Free Blog Weekend: AL West, Altuve, Ohtani and other notes


Today we bring back an oldie but goodie, the Free Blog Weekend. Chip’s intent here was to throw down a few ideas and allow faithful readers to go off in any direction they felt like as long it was baseball related and respectful of others. So here are some threads to follow or ignore….

The AL West to this point is the best division in the AL. The division has 4 of the 5 teams above .500 and playing solid ball to this point. The sad sack Rangers are the exception. Please, don’t weep too long or too hard.

It would behoove the Astros to discourage the A’s this weekend. The A’s come in playing very good ball, winning 8 of their last 10 and have Sean Manaea coming off of a no-hitter leading off for Oakland in this 3 game series.

Will Jose Altuve now go on a streak? He seemed to be placing a lot of pressure on himself to hit that first home run of the season and perhaps he will not relax and hit them long and hard naturally.

Are Derek Fisher and/or Jake Marisnick about to come out of their respective slumps. Their hitting was so bad that getting a hit here and there seems like an awakening. Slumps at the very beginning of the season look worse than a bad four weeks in the middle of the season. Unless these are not just slumps.

How about that Ohtani. The Astro fans saw him pitch in person, where he has talent, but also an average 4.43 ERA after four starts. We did not see him bat, but he has put up strong numbers in limited ABs to date (3 HRs and 11 RBIs in 42 ABs), since he does not DH the day before or after he starts. Maybe he is not the new Babe Ruth, but he has brought some energy and interest to an Angel club that is off to a strong start.

The games are going so much faster after the new rule changes….Right?. The biggest non-event so far is the rule about limiting mound visits. Have not seen where it mattered at all so far.

Now it is your turn to grab one of these thoughts and run or throw out your own.

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96 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: AL West, Altuve, Ohtani and other notes

  1. I was just sitting here watching ‘Tuve get the silent treatment in the dugout and chuckling away when your FBW popped up. Thanks for making it a little less lonely and sobering me up. Don’t want my colleagues to wonder why I sit in my office alone and laugh. Not good for the rep.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you really want to freak them out – mumble to yourself and hit yourself in your forehead with an empty palm, jump up and look out your door looking agog, shut the door, then suddenly open it, wander around drinking from an empty coffee cup, take swings at imaginary baseballs and yell “yes”…..etc

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      • Dan, the whole point was that you sobered me up. Now you’ve got me laughing alone in my office again. If I get a pink slip, it’s all on you, buster! Man, Dan.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OK – sober her up thoughts….
        2011 – 2014
        Bo Porter
        Brad Mills
        Bill Hall
        Carlos Pena
        Lucas Harrell
        Cody Clark
        Rick Ankiel
        Philip Humber
        Jordan Schafer

        Now they will be wondering why you are crying in your office…..

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  2. The quality of our division vis-a-vis each other and the league is going to make it a lot harder for us to reach 100 wins this year. Let’s put it this way, if we win the division, the number of wins it takes to get there is irrelevant.

    But winning the division is not guaranteed. If we are going to do that – which everyone knows we have the talent to do – starting tonight, we need to start consistently winning series’ against our division opponents instead of losing them. Winning vs. losing this series is likely to mean the difference between starting off May in first place in the division or occupying a not-so-comfortable position of chasing Angels. [Dare I actually hold my nose and root for the Yankees this weekend only?]

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    • I don’t know. We are 17-9, but looking back I feel like we probably *should* have won all but 2 of those losses. I don’t think any team in our division is quality enough to be the reason we fall short of 100 wins. We’re obviously still the most talented team in the American League. Not showing up for games is what will cost them.

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  3. * How About Ohtani?*

    I wish he was 40 years old. – then he wouldn’t have a lot of time to improve. We have seen that the kid is not Babe Ruth yet – but we have also seen that he has some SERIOUS SKILLS. If he can harness those skills, and the cyber-freaks of the league can’t find some gaping holes in his game, we could be looking at quite a player for a lot of years.

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    • But why does the way he presents himself make me wonder if he might be the offspring of a tawdry union of Ivan Drago and Selena Gomez?

