Saturday, February 7, 2009

A-Rod ain't an Astro, but it's still a story

Surely - surely - you know by now that A-Rod has reportedly tested positive for two types of steroids. And I know that A-Rod is not an Astro, but today's reports are troubling for a variety of reasons.

There was just a lot made about A-Rod's softball interview with Katie Couric last December where he flat denied taking steroids. How could he say that, when he may have taken steroids? Maybe because nobody was supposed to know the results of those tests in 2003.

That's right, those tests were supposed to be anonymous. And there's something going on with Blogger right now that I can't link to it, but the address is http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2003/baseball/mlb/11/13/mlb.steroids.ap.index.html

The reason the tests took place in 2003 was to determine if steroid use was rampant enough to warrant mandatory testing. So 1438 "anonymous tests" took place in 2003, and between 5%-7% tested positive. What's troubling - and what should be troubling to those 1438 players - is that, all of a sudden, names have been put to numbers.

So when Katie Couric lobs questions underhand to A-Rod, he thinks he can say - without fear of reprisal - that no, he did not take steroids. Because who's going to put it together? It's anonymous.

1438 players to be tested is a lot. Especially when you consider that there are 750 Major League roster spots (25 x 30). Apparently there were 104 of those players who tested positive. So what it looks like may happen is that we'll have 103 (counting the BALCO guys) more Special Reports on the MLB Network.

I welcome this, and I dread this.

So the question, Dear Citizen, is this: Which player's positive report would destroy your faith in baseball?

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Dodgers are hungry for Randy Wolf

It's being reported that the Dodgers and Randy Wolf are closing in on a deal. Details are forthcoming, but I'm guessing this will be around $5 million per. We'll see how close I am soon...

Update 8:06pm: Oh snap. What do you know? The Los Angeles Daily News says $5 million + $3 million in incentives.

Jayson Stark talks economy

Or at least he talks with people who talk about the economy. Why are so many free agents looking for work?

A high-ranking official of one AL team said: "Out of the 30 teams in the sport, 15 are scared to death by this economy. They're scared about ticket sales. They're scared that sponsorships are going to be cutting back. They're just scared."

Meanwhile, one NL club official had a more basic explanation. Essentially, he said, it's the agents' faults.

"Everybody predicted this," he said. "All the predictions said this market would be difficult, and these guys just misread it. They didn't take jobs that were offered, and now those jobs aren't there anymore. They had jobs. They didn't take them."


I don't know about you, but I would put the Astros squarely in the STD camp ("scared to death". Dirty...). But it's true, for the last However Many years, the players who wait to sign find their price tag goes up as GMs start to panic. That's not happening this year. No one looks more brilliant than Jeremy Affeldt and his agent Michael Moye for being the first free agent to sign (for two years and $8 million, with a $1 million signing bonus). Oh, and Moye just happens to be Berkman's agent, too.

What you're seeing (and Stark addresses this, too) is Convenient Collusion (though I came up with the term). There's never been a better time to be in baseball management and say Screw You to the players and their agents, because the backlash against the players is off the charts. Suddenly it's responsible management to let Manny dangle and it's bizarre, and it's completely intentional.

How did we get here? Shortstop.

So the thing with Jeter got me thinking: How did we get here - in our present situation at shortstop? Let's look at the shortstops over the last 20 years (the years are when they started, not total time they spent with the team. That's an important distinction.)

Rafael Ramirez, 1988-1990
-Traded by Braves with cash for Ed Whited and Mike Stoker, December 1987
-Granted free agency, October 1992

Eric Yelding, 1991
-Claimed on waivers from Cubs, April 1989
-Traded to Chicago White Sox as PTBNL for Rich Scheid, July 1992

Andujar Cedeno, 1992-1994
-Signed as an undrafted free agent, October 1986
-Traded May 1995 to San Diego with Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Pedro Martnez (not the same one), Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley for Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine and Brian Williams.

