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4th Quarter Clutch

Providing the public with in-depth articles and some blogging about various sports topics.

Houston Astros: One of MLB's Biggest Surprises This Season

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There have been many positive surprises since the Major League Baseball season began last month. Arguably, one of the biggest surprises this season has been the tremendous success of the Houston Astros.

Prior to this year, the Astros had been a mediocre team this decade.

They have only reached the 60-win plateau twice this decade. They finished the 2010 season with a 76-86 record and a 70-92 record during the 2014 season.

On June 30, 2014, Sports Illustrated had a picture of Astros’ outfielder George Springer on the cover of that week’s edition. The biggest surprise of all was the caption that was also on the front cover, “An Unprecedented Look At How a Franchise Is Going Beyond Moneyball To Build The Game’s Next Big Thing…Your 2017 World Series Champs.”

Many people were taken aback by the idea of the Astros being considered a potential 2017 World Series Champion. At that point, they were on pace for their seventh-losing season in the last eight years and, as aforementioned, they finished the season with 70-victories.

Excitement was beginning to build among MLB fans last season when they were able to witness good to terrific seasons for Astros’ players like José Altuve, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel and Springer. They did make some acquisitions this offseason to try to improve their team, which included acquiring Evan Gattis from the Atlanta Braves and signing free agent Jed Lowrie.

Prior to this season, three different websites, CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo Sports, posted their predictions for each MLB Division this season. The predictions that these writers posted on their respective websites included the Astros’ division, the American League West.

Out of those three websites, none of the 11 writers predicted that the Astros would finish above third in the American League West.

This season, the Astros have proved them wrong, thus far, by beginning the season with a 22-13 record. They also have a four-and-a-half game lead in the American League West over the second-place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Astros are tied with the Detroit Tigers, who are currently leading the American League Central by one-game over the Kansas City Royals-last year's American League pennant winner, for the best record in the American League.

A huge reason why the Astros have performed better this season has been the improve play of their bullpen.

Last season, the Astros bullpen had an atrocious 4.80 Earned Run Average or ERA and a .260 Batting Average Allowed or BAA. During the offseason, they acquired relief pitchers like Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek.

Both of those pitchers have done a tremendous job to improve the Astros bullpen as they both have a sub-3.00 ERA, a sub-1.00 Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched or WHIP and a sub-.210 BAA. Their bullpen has performed much better this season as the bullpen has a 2.13 ERA and a .182 BAA; thus far.

The Astros improved performance has led to an increase social media following.

According to, which is a website that shows statistics and studies from more than 18,000 sources, the Astros had 137,000 Twitter followers in April 2014. They have increased their Twitter following drastically in one year as they were up to 211,000 followers last month, according to the website. This includes 21,554 tweets this season that have mentioned #HTOWNPIDE, as of Friday morning at 11:02 a.m. EST, which is trending in Astros Social on the Astros website on

The Astros currently have 138,174 followers on their Instagram account, at least 216,000 followers on their Twitter account and 759,108 likes on their Facebook page, as of Friday morning at 11:03 a.m. EST, according to the Astros website on

The combination of the Astros improved on-field performance and increase social media following has led to an increase in fan attendance.

Last season, the Astros ranked 26th out of 30 MLB teams when they drew an average of 21,627 fans to their home games. This season, they have had an average of 22,681 fans attend their home games, which ranks 23rd this season among MLB teams.

The Astros’ fan attendance should continue to increase, especially when they inevitably promote their top prospect 20-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa to Houston. Correa has gotten off to such a tremendous start this season that they have already promoted him from their Double-A to their Triple-A Affiliated team.

Interestingly enough, increased fan attendance is not limited to the Astros or to U.S baseball fans. According to international ticket reseller Ticketbis, there has been a steady increase in the number of international fans attending MLB games in the U.S., which is certainly great news for the sport specifically from Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. 

-Noah Weintraub

Undrafted Elijah Millsap Made NBA Regular Season Debut on Monday

Utah Jazz guard Elijah Millsap (13) celebrates after a play against the Indiana Pacers on Monday, at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Pacers won 105-101. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

On Sunday, the Utah Jazz called up Elijah Millsap of the Bakersfield Jam: a D-League team. The following day, the 6-foot-6 Millsap made his NBA regular season debut by scoring two points, getting one steal, distributing four assists and grabbing five rebounds in a little more than 18 minutes against the Indiana Pacers.

The road to the NBA had been a long journey for Millsap. His journey to the NBA began on April 9, 2010.

On April 9, 2010, Millsap announced that he was forgoing his final year of eligibility, his senior season, to declare for the upcoming NBA Draft. Some of his accomplishments from his only season at UAB, he attended Louisiana-Lafayette from 2006-2008 before transferring to UAB, included Conference USA coaches and some media members naming him as a member of the All-Conference USA men's basketball first-team and leading the conference with 9.5 rebounds per game.

A few months later, June 24, Millsap was one of dozens of players who went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft. He participated in a summer league for the Detroit Pistons, shortly after the draft.

