Weekend Thoughts

After getting a bit of respite from the 100+ F temperatures the last few days, we are heading back up; it is what it is in a Texas summer. And the same could be said about our first-place baseball team, the Houston Astros.

They are scuffling a bit lately but still hold a 10-game lead, which is pretty stiff considering the Mariners had to win 12 straight to get within 10 games. They are fighting off a sudden slew of injuries and sometimes have a lineup that is hard to swallow. But it is what it is.

So, here are some thoughts….

  • Jose Siri is becoming the poor man’s Jake Marisnick around here. He is truly an amazing fielder but an even worse hitter than JFSF. Friday night, he made one 5-star catch which the Astros announcing crew said he had a 15% chance of catching, and he did it without diving. Then he barely came short on a ball to the fence that the announcing crew said he had a 0% chance of catching as it ticked off the end of his glove. He gets great jumps in the field and has blazing speed. Then he gets up and swings at pitches a foot below and outside. Frustrating.
  • Michael Brantley tried swinging the bat on Thursday, didn’t feel right, and was sent back for more evaluation. While the Astros are making no big deal about it, it sounds like the thing that might lead to a “cleaning out” of the shoulder. The Astros really miss his steady presence in the lineup. Note: I am not a doctor. I only play one in a fan blog.
  • Losing Brantley, Altuve, and Alvarez, two All Stars and one of their best hitters, has certainly hurt a lineup that already lacked a back end and is now missing from the front end and middle. But with a 10-game lead, even with it shrinking, they need to avoid rushing anyone back.
  • When you lose players like those three, it goes far beyond just their loss of production. There is less accumulated stress on the opposing pitchers as they don’t have to pitch to some of the others with someone on base (as often) and can afford to pitch around others with less protection in the lineup.
  • Despite giving up three runs Friday night, Jose Urquidy has been a very effective pitcher after dropping his cutter from his pitch mix a few starts ago. It behooves the Astros to have as many pitchers as possible available to go 6 or more innings while giving the team a shot at a win.
  • The Astros have gone three games without a home run, which is quite unusual for them. Can they put anything together in the next two games before the All Star break to feel better about themselves after scoring 5 total runs over the last 3 games? It helps to picture Justin Verlander taking the mound Saturday afternoon.
  • Is it possible that the only Astro to play in the All Star Game will be Framber Valdez? Verlander would have to do it on only a couple days’ rest, though he could take it as his throwing day between starts. Alvarez is out. And reading the comments from Jose Altuve on mlb.com, “A lot of discomfort, it got a little bit of bone, right below my knee. Also, some muscles and tendons. We’re just evaluating. It’s day-to-day right now. I’m trying my best to get better. Whenever I feel good, I’ll come back and play” he could be back today or in a week.
  • We (the collective of most fans) have our bones to pick with Dusty Baker, just like we have had with every Astros manager. But you can’t argue with the fact that he has kept this team on a steady course since taking over and steered them through the rough waters of injuries and individual underperformance. Since losing 3 in a row June 8-11, they have not lost more than one game in a row. I hope this team goes all the way and Dusty retires with a championship pelt added to his belt.

What are you thinking about today?

50 comments on “Weekend Thoughts

  1. Thinking about very little hay and very little water in the ponds.
    Doctor’s appointments over and over.
    105 degrees and an air conditioner that fights to keep up.
    Thinking about Urquidy getting no lineup to work with resulting in no run support, while JV gets three regulars back and five runs to work with.
    Thinking about how Oakland has two guys in their lineup that appear smaller than Altuve.
    Thinking about how Pedro Leon has completely changed his approach at the plate and what it might mean going forward. Who’s idea was it and are the Astros happy with it?
    Wondering when the LMJ bubble of optimism will pop. I mean, how do you trust anything that comes from the Astros. Look at the Brantley situation, just as one example.
    Well, you asked.
    Super happy that the Astros are finding ways to win most series and that they might get a little rest soon.
    Thinking about the Mariners 13th win in a row.

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    • 1oldpro, I just noticed your mention of Pedro Leon. I noted a couple of things in Sugarland. He sure is fast and he sure can throw. And I think he’s shorter than 5’9″. He’s got pop in the bat. Not sure how he’s doing it, but the OBP is .376. The OPS is .819. 30 steals? He’s hitting .234. If he can hit for a higher average, Pedro might be our guy. He’s made a lot of progress over 149 minor league games.

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      • You took the bait! Check out his July stats. It is not that he has caught fire, he has gone from a guy who struck out a ton to a guy who is walking more than he Ks. His OBP is over .500, His BA is over .300, his steals are up because he is on base so much and he has no home runs.
        He suddenly has stopped swinging at pitches outside the zone and is taking those pitches for walks. He has suddenly become Myles Straw, but without the strikeouts.

