Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do the Astros really, really?, have interest now?

Danny Knobler of CBS Sports is saying the Astros are actually now interested in Pudge, but...

"It's not yet clear how serious the Astros' interest is."

I still have a hard time figuring out how the Astros sign Pudge. I'm not saying it won't happen, but I don't see it. Palmisano is a Rule 5 pick, and has to stay on the roster or go back to the Orioles, who have plenty of catching help in Matt Wieters. Quintero will literally break down in tears if he's sent to Round Rock again.

I do wonder if the rest of the Astros' anemic showing so far this spring is what's causing this rumor to simply not die. If everyone else was killing the ball, maybe the Astros would be content to let it ride. But, obviously, they're not. I do think Pudge would fare better in the NL Central than in the AL Central or AL East (or even the NL East). Maybe the only division easier would be the NL West. I wouldn't line up at Academy to buy me a Pudge Astros jersey. Nor do I think that he would be a big draw for fans. If you're not excited about seeing Lance, Roy, Pence or, uh, Valverde? Maybe LaHawk? Then Pudge isn't going to be the tipping point on whether or not to spend your hard earned Bailout money on Astros tickets.

Would I be excited? Eh. Would he be a nice holdover until Castro is ready? Maybe. How do you feel?

It's not very good around Osceola County Stadium

Hey Miggs, are you worried about the Astros?

"I watched ESPN every day and called one of the guys and said, 'What's going on?'" Tejada said. "He just said, 'It's not very good around here.' Now I'm back, Carlos [Lee] is back, Roy [Oswalt] will be back when the Classic ends. We're going to be all together and we have to start working together and pulling everything together again. I worry, everybody should worry. We should start winning some games. That's what we're supposed to do."

And, depending on who got to him first - Alyson Footer or JJO - Tejada is either lying or backtracking about playing 3B:

"I'm pretty anxious to be back to playing my regular position,"

Split-Squad games allow the Astros to lose two at a time!

Vs. Philadelphia:

Matt Kata and Lance Berkman had two hits each, Maysonet, Palmisano, Smith and Saccomanno added one each in a 5-2 loss.

Russ Ortiz: 3.2IP, 7H, 3ER, 3BB, 2K
de la Vara: 1.1IP, 1H, 1ER (1 HR - to Jayson Werth)
Valverde: 1IP, 2H, 1ER
Brocail: 1IP, 1H, 1K
Norris: 2IP, 1K

Vs. Yankees:

Michaels, Pence, Gall, Boone, and Towles accounted for the five Astros hits in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees. Michaels' triple and Towles' homer made up the extra-base hits. An error by Blum led to two unearned runs.

Wandy: 2IP, 2H, 1ER, 1K (homer to Damon in the 1st)
Arias: 1.1IP, 1H, 1R (0ER), 3K
Paronto: 2.2IP, 3H 1R (0ER), 5K
Sampson: 1IP, 1H, 1K
Geary: 1IP, 1K

Nice to see the staff get that many Ks, but once again the hitters make a pitcher - this time A.J. Burnett - look like Rube Waddell. Alberto Arias will have X-Rays on Sunday after being hit with a line drive from Hideki Matsui, depending on how he feels. "I feel a little pain," Arias said. "They think it's going to hurt a lot, but they don't think it's broken."

Tejada blessed with the gift of complication

In a psychotic statement, Tejada mentioned being willing to play third base, if that's what the Astros need.

Problem is, the Astros have too many 3Bs as it is, and not enough SSs. Tommy Manzella probably isn't quite ready yet, and if one minor leaguer looks like he's ready to contribute now, it's Chris Johnson. Who plays...guess freaking what! Third base. Thanks, Miggs. Now shut up and play shortstop for one more year and then go sign with the Yankees.

Now maybe, with this quote, we get a better glimpse at the motivation for an out-of-nowhere guano crazy idea:

"Wherever they want me, I'll be there 100 percent," Tejada said. "If they want me to move to third, I'll do it. I just want to be here. I'm a free agent after this year, and the No. 1 thing for me is that I want to be here."

Ah ha! So Tejada is realizing he doesn't have the range or stats to be somebody else's SS, so if he lets it be known that he will move to 3B, it makes him more marketable as he looks for that 2010 contract. The best thing that Tejada can do for the Astros is be the Clubhouse Leader and put up some decent numbers - at short - and call it a year.

