Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recap for G11, Astros vs Reds

Wandy absolutely dominated the Reds tonight, and I guess this is a game even Dusty Baker would say the Astros deserved to win. The last - and only - time he struck out ten batters? August 26, 2008 vs...ding ding ding! The Cincinnati Reds. In that game Wandy threw 7IP of 3H ball, giving up one run and earning a no-decision. This time, there wasn't any point in which Wandy wasn't in control of this game.

Wandy: 7IP, 2H, 0ER, 10K:2BB
Sampson: 1IP, 1H, 0K:1BB
Fulchino: 1IP, 0H

Everyone give it up for Fulchino's Astros debut, in which he got Taveras, Hairston and Votto to fly out to right, center, and center - respectively.







PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Wandy105/6965.7%24/2187.5%5/6/10
Sampson9/555.5%3/3100%3/0/0
Fulchino10/550%3/3100%0/3/0



Let's have a closer look at Wandy's 10 strikeouts, shall we?
1st inning: Taveras - swinging
2nd inning: Encarnacion - swinging; Nix - swinging
3rd inning: Hernandez - looking; Gonzalez - looking; Harang - looking
5th inning: Nix - swinging
6th inning: Harang - swinging
7th inning: Votto - looking; Nix - swinging

Hooray! Nix was the major victim, striking out swinging three times on the night.

And let's not forget the Astros bats. Carlos Lee raised his average to .250 with a 3x3 night (plus a walk); Geoff Blum went 3x4 with 3RBI to raise his average to .324. Pudge got his 2nd multi-hit game of the season by going 2x2 with 2RBIs of his own. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows - it rarely is. Jason Smith is now 0x13 on the season, and Berkman went 0x4 with a walk, but it lowered his batting average to .189. Three XBHs with doubles by Lee, Blum, and Pudge. And the Astros got 3SBs from Tejada, Pence, and Bourn. Bourn's stolen base came in the 5th in which the Astros were up 2-0. Leadoff single from Bourn, he steals 2nd. Tejada and Berkman fly out and Lee doubles, scoring Bourn.

More importantly, of the 15 baserunners, there were no instances of the Grounding Into a Double Play variety.

Man of the Match:
Are you kidding? Let's hear it for the New Stopper, Wandy Rodriguez

Goat of the Game:
Hard to say, as things went pretty well for the Astros tonight. Even though Bourn had a clutch SB, he did end the inning three times - twice striking out swinging with two men on - we're giving the Goat to Bourn.
House hunting today has limited my ability to follow the Astros today. Will resume tonight.

Can't say I agree with this one

Felipe Paulino will be recalled today in order to start G12 tomorrow against Edinson Volquez. Someone will be sent to The Rock in order to clear a roster spot.

That person will most likely be Fulchino or Arias. So rather than use the two pitchers they called up, the Astros managed to blow an option on both - and then manage to not use them at all in the limited time either one was here. Options are special things, you don't get many of those. And while it is very reasonable to think that one - or both - of them would have found their way to the Big Club at some point this season, the Organization just ensured that Paulino has one less. And if my count serves me correctly (and it sometimes does not), Paulino will be out of options going into 2010.

Backe to rehab

Brandon Backe is coming along on his Drive To Make The Rotation Awkward:

Backe will throw a simulated game today and possibly start the rehab assignments next week. When asked at what stage Backe felt in his recovery, he said a two-inning, 40-pitch outing. (Only Backe would find 40 pitches over two innings completely normal).

“My arm’s in better shape than it would be arriving to spring training. I feel like I could go and throw two innings in the first outing in spring training, but they’re not going to let me.”

Coop said after one or two more simulated games or bullpen sessions, Backe could find himself in the minors, making rehab starts.

Valverde's pitch count

So it's been mentioned that Jose Valverde is throwing a lot of pitches. Is that true? Let's have ourselves a look, shall we?

Valverde has thrown in four games: April 7 vs the Cubs, Apr 12 at STL, Apr 15 at PIT, and last night vs CIN. In only one of those - the G2 win over the Cubs - has Valverde not put anyone on base.

Here's his pitch count:
Apr 7 - 17 pitches for 3 batters faced
Apr 12 - 13 pitches for 4 batters faced
Apr 15 - 16 pitches for 4 batters faced
Apr 17 - 24 pitches for 5 batters faced

70 pitches / 46 for strikes (65.7%) / 4.38 per batter

And in his last two appearances, JV has given up two homers. One didn't really matter, last night's very much did. MLB Gameday says the pitch to Hernandez was a 97mph fastball, but JV left it up and out over the plate, and Hernandez took him opposite field. Equally alarming, Valverde has only managed to get 2 ground balls in his four appearances, compared to 8 fly balls. That's not good when you're a hard-throwing closer - because as we just saw, just get under a 97mph fastball, and it can find itself in the seats.

