Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros

Every Friday, the Getting Blanked crew makes a prop bet of sorts with one another having something to do with baseball games over the weekend. Of the four competitors, whoever wins the prop bet is able to dole out a punishment on the colleague of their choice. This week’s punishment was watching and recapping Wednesday night’s Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros game. We call this #PropHate.

The Narrative

We like to say that things have a way of evening out, and while there’s some truth to that statement, it’s a bit more complicated than putting faith in the due theory. Coming into Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Houston Astros had lost five in a row, including back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Rays, who outscored the Astros 20-0 over the last two games.

Tampa Bay is a good team. Houston is a bad team. But the gap between good and bad in terms of Major League Baseball teams isn’t as wide as heroes and villains in summer blockbuster movies. Even the lowly Astros are unlikely to be consistently outscored by an average of ten runs a game by the mighty Rays.

And so, we get Wednesday night. A game in which Houston’s ace, Bud Norris, did what he’s done at home for the past two seasons. And a game in which Chris Carter did something that he hasn’t done at home since coming to the Astors. Good starting pitching and home run hitting combined to give Houston a 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

Carter brought in all four of his team’s runs with home runs in the second and seventh innings. Meanwhile, Norris pitched seven innings, allowing one run on seven hits and three walks, while striking out five batters. Roberto Hernandez was his equal through much of the game, but a Brett Wallace double and Jason Castro single in the seventh ended his night earlier than his team would’ve liked, leading to Carter’s home run heroics.

The Astros never looked back, relying on perfect innings from Jose Cisnero and Jose Veras in relief to keep the lead and win their 31st game of the season.

The Win Expectancy Graph (Courtesy Of Fangraphs)

Source: FanGraphs

Of all the win expectancy graphs that I’ve ever seen, this is certainly one of them.

The Most Important Play Of The Game

Chris Carter’s three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied added 15.1% in win probability for his team. The second highest win probability added was Carter’s solo home run in the second, which increased his team’s chances of winning by 11.7%. You might say he had a pretty good game.

It was an interesting choice to bring in Jake McGee to face Carter, something we’ll get to later, but it was also an interesting choice McGee made to throw what was as close to the exact same two-seam fastball to Carter eight times, including three in a row in the exact same location to end the at-bat.

mcgee v  carter

The third time, Carter bashed the pitch so hard, it left his bat at 106 miles per hour with a vertical launch angle of 29 degrees. It went over the fence, and because of it, the Astros won the game.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single-handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

Matt Joyce went two-for-three with a walk on Wednesday, increasing his team’s win probability added by 1.2%. He was one of only two position players to have positive WPAs on the night.

Was Jose Molina Effective?

A lot has been made of Jose Molina’s ability to frame the strike zone so as to get strike calls from the home plate umpires on pitches that should have actually been called balls.

Here is the called strike zone for Roberto Hernandez:


Here is the called strike zone for Jake McGee:

mcgee called strikes

Here is the called strike zone for Jamey Wright:

wright called strikes

Molina wasn’t exactly painting the sweetest of pictures with his catching.

The Anatomy Of A Name Change

Tonight’s starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays was named Roberto Heredia Hernández shortly after his birth on August 30th, 1980 in Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic. However, during December of 2000, when he signed an amateur free agent contract with the Cleveland Indians, he told representatives of the team that his name was actually Fausto Carmona, and that he was born three years later than he actually was. This was discovered in January of 2012, when Dominican police arrested Hernández, accusing him of using a false identity to obtain a visa after a woman claimed she falsified a birth certificate for Hernández in exchange for $26,000. When the promised figure wasn’t delivered to her by Hernandez’s father, she contacted the authorities.

The Indians placed Hernández on the restricted list because in April of 2008, they signed Hernández to a four-year $15-million contract that included club options for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. They renegotiated the deal following the revelation of his identity fraud, reducing his 2012 salary to $2.5 million and his 2013 option to $6 million.

When everything was resolved, Hernández received this welcome back from his teammates:


At the end of the 2012 season, the Indians declined the 2013 option that they had renegotiated, and Hernández signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays for $3.25-million and some potential performance bonuses. At the end of the season, Hernández will have earned more than $21-million over the course of his career, a career he likely never would’ve had the opportunity to have had without deceiving the Indians thirteen years ago.

The Interesting Thing The Manager Did

With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners on the corners and none out, Rays manager Joe Maddon removed Hernandez from the game in favor of left-handed reliever Jake McGee. It was a curious decision because right-handed batter Chris Carter – who had already homered in the second inning – was due up next for the Astros.

It might seem like a stupid move, but the thing is:

RHB vs. McGee over his career: .247 wOBA.

So maybe it wasn’t that stupid, but the other thing is:

Carter vs. LHP over his career: .320 wOBA.

After the count went to 1-2, it looked as though Maddon was a genius, but after fouling off three pitches, Carter went deep to left center to give his team a 4-1 lead.

The Truthful Things The Analyst Said

Alan Ashby, that sly old fox: “That change up from Roberto Hernandez looked a lot like something we might see from Fausto Carmona.”

Ashby, extolling the virtues of a flexible bullpen: “Sometimes the most important moments happen before the ninth inning. I’d rather have the reliable guy for those instances.”

Ashby, with a full count, none out and runners on the corners during a tied game: “Get ready. This is good ol’ country hardball.”

The Things You Won’t Believe

This is the fifth time that the Houston Astros have been a featured team for an I Watched This On Purpose recap. That’s more than any other team. The Minnesota Twins are second with four.

Jose Molina was caught stealing for the seventh time in his career in the top of the fifth inning. Even though it will be recorded as such, I promise you stealing a base was never his intent. It came on a 3-2 pitch to Yunel Escobar that ended up being strike three.

The tallest player on the Houston Astros is right-handed reliever Jose Veras. He’s 1.418 Altuves tall.

Both of Chris Carter’s home runs tonight came on 3-2 counts.

Bud Norris’s ERA at home in 2012 and in 2013: 1.71, 2.27.

Bud Norris’s ERA on the road in 2012 and in 2013: 6.94, 5.02.

Stray Observations

Alan Ashby, as always, is a delight in the broadcast booth. It seemed strange that the CSN broadcast would be so concentrated on its next series against the in-state division rival Texas Rangers, but it was all that was talked about during the first three innings.

I had forgotten what a great arm Yunel Escobar has as a shortstop.

Every time I see Desmond Jennings play, I wonder how long it will be until he becomes a full fledged superstar. In the few games I’ve witnessed him playing, he’s appeared patient at the plate, able to make good contact and absolutely wonderful in the field. However, it seems that over the course of every other game he’s played, he hasn’t looked nearly so bright. It seems impossible to me that he should only have a .324 OBP.

Last week, I wondered if the Miami Marlins might – if offered – take a hiatus for the 2013 season. There’s little doubt in my mind that if the same offer was extended to the Astros they’d jump at the opportunity. The majority of their roster is comprised of stop-gap replacement talent. However, that doesn’t mean that some of that replacement talent won’t take advantage of an opportunity to come into their own and prove themselves something more. I hope we saw an example of that with Chris Carter tonight, who, of course should likely be considered above replacement and perhaps even above average, but still, to him, playing in Houston this year offers an opportunity that he might not have gotten on another team.

I actually like Carter a lot, and even moreso after Wednesday. Not just for his power, but also his post-game interview where he admitted to being more nervous than going up to bat. He seemed like a very humble and genuine guy, for whom I hope the very best.