Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nice column, homer

In a fair and balanced column on the NL Central, Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers had this to say:

"Ryan Doumit lies. The Pittsburgh Pirates' catcher says he signed a three-year, $11.5 million contract extension because he's 'excited about what the future holds for the Pittsburgh Pirates.'

Yeah, right. And the addition of Khalil Greene means the St. Louis Cardinals are going to be a force again. And the signing of a 41-year-old Trevor Hoffman more than offsets the departures of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Forget the addition of Milton Bradley and re-signing of Ryan Dempster. The best thing for the Cubs in this off-season is that the rest of the National League Central has done so little.

And the Astros: "The Astros are hoping Mike Hampton can replace Randy Wolf (6-2, 3.57 in 12 starts after being acquired from San Diego) and haven't done anything to replace catcher Brad Ausmus."

Stupid Cubs. Stupid Phil Rogers. Dammit if he ain't right, though. But why does he have to pick on Ryan Doumit like that? That's not cool. What's Doumit supposed to say? "I'm looking forward to having the season wrapped up by May 31." Idiot. Let's hear it for another 101 years...

ADHD and those 8%...

Interesting article in the Denver Post from December 15 saying the new rage on the University of Colorado campus is to pop what are becoming known as "scholastic steroids," or Adderall and other drugs used to help treat ADD/ADHD.

Well, isn't that interesting? Because this article in the Houston Chronicle (and numerous other news sources) says MLB gave exemptions for 8% of Major League players to take drugs treating...yeah, ADHD.

8% of Major Leaguers. That's about 70 current players. Well done, MLB, way to restore the public's trust from the evil of the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire. Thank you.

Jose de Jesus Ortiz...or should I saw Or-tease?

JJO is posting a long interview with Ed Wade...but in parts.

On Chris Johnson:
Prospect Chris Johnson will get a serious shot at winning the third base starting job or at least show in spring training that he might be able to come up from Class AAA Round Rock later in the season to start at the position. Edwin Maysonet and Tommy Manzella will compete for the utility infield role.

On Wigginton:
In a perfect world we'd bring him back here. But the economy didn't allow us to sort of live in the perfect world. But we have two veteran guys over there who can split time, and I do think that Chris Johnson will get a real solid look, at the very least get a good solid look if he doesn't win the job outright. That sound is Aaron Boone's entire body freezing up.

Then this:
From the character standpoint, I do think (with) Aaron Boone, Jason Michaels and some of the other guys that we've added here this offseason, we're not going to miss a beat from the standpoint of character and makeup."

Character and makeup: Winning World Series' since 1903...

Huh?: Viral Meningitis

The ever-popular "Huh?" series has dealt with some of the increasingly prominent, lesser understood facets of baseball. In honor of Max Sapp's release from the hospital, we turn our attention to...Viral Meningitis.

-It's the most-common type of infectious meningitis found in the United States, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Viral meningitis can be caused by a direct viral infection or can result from another viral infection, such as mumps and measles, the flu, the herpes simplex virus, the chicken pox virus, and the rabies virus, as well as a number of viruses that are transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Most cases of viral meningitis are caused by members of a group of viruses known as enteroviruses. The virus that causes meningitis is contagious, meaning it can be passed from one person to another through contact with the saliva, mucus, or stool of the infected person. People with viral meningitis are contagious anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending upon the type of virus that causes the infection.

If you didn't know, now you know.

Max Sapp promoted

From "In the Hospital" to "Out of the Hospital."

Friday, January 9, 2009

R.I.P Dave Roberts

Former pitcher Dave Roberts passed away, is reporting.

Roberts broke in with the Padres in 1969 and was traded after three seasons to Houston for Derrel Thomas, Bill Greif, and Mark Schaeffer after finishing sixth in the 1971 Cy Young voting (14-17 with a 2.10 ERA.) In Houston, Roberts appeared in 140 games - starting 121 of them - and posting a 47-44 record.

He was traded to Detroit with Jim Crawford and Milt May Leon Roberts, Terry Humphrey, Gene Pentz, and Mark Lemongello and won the World Series in 1979 with the Pirates after a mid-season trade.

Richard Justice thinks Alyson Footer is spot on.

In an entertaining fashion, Richard Justice talked about Andy Pettitte in his blog today. It's worth a read if you're killing time at work (which, judging from the stats of your humble, greatest Astros blog ever, that's what you do). However, in the comments section, RJ comes up with the chances of the Astros re-signing Andy Pettitte and keeping the Carousel of Hurt Feelings open for one more season...

