Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recap and Reactions later

Plus an update on Brocail's status to come. Time to spend some time with The Wife. I need a few minutes to recover from an 11-2 loss to the Cardinals.

Live blog - Astros @ Cardinals w/The Constable

Matchup for G5 - Houston at St. Louis

Roy vs. Wainwright. Game is on Fox, starts at 3-ish Central, should be done by 5:30-ish.

Roy Oswalt (2008):
April: 2-2, 5.87 ERA / 1.40 WHIP, 21K/8BB
Away: 7-7, 3.34 ERA / 1.14 WHIP, 68K/19BB, 7HR
St. Louis: 0-1, 4.15 ERA / 1.15 WHIP, 7K/5BB, 1HR

Last Start (Apr 6 vs Cubs):
7IP, 7H, 3ER, 2K/1BB, 2HR; 93p/64s (68.8%)
28 batters faced/21 outs (75%)
Count of the game: 1-0. When Roy threw a first-pitch ball, the Cubs went 3x7 with 2HR.

Pujols: 22x70, .314/.368/.557, 4HR, 5K/6BB
Ankiel: 4x13, .308/.308/.308, 2K/0BB
Schumaker: 3x10, .300/.417/.300. 0K/2BB
LaRue: 8x29, .276/.382/.276, 5K/2BB
Duncan: 4x19, .211/.286/.421, 1HR, 5K/2BB
Greene: 2x16, .125/.125/.125, 3K/0BB
Ludwick: 0x5

Adam Wainwright (2008) vs...
April: 3-1, 2.79 ERA/1.01 WHIP, 28K/9BB, 4HR
Home: 7-1, 2.63 ERA/1.11 WHIP, 49K/17BB, 8HR
Houston: 3-0, 2.46 ERA/0.86 WHIP, 18K/4BB, 5HR

Last Start (Apr 6 vs Pirates):
5.1IP, 4H, 2ER, 7K/5BB; 94p/54s (57.4%)
25 batters faced / 16 outs (64%)
Count of the Game: After 0-1, Pirates hitters went 2x11 with 5Ks)

vs Astros:
Matsui: 4x12, .333/.333/.583, 1HR
Blum: 1x3, .333/.333/.667, 2K/0BB
Berkman: 6x20, .300/.417/.650, 2HR, 6K/4BB
Tejada: 3x10, .300/.300/.300
Bourn: 2x9, .222/.300/.444, 4K/1BB
Pence: 5x17, .294/.294/.588, 1HR, 6K/0BB
Lee: 1x13, .077/.176/.154, 0K/2BB

Doug Brocail heads home, shoulder between his legs

Doug Brocail is flying to Houston after notifying Ed Wade he's experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder.

"I had tendinitis in Spring Training, and the tendinitis went away and I thought it was all done and over with. All of a sudden, it's back. Anytime I have to throw out of the windup to try to get on top of the ball, I'm in trouble. I'm a strike-thrower, and I couldn't find a release point to save my life."

Contrary to Mr. Brocail's statement, he hasn't exactly been a strike thrower so far this season. Regard:

3G, 2.1IP, 2H, 2ER, 2HR, 4BB/0K
46 pitches/21 strikes (45.7%)
13 batters faced, 7 outs (53.8%)

On April 4, the last game before the regular season, remember Doug took the L against the Indians, throwing 1IP and giving up 3R (2ER).

And if I may jog your memory back to February 20, where Brocail detailed the shoulder pain he felt during the first week of Spring Training:

"I get it every year," Brocail said. "It's just that I got it later than normal. Usually I get it about the second weekend of January. And this year, I got it the first week of February. Usually it takes about 2 ½ or three weeks to get rid of and I'm always done with it by spring training." This was the famous "hump up" quote. Click the link for context.

Reactions to G4 - Houston at St. Louis

5-3 loss to the Cardinals at Beck's Stadium last night in which Astros' batters hit into three double plays, two to the Pudge.

From Coop:
“We had plenty of chances. We just kind of missed the big hit there."

From Hampton:
“It seems like they had a good approach and there weren’t too many easy outs. As a whole, I felt good. The ball was moving like I wanted it to and I was mixing it up pretty well. It was one of those nights where a few plays here and there cost me.”

From Brocail
“I couldn’t find a release point to save my life."

From Berkman:
"The first two times through the order, I don't feel like we made (Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro) work too hard to get us out. I don't know if the concentration level was down, but I thought we let him hang around. I'm not taking anything away because he threw the ball well, but you have to compete."

From LaRussa, on Pujols' run in the 3rd:
"He's an outstanding baserunner. Sometimes he runs like he's invisible out there but most of the time when he runs, he uses great judgment and he's got terrific aggressiveness and instincts. That was a big-league play. All-Star play. Hall of Fame play." King of All the World play, I think, was implied.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Recap - Game 4, Houston @ St. Louis

Well, that wasn't much fun. Pence batted 2nd, Pudge 7th. Hampton threw way too many pitches, and the Astros didn't get enough runs for the baserunners they had. So let's work the formula:

Too many pitches + too few runs = L.

What did I say? Jump on Pineiro on the first pitch, and be aggressive! What happened on the first pitch?

1st inning:
Matsui: Ball
Pence: Called strike
Berkman: Called strike

2nd inning:
Lee: Called strike
Tejada: Ball
Blum: Ball
Pudge: First pitch, unassisted double play (so it didn't work, but he was the first to at least give it a shot)

3rd inning:
Bourn: Ball
Hampton: Ground out
Matsui: Called strike
Pence: Foul

4th inning:
Berkman: Ground out
Lee: Called strike
Tejada: Foul

5th inning:
Blum: Called strike
Pudge: Called strike
Bourn: Ball

6th inning:
Smith: Ball
Matsui: Ball
Pence: Foul
Berkman: Ball
Lee: Ball

7th inning:
Tejada: Called strike
Blum: Double
Pudge: Foul
Bourn: Called strike

So, on 26 first pitches, nine were taken for called strikes, nine were taken for balls, seven were swinging - three for groundouts and three for fouls, and only one for a hit. That was the line on Pineiro, 14 ground outs, 3 fly outs. The Astros left 8 baserunners before using up their allotted outs for the inning. Carlos Lee busted out, a couple of days late (but show up to Spring Training on time, and maybe you start with everyone else!), going 3-for-4 with a homer to make the game 4-3.

Hampton showed just about every pitch he had to Skip Schumaker in the bottom of the 1st, by throwing a changeup, slider, cutter, and curve. In fact, it wasn't until the 16th pitch of the game that Hampton threw his fastball - which topped out at 90.

