Tuesday Morning Cram Session, 8/21

I should have discussed this yesterday, but I don’t understand what firing Brad Mills at this point gets the Astros.  No, Mills didn’t win in Houston (in fact, he finishes with the 10th worst winning percentage in baseball history among managers with three seasons in) and he certainly didn’t do anything to deserve to keep his job, but it’s an absolute fact that John McGraw himself couldn’t win with this version of the Astros.  And while he may not have done anything to warrent keeping his job, he similarly never seemed to commit a fireable offense.

Under his watch, Jose Altuve, Justin Maxwell, and Jed Lowrie have all blossomed into quality Major Leaguers.  So has Lucas Harrell.  He hasn’t complained publicly as Jeff Lunhow dealt away Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Mark Melancon, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Carlos Lee, Chris Johnson, JA Happ, Brandon Lyon, and more.  Instead, he’s been a good soldier, taking bullet after bullet with the understanding that the Astros were positioning to make themselves better in the long run.

Now, it’s not like the Astros owe Mills a chance to see this through.  He’s clearly a wartime consigliari, with the understanding that peace is coming to Houston eventually.  And if Jeff Lunhow wants to find the guy who was going to helm the true rebuild this offseason, I really couldn’t blame him.  But it’s hard to see what kind of purpose dismissing Mills at this point serves.  It doesn’t really give him any more additional time to look for work in 2013, and it doesn’t provide the Astros with any additional stability in 2012, given that their interim guy Tony DeFrancesco is clearly not sticking around (what with his hope that they make more seasons of The Sopranos to be an extra in).  It also doesn’t help the Astros get any more of a jumpstart on interviewing candidates, given that most of the guys they’ll probably want to interview will be under contract at least through September.

Indeed, unless something happened behind the scenes that has not been leaked (and if that’s the case, bravo to Lunhow and his team for running a tight ship), it’s not at all clear what the Astros accomplished here.  All it seemed to do was create more confusion around a franchise that is trying desperately to elevate itself above “laughing stock” status.

Pitcher of the Night: Madison Bumgarner, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 K, 0 R
Guys like Bumgarner, who struggle with their velocity, find it again, and go on to become one of the best pitchers in the game, give me hope for pitchers like Brian Matusz.  And then I remember that Bumgarner is still only 23 and is two years younger and I’m flabbergasted.  Since the All Star break, Bumgarner has had 8 starts, thrown 5 innings, struck out 61 batters and has a 1.93 ERA.

Hitter of the Night: Giancarlo Stanton, 2-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI
God, what a monster.  In 12 starts, Stanton has 7 homers and is hitting .313/.346/.833 with 9 runs and 15 RBI.  At this rate, he’ll be bumping up against 100 career homers as a 22 year old by the end of the year.  This was one of the hardest hit baseballs I’ve ever seen:

Play of the Night: Adam Rosales

This is probably Rosales’s last great play as the starting shortstop for the A’s, since Billy Beane went out and got Stephen Drew last night in a very low-cost deal.

Elvis Andrus

But don’t worry, because Elvis will still be around making ridonkulous throws like this one from short left field.

Clayton Kershaw

Eight very strong innings and a tough luck loss, but he gets an A for effort:

Injuries of Note: Carl Crawford, Shattered hopes and dreams (and Tommy John surgery)

Well, he played for a month, hit .282/.306/.479, and now is gone for the TJ surgery that everyone knew he had to have.  Why the Red Sox would have hemmed and hawed now about him getting the procedure done is beyond me, but they seem to have finally come to the conclusion that 7 games out with 40 games to play and four teams ahead of them was too much to overcome.  This offseason should be fun in Boston.  I’ll bring the popcorn.

Ephemera:

Yankees: Derek Jeter, 4-5, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI

Captain Jetes is now tied with Eddie Murray for the 12th most hits in baseball history.  He is 28 behind Willie Mays with 40 games to play. And he’s hitting .326/.367/.442 on the year.

Phillies: Erik Kratz, 2-2, HR, 2 RBI, BB
Huh?  Where did this guy come from?  Since Chooch went down, Kratz has started 15 of 31 games for the Phillies and has hit .296/.381/.685 with 5 homers in 63 plate appearances.  After 11 seasons in the minors, Kratz is getting his first real shot and is making the most of it, and has probably earned his back-up catcher union card by now, so we’ll be seeing him around for another 8 years or so.

Rockies: Alex White, 4 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 R
Since returning from Colorado Springs to start August, Alex White has looked like a completely different pitcher, with a 3.38 ERA in five (abreviated) starts.  But don’t let that fool you too much, as White still has 13 walks in that time frame against 15 Ks.  Of course, it must be nice to know that, regardless, White has singlehandedly outperformed Ubaldo Jimenez this year.

Rays: Jeremy Hellickson, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 R
As the season has worn on, I’ve become more and more interested in pitchers who fight DIPS and seem to be winning.  Hellickson is definitely THE prime example of that, with a career BABIP of .241, which is a single point off the record held by Andy Messersmith for starting pitchers with more than 300 IP (post 1947).  His true talent probably lies somewhere in the .260-range, but think about that for a minute.  That’s still roughly 35-40 points below what we’d expect from a normal pitcher.  If that is indeed a skill (and Hellickson’s making a good case for it), don’t you wonder what the secret is and if it’s something that can be taught?

Rangers: Ryan Dempster, 8 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 R
Dempster finally comes through with a good start as a Ranger, ending a relatively ugly span for him.  Or at least that’s the narrative that’s going to play out.  Either way, it’s not going to matter much to Texas much, given they’re virtually assured of making the postseason.

Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy, 2-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB
Boy, life’s just not fair sometimes.  Lucroy’s clicking along, establishing himself as one of the game’s top young catchers, and he breaks his hand.  These are his 2nd and 3rd homers simce coming off the DL almost a month ago.

White Sox: Adam Dunn, 1-3, HR, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, K
God, I love Adam Dunn.  For those keeping track, that’s five plate appearances, four of which resulted in one of the three true outcomes.  That’s 300 total Ks, BBs, and HRs in 521 PAs, or 57.6% of the total.  He leads all of the Majors in all three categories.  He’s fun.

Nationals: Bullpen, 8 IP, 4 H, 6 BB, 6 K, 0 R
It was a team effort when Jordan Zimmermann uncharacteristically went out early.  Looking down the line at the ERAs of the guys the Nats were able to throw out there is kind of awe inspiring.  The worst of the bunch is Drew Storen, and he saved 43 games last year.

Mariners: Michael Saunders, 3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI
While the ship’s sailed on Saunders ever living up to his full promise (he was once the #30 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, it’s at least a little gratifying that Saunders has managed to turn himself into a legitimate Major Leaguer after several false starts to his career.   Aside from John Jaso, he’s probably been best or second best hitter on a terrible offensive Mariners team. Saunders now has five hits and three homers in his last two games.

Padres: Edinson Volquez, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 1 R
Volquez has to be pissed that Sam Deduno has set a new bar for how wild you can be and still be a legitamite MLB pitcher.  This would be a fun battle to watch play out in the box scores, but if those two ever faced each other, I’d gouge out my own eyes and puncture my eardurms to keep from being infected by that much suckiness.

Twins: Pedro Florimon, 3-3, 3 R, BB, SB
I cannot wait for Twins fans and writers (who should at least know better by now) to fall all over themselves to annoint the .500/.571/.750 hitting Florimon the “next big thing” and the solution to the club’s long term SS problems. It’s going to happen, especially as people struggle to get excited about this increasingly terrible club.  Florimon has a career .249/.321/.354 line in the minors and is already 25.

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