Do you think…

Being a baseball fan for most of us is a battle between the two sides of our brains. There is that right side of the brain that is always knee-deep (yeah, I know that doesn’t work anatomically) in facts and stats. Then there is the left side that dabbles in the emotions of being a fan – in the fanatical depths of our being.

Today this writer is asking you to think. OK, you can let some of your emotions and love for your team in here, but the key is to use that head of yours for something other than a hat rack as my old coach used to say.

Do you think…

  • That Jose Urquidy is knocking on Framber Valdez’s door as the second-best starter on the staff? Including Wednesday afternoon’s seven-inning, two-hit, no-run effort, Urquidy is 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA in his last 8 starts.  After reportedly being part of trade talks, Urquidy went out and pitched brilliantly in stopping a potential losing streak from developing.
  • Should Trey Mancini, who launched a key homer in the first bat of his first Astro start, get more at bats than Yuli Gurriel? Along with playing first base, he can also play some left field and roll into the DH spot. And he has a better bat and power than Yuli at this point.
  • That Christian Vazquez should get more starts than Martin Maldonado? He was supposed to have difficulties learning his new staff, but in his first start was in perfect synch with Urquidy, who threw five no-hit innings out of the box. He hasn’t had a hit for the Astros yet, but he certainly has had many more hits than Maldy in 2022.
  • That the Astros’ pitching coaches can get a better performance out of newly acquired Will Smith than he gave the Braves this year (0-1, 4.38 ERA, 1.514 WHIP)? In his first time out at the Juice Box, he almost had one pop fly go into the Crawford Boxes, followed by another pop fly that did make it, followed by a screaming line drive that Mauricio Dubon made a Superman-inspired diving catch in left centerfield. He is definitely a work in progress.
  • That this trend of occasionally dropping bunts and hitting the ball the other way is here to stay? Kyle Tucker, who has been mired in a terrible slump, did both in Wednesday’s game, and the bunt single led to him riding home on Mancini’s home run, and his opposite-field double brought home couple of insurance runs. Jose Altuve has successfully sprinkled bunts back into his repertoire, and Yordan Alvarez has included a lot of opposite hits into his .300+ average this year.
  • That Chas McCormick will have to move to another team to get a fair shake at playing time? His .228 BA is so-so, but his .727 OPS is decent and is positively great compared to those he has lost playing time to – Jose Siri (.542 OPS), Jake Meyers (.582 OPS), and Dubon (.585 OPS).
  • That Rafael Montero is the latest example of what the Astros’ pitching coaches can do with a struggling pitcher? His ERA before he came here over 6-1/2 years and 137 career appearances were 5.64. Since joining the Astros it has been a 1.44 ERA in 49 appearances and most of the ones in 2022 have been in high leverage situations. Shades of Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Will Harris.

It is your turn to put on that thinking cap and show us you don’t have (to quote Professor Kingsfield) a skull full of mush.

63 comments on “Do you think…

  1. All good points, Dan and all spot on mostly. Yes, Urquidy is pitching very well and certainly a lock for the 4-man playoff rotation even if McCullers comes back strong. Yes, Mancini should get at least as many ABs as Yuli – not all at first but also in LF and DH. Vazquez should be eased into catching rotation as he learns the pitchers, but Maldy needs some relief from his workload at a minimum – wouldn’t offend me at all for Vazquez to get more work than Maldy by the end of the season. Not so sure on WIll Smith, but as a lefty he’ll get a fair shot and I tend to give our pitching coaches the benefit of the doubt. Dropping bunts and oppo field hits? Heck yeah, brother! We used to call that baseball – take they gives ya! Jake still only has 100 ABs, so he should be getting the bulk of the PT until Brantley gets back. Montero: yet another successful project. And we’re learning it wasn’t just Strom.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. When Luhnow traded for Gattis he was downright giddy talking about how he was going to pull so many balls into the crawford boxes. It seemed their analytics were suggesting that by encouraging Gattis to pull it even more than he already did we’d get better results. I wonder if Click and his analytics crew have been pushing Tucker to try to pull the ball more or if it’s something he is doing himself. There have been a lot of pitches where you see him trying to get out in front of it instead of staying behind the ball. If I had a say I’d make him watch video of Jim Edmonds’ at bats at MMP to see what a leftie driving the ball to that short porch can accomplish.

