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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mets interested in Valverde + FA John van Benschoten

The New York Times is reporting that the Mets have had discussions with the Astros about closer Jose Valverde (as well as Huston Street, Bobby Jenks and JJ Putz).

The Mets balked at the idea of sending Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman for Huston Street a few days ago. So you can bet the same offer could be on the table for the Astros. I would imagine the Mets would be more amenable to offering both players for the NL Saves leader. Heilman made $1.2 million last year, Feliciano made $1.025 million.

The Astros are also apparently interested in former Pirates prospect John van Benschoten and converting him from pitcher to hitter (because it seems to be working out pretty well for Brian Bogusevic). JvB doesn't want to do it, but I imagine he wants to play professional baseball more than he wants to not pitch. John van Benschoten (Ben-sko-tin) is 6'4" and 217 lbs and led the NCAA with 31 homers for Kent State, and was the Pirates' 1st round draft choice in 2001.

Cecil Cooper versus the World!

It's interesting. Cecil Cooper's reign as manager of the Houston Astros. Let's take a look:

2007: Coop takes over after Garner's firing on August 27 when the Astros are 58-73, immediately goes out on the 28th and loses 7-0 to St. Louis - finishes the season 15-16.

vs. ATL: 2-1
vs. CHC: 3-3
vs. CIN: 3-0
vs. MIL: 2-4
vs. NYM: 0-3
vs. PIT: 2-1
vs. StL: 4-3

Home: 8-7
Away: 7-9

2008:
vs. ARI: 2-4
vs. ATL: 3-3
vs. CHC: 9-8
vs. CIN: 12-3
vs. COL: 3-3
vs. FLA: 2-4
vs. LAD: 4-3
vs. MIL: 5-8
vs. NYM: 5-2
vs. PHI: 3-4
vs. PIT: 8-8
vs. SD: 3-3
vs. SF: 7-1
vs. StL: 7-8
vs. WAS: 4-2

Home: 47-33
Away: 39-42
This includes the "home games" in Milwaukee. The Astros were also outscored by 31 runs, making their Expected W-L record 77-84. So they were 9 games better than expected and were 21-21 in 1-run games.

Notice the Astros were 8-8 against Pittsburgh. Want to hear something strange? The only other teams that Pittsburgh was .500 or better against: Cincinnati (9-6), San Francisco (4-2) and St. Louis (10-7).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Randy Wolf news

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Easy Eddie is backing off negotiations with Randy Wolf, until next week, due to payroll considerations. Easy Eddie is of the opinion that bringing back everybody from the '08 team could increase payroll to $120 million - so he's wary. Which is smart, because you don't pay $120 million for an 86-win, non-playoff team. That's like paying $25,000 for an Elantra.

With arbitration offers coming by Monday, it makes sense to see who is going to accept or decline before dealing with free agents.

Another nugget from McTaggart's article is that the Astros have "had trade negotiations with several teams." It's pretty obvious the Astros will want a cheaper option at closer and third base, as well as some catching help, as well.

Not signing Wolf will mean the Astros will have a rotation of Oswalt, Moehler...and that's everybody under contract. They'll bring Backe and Wandy back, so if they don't sign Wolf it means Easy Eddie is probably looking at putting Sampson in the rotation... What do you think?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Newhan refuses Triple-A assignment, now a free agent

Nick Zaccardi is reporting that David Newhan refused to accept an assignment to Round Rock today and is now a free agent.

That means the Astros have Geoff Blum, Tommy Manzella, Edwin Maysonet and Drew Sutton available as backup infielders (provided Wigginton returns) and only Blum has significant Major-League experience.

The month that was...April 2008

Breaking down the Astros 2008 season, month by month. Today, April 2008.

At the end of April, the Astros were 13-16 - 5 games back of the Cubs, outscored 131-132. (The Marlins were outscored 121-137 in April and were 15-12, in 1st in the NL East by .5 games).

They were 6-5 at home and 7-11 on the road. After dropping four of five at Philly and home against the Rockies from Apr 15-19 to drop to 6-12, Houston rattled off six straight wins to climb back to .500...and then lost four of five to close the month.

