Some things to talk about while the Astros follow me to Cleveland like some creepy stalkers...
1) Pittsburgh's aggressive defense
Again, this is sort of an old link that I'm just now getting around to. Forgive me. Eventually, I'll get caught up. But, the upshot is that the PIttsburgh Tribune does a great piece on how aggressive the Pittsburgh Pirates were with their defensive shifts this season and how that affected the team. Their front office seems to think it made the difference for Pittsburgh this year. The Pirates experimented with a comprehensive defensive philosophy the past several seasons, but this was different.
• Position players had to change. They had to shift from areas of the field where they had been stationed their entire careers and trust the pitching staff's ability to locate pitches.
• Pitchers had to change. The staff had to rely on a new primary pitch and trust the radical defensive alignments behind them.
• Old-school coaches had to change. Coaches trained in 20th century baseball orthodoxy had to trust 21st century concepts.
Sound familiar? Houston has the first and the third nailed down. Bo Porter likes using the shift and Houston has their own shift guru in Eduardo Perez on staff. They have players talking about shifts and creating their own on the fly without Perez' direct input (or I sort of remember an article like that in the past month).
What they don't have is wholesale adoption by the pitching staff. At least, one pitcher in particular who shall remain nameless. Said pitcher has been a vocal critic of the shifts for many of the same reasons that are described in the Pirates article. As you can tell from that article, not all of Pittsburgh's pitchers bought into the philosophy either, as A.J. Burnett was still sniping late season.
Still, Houston hasn't been the most aggressive team at utilizing the shift...yet. I wonder if we'll see a bigger step toward using it next year, after players had a year to get used to it. Will Houston too try to go all in with the defensive shifts?
2) Marc Hulet's Twitter campaign
This is pretty cool. FanGraphs prospect writer Marc Hulet sort of dedicated his month of September to tweeting out reasons why people should be fans of the Astros. You don't need to know that, since you're already a fan of the Astros, especially if you're on this site in the middle of September reading about the team.
But, if you still need more evidence, here's one of Hulet's reasons:
10. #Astros intriguing 2013 draft talent: Mark Appel, Andrew Thurman, Kent Emanuel, Jacob Nottingham, Devonte German, Austin Nicely...— Marc Hulet (@marchulet) September 21, 2013
Intriguing indeed. Sorry, Andrew Thurman, but every time I see your name, I picture an anteater instead of you. Kids, let this be a lesson to you to consider your college mascot carefully before playing baseball there. Do you really want to be a geoduck or a dirtbag to stupid bloggers like me?
3) Changes to Tal's Hill still being discussed?
I'm just going to link to this without comment, as it has possibly one of my favorite Photoshops in a while.
Now that you're back, I'll break my word from a sentence ago and make one comment on this. Way, way back when I actually got to meet Jeff Luhnow that one time (and it wasn't late at night outside his house when the cop came, either), he mentioned how the new front office was considering what to do with Tal's Hill. At the time, I thought it was just a sop to the blog community, since the thing gets ridiculed a lot and, as Luhnow said at the time, just doesn't come into play very often.
But, here is Luhnow, bringing up Tal's HIll again. I'd be fascinated to hear the organization's thought process on this. Is the miniscule chance that George Springer suffers a Mickey Mantle-type freak accident in the outfield enough to drastically change the park?