Saturday, March 28, 2009

More third base rumors!

From Alyson Footer's mailbag, where she addresses a cornucopia of subjects, including the possibilities for the Astros at third base. Here are the names with which she comes up:

-Tigers' Mike Hessman, 31
-Reds' Jeff Keppinger, 28
-Rangers' Travis Metcalf, 26
-Angels' Matt Brown, 26
-Giants' Juan Uribe, 29
-Rockies' Jeff Baker, 27

Interestingly enough, Jayson Stark mentions in his blog today that the Astros have "kicked the tires" on Keppinger and, of course, Baker. In a little ding on the Credibility Scale, Stark also notes that Chris Johnson looks like he'll be 3B1 if the Astros don't make the deal for Baker. Whereas Footer flat-out says he's headed for Round Rock.

Meat wagon: "It happened shagging"

Shagging can be such a deadly little activity.

A recap: Backe threw for eight minutes. Paronto threw for eight minutes. Paronto did not throw as well as Backe, hurting his chances of making the club.

Edwin Maysonet also felt some soreness in his lower back. In one of the best quotes of the Spring, he said: "It happened shagging. It was really sore in my lower back -- stiff."

+1 to Maysonet.

Capellan wasn't exactly inspiring today

The Astros lost for the first time in a week ("streaky" is an adjective we ought to get used to) to the Nationals 6-3, and Berkman was held out due to some soreness in his bicep - but could be back in action tomorrow.

The Astros scored their three runs on nine hits, while the Nationals scored their six runs on eight hits. Bourn and Michaels had two hits each; Matsui, Newhan, Pence, Johnson and Capellan accounted for the other five.

Pitching line:
Capellan: 5IP, 6H, 5ER, 3BB, 4K
Byrdak: 2IP, 1H, 1R (0ER), 1BB, 1K
Wright: 1IP, 2H, 1BB, 1K

Notice Wright allowed three baserunners in an inning and did not give up a run. Capellan, however, may be fading at the wrong time. That's two starts in a row in which he has given up five earned to push his ERA to 4.58. Here's your race for SP5 as of tonight:

Ortiz: 22.1IP, 19H, 8ER, 9BB, 16K, 3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Capellan: 19.2IP, 20H, 10ER, 4BB, 11K, 4.58 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Ortiz has allowed one earned run in his last two starts (11 innings). Still think Ortiz, because of the clause in his contract saying he can opt-out if he doesn't make the team, has the inside track while Capellan may start out in Round Rock.

A note on some performance bonuses

One of the trends we've seen in baseball economics is the inclusion of performance bonuses in contract negotiations. Everybody wins with a lower base salary and certain additional financial rewards for actually playing well. If the player thinks they still have stuff left in the tank, they'll be happy to agree. It may actually be so fair that I'm sure Don Fehr and Gene Orza are working on a way to get rid of it. That said, I'm always curious about what kind of bonuses the Astros have on the books for 2009, as it will affect the overall payroll.

Miggs: $50,000 for All-Star selection

Berkman: $500,000 for MVP, $350,000 for 2nd place in MVP, $250,000 for 3rd place; $50,000 for World Series MVP and/or LCS MVP; $25,000 for Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and All Star selection

Backe: $50,000 for 160IP, $100,000 for 170IP, $150,000 for 180IP, $175,000 for 190, 200, 220IPs. Additional $250,000 in performance bonuses as a reliever (interesting).

Pudge: $200,000 each for 350, 375, 400, 425, 450 plate appearances; $150,000 each for 90 games, 100 games; $200,000 for 100 games played

Blum: $50,000 each for 350, 375, 400, 425, 450, 475, 500 plate appearances

Jason Michaels: $25,000 for 200 PAs; $50,000 for 225 PAs; $75,000 for 250 PAs; $125,000 each for 275, 300, 325, 375 PAs; $100,000 for 400 PAs

LaHawk: $600,000 in unspecified performance bonuses

Brocail/Erstad/Moehler: Unspecified performance bonuses

Hampton: $2m in unspecified performance bonuses

McTaggart says: This is the lineup

The lineup Coop put out there yesterday will be very similar to OD09's lineup. Regard:

2B Kaz Matsui
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
SS Miguel Tejada
RF Hunter Pence
3B Geoff Blum
CF Michael Bourn
RHP Roy Oswalt

I, with McTaggart, like this lineup. A couple of tweaks I would make: Flip Tejada and Pence and flip Pitcher and Bourn. Take the NL Central's view of batting a potential fire-starter 9th, to give Matsui someone on the basepaths. However, I think it's very obvious that signing Pudge was a big boost to the lineup. It could totally backfire, and Pudge could hit .210, but it's better than the alternative...