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  4. Free blog weekend, huh?
    1. When the clown-haired reliever for the Angels walked the first two hitters in the ninth inning because his fastball was four feet off the plate, what did the Astros players think his manager told him in the mound visit? Keep pumping that fastball in there? Nope, he told his pitcher to throw the slider every time and the next three Astros batters just stood there and watched it. Brain dead Astros hitters.
    2. Who would have thought Tyler Skaggs was the ace of the Angels staff? The Astros, that’s who.
    3. Jake Marisnick will come out of his slump to be merely below average.
    4. The AL West is the surprising best division because nobody on the East Coast was paying attention.
    5. The rule changes are a complete disaster because the attempt to fix the problem of 3.5 hour games was a fake. You can tell its a fake because nationally televised games have twice as many commercials in between innings as locally televised ones and batters are still allowed to roam around in between pitches. Baseball only pretends to care about this. They want the games to last as long as possible because they know that the people who are spending the money at the ballparks don’t want to go home, they want to party. It used to be that the people who left the game early had to look up the final score the next morning. Nowadays it’s the people who stay at the game who can’t remember the score.
    6. I think Astros hitters have a mental block about hitting in MMP. And I think it started with the big changes to the background in CF.
    7. Does all the talk about Altuve pressing to hit a homer indicate that power is suddenly part of his focus? Is that why he has been swinging as hard Springer at anything close to the plate? I like the 200 hits a year part of Altuve’s game more than I like the 24 home runs a year part. How many players hit 24 HRs a year? How many players get 200 hits a year?
    8. Only a Texans fan ignores rounds 1&2 of the draft and can’t wait for the third round to start.

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    • #8 would be a good strategy for Texans fans just about every year. Even when they’ve had #1 picks I’ve seldom been thrilled with their selection.

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    • OP, I wonder if the Astros’ general malaise in hitting has Altuve back in the ‘if it isn’t a home run, it isn’t going to be a run’ mindset of 2014. Unlike last year, we just aren’t moving men around the bases well at all. As in 2014, if we don’t out HR our opposition, we are almost certain to lose.

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    • I think Jose has been slumping all season. Like I said the other day, he’s the only guy in the league that can hit .333 and be in a rut. He’ll get going. He’ll get his 200 plus.

      In my salad days, I’d never miss an Oiler game, probably went to 30 Rockets games a year and went to most Astro games. My brothers still pay for my season tickets at Minute Maid. Thing is, in the old days, one could go to 100 or so professional games in Houston without being loaded. Not any more.
      These days, I think most regular folks have to pick their sport. Over the years, I’ve pretty much lost interest in the Rockets and Texans.

      I was encouraged yesterday when Dan pointed out that we had a slow offensive start in 2017 too. But really, we do have a couple of week spots in the line up. It will be interesting to see if that sorts itself out, or, if it will require addressing. I think some addressing will be needed. But I hope not with Matt Holliday.

      I’m not too worried about Marwin, but I certainly don’t expect 90 RBI’s out of him again. If Jake gets away with remaining on the roster with a .200/.275/.650 effort at the plate, you guys will get tired of hearing about it from me.

      Let’s get even on the home stand tonight. It’s actually a fairly important game as far as I’m concerned. Going 1 and 3 makes me think real slump, especially at home. And beating a tough pitcher would be a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Just some other thoughts….
    – I was wondering why all our West Coast games with the A’s were so early when I remembered we are still at home.
    – Any interest in this guy or at 38 is he Beltran Jr. for DH?
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/04/matt-holliday-hopes-to-continue-playing-career.html
    – Weird having an NFL draft where I really don’t care for one whole day and part of the next
    – Mr. Bill – I am trying to remove the Drago/Gomez image from my mind and failing
    – OP – When the Astros don’t make adjustments to what they should know is coming this year is that because they don’t have someone they respect whispering in their ear?
    – Totally agree that baseball does not really care if the game is sped up as long as nobody starts trying to touch their precious advertising breaks

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    • Absolutely no on Holliday! He hit .219 as a DH last year, is now a year older, has had no Spring Training and would be a salary add on! If you add him, you have to subtract from the roster and you would have to let Gattis walk.
      I’m fine with letting Gattis walk, but I would rather it be for Davis or White, not Holliday.