More Meat Wagon!

This time, it's Alberto Arias, who had been impressive this Spring.

Hit with a line drive, the Astros have apparently ruled out that the hand is fractured, but are willing to believe it hurts really bad.

Nieve no longer an Astro

Update from yesterday when we learned that the Astros placed Nieve on waivers. Why would they do such a thing? Because, as the Chronicle reminded us repeatedly, Nieve was out of options. So if you're out of options but the club wants to send you to Triple-A, you have to clear waivers. If you're put on waivers, 29 other teams have the right to claim you. We won't get into the psychological effect of effectively being told that no General Manager thinks you'll contribute at the Major League level.

So lucky for Fernando Nieve, the Mets think he'll contribute for them. So long Fernando!

Brandon Backe's name legally changed by Chronicle to "Injured Backe"

There's a bigger article featuring how Backe is hurt.

“Yeah, I didn’t need to miss any time,” he said. “It’s already been four or five days now and who knows how much longer. Worried? Not really worried. I’m more aggravated than anything.”

And maybe you thought that, well, maybe he'll be able to do some working out. Ah, no.

Everyday activities can aggravate the injury. Every now and then Backe will feel a jolt when he enters or exits his truck. So there isn’t much he can do because of the injury.

Well, at least it wasn't a loss

The Astros have mastered the art of never letting a lead go unpunished. But there were some good, promising performances last night against the Nationals.

Jason Smith went 3x4, Quintero and Pence went 2x3 and Boone and Matsui each added a hit two provide the offense for the Astros.

Pitching line:
Hampton - 4IP, 3H, 4K (best performance of the Spring)
Hensley - 3IP, 4H, 2ER, 1K (it's saying something to give up two earned in three innings and have your ERA drop by almost nine points)
Wright - 1IP, 1H, 1K
Byrdak - 2IP, 1H, 1BB

Continuing the trend of sloppy defense, the Astros did commit three errors - one by Carlos Lee and two by Jason Smith.

"We can't go one stinking game without making an error," Cooper said, "and they're easy errors."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nieve placed on waivers?

Giving proper credit (I refuse to say "props") to The Unofficial Official, according to one major-league source (what happened to maybe getting someone else to back a story up?), the Astros placed Nieve on waivers this week.

Probably hoping no one would notice so that they could send him to Round Rock, because, as we all know, Nieve has less options than Ricky Lake.

Dude, seriously, I'm on a roll here

And speaking of Ridiculoso (a new tag), the Bleacher Report has this article.

Typical stuff: Bourn was bad last year. The rotation is a question. But there are some serious content questions in this article. Let's look:

On Brandon Backe: He gives up too many dingers (31 last year).
Small problem: He gave up 36.

On Felipe Paulino: Has injury concerns but could vault himself onto the big league staff with a good spring. His speed and plus stuff would make him a huge asset.
Small problem: Not this Spring. Has the author been watching?

On Fernando Nieve: He has great control and stuff but has never gotten to showcase it at the big league level. If he's healthy, he'll push for a spot on the roster.
Small problem: Again, I went up and checked to make sure this wasn't written in February.

On Catcher: Palmisano has been impressive and should stick as the backup, but the starting spot is in sorry shape. Humberto Quintero, who's managed to hang around the organization for several years now, is the top option. Quintero isn't much with the bat or behind the plate, but he's a serviceable catcher in the right situation. Towles, who hit so well as a 2007 call-up, is the guy Ed Wade and Cecil Cooper are hoping will surprise them in 2009. After hitting a miserable .137 last year, he's on the cusp of being sent packing his bags. If he can show some of the bat and defense that brought him up in 2007, he will be the starter when Houston breaks camp.
Small problem: What? Yeah, Towles wasn't good, but nobody has been "impressive."

The Guy From the Houston Press might want to be a little more careful in his witty comparisons

The economy is in the crapper. People are being laid off left and right. So it's not really like it should be expected that the Astros would be any better than the rest of the world - hell, I don't even think Jim Cramer could find anything good to say about the Astros, and he can find say something good to say about pretty much any organization. Drayton McLane's been pulling a Bernie Madoff-type pyramid scam on the fans for years anyway. And eventually, as Bernie can tell now us, even good pyramid scams come to an end.

