THE PALLILOG

Yordan Alvarez impresses early, brutal ending for Warriors

Yordan Alvarez impresses early, brutal ending for Warriors
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Image

All dynasties end. If the Golden State Warriors' dynasty is done, what a brutal ending. Kevin Durant's ruptured Achilles followed in the next game by a torn ACL for Klay Thompson? Stunning and sad. Even those bitterly envious of the Warriors' success the last five seasons should feel so. The Western Conference is now clearly ripe for the picking by the Rockets or someone other than Golden State next season.

Will Kawhi stay?

Full credit to the Toronto Raptors. A deep and versatile team (with exactly zero lottery picks on the roster) led by Kawhi Leonard earned the NBA title. Now, does Kahwi re-up in Canada or head home to California and sign with the Clippers?

Alvarez looks the part

If you're an Astros fan Yordan Alvarez's big league debut this week was exciting stuff. In his first game a missile launch of an opposite field homer then in his second a flick of the wrist homer to right on a pitch below the strike zone. Alvarez will have his struggles, but his raw power is awesome, his left-handed swing is easy looking, and he is not a swing at anything guy.

The Astros don't think Alvarez can play a competent first base, yet at least. It would be nice if he could because when the Astros are healthy, among the everyday players Yuli Gurriel has been the weakest lineup link this season. With first base not in the cards for him in 2019, Alvarez primarily slots at designated hitter with an occasional start in left.

One dreamy comparison for Alvarez is late Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. A six foot six inch left-handed monster who played left field early in his career before settling in as a first baseman. McCovey finished with 521 home runs en route to Cooperstown. McCovey wore number 44 his whole big league career. Interesting that the Astros gave Alvarez the number 44 jersey. As of now anyway that means no retirement of 44 for Roy Oswalt, who merely had the greatest Astro pitching career in franchise history.

Of the players prior to Alvarez who homered in their Astro debut game, only Ken Caminiti had what could be called a good career. In 2003 Dave Matranga homered in his first big league plate appearance. It was his only big league hit.

Hall of Fame DNA

Teoscar Hernandez was an Astro when he homered in his first MLB game in 2016. He's having a horrible season with the horrible Toronto Blue Jays who are in town for a three game series. Hernandez is not the player with a Houston connection of interest to many this weekend. That guy is Cavan Biggio, son of Craig. He's scuffled since getting the call up last month, batting only .185, but he hit two homers Thursday and has shown excellent plate discipline drawing 12 walks in just 57 plate appearances. Unlike his Hall of Fame father, Cavan bats left-handed.

The Jays' phenom prospect to watch is Vladimir Guerrero Junior. son of another Hall of Famer. Pretty much universally regarded as the best hitting prospect in the game coming into the season, the 20 year old Vlad Jr. has picked it up after his own slow start. Vlad Sr. looked chiseled out of granite. Vlad Jr...let's say he evidently likes to eat. A lot. He and the Jays should be worried about getting and keeping his body right.

Allegations against Texans

One of the worst allegations that can be made against an individual is being called racist. That is what fired Texans' security coordinator Jeff Pope has done in filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the Texans claiming that fired Texans' General Manager Brian Gaine systemically targeted African-American employees for termination.

This gets out just days after the Texans' fired Gaine. The Texans say they knew nothing about the allegation ahead of dumping Gaine less than a year and a half into his five year contract. Coincidences certainly happen.

At least one person is despicable here. It could be an embittered former employee with a fallacious claim. It could be Gaine. If it turns out there is fire behind the smoke and the Texans knew anything about this, and then Cal McNair in his statement announcing Gaine's dismissal called him "a man of high character," oh boy.

Meanwhile the Texans face tampering charges from the New England Patriots over the Texans' interest in hiring Nick Caserio away for the Pats to succeed Gaine.

All this stuff may just run its course and that's that. At the moment however the Texans have multiple looks of a sorry soap opera.

Buzzer Beaters: 

1. By 2021 the Astros could have three young left-handed hitting studs in their lineup: Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Seth Beer. Without any contract extensions Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley, and George Springer, all become free agents after next season. 2. I laugh when the world's best golfers whine about how tough the course layout is at the U.S. Open. 3. Best sports trophies: Bronze-Borg-Warner (Indy 500 winner) Silver-Heisman Gold-Stanley Cup

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Who's going to step up in the Astros outfield? Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

Astros manager Joe Esapda has certainly faced his share of criticism this season. When it was looking like another playoff appearance was out of reach in May, many were putting the blame mostly on Espada (Jose Abreu took his lumps too).

