Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about the Ruggiano deal, sinkers and control and the L.J. Hoes trade...

Some things to talk about while I revel in the best headline on the site in a year...

1) Did Luhnow really lose the Ruggiano deal?

Over at FanGraphs, they look at former Texas A&M and Astros minor leaguer Justin Ruggiano, who hit like gangbusters last season for the Marlins, but hasn't picked up a hit in 42 at-bats right now.

From last season, when Ruggiano was destroying the ball, to this season, when he's hitless, has been a steep fall.

A year ago, Ruggiano played in 91 games for the Marlins, batting 320 times. This year, Ruggiano's played in 91 games for the Marlins, batting 327 times. His wRC+ this year is exactly half of last year's 146. That's part of what makes this so interesting - Ruggiano, in the past, has been able to hit. He owns a career .291 average in Triple-A. From his debut with the Marlins to the start of this slump, he batted .271 with an .810 OPS in about 600 trips to the plate. Ruggiano was looking like a valuable asset, up until he became the least productive hitter in the league.

What made this stick out to me is Tim and I were just discussing Ruggiano the other day. He contends that Luhnow cannot evaluate outfielders and points to this deal as proof, among other things. I contend that Ruggiano was more lucky than good last season and benefitted from limited playing time. If in two years, Ruggiano was posting 700 plate appearances and still hitting like he did in 2012, then we could talk.

So far, it looks like Luhnow made a good move. Jobduan Morales, the player Luhnow picked up in the deal, hasn't looked great this year. The young catcher is hitting .180 with a solid walk rate but a ton of strikeouts. He's also shown very little power and only has 202 plate appearances for Quad Cities.

But, he's still young and promising. Justin Ruggiano gave the Marlins 300-500 quality plate appearances before falling off a cliff. He could come back and provide value, but he more than likely will not. So, was Luhnow right to deal him when he did, or did he misevaluate a talented player?

2) Doug Fister and sinker control

At Beyond the Box Score, Neil Weinberg looks at Doug Fister and the hidden cost of the sinker. In particular, he looks at Fister's rise in hit batsmen and whether sinkerballers see this happen more often than other pitchers.

Here's the takeaway:

The takeaway is that hitting batters isn't always about lacking control. There's a class of pitchers who hit batters because their fastball has excellent life on it and runs in on hitters who struggle to avoid it. Take it a step further and recognize that it's likely best to consider joint walk and hit batter rate when thinking about how many free passes a pitcher allows. We combine them in FIP, xFIP, and wOBA-based stats, and we should do so when taking about walk rate in general. Pitchers are responsible for hitting batters and we're doing ourselves a disservice to push those plunkings to the background.

Why is this relevant to the Astros? Jarred Cosart, that's why. Cosart's fastball has a ton of movement on it. In the minors, he didn't always control it to the best of his ability, so why should that change in the majors? He can limit walks, sure. But, can he limit hit batsmen when his cutter dives too much?

I think this bears watching.

3) The Hoes family reacts to a trade

Great, great piece by MLB Daily Dish dynamo Chris Cotillo, as he gets some great quotes from L.J. Hoes and his family after the trade to Houston back in July. Hoes was part of the deal that sent Bud Norris to Baltimore and robbed the former area native Hoes of a chance to consistently play near his home.

That's why his family reacted with a little sadness when the trade was announced:

Jerome revealed that his initial reaction to the news was one of sadness, due to his family's strong ties to the community and Orioles' organization.

"Once I found out that [L.J.] had been traded, it was kind of somber for both of us," Jerome said. "We talked a little bit and realized that the opportunity here to maybe play in the playoffs or the opportunity to learn from people like Adam Jones and Buck Showalter had finally passed us by."

Cotillo does an excellent job of breaking down the background of a deal and the human cost of these trades. It's well worth your time.

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