Cooperstown – Make Room for Hunter Brown

OK, there is some slight hyperbole in that title for someone who might not make the postseason roster and will likely not be in the postseason rotation. But there is no exaggeration in saying that the young pitcher, who sounds like a Sherwin-Williams paint color, had a major league debut that was as good as could be expected.

The founder of this word feast, Chip Bailey, suggested that this was the biggest debut of an Astro pitcher not taken in the first round since ninth-rounder Dallas Keuchel back in 2012. Of course, that was back in the depths of the “darkness,” Certainly, Keuchel was not expected to be a future Cy Young award winner. Heck, Brown throws his slider harder than Keuchel’s fastball ever reached. Before Dallas, maybe we are talking about 23rd-round pick Roy Oswalt who debuted with a terrific season in 2001?

Even before his debut, Hunter Brown had been doing everything you might ask of a young man with a great arm. He could have gotten a bit discouraged because, with many other organizations, he might have made the team out of Spring Training or with an early or mid-season call-up. But he worked hard and was one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues, putting up a 9-4 record with a 2.97 ERA in a league where an ERA under 3 is a badge of honor. His 1.085 WHIP and 11.4 Ks/ 9 IP were both strong as was his 0.4 HRs/ 9 IP. The small chink in the armor was his 3.8 walks / 9 IP, a little high but still much improved from his 5.3 walks/ 9 IP from 2021.

So, what did he do in his debut? He came out throwing strikes, and except for a few struggles in the fifth inning, he rolled through six shutout innings like the number one prospect he is.

Control? He threw 56 strikes out of 79 pitches. He reached three balls three times in the fifth inning (only one walk) and never in the other five innings. He started 16 of the 21 hitters he faced with a strike. Pretty impressive.

Stuff? His fastball topped out at a streaking 98 mph, some of which had to be a bit of adrenalin. He threw a 95.7 mph slider! His splitter was in the Keuchel fastball area of 88-90 mph. And his tough 12-6 curveball ranged from about 80 to 84 mph.

Clutchness? Don’t know if that is a word, but he pitched six shutout innings for a pennant contender in September of a pennant race. His teammates only gave him a single run to protect, and he did just that.

YIE – Yes, It’s Early. Hunter Brown may fall by the wayside like some of the other flash in the pans over the years, all the way back to Sonny Jackson (fairly long career, but never matched his second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year award in 1966). But the young man looked like he has everything it takes to be an MLB pitcher. He might never match the man he idolized growing up in Michigan, Justin Verlander, but what a guy to emulate.

 

58 comments on “Cooperstown – Make Room for Hunter Brown

  1. I’m super excited about Hunter Brown. I think was more nervous than he was. It’s hard to figure with these draft picks. I thought Whitley would have been an an all star by now and probably is a wasted pick. Then there is the amazing journey of Oswalt. I have not been this excited about a newcomer since Alverez.

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  2. YIE.

    He has a long way to go. There are people that are successful at 3.8 BB/9. It is very possible he has figured something out.

    The start he had in his debut is arguably better than ANY start he had all year in the minors. He had one that was 7 IP/0 runs/88 pitches, but arguably this one was overall better.

    He has some 3.2 IP/75 pitches kind too. He is like any pitcher, somedays the spots are there, somedays they are not going to be. I don’t think we have the second coming here, in either regard. 30 starts into his career we will look back and be frustrated by some, delighted by some. The split will be up to how much he works at it.

    JV early in his career was 3+ BB/9. It wasn’t until later that he got the pin pointed control and when he did he turned into the HOFer we know. Randy Johnson didn’t get that control until he was 30. Some guys never get it.

    He joins a crowded room. I feel like the Astros and JV will lock it in early. There will probably a few weeks of us blogspeculating, little news, and then just bam an announcement of a new 3 year deal. The room is going to stay crowded but depth is always a good thing. It just makes me feel bad for Javier – because he shows the most “flexibility” he is likely the odd man out, and this guys opinion is he is the second best pitcher on this staff – or at least the second most dominant batter to batter (that doesn’t necessarily mean the second best in results).

    Part of me says we need to use this pitching depth to improve CF. Part of me says why do that. When you have this kinda ride going from this rotation, and you have at least 3 years of control on more than half of them, lets keep it. But I sure hate to put Javier through another season of 15 starts and 15 relief appearances.