Very current and "in" with the Jim Cramer/Jon Stewart reference, but comparing Run-DMc to the biggest con-man in the history of finance? That's...uh...well, look, you might not approve of the team he has on the field, but remember: you're getting pissed about the Astros not keeping Randy Wolf and Ty Wigginton. We're not talking about letting Albert Pujols walk out the door with a shopping bag.

Canadians pick the division winners

TSN Canada picked their division winners, but not without making an interesting discovery: The Blue Jays did not sign a free agent a major-league deal.

Anyhow, let's start with the NL Central:
1. Cubs
They have the best pitching in the division, and Carlos Marmol should thrive as the closer.
2. Cardinals
Albert Pujols is the best hitter on the planet and Dave Duncan could very well be the best pitching coach, which always gives the Cardinals a chance.
3. Brewers
They will have a great offence, but are unproven on the mound. If that's how they spell "offense" in Canada, that's one thing. But if we're talking about crime, somebody should call somebody.
4. Astros
Their starting pitchers behind Roy Oswalt all have injury question marks. At first I scoffed, then I thought, then I wet my pants.
5. Reds
This is an experience year for the youngsters.
6. Pirates
Their pitching staff has promise, but they're still a few years away.

Let's just take a look at the other division picks from our astute neighbours (get it?) to the north.
AL East: Tampa Bay
AL Central: Minnesota
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Wild Card: Boston Red Sox of Boston

NL East: Philadelphia
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card: New York Mets

The Astros, despite never claiming interest, remain interested - though not.

Jon Heyman won't let it go. You can add the Twins and Giants to the imaginary list of teams who want Pudge.

The Astros' catchers are struggling this spring, but they haven't been very aggressive so far in their pursuit of Pudge, who's played superbly for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, hitting .545 with two home runs.

Did you ever have a friend who smelled bad? But they didn't realize they smelled bad? And you took it upon yourself to buy toothpaste and "leave it in their bathroom" to try to make the point? That's how I feel the sports media is treating the Astros regarding the position that sits behind home plate...

Lineup vs Washington

MASN Sports has your lineup for tonight:

2B Kaz Matsui
CF Michael Bourn
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
RF Hunter Pence
DH Geoff Blum
3B Aaron Boone
SS Jason Smith
C Humberto Quintero

Q gets the start, Tejada sits down, and this is pretty close to the lineup you'll see on April 6.

Backe is literally running out of time!

The Line Drive of Love and Reggie Abercrombie have been cleared to lose to the Nationals tonight, but Maysonet is still out with a jacked up ankle. But Backe? That's a different story.

He's still 10 days away from even throwing.
"Yeah, heck yeah it worries me," Cooper said. "It's 10 days. Ten days from now is the 23rd, the 24th then we got seven days and then we got five days. So you've got 12 days to get ready. And if you're a starting pitcher I don't know. If you're counted on to go some innings, I don't know. So what had he gone the first time? He's only gone two innings, 40 pitches or something. So there's a little concern there. Yes there is. It just cuts down on his opportunities to pitch, and that's not good. Two bullpens and probably one batting practice session and you might be squeezing in one game if that's a timeline, so yeah there is a concern."

Here's a prediction: There's no way Backe makes the team. It's not like he was Sandy Koufax before he got hurt. Apparently the Astros have until 2pm on April 1 to decide what to do, or they don't have to owe him his $1.55 million base salary.

Astros see no reason to panic, because it's March

In a fire-extinguishing article in the Chronicle, the headline reads "Despite Spring struggles, Astros see no reason to panic" - but what else are they going to say? "Turn in your season ticket package for a 2005 Highlight DVD?"

The games have been, according to Easy Eddie, "sloppy and choppy" and this weekend the games should get more crisp as the leading candidates will get more opportunities to play.

There's a positive/negative aspect of the article. JJO lists these positives:

Mike Hampton's arm hasn't withered yet.
Russ Ortiz and Jose Capellan are making the Astros think.
Alberto Arias is good, too.

But here are the negatives:
Nieve, Paulino, Backe and Hensley really nutted it this spring.
And I'll go ahead and add that Astros catchers are 4x39 so far.