Now that the Astros have crawled above .500 and are in striking distance of the division leading Mariners, a new challenge has emerged.

Who should be playing regularly in the outfield and at first base? It would be nice if one of these options really stood out from the rest of the pack. But that hasn't been the case, at least since Joey Loperfido returned on June 21. So I decided to dive into this minuscule sample size to see who's making the best case to get regular at-bats as of late.

How have the bats fared since Loperfido returned?

When Loperfido rejoined the team, the Astros said they would get him more at-bats this time around. And that did happen for a while. He started five straight games after being recalled to the big league club (June 21).

His first game back was terrific as he recorded 3 hits with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs. But after that, he's done next to nothing as a starter. He did have a huge pinch hit against the Mets, but otherwise he's been pretty underwhelming since his big game against the Orioles on June 21.

So if Loperfido doesn't appear quite ready, what about Chas McCormick? McCormick shares some similarities with Loperfido recording one multi-hit game since June 21. He's started 4 games, plus some pinch hit opportunities. He, too, had a big game against Baltimore, but hasn't done much else in limited chances.

Trey Cabbage has shown some flashes with 1 multi-hit game in three starts. But nothing to write home about.

Mauricio Dubon has 2 multi-hit games with nine starts over this span, splitting time in the infield and outfield.

Jake Meyers appears to be the mainstay out of this group. His offense has been solid, and his defense is Gold Glove worthy. He has two multi-hit games in nine starts.

Jon Singelton may not play the outfield, but he does impact Dubon's playing time at first. He has two multi-hit games in six starts, which includes a three-hit game with a dinger against the Mets.

Let's assess the situation

Okay, we covered all the recent stats for these players and one thing has become apparent. Nobody is doing enough to get regular starts outside of Meyers and Dubon. And that has more to do with their season-long resume.

One could argue Singleton has been okay over this short stretch. But he's almost 33 years old. Expecting him to show much improvement over his career numbers seems unlikely. He'll continue to get chances against right-handed pitching, but that's about as far as it goes. We've already seen him lose playing time to Dubon even with righties on the mound.

Just look at Wednesday's lineup. Espada started all righties outside of Yordan Alvarez against left-handed Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi.

Photo via: MLB.com/Screenshot

Right-handed hittingGrae Kessinger is starting at first base over Singleton and Loperfido. This should tell us everything we need to know about the logjam in the outfield and at first base.

Espada has seemingly made this a full-blown platoon situation. And that's not changing unless one of these players steps up and takes the job.

Over the next two weeks before the All Star break, the sample size will get bigger, and we'll have a better idea of who deserves the most playing time. Hopefully, Kyle Tucker will return around that time, and that will make cracking the lineup even harder for these guys.

That's when predicting the Astros lineup will get a lot easier, in theory. Meyers and Dubon have done enough to play almost every day. With Meyers in center and Dubon bouncing between the outfield and first base. Which means Singleton will start against righties fairly often, and Dubon should play first when a lefty is on the mound.

If that's the case, Espada won't be looking to put Cabbage or Loperfido in left field against a southpaw. Chas McCormick will likely get most of those starts, being right-handed.

What about Yordan?

When he plays left field, we typically see Yainer Diaz hitting DH. I would expect that to continue. When Yainer has the day off and Yordan plays left, expect Espada to play the matchup (shocker).

The other factor to consider is Cesar Salazar. We know he'll get starts behind the plate, spelling Yainer Diaz. So those lineups could be a little tougher to predict depending on if Yainer is in the DH spot.

But Salazar does deserve a quick mention. Espada received some criticism for pinch hitting Cabbage for him in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's loss. This season, Salazar has been money with runners in scoring position. He's slashing .571/.500/.714 with an OPS of 1.214.

Cabbage made Espada look even worse with an uncompetitive at-bat, swinging at three straight high fastballs.

But that goes along with the point of this article. Espada is going to have his hands full trying to predict which player will come through on any given day.

If someone doesn't separate themselves from the bunch, he's going to play the matchups almost exclusively. Which is understandable based on the cards he's been dealt.

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