Some things to talk about as soon as Craig Biggio looks like he auditioned for Miami Vice...
1) That throw by Bregman and fundamentals
My god. That throw and catch by Alex Bregman and Brian McCann will haunt my dreams, it was so beautiful. It was perfect and I can’t even wrap my head around how it was possible. Sure, Greg Bird is slower than an Emperor penguin with an egg perched on its feet. But still. That was amazing.
Listening to Brian McCann after the game, he couldn’t even explain how it happened. Lucky for us, Grant Brisbee did a better job of breaking that tremendous play down, so I don’t have to.
See, McCann was right. There was a good chance Houston’s two fielders wouldn’t have caught Bird at the plate. Everything did work out because Bregman is a genius and McCann an artist. But that play lived on a razor thin edge of existence.
On the flip side were so many plays where Houston exploited the Yankees’ defensive woes at the plate. Poor Gary Sanchez couldn’t make a play at the plate to save his life. Every throw that soared in bounced away from him in a new and more embarrassing way.
We don’t need to rehash it, but Altuve was practically still at second base when the ball hit Sanchez’ glove on the Mad Dash in Game 2. But, the Astros aggressiveness forced the Yankees to be perfect. Too often, Sanchez couldn’t walk that knife’s edge.
It’s something we’ve seen for years now from this Astros team. They’re very, very aggressive on the basepaths. That leads to some of the dumbest TOOTBLANs you’ll ever see, but it also leads to those pressure throws. I’m sure the Astros brain trust will tell you they’ve come out on top of the probabilities of those plays over the years, gaining more runs than they’ve lost.
It’s more than just the baserunning abandon, though. Houston also knew teams may test them just the same, because no advantage lasts in today’s baseball environment. So, they went out and got a right fielder with a terrific arm in Josh Reddick. They also moved George Springer to center, where he can show off his arm, while also playing Jake Marisnick out there (who has a cannon as well). When Marwin plays left, he’s not slouch, able to show off a former shortstop’s arm.
Brian McCann may not have been loved for his defense last offseason. His pitch framing left something to be desired and the rest of the catching metrics had him as below average behind the plate. But, he’s been very good this year on relays to home, especially in the playoffs. He sets up well and makes good tags. He, along with the rest of Houston’s defense, does what it can to minimize mistakes.
So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
2) Alex Cora gone to the Red Sox
One of the worst parts of being successful is that less successful teams try to raid you of your best parts. That appears to have happened, as Astros bench coach Alex Cora seemed destined to get one of the many managerial seats this winter.
On Sunday, the Boston Red Sox officially announced Cora will be their manager next year on a three-year deal. Cora just joined the Astros last winter as bench coach after Trey Hillman left the team.
Cora seemed destined to be a big league manager very soon. Most of the industry folks like klaw and Peter Gammons have been high on him for a while. His rapport with players and experience during the World Baseball Classic likely bolstered his resume even further.
If we give Uncle Carlos Beltran extra credit for being a “coach on the field,” then we also have to give Alex Cora credit for bringing Beltran into the fold. He may have just been a small reason why Beltran signed in Houston, but Beltran seems to have given more confidence to players like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. That counts for something.
Anyhow, it appears Cora will miss Beltran and Correa, judging by his Instagram post below. I wish him luck in Boston, just not in the playoffs against the Astros.
3) Marwin Gonzalez is the new Billy Spiers
Back in spring training, I wrote my first piece for the site in like a hundred years. Why? Because I wanted to link two of the more likable role players in Astros history. Mr. Gamebreaker was about to pass Billy Spiers for most games played by a utility man in team history.
Back then, Marwin needed 117 games played to pass Spiers for 35th on the club’s all-time games played list.
Then Marwin sort of exploded, going full Zobrist and easily topping that games mark while compiling the fourth-most fWAR of any Astros position player.
He also played six positions this year, which means he maintained his utility man charm while mashing the ball around the diamond. Did I mention he also threw out fools on the regular when he was in the outfield? He did and continued to do so in the playoffs.
So yes, I’d say the torch has been passed to Marwin as the king of the Astros utility men. Incidentally, he’s now 32nd in all-time games played, just behind Morgan Ensberg. If he has a relatively healthy 2018 season, he could move all the way up to 28th on the list, passing Hunter Pence, Derek Bell and Art Howe.