Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Morning Hot Links

*Game 3 is tonight at 7:08pm Central. FiveThirtyEight gives the Yankees a 53-47 edge with Sabathia vs. Morton.

*Thanks to the Wild Card Game victory in 2015, the Astros are confident going into Yankee Stadium. Hinch:
I think we are right where we need to be in the belief category. From here on, we have the belief that we can be the World Series championship team. We need to play the game of baseball in the moment we're playing. We control our own destiny. We control our own adrenaline level. We're believers before anybody else will be.

*The Astros are approaching the next three games like the series is tied up at 0-0. Hinch:
I don't think anyone in our clubhouse is going to take it for granted that we have a 2-0 lead. This isn't a best-of-two. It's the best-of-seven. Our guys know it. We stayed very focused in the best-of-five against Boston. We're tested enough and have enough players in the clubhouse that understand that there's no celebratory toast going on around here. We don't think the Yankees are going to concede, and they certainly didn't concede against the Indians.

*Alyson Footer: Altuve and Correa are a formidable 3-4 punch.

*The bullpen is rested, and A.J. Hinch will wait until after tonight's game to name his G4 starter.

*Here's an excellent article from Tyler Kepner on how the Astros went from nowhere to the brink of the World Series.

*G3 starter Charlie Morton grew up rooting for the Yankees. He called this evening's game the biggest of his career.

*Dave Sheinin: Inside Altuve's Mad Dash.

*Alex Cora won't be with the Astros for much longer. Hinch:
He's one of the smartest baseball people that I've ever been around. His knowledge of the game, his feel for the game, his feel for players is really exceptional.

NJ.com asks "What's the hype" surrounding Cora.

*ESPN rode the train with our boy Bobby Dynamite.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Morning Hot Links

*Altuve's Mad Dash. The Verlander Game. Whatever you want to call it, yesterday was a nerve-wracking bundle of nerves I'll never forget. Of course the two most potent offenses in the American League have combined for six runs in the first two games. Justin Verlander threw a complete game and Gary Pettis induced a collective heart attack on the Astros' way to another 2-1 win. Win two of the next five games.

*Correa, to Altuve before the 9th:
We got to do this for the team, we got to come through right now in this inning.

*Altuve was on 1st in the bottom of the 9th when Correa hit a double to right-center field. Correa:
When I saw him running I was like, 'Oh God.' And then obviously he beat it out.

Same. Except he didn't beat it out. Gary Sanchez misplayed the throw, allowing the Altuve to score and the Astros to take both games in Houston. Bob Klapisch has an excellent piece on why Sanchez didn't make that tag.

*Gary Pettis:
I was just happy we won the ballgame. At that point, everybody is celebrating. You don't remember anything but the fact you won, and that's good enough.

*Altuve went 1st-to-home in 10.27 seconds.

*Verlander, who threw 9IP, 5H/1ER, 13K:1BB:
When I decided to say yes, these are the moments that you envision. You don't envision going 5-0 in the regular season once you get here, that's all fine and great, but that's not why I was brought here. I was brought here to help this team win a championship.

*More Verlander:
I'm pretty tired right now, honestly. It's pretty mentally exhausting, the playoffs, but that's what it's all about. After that game is over and just kind of sitting in the clubhouse and having my teammates come over and say how much they appreciated that effort, that's what it's all about.

*Hinch:
I would have had to rip the ball away from that man if I was going to take him out. And sometimes you have to combine what you know with what you see. And that's really hard to do in this job, obviously it's a results-oriented game. When it works out you feel great about it. If it didn't work out I would have felt terrible about it. But when you see him finish games the way that he finishes, it's really hard to take him out of that moment.

*Verlander became the 7th pitcher to allow five or fewer hits with 13+ strikeouts in a postseason game. Read this article to see how Beltran has influenced the Astros' hitters and how data has helped Verlander become a more dominant pitcher. Correa:
That was the most fun I've ever had on a baseball field.

