Tuesday's Three Astros Thing

Let's talk some baseball after that rousing late-night win...

1) Jordan Lyles' new curve - A throwaway line in one of Zachary Levine's latest stories got me thinking and prompted this late-afternoon Three Things. What was it, you ask?

"I think I made some strides delivery-wise, getting a little bit taller, working downhill," Lyles said. "The curveball definitely comes to mind, so I’ve definitely got to work with that. It’s been
a pretty successful pitch my last four or five outings."

That’s the curveball he learned from Wandy Rodriguez and implemented in his last four starts.

Any time a new pitch is discussed, it interests me. How is the pitch different? Is it a new grip or just a more effective way of throwing? Is it more about break or consistency on throwing the pitch?

Luckily, we have the Pitch F/X data to break it down, thanks to Texas Leaguers. Now, take this for a very big grain of salt, because we're working with very small sample sizes and the data is not even consistent in terms of which Pitch F/X cameras he was seen by. With that being said, let's look at his pitches:

This is what his curve looked like up until this new development:

Type Count Selection Velocity Vertical Horizontal Spin Angle Spin Rate
CU 114 17.8% 78.4 -8.14 5.49 33 1,667

He uses the curve as his second-favorite pitch. It's got good vertical movement with more drop than league average, and good, if average horizontal run. Notice the spin angle and rate, too, because that's where we can see differences in the pitch later on (maybe).

This is what his curve looked like over the past four starts:

Type Count Selection Velocity Vertical Horizontal Spin Angle Spin Rate
CU 86 23.0% 78.6 -8.48 5.31 32 1,682

And the verdict? Almost identical to the point of standard deviation-type stuff. He has slightly more vertical break, but not enough to matter. His horizontal break is the same and both the angle and spin rate are almost identical. So, this "new" curve he was taught doesn't look remarkably different than the one he was throwing before-hand.

How does it compare to Wandy's curve?

Type Count Selection Velocity Vertical Horizontal Spin Angle Spin Rate
CU 98 33.0% 76.3 -7.86 -3.90 334 1,465

Lyles' curve has more drop than Wandy's right off the bat and we see similar horizontal movement from both pitches (which is right about league average). The velocity is nearly the same, but Wandy's pitch spins completely different, with a slightly different angle (difference of 50-odd degrees) and a slower spin rate.

So, if the pitches don't behave the same way to Pitch F/X's way of looking at things, does that mean Lyles' really picked something up? Well, we still have that consistency angle. Maybe Wandy's curve isn't a different way to throw the pitch, but just a different motion to make Lyles' finish more efficiently and accurately.

That's what we see next, when looking at pitch results. The only sign we have that Lyles' curve has been more effective is that he's throwing it for a strike about seven percent of the time more, he's getting more swings at it to the tune of about 12 percent more, and he's gotten quite a few more swing-throughs on it. Is that conclusive? With this tiny sample, not in the least.

But, it does explore whether the pitch is new or just more effective, which is a fascinating question. Obviously, something changed. Maybe one of you enterprising commenters can find screen caps of Wandy throwing the curve and Lyles before-after throwing his pitch to see if his delivery has changed to match something Wandy does.

2) Luhnow responds to fan outrage over Wallace...sort of - Brian McTaggart has the goods (h/t to Astros County for the link), talking to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow about Brett Wallace and his long-awaited call up to save the season and offense in one fell swoop.

"Brett will spend the vast majority of the remainder of the season in Houston," Luhnow said. "Right now, there are a lot of moving parts between injuries and guys coming back from injuries and other things that may or may not occur the rest of this month. We haven't made the decision to do it right now, but I would suspect Brett will spend the bulk of the season in Houston."

The emphasis up there is mine. May or may not happen, huh? Does that sound like he might try to move Chris Johnson? How else does he open up a spot for Wally?

Adding to the intrigue, we find out that the grand Second Base experiment may be ending soon, with Jimmy Paredes switching to the outfield and possibly saving us from the Jordan Schafer Experience.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday he's had conversations with manager Brad Mills and director of player development Fred Nelson about possibly moving Minor League infielder Jimmy Paredes to the outfield.

Luhnow also kind of admits at the end that the Paredes move was made in part because they didn't know what they had in Jose Altuve. Now they know, which makes another position switch possible. There have been discussions about moving him to short, but expect Marwin there for the time being.

3) How long a leash? - So, Fernando Rodriguez got out of a jam last night he basically created after relieving J.A. Happ. F-Rod has been pretty terrible lately, but there's an inherent volatility to relievers. The question is: how long does Houston wait on this guy before making a move to someone else?

Obviously, the Wilton Lopez injury has complicated things, but now that he's back, is Houston just waiting to reshuffle things for the trade deadline? Are they not wanting to part with Rodriguez, who may be lost to the waiver wire if he's sent down, knowing they might also have to replace Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon later in the season?

Or, are there secret numbers saying Rodriguez is good, just in certain situations?

Maybe Rodriguez is just a lightning-rod for a bullpen that hasn't performed like it did early in the season. F-Rod is on pace to appear in 69 games, tops on the team. His xFIP and FIP are both lower than his ERA, suggesting he's been sort of unlucky so far. And, though fWAR doesn't work especially well for relievers, his is only at 0.3, so he hasn't even cost Houston half a game this year with his suckitude lately.

Of course, that's an objective way of looking at it. Subjectively, he's been horrible for almost a month now. I doubt Houston will make a move on him for similar reasons to why Brick hasn't been promoted...they're waiting out the trade deadline first.

Still, some fresh blood and fresh usage patterns need to emerge in the bullpen fast. Things are getting ugly.

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