Sunday, March 31, 2013

Opening Night 2013! Rangers at Astros Liveblog

8:07: Welcome to the 2013 baseball season! I'll have a short preview of the 2013 season tomorrow, but right now, Bud Norris is winding up to make the first pitch of the season. I am still physically rejecting the idea of the Astros as an American League team.

8:10: Bud Norris is a dominant force. Elvis Andrus strikes out.

8:11: Welcome back to Houston, Lance Berkman. I have to agree with Mr. Kruk on this one, I'm not sure why he's not getting a better reception. Maybe because he played well on the 2011 Cardinals team? The rules for how to respond to a returning player need to be laid out somewhere. "Rebuilding team trades a long term star for little in return in order to get that player a better chance to play for a contender has to be at the bottom of that order.

8:14: This Astros lineup is... young.

8:15: Jose Altuve with the first hit of the year. Insert "Short" joke here.

8:19: Matt Harrison backs up back-to-back ex-Oakland prospects to close out the firs tinning. While Chris Carter's prospect status has faded, but he's the type of player who should be solid playing every day.

8:22: Adrian Beltre, batting cleanup for the Rangers with Hamilton gone. It seems crazy, but statistically, Beltre is going to have a fantastic Hall of Fame case. I'm not sure how he plays from here on out, so it'll be interesting what kind of support he gets.

8:25: David Murphy takes a walk. Ten years ago, Murphy was Theo Epstein's first draft pick as Red Sox GM. Theo's performance with free agents was spotty, but the amount of talent drafted and developed from 2003 to 2011 by the Red Sox has to give Cubs fans a lot of hope.

8:33: AJ Pierzynski with the single to break up the Bud Norris opening day no-hitter. Bob Feller's record stands. The Murphy caught stealing is looking big.

8:35: I like the Astros uniforms. They looked good on paper, but I wanted to see them in game action.

8:40: Justin Maxwell put in some pretty solid play when I saw him in Syracuse. He swings and misses too much to make an impact right now, and he's 29, so he's pretty far from being a prospect.

8:42: I was a bit nervous heading into the season because of the drop-off in Matt Harrison's 2012 strikeouts. He starts off 2013 with four in his first six batters. This lineup is going to strike out a lot in the American League West.

8:45: Is anyone actually overlooking the Giants? I'm pretty sick of being told not to overlook the Giants.

8:47: Opening day pitching matchups are awesome. Matt Cain vs. Clayton Kershaw? Yes please. The playoffs never line up this well.

8:48: I'm giddy to log into tomorrow and see a 2013 stat line. Opening day is awesome. Baseball is awesome. You all are awesome. I could hug you all right now.

8:51: Elvis Andrus is still just 24. That's kind of crazy. He'll be a 26 year old plus defensive shortstop with over 1000 hits and good plate discipline when he hits free agency, and he's never played in fewer than 145 games. That may bode poorly for how he ages in his mid-30's, but he seems like a guy to gamble on from ages 26-30.

8:58: Full disclosure. I'd never heard of Brandon Barnes before today. 

9:00: Ronny Cedeno has a career .247/.290/.357 batting line. Unless the Astros defensive metrics rate him a lot better than most of the more common ones (which is possible), it's hard to justify them bringing him in. Even then, there has to be a journeyman/Quad-A type who has never properly getting the chance with just the tiniest bit of upside, right?

9:04: Watching Adrian Beltre, I can't help but think back to the 2010-11 offseason. At the time, it was so sensible for Boston to trade for Adrian Gonzalez, move Kevin Youkilis and let Beltre walk, but only two years later neither player is there and Beltre is the cleanup hitter on a playoff contender. For all those out there who want to second guess, however, it's hard to go back and find anyone critical of the move at the time. Even the best laid schemes...

9:16: Some sensible discussion from this announcing crew - unsurprising, since Hershiser is the best color man out there right now in my mind. No criticizing them for not having a high enough payroll, nor any unrealistic "maybe they can overcome expectations" talk either. And Hershiser is absolutely correct - 2013 is about seeing if Brett Wallace and Chris Carter and Jason Castro are actual major league contributors.

9:22: Justin Maxwell with a two-run triple, and the first runs of the 2013 season.

9:38: Like I said earlier, Ronny Cedeno is an awesome hitter, and the Astros are a contender because of him.

