TIME FOR A MOVE

John Granato: Another plea for the Astros to bring up Kyle Tucker

This guy would look really good in an Astros uniform. Rich Schultz

Two weeks ago I wrote that it was time for the Astros to call up Kyle Tucker. It fell on deaf ears so I’m calling for it once again. But now I know how Demi Moore’s character felt in A Few Good Men when the judge overruled her objection. “Well then I strenuously object,” she said. Right now I strenuously object to this lineup. The starting rotation deserves better.

We haven’t seen this kind of production out of a starting rotation in a long time: 23 of their 32 starts have been quality starts. They have the best ERA in the league, best WHIP in the league, most strikeouts in the league and on and on and on.

It’s almost criminal what happened to Justin Verlander Tuesday night. He tied for his most ever strikeouts with 14 and pitched 8 scoreless with a no decision. But that wasn’t the first time he got ripped off by the offense. In his 3 no decisions he’s gone 21 ⅔ and given up just 4 earned runs for a 1.66 ERA in those games. He could and should be 7-0 right now.

Gerrit Cole can’t be happy either. He’s 2-1 right now. In that loss he went seven innings and gave up just 2 runs. In his 3 no decisions he’s gone 20 ⅔ and given up just 5 earned runs for a 2.18 ERA. He could easily be 6-0.

Dallas Keuchel’s first 4 starts weren’t horrible. He was actually above average with a 3.52 ERA but was 0-3. In those first four starts he gave up 3, 1, 3, and 2 earned runs. That’s not No. 2 starter quality especially on this team but it’s not terrible either.  He could have easily won a couple of those games with some timely hitting.

Charlie Pallilo was on with us this week. Someone pointed out to him that the Astros lead the league with most games scoring one or no runs. They’ve done that 10 times already. That’s absolute futility nearly once out of every three games.

I know. I know. I’ve heard it all over the past couple of weeks. “It’s early.” “How many rings do you have?” “I trust Jeff Luhnow.” “They’re 4th in the league in runs scored.” “They’re 20-11.” Blah blah blah blah.

I get it. It’s baseball. You move at a snail’s pace. We are basically just a fifth of the way through the season. You don’t make knee jerk decisions based on a small sample size. This isn’t a small sample size. We know what guys can and can’t do. My thoughts on Jake Marisnick are well known. You could have read about them two weeks ago. Nothing’s changed since then.

Derek Fisher is interesting though. He’s 4 for his last 10 with two homers but that didn’t earn him any more playing time. Last Tuesday he homered and drove in two in a loss to the Angels. He went 1 for 2 the next day. After an off day he sat against a tough lefty Sean Manaea. That was understandable. He got the start the next day and homered again with two more RBI and we didn’t see him again until Wednesday night. Hard to hit consistently when you’re not getting consistent AB’s especially against Luis Severino. That’s asking way too much of a young hitter.

You’d think AJ would jump at the chance to play anyone who’s hitting at the bottom of the order. Like I said two weeks ago, this team looks a lot like the 2015 Astros but without the power. There is no more telling stat than this one.  

George Springer has 128 at-bats and 93 of those were with no one on. That's right: 93!!! That’s 73% of his at-bats. As the leadoff hitter you naturally have no one on at the start of every game but that happens to him three times every game. He only bats with runners on just over a quarter of the time, about once a game. I’ve been arguing for the last couple of years that they’re wasting him in the leadoff spot. He’s a run producer but it’s hard to produce runs if no one is on.

As a comparison, Carlos Correa has hit third and fourth in the lineup all year. Of his 110 at-bats he’s had runners on 55 times. That’s exactly 50% of the time. Three of his four home runs have come with runners on. All six of Springer’s homers were with the bases empty. Leading off games with a home run is nice. Hitting them with runners on is better.

Last year only one player in Major League Baseball had more home runs with fewer RBI’s than Springer. That was Joey Gallo. But that’s understandable. He plays for the Rangers. They never had anyone on base because they suck.

No one is on base for George this year because no one at the bottom of the order is hitting. No one. Marwin has fallen off drastically after his breakout year last year. We know about Marisnick and Fisher. Evan Gattis has been lost at the plate all year.

Amongst those four they’ve struck out 117 times in 299 at-bats. That’s almost four strikeouts in every 10 at-bats. That’s a lot folks. Marisnick is the biggest culprit but Gattis and Marwin are catching up quickly.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

Why not shake up the lineup? We had AJ Hinch on last year and I asked him about Springer leading off. His answer was that you only lead off once a game but we’ve seen that that’s not true, not in this lineup. And there are fewer runners on base for the leadoff hitter because he follows the bottom of the order.

He also just assumed I thought Altuve should lead off. I don’t think that. I think Bregman would be a good leadoff hitter. He’s already walked 20 times this year so his on-base percentage is decent, actually better than Springer’s, and he’ll steal the occasional base which Springer doesn’t do.

Here’s what my lineup would be:

Bregman  3B

Altuve       2B

Springer   CF

Correa     SS

Gurriel     1B

Tucker      LF

Reddick    RF

McCann    C

Gonzalez  DH

Any time someone needed to rest Marwin could play their position and they could DH.

And yes, I already have Tucker in my lineup batting sixth.

Why not take a page out of last year’s Dodgers book? They brought up Cody Bellinger on April 25. That was possible because he wasn’t on the 40-man roster. You can bring him up and still get that fourth year of arbitration.  Kyle Tucker is in that same position. He’s not on the 40-man. You don’t have to wait until June to get that fourth year of arbitration.

I’m not saying Tucker is going to hit 39 homers and drive in 97 runs like Bellinger did but who knows what he can do?  You don’t get nicknamed Ted (as in Williams) if you can’t hit. He’s hitting .278 after Tuesday’s 0-5. That’s OK.

Bellinger went 1 for his first 10 last year and then exploded. Give the kid a chance to jump start this offense. Even if he fails he won’t be any worse than what you’re running out there now.

Verlander gave this team the impetus to greatness last year. They need another big boost this year.

Once again Mr. Luhnow I strenuously object to wasting any more time without Kyle Tucker on this big league team. Court is adjourned.




 

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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