Millsap finished that summer league with 27 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in four games. Shortly after that summer league ended, Sept. 26, the Oklahoma City Thunder signed him to a multi-year contract.

He participated in their training camp and received limited minutes in four preseason games. Millsap finished that preseason with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one block in 50.2 total minutes.

Millsap's agent Daniel Hazan said what his client probably learned from the 2010 summer league and training camp along with additional summer leagues and training camps.

"I think the biggest advice he probably got was to stay focus and to continue to be as aggressive as he is," Hazan said. "Good things happen when he is aggressive defensively and offensively. Just never lay back and continue that. He took that into the D-League with Bakersfield and he did that by putting up great statistics. It ended up working out really well for him."

On Oct. 30, the Thunder allocated him to the Tulsa 66ers: a D-League team. He ended up starting 44 of 50 games for the 66ers that season.

Millsap finished that season with 15.22 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.22 steals and 0.34 blocks per game. Hazan said what his client probably learned from that D-League season along with additional D-League seasons.

"It has definitely helped him prepare to play in the NBA," Hazan said. "Playing in the D-League and playing under the school of NBA. You are with the best trainers and you are pretty much in the NBA without being in the NBA. The coaching staff are at a high level and everything is at the pinnacle of professionalism. It teaches you how to be a professional and it gives you the ability to showcase your talents. We have seen that payoff with him getting this call up."

From the conclusion of that season to this past September, Millsap's various basketball stop included attending the Lakers 2011 training camp, playing a little more than two seasons with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League and playing in Israel and the Philippines.

The one thing that has been constant for Millsap is the support of his family and friends. Hazan said how his family has supported him throughout this journey.

"They have been very instrumental in his success," Hazan said. "From a young age, working with him and supporting him. Especially his brother Paul, guiding him in the proper direction on and off the floor to get to this point."

On Sept. 23, Millsap signed a non-guarantee contract with the Milwaukee Bucks to attend their training camp, according to He ended up scoring four points, grabbing one rebound and dishing out one assist in a little less than seven minutes in one preseason game.

Twelve days after Millsap became a free agent, Oct. 30, he returned to the Fenders. This stint on the Fenders lasted just one day before the Jam acquired him.

Millsap was playing terrific basketball for the Jam in his first 19 games with the team. He was averaging 20.58 points, 8.26 rebounds, 5.21 assists, 2.11 steals and 0.26 blocks per game.

Prior to Sunday, the Jazz had been dealing with injuries to their shooting guards like Alec Burks and Rodney Hood, according to Andy Larsen of The Jazz might have been thinking about trying to resolve that issue when they called up Millsap on Sunday and signed him to a 10-day contract the following day, according to Hazan Sports Management's website.

Hazan said what Millsap is hoping to accomplish during this 10-day contract and what his mindset is.

"He's just ready to come and contribute in whatever way possible and to generate some wins for the team," Hazan said. "If he does that, then the rest will come.

"He's just focused. He's ready if his name is called, to come in and to contribute in whatever possible way. It's just another opportunity for him and we're very confident about his chances with the Jazz organization."

This is the first client of Hazan's that has ended up playing in the NBA and he was ecstatic by the recent development for Millsap.

"For us (Hazan Sports Management) he needed as much attention as possible and we really wanted to make sure that he was getting the proper looks and proper attention," Hazan said. "We tried to put him in the best situation; including the summer league with Philadelphia, training camp with the Bucks and now with Utah. What we wanted to give him was the best possible opportunity and give him what he deserved, which was a shot at the NBA. I think he definitely accomplished that.

"It feels amazing and it has been very gratifying. It has been countless, countless nights working to try to achieve his dream and our dreams. It has been really nice because we have had the same goals and we have finally accomplished that. It's been a big thing for the agency and it has been a crazy 24 to 48 hours."

Hazan described Millsap as a player and which current NBA player he most resembles.

"I would describe him as defensive minded," Hazan said. "He has a nose for rebounding and has a nose for the ball, very athletic and excellent at getting to the hole. Also, he can draw contact to get himself to the free throw line and he can shut down the opposing team's best offensive player.

"(He would say the) same exact thing (to describe himself as a player). He's quiet and very humble. He's also very passionate about the game.

"I would probably say it would be closer to P.J. Tucker from the Phoenix Suns. Not only because of his style, but also because of his journey. Tucker's journey is very similar to Elijah because Tucker got to the league at 27 and he also had some bumps along the way. I would probably say Tucker is the one that most resembles him and also Jimmy Butler as well; two defensive minded players."

Millsap did not start the game for the Jazz, but he made his NBA regular season debut when he subbed in for Gordon Hayward with 3:42 remaining in the first quarter.

Millsap ended up scoring two points, grabbing one steal, distributing four assists and grabbing five rebounds in 18 minutes as the Pacers defeated the Jazz by the final score of 105-101. Hazan said in a Facebook message what Millsap's thoughts were after his first NBA regular season game.

"He felt pretty good and a little tired from the altitude, but good," Hazan said.

Millsap's next game will be on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls.

-Noah Weintraub

*I do apologize for some of the text appearing in an 'odd' color. That color occurred after I attached a hyperlink to some words in the article.

