Some things to talk about while I smh at the people who don't consider Tuesday "the playoffs"...
1) Is Jose Altuve the best contact hitter in Astros history?
Boy, one of the weird things I miss about writing this every week is getting to talk about historical context. Now, the only historical context I get to talk about is the "space program" and "putting men on the moon." Boooooooo-ring.
The question above was posed to the TCB staff listserv a while back by me. It drew stony silence from everyone else, except clack, bless his soul. The reason I posed it was Jose Altuve had a chance to become the first Astros hitter to post multiple 200-hit seasons.
He reached that platform, barely, on Sunday. Even if we acknowledge the silliness of relying on round numbers, only Hall of Famer Craig Biggio had two seasons of 190 or more hits in team history. So, Altuve is certainly in some rarefied company.
Last season, Altuve was better with the bat. Considering he put up a season that only four other players had matched in MLB history, it was going to be hard to match.
He didn't quite have as impressive a season, but he did do some very cool things. Altuve's 15 home runs, 40 doubles, 30 steals and 200 hits put him on a list with just nine other players in MLB history. It was the first time since 2011 a player had that combination of counting stats, when Jacoby Ellsbury did it. Before that, it was Hanley Ramirez hitting the mark in 2007. Biggio did it himself in that MVP-level 1998 season, too.
Back to our main point, though. Is Altuve the best pure hitter in Astros history? Biggio probably has a claim on the title. Moises Alou probably does, too, seeing as he owns the team's career batting average lead. Altuve is second on that list, btw.
Of the guys ahead of Altuve on the Astros all-time hit list, you could maybe put Bob Watson and Jose Cruz up against Altuve with Derek Bell finding a spot, too. Every year, it gets harder and harder to make cases for guys like that over Altuve, though.
What do you think? Anyone who saw the old-timers play want to weigh in? Can Altuve swing it like Cheo? Is he a match for Moises? Will he ever catch Biggio?
2) FanGraphs playoff odds and projections
I love a good narrative as much as the next former sportswriter. They're fun because they form your opinions for you. Who needs to think critically when a beat writer or a sports talk host can tell you what to think?
So, it troubled me to find some holes in the narrative from the last two weeks that this Astros team "collapsed" into the postseason. That they may have barely survived, but they did it in the face of incredibly long FanGraphs odds that kept dwindling as the team fell into mediocrity.
First of all, that's not how stats work. Secondly, it misses the point of the FanGraphs odds.
See, part of those odds are the projected win totals and how they fit into the rest of the league. The Astros had an 80 percent chance of winning the division at the end of August not because they were going to win 95 games. It was because no one else in the division was expected to win 85.
That, too, is an exaggeration. Do you know what the Astros win total was projected to be back at the end of August?
88 wins. That's what go them those lofty playoff odds. They finished with two less wins than that. The Rangers finished with exactly 88 wins.
I will also point out that the Astros were tracking right around 88 wins for most of the season. It went up to 90 wins at some points, fell below 88 at others. Losing two games in the last month of the season isn't ideal. It shows that the team underperformed.
But, let's avoid characterizing this as a collapse. There have been bigger collapses in baseball history. Heck, there have been bigger collapses this year. Don't fall for that narrative. You're better than that.
3) Surprising Astros performer of the year
You, dear reader, are as smart and as knowledgable about baseball as anyone on these internets. You follow this team with gusto. You probably watch all the games, or as many as you can.
That makes you incredibly qualified to answer this question for me.
Which Astros player had the sneakiest good season this year?
My vote goes to Jake Marsinick, who fell off a cliff offensively (80 wRC+...yikes!), but who provided a ton of value defensively. In fact, he had enough defensive value to come within spitting distance of 2 fWAR, making him an everyday-caliber player.
That's slightly insane, especially when you consider how primitive our defensive metrics must seem now that teams have StatCast and TrackMan to play around with. I have a feeling that Marisnick owns his place as one of the best five players on this team this year.
That makes him sneaky good to me. What about you? Who showed surprising value this year, for whatever reason? Did Conger's zombie robot this weekend make up for all those terrible, terrible throws to second base? Did Marwin's versatility make him the linchpin of this team's bench? Did Colin McHugh turn in a sneaky good season on the mound?