Is he hurt? I don't know. I remember Billy Wagner saying you didn't have to have a great swing to hit a 100mph pitch very far, so maybe that's in play here. But I'll agree with JJO that Cooper should make the decision on whether or not JV feels good enough to pitch, not JV. You don't want a closer who doesn't want the ball, so it's up to the manager.

Reactions to G10 - Reds @ Astros

Valverde, who had been dealing with the sore back, on whether or not he should have pitched last night:
“Yeah, I have to pitch. It doesn’t matter what, because this is my team and this is my game. What happened today is over. I have to focus for tomorrow and do my job. “I threw my best pitch for this guy and he hit it. Tomorrow’s a new day. Everything OK. That guy made the home run. What am I going to do?”

Cooper, on Valverde:
“He’s fine. Jose’s fine. He told me before the game tonight (after) I said, ‘Do you want me to close in the ninth inning tonight?’ And he said, ‘No. I got it.’ He’s fine. No ailments at all.”

JJO, on Valverde:
Actually, he's not fine. Guys like Ramon Hernandez don't normally hit two-run homers off Valverde when he's fine.

Oswalt, on the Reds' approach:
“I thought they made me throw the ball over the plate. We had some quick innings. A lot of times it felt like I put my hat down and had to run back out. It’s a battle, you know? I threw some quality pitches when I needed it.”

Dusty Baker, on the outcome of the game:
“That would have been a real tough loss. They (The Astros) didn’t really deserve to win it.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recap of G10 - Astros v. Reds

Well that sucked. Any offense we thought might have been rolling with the Astros over the last two days was totally wasted, as Johnny Cueto - all 10.39 ERA of him (at Minute Maid) - rolled over the Astros, and then the Reds' bullpen followed suit. Despite walking seven batters, the Astros couldn't do anything but walk a run in. Tejada got 2 hits, while Blum and Pudge collected the other two hits. Eleven baserunners - 1 run.

As predicted, Oswalt dominated the Reds, and Valverde blew a 1-0 lead in the ninth by giving up a 2-run jack to Ramon Hernandez, who is now hitting .192 - after his 1x3 day.

Oswalt: 6IP, 5H, 0ER, 4K:3BB
Geary: 1IP
LaHawk: 1IP, 1H
Valderde: 1IP, 1H, 2ER, 1K:1BB - 1L

These things are going to happen. Hard-throwing closers are going to get hit hard every now and then. It just sucks that Roy is still winless after doing what he always does: Dominating the Reds.








PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Oswalt108/7569.4%24/1866.7%5/7/4
Geary7/685.7%3/3100%1/2/0
LaHawk:13/1076.9%4/375%3/0/0
Valverde:24/1458.3%5/360%1/1/1



Let's look at the 9th inning: Due up with a 1-0 lead is Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ramon Hernandez.
Valverde gets Bruce to strike out swinging - on the 6th pitch
Encarnacion walks on four straight pitches
Hernandez, on a 1-2 pitch, takes Valverde to right deep on the 2nd pitch of the AB. It takes Valverde 11 more pitches to get out of the inning.

I'm concerned about how many pitches Valverde is throwing. And we'll look at that, at some point. I've got to create suspense.
Berkman saw 21 pitches in an 0x1, 3BB, 1RBI performance. Berkman walked, scoring Roy, creating all the offense for the Astros. Carlos Lee went 0x4 (that means Berkman is hitting .212, Lee? .189) with 6LOBs. Where did these six men come from?
1st inning: Struck out with Berkman on 1st (1)
4th inning: Lines into a double play with Bourn on 2nd (2), Berkman on 1st (3)
5th inning: Grounds out to short with the bases loaded (4, 5, 6)

That's four RISP that don't score with Lee at the plate, which is also not good if you're the cleanup hitter. Cleanup men are not to leave things dirty.

Man of the Match:
I'm going back-and-forth on this between Berkman who, in the absence of hits, is at least getting on base; or Roy-O for throwing six dominant innings. Let's give it to Roy.

Goat of the Game:
Toss-up between Lee and Valverde. Since this was a pitcher's duel, we'll give it to Valverde, for blowing Roy's win.

Game 10 Reds vs. Astros LIVE!

Live Blog tonight!

Join Deputy Jason tonight as he live blogs what we hope to be Roy's 24th win versus the Cincinnati Reds. Witty insights, biting sarcasm, all sorts of ballyhoo comes to you live at 7:05. Screw the Chronicle, follow the game with the guys who actually act as though they like baseball.

Welcome, Citizen Ben

Today we welcome another official member of Astros County. Welcome, Citizen Ben.

AC: Which current Astro is the most underrated/overrated?
CB: Underrated: Wandy Rodriguez; Overrated: Is any Astro truly overrated??? I guess I'll go with Carlos Lee for the 1-tool that he gives us.

AC: If you could ruin one other team's franchise, who would it be?
CB: Definitely the Cardinals.