    I’d approach this as an opportunity for Mancini to play a lot while Brantley is out. If Yuli can turn it around before he comes back (assuming he does) off the injured list then you make your decision based around balancing rest for all three and trying to get maximum performance for who is in the lineup. I like the suggestion from the last column or comments to have Diaz play a bit more SS and give Pena some days off this month.

    I love it when Altuve gets 4 hits. That’s what I think.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Devin, I agree but it appears the entire team tries to pull outside pitches to little avail. Two of the three additions appear to give Dusty several new options.

    And if you go back to 1958, the left hand hitting old Aggie, Wally Moon, resurrected his career slapping outside pitches at the 250 foot left field wall in the LA Coliseum.

    Like

  4. I think Tucker will figure it out soon. His line drive rate is way down from last year, fly ball rate up. And yes, less going the opposite way. But I liked the liner off the Crawford scoreboard yesterday and that sure was a pretty drag bunt. He’s been holding out on us!

    Like

  5. I think it is going to be harder for the Astros to win the WS this year because of the money spent by a number of clubs to accumulate all the talent from other clubs all offseason and at the deadline.
    I think Mancini deserves to get full time status for the year. I don’t think the Astros worked a 3-team trade for a rental guy to use him in a part time role. The word on Brantley yesterday was not good and we need good hitters in the lineup.
    I think it doesn’t matter who is in what order in the rotation at this point. What matters is that they win a bye in the playoffs and have their four best starters ready to go and rested for the playoffs and that the other two starters be ready to provide long relief or short relief when they need it to win a playoff series.
    I think Maldonado and Vasquez should get equal playing time in the next two months because they deserve that respect and they deserve to get enough rest to be ready to go all out in the playoffs with who ever has the hot bat. With these two, it’s all about who can help the Astros get to the WS and win it.
    I think the Astros need to use everything they have in their organization to figure out how to utilize Will Smith and get him his confidence back. They need to tailor him to his new park and find out a combo of pitches to get him back to where he was a year ago. His walks indicate he is not confident enough to get the ball past the batter.

    Like

    • Mancini has an option year for 2023. Its a mutual option, but I would think the Astros are going to pick it up at 10 mil, whether or not Boom Boom does I guess depends on his agent trying to work a better deal. But the possibility is there that it’s not a 2 month rental, especially since both Brantley and Gurriel are free agents – so the help wanted sign will be out.

      Like

  6. I don’t know how good Urquidy is going to end up being, but he acted like a stopper yesterday. And he sure was in sync with his new catcher.

    Mancini should play a lot of left as long as he can do a serviceable job out there and Brantley is not in the picture. If both he and Yuli hit, we’re better off, and Yuli is going to be a more reliable defensive option at first.

    By all means, Vasquez should get more starts than Maldy. Maybe some of these starts will come as a DH. But the goal here is to get ready to win a World Series. Maldy can’t hit like Vasquez can. And although we did not see Vasquez throw yesterday, I don’t think Maldy has anything on him defensively. It’s going to take awhile for the new guy to learn the pitchers, but the only way to learn them is to catch them.

    I don’t know if Will Smith gets fixed. Big challenge for the coaching staff. But Smith has been around for more than a decade and has been bad overall for two years now.

    I love the fact that guys are bunting, pushing balls to open holes. I love the double steals. Seems the club is turning it up a notch, at least from the standpoint of playing all facets of the the game more.

