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Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Pen: How did the Astros wind up with baseball’s best-dressed fans?

About three hours before Game 2 of the ALCS between the Yankees and Astros I spotted a man outside Minute Maid Park wearing head-to-toe tequila sunrise.

For the 80-degree day in Houston he was wearing a generic throwback jersey from the ‘80s, an era when the Astros sported red, yellow and orange stripes — a colorway known as the tequila sunrise. Paired with that, tequila sunrise-striped shorts with a superimposed Astros “H.” Where those stopped, a few inches of exposed skin before picking up the pattern again in tequila sunrise knee-high socks. His shoes were the navy Astros-blue Vans with tequila sunrise panels that I saw dozens of times during a long weekend in Houston.

I was in the middle of seeking out subjects for this very story about Astros fans and their notably creative flair for showcasing their commitment to the team through clothing that borders on costume. My proof this is a real phenomenon is simply that within my first nine innings at Minute Maid Park, I went from not knowing Astros fans were so stylish to needing to know why. This is why I noticed him; but also why his getup — which could charitably be described as “loud” — failed to merit an interview. Astros-ified entire outfits and accessories, most often rendered in the throwback hues (by which I never mean the short-lived brick-red situation), were rampant around Minute Maid as the team eliminated the Rays and opened a series against the Yankees last weekend.

Cowboy hats, naturally. Woven straw with a bespoke collection of Texas sport pins worn by a man with a handlebar mustache who hands out business cards with a poem and a proclamation of “no business, no plans, no money, no worries” on them. But also comically oversized orange foam versions worn in packs by handsome young adults with José Altuve jerseys.

For those who wish to discuss the fashion of baseball, here’s an open thread.

 

QLE Posted: October 19, 2019 at 12:12 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, fashion

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Yankees think Astros are stealing signs by whistling

During the 2018 postseason there was a bit of a thing involving the Indians and Red Sox thinking that the Astros were stealing signs and/or spying on their dugouts via the stationing of a team employee nearby. That controversy came and went with Major League Baseball issuing a statement that nothing untoward had happened.

Flash forward to this week and, once again, someone is accusing the Astros of stealing signs. This time, however, the accusation involves a far lower-tech means of doing it. From Andy Martino of SNY:

“Yankees players and coaches became angry with the Astros during Game 1 of the ALCS when they noticed a whistling sound in the Astros’ dugout — which they believed was an over-the-line example of sign stealing, and a violation of the game’s unwritten rules.

According to three sources, a Yankees coach noticed a whistling sound in the opposing dugout on certain pitches on Saturday night in Houston. The Yankees started yelling across the field, and people in the dugouts argued back and forth.

“The whole dugout was pissed,” said one source. “Everyone was chirping.””

Meanwhile, Aaron Boone is getting increasingly convinced that Carlos Correa is hypnotizing Yankees players with his teeth…..

 

QLE Posted: October 17, 2019 at 12:06 AM | 39 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, sign-stealing, whining bunch of crybabies, yankees-no-fun-as-usual

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Houston Mattress Magnate bets millions on Astros to win World Series

People in Houston need no introduction to Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who owns Gallery Furniture in Houston. A lot of sports fans may not either, as he’s made quite a name for himself by associating his business with both the highs and lows of the Houston Astros over the years.

I don’t know much about his business at large, but he’s been on our radar for several years. Back in 2014, when the Astros were absolutely terrible, he promised a customers who spent a certain amount of money on furniture at his store a refund if the Astros didn’t lose 100 games that year. They lost only 92 games and Mattress Mack had to pay out $4 million or so in refunds. In 2017 he did a similar thing except this time he offered big refunds if the Astros won the World Series. Which they did, of course, which cost Mattress Mack around $12 million.

Mattress Mack is at it again this year. He’s been offering customers who spend over $3,000 on stuff a refund if the Astros once again win the World Series, as they’re favored to do.

One might think that this is irresponsible, but you probably don’t become a successful furniture salesman if you’re not savvy about such things. I mean, without even knowing anything about the guy or listening to him explain himself, it’s a very safe assumption that the guy simply — and correctly — figured that his offer was great, mostly free advertising, that it increased sales volume and that it might’ve inspired people on the fence to buy something. His margins, along with some well-thought-out conditions on the refund offer, no doubt ensures that his “crazy” promotion will do more good than harm for his business.

If only the teams could be this flamboyant with their promotions….