5IP, 4H, 3ER, 4BB, 5K; 92 pitches/53 for strikes (57.6%)
24 batters faced - 15 outs (62.5%), 3.83 pitches per batter, 6gb/4fb

Geoff Geary
1IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER; 16p/10s (62.5%)
5bf/3o (60%), 1gb/2fb

1IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB; 24p/8s (33.3%)
6bf/3o (50%), 2gb/1fb

1IP, 1K; 15p/9s (62.5%)
3bf/3o (100%), 1gb/1fb

Man of the Match:
Carlos Lee. Welcome to 2009. 3x4 with a homer in the 8th.

Goat of the Game:
Tough call between Hampton and Brocail, but I'm going to give it to Hampton. Too many balls, a lollygag play that allowed Pujols to score in the 3rd.

Doing it Again, Free of Charge Astros vs. Cards

Live Blog Tonight!

Join Deputy Jason as he takes you through the minutiae of the Astros/Cardinals live from Beck's Stadium in St. Louis.

A couple of new features:
We've added Twitter tags (though at Astros County, we're still debating Twitter. I mean, I've got a job already...), so Deputy Jason will also post Tweets from Zachary Levine (The Unofficial Scorer), Cardinals reporter Matthew Leach, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Derrick Goold, as well as a few of our new, not annoying Cardinals friends from United Cardinals Blogger. It will at least make for some interesting conversation.

Have you talked to your friends about Astros County? What'd they say about me?

Astros County on C70 at the Bat

Yesterday I posted C70 at the Bat's responses to my five question for this upcoming series with the Astros. Today, you can read my responses to theirs...

Astros claim Padres' pitcher off waivers

The Astros claimed 25-year old righthander Wilton Lopez off waivers from the Padres today.

Lopez pitched in 30 games with A+ Lake Elsinore in relief, posting a 2.64 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. What I really like are the 26 Ks (in 30.2 IP) to the 4 walks. Predictably, Lopez was promoted to San Antonio where, over 24 games (38.2IP), Lopez held a 4.93 ERA compared to a 1.30 WHIP with 24K/9BB.

He was originally drafted by the Yankees and spent 2004 pitching at varying levels with an equal amount of success, and was placed on the voluntarily retired list to pitch in his native Nicaragua. After being voluntarily brought out of voluntary retirement, Lopez signed with the Padres in 2007 and pitched for the Padres...until today.

Lopez will head to Corpus Christi. Welcome to Astros County, Wilton!

This will happen at some point during the season

At some point in the near future I'm going to Houston to visit my family. And when I do, it will be over a long homestand. And when that happens, this will happen:

Scoreboard Messages


Commemorate a special birthday, anniversary or event by displaying a message on the Minute Maid Park scoreboard during the end of the sixth inning at a Astros home game! Scoreboard messages can now be purchased online for a cost of $34.50.

Payment must be made prior to announcement. Your credit card will be charged upon approval of the message.

The question is: What shall this message say? Remember, we're PG - bordering on PG-13.

Yahoo's Power Rankings

Tim Brown released his power rankings through Yahoo today. Wherefore art the Astros?

22: Houston Astros (1-2; Previous: 21) – Astros celebrate a decade at Minute Maid Park. Next week intend to honor landing of Albert Pujols home-run ball. Assuming it does by then.

Har har.

Cubs - 3rd (LW: 5th)
Brewers - 11th (LW: 12th)
Cardinals - 12th (LW: 13th)
Reds - 20th (LW: 19th)
Pirates - 27th (LW: 28th)

Round Rock got their homer on last night

I know I promised a weekly minor-league spot, but in the absence of a major-league game last night, I do want to point out that they started the season in The Rock last nigh, and the Express put the whoop on the Iowa Cubs.

Abercrombie, (My Friend) Mark Saccomanno, Bogusevic and Towles all hit home runs - Towles' and Bogusevic's homers came off prized Cubs prospect Jeff Samardasoasiohssfzzz. Felipe Paulino struck out six Iowa batters in five innings, leading the Express to a 10-4 win over Iowa. John Gall, playing in left field went 1-for-1 with three walks.

Hensley gave up three hits, four walks and four earned runs in 1.1 for the dent to the Express' ERA. Lumsden and Johnson each threw scoreless appearances, as well.

Nice start, fellas.

Matchup for G4 - Houston @ St Louis

Let's not kid ourselves, we don't exactly have a lot of statistical data to work with on Mike Hampton, so the preview for Hampton becomes a little bit more difficult, though he did face St. Louis once last season, going 5IP and giving up 4ER with 4BB. That said, Cardinals hitters probably ought to be looking for the first pitch, as batters went 18x40 (.450) off of Hampton when swinging freely in 2008.

As the Cardinals' feature their fair share (and Houston's) of youngsters, many of the current roster have limited ABs against SP4. The only Card with more than 12 ABs against Hampton is Albert Pujols (of freaking course):

Pujols vs Hampton:
7x21, .333/.364/.762, (three doubles and two homers), 1K/1BB

Khalil Greene is 3x7 against Hampton with 1HR, 1K/1BB.

Joel Pineiro

Good thing the Astros hit Pineiro well. Career versus the Astros, Pineiro has given up an offensive line of .308/.346/.459, though he hasn't pitched against the Astros since 9/27/07. Pineiro is a flyball pitcher who gave up a BAA of .301 last year, his highest since 2006. The Astros better start ready, too - Pineiro's first 15 pitches result in a .312 BAA. He might settle down a bit from 16-30 (.257), but then the jitters come back from 31-46 (.343). Of course, that was last year...

April: 2-2, 3.75 ERA / 1.21 WHIP, 9K/6BB
Home: 3-1, 4.05 ERA / 1.31 WHIP, 25K/11BB
vs. Houston: n/a (in 2008)

Pudge: 6x14, .429/.467/.500, 4K/1BB
Lee: 9x23, .391/.417/.783, 5K/1BB
Berkman: 4x11, .364/.417/1.000, 2K/1BB, 2HR
Tejada: 12x34, .353/.405/.412, 5K/2BB
Pence: 2x6, .333/.333/.333, 2K/0BB
Blum: 3x14, .214/.214/.286, 1K/0BB
Matsui: 0x1

It will be interesting to see the lineup Coop throws at Pineiro. Since Blum will (most likely) start, does that push Pudge back to #2, or does Pudge stay #7, and Bourn moves to #2?

Oh jeez, someone please remind Hampton to breathe...

To me this is the first start of many. I think in your first start you tend to be a little more amped up than most. So I think the biggest key for me would be for me to go there and relax and settle in as soon as possible and get into a good rhythm and get into the flow of the game.”

The Astros can handle one or two bad turns through the rotation. The 2001 Seattle Mariners went 116-46 for a .716 winning percentage. I realize bullpens lose games, too, but .716 is unheard of. Winning 100 games results in a .617 winning percentage. See where I'm going? .617 is roughly the percentage of three of your starters winning games. Occasionally your fourth starter wins. Someone is going to lose twice out five games. So Moehler did it Wednesday, let's move on, and give Hampton the ball. He looked good in Spring Training and there's no reason to think he won't look good in the regular season (alright, there are a few reasons to think he won't look good, but still...).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Houston @ St. Louis Q&A preview

As promised, Astros County traded e-mails with Daniel from C70 at the Bat earlier this week. He asked me five questions, and I answered - look for my answers tomorrow. I asked him five questions, and he answered - look for his answers below.

