Stark: Astros have inquired about Andrew Miller

(Cindy Ord/Getty)
(Cindy Ord/Getty)

Due to limited payroll space and a reluctance to trade top prospects, the Yankees are said to be “shopping everyone” on their big league roster, including Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller. They’re pretty much the only two veterans on the team making decent money with actual trade value. Trading Gardner and/or Miller is the best way to clear salary (WTF?!) and add talent.

Several teams, including the Diamondbacks and Tigers, have already checked in on Miller. We can add the Astros to that list. Jayson Stark reports Houston is “hell-bent” on adding a top closer and have asked about Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Ken Giles, Brad Boxberger, and various free agents. Luke Gregerson did a fine job closing for the Astros last year but I guess they want an upgrade.

Last offseason the Astros aggressively pursued Miller and actually made him the best offer — Ken Rosenthal says they offered him four years and $44M. Miller ultimately took $2M less per year from the Yankees. “Money wasn’t everything. The teams that negotiated with us were fully aware of that as well. In the total package, the Yankees had the best offer for me personally,” he said at the time.

The Craig Kimbrel trade gives us an idea of what an elite reliever with three years of control is worth in a trade, though getting four prospects — well, three prospects and a utility guy — for Miller is probably the best case scenario. The Yankees reportedly want controllable pitching in any trade and are said to be seeking three young players for Miller, which is a perfectly reasonable first ask to me.

The Astros have a deep farm system though it is no longer the best in the game due to recent graduations and trades. Here are their top 30 prospects per It’s hard to not see righty Mark Appel as a possible centerpiece. Appel was the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, but he is more pedigree than results (4.87 ERA and 4.06 FIP in 294 career minor league innings!) at this point. After all, he was expected to be in the big leagues by now.

While asking for a former first overall pick in return for a reliever sounds silly, Appel’s stock is down and he’s not an elite prospect. has him as the 43rd best prospect in baseball. The Padres received the No. 25 and 76 prospects for Kimbrel. Who knows. Maybe Appel plus some secondary stuff for Miller works for both sides. Just thinking out loud here. That’s the sort of package the Yankees should be seeking.

Anyway, the Yankees have a lot of leverage in Miller trade talks because the only other available reliever who matches his effectiveness and favorable contract situation is Giles. Chapman and Mark Melancon will be free agents next winter and the best reliever in free agency is Darren O’Day, who is three years older than Miller. If the Yankees can get multiple young players they really like, great. If not, they’ll keep one of the game’s best relievers and his affordable contract.

Yankeemetrics: 4 runs, 3 games, 2 losses (Aug. 24-26)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Naaaaaasty Nate
The Yankees got their 69th victory of the season in bizarre fashion on Monday night against the Astros — their only run came on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning, which gave them the rare 1-0 walk-off victory.

Since sacrifice flies became an official statistic in 1954, this the first time the Yankees have won a 1-0 game on a walk-off sac fly. The last time they celebrated a 1-0 walk-off win of any kind was Sept. 20, 2008, when Robinson Cano’s RBI single scored Brett Gardner from third base to beat the Orioles.

Coincidentally (or not), Gardner also scored the winning run against the Astros, but that wasn’t the only thing he celebrated on Monday — it was his 32nd birthday, too. So, that got us thinking here at Yankeemetrics …

Gardner is just the third Yankee in the last 100 years to score the game-winning run in a walk-off victory on his birthday! Pretty sweet, eh? He joins Jerry Mumphrey (Sept. 9, 1982) and Tom Tresh (Sept. 20, 1963) as the only other Yankees in this very exclusive and obscure club.

Nathan Eovaldi’s ace-like run continued with another brilliant outing from the 25-year-old flamethrower. After firing eight scoreless innings against the Astros, Eovaldi now has a 2.93 ERA in his last 12 starts and has allowed more than three runs just once in that span.

Pitch F/X had him with seven pitches of at least 100 mph, giving him 23 pitches of 100-plus mph this season, according to As of Monday night, the rest of the starting pitchers in the majors had thrown four 100-mph pitches … Total.

Brendan Ryan, True Yankee
When the highlight of a game is your utility infielder throwing two scoreless innings, you know you’ve been on the wrong side of a blowout. That was pretty much how it played out for the Yankees on Tuesday night in their 15-1 loss to the Astros.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time that the Yankees have suffered a lopsided loss this season — the Rangers also tagged them for 15 runs in the Bronx in late May. The only other season in the last 25 years that the Yankees allowed at least 15 runs in multiple home games was 2000.

