Some things to talk about while this reporter takes a very scary self portrait before an Astros/Red Sox game...
1) Scouting velocity gain
There's a great article in the Arizona Republic from last Thursday on how D'Backs scouts judge future velocity gain. Nick Piecoro does a great job of breaking down the mechanics, what to look for and at the same time, conveying some of the uncertainty inherent to the scouting process.
Oh, and it's of interest to Astros fans because Jeff Luhnow makes an appearance. As you might guess, he's not a fan of taking a guy because he "might" add velocity:
The way Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow sees things, to be realistic is to almost never expect a pitcher to throw harder.
"My rule of thumb is you can never project an increase in velocity because you’re going to be wrong a lot," said Luhnow, formerly the scouting director for the St. Louis Cardinals. He makes an exception for certain prospects from Latin America who fairly predictably can go from the mid-80s at ages 14 or 15 to the low-90s.
It's a good read. I remember when both Ross Seaton and Jordan Lyles were both taken on the assumption that they'd add velocity. Ditto Tanner Bushue. None have so far. That doesn't mean scouting velocity doesn't work. It's just a dangerous proposition high in the draft.
2) The hope of a phenom
Who doesn't like Joe Posnanski? Well, I mean besides the people who want to read articles in less than 3,000 words. Poz brings it again in a piece on pitching phenom Matt Harvey. He makes some very solid points, but the main thrust of the article is that you can measure baseball time by the pitching phenoms.
But, really, the wonder of a pitching prodigy like Harvey goes beyond numbers or comparisons. It’s a feeling. There’s something about a pitching prodigy that gets the blood pumping a little faster. There’s something about a pitching prodigy that feels unlimited.
It made me think about this particular Astros team and how much it could be helped by a phenom. Imagine if Jarred Cosart comes up in June and goes on a roll. What if he throws a great month, going 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 25 Ks in 20 innings.
We'd be thrilled. In fact, it might be enough to gloss over a 4-15 record that month in games not started by Cosart. Maybe not, but it'd certainly be better than the situation the team is in right now.
3) Tyler Kepner talks Astros
In advance of the series in New York, the New York Times' Tyler Kepner does a profile of the Astros and their first season in the American League. It's a much more informed article than you might expect from a national-type paper, much less one from New York. Kepner gets quotes from all over and about many of the flaws and high points of this team. He also gets Luhnow to acknowledge all the news this team is generating:
"For a team that not a lot of people focus on nationally, we’ve been able to stay in the news," Luhnow said. "One way or another, we’re doing something extreme. It’s going to be a wild ride all season."
Hitting coach John Mallee also talks about how strikeouts are a byproduct of their hitting style right now.
"We see a lot of pitches, and strikeouts are going to be a byproduct of working deep counts," said the Astros’ new hitting coach, John Mallee. "While some other teams will swing early and try to avoid getting into deep counts, our goal is to work the starter as much as we can and try to get to the middle of the bullpen early in the game. With a younger group, you can expect some of the inconsistencies. It’s a process."
Indeed. It's another good read, and maybe gives some hope that things aren't as dire as Brian T. Smith insinuated this weekend.