*NY Post's Mike Vaccaro: That's why the Astros traded for Verlander.

*Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, Games 1/2 combined: 0x14, 8K.

*Josh Reddick, who robbed a Chase Headley maybe-homer and then threw out Brett Gardner at 3rd base:
The little things may be blown into a lot bigger proportion than you're usually used to. During the season you come in here and miss the cutoff guy, you worry about the next day and doing it better. If your team loses because of it, you look back and go, 'Well, there's always tomorrow.' Now, you don't get that opportunity to look back.

*The Game 2 win made the Astros' FiveThirtyEight's favorites to win the World Series. The Astros win the pennant in 83% of their simulations. And in 86% of FanGraphs' simulations.

*Richard Justice: G2 win adds to the Astros' special resume.

*Everyone wants to call Carson Riley "Jeffrey Maier II"

*Yahoo's Jeff Passan: The Yankees couldn't live up to the Astros' "play clean" mantra.

*The New York Post ain't slick.

*Newsday: The difference between the Astros and Yankees is minimal. Other than that 2-0 thing.

*Alex Cora will interview with the Red Sox, Mets, and Tigers for their managerial opening.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Morning Astros take 1-0 ALCS lead Hot Links

*Dallas Keuchel did what Dallas Keuchel does against the Yankees: shut them down. Kenneth made things interesting, but the Astros escaped Game 1 with a 2-1 win.

*Keuchel threw 7IP, 4H/0ER, 10K:1BB.

Keuchel vs. Yankees, career (postseason included): 57.2IP, 37H/7ER, 62K:8BB.

*Astros to have struck out 10+ batters in a postseason game:
Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Dallas Keuchel.

*Richard Justice notes that Keuchel is the first pitcher since "at least 1912" to go 4-0 in his first four postseason starts with a sub-1.00 ERA. Aaron Judge:
He just lives on the corners. He doesn't miss his spot. If you go through the whole game, there weren't a lot of pitches in the heart of the plate. He likes to live on the edges, and he commands it well. He mixes speeds well and keeps you off balance.

*Correa, on Keuchel:
He's special to watch. I love playing behind him. You've got to be ready for every single pitch knowing at some point you're going to get a ground ball. He's been consistent all year (Ed. note: He hasn't.) That's what a Cy Young Award winner does.

*Altuve:
We went out there today with the same attitude that we played the last series, and with Dallas on the mound, that would be key for us. It's really fun to play behind him, and we did and it feels really good. We've got to keep the momentum going and play 100 percent [today].

Pitchers to throw 7+ IP with 10+ K against the Yankees in the postseason:
Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee, Randy Johnson, Dallas Keuchel.

Correa:
I knew it was going to be a close game. But again, we showed another one of our qualities. We don't need to score eight runs per game for us to win. We can still win one-run ballgames.

*Bregman:
I think that's the most locked in I've seen him, maybe all year. Maybe even better than a few of the starts that he had early in the year.

*Keuchel, on his success against the Yankees:
I think it's just pitch execution, and it's just been there more times than it hasn't against the Yankees.

*Correa, on Marwin's outfield assist nailing Greg Bird at the plate in the 5th:
It's one of the best throws I've ever seen from an outfielder. Long hop, low tag right there. It was just perfect. Unbelievable.

*Marwin went from Minute Maid to the hospital, where his wife gave birth to a boy. Marwin:
I am thinking of naming him Jose Altuve or Dallas Keuchel.

*More Marwin:
We're playing as a team. It doesn't matter if you get one or three hits. It doesn't matter who the hero is. We have to win. The goal we put on each other at the start of the playoffs was to play as a team and win. It doesn't matter what happens in the game. The important thing is to win.




*The Astros managed just six hits all night - three from Jose Altuve - and all of them were singles. It was the 3rd game all season without an extra-base hit (it's the second time the Yankees held them to zero extra-base hits), and the first one they won.

*Ken Giles is the first player in history to record two saves in the postseason while giving up a home run in each of those games.