Brendan Ryan lived out his dream of pitching in a major-league game when he entered in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s debacle, joining Garrett Jones (in that Rangers game) as the lucky Yankee position players to take the mound this season. The last time the team had two different position players pitch in a single season was 1968, when Gene Michael and Rocky Colavito did it on back-to-back days in late August. Colavito is also the last Yankee position player to throw multiple scoreless innings in a game.

Astros starter Dallas Keuchel completely shut down the Yankees offense, striking out nine batters in seven scoreless innings. Combined with his 12-strikeout shutout earlier this season vs. the Yankees, Keuchel joined Red Sox right-hander Ray Culp in 1968 as the only pitchers in last 100 years with back-to-back games of at least seven scoreless innings and nine-or-more strikeouts against the Yankees.

Not panicking … yet
So, about that homefield advantage the Yankees were supposed to enjoy… not so much recently. They went 5-5 on their recently completed 10-game homestand, punctuated by a 6-2 loss to the Astros on Wednesday afternoon, and scored just four runs in the three-game series. Welp.

It is the first time they’ve been held to no more than two runs and six hits in three straight home games since May 12-14, 1999 against the White Sox and Angels. The last time a single team did that to them in Bronx in a three-game span was the A’s in 1990. Yes, the same A’s team that ended up in the World Series that year. (You’re welcome, Houston.)

Michael Pineda really struggled in his return to the rotation after an extended stint on the DL with a strained forearm. He allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings and was pulled after throwing 71 pitches against the Astros. Pineda is now 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts when pitching on six-plus days of rest this season (and 9-4 with a 3.48 ERA in all other starts).

8/24 to 8/26 Series Preview: Houston Astros

Houston Astros

Despite losing three of four to the Indians this weekend, the Yankees are still 4-3 in the first seven games of this ten-game homestand. The Astros are in the Bronx for a three-game series starting tonight. They split a four-game series with the Yankees in Houston back in late-June. That feels like an eternity ago.

What Have The Astros Done Lately?

The ‘Stros are red hot right now. They just swept three games from the Dodgers — Mike Fiers threw a no-hitter in the first game, then they beat Zack Greinke in the second game and Clayton Kershaw in the third game — and have won six of their last eight games overall. Houston is 69-56 with a +81 run differential this season, giving them a four-game lead in the AL West.

Offense & Defense

The Astros have an average-ish offense overall, scoring 4.26 runs per game with a team 100 wRC+. They do it with power (MLB leading 169 homers) more than on-base ability (22nd in MLB with a .306 OBP). Houston is currently without OF George Springer (131 wRC+), who has been out for a few weeks with a broken wrist and is not due to return for another week or two. IF Jed Lowrie (115 wRC+) left yesterday’s game with a thumb injury and is day-to-day for the time being.

Correa. (Presswire)
Correa. (Presswire)

Manager A.J. Hinch, who I have to think is the favorite for AL Manager of the Year at this point, builds his lineup around rookie SS Carlos Correa (138 wRC+), who might already be the best shortstop in baseball. If he’s not the best, he’s certainly on the short list of candidates. 2B Jose Altuve (114 wRC+) is having a nice year and the trio of OF Colby Rasmus (106 wRC+), IF Marwin Gonzalez (100 wRC+), and IF Luis Valbuena (98 wRC+) have been average or thereabouts. Valbuena has 22 homers and a .206 AVG. He’s the rich man’s Stephen Drew.

OF Carlos Gomez (87 wRC+) hasn’t done a whole lot since coming over at the trade deadline (25 wRC+ for the Astros) but I don’t think that will last much longer. He’s too talented. OF Jake Marisnick (69 wRC+) is Houston’s only other healthy outfielder at the moment. 1B Chris Carter (88 wRC+) is having a down year and C Jason Castro (79 wRC+) and C Hank Conger (116 wRC+) have split catching duties. (Castro’s the starter.) DH Evan Gattis (90 wRC+) is, well, the DH. Correa and Altuve are the two guys you really need to worry about right now.

