Free baseball: 5 questions to consider before the WS first pitch


It’s time for some free baseball! This time, however, the celebration isn’t about only reaching the World Series. It’s about winning the biggest trophy on the biggest stage in major league baseball.

The Astros are playing in late October for only the second time in the organization’s history. Fox Sports showed a graphic of teams with the longest championship drought and showed the Astros with “56” next to their name.

But is it really a drought if you’ve never had the rain?

Here are a few questions as the week revs up for the biggest Series of the season…and the biggest Series this organization has ever played.

  1. Is the Sports Illustrated reputation on the line?

You have to admit, among all the naysayers, the negative Bettys, the Luhnow doubters of the past several years, Sports Illustrated was spot on. Was there some luck involved? Sure, but whether or not they bought into The Plan, they not only saw the possibilities, but they also recognized and understood the philosophy and blueprint.

And, they had Springer on the cover. No way they could have predicted a Verlander, but Altuve may have been more appropriate. Nonetheless, kudos for seeing what many — if not most — people did not and could not.

2. Should Luhnow dump Carlos Beltran from the roster?

Yeah, right. If you remove Beltran from the roster, there will be a backlash and rebellion in the clubhouse. Review the game video from the ALCS. Listen to some of the pundits about how much of a coach and clubhouse leader Beltran has become. Nope, whether he bats or not — and he will — Beltran has earned a place on the World Series roster. Maybe not necessarily by his exploits in 2017, but in the years prior because his experience, relationships, ability to break down film and teach bring as much to the table as his talent. And he is still capable of going on a tear, so don’t underestimate his potential contribution.

Moreover, Joey Cora is now headed to Boston to become manager as many speculated. Now, don’t be shocked if Beltran retires as a player and becomes the Astros’ bench coach in 2018. (Note: This was written Sunday morning before Cora was named manager.)

3. How do you get Evan Gattis into the game in Los Angeles?

Since the Astros won’t be able to use the designated hitter in LA, Gattis may be spending a little extra time on the bench this week. This is a no-brainer, but we want Brian McCann on that wall, I mean, behind that plate. We need him behind that plate. McCann is a better game-caller, he gives pitchers more confidence, and he proved he can come through with a big hit. Yes, Gattis, can hit the big dinger, but that may be the ace-in-the-hole that A.J. Hinch needs late in the game.

I’d rather have Gattis pinch-hitting than McCann. And I’d rather have McCann behind the plate with a bevy of curve balls on the agenda.

4. Who’s in the rotation?  

It’s been just about 10 days since everyone was debating who should follow Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in the ALCS. Sorry Brad Peacock, forget the regular season. Forget the ALDS. You just got upstaged in the ALCS by two of the most impressive performances in Astros’ post-season-lore. Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. will get the ball in games 3 and 4, not necessarily in that order. Peacock and perhaps Collin McHugh will earn the tandem roles in those games.

5. Is analytics now the mainstream?

Apparently, the analytics department of the Astros has a direct phone line to the dugout. Brent Strom said that group of numbers nerds suggested the Astros throw more curve balls against the Yankees and they obliged (62 of 108 pitches were curve balls in game 7). With shifts already a huge part of the Astros’ games and likely batting orders to some degree as well as pitcher/hitter matchups, is there anything that statistics doesn’t/won’t cover? Is this the new normal? How long will it be before other teams raid the Astros’ analytics group?

Other things to consider…

  • How the Astros handle the announcement of Cora-to-the-Red-Sox.
  • Roster moves before game time (read: Jake Marisnick, Beltran, bullpen, Derek Fisher etc).
  • If Marisnick is good enough to be in the lineup, does he supplant Marwin Gonzalez in left?
  • We’re two weeks away from the beginning of a tough off-season for Houston. Who is traded? Who gets a long-term deal? Who is non-tendered?

 

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40 comments on “Free baseball: 5 questions to consider before the WS first pitch

  1. Thank you for this post, Chip!

    Regarding SI’s reputation – they got lucky. And while I love Gorgeous George, the face of the 2017 Astros is most definitely Jose Altuve instead. But at least the SI cover story gave us something concrete to aim for.

    Regarding Carlos Beltran. Even if we would not start a war in the clubhouse by replacing him on the WS roster, I don’t see anyone on our 40 man who we could really count on to be an offensive improvement. Maybe Moran [if he’s even eligible]. Tyler White is not a pinch hitter type – he needs to play . . . and there is really no position for him to play, at least in the L.A. games with no DH. Fisher has thus far been totally overwhelmed by ordinary major league pitching – how could we expect anything from him against the Dodgers’ staff? All he or Kemp would give us would be a late-inning pinch runner.

    Regarding Gattis. In L.A., he’s a pinch hitter, and nothing else.

