THE PALLILOG

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

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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