The Astros are a much better defensive club now than they were at the start of the year. Correa and Altuve are very good on the middle infield and Gomez is unreal in center. He’s the best center field defender in baseball in my opinion. Both Marisnick and Rasmus are very good in the outfield — they’re center fielders playing the corners — and both Castro and Conger are good behind the plate. Gattis, Carter and Valbuena … not gonna win any games with the glove.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (vs. NYY)
A knee injury has limited the 32-year-old Feldman to 16 starts and 97.2 innings this year, during which he’s pitched to a 4.05 ERA (4.31 FIP). He doesn’t walk anyone (5.4%) and his ground ball rate is very good (49.5%), but Feldman is homer prone (1.11 HR/9) and gosh, he misses no bats (13.0%). Righties (.355 wOBA) have hit Feldman harder than lefties (.287 wOBA) this year, though he historically has a very small platoon split. Feldman is a three-pitch pitcher, using upper-80s cutters, low-90s sinkers, and mid-70s curveballs as his main weapons. He will occasionally spin a low-90s four-seamer when he needs to throw a strike, and every so often he’ll break out a mid-80s change. The cutter, sinker, and curve are his go-to pitches through. They throws them 90% of the time combined. The Yankees did not face Feldman during the series in Houston earlier this season. I’m pretty sure he was still on the DL at the time.

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. HOU) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (vs. NYY)
Keuchel, 27, started the All-Star Game this year and has established himself as one of the top starters in all of baseball. He’s an ace. Keuchel has a 2.37 ERA (2.73 FIP) in 25 starts and 178.2 innings this year, and he does it by being the most extreme ground ball starter in the game (63.1%). He had a 63.5% grounder rate last year, which was the highest by a qualified starter in four years. Keuchel has added more strikeouts this year (22.3%) and he doesn’t walk anyone (5.9%), and he predictably keeps the ball in the yard (0.45 HR/9) thanks to all those grounders. He crushes left-handed batters (.158 wOBA) and is merely excellent against righties (.271 wOBA). Keuchel has three dominant ground ball pitches in his upper-80s sinker, upper-70s slider, and upper-70s changeup. All three have grounder rates far above the league average for those individual pitches. Keuchel will also throw a few upper-80s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters to keep hitters honest. The Yankees saw Keuchel a few weeks ago and he manhandled them: 12 strikeouts in a complete game shutout.

Keuchel is a great pitcher with a terrible beard. (Presswire)
Keuchel is a great pitcher with a terrible beard. (Presswire)

Wednesday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Collin McHugh (vs. NYY)
This has been a tale of two seasons for McHugh, who had a 5.04 ERA (4.44 FIP) in his first 14 starts and 85.2 innings, and has a 2.84 ERA (2.93 FIP) in his last 12 starts and 79.1 innings. That works out to a 3.96 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 25 starts and 159 innings overall. McHugh has average strikeout (19.0%) and grounder (45.8%) rates but better than average walk (6.1%) and homer (0.85 HR/9) numbers. He has a reverse split (.349 vs. .270 wOBA in favor of righties) that is the opposite of what he did last year. McHugh has a four-seam fastball right around 90 mph and he uses it only 35% of the time or so. He leans heavily on his mid-80s slider and low-70s curveball, throwing them almost 60% of the time combined. Crazy. He’ll also throw a handful of low-80s changeups per start. The Yankees scored one run in eight innings against McHugh a few weeks ago. That was the second start of this 12-start stretch of dominance.

Bullpen Status
One of the biggest reasons the Astros are atop the AL West this year is their much improved bullpen — the relief corps has a 2.63 ERA (3.20 FIP) this year, up from a 4.80 ERA (4.11 FIP) last year and a 4.92 ERA (5.09 FIP) the year before. Closer RHP Luke Gregerson (2.88 ERA/3.22 FIP) has pitched each of the last two days, but otherwise Hinch’s bullpen is in good shape.

RHP Pat Neshek (3.18/3.39) and LHP Tony Sipp (2.17/3.25) are Gregerson’s primary setup men, and RHP Will Harris (1.47/3.28) sees a lot of fireman work. Ex-Yankee RHP Chad Qualls (3.79/3.64), LHP Oliver Perez (2.78/2.78), and RHP Vincent Velasquez (3.61/3.03) round out the bullpen. The Yankees will likely add a reliever today following yesterday’s bullpen marathon. Check out the status of the team’s relievers at our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Crawfish Boxes and Astros County for the latest and greatest on the ‘Stros.

