What's going on in the world of the Astros on this Friday?
1) The expanded playoffs - So, looks like baseball is getting another playoff team THIS YEAR. SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson is also reporting over at Baseball Nation that because of the lack of time to change the schedule, the divisional round will switch from a 2-2-1 format to a 2-3 format.
That means divisional winners will have to open on the road instead of at home. Will that make a big difference? It could, as the top two seeds would only be guaranteed one home game in the first round of the playoffs. That means less money for those teams (potentially) and more for the wild card and third-place division winner.
That's why this is a one-shot deal. I guess MLB teams would rather have another shot at that playoff money rather than worry about any they might lose later on. Plus, by next year, the scheduling issues will be fixed and this won't be an issue.
There's time to talk about this later, but my immediate reaction to a new wild card team is a better chance for Houston to compete once they move to the AL. Since the AL East has had a stranglehold on that wild card for a while now, another spot would open up a chance for them to get into the dance.
2) We have a lineup to discuss - Also, we've gotten the first Astros lineup of the spring, though not a batting order as yet. Some of the highlights:
Jason Castro at catcher, which is impressive considering we thought his foot injury may cause him to miss time early in the season.
The outfield is interesting. No J.D. Martinez or Jordan Schafer, but Travis Buck is starting in right field and Bourg in center.
CJ at third instead of Brett Wallace is going to trade off for the time being. Sunday, Wallace will get the start instead of CJ, along with CJ starting at first instead of Carlos Lee.
I'm sure we'll see lots of different looks this spring, but I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say it's a great day when Angel Sanchez isn't in the lineup...
3) Brett Myers' fastball - When Houston hired away Mike Fast from the baseball community, it bumped Harry Pavlidis up to one of the foremost Pitch F/X guys out there. Which is why I was very interested to see an article of his pop up at The Hardball Times on Brett Myers return to the closer role.
What did he conclude? That Myers probably will have a fastball around 92 MPH and touching 94 MPH. That's a very intriguing number, since it's what I posited earlier this week in a flat-ass guess. So, the numbers kind of support that.
It's also important, because I think for Myers to be effective in the ninth inning, he's going to need his velocity to be more in that range. According to the FanGraphs' leaderboard for relievers in 2011, the average velocity there was 92.5 MPH. There were a few closers who threw under that mark, including Huston Street, but I'd feel much more comfortable about Myers' chances to be good in his new role if he can get his fastball back around 92 or 93 MPH.