Some things to talk about while Jake Elmore comes back from an oblique strain...
1) Update on CSN Houston situation
Since last we talked about the negotiations to get Houston Astros and Rockets games on the air, things have not changed much. David Barron has an update over at The Chronicle today, but there isn't much news or hope to be found.
The article is partially in response to a statement DirecTV released attacking the carrier and saying that Houston fans will be able to see games on other channels like ESPN, Fox and TBS this season.
There’s no immediate comment from CSN Houston in response to the new DirecTV message. I must say, however, that the message is slightly disingenuous in that it implies that all Astros games are available on Fox, TBS, MLB Network or ESPN. That is not the case. Other than the opener on ESPN and four games on Fox later in the year, no Astros games are scheduled for national broadcast.
Exactly. The Astros will not be on national TV much this season and probably won't be on Fox regional Saturday broadcasts any time soon, which is why it's vital for Houston baseball fans to have some of these carriage deals completed.
Also since we last talked, Jim Crane mentioned he's inserting himself directly into the negotiations, which is why one of the carriage deals might get done before the season. With the intractability of DirecTV over these regional sports networks, don't expect it to be with them. The two most likely subjects for a deal are Time Warner and AT&T Uverse, though Time Warner has also proven tough for Comcast to negotiate with.
Eighteen more days until the first non-nationally televised regular season game. Hopefully, negotiations move along more fruitfully before then.
2) Why the minors are special
Steve over at Appy Astros has a great piece that's worth your time if you follow the Astros minor leagues. It's all about the relationships that can develop between fans and players at the lower levels:
In nine season, we have had a total of 18 players over to our house for meals. Some were top prospects, some were raw talent that took some time to develop, some were non drafted free agents just trying to get a chance and some were guys spending their third year in Greeneville and knew their pro baseball career would be over at the end of the season. We provided the meal and they provided the memories.
There's an access to players at the lower levels that just isn't afforded to fans of the majors leagues. It's one of the bigger draws of visiting minor league parks and following along as players develop. Steve's story is great and worth your time, even if you don't live in the same city as one of Houston's affiliates.
3) Profiling Alex White
Over at Beyond the Box Score, they have a nice Pitch F/X profile on Alex White. There's some good stuff in there, too, for the guy who day-by-day is pitching himself into Houston's rotation.
His sinker might have arguably been his best pitch. While batters did have a fairly high slugging average, every other category was exceptional. While facing both left and right handed hitters he induced groundballs over 60% of the time. Left handers in particular had a difficult time at hitting line drives, and for the season hit line drives less than ten percent of the time.
One of the problems for White has been control, evidenced by only having one pitch making into the strike zone 40 percent of the time or better. Those control problems has cropped up at times this spring, too, as White had four walks in 6 1/3 innings so far in the Grapefruit League. But, a low zone percentage doesn't just lead to walks. It can also lead to harder contact and may be a reason why White's slugging average was higher for his sinker. If batters know he can't throw the slider for a strike, they'll sit on that sinker.
As I'm typing this, White is having a pretty good start against the Nationals, allowing two runs on seven hits through 5 innings. We speculate that the Houston front office is enamored with sinkerballers, so White fits that mold and that probably gives him a leg up on the rotation. If he can pound the zone like Lucas Harrell, he could also be a nice surprise this year.