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Friday's Three Astros Things

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Talking about, uh, er, umm, something?

Some things to talk about while I thought we had a deal that I was only writing these when the Astros were in the playoffs. Why are you still making me do these, Ryan? Why?

1) Uh...

I mean. What do you write about now?

That loss sucked. I spent two days being a cheerleader for optimism and they dad-gum lost. Am I just supposed to take a big loss in front of everyone? Am I supposed to admit I'm wrong? If I don't do that with my wife, I'm sure as heck not doing it on TCB.

What to write...

What to write...

Oh, hey!

Thanks, Alyson!

Houston's been largely linked to a prominent closer on the market last summer. No, not the impending free agent. The one on the team run by a crazy person.

Yet, Footer brings up a great point. How much of a difference is there between Storen and Kimbrel? Is it worth the difference in price?

Well, we know numbers don't matter much to the Astros. I mean, the days when they're evaluating players by FIP or ERA or K rate or any of that nonsense left 10 years ago. Haha, not really. They left with Ed Wade, silly.

Still, there is a good way to evaluate them that the Astros may, kinda, sorta use. Exit velocity. You think it's an accident the Astros have collected pitchers in the past few years who give up some of the weakest exit velocities in baseball? Or that they have Trackman cameras throughout the minor leagues?

Evaluation methods have changed, is what I'm saying. Keep up or get out of the way.

At any rate, we have some exit velocity data thanks to Daren Willman's excellent site, Baseball Savant. There, we can see that Kimbrel gave up an average exit velocity of 91.4 mph on his four-seam fastball this year. Storen threw more pitches, but also had a 91.3 mph exit velocity on his four-seamer.

The difference is that Kimbrel worked off two pitches for the most part. At least, he only gave up balls in play off two pitches. Storen had hits off four different pitches by this measure. Judging by the results, he might want to junk his sinker. He gave up an exit velocity of 93 mph with that and was under 90 mph with his off-speed pitches.

There is a difference in velocity between the two. Kimbrel sits about 1.5 mph higher than Storen with his four-seamer. I don't know how much that matters to valuing them, but it's out there.

The problem is that Storen is also one year removed from free agency. He's also unhappy after that Papelboner of a trade, which could mitigate the loss of years of control.

Kimbrel is probably the main target, but Storen would be a nice runner-up prize.

2) Er...

Wait, I have to write more? Who came up with this cockamamie idea for an article? I blame Ryan. Or Tim.

Sigh.

What else?

What else?

Hey, thanks Jeff Blogwell! This is a very good tweet.

I just have nothing to add.

Wait, another tweet in to save me.

Thanks, Morgan! Appreciate you listening to the show.

It's really funny. People criticized Hinch down the stretch for a lot of reasons. Most of that was the usual fan griping about whoever is in charge of their favorite team. That's natural and expected.

But, the ones who suggested the Astros would be better off with Bo Porter at the helm are missing why this team was so special.

A.J. Hinch ran under the radar for most of the year. He wasn't brash. He wasn't engaging like Bill O'Brien on Hard Knocks. He wasn't self-deprecating like Jeff Van Gundy. He was bland.

Except, behind the scenes, he created a culture that allowed this Astros team to thrive. It accepted all manner of player, including ones from the National League, ones from the great frozen north and ones from the minor leagues. All got equal status.

When Jed Lowrie got hurt and lost his job to Carlos Correa, you didn't hear a peep from the clubhouse. When Chris Carter lost time because he was in a slump, you didn't hear a word. When Jake Marisnick was displaced thanks to the Carlos Gomez trade, the team kept chugging along.

Think about that.

Carlos Gomez may be one of the most polarizing players in baseball. He came in and the Astros team chemistry just got stronger.

I don't know how important it is and it's not something you quantify, but A.J. Hinch did that. We saw a brief glimpse of it at the end of the season in his speech to the team. It was the most engaging we've seen Hinch be all year. That was on purpose, I think.

All of that is also exactly the opposite of Bo Porter, who called out his players to the media, who tried to motivate them with tactics that got back to the media and who just didn't get that being a baseball manager was different than being a football coach.

Bo Porter is a fine man and could be a fine manager someday. He was a bad fit for that team. Under him, you had players badmouthing the team to the media. You had players complaining about a minor leaguer throwing a bullpen session at Minute Maid Park. You had dissent.

Losing could do that. Hinch didn't have to go through a bad season.

But, Porter didn't help. Hinch did. He created a culture where these Astros could thrive. And he deserves plenty of credit for it.

3) Hmm...

Ugh. Still more?

Fine.

I'll do it.

I'll finally talk about that stupid game. Game 5. The worst. Those dumb, smug Royal bastards won and I hate them and all they stand for.

I am not alone, as Rany Jazayerli talks about over at my favorite site that may be dead and not even know it. In his piece, he runs down some painful moments from Games 4 and 5. Don't read it if it's too painful for you to reminisce this soon.

But, he hits the nail on the absolute head with this passage.What the Royals have done over the last year-plus is almost Cardinals-esque.

Like the Cardinals, they aren't dead until you've driven the stake through their heart — before these Royals, the Cardinals were the kings of the unlikely comeback, like Game 5 of the NLDS in 2012 (coming back from 6-0 down to eliminate the Nationals) or even Game 5 of the NLCS in 2005 (the Albert Pujols-off-Brad Lidge game).

Like the Cardinals (who devastated the 2011 Brewers, 2012 Nationals, 2013 Pirates, and 2013 and 2014 Dodgers), the Royals have crushed the dreams of some long-suffering fan bases along the way. Last year the Royals' wild-card comeback devastated an Oakland A's team that had gone all in to win now. In the ALCS, they would sweep the Orioles, who had gone longer without a championship than the Royals have and hadn't played in the ALCS since 1997. And now they've eliminated the Astros, who hadn't been to the playoffs in almost a decade, were the worst team in baseball just two years ago, and will now spend the winter lamenting the game that got away instead of celebrating a season in which they arrived faster than anyone thought they would.

And like the Cardinals, the Royals are rapidly reaching the point where fans of other teams are frankly tired of their success and would like nothing more than for them to exit the playoff scene as expeditiously as possible.

The Royals are now the Cobra Kai. I'm happy to root against them for the rest of eternity, or until Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain and the rest of those goons leave for the greener pastures of Yankee Stadium.

The playoff still have meaning, see. We can all root for this horrible Royals team to lose in excruciating fashion. I just hope Jose Bautista's bat flips don't drive them too crazy. That would be such a shame.

* As a side note, as hard as this article was to write, I find I still quite like doing it. I can't guarantee 3 Things articles all the time, but I'll try to contribute more than I did from May until the playoffs started. Now let's go argue about how the Astros should spend all that money they're supposed to have. Yay offseason!