AC: What's with your closer situation?
C70: Ah, you noticed our Opening Day game, did you? Even though Jason Motte blew the first chance of the season, right now he's probably still considered "the closer". However, Tony La Russa never officially put the title on anyone, so you could see Ryan Franklin take the ninth, you could see Trever Miller in the ninth if there are a lot of lefties due up, you could possibly see Josh Kinney. I would expect, however, they'll do their best to get Motte back on the horse pretty quickly.

AC: I thought Pujols needed elbow surgery...last year. What the heck?
C70: Pujols's elbow problem was blown well out of proportion last year, as it was an injury that he'd had for most of his career. Sure, it could blow out, but it wasn't any more likely than it had been beforehand. Derrick Goold did a good look at his elbow at the time last year. After last season, though, AP did have a nerve transposition surgery. It wasn't serious, but it did lessen the pain in there. Chris Carpenter had one last fall as well and both of them seem to be showing no ill effects from the surgery. So, could something happen to Pujols's elbow? Sure. But it's not exactly hanging by a thread.

AC: What do you expect from Schumaker at 2nd?
C70: Skip's been pretty surprising at second, adjusting to the position better than anyone expected. That said, he's in the lineup for his bat. Defensively, he'll make probably an average amount of errors, but where the real damage may come is in those things that don't show up in the boxscore. He may not be able to get to a ball a good defensive second baseman might, or the Cards may only get one out on a double play ball instead of two. I hope that he'll be right about league average and I don't think you can expect more.

AC: How much do you hate the Cubs?
C70: With the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns? No, that's probably overstating it. I wouldn't like to say I hate the Cubs, though I don't want to see them win and I hope to live a long life and die still waiting for them to have a World Series title. I think wins against the Cubs are probably sweeter than most others in the regular season and the lowest point in Cardinal history would be if we lost to the Cubs in an NLCS matchup. Other than that, I don't think about them much.

AC: What's your prediction for this series?
C70: I've not looked at all the pitching splits and how the batters have done against the hurlers, but I know that Mike Hampton has been tough on the Cardinals in the past. Joel Pineiro looked very sharp in the spring, but with our lefty-heavy lineup, Hampton might get the win there. Oswalt vs. Wainwright should be a fun game, and it's not surprising that Fox has picked it up as a national telecast. Neither of them were extremely sharp (in their first start), but the Cardinals have solved Oswalt a few times since his dominating Game 6 in the '05 NLCS. I'm going to take St. Louis in that one. Rodriguez has been a tough nut for the Cards in the past, so him vs. Lohse could be a close game. As a Cardinal fan, I think we eke it out, especially since we are at home.

Check out a live interview with United Cardinals Blogger Radio

In advance of this weekend's series with the Cardinals, Astros County was interviewed by United Cardinal Bloggers' Radio Hour last night. The show was archived - click to listen - and Astros County comes in about 25 minutes into the show if you want to skip to it (it lasts about 20 minutes).

In AC's segment we discuss...
-October 17, 2005 (feel free to scream when you hear it)
-The Cardinals' fans' hatred for Brandon Backe
-Trading Lance/Roy
-What to expect from Mike Hampton
-The Grand Scheme/Master Plan for Astros County

Also be sure to listen for the mention of Randy Wolf's incontinence. And what do you know? Cardinals fans don't have forked tongues OR hooves! Thanks to C70 at the Bat and United Cardinal Bloggers for setting this up. Look for an e-mail exchange with C70 later today.

That was your series: April 6-8 vs Cubs

Statistical recap, Cubs v Astros:

29x104, .279/.339/.500, 20K/10BB, 11RS/17RA

3x6, .500/.500/1.000, 1HR

5x11, .455/.538/.455, 3R, 1K/2BB

3x7, .429/.500/.429, 1R, 1BB

4x10, .400/.417/1.100, 2K/1BB, 2HR, 3RBI

4x12, .333/.333/.333, 2K/0BB, 2RBI

3x10, .300/.462/.600, 3K/3BB, 1HR, 1RBI

3x12, .250/.357/.667, 1K/2BB, 1RBI

3x12, .250/.308/.583, 5K/1BB, 2RBI

1x12, .083/.167/.083




Pitching Stats
28IP, 1-2, 17ER, .282/.355/.473 (BAA/OBP/SLG)
5HR, 22K/11BB, 37gb/23fb

14.2IP, 0-2, 6.73 ERA/1.69 WHIP, 7K/5BB

13.1IP, 1-0, 4.06 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 15K/6BB

Backe throws, doesn't hurt

Brandon Backe threw a 40-pitch - all-fastball - session yesterday. How did it go?

"I didn't try to do too much on it today," he said. "I just wanted to reintroduce myself to the rubber and get the feel of throwing off the mound again. It wasn't anything like a real test run or anything, it was basically just throwing off the mound, toward the direction of the catcher. I let a couple go, just to test it out, to see how far I could go. For the most part, I was throwing only 70 percent. So far, it's been good."

It's gonna be a little while before Backe is ready to go in a game situation.

Reactions to G3 - Cubs at Astros

Reactions from last night's 11-6 loss to the Cubs...

From Moehler:
“The results weren’t there,” Moehler said after giving up seven runs on eight hits with one walk and one strikeout over 12⁄3 innings. “We had to scramble the rest of the game. I put us in the hole from the get-go. We had to play catch-up, and the bullpen suffered. I stunk. That’s the bottom line.”

“If we had started in the third inning, we’d win the game, right?,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said with a laugh. “We swung the bats a lot better tonight. I was very happy with that. Hopefully we can kind of build on that and go from there.”

Cooper, on taking Moehler out:
"It was a little tough for me," Cooper said. "I was kind of on the bubble, even when I did go get him. We need him this year to be the anchor down there, to be that fourth or fifth guy for us. He's always pretty good, he's always around the plate, throws strikes. I thought they made a pretty good adjustment to him, and that's probably why they were able to have success off him."

“To give up a three-run home run and then walking guys, I put Chris in a position to where a (double) scored two more on me. Right there that’s five runs that were tallied. That’s the thing that bothers me the most.”

Mike Fontenot:
"It's definitely fun to get a chance to get out there and everyone's getting hits," Fontenot said. "Everyone was getting a chance to get an RBI."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Game 3 Recap

All of you who watched the whole thing should be charged with being accessories to murder. Don't you hate the guy who lives and dies with each game? Thanks be to God that Deputy Jason wasn't live blogging this one, we would have sent someone to take his shoelaces.