Oswalt had the roughest start, if you remember, starting 0-3 (8 ER - 4 HR vs. Florida) and needing 3.71 pitches per batter faced, ending April with a 2-3 record and a 5.75 ERA

Backe had a pretty good first three starts, and faced some hard luck. In two road starts and one home start, Backe gave up two earned runs in his first 16 innings. In his 4th start of the season - at Philly - Backe lasted just three innings, giving up five earned runs in a 10-2 loss. 3.59 pitches per batter faced in April.

Wandy had a great April - until he got hurt. Four starts, three of them Astros wins, but Wandy only came away with a 1-0 record. 24 Ks to 5 BBs. April 19, Wandy leaves after 4.1 with a sore groin versus Colorado and doesn't pitch again until May 28.

Chris Sampson started out the season in the rotation and started out alright - 2 ER in 6.2 innings @ Chicago (ND), 3ER in 4 innings vs. St. Louis (L). Then came Colorado on April 18 - the day after a 22 inning game between the Rockies and Padres. 6 ER in .2 innings. Then a win at Cincinnati - 7 innings, 2 ER, and then 5 runs in 4 innings five days later at Arizona.

On the offensive side of the ball, Tejada hit .339 in April (.560 SLG) with 4 HR and 22 RBI. Berkman hit .303 with a .657 SLG, 8 HR and 25 RBI - but also 14 BBs to 13 Ks. Lee hit .272 with 6 HR and 16 RBI.

Matsui's anal fissure flared up and he only played in 13 games - hitting .260. Towles and Bourn both hit under .200 (.197 and .195, respectively).

The fact is the Astros were outscored 69-79 in 18 games on the road and were 3-7 in 1-run games in April. Next up...you guessed it...May.

Phillies checking on Brocail

Haven't the Phillies done enough with our players? Lidge & Bruntlett both have a ring. Now they're asking around on Brocail? Come on, man. It is "just part of the process" though...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not that this is news for Astros County readers...

Ken Rosenthal doesn't see Andy Pettitte returning to Houston. Ken Rosenthal is so far behind Astros County. We called that 10 days ago. However, Rosenthal does say this:

While Pettitte's hometown Astros are in dire need of starting pitching, owner Drayton McLane still might be peeved about the pitcher's departure in '06. Pettitte's return to Houston, one source says, is "highly unlikely."

The Astros are trying to re-sign free-agent left-hander Randy Wolf. Right-hander Ben Sheets and lefties Mike Hampton and Randy Johnson are among the other starting pitchers on their radar.

However, the team needs to shed payroll and likely will explore trades for players such as third baseman Ty Wigginton, closer Jose Valverde and shortstop Miguel Tejada, sources say.

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Shedding the payroll of Wigginton, Valverde and Tejada would total at least $23 million - as Wigginton and Valverde head into arbitration in January. Available free agent third baseman include: Casey Blake, Joe Crede, Morgan Ensberg, Corey Koskie and Greg Norton. Relievers and closers are too numerous to mention, even in a limitless medium. Anybody want to give Ensberg another shot?

Tyler Lumsden report - from someone who actually knows what they're talking about

Guess who my new best friend is? Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Mr. Dutton took some time out of his day to answer a few questions about the newest Astro, Tyler Lumsden...

AC: From the reports I've read about Lumsden, he's got the tools - he just hasn't put it together yet. What do you know about Lumsden?

Bob Dutton: The guy missed all of 2005 because of major elbow surgery and just hasn't been able to recapture the promise that made him the 34th overall pick in 2004. He'll flash it at times, but he's actually been going down hill. He was OK in 2006 at Double-A, erratic in 2007 at Triple-A and pretty bad last year at Triple-A.

AC: Dayton Moore likes to build around pitching, so what does it say about Lumsden that Moore seems to be willing to let him go rather than stick it out and see if he progresses?

BD: The Royals gave him 2 1/2 years and, as I mentioned above, he's trending downward. They also have a bunch of lefty relievers at the big-league level. Also, they have better lefty prospects in Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery. Lumsden was a pretty easy choice as the odd man out.

AC: Where do you see the organizational focus of the Royals heading?

