THE PALLILOG

Let's examine how a 60-game season could impact the Astros

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So there's going to be a Major League Baseball season of sorts after all. We think so anyway. COVID-19 could weigh in further. After a pathetic and damaging negotiation between the owners and players, we wind up with a 60 game blink of a season. 37 percent of a 162 game schedule is not a legitimate season. That equates to a six game NFL regular season or a 30 game NBA regular season. No one would find either of those legit. But 60 is what we have. If you like baseball (or at least the Astros) it can be exciting, and it will do if for no other reason than it has to. The postseason format will be legitimate, but whatever team wins the World Series will not be a champion worthy of the same regard of any full season champ. That won't make winning worthless, but it will make it different and discounted in value.

If last season knocked off after 60 games, the eventual World Series winning Washington Nationals would not have made the playoffs. 60 games into the 2018 season the Dodgers would have been on the outside looking in. They wound up winning the National League pennant. A 60 game regular season in 2018 would have relegated the Astros to having to play in the American League Wild Card game, on the road at the Yankees.

Great teams can play mediocre ball over a 60 game stretch. In 2017 the Astros roared out of the gate destroying their competition. They started the season 42-17. They would wind up winning 101 games and the World Series. Yet, over a 60 game stretch from early July into mid-September the Astros went 29-31. Over 162 games baseball water nearly always finds its level. 60? A different animal.

Amidst all the fallout of a truncated season, the Astros lost their shot at becoming the first team to ever win at least 100 games for four consecutive seasons. The .617 winning percentage that yields 100 wins over 162 games translates to a 37-23 record over 60 games. Las Vegas has the scaled down Astros win total over/under number at 34 ½. That's two behind the Yankees, tied with the Twins, just one half game more than the Rays, one ahead of the Athletics. Using the Vegas numbers, if the Astros dipped to 31 wins (which is not a free fall from 34 ½) they'd miss the playoffs. The separation that occurs among teams over 162 games simply cannot happen over 60. It introduces a greater component of chance though not outright randomness.

With design of reducing travel, interleague play becomes a much larger element of the schedule. In a normal season teams play 20 games vs. the opposite league. They'll still play 20 this year, now that's one third of the schedule as opposed to 12 percent.

NBA

While baseball plans to play at all home stadia with the possible exception of Toronto, the NBA bubble plan marches toward a July 30 resumption of play. The Atlanta Hawks aren't among the 22 teams heading to Orlando, so Vince Carter formalized his retirement announcement Thursday. Carter was much more than a dunker though I think he's the best in game dunker I've ever seen. Yes including Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. I didn't see enough early Dr J. Carter generated two different cool nicknames: "Air Canada" during his early Toronto Raptor seasons, and "Half Man, Half Amazing" courtesy of Kenny Smith. "Vinsanity" wasn't bad either. The surefire future Hall of Famer played in a record 22 NBA seasons. That's one more than Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Parish, and Kevin Willis. Think LeBron James has five more seasons in him? LeBron is 35 years old and in his 17th season. Carter retires at age 43. Carter finishes up 19th on the NBA career scoring list. No player eligible for the Hall in the current top 40 all-time has failed to make the Hall. Most prolific scorer eligible for the Hall not elected? Tom Chambers.

Off the field

Quick hop up on a soapbox. Politely (or impolitely if it works better) guilt trip/shame those you know who are not wearing masks in public places. The Republican Governor of Texas and the Democrat Mayor of Houston agree masks are a must. Isn't that enough? The uptick in positive test percentages and hospitalizations is a saddening, angering, and pathetic testament to irresponsibility.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Is Major League Baseball possible with no spitting allowed? That's part of the health protocol. No saliva, tobacco, seeds, or shells permitted. Gum is ok though.

2. Cheers for Liverpool! Where The Beatles came from you know. And for the first time ever, home of the English Premier League champs.

3. Most memorable masked movie characters: Bronze-Michael Myers/Jason Voorhees Silver-Batman Gold-Hannibal Lecter

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PROBABLE STARTERS

Thurs, Sept. 24 - HOU: Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33) vs. TEX: Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53)

Fri, Sept. 25 - HOU: Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78) vs. TEX: Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53)

Sat, Sept. 26 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87)

Sun, Sept. 27 - HOU: TBD vs. TEX: Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07)

STORYLINES

Season finale - The Astros will wrap up their regular season with their four game set in Arlington at the new Globe Life Field. Houston's magic number rests at two, as the Angels still have a puncher's chance. With Houston's miserable 8-20 road record, the postseason is anything but clinched.

Where's the offense? - The Astros offense has left a lot to be desired over the last few weeks, scoring more than three runs just twice in their last ten games. The bats really need to get going, especially if the team expects to do anything in the playoffs. George Springer has been the only reliable bat of late, with the performances of Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and, most of all, Jose Altuve, leaving a lot to be desired.

Playoff seeding - If the playoffs started today, the Astros would face off with their division rivals in Oakland. There's an infinite number of possibilities over the next four games, but the Astros can see themselves finish anywhere from the fifth seed to out of the playoffs entirely. Any of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland could be first round foes depending on how the cards fall.

PREDICTION

Lance Lynn has been one of the better pitchers in the game for a few years now, Kyle Cody is an intriguing young arm with good stuff, and Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson gave the Astros fits in Houston just last week. It isn't a recipe for success for Houston. The Astros win 1 of 4, which combined with the Angels and Mariners failing to take care of business, is enough to get Houston into the playoffs.

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