Anybody want to add anything to either column?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big guy with irritated forearm and anger issues to start season vs. Astros

It's Carlos Zambrano, by the by. Starting against the Astros over Ryan Dempster, says Lou Piniella.

Not a bad decision. Over the last three years, Zambrano has the following line vs. Houston:
7-2 in 11 starts
78.2 innings
44 hits, 18 earned runs
32 walks, 72 strikeouts
.166 BAA, 0.97 WHIP

I was more optimistic than Coop

Faithful citizen Spruce found the post where I set the over/under at 11.5 on pitchers to start games for the Astros. Gracias!

If you're a betting man (cough, cough Pete)

Hilton bookmakers are putting the over-under on Astros' wins at 74.

Here's how Hilton sees the NL Central shaking out (O/U in parentheses)
Chicago 91.5
St. Louis 82.5
Milwaukee 81
Cincinati 79.5
Houston 74
Pittsburgh 69

What do you think?

The Race for Round Rock: March 11 edition

In the Race for Round Rock, let's get an update on who's trying to nail down that C3 spot!

Through yesterday's game...

Quintero: 2x16 (.125), 1HR, 2RBI, 1K - .125/.125/.313
Palmisano: 1x11 (.091), 1R, 2L - .091/.182/.091
Towles: 1x12 (.083), 4K, 1BB - .083/.154/.083

Polin Trinidad likely to go to Round Rock

In a nice little feature on the feel-good story from undrafted free agent to the Majors, Polin Trinidad will, uh...delay that final step for a little while as JJO reports that he will most likely begin the season at Round Rock.

He doesn't throw hard - 88-91 (which, it bears mentioning, is a good 35 mph faster than what I throw) - but he does have control.

“First and foremost, he’s what we call a strike thrower,” Robinson said. “He’s going to come right at the hitters. He believes and trusts in his stuff, and he’s going to throw it over the plate.

“He’s got a little sink on his fastball, and his velocity has gone up each year. It’s plenty good right now to pitch at the major league level. With his sink and command, he can take you a long way.”

Projecting as a starter, it's important to remember Trinidad is only 24, so there's time for him to develop.

Cooper to play golf, try to get blood pressure under 220/160

Off day for the Astros today. So what's Coop going to do?

“I need a little peace and a little solitude,” Cooper said. “I need to get away from everything and everybody, a little bit of that. Sometimes you need that little by-yourself time.”

I guess that means includes 18 holes of golf, so happy tee-ing, Coop! What's betting that by the 6th hole, Coop's having a closed-door meeting with his caddy?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hey, a C is passing

The Sporting News did their annual preview of the Astros. How did they fare?

Offense: C. Houston finished in the bottom half of the N.L. in runs, on-base percentage and slugging in 2008, and it added no impact players in the offseason. Because Tejada isn't what he once was, Berkman and Lee have a heavy load to shoulder.

Pitching: C. Without Oswalt, Houston would have the weakest rotation in the division, even if Rodriguez and Hampton stayed healthy (far from a safe bet). The bullpen is solid with Geoff Geary, Doug Brocail and LaTroy Hawkins setting up Valverde, but it needs to reduce the homers allowed (MLB-high 70 last season).

Bench: C. Aaron Boone, expected to platoon at third, and fourth outfielder Darin Erstad bring experience and leadership, but their best days are behind them. Blum also is the club's most versatile infielder. Fifth outfielder Jason Michaels drove in 53 runs in 286 at-bats in 2008.

Manager: C. A full season of experience will help Cooper after a commendable rookie season. He is a players' manager who still is learning how to balance all of his responsibilities. He seems to be a quick learner, as evidenced by the Astros' strong second-half showing.

Then, a prediction:
The Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers are better than the Astros, and the Reds also should pass them by this season.

Coop puts the over/under on 20 pitchers

This, from USA Today, and it didn't even come with a handy chart to help you read:

When Cecil Cooper talks about maybe needing 20 pitchers to get through the season, he's just adding to a theme that has followed the Houston Astros for all of the decade.

The rest of the article doesn't say much we don't already know; essentially "who freaking knows who will pitch?" But Coop puts the over/under on 20 pitchers. What did I say? I can't remember, and I couldn't find the post (though, to be honest, I didn't look all that hard. +1 to whoever can find it.)

