Some things to talk about while Carlos Gomez makes this fan's night..
1) Reminders of the past
Houston's uptick in play recently has me checking the standings much more than I did last year. Maybe it just seems that way, but I've been thinking about what their record means. The overall run differential is still worst in the league, but Houston has finally caught the Cubs and Diamondbacks for worst record in the league.
Don't look now, but the playoff odds pages at Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs also predict Houston is approaching 70 wins for the season. Things are going pretty well, all things considered.
But, I wondered about something. Back in 2012, things also seemed to be going well in May. In fact, Houston came within a game of reaching .500 overall in that month, before falling back to the finish. In 2012, Houston went 22-29 over the first two months. So far in 2014, Houston has gone 22-32.
What happened back then? At the time, we were pretty pleased with the early season play that year. Then, the wheels feel off in a disastrous July that saw the Astros win just three games.
If you had to point to something, it'd be the trade of Carlos Lee early in June of that year and the subsequent massive swap with Toronto. That took the steam out of that squad.
I don't see the same thing happening this year. For better or worse, this looks to be your Astros squad for the next few months, barring a call-up or two. So, can they sustain this play? As long as the pitching remains this good, I'm inclined to think so.
2) Updates on CSN Houston
How are things going?
But, at least there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It appears three different companies are eyeing purchase agreements for CSN Houston (h/t Astros County). From the Sports Business Journal's story:
According to several sources, NBC Sports Group, AT&T and Fox Sports have talked with network executives about obtaining the teams' local rights as a way to fix the problems with the RSN, which has not been able to get meaningful carriage since its launch in October 2012. The media companies' initial offers place the value of the rights for both teams at $80 million per year, the sources said. That amount is considerably less than the $100 million the teams had been due to receive this year.
Good news, bad news. The good news is that the Astros could be on TV soon if one of these deals goes through. The best chance would be if AT&T pulls the trigger, getting the Astros on U-Verse in addition to Comcast. But, any of the three should resolve the bottleneck around carriage deals.
According to this article by Wendy Thurm at FanGraphs, that $80 million would put Houston at sixth overall in TV rights revenue. In fact, the Sports Business Journal's numbers don't agree with Thurm's, as she had Houston getting just $80 million in rights money last July.*
*Edit: As was pointed out in the comments, the number is for both teams, which means Houston only receives half. There are still three different numbers floating around, as I can't account for what the $100 million means. But, it also means Houston's media deal would drop them to about 12th overall in MLB and last in the AL West.
3) Keuchel named AL Player of the Week
Did you hear? Houston's Dallas Keuchel was named the American League Player of the Week. He's the first Astros pitcher to win his league's accolade since Roy Oswalt in 2008 and the first left-hander to win it since Bob Knepper in 1981 (thanks to Chris Peixoto for both of those notes). Here are a couple more blurbs on Keuchel:
For the week, Keuchel went 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA (2ER/17.2IP), 14 strikeouts and a complete game. Among AL pitchers during the week, Keuchel ranked first in ERA, innings pitched, opponents’ batting average (.153) and complete games, while ranking third in strikeouts.
Over his last three games, Keuchel became the first Astros pitcher to go at least 8.2 innings in three straight starts since RHP Darryl Kyle in 1993. He has won his last four decisions, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau he is the first Astros pitcher with six victories before the end of May since Roy Oswalt in 2007.
A couple of you suggested Tuesday when the award was announced that George Springer could have won it too. Could Springer win AL Player of the Month, then? He's certainly been very good, hitting .322/.408/.667 this month with eight home runs and a 198 wRC+
The problem is he's only been the 11th best player in the AL this month. Teammate Jose Altuve edges him out slightly in WAR this month, thanks to better defensive numbers. Of course, even my limited understanding of defensive metrics tells me that's too small a sample to rely just on WAR.
By wRC+, Springer has had the third-best May in the AL, behind Edwin Encarnacion and Victor Martinez. Encarnacion is probably the favorite to win the award, seeing as he's hammered 14 homers this month already. But, Martinez has eight of his own with a .378 batting average, a .445 on-base percentage and has held his strikeout rate under 10 percent.
Springer may be in the conversation for the AL's best in May, but my money is on Encarnacion winning it.