Report: Astros, Jack Cust agree to one-year deal with club option

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UPDATE: Put the pitchforks and torches down, Astros fans.

Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle reports that Cust will get a one-year deal with a club option for 2013. While this is a little better than what we heard a few moments ago, most expected he wouldn’t get anything more than a spring training invite.

10:56 PM: Here’s a surprising one.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Astros and Jack Cust have agreed to terms a two-year contract. You heard me right. The very same Jack Cust who batted just .213 with three home runs, 87 strikeouts and a .673 OPS over 270 plate appearances before being released by the Mariners last August.

Rosenthal speculates that Cust could be an option at designated hitter when the Astros move to the American League in 2013, but that doesn’t make this deal any less of a head-scratcher. The dude turned 33 years old yesterday, can’t play defense and his flyball and contact rates have dipped in each of the last two seasons. Two years for that? Even assuming it’s at a minimal cost, I’m stumped.

The only explanation I can come up with is that Sig Mejdal, the Astros’ new director of decision sciences, must be on vacation this week.

The “Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative should be dead

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For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.

Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).

Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.

In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.

According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.