    I could go on about Chas. How many teams have a .727 OPS guy or a .319 OBP guy or a guy with 10 dingers playing part time in the 9th slot? A guy with speed that won’t slow Altuve down. Put him there and leave him there. He’ll be more than capable defensively if given the reps.

    Montero might have a few guys in the coaching profession feeling a bit foolish.

    Like

  7. I think 4 hits from Altuve and 2 apiece from Bregman and Tucker, + a home run from Mancini, more than made up for 0-fer by our team’s only .300 hitter, who looked uncharacteristically overmatched by everything Rich Hill threw at him.

    I think Jose’ Urquidy got by with a whole lot of fat, very hittable, sweet-spot pitches yesterday. He was by no means painting corners – the Sox just kept guessing wrong.

    I think Dubon is becoming the new Machete. You grimace when you see him in the batter’s box, but you love to watch the way he plays his position.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill –
      Yordan is 2 for his last 19 – hope his hand isn’t acting up.
      Amazing that Altuve had 34 four hit games and no five hit games, though of course like yesterday he doesn’t always get five at bats.

      There may be some luck involved with Urquidy’s recent spurt. The opponents BAbip (batting average for balls in play) is only .161 in the last 8 games and that is likely unsustainable. But we will take it, especially with Javier struggling a bit lately.

      That catch by Dubon was truly beautiful – took the exact right path from the crack of the bat – dove full out and caught it at the tip of his glove and held on.

      I keep hearing about Vazquez having to learn our pitchers, which is true, but boy whatever he had to learn about Urquidy he seemed to learn.

      Like

  8. Jose Ramirez has historically feasted on Justin Verlander. In 30 lifetime ABs, his BA against JV is .367, with 2 HRs and 5 RBIs. I suspect Machete and JV will have a strategy to stop that – as a matter of competitive pride if nothing else.

    Like

  9. I’m optimistic. Top to bottom, even without Brantley, we now have the ability to put nine guys in the lineup that can match any nine in MLB. And we actually have pinch hit options off the bench now. We’ve got an excellent rotation anchored by a Cy Young candidate. We’ve got an excellent pen, with or without the lefty. And we’ve got McCullers coming back to do whatever he needs to do. I think we catch the Yankees.

    Like

  10. I don’t know where I would rank them, but we are really lucky as a fan base that we can have discussions about is he the second best or sixth best starter.

    I assume Mancini and Vasquez are not here to decorate the bench.

    This years Will Smith just looks like the gas can that is waiting on a match.

    Good hitters are going to adjust their approach to beat the shift if its all they see.

    Every time Dubon’s name is in the lineup I lose a little bit of my soul. McCormick is not great, but most teams 9th hitter is not either, and he will give us moments, while Dubon just gives me heartburn.

    The Astros have always been good at identifying good pitchers that haven’t been pitching good, and then getting them to pitch good.

    Like

  11. And as far as Vazquez and Urquidy fitting yesterday – Vazquez is an experienced, talented major league catcher who has over his career probably caught a hundred different professional pitchers. These guys are the top of their career field, I would fully expect them to seamlessly fit right in. Urquidy is probably not a difficult guy to catch anyway – he works quick, has good control (maybe only second to JV on the staff in terms of command of his pitches) and isn’t slinging 98. You just have to frame well and give him good targets since he lives on the edges.

    Like

    • I would imagine that catching Framber might be the biggest challenge for Vazquez – his pitch movement makes just playing catch an adventure.

      Like

  12. I wonder if the Astros would be interested in an almost free Jackie Bradley, Jr. as a left handed hitting CFer, should he be released.
    I’m pretty sure they have a new catcher who could give them the inside info on whether JBJ is washed up or just beaten up by the trades and uncertainty in Boston this season.
    He would cost one third of the league minimum if signed after being released.

    Like

  13. Looking at Trey Mancini, whose home run was impressive but whose two strikeouts in four at bats raised concern (at least in my mind), I have done a deep dive into his career stats. Over the course of his career he has averaged striking out in 25% of his at bats. He very seldom takes a walks (BBs are less than 10% of ABs).

