they are already making trades with the Marlins to tank the franchise and start all over again. Just unfortunate.

~Now it's the Washington Post's turn to give our bullpen some love.

~Alex Bregman does not like not-strikes.

~Mattress Mack put $150K on our Astros, because he's gotta earn that money back from all those mattresses he'll be giving away somehow :)

On This Day in Baseball History

In 1987, the first indoor World Series game was played. Dan Gladden's grand slam in the dome contributed to making the noise level crack 110 dB, the average human pain threshold in a study done by Purdue University.

In 1989, the World Series Game 3 between the A's and Giants was postponed after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake erupted in the Bay Area, killing 63 people in total. 

In 2004, Carlos Beltran tied Barry Bonds' postseason home run record with his 8th home run and broke another record with his fifth consecutive postseason game with a home run.

In 2005, Albert Pujols hit The Home Run in NLCS Game 5 against Houston. Don't click this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday Morning Hot Links

Off-Day yesterday for everyone in baseball except the Brewers, and Walker Buehler. Astros/Red Sox at Minute Maid Park at 4:09pm Central today. I'm actually okay with the afternoon start time, as the Dodgers are playing a home game in Game 4. No Start Time Shenanigans from me today!

*Since the beginning of the 2017 postseason, the Astros are 10-1 at home in the playoffs, the lone loss coming in Game 4 of the World Series, with a +30 run differential.

*As we go back to the simulation sites, it's worth remembering that FiveThirtyEight's Game Prediction is 0-2: They thought the Red Sox would win G1 and the Astros would win G2. That said:

-FiveThirtyEight still gives the Astros a 58-42 edge in the ALCS, with a 55-45 nod in Game 3.
-FanGraphs has the Astros at 54-46 over Boston in the series.

*It's not terribly surprising that Dallas Keuchel isn't a fan of Bullpenning. Keuchel:
I think the 25-man roster, maybe a 30-man roster, throughout the course of 162 games is an ancient artifact now, where teams are more willing to just do whatever it takes, no matter the cost. But I don't like that.

In that link, we find Alex Cora talking about Alex Bregman going 0x3 with 6BB and an HBP. Cora:
So far we keep throwing to the edges, and he's not swinging. He's taking his walks. But we'll stay with our game plan. We still are attacking him the way we feel. And I'm not saying, 'So far, so good,' but there's not too much damage done from that spot right now.

It will be up to the guys behind Bregman to drive him in and score some runs.

*Mark Feinsand has the three keys for the Astros to win Game 3.

*Jose Altuve may start at DH in Game 3. Hinch, on Altuve and his knee:
We're going to play three days in a row here. So I talked to him about that, and just for him to continue to give us what he's got. And he's fine. Obviously it didn't hurt his swing in the ninth inning [Sunday night]. He's able to be a productive player. But he's battling it a little bit.

*The Athletic's Rustin Dodd: A.J. Hinch, once ahead of his time, is fueled by the lessons of the past. History, FTW.

*Here's a good Tyler Kepner article on Dallas "Kuechel," which is East Coast Headline Writer-speak for "Keuchel." (Kepner got his name right in the article. The headline guy? Come on, dude.)

*For as much as J.D. Martinez doesn't want to talk about the Astros, he sure does bring them up a lot.

*Alex Bregman and his connection to Ted Williams.

*Going to any of the games this week? Parking is going to suck.

*NY Times' Billy Witz has a good article on bullpen-changer Ryan Pressly. Luhnow:
Knowing that A.J. doesn't have to go grab our fifth starter and hope he can get three or four innings of a close playoff game, yeah, that gives me a lot of comfort this year compared to last. 

*The Toronto Sun: "Dynastic" Astros a tough out.

*Washington Post: The Astros take good pitchers and make them better.

*Jerome Solomon: Roberto Osuna is ready to do his part for the Astros.

*Speaking of Osuna, the Astros have made a long-term commitment to work with a dozen local and state agencies that advocate for victims of domestic violence.

*A Musical Selection:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday Morning Hot Links

Boy oh boy that was not the best Astros game I've ever watched. But, even with all of the mistakes, Alex Bregman was still about 2 feet away from tying the game in the 9th. Lucky enough for us, I truly doubt that we play that sloppily again. The upcoming three games being at home probably won't hurt either.

-Despite Gerrit Cole's less-than-ideal outing, he still outpitched Price.
Cole: 6 IP/6 H/4 ER/2 BB/5 K
Price: 4.2 IP/5 H/4 ER/4 BB/4 K

(Between you and me, if we decide to use some common sense, Cole gave up 5 ERs. If the pitcher causes the error, it should count as an earned run. Who wrote this rule?)

-Astros hitters in the first three innings: 5-9, 4 RBIs
-Astros hitters in the last six innings: 2-18, 1 RBI

-Alex Bregman has a borderline ridiculous statline of .000/.700/.000 in the ALCS so far.

-Unfun Fact - This was the first time a team has won a postseason game with David Price starting on the mound.

-Another Unfun Fact: Martin Maldonado allowed two official passed balls tonight. He has had 13 during the entire regular season and only 3 of those with the Astros.

-Yet Again With The Unfun Facts: Marwin wasn't doing great after hitting the straight up metal wall Boston decided to drop into their stadium.

-AJ's full postgame presser can be found here, where he talks the passed balls, Cora, Bregman, and more.

Well, lets check into the predictions:

Game 3 chance to win (Eovaldi vs. Keuchel): 55%

Pre-Game 2 chance to win the series: 70%
Current chance to win the series: 59%

Current chance to win the World Series: 38%

Change to win the series: 52.4%

Chance to win the World Series: 35.2%

-Charlie Morton has been officially announced as the game 4 starter. He has not pitched in a MLB game since September 30th.

-A lot of teams who need a manager want Astros brand new bench coach Joe Espada.

-Verlander is not thinking about retirement. Verlander also immediately got better once joining the Astros, and Ted Berg dives in to tell us how.

-Here's your daily article of just how good Alex Bregman has been.

-Here's your daily article asking if the 2018 Houston Astros are the best team in franchise history.

-How dumping Ken Giles transformed the Astros bullpen.

-Astros and Texans fans tailgated together, and somehow the Texans were the team that delivered.

On This Day in Baseball History
-In 1892, Reds pitcher Bumpus Jones throws a no-hitter against Pittsburgh in his first career start. It was also the latest date a no-hitter was thrown in an MLB season.

-In 1964, Mickey Mantle played his final postseason game, hitting his 18th career postseason home run.

In 1982, Cardinals rookie Willie McGee became the third rookie to hit two home runs in the same postseason game.

In 1986, the Mets defeated the Astros in the longest postseason game ever played (16 innings, 4 hrs. 42 minutes) to advance to the World Series. Reminder, you don't have to click the link.

In 1988, Kirk Gibson hit a home run that you might have seen before.