Orlando Miller, 1995-1996
-Traded March 1990 by the New York Yankees for Dave Silvestri
-Traded December 1996 with Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones and cash to Detroit for Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward

Tim Bogar, 1997, 1999
-Traded March 1997 by Los Angeles Dodgers for Luis Lopez
-Granted free agency October 2000

Ricky Gutierrez, 1998
-Traded May 1995 by San Diego with Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Pedro Martnez (not the same one), Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley for Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine and Brian Williams.
-Granted free agency October 1998

Julio Lugo, 2000-2003
-Selected in 43rd round of 1994 amateur draft
-Released May 2003

Adam Everett, 2003-2007
-Traded by Boston December 1999 with Greg Miller for Carl Everett
-Granted free agency in 2007

Miguel Tejada, 2008-present
-Traded by Baltimore in December 2007 for Matt Albers, Luke Scott, Dennis Sarfate, Troy Patton and Mike Costanzo.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Welcome, Citizen Spruce

Citizen Spruce is a loyal commenter. Today he gains his citizenship. Welcome, Citizen Spruce, from Dallas.

What is your earliest Astros memory?
June 12, 1988. This was either my first or second game that I attended after we moved to the Houston area. Mike Scott took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Braves but had it all destroyed on a two-out single by Ken Oberkfell. Needless to say, the excitement of that game was like a drug. I fell in love with baseball and the Astros right there. I've been shooting up ever since.
Interesting side note: Two years later Ken Oberkfell played for the Astros. His plate appearances mark the only times I have ever booed my favorite team.

If (this Astro) was cut or maimed by lions on the field of play, I would not care.
Sadly, I thought long and hard about this question. My first instinct was to say Miguel, but I don't hate him as much as I want to. So, I will go with Brandon Backe. I've never bought the hype on him and I haven't seen anything lately to change my mind. Here's my question: For a funnier visual could we dress the lions up in Galveston police uniforms?

(Ed. note: I say, during the 6th inning, instead of the Monte Cristo - or whatever the hat thing is - we have a different Astro running around the diamond with a GPD detective running after them. First one to Spring Training wins.)

What area of the 2009 Astros would you address first if you were the General Manager?
Starting pitching. I'm not sure how I would do it, but it would be my first place to start. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area now so I keep up with the Rangers a little and watch them suffer through years of good to better-than-good offense while struggling to find pitchers that can do anything of substance. The Astros are three years removed from having one of the best staffs in team history and now we wallow in whatever level exists right under mediocrity. I do not want the Astros to become the Rangers.

Having said that, I would probably look farther in the future than 09. I don't understand all the rhetoric about building a farm system while we make no other significant moves to gain draft picks or trade for prospects. If the Astros aren't in contention this year, I think the trade deadline could be pretty interesting.

Who is the heart of the Astros?
You mean, other than bullpen assistant Stretch Suba? I may be way off here but The Big Puma seems to be one guy that the rest of the team keys off of. For fans, he's a blast to watch and he seems to keep his teammates loose and motivated. Right now, Lance is one of the big reasons that I tune in to watch games and he seems to be a major key to any succes they have.

What was worse? Trading five players for Tejada or trading Lidge for Bourn?
The Tejada trade, plain and simple. Lidge was never going to get it back here and while they could have probably gotten more for him, I'm still not ready to say that Bourn is a total wash-out. On the other hand, Tejada is skiing down the downhill side of his career like an Olympic athlete. At the time of both trades I applauded Easy Eddie for taking risks but you do have to answer for failed risk-taking at some point and the jury is just about in on that Tejada trade. There just isn't any real up-side to hope for in that one.

Chris Sampson wants it

A few notes to glean from this article:

-Sampson will arrive four days ahead of when Pitchers and Catchers Report. Meaning Pitcher(s) and Catcher(s) report February 10.
-Sampson is pain free for the first time in two years.
-100% is not important until Opening Day. Meaning "don't freak out if Sampson struggles in Spring Training."

I heard this rumor, but seeing it again makes me throw up in my mouth.

Regard:

Five big league teams passed on the opportunity to draft a lanky high school infielder from Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1992, allowing him to fall to New York with the sixth pick. In fact, Astros scout Hal Newhouser was so furious that Houston took Phil Nevin instead, the former big league pitcher quit his job. And so it was destined that Jeter would go on to wear pinstripes, not face them.

Does this drive you crazy? It drives me crazy. Miguel Tejada. Adam Everett. Julio Lugo. Tim Bogar. Ricky Gutierrez. Orlando Miller.