Oswalt may have figured his stuff out

"My biggest thing is getting command of my fastball. I was up in the zone until later in the game."

Oswalt got tagged for ten hits on six innings and 96 pitches, but is getting on track for his club-record 7th Opening Day start. He actually set the record last year, but can you name the three pitchers who have five Opening Day starts?

(Answer in the comments section)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Towles and Norris reassigned

Another round of cuts this morning in Astroland. Pitcher Bud Norris and catcher J.R. Towles were reassigned to Round Rock. I really hope no one was shocked by this.

Bleacher Report breaks down future HOF balloting

Of course, the franchise's 1B1 is up for Hall of Fame balloting in 2011. What do they say about the Astros' best first chance at getting the Astros logo in the Plaque Gallery?

Jeff Bagwell

A career .297 hitter who belted 449 home runs and 1,558 RBI, Bagwell was selected unanimously as the 1991 National League MVP. In 400 plate appearances that year, he batted .369 with 39 home runs and 116 RBI.

Why he'll make the Hall: Among other things, a .408 career OBP; .540 slugging percentage; .993 fielding percentage; and 202 stolen bases.

Why he won't make the Hall: No World Series title and a lack of name recognition.

Prediction: A first-ballot Hall of Famer.

--

I'm going to respectfully disagree. I do not think that Bagwell is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the next two and a half years of slow-leaking PED information is going to determine his legitimacy as a candidate at all. I think the "lack of name recognition" as a reason is completely false, as Bagwell (maybe Biggio) is about the only Astro many non-Astros fans can name from 1990-2004. I do think there is a better, more poetic chance of Bagwell becoming a third-ballot HOFer while Biggio is a first-ballot HOFer, meaning they enter the Hall of Fame at the same time.

A couple of notes for Friday morning and Chris Johnson and I have something in common.

Nice thing about picking Memphis (the team who Chris Johnson had in his Final Four - though he had Duke to win) to win the National Championship this year is that now I don't have to pretend that I care about March Madness. Although I do hope Syracuse wins it all. On to baseball!

Well, not really. Aaron Boone, by all accounts, came through his surgery in good health - which is a blessing. And Tejada was sentenced to what seems to be a fairly light punishment: probation, a $5,000 fine (which I think is equivalent to littering) and 100 hours of community service, which is roughly the number of volunteer hours a high school graduate needs to get their diploma in Tennessee.

JJO in his Notes today does a good job breaking down the statistical difference in a six-game winning streak for the offense. The team batting average was raised from .206 to .233. But the amazing part about that is not that the team raised its BA 26 points in six games, it's that they still have the worst average in the Majors. Let's look at individual Astros' averages over the last six games:

Kaz Matsui: .050 to .105
Michael Bourn: .184 to .219
Lance Berkman: .259 to .325
Carlos Lee: .087 to .200
Hunter Pence: .238 to .278
Miguel Tejada: .227 to .257
Geoff Blum: .094 to .178.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dayn Perry thinks the Astros would stand a better chance if they played A&M, Iowa State, etc...

Dayn Perry's entertaining one-sentence capsules of why every team will win the World Series says this for the Astros:

They'll need some serious surprises in the rotation, a better team defense than can be reasonably expected, and perhaps a transfer to the Big 12.

Could be worse. Perry could have said this, as he did about the Nationals:
Um, wow ... Besides having everyone else in the division disappear into the ether, the Nats need miracles in the rotation, health for Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman, and somehow the ability to pitch around a terrible outfield defense.