AC: What was your Favorite Astros Moment?
CB: Seeing Bagwell get to bat in the World Series...even though he was absolutely dominated and blown away by Jenks, just seeing him up there was pretty awesome for me.

AC: Where were you when Pujols hit The Home Run?
CB: I was laying in bed at my apartment in College Station watching. That was the single biggest rollercoaster drop in emotion I have ever experienced. From the top of the world, to the depths of Hell in a 593-foot matter of seconds.

AC: What's the over/under on how long Coop remains the manager?
CB: He'll be here at least until the All-Star break...but will be ousted before the end of the season.

Want to be an Official Citizen? E-mail Astros County.

Matchup for G10 - Reds @ Astros

The Cincinnati Reds, Roy O's slumpbuster. It's really amazing how dominant Roy has been in his career against the Reds...almost improbable. Here we're talking about a guy who, since arriving for the Astros full-time, has won more games than any other pitcher (129). And against the Reds? 23-1, with a 2.47 ERA / 1.08 WHIP. Just what Roy needs after a rough beginning to his season. It's also worth pointing out that Roy didn't get his crap together until after his 3rd start of the 2008 season.

Roy's last start: Sunday at St. Louis
Oswalt: 6IP: 9H/6ER, 4K/2BB - 1 Grand Slam



Roy's 2008:




vs. CIN4-02.51 ERA/1.24 WHIP2 HR17K:8BB
July 28 HW5IP7H/4ER5K:1BB
Aug 7 HW7IP9H/1ER6K:2BB
Aug 27 AW7IP5H/1ER3K:2BB
Sept 25 HW6IP2H/1ER3K:3BB











Oswalt vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Taveras4x10.400/.455/.7001-12:1
Gonzalez6x16.375/.375/.7502-32:0
Phillips8x24.333/.360/.5000-01:1
Bruce4x13.308/.308/.3850-01:0
Hairston2x7.286/.286/.4290-00:0
Votto3x11.273/.333/.2730-22:1
Encarnacion2x18.111/.158/.1670-08:1


Johnny Cueto

Last start (Sunday loss vs Pittsburgh):
6IP, 8H, 4ER, 9K:1BB;

2008 splits:




vs. HOU0-37.84 ERA/1.94 WHIP4 HR15K:8BB
Away3-104.92 ERA/1.54 WHIP11 HR75K:35BB
at MMP0-210.39 ERA/2.19 WHIP1 HR4K:4BB








Apr 24 HL7IP8H/8ER2K:2BB
July 28 AL6IP8H/5ER3K:1BB
Aug 8 HND5IP9H/3ER9K:2BB
Sept 25 AL2.2IP7H/5ER1K:3BB









Cueto vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Lee3x5.600/.667/1.2001-20:1
Bourn3x5.600/.600/.8000-40:0
Berkman4x8.500/.636/1.1251-33:3
Blum2x6.333/.375/.8331-31:0
Pence3x12.250/.250/.3330-04:0
Tejada2x11.182/.250/.1820-12:1

It's official: Daigle signs with Round Rock and other notes

Within Tags' blog post this morning, we learn a number of things.

Such as Casey Daigle's signing with Round Rock, along with Eli Iorg and Chad Paronto's activation at The Rock.

Daigle, 28, was signed as a free agent earlier this week and assigned to the inactive list with Round Rock. The 6-foot-6 Daigle appeared in 44 games for Class AAA Rochester in 2008, going 1-5 with a 3.78 ERA. He struck out 65 against 34 walks in 69 innings of mostly relief work. Daigle reached the majors level for 10 games with Arizona in 2004 and again in 2006. Over nine professional seasons, he is 58-65 with a 4.82 ERA in the minors.

Let's hear it for Tags! Huzzah! No mention of you know who. Someone tell that guy at the American-Statesman.

-

Who the heck will start on Sunday in Moehler's place? Fulchino and Arias seem to be the obvious front-runners, but Tags also mentions Felipe Paulino, who has posted a 0.75 ERA, and who would be pitching on normal rest on Sunday, anyway.

-

Jose Valverde, Jeff Keppinger, and Kaz Matsui are all dealing with sore backs. Have you guys heard of pilates? That's why Keppinger left yesterday, and also why LaHawk came in to get the save. In other meat wagon news, Chris Johnson was placed on the DL after getting plunked on the hand last week against Iowa. Remember, it was a similar hand-plunking (among other things) that ruined Morgan Ensberg's effectiveness. So let's get some noise for mental resolve from 3Bs...

Reactions to G9 - Houston at Pittsburgh

Berkman on the win:
"That was important for us. We talked about wanting to go home with a good feeling. This is a tough Pirates team. Nobody is going to come in here and walk over these guys. This is a good series win, and we need to continue the momentum we establish as we go into a long homestand."