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Friday

Kimbrel. (Presswire)
Kimbrel. (Presswire)

Today’s the day. Specifically, 4pm ET is the time. Teams have until 4pm ET today to make non-waiver trades, which means there figures to be a flurry of activity in the next few hours even though big names like Johnny Cueto, David Price, and Troy Tulowitzki have already been moved. The Yankees made a relatively minor trade yesterday, sending Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez to the Mariners for Dustin Ackley.

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week we learned the Yankees are in the market for pitching help, both starters and relievers, but they’re not willing to give up their top prospects. They’ve been connected to all sorts of pitchers the last few days but those pitchers keep getting traded elsewhere. Hopefully they reel one or two in today, preferably a starter. They really need rotation help. We’ll keep tabs on all of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, as usual.

  • 4:37pm ET: The Yankees were not only willing to include Jorge Mateo in a Craig Kimbrel trade, they also offered to take back Jedd Gyorko and his disaster contract. They never got an answer from the Padres, apparently. [Heyman]
  • 3:53pm ET: The Yankees are expected to stand pat at the deadline. Weak, if true. [Nightengale]
  • 3:28pm ET: The Yankees told the Padres they were willing to trade Jorge Mateo for Craig Kimbrel, but San Diego hasn’t responded. The assumption is Kimbrel is going elsewhere. [Rosenthal, Sherman]
  • 3:22pm ET: Once again, the Yankees and Padres have “no traction” for a Craig Kimbrel trade. They have had “no talks” recently. [Rosenthal, Sherman]
  • 3:02pm ET: Should the Craig Kimbrel deal not happen, the Yankees won’t work out a smaller trade involving Joaquin Benoit and Ian Kennedy. [Sherman]
  • 2:05pm ET: In addition to Jorge Mateo, the Padres would also want a pitcher back from the Yankees for Craig Kimbrel. [Sweeny Murti]
  • 1:56pm ET: The Yankees believe the Padres are working on a bigger trade involving Craig Kimbrel. Apparently San Diego will not trade Kimbrel to New York unless Jorge Mateo is in the deal. [Sherman]
  • 12:33pm ET: Apparently talks with the Padres for Craig Kimbrel broke down yesterday and have not been revived. They haven’t talked today. That’s why the Yankees are looking at guys like Carter Capps. [Rosenthal, Olney]
  • 12:21pm ET: The Yankees are the team in the “hottest” pursuit of Craig Kimbrel. It sure seems like the plan is to add another elite reliever. [Rosenthal]
  • 11:00am ET: The Marlins have coveted Greg Bird and would probably ask for him in a potential Carter Capps trade. I can’t see that happening given the Yankees’ reluctance to trade their close to MLB top prospects. [Joe Frisaro]
  • 10:56am ET: Although the Yankees did indeed check in, a trade for Aroldis Chapman is “not likely” to happen. Womp womp. That would have been fun. [Heyman]
  • 10:36am ET: The Yankees don’t like the idea of trading Jorge Mateo for a reliever, even one as good as Craig Kimbrel. If they do trade Mateo, they’re more likely to do so for a starting pitcher or everyday position player. [Sherman]
  • 10:12am ET: The Yankees continue to look for rotation help but feel “doubtful.” They believe Severino, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell could hold down the fort in the second half if necessary. [Sherman]
  • 9:53am ET: The Yankees would consider trading Jorge Mateo but not top prospects closer to MLB like Aaron Judge and Luis Severino. That makes sense, I guess. Also, if they are willing to trade Mateo, they could seek more in return from the Padres than just Craig Kimbrel. It would also open doors to other deals. [Sherman]
  • 9:51am ET: The Yankees are talking to the Marlins about setup man Carter Capps, the guy with the jumpy delivery. That would be fun to watch, if nothing else. [Stark, Heyman]
  • 9:44am ET: The Yankees are one of five teams “aggressively” pursuing Aroldis Chapman, who would take over as closer. This all sounds like posturing — the price is too high for Kimbrel so we’ll say we’re in on Chapman, the Yankees aren’t offering enough for Kimbrel so we’ll get the Astros involved, etc. [Bob Nightengale]
  • 9:31am ET: The Yankees and Padres worked overnight on a Craig Kimbrel trade that would send a “good” prospect to San Diego with New York taking on all of the $28M or so left on Kimbrel’s contract. The Padres are looking for a young shortstop and have sought Jorge Mateo, who is supposedly off limits. Other clubs, specifically the Astros, are talking to the Padres about Kimbrel as well. [Rosenthal, Stark, Heyman, Buster Olney]
  • 9:30am ET: The Yankees remain interested in both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, but the prices are high. They want to add an impact pitcher however they can, and adding a reliever would allow them to more easily put Adam Warren in the rotation. [Joel Sherman, Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark]
  • The Yankees are one of several teams in pursuit of Yovani Gallardo, who they faced last night. Gallardo didn’t pitch too well last night but he’s had a strong season overall. The Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Giants are also in on Gallardo, though San Francisco may be out of the picture after acquiring Mike Leake late last night. [Jon Heyman]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