Tejada sentenced

Chronicle reporting that Miguel Tejada has been sentenced to one year of probation, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.

Helpful clues from the Denver Post

Simply put, Jeff Baker knows how to market himself. He went 4x4 with two homers yesterday with the Rockies, yet the Denver Post is reporting that Baker is facing a roster squeeze. So the Rockies play him to enhance his trade value...

"It's hard not to think about (trades) when friends are text-ing you about it," Baker said.

The Phillies are also reportedly interested, but the Rockies may be overplaying their hand with their demands for return value. I think a little collusion might be in order here, because if the Rockies don't trade him - or at least - wait to trade him until closer to the point at which contracts become guaranteed, the Rockies may be forced to release him as opposed to paying him his money.

Scott Podsednik is also at risk of not making the team. So why don't they trade for both of them, and that way the Astros will have Podsednik and Blum - both of whom homered in the '05 WS - and then the Astros can hold a raffle to see who wants to take a crap on the hoods of their car?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Could you scoot over? This bandwagon is getting a little crowded

A writer from the Bleacher Report was given a boost by Lance Berkman, and a helping hand from Coop to get on the Astros' 2009 Bandwagon. Regard:

All in all this year could be special for the Astros. Will they win the World Series, I doubt it, but I do think they will win 90 games and they will make the playoffs.

Danny Graves no longer an Astro

According to JJO's blog, Danny Graves asked for - and was given - his release from the Astros, indicating to me that Graves will soon sign with another Major League team. Or retire, I guess.

Please remember that, back on January 27, I recorded Graves' chances as such:
Maybe. Probably not in the rotation...It's a long-shot.

Yay me.

Decent chance Ortiz gambled on a fart...and won.

Russ Ortiz battled The Queasies and won. (Everyone noticed I said the phrase "gambled on a fart," right?)

Despite a queasy stomach, veteran righthander Russ Ortiz threw five strong innings to remain atop the race for the fifth spot in the Astros’ rotation. “There were certain times when I just had to take more time to take a deep breath and see if it would pass for a little bit,” Ortiz said after giving up one run on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. “I’d come into the dugout and feel a little better. And then as soon as I finished my warm-up pitches then I’d feel it again.”

And by "seeing if it would pass" I think we can safely assume he actually means "seeing if he would crap his pants on the mound."

It wasn't Jordan's Flu Game, but it may have been enough to seal Ortiz as SP5 as the Astros beat the Cardinals 4-3 after Bourn's RBI single in the top of the 9th sealed the game for the Astros. Pence and Smith went 3x4 and Maysonet went 2x4 to account for eight of the twelve Astros hits. Pudge went deep for the 2nd time in two games (let's hope Berkman's Allotted Stats theory is wrong.

Pitching lines:
Ortiz: 5IP, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 4K
Geary: 2IP, 3H, 2ER, 1BB
Wright: 1IP, 1W
Fulchino: 1IP, 1S

The Jeff Baker dilemma

So I've been a little behind on the rumor that the Astros are interested in Rockies' utility man Jeff Baker, mainly because I'm having a hard time buying it. In trying to find a voice this off-season I bit on every little rumor that was out there, but I'm trying to be a little less reactionary. I don't know. Maybe that doesn't lead to hits, but it's still newsworthy.

So this OOO (out-of-options) 28-year old Jeff Baker holds a .303/.373/.508 line in the minors, and last season in Colorado hit .268/.322/.468 in 299 ABs with 85Ks to 26BBs. Not a bad bat, at all, just a little free-swinging.

It was reported that the Rockies were interested in Kyle Kendrick from Philadelphia for Baker, and the Rockies are hoping to trade him as opposed to releasing him. Who would the Astros trade? If the Rockies are looking for a pitcher (and they deserve to have it stuck to them because of the Jason Jennings trade), perhaps they may desire one Brandon Backe?

I'm trying to think of a good reason to keep Backe on the roster - other than as a fairly cheap insurance policy - than as trade bait. You don't receive compensation for a guy you released, so perhaps the thinking was to sign Backe, hope he had a good Spring, and then trade him. Well, he hasn't had a good Spring. He hasn't had much of a Spring at all, though he did throw for eight minutes today from 75 feet.