 

QLE Posted: October 03, 2019 at 12:19 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, gambling, world series

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

How the Astros Nabbed Zack Greinke and Built a Postseason Rotation for the Ages

At 7 a.m. Central on July 31, Gina Luhnow descended the stairs of her house in Houston with her four-year-old son, Henry, in tow. When she had woken up, her husband, Jeff, was not in the bedroom, and soon she and Henry discovered why. He was in his home office, where he’d been experimenting with different combinations of names and numbers and pinging various members of his staff for several hours already—three hours, in fact, after a virtually sleepless night. The 12-cup carafe of Colombian dark roast he’d brewed had only one or two cups left. “Oh, boy,” Gina said. It was going to be another one of those trade deadlines.

The 53-year-old Luhnow, in his eighth season as the general manager of the Astros, is often accused of being entirely left-brained, and his sometimes bloodless analytical leanings served him well as he transformed the terrible club he’d taken over into the 2017 World Series champion, and then a consistent power. Even so, he swears he internalizes public opinion, and everywhere he went in midsummer—in radio interviews, down onto the field at Minute Maid Park, whenever he walked past a screen tuned to the MLB Network—he heard the same thing. Which was that even though the Astros seemed destined to become the sixth team ever to win 100 games in three straight seasons, and even though they already had the two best starting pitchers in the American League, they still needed to trade for another quality starter. The worst part was that everyone who said that was absolutely right.

He had acquired his dominant one-two rotational punch via trade. Justin Verlander came from the Tigers with officially two seconds to go before the waiver deadline—a secondary deadline that no longer exists—in late August of 2017, and Gerrit Cole arrived from the Pirates in a less stressful deal finalized the following January. Over their two seasons together, Verlander and Cole have ranked first and second (in some order) in the AL—and, in most of these categories, in the majors—in ERA, wins, strikeouts, batting average against and WHIP. Luhnow’s third starter, the veteran lefty Wade Miley, had at the time far outperformed his bargain one-year, $4.5 million contract; he was 9–4, with a 3.06 ERA.

But no one else had stepped up to secure the fourth, let alone the fifth, spot in the rotation, not Collin McHugh, not Brad Peacock, not Framber Valdéz, not Corbin Martin. Luhnow did not believe he needed another pitcher in order to win the AL West for the third consecutive season; the Astros were already 7 1/2 games up on the second-place A’s and had the league’s best run differential. He needed someone who could reliably start one or two games in a seven-game playoff series, four outings of which would undeniably go to Verlander and Cole. He needed someone who was as good or better than Miley.

A case study concerning the front-office search for pitching.

 

QLE Posted: October 02, 2019 at 12:33 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, pitching, playoffs, zack greinke

Saturday, September 28, 2019

There’s one record-breaking stat that reveals the Astros’ fearlessness — and dominance — this season

Jumping ahead:

The significance is, the Astros have not intentionally walked a batter this season. They have not intentionally walked a batter since Aug. 17, 2018. (It was Oakland’s Jed Lowrie, by reliever Hector Rondon.) They intentionally walked four batters all of last season, the fewest since at least 1955, when that statistic was first recognized. They’ve not intentionally walked a batter, then, in 201 regular-season games or in the eight postseason games amidst those. The average number of intentional walks in the American League (where walking the batter in front of the pitcher is an infrequent option) this season is 18. Last season the average was 21. In 2017, the first season of the no-pitch intentional walk, the average was 25, including the Astros’ 17.

So the question was put to Cole: Does he know the significance of him vs. Travis Shaw on Sept. 12, 2017, in Milwaukee?

“He homered off me?” he asked.

It was the last intentional walk he issued, and only the sixth of his career.

So, is there a broader significance to this, and, if so, will it spread to other teams?

 

QLE Posted: September 28, 2019 at 01:22 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, intentional walks

Friday, September 27, 2019

Good Luck Stopping the Astros in October

For the third straight year, the Astros are champions of the AL West—and for the third straight year, arguably the favorite for World Series honors. Ever since Houston’s roster went into overdrive in 2017, when it beat the Dodgers in the Fall Classic for the first title in franchise history, every season has begun with World Series aspirations. This one is no different, particularly given how brilliant this year’s Astros are. But are they baseball’s best bet to win it all? Let’s make the case for Houston emerging from the postseason with trophy in hand.

1. The Astros have Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, and no one else does

Honestly, I don’t think I need to elaborate much on that point. The Astros have Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, and no one else does.

If you want to dive into that a little further: The Astros have the two frontrunners for the AL Cy Young award, plus a guy with a career 3.38 ERA and 125 ERA+. Since joining Houston at the trade deadline, Greinke has posted a 3.02 ERA and 154 ERA+ in 62 2/3 innings, and he’s the third best pitcher on the staff. He also came within two outs of a no-hitter Wednesday night. Verlander has a strikeout-to-walk rate of nearly seven and a strikeout rate of 35.0%, which would be far and away the best mark in the AL if it weren’t for the fact that Cole is toting an absolutely stupid 39.8% strikeout rate. That’s the highest strikeout rate for a qualified starting pitcher that FanGraphs has on record—better than Pedro Martinez’s 1999, than any Randy Johnson season, than anything Chris Sale or Max Scherzer have done.