You've seen the breakdown on Moehler, but let's do the short version (scroll down for the NC-17 version):

Brian Moehler:
1.2IP, 8H, 7ER, 1BB, 1HBP, 1K, 37p/24s (64.9%), 3gb/1fb/1k
14 batters faced / 5 outs (35.7%)

Russ Ortiz:
3IP, 4H, 3ER, 4BB, 6K, 1HR, 73p/41s (56.2%), 1gb/2fb/6K
17 batters faced / 9 outs (52.9%)
Probably not the regular-season debut we were expecting from SP5, but the Cubs were swinging at anything and everything, and connecting on most of that.

Chris Sampson:
1.1IP, 1H, 17p/12s (70.6%), 2gb/2fb
5bf/4o (80%)

Geoff Geary:
1IP, 1H, 1K, 24p/15s (62.5%), 2gb/1K
4bf/3o (75%)

Wesley Wright:
1IP, 1H, 1K, 11p/9s (81.8%), 2gb/1K
4bf/3o (75%)

Doug Brocail:
1IP, 1H, 1ER, 1BB, 1HR, 20p/11s (55%) 1gb/2fb
6bf/3o (50%)

It took Carlos Lee until the 5th inning of the third game to get his first hit of the season, but that was overshadowed by the back-to-back homers by Keppinger/Berkman in the 3rd, Matsui in the 5th and Pence in the 6th. Pudge must enjoy the 7-Spot, as he responded with two hits. And it's a good sign, I guess, that the Astros roughed Lilly up for four home runs - too bad this game was a bit out of hand by the time the Astros came up to bat in the first. I don't think they're going to lose too many games when they score 6 runs. But then again, they could very easily lose games scoring six runs. Let's put it this way, they're going to lose more games than they score six runs, I'll tell you that.

Man of the Match:
Let's say Pudge here. 2x4 with 2RBI in what I hope is a trend in batting him towards the bottom of the order.

Goat of the Game:
Really? With a game score of 11...Brian Moehler!

That. Just. Happened.

So what did Brian Moehler's first 1.2 look like? (Stats courtesy MLB Gameday, because WGN is showing the White Sox/Royals)

1st inning
P1: Foul - 86mph slider
P2: Ball - 86mph slider
P3: Swinging Strike - 88mph fastball
P4: Single to right-center - 86mph slider

P5: Single to center - 86mph slider

P6: Ball - 88mph fastball
P7: Double to right (Soriano scores) - 85mph changeup

P8: Ball - 88mph fastball
P9: Ball - 86mph fastball
P10: Ball - 79mph changeup
P11: Ball - 88mph slider

P12: Swinging Strike - 77mph curve
P13: Single to left (Fukudome scores) - 86mph changeup

P14: Foul - 89mph fastball
P15: Ball - 89mph fastball
P16: Foul - 88mph fastball
P17: Infield single (Lee scores) - n/a

P18: Single to right (Bradley scores) - n/a

P19: Strike (swinging) - n/a
P20: GIDP - n/a (Thanks MLB!)

P21: Ball - 79mph slider
P22: Ball - 89mph fastball
P23: Ball - 89mph fastball
P24: Strike (looking) - 89mph fastball
P25: Strike (looking) - 88mph slider
P26: Ground out to second - 88mph fastball

The first six batters reached base. Moehler gave up four runs on 25 pitches. Of those 25 pitches, 18 did not result in a hit, but only three were taken for strikes.

2nd inning
P27: Strike - 77mph slider
P28: Liner to third - 77mph curve

P29: Single to right - 88mph fastball

P30: Strike (looking) - 88mph fastball
P31: Strike (looking) - 89mph fastball
P32: Ball - 88mph fastball
P33: Strike - 78mph slider

P34: HBP - 88mph fastball

P35: Ball - 77mph slider
P36: Foul - 77mph slider
P37: Single to left (Fukudome scores) - 86mph slider

End of appearance. Twelve more pitches, five strikes (not resulting in a hit) - two of them looking. Two balls. Then Ortiz came in and, on the first pitch - a 90mph fastball, gave up a 3-run homer to right field to Fontenot.

Some percentages, if you'll allow it.
Of the pitches we have data for (tip of the cap to MLB, though I shouldn't complain)
33% were sliders
51% were fastballs
9% were changeups
7% were curves

Moehler gave up eight hits:
Three on sliders, two on changeups, one on a fastball, two n/a

Sometimes it just ain't working for you. Recap later...

Your lineups for G3 - Cubs @ Astros, 4/8/09

Chicago Cubs


Houston Astros


Everyone mark July 24-26 on your calendar, and tremble in fear

Or something like that. In Ken Davidoff's column today, the note came up that Gary Sheffield will play in his 52nd ballpark by season's end (provided he stay healthy), a record among current players.

Sheffield said that Minute Maid Park, in Houston, was his all-time favorite. "For some reason, I see the ball well there. I hit the ball well there. I like the atmosphere there."

He's not kidding. In nine games at the Astros' home, totaling 46 plate appearances, Sheffield has eight homers, a .587 on-base percentage and a 1.195 slugging percentage.

Ken Rosenthal plays mind games

In a column filed today, Ken Rosenthal admits the "train wreck" comment may have been a bit hasty. Regard:

"I had the Astros pegged as a "potential train wreck," but one rival executive notes that they played much better late in the spring, going 11-4 after their 1-16-3 start. The same executive says he was "totally shocked" by the improvement in right-hander Russ Ortiz, who looked the way he did in his best years with the Giants and Braves, giving every indication that he could be a quality No. 4 starter...

Matchup for G3 - Cubs @ Astros

Game 3 - Cubs (1-1) at Astros (1-1)

Cubs will be without Soto tonight as he jacked up his shoulder trying to throw out Matsui.

Ted Lilly (in 2008)
April: 1-4, 6.46 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 25K/13BB, 4HR
vs. Houston: 2-0, 1.40 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 21K/5BB, 1HR
Lilly, of course, took a no-hitter into the 8th the game following Zambrano's no-hitter. In three starts vs HOU last season, Lilly threw 7IP/7IP/5.1IP

at MMP: 1-0, 2.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 12K/4BB, 1HR
Line vs. Astros batters: 34x178, .191/.264/.303, 35K/16BB, 3HR

Keppinger: 5x15, .333/.375/.400, 1K/1BB
Bourn: 1x3, .333/.333/.333
Pudge: 4x18, .222/.263/.556, 6K/1BB
Lee: 5x24, .208/.296/.417, 0K/3BB, 1HR
Tejada: 6x33, .182/.270/.242, 8K/4BB
Matsui: 1x6, .167/.286/.500, 2K/1BB
Pence: 2x12, .167/.167/.167, 5K/0BB
Berkman: 1x16, .063/.111/.063, 5K/1BB