The next question becomes: what do you do with Jeff Baker once you trade for him? Fourth infielder? He can play most every position (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF), and that would send Smith and Maysonet down to Round Rock and put some heat on Blum.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

This Spring Training game might actually mean something

But not like you may think. See, when the Astros and Cardinals play today, it will mark the first time the Cards' bullpen has been totally intact.

Does it mean much? Not really, but these Spring Training games are starting to feel like actual preparation for the season, and not wasting time so Bud can get his dorm-room baseball tournament in. Russ Ortiz gets another chance to show he's SP5.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

32 players fighting for 25 spots...this isn't going to end well

By my count - which could be off - there are 32 players on the roster right now who have a shot at making the OD09 roster. That means it has to be trimmed by seven.

Let's take a look at how this could shake out.

Rotation: 6
Roy, Wandy, Hampton, Moehler, Ortiz, Capellan

Bullpen: 10
Arias, Brocail, Byrdak, de la Vara, Fulchino, Geary, Hawkins, Sampson, Valverde, Wright

Catchers: 3
Pudge, Quintero, Towles

Infielders: 7
Berkman, Blum, Johnson, Matsui, Maysonet, Smith, Tejada

Outfielders: 6
Abercrombie, Bourn, Erstad, Lee, Michaels, Pence

-
We can trim one from the rotation automatically. I think Ortiz is SP5 due to the nature of his opt-out clause and the fact that Capellan could be signed and sent to Round Rock. Cut? Capellan

Coop took eight for the bullpen on OD08, meaning we can project taking two off of this list. de la Vara is a Rule 5 pick with an 0-2 record and an 8.38 ERA, giving up five homers in 9.2 innings. So it comes down to Arias and Fulchino. Both have been impressive. Fulchino is 0-1 with a 2.19 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00. Arias has been perfect, 0-0 with an 0.00 ERA and nine baserunners (7H, 2BB) in 8.1 innings. It's hard to say, but given that Fulchino has been given more innings and opportunities, it seems like Coop is leaning towards letting him lose a job. But he's done very well. It's a toss-up, but I'll give the nod towards Fulchino making the team with Arias and de la Vara out. And I could be totally wrong.

Update: Within this piece JJO says it's unlikely Arias will break camp with the Astros.

I'm also going to say Towles heads to Round Rock, in what seems to be kind of a no-brainer, for now.

We're going to have to cut two, maybe three from the infield as the outfield seems set with five and Abercrombie is the odd man out. Coop has talked about the backup needing to be able to play short, and Alyson Footer, surprisingly mentions Chris Johnson starting the season in Round Rock. So she's closer to the situation than I am - I don't like the idea, but we'll trim Johnson from the list. Between Maysonet and Smith, it's a toss-up. Up until Maysonet's two homer day, he showed no stick, and Smith hasn't shown much of a glove. It could go either way, but I'll say that since Smith signed a minor-league contract back at the beginning of January, Maysonet will get the nod - at least initially.

To recap, here are the projected seven trimmed from the roster (as of March 23): Capellan, de la Vara, Fulchino, Towles, Abercrombie, Johnson, Smith. But who knows?

Paronto gets good news: He's not hurt

Chad Paronto had left yesterday's game with what was thought to be a shoulder strain, but it isn't that bad.

He probably isn't going to make the club out of Spring Training, but would be RP1-3 in Round Rock to come up should something happen.

It's a nice problem to have, but there are some strong pitchers who are not going to make the club because of how solid the bullpen is. Should they be signed to a contract and then used as trade bait to strengthen the farm system? Hard to say, but I'd personally rather have a lot of pitching in waiting - because somebody is going to get hurt, flame out, or otherwise not live up to expectations - and then opportunities will be available.

In 2008 the Astros carried eight relievers on OD08. Oscar Villareal was released and Dave Borkowski pitched in 26 games. Opportunities will be had to step up...

And that's W5

8-0 over the Mets, and that's a five-game win streak. At this point, the Astros have won enough games this Spring to be considered one of the worst teams in Spring Training history. The Astros scored eight runs on twelve hits, three of them Geoff Blum's, two of them Pudge's (and one of those a homer).