"My guess is slim and none. Drayton isn't going to take on more payroll, and Andy's price is too high. Also, Andy's heart is with the Yankees. Randy Wolf and Derek Lowe might be better options than Andy. And Drayton has said the Astros are done spending. If a bargain came along, Ed Wade might be able to talk him into it."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Notes on Bobby Heck's chat transcript

Notes about players from the Chronicle's chat with Bobby Heck:

Brian Bogusevic: "Has a chance to help sooner than later."

Jason Castro: "Far-reaching" to say he could be behind the plate in Houston in 2009. Will start 2009 at Class A - Lancaster in the California League.

Sam Gervacio: Potential set-up man.

Chris Johnson: Not on the caliber of Wright or Rolen, but could be a productive, everyday third baseman.

Chia-Jen Lo: Progress depends on his adjustment to the United States.

Bud Norris: Now has "major-league weapons," "a 'plus' to 'double-plus' fastball and slider." "Appears to be the closest" to Major-League level.

Polin Trinidad: Back of the rotation starter, with potential for mobility.

Quote of the transcript: "Our system is not at a point where we should be drafting for need. Our mindset will continue to be add a depth of quality until we have a legitimate depth of quality in our system."

Well, that lasted about 11 hours

Says Alyson Footer:

Have the Astros reached out to Pettitte? Has Pettitte contacted the Astros?

According to general manager Ed Wade, no and no.

"We haven't had any discussion with Andy or his representatives and we don't see a scenario where he would fit into our payroll scenario at this time," Wade said.

Then this, just in case you weren't sure:

"Is Pettitte softening his stance? Maybe. But the Astros are maintaining their hard line, which makes a reunion highly unlikely, if not impossible."

Random Encounter #1

From a reader who e-mailed, but asked to remain anonymous. This is the first random encounter. If you have a random encounter with a member of any level of the Astros organization, e-mail

Where I work there aren't a lot of baseball fans, let alone Astros fans. So one day, very randomly, Drayton McLane came in. My boss ran in to my office and told me to come with him. So I hurry out and almost run smack in to Drayton. My boss says, "This is our lone Astros fan."

Drayton sized me up and said, "Are you going to join me in rooting for the Astros this year?" I said, "Just like every year, sir." He then says, "That's great. Do you remember when we opened the Astrodome?" I'm 26 years old at the time. So I say, "That was a little before my time." But the whole time thinking, "Jeez, Drayton, how old do I look? My dad was seven when the Astrodome opened."

And that was it, he kept walking.

Excellent random story! Got a random encounter? E-mail it!

Oh Snap. Could months of baseless speculation actually be paying off?

Ken Davidoff of Newsday is reporting that Honest Andy "is extremely unhappy with the Yankees, and might be softening on his opposition to rejoining the Astros."

Davidoff goes on to say that, since Pettitte rejected $10 million, the Yankees may even offer him less money as a way of teaching Honest Andy a lesson.

Then this nugget:
"Pettitte has a strong relationship with Houston ace Roy Oswalt, who in turn has a good relationship with Astros owner Drayton McLane. The Astros could stretch their payroll to make room for the Houston resident Pettitte."

Notice how Drayton freed up more payroll in that business lunch, saying payroll would be around $105 million? Just maybe...

Astros County has been reporting on Pettitte since November. Just so you know.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Run-DMc talks season tickets

Run-DMc (Drayon McLane, for you newbies to Astros County) spoke at a business breakfast in Prattville, Alabama and predicted uncertain times for the economic state of baseball. Here's a quote or two:

“Baseball is going to be the first professional sport that is really going to see what the impact the recession has because we don’t start until April. When the NFL season started, that was before the recession really got going and they were selling their sponsorships and season tickets before there were problems. The NBA started in late October. It was into the recession, but not nearly as in-depth as it is today.”

He then discussed where the Astros are in terms of '09 season ticket sales, 10,000 sold so far - projecting to 16,000-17,000 - or about 40% of stadium capacity.

Run-DMc also said what we all have known all along - that the roster is pretty much set. These are your 2009 Houston Astros. However, payroll is expected to be "$105 million." That's a little higher than I had thought, or previously seen. Might there be room for Honest Andy?

Astros Caravan kicks off next Wednesday

Below are the dates/locations of the '09 Astros Caravan. Are you going? Get your picture taken with your Astros County Proof of Citizenship and an Astro and receive a free gift. Come on. Do it.