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      • He still has 94 Ks in 78 games. His K rate is down to 27%, and if he does that in the majors his athleticism will do the rest.

        I am sure that OBP has a lot to do with the 15 HBPs. That many HBP’s in a half a season, either he is pissing people off or he is leaning in some. 49 walks in that same time too. He has definitely changed his profile as a hitter to this point.

        Has he been batting leadoff?

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  2. I have not watched every inning of every game, but from what I have seen, Siri is way past excellent in getting to flies laterally. He is not JFSF going back on a fly ball. When he climbs a few fences and jumps 15 feet in the air, I will give him praise but he gets to everything you could want going left or right. Reminds me of Bear Bryant talking about Lee Roy Jordan. “If he stays in bounds, Lee Roy will get him.”

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    • Yes, Siri sure is good at going sideways! My point is that Jake has too many holes in his game at this point. Maybe it’s the rust. But so far anyway, he’s been handed center. With Brantley possibly out for an extended period (as 1OP notes, who knows?) we might really need an outfielder. I guess it’s possible that Jake is playing everyday so the club can hope to determine if he’s the guy to take us through the post season.

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  3. I have this to say about Jose Siri: He is slashing [if you can call it that] .178/.238/.542, with a 35.5% K rate – and he still walks around like he’s Carlos Gomez ego. If league rules change and he can just be a designated fielder, meaning he never touches a bat or gets a moment in front of a camera, he might have a place on a major league team. But the dude simply cannot hit – or even put up a half-way decent at bat against – even the weakest of major league pitching. He is simply overmatched. Let him fill out a AAA roster; but give us anyone but him in the starting line-up.

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    • In case anyone has the illusion that Jose is getting better at the plate recently, in his last 7 games has been afforded 17 at bats. In those 17 at bats he has logged one hit and struck out 9 times [52.9%]. Letting him hit is like giving a free gift of confidence – plus an easy out – to the opposing pitcher.

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      • Mr. Bill, I’m always seeing things. I should see my health professional. I did see the new Siri Stance in Sugarland two weeks ago while drinking lukewarm Major League priced AAA beer. I think he’ll end up with knee problems. And he still won’t hit.

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  4. Its slightly more than 2 hours before game time and the A’s still have the dreaded TBD as their starting pitcher opposing Jake Odorizzi.

    Astros lineup
    Altuve 2B
    Pena SS
    Tucker DH
    Bregman 3B
    Diaz LF
    Gurriel 1B
    McCormick RF
    Meyers CF
    Maldonado C

    I didn’t see yesterday’s game but found the Astros 6 hits 5 runs / A’s 7 hits 0 runs the main story. We got that big blow from Maldy and that combined with JV scattering and stranding runners was the difference in the game.

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  5. I don’t like seeing a 31 year old veteran blow a comebacker to the mound and then throw it away. I’d give him two errors. Looks like he did not like Dusty pulling him either.

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  6. Well they handed that game away and the Mariners are about to win 14th in a row.
    I put this post together on the fly. Surprised no one caught that I omitted Tucker when talking about who might be missing the All Star Game (of course he is not missing the ASG). Big oops on my part

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  7. Don’t know if they’re tired or what but the team played like they were in last place just playing out the season. Pitching has pretty much carried this team thus far. Hopefully it will continue. We need to shop our starting pitching (odorizzi) and somebody else for an outfielder that can hit. Right now Tucker is the only one who seems to be hitting well. Alvarez should be ok upon returning but Brantley is a big “?”. I’m concerned about the upcoming series with the Stankees and then them “M’s”. It should tell us what we need to do at the trade deadline.

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  8. I suppose we need the innings Odorizzi provides us with. He can be an effective pitcher. He did it for 5 more innings yesterday. But the play on the mound was excruciating. He could have fielded the ball and started a double play. He could have gotten out of the way and let Pena make the play at second. After stumbling around on the mound like a tee baller, he could have made a good throw to first That bad throw could have put Yuli on the injured list. He blew every option. The guy just rubs me the wrong way. If I had to pick one guy that might not be a good teammate on this club, I’d have to guess that it is him. And I’m pretty sure he does not really enjoy playing in Houston. I hope Click figures something out over the next two weeks. At the end of the day, Odorizzi will be left off the post season roster. I’d like to see him go sooner.

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  9. The Odorizzi fumble/bumble/stumble routine was indeed costly. But what bothers me most is the sudden inability of our guys to [a] hit and [b] score runs. Yesterday we got 8 hits and scored 3 runs [all via HR]. Saturday we got six hits and scored five runs (4 via the HR). Friday we got four hits and scored one run (a Siri sac-fly!). Look, we weren’t facing Cy Young! And while I realize Alvarez and Brantley weren’t able to play, during the A’s series Altuve was 2 for 9, Pena was 3 for 12, Bregman was 1-11, Tucker was 2-12, Meyers was 1-10, McCormick was 2-9, Diaz was 1-7. Of the starters, only Yuli Gurriel hit well [4-7].