Interestingly enough, I got tripped up looking at the pitching line, because an "F. Nieve" threw 2IPs and gave up a run and two walks. I started to get pissed, and then I realized: "Oh yeah. He plays for the Mets now."

Wandy threw four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Valverde, Byrdak, Brocail, Arias and Hawkins threw the other scoreless innings. Wandy's performance today means that Coop is going to rush him back at some point soon to line him up to start G2 against the Cubs, pushing Hampton back to SP3.

Interview with The Unofficial Official

So it's nice and advanced when enemies become friends. Or at least when two people work toward a common goal of separately becoming the best Astros blog on the Interweb. Not that The Unofficial Official and I were ever enemies. Quite the contrary. But we are friends, and will remain so until we are #1 and #2 (in any order) in providing time-killing day traders (an oxymoron, I realize) or bored 8-5ers an outlet. When that happens, that's when we'll have our steel cage match.

The Unofficial Official asked me some questions last week, and I reciprocated. Enjoy!

Who is CF1 in 2010?

As of right now it's still Bourn's to lose even though he will have to be re-signed. There is not a lot of cheaper, decent free agent CF's available in 2010. Going into last year it was atrocious to watch Bourn play. I would have loved to see anyone, even Griffey (Sr or Jr) playing in CF, hell, even Tal Smith, who Tal's Hill is named after, playing out there. I have since changed my mind a little bit. I've noticed that Bourn has drastically improved his patience at the plate and although he hasn't put up great numbers in spring training, (.167 Avg in 58 +/- AB's) the patience thing will pay off sometime soon. Although I may get some hate mail, I still think Bourn gets re-signed for more than a one year deal cause' he will be arbitration eligible and will be the cheapest player available at the time (keep in mind the 'Stros have a lot of salary to cover the next two or three years). Of course, this all hinges off him producing this year. If he continues in leaps and bounds, he is our man in 2010.

Pudge: good or bad signing?

I think it is good in regards that P-Rod is playing most of his time in The Juice Box. That should up his numbers slightly. It still doesn't impress me that much seeing as he will more than likely hit 270-275 with about 10-15 dingers and only 3-5 walks this year. The bad side of the signing is that the Astros didn't make a huge splash this year and this was the only thing that will be under Wade's belt for the season unless he does something huge in the middle of the year, so most people will jump on the microscope to scrutinize every little thing P-Roddy does and hate on him for being the player that we already knew he was going to be before he signed. Don't get me wrong I think Pudge is still an above average player for the most part but it will be magnified even more now that he is an Astro. I really do think Quintero or Towles could have done just as good as P-Rod will do this year, but that was a big question that obviously the Astros brass didn't want to have to answer. All in all, decent signing and I hope he proves everyone wrong on his projections for the year.

What is a pudge?

A sandwhich, a short, fat person, a middle aged catcher, something unattractive in a future wife, the front overhang of someones stomach AKA a mooseknuckle.

Who wins a fight between Coop and Tony LaRussa?

Well Coop usually tends to not get mad easily. (as noted in the last like seven interviews with him, he steps it up a level every time the 'Stros don't hit well. At some point he is going to turn into the Hulk) so, he would be one to look out for if you razz him up to much. On the other hand, LaRussa is probably an angry drunk. The Hulk vs Drunken' monkey is a tough one to call. I go with Coop in 4 rounds only cause Lou Ferrigno would kill me if he ever found out I went against him and LaRussa drinks scotch, the bad kind.

Which minor leaguer are you most excited about?

Even though the Astros have the worst farm system, I am excited about a few. Obviously, there are the names which are getting picked up on radar these days. The Castro's, Bugosevic's, Drew Sutton's and Bud Norris' are the more popular names now, so I have been looking at the lesser known guys who should have an impact beyond the 2010- 2011 season, maybe. Some of those guys are Jordan Lyles, Sam Gervacio, Chia-Jen Lo (First Taiwanese pitcher to be signed by the Astros) and Leandro Cespedes. All these guys have huge potential but haven't really started making an impact yet. I usually like to wander off the beaten path and find the guys that nobody is talking about.

