Every season, football gets in the Astros way. At least, that's how it is for high school sportswriters like me. Between season previews, practice reports and everything in between, my time spent actually writing on baseball dips quite a bit.
That leaves plenty of crazy thoughts ping-ponging around my head without a way to get out. Thus, this column is born as a way to excise all those half-formed ideas in semi-coherence. Please, bear with TCB during these trying times.
- Only thing more fun than beating the crap out of the Rangers this season? Beating the bejeezus out of the Yankees. These last two games have been very, very fun.
- We know Jose Altuve is a brilliant hitter. He's projected to finish with a .331 batting average and 217 hits. He will crush the Astros single-season record in that case and finish with one of the highest batting averages in team history. His strikeout rate is an absurdly low 7 percent and shows no signs of increasing. So, what kind of hitter is he?
- His coaches rave about his hand-eye coordination, but no one speaks about him in the same way they did about truly special hitters. The Tony Gwynns or George Bretts were seen as terrific pure hitters and stories of Gwynn are legion on his hitting prowess, eye sight and feel for the craft. That's not Altuve, yet. You know who he profiles, statistically, most closely to? Ichiro. The power was similar. The steals were there. The walks were few as were the strikeouts.
- I'll take the second coming of Ichiro all day long.
- What about Altuve's defense? His range and plays made have been bad, pretty much for his entire career. We keep expecting it to improve, but it never does. One thing he does excel at is turning double plays. He's a master of the quick flip and that shows up. The difference between very good second baseman at this and average to below-average ones, though isn't very much. Altuve's only been worth four runs in this area over the past two season, according to DRS. The best player in 2014 (Jonathan Schoop) has been worth 4 runs. The worst is minus-3. Just not a lot of marginal value in that particular defensive skill.
- Marc Normandin's ballpark food series has been genius. But, that three-pound banana split sundae? No, thanks. Not a fan of half the stuff in there, even though I'm a huge fan of ice cream in novelty batting helmets.
- One of the reasons why I wasn't worried about Jake Marisnick's sub-par effort in the majors before being traded to the Astros is this passage from John Sickel's article on Jackie Bradley:
- ***One frequent comp for Bradley pre-season was Mike Cameron. Interestingly, Cameron himself had a horrible go early in his big league career, hitting just .210/.285/.336 with 37 walks and 101 strikeouts in 443 plate appearances at age 25 for a wRC+ of 64. That is very similar to what Bradley has done so far. Cameron improved a great deal from that point and became the .250ish hitter with power, speed, and defense that Bradley could still become.
- The number of major league players who struggled early in their careers is large. The number who still turned into productive hitters is smaller, but still large. Marisnick likely won't hit as well as he's doing right now, but he'll be better than he showed with the Marlins.
- Former Astros reliever John Hudek's daughter Sarah plays baseball at George Ranch in Richmond. Sarah is not only trying out for the USA Baseball women's team, but recently committed to play collegiate baseball at Bossier Parish Community College. The younger Hudek's fastball tops out at 81 but her breaking stuff is ungodly. Happy to see her get a chance at the next level.
- Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh in the Fan Cave. Priceless.That beard of Keuchel's is glorious.
- Since 2000, only one Astro's fastball has been faster than Mike Foltynewicz's 97 mph average this season. That was Billy Wagner in 2002 and 2003. No. 4 on the list? Dennis Sarfate in 2007. Give yourself a pat on the back if you remembered Sarfate.
- Think about how lousy the Mets system is with good pitchers. Guys like Collin McHugh get cast off. Guys like Jacob DeGrom show up out of nowhere. Matt Harvey is joined by 15 other young pitchers in that rotation. I'm guessing that's what Jeff Luhnow envisions for the Astros system. Guys popping up out of the blue, like Joe Musgrove or Jordan Jankowski.
- The downside of such depth is making mistakes on player evaluation. You think the Mets would like McHugh back? Of course, he might not have made the necessary pitch tunneling adjustments to be effective in New York (or Colorado). Every organization can make mistakes in evaluation. The key is being right on enough other evaluations that it's not a big deal.
- Sad to see Garrett Richards get injured like he did last night. He was the scariest pitcher on the Angels staff this season and had been all year. He deserves some Cy Young consideration, but will get beaten out by Felix Hernandez and other, non-injured guys.
- My last thought is on Alex Gordon. Has a player ever gone from overrated to bust to underrated to MVP candidate? Gordon was the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft out of Nebraska. He was a Golden Spikes guy and was supposed to be a cornerstone of the Royals lineup. But, guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Andew McCutcheon were all drafted behind him.
- My question with Gordon is this: should the Royals be happy with the value he's provided? He's one of the five most productive players in the '05 draft, according to bbWAR. If the Astros ended up with a player like Gordon at the No. 2 spot in the 2015 draft, will you be happy? Or, will there always be a lingering sense of him not living quite up to those expectations?