    I hope we hit better against the Yanks and Mariners.

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    • Mr. Bill, no doubt it was an ugly weekend. We failed to hit bad pitching. But when we are missing line up parts, the rest of the line up, especially our usually reliable bats are going to see fewer good pitches. But even if we get everyone healthy and finally playing together, I still think we need another hitter with a real pedigree. Whether it be an outfielder or a first baseman, I think it needs to get done.

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  10. OK – I’m going to go the other direction on Odorizzi – I’m not going to cook his goose for a very bad fielding play (especially after his last start where he made a terrific pickoff of the runner on 1st base and made an incredible stab of a laser up the middle).
    We are not paying him for his fielding – though that is his only error this season.
    Jeremy Pena, whom I love has 13 errors this season and almost all of them are of the avoidable type.

    Now I will listen to the possibility of trading Odorizzi, but it might not bring back that good of a haul. He is back and uninjured and pitching well, but he is very likely a rental as he has a player option for next season and will probably exercise it.

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    • Yes, if we are talking starting-pitcher trade value, I suspect Framber, Javier, or Urquidy would be much more coveted, and thus bring a much greater potential return, than would Jake O. I don’t want to lose any of those guys or Hunter Brown of course; so that (what other teams are going to want) has to enter into the equation of who we might be able to bring in.

      As far as defense goes, you are correct about Pena. He is pretty fearless in getting to the ball, but he doesn’t always make great throws. I have already seen Yuli Gurriel make unbelievable plays to save him more times than I can count on both hands. He’s such a talent that I expect – and certainly hope – that little seasoning will work wonders in that regard.

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      • We were spoiled by Correa’s amazingly accurate arm and stretches like 2020 where he had one error in 57 games, but he was once a rookie too. He had 13 errors in only 99 games in 2015. Pena is at a bit higher rate and maybe he is never as steady as Correa – but it looks to me as though by working on it he can certainly get rid of some of these that seem to be just flat footed throwing errors.

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    • Dan, I agree to an extent. But Odorizzi tends to lose his composure from time to time. He’s been around too long for that. And our rookie Pena, while making those 13 errors still remains 5th in MLB DWAR for his position, and I’ve never seen him lose his composure.

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  11. As far as the draft goes – I am at the mercy of reading other people’s analyses, but it sounded like both their first round draft pick OF Drew Gilbert of Tennessee and second round pick OF Jacob Melton of Oregon St. were projected to go earlier, so maybe some value there on two guys with strong bats.
    With the Correa compensation pick they took RHP Andrew Taylor of Central Michigan who might have been a stretch for them.
    Today in the third round they took a big (6′-5″, 245#) right hander Michael Knorr out of surprise team Coastal Carolina, who went earlier than expected.

    In the end it does not matter if guys go earlier or later, just that some of them make it up to the biggies.

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  12. In the fourth round the Astros picked their 3rd 6′-5″ pitcher in a row, Trey Dombrowksi the third out of Monmouth College.

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    • The Dombrowski difference is that he is a southpaw – and has way better control than anyone currently in the Astros’ system. Strike-throwing capability? That will be something new.

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  13. We then grab a midget pitcher (OK he is 6’0″) Nolan DeVos out of Davidson and then a gigantor catcher (6′-6″!!!) Collin Price out of Mercer.

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  14. First 8 draft choices are all college kids for the Astros. Are they trying to fill that hole where they lost draft choices for two years by picking players who are closer to ready?

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    • Dan, I think that is some of it. I think that they are staying away from HS players because they see a need in 3 or 4 years to have mature players ready for the bigs.
      And they are tired of spending big money on HS pitchers who continue to disappoint them.
      They have had good luck signing international free agent pitchers and developing them. I see them doing that instead of forking out huge dollars for HS pitchers who are too unpredictable.

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  15. I rarely watch the Home Run Derby, but I got sucked into it by two things – Uncle Albert Pujols’ swan song and the Mariners wunderkind Julio Rodriguez.
    Pujols started off the first round looking like he was washed up – he hit one home run in the first minute and took a timeout. He changed to a lighter bat and picked up the pace enough to beat Schwarber and move on to the second round against Juan Soto. Soto had to rally late to beat him, so Pujols did well.
    J-Rod as the 21 year old Rodriguez is being called is just scary. He had 32 and 31 HRs in the first two rounds and then ran out of steam falling just short to Soto.

    If Rodriguez controls his strike out rate (he’s over 100 already this season) he is going to be a monster. He has 53 runs scored, 16 HRs and 52 RBIs already at 21 years old. Yikes.