Those are the shortstops the Houston Astros have fielded since Derek Jeter started at short for the Yankees. Love him or hate him, the guy's a .316 hitter and is a part of the English language, from Michael Kay's "Jeterian play." Puke (encore).

I'd sue the Tigers, too

In an article in the Southeast Texas Record today, Steve Korris writes the Supreme Court of Texas denied a review of an appeal from the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston. So what? you say. Well, the plaintiff was Doug Brocail and the defendant is the Detroit Tigers American League Baseball Club.

It's an excellent article, and here's a recap:
June 2000, Brocail's arm started hurting, so he gets it checked out a few times. December 2000, Brocail is traded to the Astros. April 2001, Brocail hears a pop and he's out for the season (to the tune of a $2 million payday by the Astros). Brocail didn't sign with a team in 2002 and he sues the Tigers for negligence, fraud and breach of contract. He doesn't play in '03, either.

Then there's a bunch of legal stuff that I cannot do justice to (ha ha), only reaffirming that I made the right decision in not trying to be Jerry Maguire. However, I don't imagine claiming the Tigers ruined your career, then spending five years playing in the Majors after your career has been ruined translates to a "strong" legal position.

Isn't this whole season a Plan B?

Got a question from faithful Citizen Spruce:

"What's the back-up plan if Tejada just tanks this year?"

Great question. I think if Tejada completely and utterly nuts it this year, you have to go to your minor-league system and fill from within. No one is going to trade a young player for Miguel Tejada in a contract year. It's one thing to trade for him with a few years left (thank you, Easy Eddie), but to give up a young guy for Tejada and then have him leave for (a) jail or (b) free agency would be inexcusable.

If Tejada gets hurt or plays terribly, I think you're looking at Tom Manzella or Edwin Maysonet as an alternative. Blum has played a few games at shortstop, but Tejada would have to be hitting in the Everetts for Blum to be an upgrade. On ESPN's Astros page Blum is the 2nd-string shortstop, but I would be surprised if a lot of Plan Bs this year weren't call-ups.

Buster Olney: It's Carlos Lee's fault

While it's true I have a man-crush on Buster Olney, I find fault with his assessment of the Astros' developing situation in 2009. Here's the Astros' position of interest:

Third base
As Carlos Lee's salary climbs, the Astros have been forced to cut in other spots. So they dumped Ty Wigginton and signed Aaron Boone, and hope to find a solution in Boone or Geoff Blum or some surprise on their roster.


While it's true Carlos Lee got a $6.5 million raise from '08 to '09, I'm not sure it's solely his contract preventing the Astros from resolving their issues. $6.5 million would have resigned Ty Wigginton or Randy Wolf, and to think that the Astros will pay Tejada and Lee $31.5 million is stomach-churning...

Oh. Brad Lidge did NOT just say that...

Interesting article in the Lehigh Valley Express-Times with Brad Lidge. It's your fairly straight-forward "Albert Pujols almost killed his career and it's lucky for Lidge the Phillies had those chest paddles, because now he's The Man" story. But there are a couple of nuggets in there. Regard:

On pitching in Citizens Bank Park, as opposed to Minute Maid:
"I didn't think this was ever a bad place to pitch. I mean, a lot is made about how short the park is and stuff, but I think for me, when you're pitching outside, some days the wind blows in, some days it blows out, some days you don't know what's going to happen and it's not always easy for a hitter to deal with those conditions. Whereas when you're pitching in Minute Maid Park, for example, every day the roof's closed, every day the ball carries. I think that's a little bit tougher, to be honest, for a pitcher. So I actually enjoyed pitching here last year."

And on Astros fans:
... The fans in Houston, I'm not trying to knock on them, they don't quite have that same level of intensity toward baseball as the Phillies fans do, which for me was incredible."

That's true, but it's because we all held our breath while Lidge was on the mound.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

On Roger Clemens

Got this in the Astros County inbox today:

Constable,
What the heck happened to Clemens? How did he not follow Pettitte/Giambi/anyone else's lead and just decide to apologize?