On the minus side: Anything can happen in a short series.

 

QLE Posted: September 27, 2019 at 12:27 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, playoffs, world series

Monday, September 23, 2019

Houston Astros clinch third consecutive AL West division title

For the third year in a row, the Houston Astros are champions of the American League West.

George Springer hit three home runs and Justin Verlander picked up his major league-leading 20th win as Houston routed the Los Angeles Angels 13-5 on Sunday to secure the division title. It also helped the Astros keep pace with the New York Yankees in the battle for the best overall record—and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Four races down, four to go, and our questioning turns to Hal Block. Mr. Block?

 

QLE Posted: September 23, 2019 at 12:20 AM | 34 comment(s)
  Beats: al west, astros

Thursday, September 19, 2019

MLB Postseason Picture: Astros clinch playoff berth with 100th win of season

The Houston Astros checked off two boxes with one win on Wednesday.

By defeating the Texas Rangers, 3-2, the Astros became the first team to reach 100 wins in MLB this season. More importantly, they guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason.

It’s the third straight season Houston has reached the century mark in victories. It will also be their straight postseason appearance. Houston is the first American League team to wrap up a playoff spot and the third team overall, joining the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves from the National League.

Now the Astros will aim to make it back-to-back-to-back AL West titles. They will enter a weekend matchup with the Los Angeles Angels with a magic number of two to clinch the division.

Another piece of the playoff picture falls into place.

 

QLE Posted: September 19, 2019 at 12:11 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: al west, astros, pennant race, wins

Friday, September 13, 2019

How many bad teams would it take to beat the Astros, Dodgers or Yankees?

A more complicated way is to ask this: How many of these bad teams would it take to make up one of these great teams? Would a playoff superteam of the Royals, Orioles, Tigers and Marlins be able to hang with the super playoff teams in Houston, New York and Los Angeles? In an era of total teardowns on the bleak side of the standings and insatiable depth hoarding on the bright side of them, is there room for any good players on a last-place roster?

To answer this question took 17 tabs in a spreadsheet.

Here were the rules: We built 25-man rosters for the Astros, Yankees, Dodgers and Tigeroyiolins—on second thought, that’s the only time we’ll attempt to call them that. Henceforth, they will be the Superteam—based entirely on 2019 stats: a starter at every position, four bench players covering infield, outfield and catcher, a four-man starting rotation (because only four are needed in the postseason) and an eight-man bullpen. We prorated each player’s 2019 WAR for a full, healthy season in the role he is assigned to: 600 plate appearances for starters (except 500 for the catcher), 250 for bench players, 175 innings for starting pitchers and 65 for relievers (except 95 for one designated swingman).* The plan was to see how many bad teams it takes to compete with the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 13, 2019 at 06:34 PM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

Zack Greinke’s 8 pitch types keeps ‘em guessing

Greinke is a weird duck.  He throws a ton of different pitches (four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curve, sinker, split finger, cutter, and eephus), and he throws them really slowly.  No kidding on the slow thing, some of his curve balls come in below 70mph.  It’s legal to drive as fast as some of his pitches.  But he’s really good.

Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 13, 2019 at 02:35 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, eephus, pitches, zack greinke

Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole put on the greatest pitching show in baseball

“What they are doing is amazing, probably the best duo in baseball history,” Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve said.


Koufax/Drysdale
Spahn/Sain
Mathewson/McGinnity
Johnson/Schilling

Others in the conversation?  Altuve just might be correct.

And how does Verlander’s loss yesterday impact the CY race?

Lest we forget Posted: September 13, 2019 at 03:35 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, gerrit cole, great baseball players, verlander

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Astros commemorate Yordan Álvarez’s mammoth blast with orange seat

Yordan Álvarez’s astonishing home run on Monday will be immortalized forever.

The seat that Álvarez’s ball struck — in the first row of section 337 — was wrapped in orange vinyl on Tuesday afternoon, akin to the commemoration of the three upper deck home runs hit by a Houston player in the Astrodome’s 34-year history.

Eric Anthony, Jimmy Wynn and Doug Rader hit the famous Astrodome homers.

