Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Morning Hot Links

*The offense went ahead and called in sick in advance of today's off-day, getting dominated by Jharel Cotton and his 5.88 ERA in a 3-2 loss. The Astros are 76-48. The Angels and Red Sox won yesterday, so the Astros are 12 games up on the Angels and 4.5 up on Boston. There are 38 games remaining.

*The game got off to a rough start when Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez made two errors on the same play that allowed Marcus Semien to get a 2-run little-league home run. Semien:
I have had that play happen in Little League on my mom's birthday. She called it a home run and...there were errors but she was like: 'Oh you hit a home run for me on my birthday.' And it was probably like an infield single that turned into a run scored. 

*Yesterday was Jharel Cotton's fifth start since coming off the DL. In the previous four starts he threw 20.2IP, 28H/19ER, 13K:10BB. So of course Cotton - whose brother Jamaine was the Astros' 15th Round pick in 2010 - threw 6.2IP, 4H/2ER, 2K:3BB.

*Hinch:
They did a really good job of keeping us pretty much in check. We didn't do a lot offensively in the first part of the game. We put ourselves behind, and never really got it controlled in the bigger moments....You have to give credit when the [other] guys beat you.

*6-8 in the lineup (J.D. Davis, Derek Fisher, and Juan Centeno) went a combined 1x10 on 28 total pitches. Davis is hitting .136/.296/.227 in his first seven games with the Astros.

*Alex Bregman and Jake Marisnick each had two hits.

*George Springer has hit one home run since popping off for a 2HR on July 7.

*The loss put the Astros' August record at 7-12, setting a season-high in losses in a calendar month.

*Brad Peacock did Brad Peacock things, working in and out of trouble: 5.1IP, 7H/3R (1ER), 8K:2BB. The 3rd run of the game was charged to Peacock despite scoring on a Francis Martes/Juan Centeno passed ball. So to recap, the A's three runs scored on a two-error play and a passed ball. Clean baseball. Hinch:
It wasn't his fault how the game started. He had another good outing, he kept us in the game, and that's what you ask your guys to do. 

Off-Day Playoff Odds Check:
FanGraphs (98-64): 100% to win division, 15.9% to win World Series
FiveThirtyEight (98-64): 100% to win division. 14% to win World Series
Baseball Prospectus (98-64): 100% to win division. 16.7% to win World Series*

*Last update: Sunday morning

*Carlos Correa took BP off a pitching machine before yesterday's game. Hinch:
The high-speed batting practice inside off the machine is a higher-end batting practice than a coach throwing it to you. So, he's doing remarkably well. His body's in good shape. He took ground balls again. But he's got a few things to do before we'll talk competition.

Lance McCullers also threw BP to Brian McCann and Evan Gattis but still isn't expected to return until September.

*Corpus will get a postseason push on Tuesday against Midland as Evan Gattis, Will Harris, Michael Feliz, and Tony Sipp will all get a rehab appearance.

*Tyler Clippard became the 3rd Major Leaguer in history (or at least since 1969 when they started counting it) and the first since Ted Abernathy in 1970 to record a save for three different teams in the same season.

*LOL at Richard Justice's unnamed scout, who doesn't believe the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in the Majors.

*Obligatory Justin Verlander note, after he blanked the Dodgers yesterday. Verlander:
I went out there against the best team in baseball, and this morning I just kind of told myself I was going to take a playoff type of intensity out there and not let these guys sweep us. It's impossible to really create a playoff atmosphere without being in the playoffs, but I tried my best to do that and use that much more focus and intensity on every pitch. 

*Jordan Jankowski, whose wife is named Jordan, was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers and optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City after the Astros had to DFA him to make room for Max Stassi.

*Carlos Beltran's fundraiser went well. You could tell me that Alex Bregman was a star in the 1970s and I would believe you.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*Wearing one of the greatest uniforms in Astros history, Collin McHugh and the Astros whooped the Philadelphia Kansas City Oakland Athletics 3-0. The Astros are 76-47. The Angels won, while the Red Sox lost. So the Astros' lead is 13 games on the Angels and 5.5 games on the Red Sox. There are 39 games remaining.