BD: It's the Atlanta blueprint. Build your team around starting pitching.

AC: Has the mindset of the Royals' fanbase changed with Dayton Moore's arrival?

BD: Absolutely. The great majority of folks who email and call me seem to believe Moore has the franchise on the right track and, given sufficient time and resources, will build a winner. The question, really, is whether he gets sufficient time and resources. For now, the Glass family seems content to OK just about everything Moore wants.

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Thanks to Bob Dutton. So the question is this: which organization is in better shape - the Royals or Astros?

Astros interested in David Ross?

MLB.com is reporting the Astros are one of a handful of teams interested in catcher Dave Ross.

Ross spent time with the Reds and Red Sox last year, hitting a combined .225 in 60 games and 142 at-bats. He did hit 38 home runs total in '06 and '07 for the Reds, and would be expected to share time at catcher with Humberto Quintero.

It looks like the Astros would want to stabilize the position with a veteran - Quintero and Towles are currently the 2s in the system, and with Jason Castro not expected until at least 2010, they could be looking at a three-year deal for another catcher...

Mark Loretta news

According to MLB.com, the Diamondbacks are looking at free agent infielder Mark Loretta.

"I think it's very possible something could work out, but there has been no offer," Loretta's agent Bob Garber said last week. "They've let us know they are very interested."

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How does this affect the Astros? The only infielders they would have under contract would be Berkman, Matsui, Tejada and Blum. Newhan is in the mix, too. But I'm guessing if Loretta bolts, the Astros will have to look at resigning Wigginton - or going to a Plan C.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hey! News!


The Astros acquired left-handed pitcher Tyler Lumsden from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, the club announced today.

Lumsden, 25, went 3-13 with a 7.21 ERA in 28 games, including 18 starts, for Triple A Omaha in 2008. He is currently playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League for the Gigantes de Carolina and is 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA (10ER/9.1IP) in four games (three starts).

“Tyler’s numbers weren’t good this year, but our guys like his arm,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “He’s a big, strong lefty, and he’s only 25 years old. He has remaining options, so we’ll get him into Kissimmee, evaluate him and give him a chance to compete. At the very least, Tyler provides us with some more young depth.”

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So who is this Tyler Lumsden?

71 starts in the minors. 424.2 innings. In two seasons at Triple-A Lumsden, in 216.2 innings has given up 179 hits, 164 earned runs, 26 HR, 121 walks and 118 strikeouts, 7 hit batsmen and 8 wild pitches.

So that doesn't look great. But he was a 5th-round draft pick from 2001 by the Marlins - but went on to be a three-year starter at Clemson instead, and was the 34th overall pick in the 2004 draft. He was the 5th ranked Royals prospect in 2007, according to Baseball America. He was claimed off waivers by the Astros - so taking a chance on a 25-year old left-handed pitcher, who just happens to be 6'4? I'm in. Oh, and he's ambidextrous.

And keep in mind, it's not like the Omaha Royals were very good last year - finishing 63-81. The much-maligned Player to be Named Later will be sent to the Royals.

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Kansas City Royals Assistant GM J.J. Picollo said, "He's got good stuff: an above-average fastball, a good curveball and a changeup, It’s just a matter of him putting it all together."

Funny, I didn't think that the Royals were out of that player-development phase of rebuilding.

Does one game make a difference?

Saturday, August 14, 2004. Houston @ Montreal.

Carlos Hernandez makes his first start since 2002. Nick Johnson hits a grand slam in the 8th and the Expos win 8-3, sending the Astros to a 56-60 record. The Astros were tied for 3rd, 19.5 games behind the Cardinals and 7 games back of the Cubs. They had the 11th best record in the National League.

Then, the Sunday game. August 15. Orlando Palmeiro's pinch-hit single to score Jason Lane capped a three-run 9th inning for a come-from-behind 5-4 win. Then they only lost three more times in August and went 18-7 (three of those losses came in a four-game set at, of course, Pittsburgh) in September.

What happened? Can one game set off a streak, like that of the '04 Astros that rattled off a 36-10 record (2nd-best to close a season)? One come from behind victory against the Expos on a Sunday afternoon decides the season. Your thoughts?