Let's talk some Astros baseball, as I finally wrest control of this thing back from Tim...
1) Sweet homestand - With Wednesday's wild win over the hapless Cubs, Houston finished off an eight-game homestand with a 6-2 record and improved to 21-23 for the season. We've talked about this before, but Houston's surge this season has been nice to see.
Of course, they won most of their games this last week against two teams struggling as a whole right now in Chicago and the Brewers. Even the Rangers series, which they lost, wasn't a total disaster because they didn't get blown out. The closest they came was the 6-1 game Sunday, but I remember a few times the Rangers have come to town and won like 11-3 easily, so...progress...
The Astros aren't really contending for anything, but they do sit in third place in the NL Central, four games back of the division-leading Cardinals. Houston's expected win total has also nudged over 81 wins for the first time in forever over at Cool Standings, which means we could see a dramatic turnaround for this team.
How dramatic? I'm glad you asked. That would be a 25-game swing in records from 2011, which is easily the top year-to-year swing in franchise history. The previous top mark was in 2000-2001, when Houston improved by 21 games. For comparison's sake, the '69 Mets made a 27-game improvement, from 73 wins to 100. Houston's isn't quite that dramatic, if for no other reason than they probably won't be the best team in baseball this season.
However, it's a big improvement over recent seasons, and right now, the Astros have better odds of making the playoffs than all but six teams in the National League. Too bad there are only six playoff spots, huh?
2) New unis close to being submitted - That's right, Houston will have new uniforms for next season, and if things go like the tea leaves are pointing, it'll be a return to the colorful past. To me, that sounds an awful lot like the days of orange and navy are gonna be prominently involved.
Which is pretty awesome, considering how good those colors look. Watching Friday's Rangers game, with its Flashback Friday jerseys, the coolest part for me was seeing those old hats. The navy with the orange star and H in the middle is a very solid look and I wouldn't mind a return to something similar there.
What are you hoping for? Anyone moving away from the brick red color (which, it turns out, thanks to Zachary Levine, was put in place b/c Drayton likes the red from his company logo)? I know this weekend amid a sea of Rangers fans, I could much more easily spot the orange and navy unis than I could the brick red colors, for what that's worth.
3) Revisiting the Keppinger trade - Since Henry Sosa was sent off to Korea to work at a Kia plant, the Astros are left with just one part of the Jeff Keppinger trade to the Giants. Of course it's a reliever, too, since it was Ed Wade making the trade and all.
But, what did the Giants really get from Kepp? Did Houston get a good return? Let's dig into the numbers and see...
Keppinger played 56 games for the Giants after the swap, hitting .255/.285/.333. He was not retained in the offseason and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, so basically, San Fran got 56 games out of the infielder for two minor league pitchers. Kepp totaled 0.4 fWAR for the entire 2011 season and had -0.7 bbWAR just with the Giants.
Henry Sosa started 10 games for Houston last season, compiling a 3-5 record with an ERA of 5.23 and an xFIP of 4.50. He was sold to the Kia Tigers after spending all of 2012 in the rotation for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Sosa compiled an fWAR of 0.1 in 2011 for Houston.
Jason Stoffel, the only part left on either team, is a reliever for Corpus Christi and has five saves in 16 appearances with a 1.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings. He was not rated by John Sickels, though and would be considered a fringe prospect here, who could still make an impact in the bullpen relatively soon.
At this point, it appears Houston won that trade, given the value they got out of Sosa and how Kepp played in San Fran. If Stoffel becomes a decent bullpen arm, all the better, but for now, Wade got plenty of value from a player who everyone knew was probably gone anyways.