Álvarez’s home run during Monday’s 15-0 win was among his most prodigious of the season. It exited his bat at 113.5 mph — the third hardest-hit ball of his young career — and traveled 416 feet, according to Statcast. Astros historian Mike Acosta disputed Statcast’s measurements, claiming the baseball traveled 431 feet.

Always of interest to see how parks commemorate their most spectacular home runs- wondering how one commemorates those shots that leave the park….

 

QLE Posted: September 11, 2019 at 03:39 AM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, commemoration, home run, yordan alvarez

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

LEADING OFF: Astros romping, Trout out, long games

CLOCKED

Big league bullpens are full this month, boosted by September call-ups, and a plethora of pitching changes is contributing to longer and longer games.

The Brewers beat Miami 8-3 Monday night in a matchup that took 4 hours, 8 minutes. The game featured 15 pitchers who combined for 14 walks.

On Sunday, the Phillies topped the Mets 10-7 in 4:29 — one minute from matching the longest nine-inning NL game. Each team used eight pitchers and the clubs used up all 16 dozen baseballs that were prepped pregame, forcing another couple dozen to be rubbed up and put in play.

On the one hand, this is the last season for the traditional system of September call-ups- on the other hand, given the general trajectory with both pace-of-play and pitcher usage, I’m not sure that will solve anything…..

QLE Posted: September 10, 2019 at 01:57 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, braves, mike trout, pace of play

Monday, September 09, 2019

Do we even need minor league baseball?

A year before the closing of two affiliates, in March 2016, the Astros hired Jose Fernandez to be part of their sports science department. He had worked with pro soccer teams in Europe. European soccer giants have centralized training centers focused on building skills rather than a decentralized sprawl of affiliates. ...
“On site in Barcelona, they have their whole development academy, from the little kids all the way up to the professional teams. They have one big campus. They do everything on-site. Everything is coordinated. Everyone is doing the same drills. Everyone was being measured with the same technology. That makes a ton of sense,” the ex-Astros front official said.

Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: September 09, 2019 at 12:03 PM | 78 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, minor leagues, soccer

Astros hang 21 runs on Mariners

The Astros polished off a four-game series sweep of the Mariners with a 21-1 drubbing on Sunday afternoon in Houston. It’s the Astros’ 16th win in their last 20 games.

Yordan Álvarez provided the most offense, racking up three doubles and six RBI. He was one of seven Astros with multiple hits on the day. Jake Marisnick and George Springer homered while Abraham Toro doubled twice.

In terms of “embarrassing showings by once-great pitchers in the twilight of their careers”, would we rate Felix Hernandez’s performance as better or worse than giving up a grand slam to Pete LaCock?

 

QLE Posted: September 09, 2019 at 04:50 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, felix hernandez

Friday, September 06, 2019

Sources: Correa switches agents; A-Rod advised

Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is in the process of switching agents, following the advice of Alex Rodriguez and joining the powerful WME agency in spite of it not having a baseball business, sources familiar with the move told ESPN.

Correa, 24, left longtime agent Greg Genske for WME and agent Jon Rosen, who represents Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay and Al Roker as the head of WME’s Branded Lifestyle Group. Rosen recently sought certification from the Major League Baseball Players Association, according to sources.

Correa seeks his knight on a white ... horse

Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: September 06, 2019 at 12:52 PM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: a-rod, astros, carlos correa

Friday, August 23, 2019

The reason Reymin Guduan was suspended

Dean Deetz is a little bit of a character, and talks a lot of smack. He was giving Reymin Guduan The Bidness about not being able to throw a strike. Guduan responded by throwing a shoe at Deetz and missed (badly, apparently), to which Deetz responded “See?” That is legitimately funny. What happened next is not. Guduan picked up a bat, swung it, and hit Deetz in the head. Guduan apparently didn’t get a great swing on it, but “it definitely dazed” Deetz.

Guduan was removed from the clubhouse, but came back later, this time with a knife. “He didn’t do anything with it, but he stood at his locker and glared at Deetz.” No one called the police, but the Astros did suspend Guduan. That, by any standard of the law, is assault. You’ll notice on Round Rock’s website that Dean Deetz did not pitch between July 26 and August 5, which was a span of eight games in nine days.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 23, 2019 at 01:27 PM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: astros

VIDEO: When the Astros lose, Las Vegas wins

For those who need a reason why to be wary about MLB’s decision to get so close to bookies….

QLE Posted: August 23, 2019 at 03:10 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, bookies, dollah dollah bills, y'all, las vegas

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Orioles pulled off an astronomical upset over the Astros

The Houston Astros are a very good baseball team. The Baltimore Orioles are ... not a very good baseball team.