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    • A lot to chew on here, Steven – good insight….
      – Did he have a better start because he was laser focused on this start? Was it a fluke? Was it better because he had Maldy directing him on which pitches to throw where?
      – Chip Bailey texted me after the start and was wondering about the same things relative to will JV be re-signed, if he is and Lance is back, what do we do with all these “riches” in the rotation
      – If you end up trading one of the pitching chips does it have to be for a center fielder or catcher let’s say? Could you do it to grab some highly thought of prospects to fill in after the three years of control is over?
      – The key question is – how much is too much pitching? We’ve lost JV for two seasons with TJ surgery, lost McCullers to TJ surgery and then this problem during the ALCS. Do we assume that all these other arms are never going to break down? That would be foolish. Maybe we do ride it out and see where the chips fall. I agree that Javier could get a little discouraged with this. Maybe they can give him a little early money to encourage him.
      – How much does JV want to be here? Sure, Jim Crane can write him a check for whatever he wants. But what if he wants is to live and play on the west coast.

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  3. One of the guys on ESPN Houston has declared Verlander no longer needed and should be allowed to walk as Brown is ready to take over his role as ace now. Clearly that’s a stupid pronouncement after six major league innings. For one thing, if we’re blessed with our mellowed version of Verlander again next year, his presence can only help Brown’s refinement. And if we truly believe our rookie is our next ace, then maybe it would be justifiable for a guy like Urquidy or Garcia or Javier to be sacrificed to help acquire one of the offensive minded position players we have a need for in 2023.

    Is anyone pitching better than Bryan Abreu right now? Strom always insisted he’d make an excellent starter. Might he end up being a happy closer instead?

    Are we going to get the real Yordan Alvarez back in 2022? We won’t score runs in bunches as long as he remains a singles hitter.

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  4. Some thoughts….
    – Prior to being sent out to the bullpen 3 appearances ago – Cristian Javier had a nice 5 game set of starts – 29 innings/ 2.17 ERA. In his last 3 appearances including that one out of the bullpen – 4.05 ERA. Just saying
    – I know Vazquez runs pretty well for a catcher, but I was surprised they did not sub Matijevic or Hensley for him in the 10th
    – I know Yordan has these great numbers for the year even with a bad August, but if I were the Rangers I would not have walked him – loading the bases and moving the winning run within 90 feet of home plate. He’s not hitting lately and so many more ways you can score in that situation. What I thought might happen is they would walk Bregman. Bregman is so patient and this pitcher was throwing all over the place.
    – My son up in Austin only gets the Ranger broadcast and their broadcast team was questioning that one.
    – I had a lot of problems with the home plate umpire last night. Like I always say, I’m not expecting perfection, just consistency and he was calling low pitches a strike one time and not the next, same with inside or outside.
    – Bryan Abreu is on fire right now – great stuff and he’s putting it where he wants it. He’s getting high leveraged spots and is not blinking
    – Hector Neris looked a lot more agile than I would have guessed based on his body shape as he made a great and important diving catch of a blooping bunt. Then he looked even better especially with his K of Seager
    – I didn’t get to see it happen, but anyone know why Vazquez was trying to steal 3rd base with two outs, Altuve on first and Yordan batting early in the game?

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      • That ESPN guy should not say things that can create a bad narrative! Brown is probably going to be a .500 pitcher at first. Winning is this league is tough even if your are talented.

        JV is 13 games over. The Astros are 39. JV gas accounted for a third of that himself. If you replace that with a league average pitcher even you are talking a legit pennant race.

        The value of Framber and JV cannot be overstated.

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  5. Hunter Brown’s debut reminded me of the debut by Corbin Martin a few years ago. Very promising as I recall. Traded him to AZ in the Zack Greinke deal.
    Barring injury, JV is going to opt out of his contract. I think it’s going to take more than another 2-year $25m per year deal to keep him.

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  6. Aledmys Diaz should be beginning rehab today and should be activated by some time next week. I guess they would be sending Hensley back down – but we will see.

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  7. I have to agree with daveb – they will save Dubon since he plays OF, including CF and the infield and send either Hensley or Matijevic packing during the regular season. Not sure what the heck the playoff rosters will look like yet.