Byrdak:
"We just have to come out and do the job and pick each other up, and that's what we're doing out there. I was trying to give (Geoff) Geary a day off from pitching and things worked out. LaTroy closed the door and we were able to pick up a save when we didn't have Valverde."

Sampson, on his 17-pitch AB with Sanchez:
"That was a tough battle, man. We kind of smiled at one another a couple of times during the at-bat, but that was a lot of fun. Thankfully I came out on top and got him to fly out to Michael Bourn."

Cooper:
"Our bullpen was outstanding. They kept them at bay, and when you get big swings like that from you big boys you have to make them stand up and we did today."

Ortiz:
"I'm not particularly happy with going 4 2/3, but we got a win. It's my first start but I have to do a little better job of letting the ball go and trusting everything and not trying to make perfect pitches."

Sean Burnett, on giving up the HR to Berkman:
""I was looking to bury it in the dirt, just like the one before. Kind of left it out there for a veteran hitter, and he made me pay."

Berkman, on the pitch:
"If it doesn't stay up, I probably miss it. You don't hit home runs on good pitcher's pitches. It's usually a mistake. He wanted it down and in."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Drew Sutton, compared to Jeff Keppinger

Yeah, so the initial wave of fear and loathing has passed, and Astros fans seem to be generally bummed while Reds fans are pleasantly surprised.

But what do the stats say?

It took Drew Sutton a year to figure out Double-A, when his first year (2007), Sutton posted a .269/.351/.388 line with 9HR/53RBI. In 2008, back in Corpus, Sutton hit .317/.408/.523 with 20HR/69RBI.

2007 saw an 86K:57BB ratio (1.51), with a 98K:76BB in 2008 (1.29).

Keppinger, as has oft-been mentioned, doesn't have too much pop in his bat - 38 homers in 3072 professional at-bats. However, in all of those at-bats Keppinger has struck out 189 times. And he's an upgrade defensively from Sutton. So do I like it? I'm not sure yet, but I'm at least willing to make peace with the fact that the Astros traded a prospect who hasn't shown he can hit at Triple-A (where Sutton is headed for Cincinnati) for a guy who has proved he'll provide plate discipline at a Major League level - and at 28, is still young.

Hope you weren't too excited about the Pirates series, because the melancholy sets in.......now!

Just as we had feared:

The Astros sent infielder Drew Sutton to the Cincinnati Reds today as the player to be named later in the March 31 deal that brought infielder Jeff Keppinger to the Astros.

I guess ol' Dusty was right. Let's all keep in perspective that Keppinger is only three years older than Sutton, and has looked pretty good so far this year in what I can only hope is a soon-to-be more expanding role. Two straight starts at 2B, with success, means - I assume - that Keppinger is your 2B2. Should Matsui make his way out of Houston either in 2011 (or before), Keppinger will be your 2B1.

What say you?

That Was Your Series: at Pittsburgh

Monday: 7-0L
Wednesday: 4-1W
Thursday: 6-3W

Most telling stat: Astros win their first series of the season.

















AstroHxAB2B/3BHR-RBIK:BBLOB
Bourn1x61/00-01:31
Pence2x100/01-21:23
Berkman3x121/01-35:17
Lee2x112/00-41:03
Tejada7x122/00-00:11
Blum1x90/00-00:15
Pudge1x90/00-01:15
Keppinger3x81/10-00:21
Quintero0x30/00-02:03
Matsui0x30/00-00:00
Smith0x20/00-01:02
Michaels1x60/00-02:03
Erstad0x10/00-00:00
Total21x927/12-1014:1134






StaffIPH/ERK:BBERA/WHIP
Starters13IP16/810:46.23/1.54
Relievers13IP17/25:61.38/1.77


Obviously the starter ERA was inflated due to Moehler's performance on Monday, but the bullpen's 17H:2ER is incredible.

Recap - G9 at Pittsburgh

That's what I'm talking about. The Astros finally get the big hits they need, and Russ Ortiz has an effective, if inefficient, start to his season. Every Astros position player contributed, spreading 10 hits over the entire lineup - even Russ Ortiz. Tejada had his second multi-hit game in as many days, and Lance chimed in with a 3-run blast in the 6th to break a 3-3 tie.

Ortiz: 4.2IP, 5H, 3ER, 2K:2BB
Wright: .1IP, 0H
Sampson: 1.2IP, 3H, 0ER, 0K:1BB
Byrdak: 1.1IP, 1H, 2K:0BB
LaHawk: 1IP, 1H

Ortiz looked rough in the first, giving up a leadoff double to Morgan, then a run-scoring WP two ABs later, a McLouth single and an Adam LaRoche double. He threw a lot of pitches, 99 to get through 21 batters, and the 12 first-pitch balls didn't help much, either (with seven of those ABs getting to 2-0). All five of the Pirates' hits off Ortiz went to right-center or right field.