Yasmani Tomas Nearing MLB Elgibility


On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, unblocked 24-year-old Yasmani Tomas. OFAC unblocking Tomas puts him one-step closer to Major League Baseball, MLB, declaring him a free agent, according to Jesse Sanchez of

Tomas began his professional baseball career as a member of Industriales de La Habana Blue Lions, which is part of Cuba’s Serie Nacional, in 2008. It was very impressive for Tomas to land a roster spot on that team because they are the premier team in Cuba, according to Steve Sypa of Amazin’ Avenue-SB Nation.

In his first season with the Industriales at 18-year-old, 2008-2009, he managed to be productive in limited playing time, 35 games and 91 at-bats. He ended up hitting for a .297 average with one home run and 11 Runs Batted In, RBI while alternating between playing left field, right field, first base and third base. Unfortunately, for Tomas, his production did not improve the following season.

During the 2009-2010 season, Tomas hit for a .185 average, Chinese Taipei v Cuba - World Baseball Classic Second Round Pool 1smacked one home runs and drove in three runs. One reason for this poor production is the fact that he only recorded 27 at-bats in 24 games.

It is tough to establish a good hitting approach when a batter is averaging one bat in the games that he played in. He did not play the following season for unknown reasons, but the lack of playing time most likely contributed to him not playing.

When he returned for the 2011-2012 season, he began to emerge from a player with great potential to a very good player.

Tomas set career-highs that season as he hit for a .298 average, hit 20 home runs and drove in 50 runs in 83 games. That terrific season helped him emerge as one of Cuba’s prolific hitters, according to Mike Rosenbaum of Bleacher Report.

He ended up playing two more seasons with the team, seeing exclusive playing time in center field-according to Rosenbaum, before he left Cuba earlier this year. Tomas established himself as a very good baseball player with a terrific performance at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

He began the tournament as a back-up to long-time Cuban National Team right fielder Alexei Bell. By the time they were eliminated from the tournament, Cuba’s manager Victor Mesa was giving Tomas some playing time over Bell, according to Sypa. Tomas had a magnificent tournament as he ended up finished with a .375 batting average, two home runs and five RBI in six games.

One of his most memorable moments of the tournament was a moon shot to left field against Japan that ended up around 20 rows up, according to the announcer for that game. His performance was so good that Baseball America ended up ranking him as the sixth-best, non-MLB player in the tournament. Despite battling a wrist injury during the succeeding season, 2013-2014, he still managed to have a very productive season.

He finished that season with a .291 average, six home runs and 35 RBI in 65 games. Shortly after the season ended, June 20, human traffickers helped smuggle Tomas out of the country, according to

Tomas ended up in the Dominican Republic where he had to establish residency there and be cleared by MLB and OFAC before he could pursue a MLB career, according to Cash Kruth of With Tomas being cleared on Thursday by OFAC, all he needs now is to be cleared by MLB to be officially declared a free agent.

Once MLB clears the right-handed-hitting Tomas, an intense bidding war will ensue among MLB teams to sign him. He will be putting on a showcase that is tentatively scheduled toward the end of this week in the Dominican Republic, according to Kruth.

It is unknown at this time what teams could be considered the early favorites to sign him, but it is hard to imagine very few teams not being interested in signing a 24-year-old outfielder with tremendous power.

One thing that is noticeable about Tomas, when watching Tomas or viewing YouTube videos of him, is his size and strength. He is listed at 6-foot-1, 230-pounds. At that great size and strength, he can easily hit home runs. His power is so good that Ben Badler of Baseball America ranked his raw power as a 70 on the 20-80 scale.

Tomas’ speed is considered below average, but he was able to steal 15 bases with the Industriales. Even though Tomas is an immensely talented player, it would be unfair to consider him the same caliber player as former Cuban players Abreu and Yoenis Céspedes when they were MLB free agents.

Rosenbaum compared the statistics of Tomas between his 21 to 23-year-old seasons, 2012-2014, with Abreu and Céspedes when they were at that age:

As the table shows in that link, Tomas’ production during that time span was not as productive as Abreu or Céspedes. Despite Tomas’ statistics during that time span being inferior to Abreu and Céspedes, he can still end up receiving a more lucrative contract.

When Céspedes was a free agent, he was 26-years-old. On Feb. 13, 2012, he agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics. As great of a contract as his was, Abreu’s was more lucrative. Abreu was the same age as Céspedes when he was a free agent last year. On Oct. 29, Abreu agreed to a six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Tomas could potentially end up with a greater contact than both of them because of his age and the success of recent Cuban players in the Majors. Recent Cuban players like Abreu, Céspedes and Yasiel Puig are currently good to very good players. His contract could end up being more lucrative than Rusney Castillo’s.

Castillo is a 27-year-old Cuban outfielder who agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 23.

Tomas could potentially exceed his contract as well because he has more power and is younger than Castillo. Based on recent Cuban players’ contracts and their success in MLB, it would not be a surprise if Tomas ended up with a seven-year contract worth at least $85 million.

For more, check out:

-Noah Weintraub