    This year so far Trey’s Ks have been down a little, at 24.5%. He still isn’t getting BBs. If he gets from 10 or more home runs the last two months of the season, with 30 more RBIs (because hopefully he will be hitting with more men on base than he did at Baltimore), we can live with the extra Ks. At least his K rate is lower than Meyers, McCormick, or Maldonado. But what would be really nice if our analytic experts could give him some ideas to cut the K rate and increase the BB rate.

    Like

    • I have no idea if “synergy” actually works or is just a term in my mind, but Mancini goes from a team where he was 1st in BA, 2nd in OBP and 3rd in OPS (for those with enough ABs to qualify). Now with the Astros, with Vazquez in the lineup he is 4th in BA, 5th in OBP and 6th in OPS. So, hopefully with a better lineup around him he will get better pitches and hit better. We shall see.

      Like

    • Bill, the vast majority of Mancini’s ABs came in the #2 thru #5 spots in the batting order for awful Baltimore teams. His job was to try and knock in runs and he never had any help in the lineup and never had any incentive to draw walks because there was nobody to knock him in if he did walk. Given his circumstances, walking was not something he was encouraged to do.
      His circumstances are vastly different now and he has two months to learn when he needs to hit and when he needs to move the runners up or keep the batting order moving or to drive in runs. Being in a batting order with a team with a reputation for scoring should allow him to diversify his at-bats.

      Like

    • In two appearances and 4.1 innings with the Space Cowboys, Whitley has 5Ks (good), given up 2 walks, 1 Hit by pitch, 6 hits and 6 runs (not good). Is this Mark Appel 2.0 (who has actually pitched well in relief for the Phillies this year when not hurt)?

      Like

  14. I would like to point out that Framber has faced the most batters on the staff this year. Right behind is JV and Urquidy. But JV and Urquidy give up more home runs but fewer walks. Now JV has much better “stuff” than Urquidy but Jose lives on “not walking people”. So he will give up the most hits per 9 of the three, but fewer free passes than Framber. Three different and effective pitchers.

    Like

  15. And the last domino to fall (or in this case – The River) in the three team swap was Brett Phillips. Siri to Tampa meant someone had to go (Phillips was released). Baltimore needed an outfielder and they took a flyer on Phillips (cash deal).

    Like

    • Wow – we once had such high hopes for Brett. He is a hoot, and a heckuva good guy, but he just can’t seem to hit major league pitching. His slash line this year so far is: .147/.225/.250. That is even worse than Jose Siri – hence Brett’s release by the Rays.

      Like

  16. 2022 sixth round draft pick, catcher Collin Price, has already pl;ayed 2 games for Fayetteville and is 3 for 9 with 2 doubles and a walk to go with 2 strikeouts.

    Like

  17. A couple comments from yesterday’s game
    – Just one game but Mancini did a nice job scooping a few short throws at first
    – The Kyle Tucker long fly ball to right was one I’ve never seen before – I’ve never seen an OF race back and scale the fence on a fly ball and then jump down – step in a couple steps and catch the ball. Did it hit a beam of something? Just weird

    Like

  18. We could sure use some raking all across the top 5 of the order tonight. We’ve got a lot of light-hitting late inning defensive replacements filling in the slots below that.

    Like

  19. We could sure use some raking all across the top 5 of the order tonight. We’ve got a lot of light-hitting late inning defensive replacements filling in the slots below that.

    Like

  20. The first 3 AB’s for us has driven me crazy. Two on, zero runs. Bases loaded, zero runs, Bases Loaded, zero runs except for the prior single up the middle. Oh and now a three up, three down for the 4th.

