Some things to talk about while I try to stop slacking and start writing more...
1) Thoughts on McHugh
He's really good, y'all.
Is that not good enough? You want more?
Well, we talked quite a bit about McHugh on the podcast. I will try not to repeat myself here, but suffice it to say I'm pretty bullish on the right-hander. McHugh showed against the Athletics (a very good team, mind you) that he can still miss bats and not get done in by his control.
What has changed for him, then? Obviously, we're dealing with small sample sizes. We're also dealing with two different Pitch F/X cameras, so bear with that. His fastball has definitely ticked up. But, it's not new-found velocity. It's more like re-discovered velocity. According to Brooks Baseball, McHugh averaged nearly 92 mph on his fastball in both April 2013 and in October 2011 (in the Arizona Fall League?).
The biggest change has been that McHugh has scrapped his sinker. He hasn't thrown one yet, according to PItch F/X. He's instead focused on the changeup, slider and curve that he's featured for the past three seasons. That's probably a good thing, as his two-seam fastball was one of his weaker pitches, judging by linear weights from his last two seasons.
He's also picked up how often he uses that slider. The results, so far, seem to support his two decisions. Will McHugh continue this ridiculous hot streak? Not a chance. Can he turn into a 3.50 ERA, 22 percent strikeout, 7-8 percent walk rate guy? Absolutely. Absolutely. His minor league numbers support that production.
2) 10-win months
At the end of April, I'll look back at my predictions for the month. One of them that I've been tracking sort of closely is my prediction that Houston would go 10-18 this month.
It didn't seem outlandish when I made it. I simply went through the schedule and added up which series I thought they could win.
What I didn't realize is how rare a double-digit win month has been for Houston in the past three seasons. Since 2011, Houston has only posted eight such months out of the 18 they've played. Last season, the Astros only managed to win 10 games or more in two months, going 10-18 in May and 12-15 in June.
Not once since 2010 has Houston finished a month better than .500. The best they've come was in 2012, when the Astros went 13-14 in September.
This 10-18 has been bleak. It's been rough. But, it's also been an uptick from the terrible months in this "crynasty" of 100-loss seasons.
3) The bullpen
Not to steal another point from the podcast, but one of the reasons why Jeff Luhnow built his bullpen the way he did was for the eventuality they find themselves in now. Relievers are fungible. That's one of the prevailing Jamesian thoughts to permeate baseball.
Relievers are tough to predict, because they throw so few innings. They're volatile. They're injury risks. So, if you're trying to fix a bullpen, you don't rely on one or two arms. You get as many as you can.
That's what Houston did. They didn't stop with Chad Qualls. They also signed Matt Albers. They claimed Raul Valdes, Darin Downs and traded for Anthony Bass. They added Jerome Williams and Jesse Crain. That pushed guys with MLB experience like Jose Cisnero, Chia-Jen Lo and Josh Zeid back to the minors, where they function as depth.
Heck, the depth in the rotation has even helped the bullpen, shuttling Paul Clemens and Brad Peacock there at various times.
Will all of the moves work? Nope. Qualls may put middling year in 2014. Anthony Bass may not miss enough bats to keep up his effective streak. Jesse Crain may not pitch at all. But, enough guys got added to make the bullpen less of a tire fire. Kudos to Luhnow building a deep bullpen, even if it hasn't turned into a vintage Padres-in-Petco corps.