Brian Moehler
Spent Apr 08 as a reliever...
April: 0-0 (7IP), 6.43 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 3K/2BB, 1HR
vs Chicago: 1-2, 3.68 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 12K/4BB, 4HR
In four starts vs CHC last season, Moehler threw more than 5IPs once

at MMP: 6-2, 4.08 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 37K/20BB, 11HR
Line vs Cubs batters: 21x87, .241/.287/.414, 15K/5BB, 3HR

Soriano: 5x15, .333/.412/.400, 4K/2BB
Ramirez: 6x21, .286/.304/.429, 3K/0BB
Lee: 3x11, .273/.273/.818 , 2K/0BB, 2HR
Bradley: 1x4, .250/.250/.250, 2K/0BB
Fontenot: 2x8, .250/.333/.375 , 2K/1BB
Theriot: 1x6, .167/.286/.333, 0K/1BB
Fukudome: 1x7, .143/.250/.143, 1K/1BB

Fox Sports Opening Day Power Rankings

Aram Tolegian's Power Rankings for Opening Day released. Where lie the Astros?

27th: No rotation depth. No table setters. This has the makings of one bad team.

NLC rundown:
Cubs - 6th
Cardinals - 8th
Brewers - 16th
Reds - 21st
Pirates - 29th

More Photo!

Thanks to Citizen Jake for this photo. Remember, if you're at any Astros function (or anywhere, really. Astros County does not take a break) and get a photo with your Proof of Citizenship, we'll post it on AC. And if you get a picture with a PoC and a player in the Astros organization, then you'll receive a gift. What that gift may be is a mystery.

The Lexington Legends are younger, faster, and more aggressive - or, The Opposite of the Astros

Great preview in the Lexington paper on the 2009 Lexington Legends, who kick off their season tomorrow.

Manager Tom Lawless said this:
"They're young kids. You've got to be patient with them. But they should attack the strike zone. And, if we catch the baseball, we'll be in a lot of ball games."

"We've got some speed on the bases. We've got speed in the outfield. We've got good catching. So we're pretty solid. It's just a matter of, 'you gotta go out there and play.'"

That seems like a rather strange "if" to me, but whatever.

Six of the Astros' Top 30 prospects are on the Legends' roster:
RHPs Ross Seaton (3) and Jordan Lyles (6), OF Jay Austin (10), LHP Brad Dydalewicz (14), C Federico Hernandez (20) and 1B Phil Disher (27).

Look for minor league updates on Sunday evenings at Astros County - starting...Sunday evening

Look for a different lineup tonight

Facing lefty Ted Lilly, you can expect to see a different lineup, tonight - especially after the incredulity I felt at seeing Pence behind Blum in the 7-Spot.

Luckily, Pence knows when to shut up about it:
"I'm going to play wherever I can help us win," said Pence, who hit his first homer of the season batting seventh in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Cubs. "That's the bottom line. We're here to get to the playoffs, and we've got a team that can do that."

Facing the lefty, Keppinger will get his first start of the season and Pence will likely slide up to that #6 spot.

The Wife noticed something last night with the lineup from Gs1-2: From #2-#6, the Astros' lineup is pretty slow. I know, I know - Berkman stole 18 bases last year, but Pudge, Berkman, Lee, Tejada, Blum. Three fastest guys on the team bat 7-8-1.

Backe improving. For what, though...not sure

A note in JJO's Tidbits blog post that Backe will throw off the mound for the first time since slipping and straining his ribcage on March 8.

"Yeah, I mean, it's something different," he said. "It's another step toward normality. We're just getting up there and just throw. I don't know how long. I can throw everything, but I probably won't have enough time to throw everything."

It's been a month since Backe hurt himself and he's just now getting to the point of throwing changeups on the mound, so this looks to be a pretty long process.

Reactions to G2 - Cubs @ Astros

Astros win 3-2 (10)

About Michael Bourn's check-1-5, from Coop:
"I have to talk to Michael about that, so we'll talk about it," Cooper said. "In that situation a lot of times it is tough to put down a bunt. Guys do have the green light to be able to do something with the ball other than to bunt it right into an out. I thought it was a pretty good play. It just didn't get quite executed."
I know it's easy to look back with a different perspective since the Astros won, and all, but does anybody see what Bourn did as a sign of self-confidence - something that was totally lacking last year?

From Cubs' closer Kevin Gregg:
"It's a situation in which you do what you can to get out of the inning," Gregg said. "You start out with the fly ball, which is fine. Now it's a situation where it's bases loaded and you have to get a ground ball or a strikeout. I got my ground ball. He just didn't hit it at anybody."

From Jeff Keppinger:
“I don’t think I could have scripted it any better. It’s definitely a good welcoming right there. And I’m glad I could come through for the team.”

Scripted it any better. Right. Hit under .200 in Spring Training, get traded within your division to platoon with Geoff Blum, and then hit a walk-off single in your first at-bat. Dennis Quaid just called his agent about movie rights.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Game 2 recap

First off, give it up to Deputy Jason for his 1st live blog of the season. The first of what I hope to be many more to come. Because he's better at it than I am, and let's face it, the Astros are 0-1 when I live blog. Let's get right to it, so I can go to bed.

Wandy Rodriguez
As good as you could hope for as he went toe-to-toe with Dempster and looked great. Except for in the 6th, when he walked the first two he faced. Luckily Bradley shovel-whacked Pudge with the bat on the follow-through and Wandy regained his focus.
6IP, 4H, 1ER, 3BB, 4K; 88p/52s (59.1%); He did throw first-pitch balls to 11 batters.
I'm most impressed with Wandy's giving up 10 groundballs to 3 flyouts and his fastball mixed from 87-91.

Chris Sampson
1IP, OH; 7p/5s (71.4%)

.2IP, 2H, 1ER, 1K, 1 900-foot HR to Soriano. 15p/10s (66.7%)

1IP, 2K, and I saw his fastball touch 99mph; 17p/10s (58.8%)

.2IP, 2K; 14p/9s (64.3%)

.1IP, 1W; 2p/2s (100.0%)


Once again, very little offense from the Astros, but Bourn is doing very well, taking a pitch opposite field to drive in the 1st Astros run of the game. Then there was the issue with the weird check-swing that resulted in a force-out at third. Carlos Lee hasn't looked good yet, and Pudge looked terrible until the 10th. Five Astros hits came from 6-7-8. Though the three runs on ten hits upsets me, it was nice to see Keppinger push a broken-bat walk-off single through for the first Astros win of the season.

Official attendance was 31,121 - though that is being very generous. By the Astros' "Play Green" slogan, apparently they mean the color of the seats that were very obviously empty.

Man of the Match:
Obvious pick is Jeff Keppinger, and I really thought about Wandy, but I'm going to give it to Michael Bourn - now hitting .375 and knew his place in the 6th to drive in Blum.