    Like

  21. After 3 hits including an opposite field homer and 3 RBIs – Chas must be buried until September
    With so many players rotating thru the OF spots they Ned to use their off day to teach them to call for the catch – two collisions tonight and I would not be surprised if Aledmys misses a game or two
    First 15 game winner is Verlander who was excellent again.
    Maldy doesn’t want to give up ABs to Vazquez as he has a good offensive night

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s what you get with rotating 5 different people in the field. No one is out there to give guidance so you have 3 different players all going for the same ball. With the way Dusty manages these guys sometimes it’s a wonder we don’t have a serious collision out there. How about a little consistency? When was the last time we had the same 8 fielders in the line up for at least 5 or 6 days? This “day off” stuff can only go so far. Yuli needs a few off as he was atrocious at the plate tonight 0 for 5 with a GIDP. I would expect Maldy, Pena, and Chaz to sit out tomorrows game since they collectively went 7 for 14 with 6 RBI’s.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. The centerfielder has to direct traffic and own any ball he can get to, calling off/waving off anyone else near him. It did not look like Dubon or Meyers got the word out, verbally or physically. And it certainly was not a loud crowd. My solution might work.

    Like

    • I can’t blame Dubon or Diaz too much – they are switched back and forth from the outfield and the infield. Meyers is an outfielder, but so far he has been very timid when nearing other objects or people – maybe stemming from his injury – I don’t know. He has shown a noodle arm and so far this year a noodle bat.

      Chas is hitting much better than Dubon and Meyers (and Siri for that matter) and frankly his slash .236 BA/.325 OBP/ .749 OPS is in the neighborhood of Tucker (.241/.328/.776) and Pena (.255/.299/.737) and Bregman (.247/.353/.775) and uptown of Gurriel (.242/.291/.680).
      He has shown a propensity to go the other way and has done that with power a number of times. He strikes out more than you want, but has improved it to 8 points since last season and is walking more. I don’t know why he keeps getting the shaft when it comes to playing time. Its not like it is that hard to see the differential between him and the people he loses time to….

      Liked by 1 person

    • Man – I wonder if that has ever happened before OP – that is amazing and for Angel fans another gut punch (though they certainly have had their share of those)

      Like

  23. Altuve stays hot and sets the table- but neigther Yuli, Yordan, or Bregs could find a way to get him in. Fortunately, some superhero landed in Cleveland and decided to walk around in Chaz McCormick’s uniform.

    I wonder though – how many times can we expect to win a game in which the only RBIs we get come from the bottom third of the order?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Bill, the good news is that we can now post a lineup nightly with 12 different guys that have provided offensive production. When your bottom three can pick up the big guys, that’s a great problem to have.

      Like

  24. In his last 26 games – since the beginning of July, Maldy is slashing .260 BA/ .313 OBP/ .872 OPS with 6 home runs and 17 RBIs. In that same time in 25 games since the beginning of July, Chas is slashing .280/.393/.900 with 5 homers and 13 RBIs. So I would say you have a pretty good chance of having production at the end of the lineup if you have those two guys there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think everyone, except us on this blog, are making a bigger deal out of this than it is. We have seen this day coming for two months and have had our mindset on the Astros being one of the teams who will try to sign him to another deal.
      I will add that I believe a lot of baseball media can’t wait to see Verlander in any other uniform but ours. That is why I think that, barring injury, the media will make sure he wins the Cy Young. I remember how the media pumped up Correa’s free agency last year to get him to move elsewhere.
      On another note, Hunter Brown’s comments on Whitley’s start last night for Sugarland are the only ones I have been able to locate. Crickets.

      Like

    • Whitley pitched very well, going 1.2 innings, allowing 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 BBs, and 2 hits – with 3 strikeouts.

      Brown was also impressive, going 5.1 innings, allowing 2 hits, 2 walks, 1 run, and striking out 9.

      Good night for pitching in the upper levels of the Astro system.