What is your favorite feature of Minute Maid Park?

I was once offered an invitation by a former girlfriend's boss to attend a game in the 9 Amigo's Cafe. Hell of an experience. She sucked cause she talked too much but the view of the diamond form Amigo's patio is amazing. Absolutely the best way to watch a game, minus the nagging girlfriend and the uptight legal guys acting like they have been fans forever but don't own a single piece of Astros gear and wear a sweater vest to the game.

If you weren't an Astros fan, who would you root for?

Most of my family is from northern Minnesota. So, I would probably be a Twin fan. I kind of am really, I guess I just don't tell anyone about it in Houston. The only reason I don't really root for em' much anymore is cause' Santana and Hunter are gone. The do have Denard Span, Kevin Slowey, Jason Kubel and Cuddyer, so still fun to watch. Matter of fact those guys are some of the lesser known players that really could have an impact in fantasy baseball this year. Slowey has a wicked curve. Sorry, I digress.....

What's your favorite Astros moment?

My favorite moment personally was the last regular season game at the Astrodome. My dad and I went. After the game, Biggio, Bagwell and Bell came out on Harley's and rode around signing autographs. I got all their "Herbie Hancock's" and a commemorative Astrodome tin with some of the mound dirt in it. All of that sits next to my shrine of Tony Eusabio in the back of my closet. You have to move clothes aside and open the safe but it's worth it.

Are you working on anything else Astros-related for the season?

I will be doing some fantasy analysis for fanblogger Kyle C with The Line Drive on Chron.com if anyone wants to check it out. It will probably be out next week sometime and I'm sure I will have a link to it on my blog.

+1 to The Unofficial Official for the responses. If you want to be interviewed by Astros County, shoot an e-mail.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You thought Coop was all sunshine and rainbows? Check out KRIS-TV!

Would you say that Brian Bogusevic has made "a flawless transition" to the outfield? Because KRIS-TV would.

In fact, this is his first spring training as a full-time outfielder, and he's been spending it all with the big club. He's hitting just .250 right now, but says the experience has been tremendously beneficial. For Bogey, the adjustment period is over and the pressure isn't as intense. Bogey?

Says Ricky Bennett:
He's making unbelievable progress. He's in big league camp and putting up terrific numbers. He's having good at-bats, he's playing centerfield and on the corners. So, he's doing a really nice job. I think the more he plays as a position player, he is only going to get better."

A far cry from "flawless," but it makes the kids feel good, anyway.

Anyone who wants to retire via Astros County is more than welcome to

Former Astro Curt Schilling retired via his blog today. It's unclear as to whether or not he broke down in tears, a la Jeff Kent.

However, if anyone wants to announce their retirement but don't have a blog, then please e-mail Astros County, and do so. While together we stand and sing.

In the "Streak" column, it now says "W4"

Lance hit two homers and the Astros won their 4th straight game 10-8. You also saw a lineup very much resembling OD09. Let's look at the results, shall we?

Matsui - 1x4 with a double
Bourn - 3x4 with a double, 2R and 3RBI
Berkman - 2x4 with 2HR and 3RBI
Lee - 2x3 with 1 RBI
Tejada - 2x4 with a double, 1R and 1RBI
Pence - 1x3
Blum - 0x3
Quintero - 0x2 (But Towles was 2x3, a double and 2RBI)

Hampton: 5IP, 7H, 3ER, 0BB, 4K
de la Vara: .2IP, 3H, 2ER, 1K
Paronto: .1IP, 2H, 2ER
Sampson: 1IP
Norris: 2IP, 2H, 1ER, 1BB, 1K - yet, Coop said Norris "was very good. His fastball was exploding out of his hand today."

Berkman made an error, but Hampton threw 80+ pitches and Bourn and Abercrombie both stole bases.

I also had a friend who told me the New York Times crossword was easier to solve at night, because everyone in the world had been thinking of the answers all day long and that made the answers more readily available to everyone. So to prove him wrong, I went out and bought the New York Times to do the crossword. And I solved it. Maybe if Lance, Coop, Ed Wade and Carlos Lee all think they'll win 90 games, they'll start licking each other's eyeballs and do it.

