The Pallilog

Astros still clicking along at a strong pace plus news on Keuchel, NBA Finals and Carson Wentz

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Just what the Astros wanted before a long flight home: a 14 inning five hour six minute game Thursday in Seattle. They won it, though If Justin Verlander finishes this season as a 19 game winner, Thursday's no-decision will be one to really rue. A.J. Hinch lifted Verlander after six and a third innings and just 94 pitches with the Astros leading 5-1. Will Harris, Ryan Pressly, and Roberto Osuna have all been excellent overall this season but they all failed and gave up runs as the Astros blew the lead. The first of the three earned runs charged to Verlander was tainted. In the bottom of the first with two out and nobody on Jake Marisnick and Michael Brantley combined to botch a routine fly ball which they let drop for a bogus double. A looping single by the next batter delivered the run.

No doubt Verlander would have preferred to stay in the game when hooked, but it wasn't an awful Hinch move. With the Astros a virtual postseason lock Hinch is rightfully mindful of the long game. In his prior start Verlander threw a season high 114 pitches. Conserving some pitches in Verlander's 36 year old arm from time to time is sensible. Under the same game circumstances in October, there is basically no chance Hinch takes out Verlander when he did Thursday.

The Astros certainly are not a flawless team and when the playoffs get here any opponent they face will be capable of beating them, but it seems as though the Astros are basically toying with the American League. Altuve out, Springer out, Correa out, and the Astros complete a 6-1 road trip to Oakland and Seattle. The A's are decent, the Mariners are horrible.

Just about 40 percent through the regular season the Astros are 43-21. En route to winning a franchise record 103 games last season, the Astros were 39-25 after 64 games.

Magic number

40 years ago (41 actually) Meat Loaf released "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." In Major League Baseball, winning two out of three on a regular basis is fantastic. Do it over a full season and a team wins 108 games. That's how many the Astros are on pace to win this year. For American League teams the regular season schedule expanded to 162 games in 1961, when expansion grew the AL to 10 teams. The National League went to 162 the next year, when the Colt 45s and New York Mets started play. So that's nearly 60 years of the 162 game schedule. Only eight teams have won as many as 108 games. For what it's worth, six of the eight won the World Series.

The Baltimore Orioles own two of those 108 win seasons, posting them back-to-back. The 1969 Orioles won 109 games but lost the World Series to the Miracle Mets. In 1970 the O's won 108 and did win the Series. These days the Orioles are a joke. Last season they finished 47-115. They're not pacing much better this season at 19-43. The Astros should whip up on them this weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel finds a home

Dallas Keuchel to the Atlanta Braves. He should be a good fit. Not knowing the market for his services would crash, Keuchel passed on a 17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros, then on a reported 15 mil offer from them this spring. Keuchel will make 13 mil from the Braves (pro rata from a 20 million dollar annualized salary) then be a free agent again. No pity party is necessary but Keuchel and agent Scott Boras began free agency seeking 150 mil. They overshot the runaway a bit.

On the NBA

With the champions injury-addled, the NBA title is there for the Toronto Raptors' taking. Up two wins to one the Raptors face a still Kevin Durant-less Golden State squad in game four Friday night. Klay Thompson gives it a go after missing game three with a hamstring strain. If Thompson can't make a meaningful contribution the Raptors should win again and then have a chance to win the championship in Toronto Monday night.

The one year attendance ban imposed on the rich turd Warriors' minority owner who pushed Raptor guard Kyle Lowry along the sideline Wednesday night seems fair. It wasn't assault but it was a way beyond unacceptable jackass move.

Big deal for Wentz

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz is three seasons into his NFL career, the last two of which included season ending injuries. The Eagles have agreed with Wentz on a four year $128 million dollar contract extension, $107 million guaranteed. 107! The clock ticks on the Texans as Deshaun Watson enters the third season of his career on a bargain contract.

Buzzer beaters

1. The Rockets have refreshed their secondary logo and are tweaking their uniforms. That's some nice sizzle. We'll see about the steak after the offseason. 2. Five games played in this year's Stanley Cup Final, four have been phenomenal. 3. Best Robert Redford movies: Bronze-All The President's Men Silver-The Natural Gold-The Sting

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A curious thing might be happening with the Texans. This year's third round pick, Kahale Warring, has barely played in camp due to injuries and is in danger of being stashed on IR for the season. One of last year's third round picks, Martinas Rankin, may be in danger of not making the roster. The 2017 third rounder D'Onta Foreman was cut earlier in camp. While historically the Texans have been terrible picking in the third round, just taking a look at the Bill O'Brien years makes for some surprising results.