*Teams that have won G1 at home in a seven-game series have gone on to win the series 22 out of 33 times.

*Altuve, ever the sweetheart, would give the MVP nod to Aaron Judge.
Because he hit a lot of homers, a lot of RBIs, he got on base a lot, and I like the way he plays. If I was a GM, I want him on my team because he plays the right way and he's very humble.

Nice sports writing, fella, asking the MVP for whom he'd vote for MVP.

*Whitney McIntosh: The Astros are so joyful they might ruin my sports cynicism.

*New York Daily News' lede: "HOUSTON - They have a problem."

*Newsday is here to calm Yankee fans down.

*The Astros sent outfielder Juan Ramirez to Houston to complete the Justin Verlander trade.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Morning Hot Links

IT'S GAMEDAY. According to ESPN the New York Yankees will play History & Tradition tonight at  7:08pm in a game that just happens to be at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

*The Yankees will start Masahiro Tanaka in G1 against Dallas Keuchel. Luis Severino will face Justin Verlander in G2, with CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray going in Games 3 & 4. Tanaka started ALDS G3 in which he and the Yankees bullpen shutout the Indians on their way to a 1-0 win. Girardi:
He's had some really big starts, his last two starts have been outstanding. And there's a lot of times that he really gets on a roll and he puts a bunch of them together and we're going to need a good one from him tomorrow.

*The roof will be closed for Games 1 & 2. Hinch:
So bring your earplugs. Be ready. It's a pretty loud environment.

*Phil Garner will throw out the first pitch.

*NY Post's Ken Davidoff notes Jose Altuve's speed, and his history in Houston. Ed Wade, on the Astros' "Express Lane" of rushing players to the Majors:
We were concerned not so much about how they would handle moving up as we were about how they would deal with getting moved back down if things didn't work out. Jose had the makeup and desire to make us think he was someone we could challenge.

*Three of the five NY Post baseball writers picked the Astros to win the Pennant.

*NY Post's Joel Sherman says the Yankees have a blueprint to beat the Astros, it's just hard to follow.

*The New York Daily News gave Didi Gregorius the edge over Carlos Correa.

*Now that the Yankees have set their pitching staff for the first four games (the Astros have only named Keuchel/Verlander), FiveThirtyEight gives the Astros a 57-43 edge in their ALCS simulations. G1 simulated out to an Astros win 56% of the time, and G2 59%.

*FanGraphs updated the Astros' simulations to a 59.3% ALCS win.

*Tyler Clippard, on video game versions of Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve:
It's different spectrums. It's like when you're playing a video game: Do you grow the guy all the way up or shrink him all the way down and give him all this power and all this speed? And then you've got those two players.

*Mike Axisa: The Indians showed the Astros how to shut down Aaron Judge.

*Toronto Star's Richard Griffin says the Astros have the offense to hold off the Yankees.

*LA Times' Pedro Moura, on Dallas Keuchel and the Yankees.

*Mike Lupica writes about how the Astros have a chance to do something no team has ever done before: beat the Red Sox and Yankees in the same postseason.

*Jenny Dial Creech notes how important Yuli Gurriel has been to the Astros. Hinch:
I didn't know he was going to get multiple hits in every game in the postseason. But I think his ability to handle the stress and anxiety that comes with the situations is not surprising. He's been on the international stage. He's been the central sports figure of a country where baseball is beloved, so I think his personality that has come out this year, his exuberance, his overall consistent play has been something we've expected. It's nice to see it play out.

*Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann saw the resurgence of the Yankees' youth movement first-hand.

*Hunter Atkins: Is it weird for managers (like Hinch) to alter their bullpen usage so drastically?

*Carlos Beltran is (obviously) hopeful this is the year he gets a ring.

*Kyle Tucker was 1x2 with 2BB and Yordan Alvarez was 2x5 yesterday in the Arizona Fall League.