Coop: Crazy Genius or Gullable Buffoon?

There's a good chance that Coop is delusional.

“We should win 90 games,” Cooper said nonchalantly Monday morning at Osceola County Stadium.

90 games? JJO says this:
In 1984, the Tigers were 11-17 in spring training. The Yankees were 14-19 in the spring of 1999, then 13-20 the next spring and 9-20 in the spring of 2001. Since the Tigers used their poor Grapefruit League as a springboard to the 1984 World Series title, only three of the World Series champions have had the best spring records in baseball. Heck, 10 champions and 20 of the participants in the World Series have gone under .500 in the last 24 years.

I don't think that anyone uses a terrible Spring as a "springboard." I think that the '84 Tigers, the '99 and '01 Yankees were exceptions to almost 90 years of Spring Training history. You don't win Spring Training games to make division races closer. You don't lose Spring Training games to win them in September. This should be clearer to our Fearless Leader 1B1, Lance Berkman:
“Listen,” he told McLane, “do you want me to drive in a run in the bottom of the eighth in April or do you want me to drive that run in right now in March? April, right?”

My dad's aunt once who thought you were only allotted a certain number of heartbeats. If you exercised, by speeding up your heart rate, you actually shortened the duration of your life span. She also licked my eyeballs when I slept. I feel Lance, like my dad's aunt, maybe believes he has only been allotted a certain number of RBIs, and this guano crazy idea of "Suck More in March" is exactly what gets numerous Major-League caliber players sent to a special place called "The Minors." It's behind Wal-Mart.

Then Lance goes on to explain that Geoff Blum and Chris Johnson are better than Ty Wigginton. Pudge is better than Ausmus. The Bullpen is great. These are reasons that make sense. If everyone stays healthy, then it's possible. That's a big "If," and Lance and Coop need to realize this. And if the Astros win 90+ games, I'll let Coop lick my eyeballs.

Hampton is now SP2

So, as we speculated yesterday, Mike Hampton is now SP2 because of Wandy's bruised finger. The rotation is adjusted thusly until April 15:

SP1: Roy
SP2: Hampton
SP3: Wandy
SP4: Moehler

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Great pitching beats a piss-poor offense - Exhibit T

The Astros ran their winning streak to three after Erstad scored Bourn in the 9th inning for the only run of the game.

Moehler came out after three innings and one walk - as previously mentioned. How did the other pitchers fare?
Fulchino (who is turning in a great Spring): 2IP, 1H, 1K
Brocail: 1IP
Wright: 1IP, 1BB
Valverde: 1IP, 1H, 2K
Geary: 1IP, 1 win

The Astros collected seven hits, including one from this "Pudge" character, Matsui, Berkman, Lee, Tejada, Johnson and Abercrombie. Bourn also had an SB and a CS. Seven hits, seven singles, one run, one win. Chris Johnson also recorded an error.

Impressive performance, especially as there were a number of Nationals starters in the lineup, and they were held to two hits.

Appropriately, Post #500 deals with bizarre-ness out of Coop

Happy 500th post! It took from November 6 to March 22 to come up with 500 things to talk about the Astros. Note I didn't necessarily say 500 different things. What's worked for you? What don't you like?

So there's some weirdness out of Astros camp today. Because of the way the Astros' schedule works out, SP5 won't start until April 15 at Pittsburgh.

Let's czech it out:
April 6 vs CHC - Roy
April 7 vs CHC - Toss-up because of Wandy's finger. Wandy/Hampton
April 8 vs CHC - Hampton/Wandy
April 10 @ STL - Moehler
April 11 @ STL - Roy
April 12 @ STL - Wandy/Hampton
April 13 @ PIT - Hampton/Wandy
April 15 @ PIT - SP5

And word coming down within that piece that Coop is going to have Pudge take grounders at third base, perhaps in an effort to get Q some more games and to take some stress off Pudge's 37-year old knees. Remember Tejada said he'd play some third base, but that is not a consideration at this point for Cooper.