1998 Watch
2017: 76-47
1998: 76-47

*It's the Astros' 7th shutout of the season and their 24th game of holding the opponent to 0 or 1 run. The Astros have won four of their last five games, five of their last seven.

*The Astros are 12-2 against Oakland in 2017 and have won 19 of their last 21 against the A's. In 2013, Oakland went 15-4 against Houston on their way to a division title. A's manager Bob Melvin:
How quickly it can flip. A few years ago we were doing to them what they're doing to us now. It doesn't feel too terribly good on the other side. 

Collin McHugh: 6IP, 6H/0ER, 3K:1BB. Congrats on your first win of the season, Collin McHugh. He threw a dumb one against the White Sox, but his last two starts are: 11.2IP, 12H/2ER, 9K:2BB. McHugh:
As the game went on, I got a little bit more efficient with my pitches, with my fastball.

*Top-3 in the lineup (Springer-Bregman-Altuve) went 6x10 with 0K:2BB while 4-9 in the lineup went 2x18, 4K:1BB.

*The Astros got 6 GIDPs, which is ridiculous and if we were A's fans we'd be livid right now. The 6 GIDPs are the most for Astros pitchers since May 17, 2003, when the Astros got 6 GIDPs against the Phillies but still lost 9-4.

*Will Harris feels good and will likely go on a rehab assignment on Tuesday

*Baseball Prospectus has determined that Alex Bregman is, in fact, a star.

*Sportsnet's Shi Davidi has a great profile of Teoscar Hernandez, who was super-excited to get traded to Toronto.

*Jordan Jankowski is on outright waivers. If he clears, he'll stay with the organization. Jordan Jankowski's wife is named Jordan.

*The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo writes that the Astros "haven't shut the door" on acquiring Justin Verlander but would have to take on most of his contract ($7m remaining this year, $56m over the next two seasons) and "give up a few prospects."

*Astros' minor-league playoff check:
Fresno: 70-57, 1.0 back of Reno (whom they are currently playing)
Corpus: 57-67, 7.0 back
Buies Creek: 70-55, 5.5 up in the 2nd half
Quad Cities: 72-51, 6.0 up in the 2nd half
Tri-City: 28-27, 2.0 back
Greeneville: 29-26, 4.5 back

*In the ongoing effort to always be a bigger part of the story than is necessary, umpires wore white wristbands to raise awareness of verbal abuse by players and managers.

*From Jeff Pearlman: The story behind sportswriting's filthiest [mess]-up.

*Someone from Indiana University's compliance office is about to file for unemployment.

*Click this link to read the book I started yesterday afternoon, and find very enjoyable.

*The New Zealand Bastard Chris Wood didn't play yesterday because he wants to play for a terrible Premier League side instead of the Glorious Leeds United, and Leeds United won yesterday, anyway. Marching On Together...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Morning Hot Links

Keuchel back. A second consecutive great Keuchel start means things might finally be clicking, even if the Astros got held to three runs off a scuffling Sean Manaea. Astros win 3-1 to improve to 75-47. The Angels lost and the Red Sox won, so that's a 13-game division lead and a 4.5-game lead on Boston.

*Keuchel: 7IP, 3H/0ER, 3K:1BB - 17 groundball outs, one flyball out. Hinch:
He was awesome and really impressive with how he went about it with only one difficult inning they made him work. He's so fun to watch pitch when he can control contact the way he does, the ball's on the ground.

Keuchel:
It was probably the best movement I have had in a long time pre-injury.

*Bregman, on playing behind Keuchel:
It's fun to play behind him. You know you're going to get some ground balls that day, you know you've got to be on your toes, you know you've got to be at your best. He's the ace for a reason.

In his career, Keuchel is 5-3 with a 2.39 ERA/1.14 WHIP against Oakland.

*Chris Devenski allowed four home runs in 108.1IP in 2016. After last night's home run allowed, he's up to nine in 63.2IP in 2017.

