Man, the Astros are Bad

After finishing 2011 with a league-worst 56-106 record and no real veteran additions or up-and-coming stars to watch, they were an easy pick to repeat the dubious distinction.  So it’s no surprise that today, August 7th, the Astros seem to have a commanding and insurmountable lead in the chase for the top draft pick in the 2013 Draft (Interesting side note: Houston-native and Stanford Cardinal P Mark Appel, who was widely considered the favorite to be picked 1st overall by his hometown Astros this June will be available again after failing to sign with the Pirates and electing to pitch his senior season in Palo Alto…  Will Houston snub the homegrown kid two years in a row?), but it’s just how the Astros have arrived at this point that is worth looking at, much like how you can’t turn away from a horrific car crash.  It’s human nature.

After dropping an extra-inning thriller to the Nationals last night, the Astros have now lost 31 of their last 35 games.  That’s almost hard to believe.  Of the last 5 games they have won, 3 have come via Lucas Harrell, the former White Sox farmhand who was claimed off waivers by Houston last season.  He’s quietly put together an OK season and one wonders where this listless ship would be had the Sox not waived him in the first place.

The Astros are averaging a paltry 3.81 RPG, 4th worst in the National League, and are allowing 5.11 RPG, “officially” the 2nd worst mark in the NL, but come on, the only team they trail is the Rockies.  They have a league-worst -143 run differential.  It’s all bad and doesn’t appear to be getting much better any time soon as they completely gutted their roster at the non-waiver trade deadline but still have a relatively empty upper level farm system (most of Houston’s better prospects are still several years from the Majors around A-ball).

And, speaking of last night’s loss to Washington, the Nats scored the game-winning run in the 11th when they bunted home a runner from first base with much help from Houston’s comically bad defense.  You have to see it to believe it.

Really, all we’re missing here is the Yakkety Sax.

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Up yours, Chris Perez

Believe me, I am all for baseball history.  I thoroughly enjoy the seemingly endless line of abnormalities, fluke plays, and downright bizarre things that make people who have been watching the game for years, if not decades, say “I have never seen that.”  So while I’m sure at one point I will appreciate the Indians’ 10th inning meltdown in Detroit from a purely historical point of view, today is not that day.

After the Sox rallied for a 4-2 comeback win over the Angels; taking 2 of 3 this weekend (Sidebar: Watching Torii Hunter come up with nothing but a facefull of sod making a full body layout for Alexei Ramirez’s insurance run scoring triple in the 8th inning was *oh-so* satisfying), I was pretty pumped to see that the Indians had tagged 3 runs on the Tigers in the top of the 10th and looked to have pushed the Sox’s division lead back to 2 1/2 games…

Well, I’ll save the drama, I’m sure by now you know that the Tigers responded by scoring FIVE RUNS off Indians closer Chris Perez (all of them, by the way, with two outs) for a remarkable 10-8 win that keeps Detroit nipping at the Sox’s heels.  You can watch the rally here and you can read the full recap from the very good Indians’ fan blog, Did the Tribe Win Last Night?

For those of you interested in a more analytical view of the win, here’s the WPA chart:

After Perez retired Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch to start the 10th, the Tigers win probablity literally rounded to 0%.  Of course, here we are.

All this said, the Sox remain the pace setter in the Central, as they have been most of the summer now, and are riding another characteristic hot streak, having won 9 of their last 12 since that disastrous trip through Boston and Detroit.  I have no doubt that if the Sox were still managed by Ozzie, losing 3 of 4 in Boston and then getting swept out of 1st in Detroit would have probably caused the team to sink into an uncontrollable spiral.  Robin, for whatever reason, seems to have the magic touch to keep these guys from going too low or too high.  It’s been a refreshing season of baseball on the South Side.

The near future schedule also seems to heavily favor the Sox, as well, as 12 of their next 19 are at home with 9 of those against teams currently in last place (6 vs. Kansas City and 3 vs. Seattle who we have owned in recent years).  The Tigers meanwhile, open up a 4-game series tonight against the Yankees in Detroit, then travel to Texas and Minnesota, before another tough 9-game homestand against three teams still in the mix to fringe mix of the postseason chase; Baltimore, Toronto, and LA of A.

Go Sox.

Tribe Sees Victory Slide Through Their Fingers [Did the Tribe Win Last Night?]