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  16. LMJ is all we have to show pitching wise in the last decade of drafts. We are littered with names no one will ever hear of. That 2015 draft though. The top is solid, and it has 2 more guys later that have a shot in Stubbs and Myles to at least have serviceable major league careers.

    Really, outside of our high draft picks position player wise, we have failed in the amateur draft completely. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Pena is the first non-first rounder we have that has a shot at locking in an everyday job for the next decade in a while.

    The international signings are what matter. Framber, Garcia, Urquidy, Javier – the root of our success is in those 4 – along with Altuve (and you can probably put Yuli in that group as a free agent). We have won that market.

    Sometimes I wonder about that market though and its success across baseball. Do I think Juan Soto has spent his life free of some Clemens like help? No. Can you blame them though? So much money on the line for people who grow up with nothing. Soto is about to make so much money he could buy a quarter of the entire DR if he wanted to. Still, when I was 20 years old I was 6’0 and 145 lbs soak and wet, and that was 2 years into my Army career. That guy was 225 lbs in a man body jacking homeruns in the World Series. At 20. Call me suspect.

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    • Interesting observation Steven. I’m no nutritionist but I do realize one thing that a good diet can produce a different individual. Look at Ohtani, 6’4″ 210lbs. All we ever saw depicted for Japanese were that they were small and light weight. Same for the Vietnamese. In college a Vietnamese guy in my accounting class was about 6’2″ and weighed about 190. He also had a black belt in martial arts. It’s pretty much the same in many instances where those people from other countries that do not have the proper diet come here and the next generation breaks that stereotype. On the other hand, look at how many overweight and obese children we have here now in our country due to improper diet and exercise. It’s only getting worse for many of the population. I remember going to eat lunch with my son at his elementary school many years ago. There was a girl in line who got the regular meal but then got two bags of potato chips, two ice cream cups, and a sugary drink. She didn’t eat any of the regular food except for the starch but devoured all the junk. This was the 4th grade. I think and she probably weighed over a 130 lbs. It was sad to see that.
      It’s a changing world that we’re witnessing right before our eyes.

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  17. The last half of the draft has started. If the Astros are going to try to get one of the HS top rated prospects, who have strong college commitments, it would be today. With their low pool money and only 20 picks, they may play it straight and replace some of the guys they have in one of baseball’s lowest rated and worst performing minor leagues.
    The pitching on their two A franchises has been awful this year.
    And pitchers are going fast in round 11!

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    • I have watched portions of multiple AA and High A games for many clubs. It appears that if you can throw 92 with decent control, they are told to throw 95-97. Even with a game on the line and a couple runners already on base with walks, they keep overthrowing.

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  18. And indeed they did make a move! They drafted Perfect Game’s 44th ranked HS player, Ryan Clifford, an outfielder from Raleigh NC, who has committed to Vanderbilt and Bats L and Throws L.

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  19. My understanding is that Dusty said Framber will play the 3rd inning and that Tucker will come in some time as a sub tonight.

    By the way the MLB leader in ERA, McLanahan of Tampa Bay has given up two runs in the first and is very lucky that his defense turned a crazy double play behind him or it would be four and counting.

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  20. So, Framber was very Framber-ish last night – facing 3 batters and getting 3 ground balls. And thanks to Mr. Stanton (spit!) and Mr. Buxton – he received the win.
    Tucker faced a couple very tough pitchers and struck out and popped up.
    Man the pitchers on both sides of the All Star teams have some amazing stuff.

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    • The worst thing about the game last night and I was not watching consistently was Ortiz running around “interviewing” various players. I wanted to watch the game not see the clown show. Sorry to be a “Debbie Downer” but I was not amused. As was mentioned before it was “Yankees, Dodgers, and Mets” on parade.
      Congratulations to Framber on his “W” and his typical ground ball pitching performance.

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      • Gotta agree Z – I was having to try and watch Tucker’s first at bat with a very distracting split screen. It was a bit of a crazy clown show. Luckily Ortiz wandered off so I could see the second half of the at bat.

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  21. Some draft notes:
    * Astros first round pick(#28) Drew Gilbert was Perfect Game’s #14 ranked player on their big board.
    * The Astros drafted only outfielders, shortstops, catcher and pitchers with their 21 picks. 3 of the 4 shortstops picked were 6′ 2″ or taller and were picked for their bats. Most likely, the Astros think if you are good enough to be the starting SS on a major college team for several years, you can play any other position except catcher and I agree with that way of thinking.
    * The Astros 2nd round pick at #64 was Jacob Melton out of Oregon State. An outfielder, Melton was the 39th ranked player by MLB and the #52 ranked player by Perfect Game.

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