Thanks for the Q. I've stayed away from Roger Clemens news, because, well, he's not an Astro. And contrary to popular belief in Miller Park South, this is an Astros blog (and how DARE I have a picture of Steve Bartman on an Astros blog?!). Oh yeah, sorry.

I've been thinking about this very issue for quite some time now and have some opinions - some of which I'm sure are not my own. So before anyone jumps on me, know this: there have been so many articles/columns written about Roger Clemens that I'm not sure anyone has an original opinion anymore.

Roger Clemens got by on fastballs and the belief that the plate belonged to him, and no one else. Pound the inside half of the plate and the batter cries? Doesn't matter. Plate belongs to him. So Clemens succeeded utterly at the University of Texas. He succeeded utterly at Fenway. He succeeded utterly at Yankee Stadium, and he's treated like a god when he comes to Houston. He wins so many Cy Young Awards that people thought about renaming it the Roger Clemens award.

That bulldog mentality is what got him where he was. So when it came time to address the issue of whether or not he used performance-enhancing drugs, Roger did what he does when he gets in a jam: bulldoghed it. You don't say you're sorry. You throw the broken bat at Mike Piazza. Remember, this is a guy who intentionally walked only 63 out of 20,240 batters he faced (that includes 12 in 1991 alone).

Plus, Roger don't talk good. So he hires a guy who, I imagine, he thinks does speak well - Rusty Hardin. Except Rusty Hardin is "Slicker than deer guts on a doorknob" and Hardin doesn't see this situation as a time to back down, either, because no one outside of a 100-mile radius of Houston has ever heard of him. Indeed, more than one columnist has pointed to Hardin as Clemens' biggest problem.

Add ego and bulldogging up and voila - perjury. There's nothing Clemens can do now but wait and see what our federal government (who could have maybe been holding hearings on the economy rather than yelling at Andy Dick in Congress, admittedly) comes up with. Ain't no bulldogging it then.

Have you had a random encounter - not Mindy McCready-style - with Roger or any other Astro? E-mail it to astroscounty@hotmail.com

Welcome, Citizen Chris

Citizen Chris comes to us from America's Attic - Alberta, Canada - and runs his own entertaining blog, which you can read here.

If you could go back and pick your favorite team over again, who would it be?
I was actually a Blue Jays fan until around 1996. I went to an Edmonton Trappers game one time around then, and received an Astros mini-helmet as a giveaway that day (it was random what team you got). I got reading up on the Astros, and read a lot about Craig Biggio - he quickly became my favorite player, and as a result, the Astros became my favorite team. Had I never received that mini-helmet or had never read about Craig Biggio.....who knows who I would be cheering for! But I will never cheer for anyone but the Astros now.

Who is your favorite all-time Astro and why?
Easy....Craig Biggio. The guy played the game the way it was meant to be played. He poured his heart into the game, and put the maximum effort into every single play for 19 years. He ran out every single routine groundball as hard as he could, he dove for every ball that was hit close to him - he did so many great things on and off the field (Sunshine Kids, etc.). Craig Biggio is my all-time favorite baseball player period.

Among all Major League players past and present, I hate (this player) more than all of them combined.
Now this is a tough question...you know, there aren't many players that I really hate long-term. I hated Albert Pujols for quite some time after that homerun off Lidge in the 2005 NLCS....but he is such a good athlete and classy guy that I can't hate him long-term. The only player I hate right now is Manny Ramirez. The guy just turned out an offer that would make him the second highest paid player in the game (behind A-Rod) because he's holding out for a long-term contract...give me a break. The way that he behaved in Boston near the end of his tenure there, he reminds me of the next Barry Bonds (oh wait, that is another guy I kind of hate).

Would you give Cecil Cooper a contract extension? How many games back would the Astros have to be for you to fire him?
I'm not sure Cecil has really been given a fair shot yet, given the pitching staffs he has had. However, I don't think he's really cut out to be a long term MLB coach. He doesn't have enough fire or passion during games. He argues the occasional call, but he's so timid that it doesn't really fire up his team anyway. I would let him finish up this next year, even if things get pretty bleak, and then do a proper coaching search next off-season. Of course, Cecil could prove me wrong and the Astros could finish with 95 wins this year....but I don't see it.

