Houston Astros v Pittsburgh Pirates

Who, exactly, expects the Astros to be good?


A silly column from Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com today. In it he looks at the Astros who, I think anyway, everyone expects to be a really bad team who will finish in last place.  Knobler, though, is reading people I haven’t read yet:

Someone’s going to be wrong about the Astros. Someone’s going to be very wrong.

Maybe it’s us. Maybe it’s them. Maybe it’s the baseball bloggers who love them. Maybe it’s the traditional baseball men who hate them.

To illustrate this alleged dichotomy, Knobler cites some scouts who, perhaps jokingly, predict 40 wins for the Astros. Or less. The best he can do in citing a “blogger” who “loves” the Astros is his CBS colleague Dayn Perry. Except what apparently qualifies as “love” is saying that the Astros will be terrible now but in four years they won’t be laughingstocks.  That’s the “love.”

At this point it’s probably worth noting that the last historically-awful team was the 2003 Detroit Tigers. They lost 119 games! Three years later they were in the World Series. As such, I don’t think saying the Astros won’t be comic relief in four years is the sort of irrational bloggy love Knobler makes it out to be.

And make no mistake, he is clearly of the view that there is irrational love on the part of we Internet people when it comes to the Astros. Why? Tribalism!

Luhnow was an easy target for traditional baseball types, and the way he built the Astros front office has only fed the perception he wants to change everything about how the game is run … They even hired writers and bloggers to help work in baseball operations … No wonder the bloggers love them.

I love the Braves, and they run their front office on moxie and Commodore 64s as far as I can tell. But if I’m wrong about that it’s no more wrong than Knobler is about the Astros’ big “bloggy” front office moves:

“I think a lot of people out there think it’s a lot of guys with spreadsheets making baseball decisions,” Kevin Goldstein said. “It’s just not true.”

Goldstein came to the Astros from Baseball Prospectus, and there were certainly eyebrows raised when he was named the team’s pro scouting coordinator. But in his first seven months on the job, Goldstein has proven to be a lot more scout-friendly than some in baseball (and in the blogger world) would have expected.

Kevin Goldstein has been writing from a scout’s perspective for years. When he was with Baseball Prospectus he scouted. And his biggest sources were scouts. He even wore a bad scout fedora years before he was hired by the Astros. And the Astros hired him to, you know, run their friggin’ scouting department. The dude is legit. In light of all of that, the only people who find Goldstein to be more “scout-friendly” than expected never read his work before and assume that anyone who writes on the Internet is informed by some outdated (if it ever was true) idea of a computer baseball enthusiast stuck in his mother’s basement. It’s funny. Knobler’s whole column is about how two camps have competing narratives but the whole thing itself is an exercise in narrative.

A phony one, really. I’d love to see links to any bloggers who think the Astros are actually going to be good this year. I’d love to hear how saying “they’re going to stink, but they probably won’t set all-time records for futility because such teams are really, really rare” constitutes “love.”

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.


MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.