      Liked by 1 person

    • As far as making adjustments, I think the Astros hitters think they are better than that and that their talent will win out over being smart. I don’t watch horror movies. Do Zombies stop and rethink things or do they just keep doing the same things? Like I said, the Walking Dead.
      This is a completely different performance than the Astros hitters last year. What happened? What or who changed them from beeing a hitting team to a poor hitting team. I don’t think losing the worst hitter from last year’s team caused everybody else to suddenly not hit.
      You look back at this current year and you see that a lot of our wins are lucky. Reddick single-handedly wins one game, Yuli comes back and single-handedly wins a game. Pitchers win games that hitters don’t hit in. Popups fall in that let the winning run score in extras. A line drive single gets past the center fielder in the late innings and gives the Astros a win. Other team’s fielder make errors that give the Astros wins while we get thrown out all over the bases and still manage to luck out.

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  6. I’m curious about batting practice/hitting. Do any of the players every face one our pitchers throwing for practice? I ask this out of ignorance because getting in a batting cage with a guy throwing soft tosses is not the same as facing major league pitchers. I can see some guy parking the ball out in the stands during BP but then striking out 3 times in a game. It ain’t the same.

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    • The answer to this is that pitchers do not throw live batting practice during the season except in cases where they are coming off the DL and are getting a feel for throwing off the mound again. The batting practice generally does not simulate 95 mph fastballs, but it’s also not the creme puffs you see in HR derby. Most BP on the field or in the cages has the pitcher throwing from 10-15 feet closer to the hitter but tossing it in around 75mph.

      Since someone brought up Wayne Graham yesterday, a tangent to this would be his early experiences as a coach. His hitters were absolutely raking during batting practice and putting everything into the top corners of the cage on frozen ropes. Then, when they got into the games they weren’t able to make anything other than feeble contact. He figured out that they were getting so used to one speed that anything else was throwing their timing off. From that point on he made sure to have at least one station of variable speed batting practice and his hitters responded with immediate returns.

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      • Thanks for the explanation. I guess the pitching machines could be cranked up to throw faster too. About 20 years ago I decided to step into a batting cage with the pitch coming at me at 65mph (so it said). I just wanted to see if I could hit it. The 1st pitch got stuck and when it came out it almost hit me in the head. It was pretty much swing and miss after that. Think I got a piece of maybe 1 out of every 3. So ended my aspirations of becoming a late blooming hitter (that’s a joke).

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    • The pitch that got lobbed up to the Brave’s heralded rookie Acuna yesterday, which appeared pretty obviously designed to give the kid his first career home run, sure looked like a major league pitcher [Homer Bailey] throwing soft toss batting practice. The Reds are pretty obviously tanking, and Bailey served that ball up to Acuna on a silver platter.

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  7. one of the things we have talked about is getting attendance up. nothing like winning to help with that. i noticed that starting the end of april we have a chance to put a whole lot of behinds in the seats. this opportunity starts off with a 4 game set with the yankees. its not on the weekend but its the yankees and should be heavily attended. then the rangers come to town for a 3 game set fri – sun that should be again full to near full houses. the following weekend cleveland comes in fri-sun should be good attendance. then starting on 5/31 boston comes in for a 4 game thurs-sun series, hopefully full houses. throw in 2 games with the giants and in just over a month you should get a good sized chunk of your attendance for the year. lets hope that most of those games are sell-outs and lots of money rolls into the organization and crane’s hands so that he can/will continue to spend the money it takes to keep the team on top.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. *Are Derek Fisher and/or Jake Marisnick about to come out of their respective slumps *

    Jake Marisnick’s lifetime slash line in the minors was .278/.345/.787. He’s now 27, and has 5 years of MLB experience, in connection with which his career slash line is a dismal .224/.273/.639. We know what we have with Jake, and should be fully confident that the 2017 numbers of .243/.319/.815 are a lot better than he will ever give us again.

    Fisher is just 24, and has just small parts of 2 seasons [75 total games] of MLB experience. He really has not had a chance to get his feet under himself at this level yet. His minor league career stats, though, were significantly better – for more power and better average than Jake’s all across the board. His milb slash line was .282/.372/.860.