And Sampson could have thrown fewer pitches if it wasn't for Freddy Sanchez' 17-pitch AB in the 7th in which he fouled off nine consecutive pitches with a 3-2 count.









PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Ortiz99/5454.5%21/1466.7%6/6/2
Wright3/133.3%1/1100%0/1/0
Sampson45/3066.7%8/562.5%3/2/0
Byrdak:16/1168.7%4/4100%2/0/0
LaHawk:16/1067.5%4/375%2/1/0



Lots of Astros had strong ABs, which is nice to see. Keppinger got the start at 2B because Matsui's stiff back and went 1x2 with a triple and a walk. The Astros drew seven walks - two from Michael Bourn, who looks like he's living up to the buzz of having developed some plate discipline. Pence homered to left, and stole a base, as well. Blum went 1x5, but of his four hitless ABs, three of them were flyballs to center, so you feel like he's due to get some hits in there pretty soon.

Man of the Match:
Lance Berkman. The three-run homer in the 6th was the difference in the game.

Goat of the Game:
We'll give this one to Russ Ortiz. A run-scoring WP, 99 pitches to 21 batters (4.71ppb). Good thing the bullpen was solid, yet again.

Pudge is making "talent evaluators" nervous

In Buster Olney's blog post today on Promising Players Drawing the Notice of Scouts (but not in a good way, parentheses mine):

4. Ivan Rodriguez, Astros. Houston signed him after the Astros' in-house catching candidates struggled in spring, and after I-Rod had a strong showing early in the WBC. Now he's off to a .185 start, with five hits (two extra-base hits) in 27 at-bats. "He's what, 37-years-old, 38?" asked one scout.

Thirty-seven is right. "He's caught a whole lot of games, and eventually, that takes its toll," said one talent evaluator. "They might be looking for a catcher before the year's over."

Notes: Meet LaTroy Hawkins, Resident Contrarian

Interesting viewpoint from LaHawk on wearing Jackie's #42:
"It loses its luster when everybody does it. I think everybody has a certain level of respect for Jackie, and it’s not like anybody now shouldn’t know who he is and what he’s done for the game. I’d hate to see if there is a professional baseball player that doesn’t know his legacy in the game. Shame on him if there is.”

I agree with the shaming of ignorance, but I don't think it loses its luster. Baseball players are identified by their numbers. The fact that all of the Major Leaguers wear one number for one day on the anniversary of the day baseball integrated makes it more special.

In other Newts:
Backe threw 60 pitches off the mound...
"I feel pretty good. I was pretty cautious out there today. The mound is pretty reminiscent of the game I got hurt. It would have been stupid of me to throw the ball hard and test it out with the mound the way it was."

And the leadoff spot will belong to Michael Bourn, at least for today, with Matsui out until tomorrow. Bourn did not record a hit, but did get a leadoff walk and scored later that inning. Interesting note: in games Bourn was the leadoff hitter in 2008, he only recorded two game-starting walks.

Reactions to G8 - Houston at Pittsburgh

A 4-1 win in which the Astros become the last team to score in the 1st or 2nd inning. Then they went ahead and scored in the 3rd, just for Ken Rosenthal.

Cooper:
“It takes a little bit of the pressure off. It was certainly nice to get some clutch hits early in the game to get us off the (losing streak) and get us going a little bit.”

Berkman:
“We got what we needed. We got out of the chute early offensively and it always helps when your pitcher throws six shutout (innings). Mike threw a great game, and really that combination is what we needed because we haven’t been scoring any runs, particularly early.”

Cooper on Hampton:
“Great effort by Hampton to keep them at bay early in the ballgame. He did a great job, and a lot of times when you’re struggling you need to score early and you need to have a pitcher go out and shut them down. I thought that’s what he did tonight. If he pitches like that, I’ll be a happy camper.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Chuck Finder:
Pitching on six years' rest against the Pirates, Mike Hampton last night showed that at age 36, with just 13 starts over the previous three years because of various maladies, he hasn't forgotten how to beat them.

Matchup - G9 at Pittsburgh

Russ Ortiz vs Jeff Karstens, as the Astros attempt to build on last night's win...

Russ Ortiz
Making his debut in the rotation, Russ Ortiz is looking to rekindle former glory. Will it happen against the Pittsburgh Pirates? God, I hope so.

From 2006-2008, Ortiz faced the Pirates twice and posted a winning record of 1-0 against them. Ortiz only has a winning record, similarly 1-0, against one other team: the Diam'ndba's.

Splits:

vs. PIT2GS, 1-04.61 ERA/1.23 WHIP2 HR8K:3BB









Ortiz vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Wilson7x17.412/.524/.5290-11:4
LaRoche3x9.333/.400/.6671-12:1
Vazquez5x16.313/.421/.6251-25:3
Sanchez1x5.200/.286/.2000-11:0


Jeff Karstens
Karstens, a piece of the Nady trade with the Yankees last season, will be making his first start of the season. He has only enjoyed 9 plate appearances against the Astros: Keppinger is 0x4, Tejada 0x3, and Erstad is 1x1; thus, we won't do the table thing for this one.