Miguel Tejada - 3-hole or 7-spot in the lineup?
I guess 7-spot.......although really I don't think he belongs on our roster at all. If the Astros are going to rebuild their club, they need to get younger - not much, much older. Tejada's second half stats from last year scare the hell out of me. I honestly thought his power numbers would bounce back with the move to Minute Maid Park....but I was wrong.

Interested in answering some questions? E-mail Astros County at astroscounty@hotmail.com.

RotoTimes' Astros Preview

A few nuggets in this piece previewing the Astros:

Though an oblique injury limited (Wandy Rodriguez) to just 137.1 innings last year, his 3.54 ERA was over a run better than his previous career best. His 8.6 K/9 rate was also his best ever, and he finished strong, compiling a 1.50 ERA over his last six starts.


Tejada's 2008 numbers, which were not all that great to begin with, were even worse at the end of the year; while his batting average increased by .020 after the All-Star break, his OBP actually decreased, his RBI total was cut in half from 44 to 22, he had just three of his 13 home runs and he went without a single stolen base after swiping seven beforehand.

(Felipe Paulino) went 6-9 with a 3.62 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 110 strikeouts in 112 innings with Double-A Corpus Christi in 2007, and his fastball can reach triple-digits, though that may help explain why he spent nearly all of last season jumping to and from the DL with shoulder issues. He'll have a chance to strut his stuff in spring training and possibly win a starting spot if everything goes just right, though it's much more likely he'll continue to be seasoned in Triple-A until he proves he can be consistent and stay healthy.

Brad Ausmus' impact on the 2008 season

So I couldn't sleep and started thinking about Brad Ausmus (this was because my wife could sleep). Did Ausmus impact the rotation as we would be led to believe?

In 2008 Brad Ausmus played in exactly 81 games. Regard:

The Astros were 33-30 in games Ausmus received at least two plate appearances. This is a .524 winning percentage, 10 points lower than the Astros .534 winning percentage in 2008.

With Ausmus behind the plate (not counting late-inning replacement appearances), the Astros allowed 233 earned runs in 1607 outs. This translates to a 3.92 ERA, lower than the 4.36 ERA the Astros allowed in 2008. This was helped by a run from August 26-September 16 in which Ausmus was behind the plate for games in which the Astros allowed 0 or 1 runs in seven of eight games.

So was he effective? Yeah, I guess so.

Jeff Kent might just give you a hug

In an article in the Austin American-Statesman, Kevin Robbins did a post-retirement piece on newly-retired Jeff Kent.

Within the piece, it's mentioned that Kent owns a golf course and 12 residential lots. 377 home runs or not, I'm pretty sure I don't want Jeff Kent as my landlord. Of course, he'd always be willing to drop by and wash your truck. (Yeah, I said it. But I actually loved Jeff Kent in an Astros uniform. I could handle Biggio moving positions for Kent. Chris Burke? Not so much.)

This is my favorite:
Kent spent his first Saturday of retirement with children, who range in age from 12 to 5. They migrated from two baseball tryouts to a pair of soccer matches and a basketball game. Sunday morning, the family piled into the 45-foot coach Kent bought in Arizona and drove to Houston for a supercross motorcycle event at Reliant Stadium, returning that night with the kids asleep in the back.

"I guess that's the normal person's life," he said.


Now I'm not retired. Nor will I be for about 40 years, but I doubt this is the normal person's retired life.

So why would he leave Houston? Surprisingly, he left to give second base back to Biggio, who was struggling in center field...

"He'd earned the right to be an Astro," Kent said of Biggio. "I hadn't. I just knew it was time to move on."

What will you remember Kent for? The 377 home runs? The helmet flip after the walk-off home run off Isringhausen in '04? Shovel-whacking Barry Bonds?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

At least there's sun shining some place...

Mark Sheldon covers the Cincinnati Reds and totally took an idea from me to put the Reds up against the other teams in the NL Central. Except I wouldn't have compared the Reds to everyone else. Of course. Problem is, I didn't tell anybody about this idea - so it's hard to get anywhere in a legal venue. But it's still good. Here's what Sheldon said about the Houston rotation.

It's basically Roy Oswalt and the other four, but that's still a handful for a Cincinnati club that was 3-12 vs. Houston last year -- including 0-6 at home. Oswalt alone is 23-1 with a 2.47 ERA lifetime vs. the Reds.