      Like

  25. Thought I might post a few stats of Nolan Ryan vs. Justin Verlander. Nolan Batters Faced: 22,275. JV: 12,712. K’s: Nolan – 5714 (Most of all time). JV: 3,140. Walks: Nolan – 2,795 (Most Ever) JV – 874. Home Runs: Nolan 321 and JV 322. Both struck out about 25% of BFed. (27 years vs 17 years)

    Like

    • That home run stat of JV passing Nolan is really a reflection of the modern game and the modern players. Back in Nolan’s day most of the players were built like Terry Puhl and similar power – now they are much bigger players who swing so much harder.
      Nolan’s K number is amazing considering players swung for contact so much more back then.

      Like

  26. The announced starting pitcher for the Guardians tonight is a rookie right-hander named Hunter Gaddis, who will be making his first major league start. In the minors this year he has a decent ERA [4.07] and a good WHIP [1.16]. He doesn’t give up a lot of hits [opp. BA is just .218] but he walks more than he should – over 3 per nine. He gets more fly outs than ground outs, but he can be taken deep [12 HR in 86.1 innings]. What he really does well is strike people out, averaging 11.8 Ks per 9 innings pitched].

    I’d hope that Dusty will use his ‘lower strikeout’ players tonight – Gurriel instead of Mancini, Dubon instead of Meyers, and Diaz (if he’s not still hurting from last night) instead of McCormick, but I know that is not how Dusty rolls.

    Like

    • Mr. Bill, are you secretly working on Dusty’s payroll? If those guys show up in the lineup tonight and Mancini and McCormick (I’m sure he’s benched) have to sit, it’s on you.

      Like

      • Dave, now that’s funny! If I had ever been on Dusty’s payroll, he surely would have sent me packing a long time ago. We disagree on everything related to baseball so strongly that I would be the fly in his ointment, the burr under his saddle, and the bubblegum under his shoe all rolled into one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And tonight’s line-up is the proof of that pudding. All our strikeout-prone guys are given to Mr. Gaddis as a burnt offering.

        Like

      • Here is the strike-out proneness breakdown between current roster players:
        Meyers – 36.9% of at bats
        Maldy – 34.8 % of at bats
        Chaz – 27.8 % of at bats
        Pena – 25.3 % of at bats
        Mancini – 24.7 % of at bats
        Alvarez – 22.4% of at bats
        Diaz – 18.5 % of at bats
        Vazquez – 17.4 % of at bats
        Altuve – 16.6 % of at bats
        Bregman – 15.3 % of at bats
        Yuli -13.8% of at bats
        Dubon – 9% of at bats

        Like

      • Since we generally live or die by home runs, I have calculated who is statistically most and least likely to hit a home run in a given at bat:
        Alvarez – 9.6% of at bats results in HR
        Pena – 5.56 %
        Altuve – 5.50 %
        Tucker – 5.38 %
        Chaz – 4.72 %
        Maldy – 4.45 %
        Diaz – 3.96 %
        Bregs – 3.56 %
        Mancini – 3.05 %
        Vazquez – 2.67%
        Dubon – 1.8 %
        Yuli – 1.27 %
        Meyers – 0.97 %

        Other stats that I would rely upon heavily in my ‘offensive value’ calculation – to set the standard line-up Dusty will never put on the field – would be OBP and BARISP.

        Like

      • Mr. Bill, you looking at lifetime K stats as opposed to 2022? I ask because Chas has reduced his figure from 32.5% to 24.5% year to year. I think present season stats give us a better indication of where a guy is and where he’s going.

        Like

      • I’m using this year only. The figures I listed are per at bat, though, not by plate appearance. There is a reason I use personally that measure, but i realize it can seem to penalize guys who walk, get hit,lay down sac bunts, or hit sac flys a lot.

        Like

  27. Don’t worry. Our hottest hitter is only playing because Tucker caught a bug. I can’t fault Maldy playing because he’s been hitting too. But I do wonder how long our new back up catcher will be happy being a back up catcher. I know I’m going out on a big limb here, but I say Gaddis gets beat up early and often.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s