    I don’t call what Jake is in a ‘slump’. I call it business as usual – and reverting to normal – for Jake. Pinch run him and put him in as a late inning defensive replacement if you have the luxury of carrying a guy like that on your roster – but don’t count on any significant offense from him, except an occasional ‘gift from Heaven’ Crawford Box dinger. Fisher, on the other hand, still has the time and the potential to develop into really good starting outfielder. By the way, as bad as he’s been this year for us offensively so far, his BA is still 38 points better than Jake’s. I therefore don’t call what Fish is in a ‘slump’. I call it ‘catching up to the pace of the MLB game’. Give him some time to make some more adjustments – or send him back down to Fresno to play regularly and bring up Tony Kemp – but don’t give up on the young guy yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Saying the current lack of production is normal for Jake does not mean that I don’t think he will get a little better. What I would expect from Jake offensively is about .200/.275/.650 – a little lower than his MLB career numbers, but certainly not as bad as his present .140/.140/.439.

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  9. Going beyond Marisnick and Fisher, our offense is also bleeding profusely through two othe positions: the DH position [Gattis is slashing a puny .205/.293/.608], and the supersub position [Marwin is slashing a disappointing .224/.323/.641]. My question: are either of those two guys likely ‘about to come out of his slump’?

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    • On April 27th last year – Marwin was slashing .204/.328/797 – then about a week later he was hitting .271/.381/1.067. So there is hope.

      Gattis on the other hand hit well in April but dropped like a rock at different times during the season. He is streaky but he still hasn’t proved to me he can hit when he is mostly a DH. I hope he turns it around starting tonight

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  10. Here is an interesting way to look at the Astros offense between last year and this year.
    After 26 games in 2018 the Astros are 17-9
    After 26 games in 2017 the Astros were…….17-9
    In 2018, in their 17 wins the Astros scored 102 runs
    In 2017, in their 17 wins the Astros scored …..100 runs
    In 2018, in their 9 losses the Astros scored 25 runs
    In 2017, in their 9 losses the Astros scored 21 runs

    My point being that the Astros are holding their own like they did last year while waiting for their offense to warm up. The only area that bugs me are the higher K’s.

    Perhaps because of the cold weather – offensive numbers are down in the AL vs. the full season of 2017.
    Runs per game 4.48 down from 4.71
    BA .246 down from .256
    OPS .726 down from .753
    Ks 8.62 up from 8.15 per game
    Or maybe they fiddled with the baseballs again

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  11. Time for some changes. Keuchel goes to the #5 spot. He sure as hell ain’t no #2. Time to let Jake go down, or just “let go”. Situational hitting is non existent. Is there anybody who can light a fire under these guys? Gattis, another non hitter.

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  12. Folks…..time to shake things up. Manufacturer a DL for Dallas, put McHugh back in the rotation for a few weeks, and “HOW” much do we owe Joe Smith?
    Keuchel laid a rotten egg tonight. YIIIKES!! Only problem is our enigma will take the hill tomorrow. Which one will show up?

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  13. At this point, it makes no difference if Keuchel is 2nd or 5th. The good news is that he does not start again for 5 games. All I can see differently about the guy is that he seems to lack the same focus he once had. He got calls on the edges tonight. He just threw a couple of glaring mistakes that he did not throw in the past. I’d hate to think he’s feeling sorry for himself because he’s got at least three guys more effective than him in the rotation. Separately, I think McHugh is pissed off that Smith is still being used in more important situations. I don’t blame him a bit.

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  14. Astros 2018 after 27 games 17-10.
    Cubs 2017 after 27 games 15-12.

    And in 2017, after 27 games, Jake was hitting .292. And he and Margo were leading the team in OPS – .957 & .935. Aoki in left was hitting .292. The next game Jake went 1 for 1 and went to .320 BSA.

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    • 45, there is one significant difference. We’ve got a much better rotation than the 2017 Cubs. And if someone goes on the DL, we’ve got at least one quality option staring us in the face.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Daveb…..Mchugh definitely doesn’t like the bullpen, and yes…he should have been used in that inning instead of Smith. Collin is a cerebral pitcher, he really *thinks* about where he’s going to throw a pitch. BUT Manaea, is a BEAST and it doesn’t get much easier tomorrow. One of our own, Daniel Mengden takes the hill tomorrow. Ya’ll remember him…..he was in that “can’t miss Kazmir” trade.
    By the way where *I S* Scott Kazmir now?? Oh I forgot we let him walk, and he’s on DL again.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. We had good shots at Manaea early. I was concerned when none of those early well hit balls fell. Our guys will hit him at some point this year.

    Collin is a professional. He might not like his job right now, but he’s certainly not mailing it in. He’ll play an important role on this club before long.