Wednesday, January 14 – Galveston
12:30 - 1:30 Saltgrass Steakhouse - 20241 Gulf Freeway, Webster, TX 77598
4:30 - 5:30 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 21351 Gulf Freeway, Webster, TX 77598

Thursday, January 15 – Katy
3:30 - 4:30 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 23155 I-10 West, Katy, TX 77449

Friday, January 16 – The Woodlands
3:00 - 4:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 25010 I-45 North, Spring, TX 77375

Saturday, January 17 – Sugar Land/Pearland
11:30 - 12:30 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 16610 US Hwy. 59, Sugarland, TX 77479
4:00 - 5:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 2804 Business Center Dr., Pearland TX 77584

Monday, January 19 – New Orleans/Baton Rouge
3:30 - 5:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors (Baton Rouge) - 10808 Industriplex Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70809

Tuesday, January 20 – Temple
4:30 - 6:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 1407 Marlandwood Rd., Temple, TX 76502

Wednesday, January 21 – Lake Charles/Beaumont
11:00 - 12:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 3401 Derek Dr., Lake Charles, LA 70607
5:00 - 6:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 7130 Eastex Fwy., Beaumont, TX 77708

Thursday, January 22 – Corpus Christi/Victoria
4:00 - 5:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 8903 N. Navarro, Victoria, TX 77904

Friday, January 23 – College Station/Cypress
11:00 - 12:30 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 2351 Earl Rudder Fwy. South, College Station, TX 77845
5:00 - 6:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 19720 N.W. Fwy, Houston, TX 77065

Monday, January 26 – Waco/Round Rock
11:30 - 12:30 Texas Sports Hall of Fame - 1108 S. University Parks Dr., Waco, TX 76706
5:30 - 7:00 Saltgrass Steakhouse - 2300 IH 35 North, Round Rock, TX 78681

Tuesday, January 27 – Round Rock/Austin
4:30 - 6:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 12250 Research Blvd., Austin, TX 78759

Wednesday, January 28 – Austin/San Antonio
4:30 - 6:00 - Academy Sports + Outdoors - 714 West Loop 1604 North, San Antonio, TX 78251

Friday, January 30 – McAllen/Laredo
Compass Bank (McAllen)
Compass Bank (Laredo)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Astros invite four more to Spring Training

The Astros invited four more players, infielder Chris Johnson, pitcher Bud Norris and catchers Jason Castro and Lou Santangelo to Spring Training today.

Yankees sign Jason Johnson

"But...but...I thought this was an Astros blog..." is what you may be thinking. And you're correct. How does the Yankees signing Jason Johnson to a minor-league contract with the intention of having him compete for the 5th starter job affect the Astros? Let's look at who the Yankees have in the rotation right now:

C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, C.M. Wang, Joba, Jason Johnson

You know who is not on that list? Honest Andy Pettitte. Of course, you can't count on Johnson actually getting that 5th spot. If Andy decides he is willing to try living on $10 million, he'll be in the rotation.

But Andy has given ultimatums and the Yankees have given ultimatums. So this doesn't look like it will end well.

Honest Andy rejects the Yankees insulting $10 million offer

Honest Andy Pettitte rejected the Yankees' $10 million offer. Tyler Kepner's article in the NYT says Andy mentioned wanting to stay with the Yankees, but that he was "leaving it up to his agent," who we know and love as Randy Hendricks. Which isn't good for the Yankees (or, it could be argued, for Andy Pettitte).

I keep following this because I want to think Honest Andy might come back to Houston, but if he won't take $10 million from the Yankees, he certainly won't be taking $6 million from the Astros.

What will the WBC do to Roy?

It was announced yesterday that Roy Oswalt will pitch - and most likely be the ace - for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. I love my country's sporting endeavors as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of messing with the Astros' chances. It's not like we have six or seven potential starters, should Roy get hurt, to patch it together.

So it got me wondering - and gave me something to think about while Fox made me listen to Denis Leary over and over and over and over again during last night's Fiesta Bowl - what happened to the pitchers who threw in the WBC in 2006, and how did it affect them later in the season? So let's take us a gander, alphabetically at the pitching staff of Team USA 2006.

A note, though, first: I'm leaving Clemens out of it. The guy only pitched 119 innings in 2006 anyway. I'm not avoiding controversy. I'm also leaving Al Leiter out of it - he didn't pitch after the WBC. Career stats include any and all seasons following the 2006 WBC.

