Monday's Three Astros Things

Talking about the Hall of Fame, Brad Peacock's slider and market inefficiencies...

Some things to talk about while we see that high walk players don't age any better than others...

1) Hall of Fame talk

Oh, Murray Chass. How you can stir up the baseball world with one simple blog post. The ex-newspaper writers and current internet writer took to his blog to talk about how so many of this year's Hall of Fame candidates were sullied by steroids. Maybe not directly, with failed tests and the like, but with baseless suspicions.

Chass' piece and the reaction to it inspired me to talk about Biggio on Friday. I think I made it abundantly clear in that post, but I do not buy into any suspicion around him. It's silly and baseless and doesn't deserve being discussed. The only reason I did, again, is to show how consistent Bidge was and how there is no evidence of a jump due to enhancements.

Basically, suspecting Biggio is about like suspecting Maddux. Both had tons of consistency. Both were great. Only one will fly in unimpeded.

But, we're not done with the Hall talk. Peter Gammons tackled the Steroid Era with an informed opinion and the great analogy to the rest of baseball history. Drawing a line at steroids is just silly to me, looking at the past. Joe Posnanski talks about the same thing in his reflection on Ted Williams' Hall induction speech. I'm not sure the Hall needs to guide the BBWAA, but putting a little more context on it than Rule 5 does would be helpful for his historian.

Finally, let's wrap up with a pair of Hall of Fame takedowns. First up, Rob Neyer goes after Chass' stupidity in suspecting guys like Biggio. Neyer says it much better than I could have, which is why you should read that now (if you didn't over the weekend).

On Monday, we get a pair of great takes. First, Jason Collette blows up Dan Shaughnessy's ballot, which only included five names and left off a pair he voted for last year, completely inexplicably. If you're voting for the Hall of Fame, shouldn't you have a little consistency? That's what drives me so crazy.

Lastly, Andy over at Houston Sports Counterplot just destroys Chass with a well-written, well-executed gem of an article. I'd love to quote from it, but it's worth reading the whole thing. Go check it out and admire the carnage.

Alas, these are not the final outrages of Hall of Fame season. We have a while to go before its all said and done. As we wrote about earlier this year, it probably won't matter, as there's a pretty big chance Biggio and Bagwell don't get elected this year. It's a shame, but it won't be surprising. I just wish more Hall voters could read pieces like Andy's and get some perspective already.

2) Brad Peacock's slider

It feels like we've already discussed this, but I think that's just because our TCB writer email list went through about a hundred emails talking about it last week. Since we didn't do any Three Things posts because of the holidays, let's talk about Jason Collette's great post on Peacock here. In short, the reason Peacock was much better after being recalled from Oklahoma City was the addition of a slider:

With the slider in his repertoire, Peacock limited righties to a .223 wOBA and lefties to a .330 wOBA. He threw 144 sliders in that time allowing just 7 hits - all singles. With both a curveball and a slider in play, Peacock was able to generate more swings and misses and his rate upon his return from the minors was in the top 15th percentile in the league. Previously, his rate was in the bottom 15th percentile in the league.

One of the points we discussed pretty extensively is whether Peacock "learned" the slider or whether he had the pitch all along and just didn't throw it or if he really picked it up on the fly. I tend to lean towards the former, since I feel like most pitchers know how to throw 8-10 different pitches, but only can throw a handful well. So, when someone learns a "split-finger" or a "knuckleball," it's more about learning how to throw it effectively.

Maybe that's what Peacock did. He knew how to throw the slider, but it was never a good pitch. So, he simply learned how to throw it effectively.

The bigger implication of this should help us have more confidence in Peacock's resurgence in the second half. Small sample sizes are daunting, because they make it hard to trust results, especially for pitchers. But, if a slider really affected his results that dramatically, there's a better chance he can sustain that success instead of turning into the pitcher who got bombed to open the season.

3) Oakland finds new inefficiency

That's the go-to sabernerd joke, isn't it? That such-and-such is "the new market inefficiency." It shows we understand the "real" Moneyball, you know? Not, like, those squares who only focus on on-base percentage and nothing else. It's, like, about so much more than that, man.

Turns out, as we're making bad jokes, Oakland is busy coming up with new ways to exploit the market. From this excellent piece by Andrew Koo, we find out that Oakland is targetting flyball hitters to platoon against groundball pitchers.

The A's deftly avoided this trap: not only have they benefited from the batted-ball platoon effect, but they had the second-highest percentage of favorable-handedness matchups. Thanks to a collection of switch-hitters, 70.4 percent of their plate appearances came against opposite-handed pitchers. They also had the third-highest walk rate, which isn't surprising-fly-ball tendencies go hand-in-hand with patience.

Where the A's really kept on course was defense: Reddick and Young are not only fly ball hitters, they're established outfield pros. Cespedes improved considerably as a sophomore. With their starters funneling balls to the outfield5, the A's posted the league's second-best defensive efficiency. So despite an apparent re-calibration of team strategy, Beane remained loyal to proven sabermetric principles.

What Oakland did is hard to copy. They got specific players, who were great at both hitting fly balls and playing good outfield defense. They didn't give up other areas, but they produced a team that was lethal against high groundball teams.

What clicked for me in reading that piece was how well it explained Oakland's success against the Astros last year. Besides being the (much) better team, Oakland also capitalized on Houston's bevy of ground ball pitchers. As Houston seems inclined to continue acquiring ground ball guys, sort of like how St. Louis built its staff, I wonder how long that advantage will stick.

As fun as it is to have a smart front office, it's kind of daunting being in the same division with Billy Beane isn't it? Heck, we couldn't even get the Rangers to bite on a big, expensive contract for Nelson Cruz because Jon Daniels is so competent.

I really miss the NL Central.

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