    Regarding the rotation. Whatever Hinch says publicly, I see a basic tandem approach developing. Verlander/Devenski. Keuchel/McHugh [or Musgrove], Morton/McCullers. I do not expect a ‘4th starter’. I think Verlander will be back on the hill for game 4; but if we are somehow up 3-0, perhaps we’ll see Peacock.

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    • Well, it looks like Hinch is starting DK instead of Verlander in Game 1. I am fine with that, but it will make Game 4’s choice more likely to be Peacock.

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      • I think Game 3 and 4 will be Morton and McCullers, but not sure in which order. Peacock, in my opinion, is in the bullpen for the World Series.

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  2. I watched some of the edited replay of Game 7 last night and noticed something that the announcers totally ignored.
    After the incredibly important play at home, the Yankees have Hicks on second and Frazier on first with two outs and Chase Headley Lamarr at the plate. A brief pan of the field showed the Astros with five outfielders and two infielders. Unless you see it, you don’t know it and the TV cameramen don’t pick it up and neither do the announcers. Correa is straightaway up the middle 20 feet on the outfield grass. Altuve is in right field, about 30 feet in the outfield. Yuli is holding the runner on at first and Bregman is at double play depth halfway between the traditional SS position and the traditional 3B.
    The Astros are willing to give up the bunt to 3B with Morton having full resonsibilty for any bunts McCann can’t get to. A ground ball hit up the middle to Correa won’t score the run and gives Correa a chance to throw out Headley at first, a ball to second is an out at first. Yuli covers the first base line to keep a ground ball from going into the corner. and Bregman gives the Astros a shortstop’s range on an oppo grounder. There is little chance of getting a force at second because the middle infielders are now outfielders.
    Morton throws curves with big bite, darting down on the inside corner and Headley grounds out to Altuve in short right field. The Astros score three in the bottom of the fifth and win the pennant with a shutout.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. By the way, this is a World Series between two teams that were in dire straights in 2011 and Bud Selig decided to do everything he could to bring one down as low as he could and did everything he could to lift one up to be the wealthiest team in baseball, all in the same time frame.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hey, Astros! Nobody outside of Houston and this blog thinks you can beat the Dodgers. They say you are over-matched at every position except 2nd base. Oh wait – they said the same thing about the Yankees, didn’t they.

    Stay loose.

    Have fun.

    Mix up your signs often when you are in L.A.

    And just win.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To be fair there’s an article on mlb.com by someone I’ve never heard of that gives our Astros advantage at 2B, SS, LF and CF plus a tie in RF. And only a slight advantage to LA at SP (only cos of Rich Hill 3rd starter).

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      • I am NOT convinced that the Dodgers have the best SPs either. Look at the depth that Morton, LMJ, Peacock and McHugh bring to the table. And Hinch is not afraid to utilize them in the pinch. Remember that Kershaw is a renowned choker. And Keuchel just might be better! Tomorrow is a huge game!

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  5. No, absolutely do NOT dump Beltran from the SW roster. Even though Marisnick is a fine fielder, he just doesn’t fit. Maybin in the bench OFer/pinch runner/defensive replacement. Redding had earned the nod, despite his struggles in the playoffs.

    If Jake had a month of PT and was not rusty, then MAYBE he gets the call. But for now, no thanks Jake.

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  6. Things to remember:
    -LA has a big statistical advantage, pitching-wise, if you go by the stats. But, every ninth batter that Dodger pitchers faced was a pitcher or a bench player. The Astros, on the other hand were facing designated hitters in almost every game as the #9 hitter. Dodger pitching stats appear so much better because of this, and this applies in individual matchups as well as team matchups. Imagine facing a Ryan Healy four times every game for 150 games instead of the other team’s pitchers or PHs. And that is using the DH of a last place team in our division as an example. Ryan Healy had 25 HRs and hit .271 for the season.
    – The Big Four deadline trades of TOR pitchers were all American League pitchers. The NL was so lopsided that there were no TOR pitchers available on NL teams at the deadline.
    -There were so many teams in the NL without true aces that the Dodgers were constantly facing teams that did not have a true #1 or #2 to match up against them in a series. Colorado and Arizona loaded up with hitters and suddenly Jon Gray and Zack Greinke become aces again. I don’t think so. When it came to the playoffs those guys couldn’t get guys out. But they faced National League competition all year and were able to win against teams who had no pitching at all. How about four of the worst AL teams having Gray, Darvish, Verlander and Quintana to trade at the deadline. That’s how good the AL was.
    – The Dodgers had the highest total payroll in the majors at $265 milllion and the team with the second highest payroll in the NL was the last-place Giants, spending $74 million less than LA. The Astros had nine American league teams with higher payrolls than them. The Dodger’s payroll allowed them to mug every National League franchise on the field and the Astros outplayed AL teams that outspent them and are the last AL team standing.