9:42: Altuve elevates to rip a single to center. Very impressive the way he gets his hands through the zone. 4-0 Astros in the fifth.

9:56: John Kruk is better in the booth than in the BBTN studio. It's more conversational, so his humor comes out more. He also seems content to not talk and simply fill up air when there isn't much to say. Well see if he keeps this up, but he's doing well so far.

10:00: David Murphy singles to right to make it 4-1. Runners on first and second, making Nelson Cruz the tying run with two out. The Astros are letting Norris try to fight through, but this is his last batter either way.

10:03: Cruz with an RBI single. Bedard is coming in for Norris, who pitched ok. He threw some pretty good looking sliders early on. I like that Porter is going with Bedard here, rather than feeling stuck in his traditional bullpen roles. Bedard is probably the best pitcher in the Astros bullpen, so he's the one coming in. Why isn't it always this simple?

10:07: And Bedard gets a lazy pop fly from Pierzynski. 4-2 Astros, headed to the bottom of the 6th. Bedard has a 112 career ERA+, and last year was his first below average season since his rookie year in 2004. Injuries put him off track, but he's pitched well when he's been able to pitch, and is a good pick-up for the Astros.

10:19: Matt Harrison's night is done after walking Matt Dominguez. Dominguez is a pretty good example of the Marlins not having an organizational strategy. Last July, they're trading him for Carlos Lee, three months later they blow their club up entirely.

10:21: DEREK LOWE! Forgot he was on the Rangers. 

10:22: Announcers get a minus one for treating Rick Ankiel like he's some sort of unknown prospect. He had a great spring! He's what he's been for awhile now. Low batting average, not very selective, with some pop.

10:23: There's the "some pop." That was a meatball. Derek Lowe probably shouldn't throw the high, slow, straightball again. That doesn't help Harrison's line.

10:44: I'm always amazed by plays like the one Matt Dominguez just made, going to his right and then getting something on the throw to get a fast runner like Andrus. It's fun to try that when playing catch, just to see where the ball ends up.

10:46: Bedard is absolutely dealing out of the bullpen.

10:50: Our first major league debut of 2013 is Joe Ortiz. Very impressive control numbers in the minor leagues

10:51: And he strikes out Carlos Pena, the first batter he faces. I'm pretty sure the MLB pitcher initiation is striking out Carlos Pena.

10:53: Two triple night for Justin Maxwell.

10:55: Matt Dominguez with an RBI single. Knocked down by Joe Ortiz, but it rolled up toward second base and wasn't going to be fielded cleanly. I hadn't seen much of him before, but Dominguez has impressed me tonight.8-2 Astros.

10:59: Bedard comes back for the ninth. If he completes it, it would be his first career save. Bedard hadn't pitched from the bullpen since 2004.

11:02: Justin Maxell crashes into the wall to catch the first out of the ninth.

11:09: Erik Bedard finishes it off, getting Mitch Moreland to ground to second. The Astros have the best record in baseball and Bedard leads the league in saves. Happy 2013 everyone.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Train comes to Hope

Downtown Hope, AR

A Brookings Institution report earlier this year came out with a report that the Northeast is essentially subsidizing passenger rail throughout the rest of the country. Matthew Yglesias, who is quite good, gives an analysis of the impact of these findings here for The crux of the problem - if the Northeast is making transportation profitable, then shouldn't those profits be sent back to the northeast, where even small improvements will be seen by many, rather than spread out across the country? On the other hand, if not for federal aid, can efficient passenger rail service ever be an option for the rest of the country?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rick Porcello a smart addition for someone

Rick Porcello has had kind of a strange career. A first rounder out of high school by Detroit in 2007, he was rushed through the minor leagues, making the Tigers 2009 opening day roster after only 24 appearances, all at High-A Lakeland. He was impressive enough to be ranked #21 on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list before the 2009 season, and the Tigers, who move pitchers faster than any other organization, skipped the rest of his apprenticeship.

In the majors, Porcello had a very solid rookie year, throwing 170.2 innings with a 3.96 ERA as a 20 year old. Many of his underlying stats were less exceptional though, as he gave up 23 home runs, walked 52, and struck out only 89, translating to a mediocre 4.77 FIP. In the three years since, Porcello's ERA has been closer to what his 2009 stats predicted, as he has posted ERAs of 4.92, 4.75 and 4.59. In 2012, he led the American League in hits allowed, giving up 226 in 176.1 innings.