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NFL Week 3 Picks

BEARS GAME

What a difference a week makes.  7 days ago, the Bears defense was an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, the offense had improved to the point they were not an affront to football, and the Bears were staking their claim amongst the elite in the NFC.

Ouch.

The shellacking at the hands of the Saints was pretty dismal, and with the offensive line playing musical chairs to fill in for injured starters, it’s pretty easy to see how this game could get away from the Bears early.  That said, the D has always been good at containing Rodgers and his explosive offenses; in the Aaron Rodgers era, I believe Green Bay has only scored more then 20 points of offense on the Bears once… maybe twice?  This game will likely come down to the Bears’ ability to handle the pressure the Packers are sure to bring.  You can only imagine Dom Capers and his defensive line sitting in his office in Green Bay, watching the tape of that embarrassing second half and salivating like a pack of hungry wolves.  Normally, I’d think the Bears have what it takes to stick with Green Bay, but with Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi out, I’m not as confident.

PICK: Packers (-4) over BEARS

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It’s Stuff Like This that Just Makes My Brain Hurt

The first post-Charlie Sheen episode of Two and Half Men drew a staggering, STAGGERING 28 million viewers last night.  That is just simply otherworldly for the once dying art of the sitcom.  All of this despite the fact that the show itself is being roundly described as somewhere between “terrible” and “awful” today.

I have no real stake in Two and a Half Men or the bizarre Charlie Sheen drama obsession that has captivated people for so long… I think the show is terrible, Sheen is purposefully playing the part of the fool, and I didn’t bother to watch either Ashton Kutcher’s unveiling or the Charlie Sheen roast that was happening simultaneously on Comedy Central.  Instead, I stuck to some proven winners; 30 Rock‘s syndicated premier on Comedy Central and then Monday Night Football… though I did DVR the premier of The Playboy Club.  We’ll see how that decision feels.

Anyways, in the AV Club review that was linked, a commenter asked what’s the over/under on how long before the show has run its course…  I’m going to have to say Two and Half Men will be done after season 10.

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NFL Week 2 Picks

Bears Game

Obviously a big factor in this game is the still uncertain status of Brian Urlacher, but it’s nice to see that even with such a big question mark hanging over their heads, the Bears have gotten some respect as the week has gone along.  The line opened earlier this week with New Orleans as a 7-point favorite and right now, it is down to 6.5.  I can easily see the Bears’ gameplan that worked to perfection Sunday against the Falcons being the model of how they want to handle another explosive, skilled offense.  This is not to say I think the Bears will win, but I think the game will be much closer than people are giving them credit, and hey, if Urlacher plays his heart out and the defense can force some mistakes from a Saints team that didn’t exactly look sharp all night in Green Bay last week, maybe they can pull a rabbit out of their hat.

Pick: Bears (+6.5) over SAINTS

Rest of the League

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The Top 10 Episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

We’re in the final hours of the countdown to the new season of one of my favorite shows of… well, probably, ever.  It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns Thursday night, 9 PM for those of us here in the Central Time Zone.  First off, to get you ready, check out the “All New Sunny” Channel over at YouTube, lots of previews, interviews, and other behind the scenes gold concerning the new season.  Second, to ensure your appetite for this new year as is whet as mine, here is my top 10 episodes in the series current, 6-year run.

I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers, but I can’t promise anything…

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Week 1 – Bears 30, Falcons 12

You would have to have a pretty cold, stone heart made of ice to not be excited by the Bears’ resoundingly spectacular performance yesterday afternoon.  After having watched the Packers torch the Saints for 42 points and 477 yards of total offense on Thursday night, it seemed like the questions surrounding this Bears squad became even more suffocating…  How would their 4 new offensive linemen handle the task of protecting a quarterback in an offensive system that demands long dropbacks to execute its precise routes?  How much longer could the defense, with nearly every playmaker on the wrong side of 30, maintain its championship pedigree?  How would Jay Cutler respond after a nightmare NFC Title game and off-season?  How would the team respond after a shortened off-season punctuated by players openly questioning the cheapness of the front-office after contract extension demands were made by Matt Forte and Lance Briggs, the trade of Cutler’s favorite target, TE Greg Olsen, and the release of long-time captain and popular teammate Olin Kreutz over, reportedly, $500,000?

Well, for one bright weekend, consider those questions answered.

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