Guess what these numbers, 106,107,111,92, indicate when discussing the Houston Astros?
No, it’s not how many games they have won in each of the past four season, but rather it is how many games they have lost.
The Astros have been the doormat of both the NL and AL in each of the past four seasons, but it appears that those days are over.
If opening day is any indication, the Astros won’t suck this year.
On opening day the Astros defeated the Cleveland Indians, one of the prohibitive favorites in the American League, by the score of 2-0. Dallas Keuchel, won his first career opening day start by throwing seven shutout innings allowing only three hits and striking out four. The bullpen came in and pitched two shutout, hitless innings and looked competent as well.
New manager A.J. Hinch has assembled a young core that will likely hover around the .500 barrier. Jose Altuve, George Springer, Chris Carter (not the NFL hall of famer), and Jake Marisnick help make up the Astros’ young core.
Colby Rasmus and Jed Lowrie both have disappointed for some of their prior teams but seem to have prominent everyday roles allotted to them. On opening day Lowrie was one of the two Astros to score. Rasmus reached base as well. With a mix of raw prospects and veterans such as Rasmus, Lawrie, closer Luke Gregerson, and reliever Pat Neshek, the Astros have the makings not of a playoff team, but of a team that you wouldn’t want to play in September when your making a playoff push and need easy wins. The ‘Stros are no longer the pushover they once were.
And that means as a fan, we will see more of one of the most quirky ballparks in the game on TV more frequently.
For the first and certainly not last time the New York Yankees lost yesterday to the Toronto Blue Jays. “Ace” Masahiro Tanaka pitched four mediocre innings and already has as many losses as he did by May of the 2014 season.
Michael Pineda though was dominant this spring. In 19 innings he struck out 23 opposing hitters and gave up a mere three earned runs, posting a 0.89 WHIP, and limiting batters to just a .229 average.
Pineda was on track to have a breakout season last year, but injuries as well as pine tar issues derailed his season. Pineda’s HR/FB total was the lowest of his career. His walk rate per nine innings was way down, his velocity was up.
He tried to regain his pre June dominance but never got on track during the second half of the MLB season.
Pineda has a history of injury issues, but with Tanaka on track for a season ending Tommy John surgery and C.C. Sabathia no longer the workhorse ace he once was, the door is open for Pineda to emerge as the Yankees best pitcher. Remember that it was only three years ago, he was the top young pitcher in the Seattle Mariners farm system and the major trade piece in the Jesus Montero deal.
If the Yankees want to sniff the playoffs, Pineda will need to eat up innings and be the dominant force the Yankees traded for seasons ago.
Here’s a trivia question that Celtics play-by-play announcer Tommy Heinsohn has repeated on the past three Celtics broadcast: In their first 10 games as a Celtic which player has scored the most total points?
The answer is not John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bob Cousy, Paul Pierce, or Larry Bird.
The correct answer is Isaiah Thomas, the five foot nine inch guard the Celtics acquired in a trade from the Phoenix Suns at the trade deadline.
Even after voicing his desire to start for the C’s, Thomas has continued to come off the bench for Brad Stevens’ bunch. In his 10 games since arriving in Beantown, Thomas has averaged 21.4 points per game on 41 percent shooting. He is averaging 27.6 minutes per game off the bench and has emerged as the best sixth man in basketball.
Thomas, of late, has been the best fourth quarter player in all of basketball. His 8.9 fourth quarter points is the best mark in the NBA. MVP candidate Stephen Curry is second with 8.4 points per fourth quarter.
The University of Washington product has emerged as the Celtics, go to guy as well.
“For the longest time we kind of just did it by committee, “Celtics center Kelly Olynyk told reporters after the C’s win over the Heat, adding “ Isaiah’s really taken that role by storm and I think it’s good for us. We know what we’re doing. Everyone knows where we’re going. Everyone’s ready to shoot off penetration or throwbacks and that kind of stuff. We all know where shots are coming, so it makes it a lot easier when you know what’s coming, where shots are coming and what our plan is”
Take a look at what Thomas has brought to the Celtics.
Early in the second quarter, Thomas provides the punch that no other Celtic can provide. Watch after receiving the initial pass from Luigi Datome how he penetrates into the paint, forcing both Tyler Johnson and Henry Walker to help. Thomas then kicks it out to Datome for what appears to be an open three. Walker closes quickly and prohibits Datome from pulling up. Datome then takes two pedestrian dribbles and passes back out to Thomas. At this point, this possession seems to be broken.
Kelly Olynyk then sets a screen allowing Thomas to penetrate again. When Thomas catches his dribble at the nine second mark of the video, notice how all five heat players are in the paint. Only Tyler Johnson does not have both of his feet in the paint. Thomas then delivers a pass to Jonas Jerebko who knocks down the long two pointers.
That entire possession only had a chance because of Thomas’s ability to create his own shot. Without him that possession goes nowhere.
Take a look at another example during the fourth quarter when the Celtics rely on Thomas.
Thomas passes to Bass and then V-cuts down toward the corner. Thomas then sets a quick rub screen for Evan Turner allowing him to cut along the baseline and potentially be open for a backdoor pass. Bass delivers the ball back to Jerebko and then sets a down-screen for Thomas. Thomas curls above the screen and elevates for an open three.
Heat defender Tyler Johnson is late because he overplays the screen thinking that Thomas will curl left and then dribble left. Thomas though anticipates well, stops his curl, steps back and hits an open three. Again an easy shot created because of Thomas’s quickness and penetrating ability.
If Thomas wins the Sixth Man of the Year Award he would become the first player to play on two different teams in one season to accomplish such a feat. Jamal Crawford is the other logical choice for the award. His minute totals are similar to Thomas’s and his scoring average of 16.4 points per game is 0.1 points higher than Thomas’s season total. But Thomas has been far more productive since joining the Celtics and his numbers should only continue to improve.
And anyways, Crawford won the award last season and his numbers were better last year than this season.
Thomas has been the best bench player in the league since joining the Celtics. With more than 15 games left, Thomas should only continue to improve his scoring averages and improve his case and the Celtics’ change of making the playoffs.