First Domino Falls: Scott Kazmir traded to Astros

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The first trade deadline domino has fallen. The Athletics have traded Scott Kazmir to the Astros for prospects right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham, both teams announced. The Yankees reportedly scouted Kazmir’s last start over the weekend. He’s from Houston, so I imagine he’s happy with the trade. Also, what a world, the Astros are buying.

Neither Mengden nor Nottingham were including in the Astros’ top 30 prospects in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook before the season, though they’ve both played well this summer, so I’m sure their stock was on the rise. I couldn’t tell you what an equivalent Yankees package would have been. Sorry. The prospects are too obscure even for a nerd like me.

The apparently light return could mean prices for a rental starter aren’t as high as expected — the market is flooded with available arms, after all, lots of options for buyers — or it could mean teams were scared off by Kazmir’s medicals. Remember he left his start against the Yankees with an injury just before the break. Either way, expect trades to pick up now.

Yankeemetrics: Hot and cold in Houston (June 25-28)

These guys are en fuego. (AP)
These guys are en fuego. (AP)

The Yankees finally ran into an ace they couldn’t beat on Thursday night. Dallas Keuchel threw a six-hit shutout against the Yankees, striking out 12 in a performance that Alex Rodriguez called “complete domination.”

Keuchel is the first pitcher with at least 12 strikeouts in a shutout against the Yankees since Chris Carpenter on Sept. 4, 2001, and the first lefty to do it since the Angels’ Chuck Finley on May 23, 1995 (a game better known as Mariano Rivera’s major-league debut!).

The Astros southpaw, who also went the distance in his first game against the Yankees last season, is the first pitcher to pitch a complete game in each of his first two appearances against the Yankees since Teddy Higuera did so for the Brewers in 1985.

Adam Warren gave up three runs (two earned) before being pulled with two outs in the sixth inning — yet of course he was a hard-luck loser again. Following the game, he had a 2.87 ERA in his five losses, the lowest ERA in games lost by any pitcher with at least four losses this season.

Forever Young
For the first couple hours of Friday’s game, it looked like one of the more remarkable streaks in baseball might come to an end. The Yankees had not been shut out in consecutive games since May 1999, the longest streak in MLB history, yet had just three hits and were being blanked by the Astros through six innings.

That is until … Chris Young happened. The Houston native drilled a three-run homer to erase a 2-0 deficit and the Yankees bullpen held the Astros scoreless to preserve the win. It was his third go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later as a Yankee; since he joined the team last September, no other player on the team has more than one such homer.

Another guy from Texas, Nathan Eovaldi, had a sweet homecoming as he threw six innings of two-run ball to earn his career-high seventh win of the season. Eovaldi had all four of his pitches working and showed a ton of confidence in his splitter, which he threw 25 times and netted him seven outs while yielding just one hit.

Six is not enough
A 6-0 lead in the second inning with your ace on the mound? Sounds like a good time to go mow the lawn and wait for the recap and highlights in a couple hours, right? Wrong.

Masahiro Tanaka struggled for the second start in a row, coughing up six runs on seven hits — including three home runs — in five innings. He is joins Orlando Hernandez (2001) as the only Yankee pitchers to give up at least six runs and three homers in back-to-back games over the last 100 years.

Mark Teixeira saved the Yankees from their worst loss of the season with a two-run, tie-breaking double in the eighth inning. It was his first go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning or later in more than three years — since a double in the top of the 14th inning on June 16, 2012 against the Phillies.

