Some things to talk about while football rules my life for the next two months...
1) Grievance about Nix, not Aiken
Evan Drellich has a great look at the draft grievance filed against the Astros. Turns out, the grievance doesn't have to do with Brady Aiken...yet. It has everything to do with the agreement purportedly reached with Jacob Nix that was then nixed due to Aiken's aching elbow.
Nix passed a physical and agreed to a $1.5 million signing bonus with the Astros, but the deal was not honored when Aiken went unsigned.
As of now, though, no official complaint has been filed in specific regard to Aiken - only Nix. That could suggest that Aiken's position is weaker than Nix's, but time remains.
The entire article is worth your time, as Drellich has multiple sources on this and lays out the process which will ensue. It sounds like both Nix and Aiken will attend junior college, making them eligible for the 2015 draft.
Nix has a good chance to win his grievance if he did indeed pass a physical and both parties agreed to the terms of a deal. Sure, his case was contingent on Aiken signing. We've rehashed that plenty of times during and after the Aiken Mess went down.
It's a fascinating case and could lead to changes in the collective bargaining agreement. But, it sounds like resolution won't happen for months yet.
2) Soft side of sabermetrics
One of the most frequent criticisms of both sabermetrics and Jeff Luhnow's front office is that it ignores the human element. Clutch doesn't exist, people don't rely on their eyes and care about spreadsheets more than feelings. Sound familiar? I pulled that straight from our comment section last month.
(Not really, dear readers. I kid because I love.)
Well, Grantland has a piece on the "softer side" of sabermetrics and it features Jeff Luhnow.
Luhnow recounted a meeting early in his Cardinals career when he and sabermetrician Mitchel Lichtman (who was then consulting for St. Louis) tried to explain the relationship between leverage and reliever usage to Tony La Russa, who responded with a litany of objections (relievers are conditioned to pitch at predetermined times; closers know the market pays for saves) that Luhnow and Lichtman weren't prepared to address. Years later, when Luhnow and other analysts began to research the shift, he knew he needn't bother bringing it up with the Cardinals' coaches. Circumstances changed when he left St. Louis. "Once I got to Houston, I thought, ‘Well, OK, I'm the general manager now, I can do what I want,'" Luhnow said, semi-seriously.
It wasn't that easy. Luhnow went on to say he faced pushback on things like the shift in 2012 and 2013. In fact, the reason the Astros didn't shift more in 2013 was because of pitchers like Lucas Harrell banding together against it.
Most of the things talked about here don't provide huge rewards. Teams are all pretty smart and the margin for improvement is maybe smaller than that other 2 percent the Rays talked about years ago. Luhnow's comments illustrate the kind of roadblocks a team might face in implementing some more radical theories on the field.
Luhnow had never been a GM before taking over the Astros. There's got to be a learning curve for any job. You only hope he and the rest of his team have gotten better for the mistakes they've made. If not? The "softer side" may be Luhnow's undoing.
3) Projected wins through the months
After Trogdor's impressive blast gave Houston its 53rd victory of the season Tuesday, the Astros projected win total, via FanGraphs, rose to 69 wins. Here's a look at how many wins the Astros were projected to finish with at the end of each month.
March: 66.8 wins
April: 65.7 wins
May: 70.3 wins
June: 70.7 wins
July: 67.6 wins
Current: 68.9 wins
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Astros are on pace for 69 victories as well.
What does this mean? Well, for one, it means the Astros improvement this season isn't all that surprising. Before the season, projections had pegged the Astros as a 67-win team and right now, they're on pace to win 69 games. As you can see by the fluctuation in projected wins through the months, that can be variable based on hot and cold streaks, but overall, the team has been performing almost exactly like most projection systems said it would.
That's what is so perplexing over everyone saying the Astros are "on pace" for 100 losses or that the team could still lose 100 games. At no point in this season, even after a wretched April, was the team projected to win less than 62 games.
The only way they were "on pace for" 100 losses is if you use current winning percentage and extrapolate that out over the rest of the season. The danger with that, obviously, is that it doesn't take into account strength of schedule nor with how the team is actually performing both offensively and defensively.
Maybe people don't trust projections. But, as you can see, they're much more accurate than simple winning percentage can be. If Mattress Mack had paid attention to them, would he even have risked $6,200 worth of furniture?