Some things to talk about as Orbit celebrates his triumph in the Mascot World Series...
1) Defensive shifts paying off
In Monday's piece on the six things to know about the 2013 Astros, I debated adding a section about the shift and how it was affecting the Astros' defense this season. I wanted a gif to show just how pronounced that shift can be at times, but we couldn't find a play worthy of it over the weekend, so I shelved it for a time.
Since then, Brian T. at the Chron beat me to it, writing about the shift's effectiveness and Bo Porter's embrace of the defensive strategy the other day. It just so happened that Tim also got a great shot of the play Smith referenced with Raul Ibanez and his very pronounced defensive shift.
Here's a visual from the final Seattle game showing just how those shifts can work in Houston's favor:
That's one play, but it does show how Houston is trying to think outside the box defensively. So far, it's also working out by the defensive metrics. These things can change wildly early in the season, but right now, Houston is second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved with nine. They're right behind the Texas Rangers at 11 DRS and another team who employs defensive shifts a lot (Tampa Bay) is right in the top five in the league.
What's more, those defensive shifts have helped Houston make 34 out of zone plays already this season, which is the third highest total in the majors. Only the Athletics and Braves have more out of zone plays.
No one thinks of Houston as a good to great defensive team yet, but before the season, we surmised this team was built around home run power, good infield defense and pitchers who get ground balls. Now, we've seen evidence of the first two.
2) No new yet in CSN Houston negotiations
Astros County has an update, via David Barron, of the recent negotiations between TV carriers and CSN Houston. The good news? Both sides have agreed to meet with Houston mayor Annise Parker to try and broker a deal. The bad news? Providers like Suddenlink are joining DirecTV in insisting that the channel be placed on the sports tier instead of the basic package.
It gets worse. Here's what AT&T said in regards to carrying the channel on UVerse:
An AT&T spokesman said, "We received the letter and we’d be happy to have a discussion with the mayor’s office. We’d love to make the channel available to our customers, but the proposed cost is not fair to pass to all of our customers across Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas, especially based upon our subscribers’ historical lack of viewership of Rockets and Astros games. We’ve offered to make CSN Houston available on an a la carte basis for those fans that want to watch."
That's not encouraging, is it?
What the channels are afraid of is something like the situation in Miami right now. The Marlins game on Wednesday pulled in a 0.8 rating. As this Hardball Talk post suggests, that means roughly 20,000 home actually watched the Marlins on TV. Given the state of the Astros, can't you see stations worrying about those same dismal ratings if they add CSN Houston to a basic package?
Until we hear more...
3) The Sandlot turns 20
If you're a baseball fan of a certain age, you probably fondly remember The Sandlot, a movie about baseball, but also about kids being kids. I know I love that move and have already made it a point to show it to my son, which is why it made me feel pretty old to learn that the movie is turning 20 this weekend.
Big League Stew has a great retrospective on the movie, interviewing the director along with two members of its cast. It's worth your time if you enjoyed the movie, especially for anecdotes like this:
David M. Evans, the writer, director and narrator of "The Sandlot," loves to tell this story: He was in an airport a few years back. He saw a father trying to contain a wild child while also trying to carry his luggage. Finally, giving up, the dad put down his bags and told the child, "You're killin' me, Smalls."
"He was three feet from me and I couldn't resist," Evans says. "I told the guy, 'You're never going to believe this' ...'" He took the guy's address and sent him and his son an autographed poster.
"I am very, very grateful that it means that much to people," Evans says.
Again, it's worth the full read, as you get a behind-the-scenes look at the Tilt-A-Whirl mess, the greatest trick every pulled on a lifeguard and more. I can't believe that fish hat is lost for all time, though. That kinda bummed me out.
Anyone else have fond memories of this one? Please tell me some of you have also been quoting it for 20 years now?