Goat of the Game:
Sorry, LaHawk. That was one major mistake you made to Soriano.

Tuesday Astros vs. Cubs

Meet Deputy Jason

With his Proof of Citizenship outside MMP last night. Going to a game? Print off your PoC and e-mail the picture...

Chick-Fil-A. Seriously?!

Phil Rogers must really hate Houston.

Tal's Hill is no longer the silliest thing about Minute Maid Park. The two foul poles carry stunningly large advertisements for a mall chicken restaurant, with the lettering extending a few feet inside the poles. How long until that revenue stream finds its way to Chicago?

Chick-Fil-A is hardly a mall restaurant, it's a fine dining establishment. I, for one, am glad he's in Chicago for the White Sox opener. Let's check tomorrow to see if he rips Kansas City a new one.

Post #600: (Possible) Live Blog tonight

Join Deputy Jason this evening at 7:05 for what we hope will be a live blog of tonight's game. Many of you may have gathered that I am out of market, and will not be viewing the Astros game tonight. Live blogging Astros games will fall under Deputy Jason's jurisdiction. Join us, won't you?

Interview with Brian McTaggart

Yesterday, Opening Day (obviously), I had the opportunity to trade e-mails with Brian McTaggart of the Houston Chronicle. Regard:

AC: You seem to be the contrarian among the Chronicle staff. What is the Astros' main concern, maybe that fans wouldn't see?
BM: Well, we have to be accountable for what we write. It's easy for fans to say someone stinks and they should be sent to the curb, but when we write it we have to face the player the next day. For me, I have no problem with that. If I write that a player stinks, it's because they do, and the player usually understands that. The worst thing you can do is rip a player and then disappear. As long as you're there the next day, the player will respect you.

AC: What is the biggest challenge that you face as a reporter?
BM: There's a lot of misinformation out there these days. With the line between fan bloggers and reporters becoming blurred by the day, reporters are often forced to chase mistruths from people who aren't near the club or talk to management.

AC: Name the best and worst part of your job.
BM: The best part if being paid to watch baseball. The worst part is watching bad baseball for long periods of time, or watching fans leave in the fifth inning of a blowout and wishing you could, too.

AC: Who understands the Typical Astros Fan better: Ed Wade or Drayton McLane?
BM: Not sure really. Drayton's been here longer, but Wade spent a lot of time in Philly and dealt with some of the harshest fans in baseball. If I were forced to make a guess, I'd say Ed.

AC: What do Astros fans need to keep in perspective in 2009?
BM: The payroll is one of the highest the Astros have had. I think the opening day payroll total was $103 million or so, which is in the top 10 in baseball. There are lots of teams winning out there spending less money. That goes to show you how important scouting and development are.

AC: Who was your favorite player growing up?
BM: Probably Terry Puhl. We could only afford the $1 pavilion seats, so as a center fielder Puhl was the only player I could really see clearly. A few years ago we were exchanging emails and he said he reads my stuff and liked it, and that was a cool feeling.

Game 2: Dempster vs Wandy

A bit about our fair matchup this evening.

Ryan Dempster:
Last season...
in April: 4-0, 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
vs. Houston: 1-3, 3.12 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
at Minute Maid: 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Career vs. Astros' batters...
Matsui: 1x11, .091/.167/.091, 3K/1BB
Pudge: 0x0
Berkman: 12x45, .267/.421/.533, 4HR, 13K/12BB
Lee: 7x17, .412/.444/.706, 1HR, 2K/1BB
Tejada: 4x13, .308/.308/.385,
Blum: 11x39, .282/.364/.308
Pence: 6x14, .429/.429/.714, 1HR, 1K/0BB
Bourn: 2x6, .333/.429/.333 , 1K/1BB

Wandy Rodriguez
in April: 1-0, 2.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
vs Chicago: 1-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.71 WHIP
at Minute Maid: 5-5, 2.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Career vs. Cubs' batters...
Soriano: 1x9, .111/.273/.111, 2K/2BB
Fukudome: 1x6, .167/.167/.167, 1K
Lee: 11x22, .500/.571/.909, 2HR, 5K/3BB
Bradley: 1x6, .167/.167/.167, 2K
Ramirez: 5x23, .217/.250/.217, 4K/1BB
Fontenot: 0x3, 1K
Soto: 1x5, .200/.200/.200, 2K
Theriot: 8x16, .500/.529/.875, 1HR, 0K/1BB

Astros and their fans: Whiners?

Nothing like starting your morning off with a healthy dose of blinding rage, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers (who tried to bait the Astros into signing Adam Dunn, remember).

I'm glad I didn't see this yesterday, or it would have made me a bit peeved.

Come on, Carlos. Do it again.

Wouldn't it be something if Zambrano could give the whining Houston Astros a second helping of no-hit stuff, this time in their own backyard?

Because owner Drayton McLane planned horribly with Hurricane Ike bearing down on his city last September, the Astros were bleary-eyed when Zambrano blew them away at Milwaukee's Miller Park. The game ended a 14-1 run that had taken an underachieving Houston team to the edge of the National League wild-card race. But that had little to do with Zambrano's magic, and it was weak for the Astros to overlook his excellence.

Zambrano can remind the Astros of that Monday night when he faces them in the 2009 opener at Minute Maid Park. He is trying his best not to stir up those memories, however....

....The no-hitter Sept. 14 was anything but normal. But it was just as valid as any of the other 256 official no-hitters in history, even if that point was lost on the victims.

Rather than tip their caps to Zambrano or ask McLane why he didn't accept Major League Baseball's offer to fly players and their families to a neutral site at least 36 hours before Ike's landfall, the Astros complained about the series being moved to Wrigley North on short notice....

....Anything can happen when Zambrano starts, including some things that qualify as baseball magic. No excuses necessary.

I understand. I really do. But it seems like it just keeps coming up. Yep, Run-DMc mishandled it. Yep, Major League Baseball mishandled it.

But maybe the Cubs do their fair share of whining, too.

The last Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, New York - at least in its former format - was to feature the Cubs and Padres last June. Yet...

Piniella has been to the Hall of Fame Game before as a player and as a manager. But he didn't want to be here, not with the Cubs heading to his hometown of Tampa, a rare day off lost to a meaningless game as far as the standings are concerned.

"We're in a tough stretch of games. And we're on the road a lot this month," Piniella said outside the Cubs' dugout. "Truthfully, if you had your druthers you'd rather have the day off. But again, we were chosen to be here. San Diego was chosen to be here. And here we are. And we're happy to accommodate the best way we can. We understand it. We saw the enthusiasm," Piniella said. "I understand the significance of the game. And I understand it's an inconvenience for the teams involved. For me, I could have had a day off in my hometown today."

The Cubs' travels were indeed a hardship: a flight from Toronto to Albany, N.Y., then a 90-minute bus ride, then a return trip to Albany before heading on to Florida—all on Monday.

