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Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about Mark Appel and the draft, Wil Myers and the Rays and Bill James and computers...

Some things to talk about while Paul Clemens becomes a legend...

1) Jim Callis on Mark Appel

In his Ask BA feature posted Tuesday, Jim Callis talks about the top of the draft and Mark Appel's leverage. Callis also mentions that both Appel and Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray seem to have pulled away at the top of this draft class. He also said that Houston is in a bit of a quandry with Appel. They could try to take a hard line with his signing bonus, but it could lead to some disastrous results down the line:

But Appel could decide not to sign until right before the July 13 signing deadline of 5 p.m. ET. Houston couldn’t risk spending the $2,790,400 they saved on his bonus to land other players until he was in the fold. (Update: Actually, as @jeremynygaard reminded me on Twitter, the signing deadline doesn’t apply to Appel, making it even easier for him to hold a team’s bonus pool hostage.) If the Astros spent the savings before Appel signed, they’d risk losing their next two first-round selections, including the possible No. 1 overall choice in 2014.

Luckily, Houston's front office is smart and is probably one step ahead of us on this. They know what they're doing and should have a sound strategy for how to handle the top pick and subsequent money savings. I'm still not sold on Appel being the guy at the top, but he certainly would make for some interesting negotiations.

2) The Rays and Wil Myers

Once again, we're getting some Inception-level linkage here, as we discuss a Rob Neyer article linking to a Joe Sheehan newsletter. In it, the two discuss the Rays decision to hold Wil Myers in the minors to slow down his service time clock, with Sheehan thinking the Rays have already cost themselves wins by holding their best hitter back in the minors.

Rob disagrees slightly:

Well, he knows the numbers better than I. But if we assume that Myers is worth three wins above replacement -- fairly generous actually, for such a young hitter with some holes in his game -- and that his fill-ins are actually slightly worse than that, then keeping Myers in the minors for three weeks would cost the Rays one-half of one win.

On paper, of course. On the actual field, it might be three wins or zero wins or he might actually be worse than the other guys. In the event, James Loney and Sam Fuld and Shelley Duncan have all been terrible, and in fact there was some reason to think they would all be terrible. Just not this terrible.

There's a problem with being too beholden to service time concerns. Yes, it makes sense to try and maximize a player's team control, but at the same time, if a player is ready and would clearly be one of the best on a team, why hold him back? Will it make sense for the Astros not to install George Springer in right field next spring if he's fixed his contact problems and is hitting well?

It's an interesting debate, and I'm not sure there's a right answer all the time. Both Rob and Joe make good cases, but I'm interested in hearing from you as well.

3) Bill James and computers

From two smart baseball minds, we journey to two more smart baseball minds, as Craig Calcaterra highlights a former Bill James quote on the role of computers in baseball. Since Houston so recently joined the calculator set and is facing a tad bit of backlash based on that analytics-based approach, it's worth remembering this point:

There is, you see, no such thing as "computer knowledge" or "computer information" or "computer data." Within a few years, everyone will understand that. The essential characteristics of information are that it is true or it is false, it is significant or it is trivial, it is relevant or it is irrelevant. In the early days of the automobile, people would say that they were going to take an "automobile trip." That lasted about ten years; after that, people went back to taking trips as they had before. They were vacation trips, or they were business trips, or they were trips on personal matters, or they were trips to the coast or they were trips to the mountains. After the novelty wore off people still traveled in automobiles, but they ceased to identify the trip with the machine and returned to identify it with its purpose. People stopped driving to Cleveland just to have some place to drive. That's what we're going through now with the computer; twenty years from now, the term "computer information" will sound quaint and silly.

The point of stats isn't to come up with stats. It's to better understand what's going on with players on the field. That's my favorite part of the Pitch F/X data and why I like breaking down things like WAR into different components. Just a great reminder on why we analyze like we do.

4) BONUS THING: Eno Sarris on pitch framing

I won't take up too much of your time, because you need to go read about Jason Castro's wiggle. It's totally worth it, especially for the image of Chris Carter practicing with him in the clubhouse...