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Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about the AL Wild Card Game pitching strategy, Marwin's timely hitting and the 2016 draft...

Some things to talk about while I unsurprisingly got Evan Gattis in this quiz...

1) AL Wild Card pitching strategy

Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron penned an article an hour or so after Monday's 3 Things came out on the AL Wild Card Game. His premise is that both teams should rely heavily on the bullpen.

Astros fans might disagree with that, seeing as Dallas Keuchel is starting on short rest. That's Cameron's problem, though. The history of aces pitching on short rest isn't good.

But even with that group containing only elite pitchers, the data shows that short-rest starters have generally performed pretty poorly in the postseason. At the very least, the Astros shouldn't count on Dallas Keuchel pitching like regular season Dallas Keuchel tomorrow, and he should be on a significantly shorter leash than he would be if he was working on regular rest. And that's without even considering the variables that should incentivize both the Astros and Yankees to turn tomorrow's contest into a battle of the bullpens.

Before his start on Friday, Keuchel made a point of saying how he's more comfortable pitching on normal rest. He's never pitched on short rest in his career. It's not a guarantee that he can come out tonight and be his usual dominant self.

But, maybe he doesn't need to be his usual dominant self for him to have an effective start. If the Astros aren't turning to the bullpen full-time tonight, maybe they will just limit Keuchel's exposure.

Think about it: knowing he's on short rest, the Astros could let Keuchel get through the Yankees lineup once or twice at the most. Get him through four innings. That's enough to dictate their lineup, forcing some of their regular lefties out of the lineup. Then, in the fourth or fifth, they turn things over to Mike Fiers for two quality innings.

At that point, they can go back to Tony Sipp if the matchups are good, work in Josh Fields or Will Harris and before you know it, they are in the eighth inning.

We expect Keuchel to be able to pitch deep in this game, but I'm sure the Astros have data on pitchers working on short rest. Don't be surprised if Keuchel has a shorter hook than usual tonight. It's probably for the best.

2) Marwin's timely hitting

Hey, you know who the most popular sneaky good Astro was from Monday? Marwin Gonzalez by far got the most shout-outs from commenters. He's done a good job this year and even got mentioned as a team MVP candidate mid-season by the broadcast team of Bill Brown and Alan Ashby. They did this unironically, too.

Marwin won't be anyone's idea of an MVP, but people pointed to his knack for big hits and his versatility in the field. We don't have good enough defensive metrics to measure a player like Marwin, so I won't make a point about that. What I will do is look at his actual contributions on the field in regards to "timely" hitting.

We have a good measure of how impactful his at-bats have been during the flow of a game. Win Probability Added (WPA) looks at how his results affected the outcome of a game. Here's a primer on the stat if you want some more information on it.

Basically,  a positive number means a player has increased his teams odds of winning a game and a negative number means he's been a detriment to those odds. By all the positive comments about Marwin's success this year, we'd assume his WPA would be one of the best on the team, right?

Not so fast, my friends. The WPA leader this season was Carlos Correa, unsurprisingly, followed by Jose Altuve and George Springer. Considering those are the three best players on this team, that's not a shock.

Yet, Marwin is much, much lower on the list. He's 26th overall at -0.63 WPA, below Jon Singleton, Chris Carter, Evan Gattis and even L.J. Hoes/Alex Presley/Robbie Grossman.

What's more, Jonathan Villar was ninth on the team in WPA at 0.11. But, there's an even better measure of player impact on the course of a game. FanGraphs takes WPA a step further, adding in Leverage Index to look at how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations. Mind you, there's not predictive power to this number. It's simply a look at which players have been the most "clutch" this season.

If your eyes told you Marwin came up big in big moments this year, he should have a high "Clutch" rating. Except, he's actually 23rd on the team in Clutch, behind Go-Go Gomez, Hank Conger, Jason Castro and Domingo Santana, to name a few.

The leader in Clutch will probably surprise you. It's Preston Tucker by a pretty big margin, followed by Jed Lowrie and...Jonathan Villar.

What does all that mean? Does it lessen the impact Marwin has had on this team? Not to me. It just means that the "eye test" fails over the course of a season. For a lot of reasons, bias creeps into our perceptions of players. We remember the good hits and forget the bat at-bats. We remember his good defensive plays and miss the times he couldn't get to a ball. He played well recently, so we remember that better than the times he struggled early.

The Astros probably have better measures for these things than we have publicly available. It does justify why the Astros went with Villar on the playoff roster over Marwin. That would look insane to many of you without context, but I think there's a pretty strong reason for it.

Does that mean Villar is the sneakiest good Astro of the year?

3) 2016 draft order set

It's a great feeling that this story hasn't gotten more play in Astros circles. With the official end of the 2015 regular season on Sunday, the 2016 draft order was set.

The Astros will pick 21st overall in the first round currently, barring any lost draft picks for free agent signings. They do not have any comp picks at this time.

The last time Houston's first pick was 21st overall was in 2009, when they took the immortal Jiovanni Mier (just before Mike Trout). Before that, the only time they've picked 21st overall came in 1990, when they selected Minnesota high school shortstop Tom Nevers as a comp pick.

Which means that we already know who the Astros will take 21st next summer: a high school shortstop. Book it!