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  8. Driving into work – I was listening to the sports talk 610 and they were talking about the proposed pitch clock that will be voted on in today’s MLB rules meeting. As they were describing it as it has been applied at AAA this year – with the bases empty the pitcher has 15 seconds between pitches and 20 seconds between with men on base. They said something about the batter having to be in the box and ready to hit within 8 seconds (assume that is for the 15 second clock). I assume that a ball or a strike will be called against the offending party. It has cut the length of games by 30 minutes in AAA, which is significant for a rule that does not hurt the integrity of the game.
    Now they were discussing in the segment I was listening to the Astro hitters who were on the slow list – they had rated 375 hitters who had X number of at bats. In the 350’s was Jose Altuve who takes like an average of 21 seconds to get ready. Astros slower than him (and I don’t remember the exact numbers were – Chas McCormick, Michael (byebye) Brantley, Kyle Tucker and in last place – slowest in baseball – Christian Vazquez.
    If they approve this change – the Astros will need their slow ones to figure out a different routine in the off-season.

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    • This is a long overdue addition to the game, but it shouldn’t be necessary. I don’t know when it started, but certainly remember in the late 90’s guys like Bagwell and Garciaparra stepping out after every pitch to adjust their batting gloves. Given bunts, hit and run, and stolen bases have largely disappeared there isn’t much reason for hitters to look down to 3rd base for a sign. Perhaps some of that will come back with the larger bases, reduced rubber step-offs, and anti-shift rules.

      Regarding the topic of the post, there are holes and question marks Click will need to answer in the lineup. If JV wants more money than Crane will approve we really shouldn’t suffer from that loss during the regular season. It’s kind of the same conversation we had about signing Correa last year. There is enough talent on the pitching staff to put us in position to win again. I’m sure Seattle will be a hot pick to win the West next year, but I’m not ready to write the Astros off yet. Will Brown be a part of the rotation? I don’t know. If he throws well the remainder of the month you have to think he’ll enter spring training penciled into a spot. My real concern is who would take the mound in a winner takes all postseason start. Most of us would choose JV, but if he’s gone…

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  9. The AAA pitch clock is interesting. If you are watching a completed game, after a pitch, click to advance 15 seconds and almost immediately watch the next pitch. When a batter doesn’t like a call, just about as soon as he leaves the batter’s box, the ump is motioning to get back in. If a pitcher shakes off a signal, he better start his wind up. There are few “balls” called for delay but it does happen. And there are a lot of pick off throws with a runner on first. However, one does get tired of the umpire “circling the air” to restart the time clock.

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  10. It will be a very busy spring in Florida getting a whole bunch of Astro veterans on both sides of the baseball up to speed as the game makes what I think are it’s most significant rule changes in my lifetime. Initially, there will be a lot of clock violations and frustrations as a result. Pitchers will throw over to first a third time, just because that’s what they’ve always done. And guys will steal a lot more bases once the two legit tosses have been made. What new ways to hold a runner on will be invented? And what pitchers and hitters won’t adjust well to being on a clock? Christian Javier, can I count on you?

    In contrast, the new shift rules will be easy to follow and pretty easy to police, but there will be a whole new book on how to pitch to individual hitters. I’m sure the nerd squads around the league are already working on the project. I just wish the players would have avoided the need to reign in shifts by bunting more and learning how to hit to the opposite field.

    I don’t care about the bigger bases. We’ll see some tripping, but as long as guys don’t get hurt, there will be a few new blooper reels and some laughs.

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    • The bigger bases may help those base stealers a bit – I know its only a few inches difference (they will be closer to second by a bit), but so many of these base stealing efforts end in a bang bang play every inch counts. And there will be a bit more opportunity to not overslide the bigger bag. They’ve seen an increase in attempts in the minors and an increase in success rate too.

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  11. I don’t really like any of the the rule changes. I would like to limit the number of extra innings in a tie game to one. If no one scores in the tenth, or if both teams score the same number of runs in that inning, the team with the most total bases in that inning wins. If there is still a tie, the team whose pitchers got the most swings and misses wins. If there is still a tie, you would compare, In descending order: number of errors committed in the inning (less is better); number of pitches thrown in the inning (less is better); number of stolen bases in the inning; number of outfield assists in the inning; number of successful sacrifice bunts in the inning; etc. it would save the bullpens, shorten the games, and create some interesting stategy choices.