Tags makes some Opening Day roster predictions

It's another one of those Spring Training cliches: "If the season started today..."

Well, it doesn't. But it doesn't mean we can't read it, because what else are we going to talk about? Mid-American Conference Basketball? No! Here's McTaggart's Opening Day roster predictions:

C1: Quintero
C2: Palmisano
Though there's this qualifier: I still think the Astros will look for a veteran catcher before opening day. Who's out there? Benito Santiago?!

1B: Berkman
2B: Matsui
3B: Blum
3B2: Boone
SS: Tejada
INF1: Jason Smith
Chris Johnson could make the team, but I don't see him making it as a reserve. So if he makes it as starter, that means Boone and/or Blum would be gone. Unless they're traded, I don't see that. Expect Johnson and Drew Sutton to start year in Round Rock.

LF: Lee
CF: Bourn
RF: Pence
OF4: Erstad
OF5: Jason (The Line Drive of Love) Michaels
Does anyone pick up on the Brett Michaels/Rock of Love (or whatever it's called) reference? This is pretty much set in stone if they're all healthy. Reggie Abercrombie has had a nice spring, but he's starting the year in the minors.

SP1: Oswalt
SP2: Wandy
SP3: Hampton
SP4: Moehler
SP5: Russ Ortiz
I've bumped out Brandon Backe because I see him losing significant ground with his intercostal injury. Ortiz has pitched well, and I can see him getting that spot. Jose Capellan could make a push, but he's more of a bullpen arm in my eyes. Felipe Paulino and Fernando Nieve have been pummeled this spring.

RP1: Wright
RP2: Byrdak
RP3: Sampson
RP4: Geary
RP5: LaHawk
SU: Brocail
CL: Valverde
I think the pitcher most likely to crack this bunch is lefthander Gilbert De La Vara, a Rule 5 pick who pitched well Wednesday. Could De La Vara steal a lefthanded relief spot over Byrdak?

Make it stop

Another day, another loss, another opportunity to figure out who belongs in Round Rock. Unfortunately, there's a lot of 'em.

The Astros lost to the Reds 8-2 this afternoon. Jeff Fulchino threw two innings, gave up five hits and four runs (two earned, because, surprise! the Astros commited two errors - one by Fulchino, the other by Newhan). Nieve got two outs, but also gave up a hit and two walks - leading to two runs (one earned). Bud Norris threw one inning, gave up two hits and two earned runs. Neal Musser got one out, and recorded one walk. Alberto Arias threw two scoreless innings and gave up three hits. But one of those guys who impressed - on paper, at least - was Gil de la Vara. Two innings, no runs, one walk.

Berkman, Smith, Blum, Sutton, Pence, Manzella and two from Bogusevic accounted for all eight hits. Sutton's two-run jack made up the runs. In the Race for Round Rock, Palmisano went 0-for-3, Quintero 0-for-1.

Despite this, pitching coach Dewey Robinson who has red hands from all the wringin', remains optimistic, because really, what else can he do?

"You start looking at our core guys, and I'm optimistic," Robinson said. "We're throwing six, seven, eight guys a game, and one or two have bad outings, and it weighs on you. But each night, I try to evaluate each pitcher individually. I've been excited about four or five guys who are consistently throwing well."

Robinson also mentions Russ Ortiz and Jose Capellan pulling away for the SP5 spot. Who do you want in there?

Max Sapp back in hospital

Echoing JJO's thoughts, everyone needs to keep Max Sapp in your thoughts.

After making progress for a couple of months, Max Sapp was back in the hospital last night after suffering seizures.

There's an updated article in the Chronicle with an explanation from the man himself:

“They’re weaning me off my medication,” he said after answering his mother’s cell phone while she napped at his Orlando area hospital. “One of the side-effects of my medication is seizures. I had seizures, one last night and one this morning, but I’m fine.”

Backe to take some more time to touch himself

Come on! Remember? He said his midsection hurt to the touch. That's what I meant. I promise.

Anyhow, Backe will be out for at least another ten days.

“You know Brandon,” Cooper said. “He wants to pitch like crazy and go out there and compete, so we’re not going to push it.”