Chad Cordero
Career averages (including 2008): 71.1 IP, 8 HR, 26 BB, 65 K, 2.78 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
2006 (following WBC): 73.1 IP, 13 HR, 22 BB, 69K, 3.19 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

Brian Fuentes
Career: 65.1 IP, 6 HR, 27 BB, 74 K, 3.41 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
2006: 65.1 IP, 8 HR, 26 BB, 73 K, 3.44 ERA, 1.17 WHIP

Todd Jones
Career: 74 IP, 6 HR, 30 BB, 60 K, 3.97 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
2006: 64 IP, 4 HR, 11 BB, 28 K, 3.94 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Brad Lidge
Career: 70.2 IP, 6 HR, 30 BB, 98 K, 3.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
2006: 75 IP, 10 HR, 36 BB, 104 K, 5.28 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

Joe Nathan
Career: 85 IP, 7 HR, 33 BB, 86 K, 2.82 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
2006: 68.1 IP, 3 HR, 16 BB, 95 K, 1.58 ERA, 0.78 WHIP

Jake Peavy
Career: 215.1 IP, 21 HR, 69 BB, 214 K, 3.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
2006: 202.1 IP, 23 HR, 62 BB, 215 K, 4.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
*2006 was the only year from 2004-08 that Peavy's ERA was over 3.00.

Scot Shields
Career: 97.1 IP, 7 HR, 35 BB, 89 K, 2.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
2006: 87.2 IP, 8 HR, 24 BB, 84 K, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Huston Street
Career: 74 IP, 4 HR, 21 BB, 74 K, 2.88 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
2006: 70.2 IP, 4 HR, 13 BB, 67 K, 3.31 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Mike Timlin
Career: 77 IP, 7 HR, 24 BB, 55 K, 3.63 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
2006: 64 IP, 7 HR, 16 BB, 30 K, 4.36 ERA, 1.47 WHIP

Dan Wheeler
Career: 79 IP, 10 HR, 25 BB, 70 K, 3.96 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
2006: 71.1 IP, 5 HR, 24 BB, 68 K, 2.52 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Dontrelle Willis
Career: 209.2 IP, 19 HR, 76 BB, 155 K, 3.91 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
2006: 223.1 IP, 21 HR, 83 BB, 160 K, 3.87 ERA, 1.42 WHIP

Well, as you can see relievers fared pretty well. Cordero, Lidge (whose struggles in 2006 are well-documented), Timlin and Street had their ERAs go up, but Lidge and Timlin were the only two relievers whose ERA and WHIP increased over 2006.

So let's look at the two starters we've considered: Peavy and Willis (remember Leiter and Clemens aren't being considered).

Peavy's 2006 was basically consistent with his career, except for his ERA.
Willis' 2006 was basically the beginning of the end for his career (which, hopefully, will get back on track in '09. Especially now that he's not in the NL.)

Look at Peavy's career averages again:
215.1 IP, 21 HR, 69 BB, 214 K, 3.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP

Now let's look at Roy's career averages:
223 IP, 18 HR, 50 BB, 183 K, 3.13 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

What happened to Peavy?
April 2006: 36 IP, 4 HR, 11 BB, 34 K, 2.50 ERA, .210 BAA
May: 15.2 IP, 2 HR, 6 BB, 22 K, 5.17 ERA, .302 BAA
June: 22 IP, 2 HR, 4 BB, 20 K, 2.86 ERA, .273 BAA
July: 34 IP, 4 HR, 9 BB, 35 K, 2.12 ERA, .206 BAA
August: 39 IP, 3 HR, 16 BB, 40 K, 2.77 ERA, .206 BAA
September: 20 IP, 2 HR, 10 BB, 11 K, 4.05 ERA, .263 BAA

So it's hard to project what the World Baseball Classic will do to Roy Oswalt. But I don't like it. Not one bit.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Roy and the WBC

Alyson Footer is reporting Roy is the first '09 Astro to commit to play for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. I was working on that stats of pitchers who participated in the WBC in '06 and how those years compared to their careers. And then I started yelling at the television in the Fiesta Bowl. I'll do that later.

Berkman was invited, but declined.

Astros sign five to minor-league contracts

Press release from the Astros today as they invited five players to spring training with a minor league contract:

OFs Reggie Abercrombie & John Gall,
RHP Clay Hensley
INFs Mark Saccomanno & Jason Smith

Smith has spent time in the Majors here and there since 2001 with the Cubs, Rays (back when the Devil was a part of their handle), Tigers, Rockies, Blue Jays, D'm'ndback' and Royals. Smith was non-tendered by the...yep, Royals on December 12 in order to clear room for Horacio Ramirez. He was a PCL All-Star in 2008.

Just so we're clear, Ed Wade has picked up the following players this off-season whose services were no longer required by Kansas City: Gil de la Vara, Tyler Lumsden, Jeff Fulchino, now Jason Smith.