*Oh the Braves are screwed.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Astros Bingo - ALCS Edition

Welcome back. The Astros are still going, so the bingo will keep going. Well, you know the drill: pick a card, get a bingo, but most importantly let's get another series win. Go Astros!

- Flick








Thursday Morning Hot Links

In a stunning turn of events, the Astros will play Game 1 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park against the New York Yankees. The Indians would have traded any one of their 22 straight wins for just one win last night.

*Just to get things out of the way, FanGraphs' simulations have the Astros at 58.1-41.9 over the Yankees in the ALCS.

FiveThirtyEight has the Astros as 55-45 favorites to win the pennant. Let's also keep in mind that 538 had the Indians as 68-32 favorites to win last night, but BASE BALL.

Without knowing who the Yankees will start (at this point), the Astros are 57-43 favorites to win both Games 1 & 2, with the Yankees getting a 53-47 nod in Games 3 & 4 at Yankee Stadium.

*FanGraphs' Travis Sawchik: The average fastball thrown by the Yankees in G4 was 98mph. Is that the new normal?

Remember that the Indians had the 2nd-lowest strikeout total in MLB at 1153 (The Astros had the lowest strikeout total in MLB, at 1087). Yet the Yankees just got the Indians to strike out 61 times in a five-game series - 29 times in G4/G5. And it took Aaron Judge six whole playoff games to take the MLB record for most 4K playoff games in history. If he gets hot...anyone who thinks that playing the Yankees will be a cake-walk needs to rethink that.

*Hinch:
I'm really happy we have home field. It's a tough challenge. Wild Card teams that win the Wild Card Game and win the Division Series have a lot of momentum.

Gattis:
They beat a really good Cleveland team. It was kind of like pick your poison. Every team is good, and you're going to have to play well to win. It just works out better that we stay home and don't have to get on an airplane at 10 o'clock.

*Oh great. Another AL East team:

*NJ.com's Brendan Kuty broke down the Astros/Yankees by position. Oh, and (insert shock) predicts Yankees in six.
Why not? Everybody's doubted the Yankees, and all they have done is crumple your expectations and fadeaway-jumper them into the trash can. On paper, the Astros are better. But that's been the story for the Yankees all year, right?

*Yahoo's Tim Brown: The Indians were better than the Yankees, until they weren't (a cautionary tale)



*Dallas Keuchel will start G1, and Justin Verlander will start G2. Hinch:
I don't really care who we're facing, it's going to be that order. Then after that is where it gets a little thought-provoking, I guess. We'll adapt accordingly.

Given the possibility of there being three games in a row, the Astros may carry 12 pitchers instead of the 11 they carried in the ALDS. Collin McHugh and Francis Martes are both possibilities for that spot, though it's weird to me that McHugh isn't a lock.

*Game 1 - Friday @ 7:08pm Central
  Game 2 - Saturday @ 3:08pm Central
  Game 3 - Monday @ 7:08pm Central

*Jake Kaplan says putting McCullers back into the rotation makes sense. McCullers:
I'm not going to beat around the bush: I think I have great stuff. And I'm very confident in my preparation. I'm very confident in the stuff that I possess. And I know that in the last couple outings, I've kind of run out of gas toward the fourth, fifth inning that I've been out there. But I think like I'm almost back to where I was in the first half.

*Alex Bregman wrote a first-person account of what it was like to hit the game-tying home run off Chris Sale.
Want to know the biggest difference between when you imagine these things as a kid and when it really happened in Game 4? The crowd didn't go wild. Not at Fenway Park. They were dead silent. I could hear the steps I was taking on the dirt it was so quiet. 

*Jose Altuve wants more.

*Mike Petriello writes about how the Astros' offense is one of the best in MLB history and, now, the postseason.

*Alex Cora is going to be someone's manager next season.

*The Nationals are a trash organization for many reasons, but this is a good example: they will not pay to keep the trains running for fans at G5. So if you take the train to the Nats game, you'll have to leave early or Uber/Lyft it home.