Can you blame him? Every time he doesn't throw a no-hitter people call for his being released! Here's the thing, Backe is going to get his $1.55 million this year regardless of whether or not he's hurt. So that should help a little bit, but I still feel bad for him.

In other injury news: Jason Michaels (The Line Drive of Love), Edwin Maysonet and Reggie Abercrombie could all return by the weekend.

“I’m just being careful,” said Michaels, who took some batting practice and did some running Monday. “I didn’t want it to be something that lingered all year.”

Which would be just fine with Reggie Abercrombie.

Dan Plesac and I would get along very nicely, thank you

So Will Leitch of Deadspin/other media has a new column feature on Deadspin. It's very funny, but I did notice this line, in a rundown of ranking the MLB Network's analysts:

5. Dan Plesac (seems smart, but actually picked the Astros to finish second in the NL Central)

So I guess that means Dan Plesac is not, in fact, smart.

Bourn new and improved, lineup mostly set, until it's not.

A new and improved Michael Bourn will likely bat second. Here's the projected lineup, if the season started today, instead of three weeks from now:

1) Matsui
2) Bourn
3) Berkman
4) Lee
5) Tejada
6) Pence
7) Blum/Boone
8) Catcher

Footer says that, at this point, Quintero looks like the C1.

So what has changed to move Bourn from, say, 8th, to 2nd? Bourn is bunting more and striking out less, and Cooper feels the 26-year-old outfielder could settle in nicely as the team's No. 2 hitter.

The pressure isn't much lighter for a No. 2 hitter, but Bourn's rapid progression this spring suggests that he may be ready for the task. He works on bunting every day with hitting coach Sean Berry, who usually monitors around 100 bunts per session.

Well that's all well and good. At first I was kind of upset about this, as it's early, and colder today. Then I got to thinking, bunting and striking out less improves two things: bat-on-ball accuracy and plate discipline.

I'm okay with this line-up. I would prefer to see Pence and Tejada switch places. And I would prefer that Evan Longoria play third, but what are you gonna do?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another loss for the Astros

Look, it's about figuring out who is best for the 2009 Astros, it's not a playoff run. I'd rather the Astros tank it now than do what the Brewers did and tank it in October. So right now we're figuring out who maybe doesn't necessarily fit this club.

That said, the Astros lost to Atlanta today and now are 1-10-1, their lone win coming on the opening day of Spring Training. They do that come April 6, and they're already 6 games back.

The Braves collected seven runs on thirteen hits, and with two errors by the Astros, that adds up to a 7-4 loss. The Astros got six hits: Bourn, Boone, Gall, Bogusevic, and two from Jason Smith. Let's look at some ugly stuff...

Kaz Matsui is hitting .056
Mark Saccomanno is hitting .063
J.R. Towles is hitting .083
Carlos Lee is hitting .111
Aaron Boone is hitting .111
David Newhan is hitting .176

For the pitching run-down today vs. Atlanta:
Geary: 1IP, 2H, 2ER, 2BB, 1K
Paronto: 1IP, 2H, 1ER, 1K
Byrdak: 1IP, 2H, 1K
Moehler: 4IP, 4H, 4R (1ER), 2BB, 3K
Valverde: 1IP, 2H, 1BB
Brocail: 1IP, 1H

Berkman and Saccomanno had the errors, while Bourn stole his 5th base of the season. Again, let's keep this in some perspective. I'm afraid Cecil Cooper is going to blow his O-Ring before the World Baseball Classic comes to its meaningless end!

"This is bordering on ridiculous," he said. "Am I getting concerned? Yeah, I am. I don't have answers for you, this was the veterans today. We weren't that good, but it's on me to get it right, so we'll get it right somehow."

Do you worry that Coop might lose the Astros before the season starts?

And in minor-league news, the Astros made some moves, optioning Brad James to Round Rock and sent Jason Castro, Brian Esposito and Sergio Perez to minor-league camp.

"Castro had been real impressive here, and we felt it was time to send him over there so he could get a lot more work," Cooper said. "James and Perez are guys we like, but they seemed to be a little overwhelmed by all this stuff."