The scouting report on Karstens says to jump on his fastball. He throws it 56% of the time, 63% of the time on the first pitch, and 64% of the time when he's behind. He'll also mix in a changeup, curve, and a slider, but relies pretty heavily on that fastball. But there's some bad news. With the Pirates towards the end of last season, Karstens was getting more groundballs than flyballs - and for the Astros lately, that spells disaster. He is hittable: batters made contact with pitches thrown in the strike zone 88.5% of the time in 2008, but he got batters to swing at pitches out of the zone in 25% of his pitches.

If the Astros are going to get something going offensively, it should be today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inexcusable.

It's Jackie Robinson Day. Jackie Robinson is my Favorite Player of All Time (which brings up a valid question: Who is your FPoAT?)

I can't tell you how much I love Jackie Robinson. More than Nolan Ryan. More than Jeff Bagwell. More than Craig Biggio. That's how much.

So today, on Jackie Robinson Day, Baseball Tonight did one of their asinine Jackie Robinson tributes, where they counted down, from 42 (to make it as obnoxious as possible), Jackie's stats. Here's the problem:

ESPN said that Jackie debuted on September 15, 1947. What day is this? April 15. Think that's a coincidence?

Karl Ravech also said that Jackie perished in a plane crash helping earthquake victims in Nicaragua. What's the problem here? That was Roberto Clemente. I'm so infuriated, it has ruined my appreciation of an Astros win, and of Jackie Robinson Day.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one who noticed this:

Recap for G8 - Houston @ Pittsburgh

So one of four things happened:
(a) Mike Hampton did what Ed Wade signed him to do
(b) The Astros offense did what the Astros offense does (or, score four runs)
(c) Cecil Cooper's voodoo doll worked
(d) The law of averages caught up with the Astros

Any of the four, I don't care. Hampton was downright money: 6IP, 4H, 0ER, 8K:1BB (and lowering his ERA to 2.45)
Geary: 1IP, 2H, 0ER, 0K:1BB
LaHawk: 1IP, 1H








PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Hampton100/6565%22/1881.2% 4/5/8
Geary26/1661.5%5/360%2/1/0
LaHawk18/1266.7%4/375%0/3/0
Valverde16/1275%4/375%0/1/1



It was mentioned that this lineup managed to get some runs early. By the 2nd inning, the Astros had doubled the number of innings in which they led. Can I make another point? The last time Hampton struck out 8+ batters in an outing was July 26, 2003.

The Law Offices of Tejada, Berkman and Lee went 6x11, with Lee coming in with a 2-run double and a sac fly, accounting for three of the Astros four runs. Your extra-base hits came from Keppinger, Berkman, Lee and Tejada. And sac flies from the aforementioned Lee and Hunter Pence. In a departure from the previous seven games, the Astros only left runners in scoring position in four ABs: Blum, Pence, Hampton, and Bourn (who broke his season-long hitting streak at 6G).

Basically, the Astros did what they needed to do: jump on Ohlendorf early. They scored four runs. By the end of the 2nd inning, the Astros had led in the same number of innings they had to this point in the season. Pudge did manage to GIDP.

Hampton allowed a leadoff baserunner in the 5th and 6th innings, but got the leadoff man in the first four (obviously). That's what I'm talking about. I do not appreciate Valverde giving up a leadoff homer in the 9th to Adam LaRoche, but it's what it is. A win is a win.

Man of the Match:
This is tough. But for a different reason. Because Hampton and Lee are equally deserving. But because Carlos Lee went 3x4 with 3 RBI, I'll give it to Lee.

Goat of the Game:
Valverde. Blew a shutout. Which would have been very helpful.

May I make a prediction? Thanks. I think Russ Ortiz will do very well tomorrow, because of what I imagine is an era of good feelings in the clubhouse. And it's an afternoon game. Astros pitchers allowed one run on nine hits, and that's huge. God bless the Houston Astros. And God bless Astros County.

In the absence of Matsui, Bourn slides up seven spots. Or down two.

Lineup for this evening's latest attempt to save Cecil Cooper:

Bourn - CF
Tejada - SS
Berkman - 1B
Lee - LF
Pence - RF
Blum - 3B
Pudge - C
Keppinger - 2B

What say you?

Ted Keith puts the tombstone on the Astros - six weeks before the Chronicle...

Ted Keith, in an over-reactionary and grammatically inferior mailbag, circles the buzzards over the Astros 2009 season. Thanks for the alley-oop, Mark Pachankisq of Vivian, La.

Is there any hope for the Astros this year?
-- Mark Pachankisq, Vivian, La.
Sure, the Astros can hope for many things this season -- short of making it to October, that is. After a 1-6 start, the Astros are already four games out in the National League Central and there haven't been many bright spots, either. They rank last in the league in runs, last in on-base percentage and 14th in ERA. There simply don't appear to have enough pitching to stay competitive in the NL Central this year.