Mike Hampton, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler and Brandon Backe will form the rest of the Houston rotation. The Astros benefit from having a largely veteran staff but have a real wild card in Hampton -- who has an injury log longer than the average line for the rest room. Rodriguez and Moehler have the ability to be dependable, but it's Oswalt alone who still makes this comparison. Advantage, Astros.


Did you hear that! Advantage, Astros. Eat it!

Interestingly enough, the Reds' rotation (according to Sheldon) is:
Better than Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Not as good as Chicago or Houston.

Yeah, I don't set goals, either. Then I don't feel like a slack when I don't achieve them.

Ty Wigginton conducted what looked to be a stirring interview with the Baltimore Sun today.

You've got to give it to Schmuck, but Wigginton totally mailed it in. I've cut our my favorite part:

What can fans expect from you?

“I’m not the kind of guy that sets goals on the season, to hit .300 or have 20 home runs. My goal is to step on the field and respect the game of baseball and all those numbers will take care of themselves. I’ll try my best, play through any bumps and bruises I may have and I’ll give it my all.”

That's...inspiring.

Alyson Footer makes her predictions, part two

Yesterday, Alyson Footer offered five pressing questions and predictions for the 2009 Astros and completed the series with five more today.

6. The lineup will read Matsui, Pence, Berkman, Lee, Tejada, Blum/Boone, Bourn, and then whoever is catcher.
7. Nieve gets sent to Round Rock (after clearing waivers) and will become a reliever. Paulino is essentially the #6 starter.
8. If the Astros struggle, Easy Eddie could replace Coop by the All-Star Break.
9. Chris Johnson and My Friend Mark Saccomanno can find their way to Houston at some point, but Bud Norris will be in the bullpen by season's end.
10. The Astros may sign a big-name remaining free agent by the end of Spring Training.

Same rules. What do you think?

We might as well call Baltimore "Minute Maid East."

It's being reported that Ty Wigginton - the Sand Crab - has agreed to a 2-year, $6 million deal with the Orioles.

Wigginton made $4.35 million last year, and would have received a healthy bump had the Astros offered him arbitration. The Astros are paying Boone and Blum $1.85 million combined to play third base in 2009.

If the contract is split evenly over both years, Wigginton will make 68.9% of what he made in 2008 and because of the arbitration rules, the Astros would not have been allowed to offer him less than 80% of his 2008 salary (or $3.48 million).

Can you name the seven former Astros on the Orioles roster?

McTaggart: Hampton is the key

Not the Best Man. Not Bourn (though, admittedly, he says you can make a case). Hampton is the key to 2009. This either fills you with optimism, or it makes you download Peace Corps application forms.

Says McTaggart:
If he's able to make all his starts (he made 29 starts in 2004), I could see him winning 15-18 games.

Well, it's not like his arm is tired. He hasn't thrown more than 100 innings since 2004. But let's look at the likelihood of this, because Hampton has won between 15 and 18 games three times in his career - twice in the Astrodome in 1997 and 1999 and in 2000 with the Mets. In those seasons, he made at least 33 starts.

In 1997, in the safety of the Astrodome Hampton was 10-2 with a 3.09 ERA (compared to 5-8 with a 4.61 on the road). In 1999, again in the safety of the Astrodome, Hampton turned in a career year and went 13-2 with a 2.49 ERA (compared to 9-2 with a 3.49 ERA - but this was also a great season: 22-4).

In 2000 with the Mets, Hampton went 11-4 with a 2.05 ERA at Shea Stadium (compared to 4-6 with a 4.83 ERA).

Clearly Hampton feels more comfortable at home (meaning that with Wandy and Hampton and some careful rotation juggling, the Astros could go 81-0 at home this year). Look at his career home/away splits:

Home: 1098 innings (in 162 starts), 81-44 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.
Away: 1054 innings (in 172 starts), 60-61 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

Of course, it's hard to know if this will translate to 2009 after so much time away. But his arm will be live, because he hasn't really used it, except to make out deposit slips to his local lending institution.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How do you like Tyler Hansbrough at second base?

Read. Love.

The Toy Cannon lives!