The Bleacher Report does not have many nice things to say

It's all pretty clever. Everyone predicting the NL Central is focused on the Pittsburgh Pirates as being the bottom-dwellers once again.

Meanwhile, the real sixth-place threat is in Houston. Compared to the Astros, Pittsburgh actually looks like a powerhouse.

Ouch. Click the link to read depressing things about the Astros, but here's another prediction for you:

If Houston avoids a 100 loss season, it will be a shock. The train wreck gets worse by the day.

They haven't just been losing their games. They've been getting blown away. If it's not the pitchers handing out bases like they were free candy, it's the hitters suffering from a bad case of staring at the strikes and swingin' at the balls.

If Drayton McLane thinks he can get away with this for very long, he's got another thing coming. We can't ignore that the Astros haven't drafted and developed well for years.

It's not all Ed Wade. He can only work with what he was given. And this winter, he was given pocket lint and told to get a World Series.

Your candidates for SP5

Here are your candidates for SP5, with stats updated through last night:

Backe: 6IP, 6H, 4ER, 1HR, 5K, 4BB - 6.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
Ortiz: 7.2IP, 6H, 4ER, 1HR, 8K, 4BB - 4.70 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
Capellan: 5IP, 3H, 0ER, 3K, 0BB - 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP
Paronto: 5IP, 3H, 0ER, 2K, 1BB - 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP
Paulino: 4IP, 9H, 7ER, 1K, 4BB - 15.75 ERA, 3.25 WHIP
Nieve: 4IP, 7H, 5ER, 1K, 4BB - 11.25 ERA, 2.75 WHIP

Still lots of meaningless games to lose, folks, to make a judment on SP5.

Notes from Alyson Footer's notes

Mailbag highlights:

-Footer does not see Clay Hensley making the team when camp breaks.
-She does make a good point that if Pudge hits .990 in the World Baseball Classic, that would price him out of the Astros' payroll (i.e., more than $2.13/hour).

Tags sees some positives from a 10-game Spring Training losing streak

Sergio Perez took the loss last night, giving up a 10th inning two-run homer. But the positive - for the team, not so much for Felipe Paulino, was that the Astros locked in after Paulino hit the showers.

Capellan threw three scoreless innings, with 2 hits and 2Ks
Arias: 1IP, 1H, 1BB, 1K
Wright: 1IP, 1H, 1K
Graves: 1IP, 1H, 1K
Gervacio: 1IP, 1BB, 1K
Perez: .1IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER

Hunter Pence went 3x4 with 2 runs and 8 total bases (1B, 3B, HR), while Q went 2x3 with 2 RBI. And Carlos Lee, who enjoyed two games with Panama, will be returning to Astros camp, without the Panamanian team. I told you they should have asked Carew to play.

The Unofficial Scorer weighs in on bad springs:
So there is life after a disastrous spring training. Over the last quarter-century, the Astros haven't had a monopoly on Marches to forget. There have been 15 teams with spring training winning percentages at or below .300 and 40 at or below .350. Of the 40, some have been anything but disastrous at the end including the 101-win Angels in 1997 and 2001 American League champion Yankees.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Predictions from The Leadoff Man

A Cubs blog predicts the Astros to finish 4th in the NL Central this year:

Says The Leadoff Man:
This year, Houston's record should better reflect this squad's flaws. The rotation has exactly one reliable starter in Roy Oswalt (17-10, 3.54 ERA). Wandy Rodriguez (9-7, 3.54 ERA in 137 IP) can't be counted on for a full season, or against lefties, who hit .282 with an .811 OPS off the southpaw. Brian Moehler (11-8, 4.56) is a poor man's idea of a third starter, but he'll be just that barring a major reversal from Brandon Backe (9-14, 6.05), who, incredibly, looks like a safe bet to make the rotation himself. You know a rotation is in trouble when Mike Hampton is getting a serious look in spring training, and that's the position the Astros find themselves in right now. Jose Valverde (3.38, 44 saves) can only finish games -- Houston needs a few more guys who can start them.

Backe "effectively shut down"

Alyson Footer is reporting Brandon Backe is effectively shut down.

Backe is hoping he won't be sidelined for long, but he has no way of knowing how quickly he'll heal. Being patient is a tall order for the right-hander, considering he's competing for a spot in the rotation and doesn't want to risk being passed over by one of the other hopefuls in camp.