It's true. There just don't appear to have enough pitching. Batting, neither.

Why is it when we complain about the Astros, it's perfectly acceptable, but when someone does it at a national level they're engaging in first-class douchebaggery?

The Meat Wagon tolls its ill-timed bell

Brian Moehler is headed to the DL, and Alberto Arias has been called up.

This worked out fairly well for Fulchino and Arias, who can now retire their voodoo dolls. Both had a decent chance of making the Big Time Club out of Spring Training, but, because the rotation and bullpen were set, went to The Rock. Now the rotation is not set. Nor is the bullpen.

Voila: Fulchino and Arias, four days apart.

As you recall, Moehler was to start vs. Volquez and the Reds on Sunday. Sampson has popped in for the occasional spot-start. I imagine Fulchino may do the same. Stay tuned...

A rare non-Astros story

So I read a lot of different baseball stories - not necessarily just the Astros. Astros County does not exist in a vacuum. So when I came across this story, my first reaction was:

You mean to tell me that someone threw three straight no-hitters within the last 25 years?

Apparently Fox Sports circled April 15 as "Hammer Houston Day"

Another article from Fox Sports intended to send all Astros fans into a deep, bottomless, spiraling depression.

Off to their worst start since 1984, the Astros have confirmed what those on the outside widely believed going into the season: The Astros are headed into an eclipse.
In the National League, Washington is bad by design. The Nationals faithfully follow the Atlanta model, which means having young pitchers take their lumps while learning on the job. But the Astros are bad because they are caught in a trap of their own making, a trap that offers no hope of escape soon. Houston has the worst possible mix of players — the Astros field the oldest team in the majors, with no hope of getting help from the player-development system any time soon.


So basically the Astros are the Nationals, but without a plan. But in a departure from the Ken Rosenthal Apparatus, Gerry Fraley puts it squarely on the shoulders of Run-DMc:

The Astros have been a strong club for a generation. Houston last season had a winning record for the 14th time in the last 16 years. The club had six playoff appearances in that span. To understand the drop from that long-running high, take a good look at owner Drayton McLane. He wants to win but still does not understand how to go about it.

McLane has consistently cut into the scouting and player-development budgets. He has refused to go against the "slotting" system set by the commissioner's office in an attempt to limit signing bonuses for draft picks. If one bad draft sets a franchise back by about three years, what does a series of poor drafts do?


Then, a closing zinger:
The Astros will lead the NL in one category: team meetings. They had their first after Monday's listless 7-0 loss at Pittsburgh. But it will take a lot more than heart-to-heart talks to fix the Astros.

That's actually pretty funny. +1.

Rosenthal gets Cooper in his sights

So Ken Rosenthal put good ol' Coop squarely on the hot seat, though Coop's seat has been warm all off-season.

It was thought that, with a slow start, Coop could be in trouble, especially as this is the last year of his contract, and no overtures have been made (in public, anyway) to sign him to an extension. Remember, Ed Wade did not hire him - Purpura did.

I argued against firing Coop. He made some mistakes last year, handled some things poorly, and even within the last couple of weeks was taken to task by David Newhan over his communication skills.

This is a job with a steep learning curve, and is obviously a very public one, too. So I would say Coop has done well - within the limitations of the situation he has been given. He's tried numerous lineups, put players in different spots, shuffled things around enough to give players time to adjust. But Cooper can't go out there and hit (and I believe he would) with runners in scoring position. It's not Cooper's fault that Moehler got lit up like a sorority girl. Cooper didn't sign Mike Hampton. Or Pudge. He might have even given Towles more of a chance than necessary at the beginning of last year. Coop's doing what he can with what he has.

Then there's the issue of who in the world is available that would do a better job. Rosenthal says this:

The Astros lack an obvious in-house replacement for Cooper. Buck Showalter, highly detail-oriented, might be the perfect choice to set the team on the right course. But he might not want to work for McLane.

Rosenthal goes on to light in to the Astros organization - which is encouraging, because I wasn't actually convinced he knew a team in Houston existed:

The Astros' 86-75 record last season was an illusion; the team was outscored by 31 runs. Payroll considerations forced the team to part with left-hander Randy Wolf and third baseman Ty Wigginton. The late signing of free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez was McLane's way of saying, "Look, fans, we're trying!"

Say this for the Astros — they routinely start poorly, then charge. Firing Cooper would not be unreasonable, particularly if McLane replaced him with someone like Showalter. But the owner is sadly mistaken if he thinks his team is ready to contend.