*Ken Giles replaced Devenski one pitch into an at-bat and recorded a five-out save, five days after recording a six-out save. Giles, since the All-Star Break: 13 appearances, 14.1IP, 7H/2ER, 21K:3BB. 1.26 ERA/0.70 WHIP. Giles is loving it:
This is crunch time and I've got to be ready to do anything. I've got to be ready for two innings, three innings maybe. I'm going to be out there ready to go when he needs me. 

*Bregman and Altuve went back-to-back in the 3rd inning. Six of the seven hits came from Altuve, Gurriel, and Reddick. It was Altuve's 50th multi-hit game, against 24 0-hit games.

*McTaggart notes that Bregman is hitting .324/.410/.619 since July 4.

*Correa took ground balls and ran the bases again while Harris and Sipp threw simulated innings to Evan Gattis. McCullers will throw a bullpen session on Sunday. Hinch, on McCullers:
If he can throw a really good live session, we don't feel like he is restricted in any way or holding back or tentative on the mound, we could possibly introduce a rehab assignment. 

*The Astros should get McCann back late next week. He probably won't need a rehab assignment.

*SI's Jay Jaffe writes that the Astros need to make a trade for pitching help, but there aren't many options remaining.

*Jeff Luhnow doesn't mind if you @ him on the God-forsaken website Twitter dot com. But you might catch that block:
My rule is if you curse or say something very insulting or personal, you're blocked. I have 20-25 people I've blocked. Some people I've blocked and they asked me to unblock them and apologized for their comments, so I've unblocked a few too.

*The Astros won't renew the contracts of eight scouts this off-season. Here's hoping they hire me to make jokes and provide levity in trade talks.

*Rogelio Armenteros threw 7IP, 1H/0ER, 9K:2BB for Fresno last night. Armenteros' last four starts: 22.2IP, 17H/3ER, 37K:8BB. Let's let this guy make some September starts.

*Franklin Perez - the youngest pitcher in the Texas League (Forrest Whitley is second-youngest) - threw 6IP, 2H/2ER, 4K:2BB in last night's Corpus win. In his last four starts he's thrown 21IP, 14H/4ER, 18K:5BB. He's 19. The win was Rodney Linares' 231st win at Corpus, tying a franchise record.

*This is good to see:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Morning Hot Links

Shorter Hot Links are in effect until I figure out this new morning routine where I have to get my daughter ready for school.

*24 hours after Josh Reddick said they were just tired of waiting for the bats to wake up, they got put back to sleep by Patrick Corbin, who held this offense to four hits (two from Marisnick). Astros lost 4-0. They are 74-47, 12 games up on the Angels / 4.5 up on the Red Sox. There are 41 games remaining.

*Corbin almost CGSHO'd the Astros (8.2IP), who required just 112 pitches to get their 27 outs. Alex Bregman saw eight pitches in four plate appearances.

*But everyone was mad about the umpires - particularly home plate umpire Paul Nauert - in his interpretation of the strike zone, particularly in Archie Bradley's pitches to Marwin in the last out of the game. Full disclosure: I didn't see it. I was at work. Click the link to see the three called strikes. Hinch:
I know we're not supposed to talk about the umpires, but, honestly, today, to have the 27th out be taken away...it ain't fair...I'm tired of our guys getting taken to task for knowing the strike zone. That's not the reason we lost today. That's not the reason that we've had a tough week, but it's garbage when you start getting at-bats taken away from you.

Marwin:
All I can say is I should not be the one talking about where the pitch was. Everyone saw where it was. In any case, it should be the guy behind the plate answering that question.

Fiers:
I think it was one-sided; it was tough. We felt like we didn't get the pitches we should've got. And the same way at the plate. It's tough when the zone is that big for them and it shrinks for your guys.

This, to me, sounds like an awful lot of frustration at one at-bat that is the culmination of a pretty rough two-week stretch. Like bursting into tears and punching inanimate objects when you run out of toothpaste, or see that your shoes are untied. It's not so much the toothpaste or the shoes as it is the final straw of frustration that makes you break your hand by punching your front door. The Astros have played 26 games in 28 days.