Paulino, Backe, Oswalt are "concerning"

So seeing as how Coop said it was "high noon" for Felipe Paulino, who has minor league options (and Fernando Nieve, who doesn't), allowing five hits, a three-run homer, and walking two batters in one inning probably doesn't help.

Brandon Backe apparently can't even touch his midsection without feeling pain. But Backe knows there's a downside to this:

"The doubt's there because there's no communication as to where I actually stand other than I'm fighting for a job," he said. "Looking from the outside in, it only opens up doors for others that compete against me. I want to be out there doing well with them and make it a hard decision for the Astros."

-And Cecil Cooper wasn't too thrilled with Roy's performance last night, but it wasn't the results of which he was concerned:

"I was worried about that pitch count," Cooper said. "It's a different kind of stress when you're in a game and getting up to that number. You know he's revved and he's excited. I was a little concerned. It seems like they were aware of what's going on for a numbers standpoint."

Injury Updates; Notes on Astros County

Friends, I start The New Job today, so in the interest of my employment I probably won't be posting as much between the hours of 8am-5pm. Look for posts early in the morning and in the evening.

Updates on injuries:
Backe's front foot slipped off the mound, thus straining his ribcage.

Maysonet's & Michaels' injuries may not be as serious as initially feared:
“(The Trainers) sounded pretty optimistic about Maysonet, and Michaels wasn’t as bad as originally thought,” Cooper said. “We thought it might be more of a dehydration (problem with Michaels) and they’re going to check him out. We can’t say that for sure, but hopefully.”

Drew Sutton's hamstring injury is almost 100% and he made his first start yesterday.

And newest Astro Neal Musser will pitch tonight versus Washington

Sunday, March 8, 2009

World Baseball Classic: March 8

Carlos Lee: 1-for-3 with a walk vs Dominican Republic
Miguel Tejada: 0-for-4 with a strikeout vs Panama
Roy Oswalt: 3.2IP, 6H, 3ER, 2BB, 1K. 44 of 65 pitches for strikes vs Venezuela

Maybe they should be called the "Killer Ls"

Another day, another tail-smokin'. This time, once again, to the Pirates, 11-4.

At least there were seven hits, spread out over seven players: Bourn, Ramirez, Pence, Boone, Newhan, Gall and Palmisano (who started at C and went 1-for-3, with a double).

Five pitchers got in, after Backe went and strained his ribcage:
Hensley: 2IP, 2H, 3ER, 1BB, 1K
de la Vara: 1IP, 4H, 3ER, 1BB, 1K
Paronto: 2IP, 1H, 1BB
James: .1IP, 0H, 4R (1ER), 3BB
Lumsden: .2IP, 1H, 1ER, 2BB, 1K

The Astros made three more errors, this time by Bourn (1), Gall (1) and Sutton (2). And of the Astros' pitchers to throw in more than one game, only Paronto, Geary, Wright and Fulchino have ERAs under 3.00. And seven Astros pitchers have ERAs above 10.00: Lumsden (10.12), Norris (10.38), Nieve (11.25), de la Vara (12.27), Gervacio (13.50), Trinidad (18.00), Hensley (23.62).

However, Easy Eddie says to pump the brakes:
"I've seen teams have tremendous spring trainings and play really poorly out of the chute, and I've seen teams really struggle in Grapefruit League play and hit their stride the last week of the exhibition season and go from there," he said. "Hopefully at some point here in the next week to 10 days, the regulars will play more and stay in games longer and we're trying to get them to the point where they're ready to hit their strides."

This is a good point. Because basically, Corpus Christi and Round Rock are basically 1-8-1 this Spring Training. And about those ERAs, statistics get skewed when you're only talking about an inning here and two innings there.

We can also expect to see more guys get sent to minor league camp this week. Their names will be removed from the sidebar as they come in.

More Meat Wagon!

After two innings, Brandon Backe left with a strained ribcage muscle.

Those two innings, though, Backe gave up two hits and a walk, striking out one.

Depending on how serious the injury is, the Astros SP5 position just got a little clearer. Remember Wandy had a similar injury and hasn't pitched since Feb 27. Two weeks is a long time to be out if you're trying to earn a job...