Enjoy Kissimmee, fellas!

Update: Tejada + Towles + Bourn

From El Mamey:

Tejada will probably not suit up tonight for Aguilas. Game time is at 5pm and Miggy was not taking BP. You probably want a guy who hasn't played since September 28 to take a few cuts before throwing him in to live action.

Towles and Bourn are on Aguilas' roster this season, as well.

Towles: Splitting time behind the plate with team captain Alberto Castillo. Towles started slow but is doing better and "runs very well."

Bourn: As previously stated, Bourn tore it up in October and November but lost his spot in the lineup to Andruw Jones. Good God, it just now registered what I just typed...Can it be true?

More later. Thanks to El Mamey

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hot Rumor from El Mamey - Tejada to play tomorrow?

Word on the street in Santo Domingo from my new best friend, El Mamey. Miguel Tejada is rumored to play for Aguilas Cibaenas in tomorrow's (Monday's. Jan 5th's) game against rival Tigres del Licey.

If you read El Mamey's last comment, you'll see his report that Aguilas are lacking heart - something Miggy has plenty of. Stay tuned...

Bobby Heck wants to put names to faces

USA Today is reporting the Astros will hold team-building exercises, including ropes courses and trust falls, in Houston this week.

Assistant GM / Scouting Director Bobby Heck will welcome all 21 scouts (11 of whom are new to the Astros, and six of whom were staff additions) for meetings starting Monday afternoon, and full meetings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Tasked with rebuilding the farm system, the Astros got off to a nice start to doing just that by signing 16 of their top 17 picks (32 of 52 overall). Only 3rd rounder Chase Davidson decided to go to the University of Georgia instead of signing with the Astros.

Other interesting notes:
C Jason Castro has been given a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

It's been well-documented, but still worth noting: in his first 44 ABs in Winter Ball, Michael Bourn was hitting .409 with 8 walks and 7 strikeouts.

J.R. Towles was "trying to find his swing" in Winter Ball. Ricky Bennett said he's "swinging the bat OK." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Depending on what happens with Castro in Spring Training, you could see him at AA this year. Remember the Astros took C Lou Palmisano in the Rule 5 Draft, which means they have to keep him on the 25-man roster all season or give him back. Towles will probably start at AAA, Castro sent to AA after playing well in the NY-P League, and the backup job is Palmisano's to lose. This is pure speculation, but given the Astros' demonstrated financial need (do they have FAFSA for major league teams?) I doubt they would have taken Palmisano just to see about wasting $50,000.

Breaking Down...Wesley Wright

One of the nicer surprises of 2008 was the emergence of Wesley Wright - a Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers' system - out of the Bullpen. His ERA wasn't great (5.01), but as you hopefully have gleaned from our discussions on relievers, ERA can be misleading. Let's take a look at Wesley's 2008.

Appeared in 71 games - 55.2 innings. 5.01 ERA, 1.42 WHIP.
57:34 (K:BB)
.214 Batting Average Against, .400 SLG against.
4.1 pitches per plate appearance

We have almost an equal amount of data for home and away:
27.2 innings at home / 28.0 innings on the road
5 HR given up at home / 3 on the road
.194 BAA at home / .234 on the road

3 of his HR came on an 0-1 count, but when he gets that first pitch over for a strike batters only hit .183 against him - but he has two pitches: throwing a fastball 70% of the time and a slider 26% of the time (only very occasionally tossing in a curve and a change-up). 95% of at-bats in which Wright gets behind, he'll throw that fastball - so there's really not a surprise if you have good plate discipline. Got 89 flyball outs compared to 63 groundball outs.

Now about those appearances:
71 games. Gave up earned runs in 20. Gave up 2+ ER in 7. Walked batters in 27 games. When Wright gives up a run - earned or otherwise - the Astros were 4-17 (which makes sense, any time a reliever gives up a run it hurts your chances of winning.)

Basically Wright needs to work fast. On pitches 1-15, his BAA is .197 compared to .412 on 16+.

He'll be 24 at the end of January, and in his second full season should become accustomed to the long season. July was his most effective month (12 games, 2.46 ERA), while his August/September ERAs were 7.27/5.19, respectively. Still, despite the ERA there is room to be excited. 0.96 walks per inning pre All-Star Break, 0.52 walks per inning after the Break. As he continues to get the feel for the ball and the Majors, with some off-season adjustments and a good spring, Wright should contribute well out of the bullpen, or - as rumored - in the rotation.