Brian McCann gave the Yankees an early 4-0 lead with his 11th career grand slam. His 10 grand slams hit as a catcher (one came as a DH) are tied with Johnny Bench for the third-most in the last 75 seasons, trailing only Mike Piazza (14) and Gary Carter (11).

Big Mike is back
It might be hot down in Texas, but the Yankees bats were once freezing cold in Houston in Sunday’s 3-1 loss, as they were held to a season-low two hits by former Met Collin McHugh.

McHugh, who also struck out eight Yankees, is the third starter with at least eight strikeouts and two or fewer hits allowed against the Yankees this season, along with Anibal Sanchez (April 23) and Joe Kelly (April 11). Since at least 1914, this is the first time that three starting pitchers have done that to the Yankees in a single season.

Michael Pineda bounced back from the worst start of his career with a strong outing (8 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 8 K, 0 BB) but took the loss despite going the distance. He’s the second Yankee with a complete game loss this season, joining CC Sabathia on April 20 against the Tigers. The only other major-league team to have two pitchers with a complete-game loss this season is the Indians.

6/25 to 6/28 Series Preview: Houston Astros


The 2015 season is weird, man. The Astros are actually good now after spending the last half-decade as the worst team in baseball. Intentionally, I might add. Houston basically went through the baseball version of tanking. They hoarded draft picks and traded every last veteran for prospects. I guess it worked. For the first half of the season, anyway.

What Have The Astros Done Lately?

The Angels beat the Astros in 13 innings yesterday and Houston dropped two of three in the series overall. They’ve lost four of their last six games. The ‘Stros are still in first place in the AL West at 42-32 with a +47 run differential. That’s the second best record and third best run differential in the AL.

Offense & Defense

The Astros have an extreme offense. They lead MLB in home runs (107) and strikeout rate (24.9%), rank third in stolen bases (57), and bottom ten in both AVG (.241) and OBP (.308). It all adds up an average of 4.47 runs per game and a team 104 wRC+. The Yankees have scored 45% of their runs on homers. That’s a lot. The Astros? They’re at 48%. I guess no one told them they’ll never win anything hitting all these home runs, amirite? Anyway, the Astros are without IF Jed Lowrie (finger) and OF Jake Marisnick (hamstring), neither of whom is due back to this series.

Correa. (Presswire)
Correa. (Presswire)

Manager A.J. Hinch builds his lineup around OF George Springer (141 wRC+), or, rather, behind Springer because he’s been hitting leadoff. The recently called up SS Carlos Correa (146 wRC+ in limited time) bats second. OF Colby Rasmus (125 wRC+) has played well in a platoon role and OF Preston Tucker (109 wRC+) has also done well since being called up a few weeks ago. 1B Chris Carter (101 wRC+) has been league average-ish thanks to his power (12 HR), not his batting average (.198).

2B Jose Altuve (93 wRC+) has somewhat predictably been unable to repeat last year’s success — I’m not sure anyone is a true talent .341 hitter these days — but he’s still a solid and very aggressive hitter. He never walks (5.9%) or strikes out (10.0%). DH Evan Gattis (87 wRC+) mashes taters and does little else at the plate. C Jason Castro (89 wRC+) has been okay for a catcher and UTIL Luis Valbuena (103 wRC+) has 19 homers and a .201 AVG. I guess that makes him the rich man’s Stephen Drew. C Hank Conger (114 wRC+), IF Marwin Gonzalez (82 wRC+), and OF Domingo Santana (132 wRC+ in very limited time) fill out the bench with their small sample size stats.

Depending on your choice of metric, the Astros are either a great defensive team (UZR) or a poor defensive team (DRS). Defense stats, man. Springer and Rasmus are great in the outfield and both Altuve and Correa are strong on the middle infield. Altuve seems to have the Brett Gardner problem — the defensive stats hate him even though everything else says he’s really good. Carter is basically a DH at first base and Valbuena’s fine in the field. Castro and Conger are both top notch pitch-framers. You can run on Conger (6% caught steal rate!) but not Castro (38%).