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  7. Just read the local headlines. ( HPD to discuss security plans for the World Series.)
    At that point it really sinks in. Our beloved team is hosting the WORLD SERIES!
    Can you believe it. Our Astros are playing in the WORLD SERIES!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought Beltran had some of the better at bats against the Yankees. As for this series, keep in mind you have:
    Kershaw – LHP
    Wood – LHP
    Darvish – RHP

    All three of those lefties work off the curve. Kershaw, obviously, has the fastball to dominate just about anyone, but the other guys don’t. I feel pretty good about Beltran and Gattis being able to hit them. The real issue is not getting them in the game in an NL park…but at least we’ll have them available for opportune pinch hits.

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    • at first that looked like a negative to me, but if you think of it this way – houston has its two best starters going in three of the four games in LA. its harder to win on the road, but if you have aces going when on the road, you do have a fair chance. you have the really good one – two punch of keuchel and verlander in the first two games in LA. then we come back to houston and the awesome home field advantage for game 3 Morton/LMJ, game 4 peacock, (or LMJ if they don’t tandem him with Morton) and then game 5 keuchel to close out home field. in LA for verlander game 6 and back to Morton/LMJ for game 7. lots can happen that could change this, but I could live with it if it works out that way.

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      • What I want to see is the Astros win all four of the first four games of the series and save Keuchel and Verlander to pitch us a parade on the day game six was supposed to be played!
        There. I’m happy with that.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’m with you op. that would mean all three games scheduled in houston are played and the last one is the clincher! – a boon to the economy, the franchise, the players and the fans!!!

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  9. OK, folks, educate me. We just spent YEARS building a winning team and our bench coach has already been signed by the Red Sox and we haven’t even been to the Series yet. Do we get raided immediately? Is there no respect? Is there no honor? Bring Ausmus back, if he will, if that’s how it works.

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  10. I know this sounds premature, but I strongly sense the key to the series is to win Game #1. There IS such a thing in baseball being too rested (translate: flat). If Keuchel beats Kershaw, I could see an excellent-yet-relaxed team cruising to a victory (ala 1990 Cincy Reds over the heavily favored A’s). I predict the Astros in 6 as long as they win tomorrow.

    Oh and by the way, who says the Dodgers have better staring pitchers than our Astros? Not I!!

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  11. 1. SI’s reputation? It could only be helped!
    2. Beltran needs to be in.
    3. Gattis maybe starts a game with Peacock or Morton or McHugh on the mound and a lefty pitching for the Doyers.
    4. Rotation? We know starters for 4 games for sure. After that, let Hinch earn his pay.
    5. Yes
    Please, no Jake. How much better could the outfield play in the last series?
    Roster moves? I doubt it.
    Cora to Red Sox. Who really cares? He signed on to some hype, but since I only rarely saw Astros games on TV this year I posed the question to this blog in the middle of the season whether he has any visible impact on the club. Response was a big ho-hum.
    Offseason: I don’t think there will be any earth shattering moves. Maybe try to tie up DK and Altuve. Free agents are Liriano, Clippard, Beltran. Maybin, Gregerson. Probably all gone. Key arbitration-eligible are DK, McHugh, Jake, Gattis, Springer, Giles and Peacock. I think they keep all. Maybe try to extend DK, Springer and Giles.

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      • 1op, I believe this is a year Houston will have a non-tender or two. Fiers? Oh, and and as a side note, this is one trade it appears Houston will lose. Did anyone notice that Domingo Santana hit 30 HRs with 85 RBI and a .278/.371/.505 slash this season? Not to mention Josh Hader and Brett Phillips are also on the Brewers’ big league club.

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      • Chip, I’ve been waiting for Domingo to become a force since I first saw him play in CC. He’s for real. Along with those strike outs, he still managed a high OBP and an OPS that Springer did not beat until this year.

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  12. To shoehorn Evan Gattis is a bad idea. Give him one start in the first 4 games, and then have the luxury of big bopper coming off the bench. I like Beltran starting against righties for sure.

    So here’s the bottom line: Gattis needs to come off the bench! And consider this: late in games when either Beltran or Gattis get on base and we need a PR, there’s Maybin’s fleet-footedness waiting on that golden bench of ours.

    Remember the double-switch rule in the NL can actually play to our favor — with this much talent and speed coming off the bench, that is.

    Maybin’s glove and speed will supplant Marisnick’s earning a roster spot..

    The Stros should definitely test Yasmani Grandal’s arm whenever there’s a close game late. Even Springer should run in key moments, IMHO.

    This is going to be so much fun!

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  13. Morton and McCullers are the other two starting pitchers in this series, it was announced tonight. Hinch is not saying which game they will pitch.

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  14. If Morton and McCuellars are the other starters, then the “tandem: pitchers would probably be Peacock and McHugh. That way the BP doesn’t get used up unless needed. Just my guess.

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  15. The umpiring crew is on the Astros official site. I’m not gonna tell you who they are, I’ll let you see the list for yourself. WORST. UMPIRING. CREW. EVER.

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