THE PALLILOG

Looks like Astros GM just received some important trade market clarity

Looks like Astros GM just received some important trade market clarity
The Astros could use a left-handed bat. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
Astros young guns making a statement with superstar players on the mend

The Astros are in a very good place heading toward the All-Star break, with the two huge caveats being the health of Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez. Altuve down again with a second oblique injury (that makes one on each side) is a downer. If Alvarez actually is progressing well now from his oblique injury he should return (grab piece of wood and knock on it) in time for the Astros-Rangers series that starts July 24. Out of the break the Astros have a nine game road trip against no good teams (three at the injury-ravaged Angels, two at the lousy Rockies, four at the atrocious A’s) while the Rangers have a nine game home stand of three games apiece versus the Guardians, Rays, and Dodgers. Beware Texas Rangers: objects in mirror are closer than they appear. And the Astros appear close already.

Trade deadline shopping list

With Michael Brantley shut down again and quite possibly done as a viable big leaguer, General Manager Dana Brown has clarity on what to seek in trade before the August 1 deadline in addition to a starting pitcher. Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, and Corey Julks all bat right-handed. Replacing one with a quality left-handed hitter is the play. But replace which of them? From June 1 forward McCormick has hit .325 with a .948 OPS. Since Julks stopped swinging at everything he has made marked improvement. After drawing a woeful four walks over his first 166 plate appearances, Julks has drawn 12 walks in his last 80 plate appearances, batting .324 with a tremendous .425 on-base percentage. Meyers is nine for his last 55, a sad .164 average, and obviously has the least power of the three. So easy call right? Meyers would seem the obvious odd man out, but if the Astros still evaluate him as their best defensive center fielder, that is a factor. None of them are young (Chas is 28, Corey and Jake 27).

This flew under the radar

There was a moment at Minute Maid Park Wednesday that happily drew no reaction since hardly anyone in the crowd was aware of the backstory. The Rockies brought in relief pitcher Daniel Bard with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. Bard retired Jose Abreu on a pop-up to first base then worked a one-two-three eighth inning. Minutiae in the Astros 6-4 win.

Daniel Bard is the pitcher who broke Jose Altuve’s right thumb with an errant pitch during the World Baseball Classic. Had Altuve not been sidelined by his second oblique muscle issue of the season, it certainly would have been attention getting had he faced Bard Wednesday. From an Astro fan tunnel-visioned perspective, many who made the connection would have booed Bard like he was Joe Kelly. Understandable purely from a venting standpoint, but knowing Bard’s story is worthwhile, albeit no consolation for his having completely unintentionally sidelined Altuve for the first seven weeks of the season. Bard wound up starting the season on the Injured List because of anxiety brought on by his injuring Altuve. Bard’s bigger career story is darn near unbelievable.

Bard’s Major League career got off to a good start. Over his first three seasons with the Red Sox as a relief pitcher Bard’s record was just 5-13 but his earned run average was a very good 2.88. He walked more batters than ideal, 76 in 197 innings, but nothing ridiculous. The Red Sox made him a starter in 2012, and whatever went wrong went way wrong as Bard came down with what many call “Steve Blass Disease,” essentially a professional nervous breakdown through which a pitcher basically loses control over where he throws the baseball. In 59 1/3 innings pitched for the Sox in 2012 Bard walked 43 batters. He was demoted to the minors for three months. In 2013 he pitched one inning over two April games and at 27 years old was sent back to the minors where his real disaster began. Bard’s next big league pitch would not come until more than seven years later.

Across three minor league stops in 2013 Bard pitched 15 1/3 innings and walked 27 batters. He made “Nuke” LaLoosh from the all-time classic baseball movie Bull Durham look like Greg Maddux. The Red Sox waived him, the Cubs claimed him then let him become a free agent. Somehow Bard hadn’t yet bottomed out. He signed to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Bard made three appearances, recorded exactly one out, walking nine, and hitting three batters, with four wild pitches mixed in. Somehow, the Texas Rangers signed Bard for 2014.

He was sent to their single-A affiliate and made four appearances. There over two-thirds of an inning he recorded all of two outs, walking nine, and hitting SEVEN. The Rangers released him in June 2014. Bard next threw a minor league pitch two years later. In 2016 again in “A” ball, Bard pitched three innings over eight appearances, walking 13, hitting five, with six wild pitches. In 2017, two minor league stops, nine and a third innings pitched, 24 walks, “only” four hit batters, seven wild pitches. The gruesome combined stats from winter ball 2013-14 through 2017: 13 1/3 innings pitched, 55 walks, 19 hit batters, 17wild pitches. ERA: 28.35. Bard retired after 2017.

In 2020 Bard decided to try a comeback. The Rockies signed him, called him up to the big leagues in July, and he has pitched for them since, and fabulously over the last season and a half. Despite pitching his home games in the by far worst pitchers’ park in MLB, Bard last season posted a 1.79 ERA and at 37 years old signed a two year 19 million dollar contract extension. His ERA this season is 1.82. Bard still walks too many batters (24 in 29 2/3 innings this year) but obviously not in a career-killing fashion.

Incidentally, Daniel Bard was born in Houston.

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What could hold the Texans back this season? Composite Getty Image.

We made it! Training camp is officially here, with all the Texans players having reported to the team and set to take the field this Thursday.

And while the Texans are the favorites to win the division, there are some areas of concern heading into the season.

ESPN Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime joined The Mina Kimes Show and shared his thoughts on the Texans outlook this season.

When looking at the Texans offense, Bien-Aime pointed to Houston's play calling as being a possible issue in 2024. Bobby Slowik did a terrific job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. But he will have his hands full keeping all his playmakers happy with Stefon Diggs joining the team, and Nico Collins expecting a lot of looks after signing a massive contract extension.

Kimes also pointed to Slowik's insistence on staying committed to the running game even when the team was having zero success on the ground. Hopefully that issue will get corrected either through better results in the run game, or putting the ball in CJ Stroud's hands when the ground game is repeatedly getting stuffed.

On defense, both Kimes and Bien-Aime named Houston's secondary as the big x-factor this year. Bien-Aime named cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as the only player in the secondary that he truly trusts. He also strongly believes that rookie cornerback Kamari Lassiter will start opposite Stingley as the team's No. 2 corner.

The Texans certainly have concerns at defensive tackle with Sheldon Rankins and Malik Collins gone, but the secondary has to be the biggest worry in a pass-heavy NFL. Not to mention the level of quarterback play the Texans will face while dealing with a first-place schedule this year.

If you love hearing informed football analysts talking ball, this is the video for you. They cover all things Texans and give a full preview of the AFC South, plus predictions!

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