Some things to talk about while I try to pretend this feature hasn't gone woefully dark this summer...
1) More thoughts on defense
Have you seen what Jarred Cosart's doing in Miami? He's been pitching fine, but the transition to a winning team has also loosened his lips. He's talking quite a bit and recently called attention to himself by claiming that new teammate Adeiny Hechevarria is the best defensive shortstop in the league.
FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan has a thought-provoking piece about the whole disconnect. In it, he talks about how all of the Marlins brass apparently feels the same way about Hechevarria's defense, despite overwhelming evidence in opposition. The key point (and the one that brings it home to Houston) is this:
I think two statements could be true:
1. Adeiny Hechavarria has elite-level talent
2. Adeiny Hechavarria has yet to put together an elite-level performance
These are basically just guesses on my part, but it's the best explanation I can come up with for why the Marlins and everyone and everything else seem to disagree. I think the Marlins are aware of Hechavarria's tools, and they've seen how good he could be at his best. I think they subconsciously brush aside when he's not at his best, because an individual throwing error can be a fluke, and an individual misstep can be a fluke, and individual flukes are anomalous lapses. Those lapses pile up and over enough time they start to reflect skill, but none of them reflect skill quite like Hechavarria tracking that pop-up behind second base. How could a player who does that not be outstanding?
Does this remind you of anyone? Maybe a possible September call-up by the Astros whose name rhymes with Bronathan Pillar?
It gets at the very core of many people's problems with current defensive metrics. In order to get accurate data on defense, there has to be more than one season's worth of innings. In order to get a scout's take on a player's tools, all it takes is less than nine innings of one game.
In between lies a lot of the gray area at the heart of these debates this year. Alex Gordon has looked outstanding in left field for a while, by the numbers. Does he do anything to wow the eyes out there? Jonathan Villar make spectacular play after spectacular play at short, but can't consistently make enough of normal ones to hold down the spot.
Much of this could get fixed if we get more sophisticated ways of tracking players. Don't you doubt for a second that the Astros aren't already doing this with their Trackman stuff. They're ahead of any defensive metric we can see publicly.
They know better than we do whether Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler and Matt Dominguez are truly bad defenders or if there's somewhat better than that. They know how good Jake Marisnick looks and how he rates compared to the rest of the league.
At least, they may know. Because, with defense, it's really hard to tell without a ton of data. It's much easier to let your eyes deceive you.
2) FanGraphs Astros goodness
FanGraphs' David Laurilia also has some great notes on both Jeff Luhnow and pitching coach Brent Strom in this column. In it, Luhnow talks about his approach to an organizational philosophy, with this very encouraging quote about Carlos Correa:
"We've taken the approach of working with everyone and demonstrating," said Luhnow. "We're giving examples and showing the results. Our hitting and pitching coordinators meet with the players and talk about why we're doing things. For instance, Carlos Correa knows exactly why we're doing the things we're doing with the infield. When he gets to Houston he's going to be able to turn double plays from the second base side, even though he's a shortstop, and he's going to understand why he was positioned where he was."
In the next section, Brent Strom drops some pitching knowledge, including thoughts on the Firebreathing Folty Fastball.
"Collin McHugh‘s 91-mph fastball plays very well because he has great extension." Strom told me. "By extension I mean he's close to home plate at release. Foltynewicz doesn't have that right now. He may throw 100, but it doesn't play as well as some other pitcher's velocity. We found that with a young man we had when I was in St. Louis. Maikel Cleto threw 100 and he's been traded [or claimed on waivers] four or five times.
"That radar gun is just a number. I've always believed hitters hit what they see or what they don't see. There are certain guys whose fastballs play better than what the velocity reads and there are certain guys whose fastballs don't play as well as the velocity reads. If Foltynewicz can get better extension throwing with that velocity, then we're going to have something special."
Both sections are worth your time.
3) Social Media Night
Finally, let's plug the latest Houston craze. That's right, it's Social Media Night time.
The Astros are hosting a pretty cool experience for fans who like using Twitter, Facebook and places like this site to follow the game. They'll be giving out a cool, customizable shirt for the event and players and front office peeps will stop by. Heck, you might even get to see Fastballs there, if you're lucky.
Tickets are still available for Wednesday evening's event. Our own Ryan Dunsmore, Terri Schlather and possibly more TCB staffers will be there. So, come out and engage in the Social Media Night fun. Oh, and help the Astros beat down the dastardly A's while your at it.