Thanks to some notes from Baseball America, we find out a little more about new signing Jordan Comadena:

Comadena signed as a nondrafted free agent after a four-year career at Purdue, during which he batted .340/.455/.620 as a junior. But a broken hand late that season quashed his hopes of being drafted that summer, and he then struggled to a .276/.379/.359 season as a senior. Interestingly, Camadena was discovered at a Northwoods League alumni game by Astros scout (and former standout outfielder) Jimmy Wynn.

Alyson Footer makes her predictions

In the first of a two-part series, Alyson Footer made five predictions about the Astros in 2009. Here they are in short-form, read the article for the full...uh, article.

1. Hampton will make just short of 30 starts and will be hurt for a short period of time.
2. Oswalt will return to All-Star form, and if the Astros fall out of contention, could ask to be traded. Backe will start strong and get tired. Moehler will win around 12 games with an ERA around 4.00.
3. Blum will be productive and play better defense than Wigginton, but we'll all be sad with production from 3rd base.
4. Quintero will get a spot on the 25-man roster, and Towles will not.
5. Matsui, with a completely healed anus, will make 120 starts.

Rank these in order of probability. I'll say #1 is most likely, followed by #4, #5, #3 and #2. You?

What are these Options of which you speak?

So remember Ed Wade called out Fernando Nieve as the guys who need to step up and prove something, because they were out of options?

This, from Astros County citizen Dave in Pensacola, FL...

Question: What the (censored) is an option?

That's tender, and classy, Dave. But allow me to expand on exactly what the Option process is (with some help from the Biz of Baseball)...

If you sign a professional contract when you are 18 or younger, the team has complete control of that player for five seasons. 19 or older, it's four seasons to evaluate them. The count starts the day the contract is signed. When said player is added to the 40-man roster, the club has three "options," or three seasons in which the club can move the player from the majors to the minors without losing control of that player.

The player can be moved back and forth as many times in one season, and it will only count as one option.

After the player is out of options, or three seasons in which he has been moved from the Majors to the Minors - beginning with the next season, the player has to clear waivers in order to be sent to the minors. A player with five years of Major League experience has to consent to be placed on waivers.

Since Nieve has played Chutes-n-Ladders with the Astros for three seasons now, in order for Nieve to be sent to Round Rock this season, he would have to be placed on waivers and the other 29 clubs could claim him.

Voila. It basically means you can't play with a player's emotions all four/five years he's under control. And if you can't figure out if a guy is ready after five years, you should let other teams screw with him.

Questions and Answers with C70 at the Bat

Like an insecure starlet who keeps Googling herself, I'm always curious what other people think of our chosen Major League Baseball team. So I'm going through and selecting my favorite blogs from other NL Central teams (even though Astros County took some shots for the MLBTradeRumors link this past weekend for - God forbid - discussing the impact of other NL Central teams' moves on the Astros). Granted, if there was a post I would haved liked 1,889 people to see, that might not have been it. The sarcasm was cranked up to 11 that day, and it clearly didn't translate. However, for those of you who are new citizens to Astros County, I appreciate your navigating around and reading other posts.

Anyhow, I do like to read other blogs and one of my favorites is C70 At the Bat, devoted to the St. Louis Cardinals.

We are in talks to offer some shared content whenever our fair teams meet up this season, but as it stands, we discussed each other's teams. We asked questions, they answered those questions:

AC: (GM John) Mozeliak took some shots in a live chat not too long ago - what are your thoughts on him? Was Walt Jocketty such a great GM that nobody could come in and replace him?

C70: Mo has done a pretty decent job in his first year plus at the helm. He got rid of two declining icons and got probably more than they were worth when he dealt them off. Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen was particularly amazing given that most everyone in baseball figured he had to move Rolen, so he had little leverage.

Mo came up through the ranks, so he's got a lot of Jocketty's style about him. The biggest thing with him, though, is that he's trying to reconcile the scouting with the stats and it seems to be working so far.

AC: The Cards have come out and said they're trying to save a little money, like everyone else. Are they really just saving money to pay for Albert Pujols in a few years?

