Things to talk about as the West Coast game is just ending right now...
1) WTHB has a fantastic idea - I know, I know, you're going to get something from Jayne very soon on this site, and we're in the middle of Minor League day here on TCB, so Brooks will have an incredibly informative post on last night's action. Bear with me, though, because Jayne absolutely outlined a great idea in her latest post at What the Heck, Bobby?
At the end of a good post on her trip to Corpus, she made the point that Houston should have a minor league ombudsman. Someone who could help with things like setting up affordable housing, or managing money, etc. Things that young men completely focused on making the majors may struggle with from time to time.
It's not a new concept, as the movie Sugar dealt with the problems a Latin American player may run into transitioning into a minor league system. But, I'm sure high school players have the same problems. College players, too, for that matter.
So, why not beef up the support level? Houston is apparently already doing this in Kissimmee and in extended spring training. Why not set up a person at each level of the minor leagues, or one person that a player knows they can call for help with these sorts of things?
Maybe Houston already has a position like this, but from what Jayne indicated, it doesn't sound like that's the case. Baseball isn't quite like football, where they can have a rookie symposium to talk about all these things, since there are SO many minor leaguers. But, it makes some sense for the organization to be pro-active.
Good call, Jayne. Now, let's just hash out the details of the position in the comments and forward it to Luhnow...
2) Norris is injured again - Uh, oh...the Houston rotation was hit with another injury problem, as Bud Norris left Tuesday's game against San Fran with a sprained knee. It's not immediately known how long he'll be out, but this is the second out of three starts when he's dealt with an injury.
So, you know, keep your schedule free Aneury. You might be in Arlington this weekend.
It's a shame, too, because Norris really seemed to be turning a corner this season. Sure, his raw ERA figures haven't looked great, but let's focus on two key areas. First of all, Norris is averaging 5.8 innings per start, but that number is skewed a little by that terrible road trip to L.A. and Colorado. Excluding those two games, Norris has averaged 6 1/3 innings per start this season. He's pitched into the sixth inning in 10 of his 13 starts and finished the sixth in nine of those.
That was clearly a point of emphasis for him heading into the season, pitching deeper into games. We're starting to see signs that he's able to do just that, too.
The other area to look at is his strikeout rate, which has taken another jump upwards as his walk rate has fallen for a second straight season. Both of those things show Norris taking a step forward that many people here predicted for him.
Of course, the results haven't proven out those numbers yet. Norris has an average BABiP right now, but his expected FIP is much, much lower than his ERA right now. His SIERA is a sterling 3.33 right now, too, which puts him in the Top 15 of the National League. Of those Top 15 guys, only Gio Gonzalez, Zack Greinke and Stephen Strasburg have higher K/9 inning rates than Norris.
So, yeah, this latest injury couldn't come at a worse time for Norris. Here's to hoping he comes back in an expeditious manner.
3) CWS and the Astros - The College World Series is getting teed up for later this week, but we're not running a college blog here, are we? So, why should you care?
Well, three schools are still alive with Astros draft picks on them. Said draft picks cannot sign until their college team is finished for the season, or risk becoming ineligible for those games. So, if you have some time in the coming days, think about checking out Preston Tucker, Nolan Fontana, Tyler Heineman and Michael Clark in their games this weekend.
If you have a hankering to watch, Heineman will be in action first, as UCLA will take on CWS darling (and really, everyone's favorite team in the field) Stony Brook on Friday at 4 p.m. CST on ESPN2. Saturday will feature Michael Clark and Kent State taking on Arkansas in the 4 p.m. CST slot on ESPN2, with the two Florida guys playing South Carolina at 8 p.m. on the same channel.
Clark isn't in line to start the game for Kent, mind you, as he's only started three games this season. But, there's a decent chance he'll get to play. In the night cap, pretty much everyone will be rooting for Florida, right? Who wants to see S. Carolina win again? They're so 2011...