    Zero and 31.

    I hate it when we don’t own Minute Maid.

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  17. Hello, Astros. In case you are still too busy polishing your beautiful new rings and spending your WS money to notice, a team you should beat 4 out of 5 nights – the Oakland Athletics – just came into your house and totally outplayed you, out pitched you, out hit you, and out professionalled you. In the process, they whooped your lethargic WS Champion behinds all over Minute Maid Park, making you look like a bad high school team.

    Is this okay to you?

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  18. McCullers was un hittable tonight! Boy did he need this! Ya know I get that this is a blow out, but still Rondon wasn’t sharp. I expect ANY reliever that comes in to pitch…..bring your A game. PERIOD. Mean while…..the Yankees put a 10 spot on the Angels by the 2nd inning knocked Garrett Richards outta the game!
    I really, really like winning😍

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  19. I’ve been a McCullers skeptic this year but really have to give him credit tonight. He used his fastball to great effect and didn’t throw 50% curves and did not walk a batter. His beat down in Minnesota does seem to have taught him a lesson and whether its coincidence or serendipity or maturity his fastball command is improving. It was also great to see George and Jose and Marwin hit big time no-doubters. More please.
    PS: Fisher does his Jekyl and Hyde with a bomb and an inexplicable and IMO inexcusable called strike three with the bases loaded. Does he lead the world in called third strikes?

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  20. Looked like last year. Needed to see ya.

    On a negative note although he got out quick Sipp throws batting practice pitches

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  21. “at least I had McCullers on my fantasy team.” – A’s fan on their blog

    It was something special last night to have Baggie sharing his insight. I found the history and discussing with Blum the players of their era, to be a unique look inside the game. His comments about how intimidating Caminiti was, to understanding today’s pitching sequencing, to calling a Springer HR beforehand, to realistic expectations for these guys — he spoke with authority as an insider, and someone whose opinion was coveted. His basic response over and over about coaching is that the dearth of information these guys take in is beyond him. He expressed the priority of scoring runs and winning (production), rather than batting averages, exit velo and individual stats. His praise of Hinch in being able to absorb it and be a people person, while he wanted himself to be known as a good teammate, the way he wanted everyone to know Altuve is real and caring.

    He talked about how Jim Crame made sure everyone deserving got a ring.

    It occurred to me this morning what is missing in Beltran is that reassurance that everything is going to be alright. Bagwell said the best advice he ever got was just to be himself. It was this idea that everything you’ve ever worked on will produce, so don’t sweat the little things with your stance and footwork, as it were. Kalas asked him did it work, did you forget about your feet? He said no, but later he thought about it. That’s what I think Beltran left behind. A whisper in their ear that they can and will be champions. All else is a struggle to be better than, even we expect of them. In fact, said Bagwell, I think they’re playing about 6 out of 10 to their potential. Nice analogy.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I really did not hear anything out of Bagwell last night that enlightened me. In fact, those three guys together spent more time chewing the fat and giggling like they were in the middle of a rain delay than anything else, largely ignoring the fact that McCullers was pitching a beautiful game.

    I keep waiting for Bregman to morph into that super intelligent ball player that Bagwell was, rather than the kid that keeps getting thrown out on the bases. And admittedly, I still have mixed emotions on Bagwell the team player. How much did he help lead the way to Dierker’s demise?

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  23. I like Bagwell better on the field than in the booth.
    However, I did appreciate his sobriety last night and found the banter refreshing.

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  24. Tuned in to the arlington little league’s game for a few minutes to get a look at Yuli’s, little brother. He’s tall and thin, and he has one quick bat! They look alike.

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  25. If we have 5 or 6 guys that can get a bunt down on a regular basis, it adds a whole new level of frustration every time the other guys are trying to get three outs. Marwin is steadily getting his average up. That 75 foot single started a two run inning.

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  26. This game is gonna leave a bad taste in Bob Melvins mouth for a long time.
    Anytime your team commits 4 errors in a game will prompt a closed door a$$ chewing. Lawd….what are they gonna do with Semien, that kid has made an error in all 3 games. I wonder if Ron Washington is still on the A’s, staff. He was hired to work exclusively with Semien to cut down his errors. He’s Villerror’S twin brother.

    Liked by 1 person

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