C70: Depends on which part of the fan base you talk to. There's the grumpy section (it's a definite minority, but it's not insignificant) that says Bill Dewitt is just saving money for Bill Dewitt. I'm not in that group--I think this ownership has done a good job of laying out payroll--but I know that the 2011 end of Pujols's contract weighs on just about everything that they do right now. There are few contracts that they've given out that reach past that time, with the implicit understanding is that they'll need some cash to resign the greatest hitter of our time.

AC: Was/is there any one player fans were hoping St. Louis would sign this off-season?

C70: I think the player that has gotten the most widespread support this offseason is Ben Sheets. The rotation could use another strong arm and Sheets, injury history notwithstanding, would make for a devestating rotation. A healthy Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Sheets, Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer would stack up with most anyone in the division.

A close runner up, at least for some people, was Brian Fuentes. With the Cardinal bullpen woes last season, many felt they needed that shut-down closer at the end of the game. They made a play for him, but wound up losing out more in geography than money, it appears.

AC: Which player on the Astros roster inspires fear in the hearts of St. Louis fans (as opposed to Lidgean levels of delight)?

C70: Ah, Lidge. Always wanted to see Albert against him with the game on the line. Anyway, I think the player that most people wouldn't mind seeing on vacation when the Stros came to down would have to be Lance Berkman. He seems to just destroy Cardinal pitching on a regular basis. Without him, the games would seem a little easier.

AC: What are your thoughts on the Astros in 2009?

C70: I've not done a lot of looking over the roster, etc., but it seems to me that the Astros are on the decline. As you noted in your responses to my questions, the offense is still fairly potent, but the pitching staff just doesn't seem to be there. Even Oswalt wasn't himself last year, though I'm sure that he'll round back into form for 2009. Some of the moves lately have been a little questionable and there doesn't seem to be a lot of farm talent on the way. That said, you never count the Astros out, in my book. They've been a very classy rival for the Cardinals the last decade and it'd be great to see that continue this coming season.

Any blogs you read that you want to exchange information with? Let us know at astroscounty@hotmail.com.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

No one can accuse Richard Justice of being a homer

So Richard Justice, in a column for the Sporting News, gave a very specific, not at all vague outlook for the St. Louis Cardinals:

The Cardinals might win 90 games or lose 90. They don't have as much money as the Cubs, so they have to count on more kids. Counting on kids is risky business. But if the kids don't get overwhelmed, they bring an energy to the clubhouse that a Milton Bradley simply can't. This is akin to writing "very" 60 times to fulfill your word count.

But that's after saying:
I still like the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. Who cares if the Cubs have spent like drunken sailors?

So if the Cardinals lose 90 games, does that mean 73 wins could take the NL Central? To Justice, the NL Central comes down to two teams - the Cubs and Cardinals. Because the Pirates and Reds are "still building," and the Astros and Brewers "have gotten worse."

Nothing like some happy cheer to spread around, 13 days before pitchers and catchers report. God bless us, everyone.

Happy February

Staff Efficiency

Of our pitchers, who was the most efficient? Lets look at the number of pitches per batter faced.

Brian Moehler: 2313 pitches for 650 batters faced. 3.56 pitches per batter. 450 outs (Got 69.2% of batters faced out)
Roy Oswalt: 3091 pitches for 862 batters faced. 3.59 ppb. 626 outs (72.6%)
Wandy Rodriguez: 2276 pitches for 587 batters faced. 3.87 ppb. 412 outs (70.2%)
Brandon Backe: 2790 pitches for 756 batters faced. 3.69 ppb. 500 outs (66.1%)

Doug Brocail: 1097 p for 286 bf. 3.84 ppb. 206 outs (72.0%)
Tim Byrdak: 932 p for 237 bf. 3.93 ppb. 166 outs (70.0%)
Geoff Geary: 1008 p for 262 bf. 3.85 ppb. 192 outs (73.3%)
LaTroy Hawkins: 960 p for 252 bf. 3.81 ppb. 186 outs (73.8%)
Chris Sampson: 1635 p for 478 bf. 3.42 ppb. 352 outs (73.6%).
Jose Valverde: 1243 p for 303 bf. 4.10 ppb. 216 outs (71.3%)
Wesley Wright: 1024 p for 250 bf. 4.10 ppb. 167 outs (66.8%)