Some things to talk about while we notice that three of the four division series went five games...
1) Positive history
Something no one talked about after the Astros loss on Monday?
It wasn't that historic.
In 2004, the Astros hosted the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS with a 2-1 lead in Game 4. Houston jumped out to a 5-2 lead and held that until the sixth inning, when the Braves scored three runs off the Astros bullpen. They scored another run in the top of the ninth to take the victory and send the series back to Atlanta.
Sure, Chad Qualls was the author of that disaster, but he's not around to hurt you any more, Astros fans. He got left off this ALDS roster.
You probably know what happened in Game 5. The Astros smacked the crap out of the Braves 12-3 behind Roy Oswalt and home runs by Carlos Beltran and Jeff Bagwell.
That 2004 Astros team could have been afflicted by the "Houston Sports Curse." They had never won a playoff series before that year and were facing a Braves team that had beaten them three times in the previous four trips to the postseason.
It didn't matter.
Just like Houston's Game 4 loss this year won't matter tonight.
2) Colby Rasmus and money
Not to bring up more of the money debate from Anthony's article on Jim Crane from Tuesday, but this story from SB Nation's Orioles site on Colby Rasmus was interesting in that light.
Mark Brown makes the point that the O's let Rasmus go to the Astros over a million dollars. By passing on him, they didn't shore up left field, which turned out to be one of the weakest positions in the majors. Here's the kicker.
The Orioles front office does not have an infinite budget. Surely they had their reasons for sticking to their guns on Rasmus at $7 million. But the thing about free agents, especially on one year contracts, is that even the bad or meh signings only cost money for a year. It's a whole lot easier for a baseball team to get more money than it is for the team to get more pitching prospects. That doesn't mean sign anybody for any cost. Missing out on a player for the sake of a small amount of money is not something they can afford to do.
Now, Colby Rasmus will get paid this winter. It's a little outlandish to suggest his postseason run is making him more money. Teams don't pay players like that any more. He'll get a multi-year deal from someone with an average annual value more than his $8 million this year.
But, it's worth noting that Jim Crane didn't let a million scare the Astros off from signing Rasmus. They invested in him late and they beat out another team to sign him. It's not a huge deal, but it's significant.
Which also fits into a point Anthony made in the comments. It's not about how much money the Astros spend, it's where they spend it. When they've had opportunities to improve the talent on this club, they've done it. That's all you can ask from an owner.
3) Collin McHugh's cutter
When we talk about Collin McHugh's success, it's usually involving pitch tunnelling. That fastball and curve break so late, it's hard to differentiate.
Then, we noticed that his best strikeout pitch may be his slider, which he can throw as a nice changeup to his fastball/curve combo.
But, McHugh also brought up his cutter as a weapon he's used quite effectively. This FanGraphs article talks about its evolution, how he uses it and why it's effective.
It's a fascinating read. For instance:
He started throwing the four-seam more, and not only because the sinker wasn't sinking. "Make it look as fast as possible," he said of his newer fastball philosophy. "Work it up-down. A fastball down, the perceived velocity is slower than a fastball up. A fastball moving, the perceived velocity is slower than a straight fastball. When I'm trying to throw sinkers down, my 89-91 mph looked — especially to a lefty — like 85-87 mph."
Effective velocity, y'all.
McHugh has been a bright spot since he joined this team. No one expected him to be as good as he was last year. No one expected him to have a second straight season like he did. When he struggled early, no one expected him to bounce back and be a rotation mainstay in the playoffs.
He's defied expectations at every point and proven how effective this front office can be at player evaluation.
If he wins tonight in Kansas City, he'll defy expectations of a different kind. He'll also do it because of that curve, that slider and that cutter.