What we're watching: Beckett looks to bounce back

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– Brad Penny makes his first start for the Giants in a big game against Philadelphia. The Phillies won a sterling contest 1-0 last night, as Cole Hamels pitched a two-hit shutout to outduel Jonathan Sanchez. That allowed the Rockies to reclaim a one-game lead in the wild-card race. The Giants will likely need a strong outing from Penny if they hope to hang in there against J.A. Happ, who is 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA. Penny turned in just one quality start in his last five trips to the mound for Boston. He was released by the Red Sox after going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts.
– The Red Sox will be looking for Josh Beckett to bounce back against a Rays team he’s struggled against lately. The former 20-game winner has allowed 20 runs over his last three starts, taking his ERA from 3.10 to 3.80. He’s 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA against Tampa Bay this year, and he gave up 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings versus the club in the ALCS last year. His opponent tonight might just be the one pitcher in the league the Red Sox least like to see: Matt Garza. Garza is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts versus Boston this year. Including last year’s postseason, he’s 7-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox.
Game of the Night
Los Angeles vs. Seattle – Well, technically it’s a late afternoon game in Seattle, but that’s good enough for us East Coasters. Scott Kazmir will make his Angels debut in a showdown against Cy Young contender Felix Hernandez. Kazmir had his high strikeout game of the year in his final start for Tampa Bay before being traded for three prospects. He allowed one run in six innings and fanned 10 against Toronto to finish off a month of August in which he went 3-1 with a 5.10 ERA. Hernandez is aiming for his first win of the year against the Angels after going 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA in his first two starts.

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.