Keep in mind that these numbers are very fluid. Everyone has different criteria for what makes a hit or a miss. But let's dive in and see how the Texans have done.

By the numbers

First, let's take a look at the historical success rate by position of third round picks in the NFL. "Success rate" means the player became a functional NFL starter, which you would expect from most players selected in the third round.

The numbers:

3rd Round - OL (40%) TE (39%) LB (34%) DL (27%) WR (25%) DB (24%) QB (17%) RB (16%)

(Source: Arrowheadsports.com)

Now the Texans

Bill O'Brien has been around since the 2014 draft, so that is where we will focus. Let's look at the third round picks:

2014: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Louis Nix DT. Nix was a complete bust; C.J. developed into a decent tight end before concussions prematurely ended his career. Still, you could reluctantly call him a hit. Nix is a clear miss.

2015: Jalen Strong, WR. Complete miss.

2016: Braxton Miller, WR. He at least saw some action on the field before being cut but another big miss.

2017: D'Onta Foreman, RB. Cut in camp this year, so another complete whiff.

2018: Justin Reid, S, Martinas Rankin, OL, Jordan Akins, TE.

Reid has all the ear markings of a perennial Pro Bowler. Akins has emerged as a decent threat in a crowded tight end room. Rankin, as mentioned earlier, might not make the team. So two hits and for now Rankin is a miss. We won't look at 2019 yet, but the Warring pick - questionable at the time - could easily be another clunker, but we may not know until next year. What happens to those two over the next few years will help add clarity to these numbers.

Is it as bad as it looks?

So overall, with nine third-round picks in the O'Brien era, the Texans have three hits, five misses (if you count Rankin) and an incomplete.

The positives? They are batting 1.000 on tight ends (pending Warring) and safety. They are zero percent on OL, RB and WR.

The overall hit rate is .375. In a given year, NFL starters from the second and third round combined make up roughly 30 percent of the league. Even if you count Fiedorowicz as a bust, they are still at almost 29 percent out of the third round, which would be above the league average, according to a Forbes study from the 2014 season. While that number varies year to year, it is likely no more than a few percentage points. So about average.

Throw in the second round picks, where Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Nick Martin have all become starters with one glaring bust - Xavier Sua'Filo - and they are hitting at 75 percent in the second round, 66 percent overall in rounds 2-3. Now you could argue Martin is not a good player, but he has been a starter pretty much since Day 1. Even taking him out, that is still 55 percent. Again, the bust is glaring in Sua'Filo, which makes it look a lot worse.

The good news

The narrative is the Texans tend to nail their first round picks. According to the Riot Report, first rounders only hit at a 53 percent rate for a player to become a consistent starter over five years.

Again, looking at the O'Brien era only, the top picks have been Jadeveon Clowney, Will Fuller, Kevin Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Titus Howard. Eliminating Howard since it is too early, Clowney and Watson are clear hits; Fuller is a good player who can never stay healthy. If he does, he could be a key contributor but that remains to be seen. Still, he is an NFL starter so give him a hit, even if it is incomplete. Johnson was a disaster and is gone. If you give them Fuller, that is still 75 percent, well above the league average. If you don't count Fuller, they are right at the league average, slightly below. Again, all of this is specific to the O'Brien era.

What does it all mean?

The third round misses have been high profile, colossal mistakes, which makes it look worse. Foreman was supposed to develop into a home run threat on offense. Miller was a high profile project. The team traded up to get Strong. Nix never made it to the field. But overall, the results are about on par with the rest of the league, even above average. Those were not the results I expected when I started this article. But there is also no way to quantify players who hung around and contributed but were never really "hits" or "misses." The Texans misses were clear, as they are no longer on the roster.

Which brings us to Duke Johnson

While many have been critical of the Texans for giving up a third to get Duke Johnson, it makes a lot of sense. You are getting a proven NFL player with starting capabilities for a pick that hits less than 30 percent of the time. While building through the draft is important, it also goes to show that most teams and fans greatly overvalue draft picks. And most picks are like buying new cars - the value goes down as soon as you get them off the lot. Johnson should provide a much surer thing than a third-rounder.

The bottom line

As with most things, when it comes to drafting, the Texans are about average. The third round busts look bad relative to expectations, but overall the number of hits is about where the league is. They probably aren't as good in the first round as the perception. Obviously good teams do better than than average, bad ones do much worse, but as with most things, the Texans aren't bad at drafting high-round picks.

They are just mediocre, a staple of the organization since its inception.

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