Still, over the course of a 162-game season, every blind squirrel finds an acorn. And even the Orioles (39-78) can beat the Astros (77-41). Sunday’s comeback win by the Orioles marked one of the biggest upsets in MLB history

According to ESPN, the Orioles were listed as +420 underdogs by some sportsbooks. Some of it might have had to do with Houston’s 23-3 rout on Saturday and the fact that ace Justin Verlander was starting for the Astros.

The next sound you hear is that of a group of bookies trying to welsh on their debts.

 

QLE Posted: August 12, 2019 at 08:18 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, gambling, odds, orioles

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Astros, Reds rookie sluggers rewrite baseball history with three-homer games

The rookies are taking over Major League Baseball.

We’ve heard all the buzz surrounding Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr., just to name a few.

On Saturday, it was Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros and Aristides Aquino of the Cincinnati Reds who rewrote the history books by becoming the first pair of rookie sluggers to each hit three home runs on the same day.

And that tidbit was just the tip of the iceberg.

So, are the rookies actually taking over, and, if so, why?

QLE Posted: August 11, 2019 at 04:46 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: aristides aquino, astros, home runs, reds, rookies, yordan alvarez

Monday, August 05, 2019

Astros formidable, but great rotations can still fall short

Yes, the Houston Astros can still be beat, even after assembling baseball’s newest super rotation.

The Astros acquired six-time All-Star Zack Greinke from Arizona just before Wednesday’s trade deadline, adding him to a pitching staff that already included Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Then, as if to show off, Houston threw a combined no-hitter Saturday night against Seattle — with Aaron Sanchez, another new acquisition, tossing six innings.

Still, recent history tells us that in baseball’s fickle postseason, even a trio of aces often isn’t enough. Here’s a look at some of the best rotations of the wild-card era — and how those teams ultimately fared.

Atlanta Braves (1995-99): The Atlanta trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz actually joined forces before the wild-card era and stayed together into the new century, but the peak was probably the mid-to-late 1990s, when the Braves won three pennants and a World series in a five-year span. Maddux won the Cy Young Award in 1995, Smoltz in 1996 and Glavine in 1998.

I’ll take “Things We Already Knew” for $80, Art.

QLE Posted: August 05, 2019 at 03:35 AM | 40 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, pitching, rotation

Astros toss combined no-hitter against Mariners

Astros right-hander Aaron Sanchez and relievers Will Harris, Joe Biagini, and Chris Devenski no-hit the Mariners on Saturday, marking the 12th no-hitter (and second combined no-no) in franchise history.

Saturday’s 9-0 win also marked Sanchez’s first official outing with the Astros following his trade from the Blue Jays at Wednesday’s trade deadline. After taking 10 losses in his last 12 starts in Toronto, Sanchez looked unhittable against Seattle. He issued just two walks over six innings and struck out six of 21 batters, finishing his run with a pitch count of 92.

In the seventh, right-handed reliever Will Harris subbed in for Sanchez. He preserved the no-hitter for another inning, inducing a groundout from Daniel Vogelbach, walking Domingo Santana on five pitches, and getting J.P. Crawford to ground into an inning-ending double play.

This is the second combined no-hitter of the season, which last occurred in 1991.

QLE Posted: August 05, 2019 at 03:02 AM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, combined no-hitter, mariners

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Three winners and three losers from the trade deadline

The 2019 trade deadline has passed. Unlike in past years, there is no non-waiver trade deadline, so this was it for major trades for teams wanting to recoup value on soon-to-depart players and for teams looking to make upgrades for the stretch run. With that in mind, here are three winners and three losers from the trade deadline.

As far as can be told, none of them are rolling down a mountainside.

 

QLE Posted: August 01, 2019 at 03:19 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, braves, dodgers, indians, red sox, yankees

Astros become World Series favorites in Vegas with Zack Greinke onboard

The Houston Astros made the big move at the 2019 MLB trade deadline by trading for Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke, cementing their rotation as the envy of all of baseball.

In case there was any doubt on whether or not the Astros are now the World Series favorites, Westgate Las Vegas oddsmaker Jeff Sherman released the sportsbook’s new MLB odds. The Astros take the top spot at 2-to-1 odds.

It would be tempting to argue that the logic is suspect, but then memories of 2017 come to mind….

 

 

QLE Posted: August 01, 2019 at 03:06 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, las vegas, odds, zack greinke

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Astros land Greinke from DBack at deadline

HOU: Zack Grienke, $24MM
ARI: Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin, Josh Rojas

That’s a haul.  Beer could be a star, Martin looks like a decent mid-rotation guy, Bukauskas is K’ing more than 10/9 (albeit in AA), Rojas is a flier who is killing it this year.  This is how you restock a farm system.


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