It is the dog days of winter when the baseball news comes out in spikes (Cue the Gerrit Cole signing) surrounded by flat lines or small lukewarm blips tied to vague rumors (Cue the Brewers are close to trading an OF, but we don’t know which one or if the Astros are involved).
So here are some unrelated ramblings to chew on here a few weeks short of Spring Training.
One thing for sure is that unless the whole Astros team is found to be 25 mini-Weinsteins running around harassing women, the Astros will have a significant attendance bump this season. Last year they drew 2.4 million fans which was far ahead of the awful days of 2012-13 (1.6 million). But far below the halcyon days of the mid-2000’s, when they went over 3 million fans 3 out of 4 years…though ironically not in their WS season of 2005 when they dipped to 2.8 million.
Here are some reasons to expect a big bump:
- The Tampa Bump. the Astros gave up 3 home games against the Rangers to play in desolate isolation in Tampa. They drew 13,000 total for the three games. They should have drawn somewhere north of 100,000 for this series.
- No Harvey. God willing and knock on wood the city will not be heading into the stretch of the season with a huge chunk of the city under water or drying out
- Band wagon fans. True fans can gripe about it, but the reality is that there will be those who show up because the Astros are winners and hopefully will be again in 2018.
- Better Economic Conditions. Houston is the energy capital of the world and there have been a ton of folks out of work or hanging by a thread over the last couple of years. We are not out of the woods yet, but all signs point to a better 2018. This affected individual ticket buyers and corporate buyers in the last couple of seasons.
Will they get over 3 million again this year? Nope, but somewhere between 2.8 and 2.9 million feels about right.
The lack of FA action this off-season is unprecedented in this non-collusion world of baseball. By this point in the off-season there are normally a few stragglers left out there. But, for instance, if we look at CBS’s tracker of their top 50 list of FAs – half of them are unsigned as Spring Training soars into view on the near horizon. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/mlb-free-agent-tracker-2017-18-latest-hot-stove-signings-best-players-available/
Is there anyone of interest for the Astros on this list (and believe me there are a lot more where these came from in the area below the top 50)?
- Starting pitcher. There has been speculation that Luhnow and the front office will after another high end starter, if certain FAs prices comes down to set the team up to absorb the loss of not only Dallas Keuchel, but also Charlie Morton. Choices could include Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta or Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb or maybe someone lower on the list. After the Gerrit Cole trade this just does not feel right…. at least not at this time.
- Catcher. The speculation is that with the Astros moving Evan Gattis to DH, that they might bring in a longer term C to pair with Brian McCann – like Jonathan Lucroy or Alex Avila. This also just does not feel right, tying that much money up in a definite backup C. But the lack of depth in the minor league system might drive this decision.
- Outfield. If the Astros want to keep Marwin Gonzalez available to wander the diamond like Caine from Kung Fu, they might chase a more full time LF in the FA market. The top of this list includes folks that may just cost too much like J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain. Carlos Gomez is still out there……crickets. The best fit might be Carlos Gonzalez.
- Relievers. It does not seem like the Astros would go chase a Greg Holland type for closer option B. There are no left handed relievers available in this list of the top 50. The best guess is that the Astros might pick up someone to bring in and compete at ST, but are not going to go after someone they have to guarantee a spot in the bullpen.
Stats 101. Folks can hate on me for this, but I would like to at least try a feature that would try to explain a few of our statistical terms in very down to earth language. If everyone hates this it will be a short lived feature. Here are three fairly simple terms:
- PA. (Plate Appearances) Pretty simple, this is the number of times a player goes up to the plate during the course of a season. A ball player who is a starter will have PAs numbering in the 500’s to 600’s during a typical season (depending on how many games they miss and where they are in the lineup).
- AB. (At Bats) Hey, Dan. Aren’t Plate Appearances and At Bats the same thing? Nope. In the world of baseball ABs are a portion of PAs. A hitter’s ABs do not include the number of time he walks, is hit by a pitch, makes a successful sacrifice bunt or a successful sacrifice fly. This is important because ABs are used in calculating batting average and other stas. Most starting ball players will have ABs in the 400’s to 500’s in a season.
- BA. (Batting average) This is a very straightforward number. It is Hits divided by ABs. So in reality it is just the percentage of times a hitter gets a base hit in his ABs (not his PAs). A player who hits .300 gets a hit in 30% of his ABs. In 2017 the AL average BA was .256 while the Astros averaged .282 BA. Simply our guys as a team got hits in a little more than 28% of their ABs which is outstanding. And the most outstanding player was Jose Altuve who had a .346 BA – getting a hit in 34.6% of his ABs.
- What is your over/under number for the Astros 2018 attendance?
- If the Astros get off to a slow start will the attendance lag?
- Are the Astros going to go after anymore FAs this off-season and in what area and what quality do you expect if they do?
- Do you love/hate/ tolerate the new Stats 101 feature?