Also, Blum is going to get some looks at shortstop, presumably when Tejada is enjoying some downtime.

So this is going to be a very strange year, if you hadn't already known. I'm putting the over/under on different lineups at 110.

The Meat Wagon tolls its bell for Brian Moehler

The Meat Wagon rang its angry bells for Brian Moehler. Hit by a line drive in the first inning in the back, Moehler came out two innings later.

"I didn’t get stiff or anything like that," he said. "I felt it throbbing but it didn’t bother me to throw. Like I said (Cecil Cooper) said that he didn’t want to take a chance of it getting stiff as the game went on. That was the reason for pulling me out." It does not seem as though it will affect Moehler's other starts.

Backe's voodoo doll must be off its game, too.

Backe receives good news: he's hurt

So Backe will get to keep his $1.55 million as Easy Eddie placed Backe on the DL.

If the Astros had cut Backe by 2pm on April 1, he wouldn't have received all of that $1.55m, but since he'll be on the OD09 roster, his contract is guaranteed. I'm not sure what his role will be when he gets back, or if the DL stint is a 15-day or a 60-day stint. Will he be a long-reliever until/if one of our SPs goes down (which will happen)? Will he go to Round Rock for "rehab starts," for the whole season? Hard to say...

Backe, of course, had a unique perspective:
"As far as the decision is concerned, it's the route that I can go in order to stay here," Backe said. "But it doesn't diffuse the frustration that I have as far as the whole situation -- all this happened because of a slip on the mound. And that's what's so aggravating about this whole thing."

Then this:
"It's at least comforting to know at least they told me I don't have to rush to try to get better or prove anything. They told me I need to take it easy with it and make sure I'm OK. It's a little comforting to hear that from them."

He has a good point. A slip on the mound has led to this, but not necessarily. As we have mentioned, Backe wasn't exactly Vida Blue before the Mound Slip. But hang on. "It's a little comforting?" It better be a lot comforting, because it was well within the right of Ed Wade and the Astros to cut him and not pay him the majority of $1.55 million dollars. So I would feel better with a better sense of appreciation and thanks coming from the Best Man.

Wandy went and screwed up

So remember the plan was to have Wandy start on short rest this week so he could line up to be SP2? Yeah, he nutted that.

Thankfully, it's not the rib muscle, but instead a tender finger as Wandy is turning into our version of Glass Joe. On Jose Reyes' chopper, Wandy tried to barehand it. It doesn't hurt when he throws his fastball, but it does as he throws his curve. Which basically means that JJO tipped Wandy's pitches for him in the newspaper.

“I tried to throw my curveball in the bullpen without putting the pressure on the finger, but I didn’t even reach it to the plate,” he said. “It bounced way before it got there.”

More Sayonara!

More cuts made today as the Astros trim down for Opening Day 2009 (or OD09, as it will now be known).

Pitchers Clay Hensley, Danny Graves and Neal Musser were reassigned to Minor League camp today. Graves has until Tuesday to accept the minor-league assignment and has been given permission to speak to other teams.

Says Graves: "I'm not really sure what I want to do yet. Coming into camp, this was the team I wanted to play for, and if it didn't work out here, then I felt like it was time for me to go home."

Hensley will be sent to Round Rock and prepare for a starting role.
Hensley will prepare to be a starter, but because he's versatile enough to pitch out of the 'pen as well, it's likely he'll be one of the first considered for a promotion if the Astros have a need this season.

John Gall and Matt Kata were also reassigned to Minor League camp as it's now obvious IF5 is between Jason Smith and Edwin Maysonet.

Anal fissures are dirty thieves

Coop is going to keep an eye on Kaz Matsui's playing time, after...

...anal fissures robbed him of most of the Grapefruit League and kept him on the disabled list until April 18, beginning an injury plagued season in which he also landed on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring and then an irritated disc in his back.

The problem, which Coop acknowledged, was that the Astros were terrible for the first half of the season, and Coop had to play him.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the lineup on days Matsui is given off. Should Bourn move up to the leadoff spot when Matsui doesn't play, or should Maysonet/Smith/IF5 bump up?