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    • How about this – you end up the 10th in a tie and it is a tie in the regular season? The NFL does this – if the tie isn’t broken in OT it’s a tie in the standings.

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      • I’d rather make extra innings hurt a bit and add some potential drama. Keep it simple. No funny rules. No guy on second. Make it 12 innings and then call it a tie if nothing happens. It stresses a pen, but does not screw it up for a week.

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  12. At this point, it’s fair to say that LJM’s rebound has been pretty darn good. Best outing yet last night. I’m starting to think that if Verlander comes back at full strength and with overall pitching depth that no other team has, we might overcome our sometimes offensive offense.

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  13. – I enjoyed Lance’s game last night – he showed good control which is always a key
    – We’ve been complaining about the Astros not scoring in the 7th-9th and so they had the 3 critical runs in the 7th and 8th.
    – I liked both Pena and Chas going the other way for their homers. Chas must have more opposite field homers than straight away or pulled this year.
    – And then I liked Chas drawing the critical walk to drive in the insurance run we needed
    – Man if Pressly does not come back from the 3-0 count on Ohtani, Ward could have tied it with his homer
    – Good to see the balance of the bullpen getting back on track the last week or so
    – Astros 12 up on the M’s and I believe the magic number is 13
    – Astros 6.5 up on the Yanks and the Yanks are only 3.5 up on the Rays – not worrying about this magic number yet

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    • Someone was saying last night that only Judge and Stanton have more opposite field homers on the season than our man Chas. I just want to see him get the OPS back above .750 and keep it there. And the walks are great. And really, he’s not so bad in center, is he?

      My brother is 8-0 on the season when going to the park. Can he keep his unblemished record intact tonight with Ohtani going?

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  14. We went to the Nashville-Charlotte game last night. Jon Singleton went 3-5 with a HR and 3 RBI. He also made a really nice play at 1B to end a potential rally by Charlotte. The pitch clock was effective and umpires never had to enforce it. What was annoying were teams challenging ball/strike calls. Each team used all their challenges and about 50% were overturned. I wasn’t impressed by anyone on the field, but both teams ran out lefty relievers throwing 95+. I mention this in case Click entertains picking up Will Smith’s option.

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    • I subscribed to MILB TV this year. Devin, I watched about a half dozen games of Nashville this year. Especially when Big Jon and Tyler White were playing together. My first impression was both had raced me in “gaining weight.” Looked like a tie. But all over the minors, if the radar gun is accurate, 95 + is on all teams it seems. Now commanding pitches is a different story for many. The pitch clock works. While watching, I never realized the pitch call was being challenged. I saw some managers come out and not be ejected. And I agree, many errors in the field and it is common to see base running mistakes that a well coached high school never makes.

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  15. Last night our team was uninspired and uninspiring. Ohtani wasn’t at his best by any means, but even on an off-night he was way better than anybody we sent to the plate to face him. Meanwhile, Mike Trout did what great players do – he solved the mystery of another team’s run of pitching success against him. With Ohtani on the mound, Trout’s 3-run blast in the 2nd effectively crushed any hope we had to win the game. This bunch doesn’t stage multi-run comebacks. Unlike the 2017 and 2019 clubs, this group has neither the heart nor the discipline it takes to do that.

    Shake it off, guys. Be better.

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  16. Last nights loss is on my brother. He should have stayed home.

    One thing about Urquidy. Every now and then he comes out and blows a game early. It’s like he forgets everything he’s learned. Ohtani hit meat to the fence 400 feet away that Chas tracked down, but when he threw another gift to Trout he was not so lucky.

    A win today is a series win!

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  17. Trey Mancini, whose BA is now below the Mendoza line and whose K rate exceeds 30 per cent, is actually doing our offense as much damage as Frenchy Dubon.

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  18. The Astros took offense at Mr Bill’s statement about not being able to make multi run comebacks – let the Angels get a 3 run lead and roar back with 9 runs.
    Dubon and Mancini took offense to being pointed out (rightfully) as liabilities and both launch homers.

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  19. Trying to follow Baseball during football season can get wierd. I see We racked up 12 points against LA. But did we kick four field goals or did we score two TDs but miss both Extra points? And how the heck did we give up two safeties in the same game?

    By the way, you are welcome. Somebody had to light a fire under those slackers!

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