Do you think that if the Cubs were on the bidness end of a no-hitter in Tampa the next day, that might not have come up? Or do the Cubs just get pissed any time they're asked to do something historic? What do you say, Phil Rogers, Chief Apologist?

You couldn't blame players if they complained about the weekend trip to New York, especially given a schedule that doesn't include a home game until April 13, after six games in Houston and Milwaukee. But these guys seem to understand that their mission is to win games while being professional.

Oh, yeah, the weekend trip to New York, where they were asked to be the first team to play in the new Yankee Stadium. What a drag.

Reactions to last night's game

Predictably, all over the map.

Says McTaggart:
Roy Oswalt pitched pretty well with the exception of a couple of solo homers to two guys who hit a lot of home runs. The Astros actually managed to get some runners on base against nemesis Carlos Zambrano and probably should have pushed a few runs across.
What was especially encouraging about the offense was how well Michael Bourn did at the bottom of the order. Hitting in the No. 8 hole, he went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Miguel Tejada went 3-for-4 and played a nice game, too. If Pudge Rodriguez and Carlos Lee (combined 0-for-8) join the offensive party, the Astros should have little trouble scoring runs.

Says Jerome Solomon:
Olympic sprinters don’t talk about fast starts as much as the Astros have this spring. Yet when the gun sounded and the race began, they acted like they didn’t want to run. While the word lackadaisical is overstating it, the season opener was a yawner for the most part,

Says Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune:
If the rest of the season follows this script, boredom could be Piniella's biggest problem in August and September, as it probably has been since arriving in Mesa, Ariz., almost two months ago.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Game 1: Roy's leadoff bombs really sucked

So thanks to those of you who followed along with the live blog - maybe next time I won't get too hasty and cancel the live blog. There will be more of those, but perhaps not by me, who has limited access to the Astros on television...

The Astros took some runners off the bases as Matsui lost a ball in the glare, and then lost the third-base coach, who was waving him home.

Roy Oswalt
7IP - 7H, 3ER, 1BB, 2HR. 93 pitches, 64 for strikes (68.8%). 13go/6fo/2k. 21 outs / 28 batters faced (75%).
Fastball hit 96.
Soriano's home run came on a 94mph fastball that Roy left over the middle-out part of the plate while Ramirez (or "Rammie") took a 92mph fastball on the middle-in part of the plate out of the park.

Geoff Geary
2IP - 2H, 1ER, 1BB. 32p/20s (62.5%). 1go/3fo/2k. 6 outs/9bf (66.7%)

Sutcliffe mentioned that Berkman looked like his tendonitis was bothering him, and I've got to be honest, it looked like it.

Astros went 8x30 (.267), but Zambrano - predictably - did well: 6IP, 5H, 1ER, 3BB, 6K.

For the Astros at the plate, Miggs and Bourn shined (I know!) with five of the Astros' eight hits. Pudge looked terrible in all four of his at bats, and Lee looked like he gave up on his 8th inning at bat about halfway through.

Man of the Match
Miguel Tejada - 3x4 with two runs

Goat of the Game
For a while it was looking like Matsui had this on swole. Lee looked really bad, but I'm going to give it to Pudge.

I Lied: Live blogging!

Note: No live-blogging tonight

Due to a problem with Astros County's laptop, there will be no live-blogging of tonight's game. If you happen to have OS 10.4 disks for an iBook, please let me know. Full recap following the game - and probably a post here and there before.

Opening Day - who's going?

Anyone going to Opening Day this evening? I've heard from Citizen Jason, and he got hooked up for the game. Hopefully we'll have some pictures for tonight. Anyone else going? Print off your Proof of Citizenship and get a picture with it at the game (even better - with a player, or an usher, or with the Peanut Guy) and have it posted on Astros County (after you e-mail it to, of course).

Opening Day, where hope springs eternal - except at the Houston Press

Everyone's in first place on Opening Day, except at the Houston Press, where it's already October and the Astros have farted their way to a 41-121 season.

Maybe it's not that bad, but John Royal has these nuggets to kill your Opening Day buzz:

-I'm psyched because I love baseball, not because I think the Astros are any good. And after I take a look at the team, I don't think you'll be psyched about this team, either.

-I too think they will finish in second place, that is, if you count second place as being second from the bottom.

-This Astros team isn't very good. It's even worse than last year's team.

-And I look at Jose Valverde and I just see another Brad Lidge break down just waiting to happen.

-The infield is worse than last season's thanks to management letting Mark Loretta depart.

-Miguel Tejada has spent his time in Houston being outed as a liar on a variety of issues, which wouldn't be so bad, expect that he stinks.

-The outfield contains the sloth that is Carlos Lee in left field - the guy generally takes about 20 minutes to get to any ball hit down the left field line, and I think the only time he runs for anything is to beat Berkman to the post-game buffet.

-then there's career non-entity Jason Michaels who gets a roster spot because Ed Wade likes him.

-So, like last season, the Astros will win because they get lucky, not due to any special managing decisions.

-Now it's time for me to go on the record. The Astros finish in fifth place with a record of 72-90. Just be thankful the Pittsburgh Pirates are around to keep the Astros from finishing last.

The Houston Press: Making Brian McTaggart look like Billy Mays!

Keith Law says: 66 wins

One last expert prediction: Keith Law's.

Chicago Cubs 94 68
St. Louis 87 75
Milwaukee 84 78
Cincinnati 80 82
Pittsburgh 68 94
Houston 66 96

This is the sound of one man digging his way out of a hole.

I love it.

Big Angry Z is taking the Shaggy approach to addressing his comments about Miller Park South:

"I didn't say that," Zambrano said Sunday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I said anybody wants to have a new ballpark," the Cubs' ace said, according to the newspaper. "As a player, you feel like you're trying to be more comfortable. As a player, you want to have the greatest ballpark in the National League, or the big leagues. As a fan, we should stay there."

Then this:

"They don't have to be mad," he said. "I didn't say they have to build a new stadium. If the Cubs do it, we will be much better and more comfortable, as a player. I think it's my opinion. And sometimes when fans say something about a player, you have to respect it. But I didn't say we should move. I love Wrigley Field," he added, according to the Tribune. "Don't get me wrong. It's a nice ballpark, but if the Cubs think some time, some period, 10 or 20 years from now, if they think about [building] a new ballpark, it should be good."

How did he think that was going to play out?

Happy Opening Day!

Who's taking today off? (I'm not. A mistake not to be repeated.) Anybody have any Opening Day traditions?