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (8pm ET): RHP Adam Warren (vs. HOU) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (vs. NYY)
Over the last year and a half, the 27-year-old Keuchel has developed into a bonafide top of the rotation starter, pitching to 2.72 ERA (3.22 FIP) in his last 307.1 innings. He has a 2.35 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 15 starts and 107.1 innings this season, and he does it by being the most extreme ground ball pitcher in the majors. Keuchel owns 64.1% ground ball rate in 2015, one year after posting a 63.5% ground ball rate, which was MLB’s highest grounder rate by a qualified starter in four seasons. He doesn’t give up homers as you’d expect (0.59 HR/9), and both his strikeout (19.9%) and walk (7.2%) rates are league average-ish. Righties (.255 wOBA) have had a lot more success again him than lefties (.172 wOBA), relatively speaking. Keuchel gets all those grounders with three pitches: upper-80s two-seamer (75.4 GB% vs. 49.5 GB% MLB average), upper-70s slider (52.7 GB% vs. 43.9 GB% average), and an upper-70s changeup (59.6 GB% vs. 47.8 GB% average). He also throws an upper-80s four-seamer to keep hitters honest. Keuchel’s an elite ground ball pitcher. His success is not a fluke.

Friday (8pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Vincent Velasquez (No vs. NYY)
The Astros called up the 23-year-old Velasquez earlier this month and he has a 4.15 ERA (3.80 FIP) in three starts and 13 innings. His strikeout rate (29.3%) is great but Velasquez has walked way too many batters (17.2%) and not gotten any ground balls (22.6%). He’s been able to keep the ball in the park for the time being (0.69 HR/9). Either his home run rate or his ground ball rate will climb going forward. Rates that low coexist only in small sample size land. Velasquez is your classic power arm with a mid-90 four-seam fastball. He’s thrown his low-80s curveball more than his low-80s changeup in his brief MLB time, but scouting reports from his prospect days (you know, April and May) say the change is actually his second best pitch, not the curve.

Saturday (4pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. HOU) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (vs. NYY)
Oberholtzer, 25, has been limited to six starts and 32 innings this season by a nagging blister problem. He has a 2.81 ERA (3.39 FIP) in his limited action with great ground ball (54.0%) and home run (0.28 HR/9) numbers but below-average strikeout (16.7%) and walk (9.4%) rates. Lefties (.344 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.301 wOBA), which has actually been the case his entire career, though not to that extreme. Oberholtzer operates with upper-80s two and four-seam fastballs, and his low-80s changeup is his primary secondary offering. He’ll also throw some low-80s sliders and upper-70s curveballs per start, but not many.

McHugh. (Presswire)
McHugh. (Presswire)

Sunday (2pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. HOU) vs. RHP Collin McHugh (vs. NYY)
The Astros got great work out of McHugh last season (2.73 ERA and 3.11 FIP) but he’s crashed back to Earth this year (4.80 ERA and 4.21 FIP) because his strikeout (19.0%) and home run (1.25 HR/9) rates have both taken a step back. The 28-year-old still isn’t walking anyone (5.5%) and is getting an average amount of ground balls (44.4%), but his reverse platoon split (.359 vs. .321 wOBA in favor of righties) doesn’t match up with the rest of his career. McHugh has a four-seam fastball right around 90 mph and he uses it only 35% of the time or so. He leans heavily on his mid-80s slider and low-70s curveball, throwing them almost 60% of the time combined. Crazy. He’ll also throw a handful of low-80s changeups per start.

Bullpen Status
A big reason for Houston’s success this year is their greatly improved bullpen. This group has a 2.61 ERA (3.18 FIP) overall compared to a 4.80 ERA (4.11 FIP) last year and a 4.92 ERA (5.09 FIP) the year before that. Closer RHP Luke Gregerson (3.38 FIP) is set up by RHP Pat Neshek (3.36 FIP) and RHP Will Harris (3.05 FIP) most nights.

LHP Tony Sipp (2.99 FIP) is Hinch’s high-leverage lefty guy while LHP Joe Thatcher (1.85 FIP) is more of middle innings matchup guy. RHP Chad Qualls (4.44 FIP) and RHP Josh Fields (1.76 FIP) round out the bullpen. They don’t have a true long man at the moment, just a bunch of short relief guys. Also, literally everyone pitched in the 13-inning game yesterday, so the ‘pen won’t be very fresh tonight. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then head over to Crawfish Boxes and Astros County for the latest and greatest on the ‘Stros.