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Thursday's Five Astros Things

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A king-sized edition talking about Appel's four-seamer, sabermetrics fights, the aging curve, Shin-Soo Choo and a cool charity idea...

Some things to talk about while the Anchorman 2 crew answer questions about baseball...

1) Appel didn't have a four-seamer?

We kick off a king-sized version of Three Things today with a look at Mark Appel from Evan Drellich. Consider this a nice complement to our Top 30 list dropping this week. In it, he reveals something that legitimately shocked me about Mark Appel.

"I've only thrown a two-seam my whole career," Appel said. "It's a little abnormal. That's just how I started throwing a ball when I was a kid. (The two-seamer) moves a little bit, not as much as, I guess, a traditional two-seamer. I've experimented with the four-seam, and I just think I didn't stick with it long enough. Just because it might have been right before the season, or whatever it might have been. So this offseason, I'm going to definitely work on the four-seamer."

Wait. what? I can swear I'd read scouting reports for two years saying Appel had two fastballs, but that he used his two-seamer more because he could control it better. Did everyone just miss the boat on the fact that he'd NEVER THROWN A FOUR-SEAMER?

In case you can't tell, I'm dumbfounded by this. It doesn't affect his development so much as just puzzle me. We spent HOURS and HOURS on Appel and this is the first time this information drops? Great Odin's raven, that's astounding.

Anyways, I'm not sure it changes anything in his prospect ranking, his floor or his ceiling. It just blew my mind. Great job, Drellich.

2) Sabermetrics vs. ????

Ohh. This makes my head hurt. Joe Posnanski has a quick, vicious takedown of a really stupid Hall of Fame argument made by another in the (shrinking) anti-sabermetric crowd. Here's the part that really is just infuriating to Poz, Szymborski and pretty much every person working on stats in baseball.

Sabermetrics has its flaws. One of them, for evaluation purposes regarding the Hall, is not accounting enough for statistics era to era. A 3.00 ERA in 1968 didn't mean nearly as much as a 3.00 ERA in 1995, for example.


Seriously, what?

That's EXACTLY what sabermetrics does. That's the entire point of stats like ERA+, OPS+ and even wRC+. it's why I was drawn to them in the first place so long ago, so we can compare how good J.R. Richard is against current pitchers.

But, Poz says it better than I can, because he's an exceedingly talented writer:

That's what this is like. Sabermetricians are spending countless hours breaking down the game, developing theories, testing those theories, improving their stats, finding boxscores from every game for 100 years, going through millions of play-by-plays, probing every premise ... and then someone comes along and says, "Hey, you know, they scored more runs in 1995 than in 1968, you might want to consider that." That doesn't help.

Yes. This exactly. We debate things like the relative worth of won-loss records and ERA and things on here from time to time. But, when we put that in context of what the Astros front office is doing and how far ahead they are of most of the advanced metrics we're using...what's the point?

Again, the reason I love sabermetrics so much is context. I studied history. I love putting things into context with the past. Which is why I can't stand uninformed takes like one above.

3) More on the aging curve

Jeff Zimmerman revisits his post from the other dayon the changes to the aging curve. He provides some more answers, but I think just raises more questions that his research needs to verify. But, some very intriguing ideas. Here is his conclusion:

In conclusion, I think two items are causing the change in the curves. The first in the ban and harsh penalties on PEDs between the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Besides the ban on muscle building drugs, the crack down on amphetamines may have caused players to no longer chemically peak. The second effect is teams being able to better know when a player is able to contribute at their peak MLB level. I think this ability to evaluate talent may have existed before the PED ban, but increase production from PED masked the change.

We won't know how the PED/amphetamine era affected things like this for a while. With time, we can see the change and plot things like this out more specifically. But, this is certainly a good start. I'm intrigued. And think more vehemently that Springer should have been called up last year. Why won't Jeff Luhnow listen to me??

4) David Temple on Choo

Friend of TCB and recent Astros convert (because of a year-long project to follow the team) David Temple makes a pretty convincing case why the Astros should sign Shin-Soo Choo. It may even negate Chris' argument that Choo is Carlos Lee 2.0.

From FanGraphs:

Shin-Soo Choo, in name or skill, will not be available in 2015. That's the way it goes sometimes. But by making the deal, by installing a quality major-league player that is sure to bring you a handful of good years and probably some average-ish years at the end, Houston can build a better team and start to mend some relationships at the same time.

The whole piece is worth your time. My only comment would be that we thought the same thing about last year's market, that there wouldn't be any big names to help Houston this winter. Then, there were. Every year, I think there will be a few players who can improve the team we don't expect to be on the market.

Whether Houston can land those players is the question. That's why they should jump on Choo now if they can. At a reasonable rate, for a reasonable number of years, Choo makes a ton of sense. In that, Temple and I can wholeheartedly agree.

5) Syracuse doing a great thing

Tim's post earlier today about charity reminded me of something I've been wanting to talk about here all week. SB Nation's Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician is doing something very, very cool.

Since it's hard for fans from upstate New York to journey down here to Houston for the Texas Bowl, where the Orangemen will play Minnesota next week, the blog decided to raise money to send a bunch of underpriviledged kids from Houston to the game in the Syracuse student section.

From the idea post:

Who Exactly Are We Sending? Underprivileged kids who hang out at the Houston Texans YMCA in the 3rd Ward. Since the team also runs the Texas Bowl, they were nice enough to set us up with a direct line to them. It's also located just a few blocks away from the stadium.

Where Would The Kids Sit? Glad you asked. The bowl is setting aside 200 tickets in Sections 135 and 136, which is not only lower-level end zone seating but it also puts the kids directly next to the Syracuse University Marching Band. Hope they learn the alma mater.

Do The Kids Get Stuff Besides The Tickets? They sure do. Each kid will get a voucher for a free hot dog and soda. They'll also get the most important thing of all, a free Syracuse t-shirt to wear during the game. We're also going to reach out to Otto to see if he'll stop by and say hi.

Do These Tickets Count Towards SU Bowl Allotment? Yup. So if you donate, don't let DOC Gross tell you that you didn't do your part.

How Much Do We Have To Raise? The ticket & food vouchers cost $55/ticket. The t-shirt adds another $5 to the deal. So that's $60 per kid. Which means, we need to raise $12,000. And we have to do it by this Friday, December 20, to ensure everyone can get their tickets in time. No biggie.

That's cool enough, right? Well, the story gets better. First, the site raised over $15,000 in a day, more than matching their goal. Second, the Texas Bowl and the Houston Texans caught wind of the plan and lowered ticket prices to $20 for these seats.

Then it only picked up steam. Deadspin pushed the story. The Syracuse head football coach is tweeting out links to the effort. Oh, and the Texans got more involved. Now, the kids will get a free food voucher for a hot dog, they'll get a free Sonic Slush at the game and a commemorative belt buckle, in addition to the Syracuse T-Shirt to wear in the student section. Oh, and the Texas Bowl has been working to make sure all the kids get put on the field level with the rest of the Syracuse fans.

The effort has raised so much money that they're trying to get enough now to send 1,000 kids to the game. These kids come from a Houston YMCA and a local children's hospital. In short, this is a pretty awesome story.

So, if you feel so inclined this holiday season, stop by and support what they're doing over at NunesMagician. If you're going to the Texas Bowl, be sure to keep an eye out for all those new Syracuse fans getting a great experience. I know I'll be watching.