Remember to get your predictions in to Astros County, either in the comments section, or by sending an e-mail to, to win an engraved bat from Cooperstown, NY declaring you the smartest person alive.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Astros-Cubs preview

Cubs batters vs Roy Oswalt

Aramis Ramirez: 15x60, .250/.242/.450, 16K/0BB, 3HR
Derrek Lee: 15x49, .306/.370/.571, 13K/5BB, 3HR
Alfonso Soriano: 6x32, .188/.188/.375, 3K/0BB, 2HR
Ryan Theriot: 2x8, .250/.250/.250, 0K/1BB
Milton Bradley: 3x6, .500/.571/1.000, 1HR

Astros batters vs Carlos Zambrano
Lance Berkman: 9x63, .143/.299/.333, 18K/14BB, 4HR
Carlos Lee: 17x46, .370/.431/.739, 7K/5BB, 4HR
Geoff Blum: 5x27, .185/.241/.222, 9K/2BB
Hunter Pence: 4x16, .250/.294/.375, 4K/0BB
Miguel Tejada: 5x12, .417/.417/.750, 0K/0BB, 1HR
Kaz Matsui: 1x8, .125/.364/.125, 3K/3BB
Ivan Rodriguez: 3x7, .429/.429/.429, 2K/0BB
Michael Bourn: 1x7, .143/.333/.143, 2K/2BB

A-Rod out until May. Wait, nope. Maybe by the end of April.

So when A-Rod went down with this hip injury shortly after the SI story that he used steroids from 2000-2003 (but not while a Yankee, because that's not as pressure-packed a situation as playing for the last-place Rangers, whose games are barely done by the late Baseball Tonight), I was skeptical. Now I flat-out don't believe him, especially after this report that A-Rod could possibly be back from surgery by the end of April.

Consider Scott Boras, master of the image, and A-Rod, who has a minority stake in his own image. Yankees fans are pissed about A-Rod and his PED usage, and basically because they never really liked him, anyway (which I don't really understand). So do you think Boras wanted cash cow, $300 million man, and Yankee-for-life A-Rod to get booed by 50,000 Yankees fans on Opening Day at a brand-new stadium A-Rod is supposed to help pay for? Oh no.

I do not believe A-Rod is injured, and I do believe this has everything to do with A-Rod's legacy, whatever the heck that's going to be.

Breaking down...2009 Payroll

We did this for 2008, so we'll revisit this in the coming days. But I was curious how the Astros 09 Opening Day payroll - and percentages - compares to the 2008 payroll. Like I said, eventually we'll get in to how the Astros payroll compares to the rest of the League. But for now, let's be self-centered and look at ourselves.

Total Payroll:
2008: $94.3054 million
2009: $97.885 million (up 3.7% - and you thought Run-DMc was cheapskating you)

Before we get started, let's just get it out there that Roy, Lance, Miggs and Carlos make 61.3% of the Astros' OD09 payroll. That's Exhibit A in The Houston Astros Baseball Club v. A 90-Loss Season.

2009: $17.824 million (18.2% of total payroll)
LaHawk's $3.5 million contract is by far the most crooked (meaning "out of line with other contracts," not "ill-gotten") of the Astros' relief corps. If everything goes right, LaHawk will make five times as much as Russ Ortiz, and pitch about 130 fewer innings.

2009: $21.65 million (22.1%)
Obviously, Roy's $14 million takes up a huge chunk of this.

For whatever reason, I didn't separate relievers from starters last season. So the total money spent on pitchers.
2008: $33.557 million (35.6% of total 2008 payroll)
2009: $39.474 million (40.3% of total payroll)

2008: $43.6614 million (46.3%)
2009: $34.4275 million (35.2%)

2008: $14.292 million (15.2%)
2009: $21.8735 million (22.3%)
There is a $16.75 million difference between Carlos Lee and Darin Erstad, the next highest-paid outfielder. Lee's $6.5 million bump makes up your difference here. Anyone else worried about what happens to payroll when Hunter Pence is due for some big money, and Carlos Lee still gets $18.5 million?

2008: $2.75 million (2.9%)
2009: $2.11 million (2.2%)

Predictions Recap

As promised, I've collected the predictions from the "experts," and if you don't believe me, then please feel free to look up the Predictions tag. A synopsis is as follows:

Astros 1st
Chirp, chirp

Astros 2nd
Jose de Jesus Ortiz - Houston Chronicle
Dan Plesac - MLB Network

Astros 3rd
Brian McTaggart - Houston Chronicle

Astros 4th
Astros County
Bruce Bukiet - New Jersey Institute of Technology
TSN Canada
The Leadoff Man - Cubs blog

Astros 5th
Bruce Jenkins - San Francisco Chronicle
Ken Rosenthal - Fox Sports
Will Leitch - New York Magazine
Ken Davidoff - Newsday
Scott Miller - CBS Sports
Danny Knobler - CBS Sports
Eric Mack - CBS Sports
Adriane Rosen - CBS Sports
Baseball Prospectus
Hilton SportsBook
Sporting News
Bucs Dugout - Pirates blog
Blast Magazine

Astros 6th
Nick DeWitt - The Bleacher Report

And now for the real expert's predictions: mine

You have until 6:05pm Monday evening to post your predictions in the Comments section of this page for them to be valid. Winner at the end of the season gets a prize - a good one. How about an engraved baseball bat from Cooperstown, New York saying the following:

(Your Name) is the smartest man (or woman) alive. Astros County, 2009.

Now for my predictions, and please note the wins probably won't add up.

NL Central:
Cubs: 92-70
Reds: 87-75
Cardinals: 84-78
Astros: 81-81
Brewers: 79-83
Pirates: 60-102

NL East: Mets
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Giants

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Angels
AL Wild Card: Rays

WS: Red Sox def Cubs in seven games - the best WS since 2001, and Astros County rejoices.

If the Astros are going to have major award winners, it'll be these players:
MVP: Lance Berkman
Cy Young: Roy Oswalt
Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Hampton

ESPN puts the entire season into a computer

They didn't project it all out, but here are your ESPN Expert Picks for the NL Central (strangely, no anchor from Baseball Tonight or any television crew was asked. I guess there's a difference between "Expert" and "Analyst"):

In favor of the Cubs (* = Cubs win WS)
Jorge Arangure, Jr*
Jim Caple
Jerry Crasnick
Peter Gammons
Pedro Gomez
Jason Grey
Orel Hershiser
Tim Kurkjian
Keith Law (Cards win WC)
Amy Nelson
Rob Neyer*
Buster Olney (Cards win WC)
Nate Ravitz
Brendan Roberts
Enrique Rojas (Reds win WC, lose to Yanks in WS)
Jayson Stark
Gene Wojciechowski*

In favor of the Cards
Matthew Berry (lose in WS)
Eric Karabell (lose in WS)
Peter Pascarelli (Cardinals win WS)
Chris Singleton

JJO makes his predictions

Here they are:

Cubs: 94-68
Astros: 88-74
Cardinals: 85-77
Brewers: 84-78
Reds: 74-88
Pirates: 66-96