Let's talk about the team that fortunately can't lose any heartbreakers today...
1) Mocking the draft - Let's talk about two of the latest mock drafts to hit the interwebs. One is slightly older, from last Friday at Baseball America, while the other was the community mock draft over at Minor League Ball.
BA's has Houston tabbing Mark Appel (what else is new?) while Sickels' crew goes with Byron Buxton as the guy who all the scouts love. The Minor League Ball draft goes three rounds deep, giving Houston a high school lefty along with some third base depth and a toolsy college outfielder to the mix.
It's a nice compromise of sorts an gives Houston some insurance in case Buxton takes longer to reach the majors than normal high school top picks. In the BA mock, the supplemental round isn't there, but you could see Houston going the other way and taking a high upside arm at No. 41.
I'm going to publicly wonder about these rumors of a discord between the scouts and the higher-ups and what that means. Buxton is certainly a player that Bobby Heck and his team would want, but what if Jeff Luhnow just doesn't like him. What if the old regime is feeling put off by the new one and is grumbling to friends in the industry, which comes out as a reluctance to take Buxton?
We won't know for sure what happens until next Monday, but watch for how it turns out. If Appel really is the guy, we'll know something about the new front office. If it's Buxton, we'll know something else entirely. If it's someone else?
2) Is Jordan Lyles getting better? - We're four starts in to the return of Jordan Lyles to the rotation in Houston. Granted, it's been four starts and he's been shuttling back and forth from the majors to the minors. But, do we have enough to see if Lyles is making progress? Is the constant promotion and demotion cycle getting to him?
Well, the jury is still very much out. Lyles has been victimized in his short stint in the majors this season by a very high home run rate and a correspondingly high homer to fly ball ratio. His xFIP is significantly lower than his actual ERA right now and is actually lower than it was last season.
That comes with a higher strikeout rate and about a 1 MPH increase on his average fastball. He's got a very high walk rate, but considering his minor league numbers are in line with 2011, so I'm thinking that may be a sample size issue.
The really interesting stuff is when we break down both his pitch selection and his relative linear weights therein. He's throwing his fastball much more often while moving away from both his slider and his change in favor of his curve. That seems to be helping his ground ball rate, which has spiked to 50 percent and is nearly 10 percent higher than last season.
The fastball may be faster, but it's less effective by both sets of linear weights on FanGraphs. The same thing happened to his change, but he's only using it 5 percent of the time, so that may be a product of sample size again. The positives is that both the slider and curve have been much better this season.
Is that enough to say his return has been a success despite not having much actual success?
3) Losing isn't a thing in H-town - Sad to see the Cubs lose their 12th straight game on Sunday, but nice to see that Houston hasn't ever lost 12 games in a row. They're one of just two teams in the majors with that distinction. It doesn't mean Houston hasn't lost a bunch, just that they've never been very, very unlucky.
After all the losing so far on this road trip, it's nice to see that Houston hasn't really lost a lot.