*Altuve:
If I see myself playing, I haven't been so good in the last five days. Even during the game, I was thinking about going home tonight and [thinking] about it.

*Congratulations to Max Stassi, who broke a streak of 29 straight stolen bases against Astros catchers, when he threw out A.J. Pollock.

*There was some weirdness about Hinch and McCullers when they were asked about McCullers' next step in his now two-week DL stint for back soreness.

*Colin Moran could return in September.

*Jeff Passan: Trade talks with Detroit for Verlander are at a standstill.

*Jon Heyman writes that the Astros never made a single offer for Jose Quintana, and weren't very serious about Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish.

*Forrest Whitley made his Double-A debut last night, and it was okay, if you're into that sort of thing: 6IP, 2H/0ER, 11K:0BB. He threw 61 of his 92 pitches for strikes. Corpus lost 2-1 on an 8th inning error. A "reliable exec" told Peter Gammons that Whitley is the "best pitching prospect anywhere."

*The Astros did a cool thing for 9-year old Cameron Gooch.

*Jake Marisnick explained the "Big Fudge" nickname.

*Sam Miller: How an epic trick play broke baseball.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Morning Hot Links

*The Astros won back-to-back games for the first time since July 24-25 after beating Arizona 9-5. They've won three of their last four games and are 74-46. Anaheim and Boston both won, so the Astros' lead remains at 12.5 and five games, respectively. There are 42 games left.

*Charlie Morton threw 6.1IP, 3H/1ER, 9K:4BB. He has recorded at least 18 outs in five of his seven starts since the All-Star Break.

*Hinch:
Every inning, it felt like we were putting some form of pressure on them. We stole a couple of bases, had some good baserunning plays, got some big hits, hit the ball out of the ballpark a couple of times. You do all of that in one nine-inning game, we're going to score a lot of runs.

*Carlos Beltran knocked the piss out of the ball in the 2nd inning for his longest Statcast-Tracked homer .

*The Diamondbacks cut the lead to 5-4 in the 8th when Luke Gregerson and James Hoyt combined to face eight batters and allowed 5H/4ER, 1K:0BB and 3HR.



*Josh Reddick hit a 2-run home run in the 8th off lefty David Hernandez to cap the 4-run inning they needed to put the game away. It was Reddick's first home run off of a LHP since 2015.

Reddick, vs LHP, 2017: .301/.342/.370
Reddick, vs LHP, 2016: .155/.212/.155

Reddick, on the little slump the Astros have been in:
I think it's what we're used to seeing aside from the last week and a half hitting that speed bump. We all knew we were going to be alright, we were just tired of waiting. The last two games prove we can hop out of it at any given moment.

*Jose Altuve is thinking about the playoffs, not the MVP.

*FanGraphs: Alex Bregman is the Astros' unsung hero.

*Dayn Perry notes that we probably shouldn't be waiting on Justin Verlander to walk through that door. Luhnow agreed.

*Danny Knobler writes that Carlos Beltran could be the Astros' X-factor.

*The PTBNL in the Tyler Clippard deal is $1m.

*Carlos Correa is pleased with how this rehab thing is going. Correa:
No discomfort at all. I'm really happy about that.

*Meat Wagon update:
-Evan Gattis passed a concussion test
-AJ Hinch misses Will Haris
-McCullers will throw another bullpen session today
-McCann has right knee tendinitis
-Sipp could go on a rehab assignment soon
-Feliz threw his first bullpen session

*How GERORGE Springer ended up with the #4.

*The Astros used about a 12-year old logo for Arizona's on-deck circle.

*Cionel Perez made his Double-A debut and threw 0.2IP, 2H/1ER, 1K:3BB.

*Despite an 0x4 last night against Peoria, Daz Cameron is hitting .414/.478/.586 in 15 August games, .332/.397/.554 since the Midwest League All-Star Break.

*It's hard for rookies to get around NYC.

*The Atlanta Falcons will have a Chick-Fil-A in their new stadium. It will be closed on Sundays, a day on which the Falcons play seven out of eight home games.