I'll take issue with the poke at Houston's record last season - it was hardly an illusion. You win games that you win. Run differential, while a helpful statistic, does not a season make. Win close and lose big, that's been the Astros M.O. for a long time, but it doesn't account for the whole season. On August 1, 2008, the Astros run differential was -52. That means in the final two months of the season, the Astros actually had a +21 run differential. You can spin (most) statistics however you want. But the 2008 Astros were hardly an illusion.

I'm not happy with the Astros right now, either, but it's hardly Cooper's fault. There was a closed-door meeting following Monday's game, where I hope they drove out as a team to rural Pennsylvania and took turns hitting broad sides of barns - that would be a start.

I think Cooper is still the man for the job. But I'm afraid I'm in the minority.

Matchup for G8 - Houston @ Pittsburgh

So what about Hampton? Can he get the Astros off the schneid and back in to the win column for the first time in a week? Unless he goes 4x4 with 2HR, it'll be tough.

Hampton's last start:
5IP, 4H, 3ER, 4BB, 5K; 92 pitches/53 for strikes (57.6%)

Hampton pitched okay against the Cardinals last week in a 5-3 loss. He threw 92 pitches in 5 innings, which is far too many, so we'll see if he's able to make that adjustment. Next start for Hampton we'll take a look at his trends, it's just hard to get a read on a guy who hasn't pitched in a while, and one start isn't enough to do that.

Kind of the same thing with Ross Ohlendorf, who is 26, spent time between the rotation and the bullpen, but did pitch in four games, with two starts, against the Astros. I really hope Keppinger gets a start, because in 138 ABs in 2008, lefties were posting a .370/.443/.623 line against him.

Ross Ohlendorf

Last start (Thursday at St Louis):
6IP, 7H, 2ER, 1K:1BB, 1L

2008 splits:

vs. HOU4G, 0-29.00 ERA/2.27 WHIP1 HR7K:4BB







June 14 AH1.0IP2H/1ER0K:0BB
June 15 AN/A1IP0H/0ER1K:1BB
Sept 9 AL4IP9H/6ER3K:1BB
Sept 21 HL5IP10H/4ER3K:4BB











Ohlendorf vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Erstad3x31.000/1.000/1.3330-10:1
Tejada5x8625/.625/.6250-02:0
Berkman3x5.600/.600/1.6001-51:0
Bourn3x7.429/.429/.4290-01:0
Pence1x6.167/.167/.1670-01:0
Blum2x5.400/.429/.6000-10:1
Keppinger0x3.000/.000/.0000-00:0
Pudge0x1.000/.000/.0000-00:0

Oh snap. Chris Carpenter, have you met Brandon Backe?

Chris Carpenter left last night's game before the fourth inning with a strained rib cage.

I'm not sure what's with this spate of rib cage strainings, but Wandy, Backe, and now Carpenter. If Carpenter's is as severe as Backe's - and we'll check with our friends at United Cardinal Bloggers later - then you can expect him out at least 4-6 weeks. Bad news for Cardinals fans.

Let's have some perspective here: We could be 0-7.

Ed Wade commented on the team's lack of...how shall we say...success:

have to keep it all in perspective. At the same time, I wish we could figure out a way to break this streak of slow starts. I don’t believe that’s a formula for success. It’s not like anybody’s accepting of the premise you can get off to slow starts and always fight your way back into things. But you have to recognize we have the next two games in Pittsburgh and go back for somewhat of an extended homestand and can get it straightened out.”

Ahh. It's a valid point. If the Astros can get one tonight, then build on that momentum for tomorrow afternoon's game, then a home stand...thing could turn around quickly.

Let's take a look at some numbers:

The Astros are 25th in batting average and hits
26th in ERA
29th in batting average against.
Batting averages - Miguel Tejada: .269, Lance Berkman: .167, Carlos Lee: .192, and Ivan Rodriguez: .217

But remember, we're talking about 20-30 ABs so far this season. Sure, Lance is hitting .167, but in 24 ABs, that's four hits. If he were to hit his career average to this point in the season, it's the difference in three hits. So has the last week been fun? No. Not at all. I've had a rough couple of days and attribute the beginning of it directly to listening to the Pirates game on Monday.

Will it work out? The Astros are hitting .234 so far, and I don't think 13 Major League position players can sustain that rate of failure over the course of a season. The offense will happen. The pitching...? Wandy has been the ace of the staff so far. Roy will get it together, because he always does. Moehler, until he gets that knee in order, is ineffective. We'll see more of Hampton tonight, and get our first taste of Russ Ortiz in the role he was meant to fill (meaning, "Not Long Relief") tomorrow. It's early, it won't always be like this. But if the Astros keep this up (the 4.5 back in 7 games), it won't matter when they turn it around.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A lot to discuss, considering the Astros didn't play...

McTaggart has some things to say:

Ed Wade on Brian Moehler:
"From what I understand, it doesn't bother him going up and down stairs or running straight ahead, but if it bothers him pushing off he really cannot pitch effectively as witnessed by his lack of command (Monday)," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "We'll see how he feels (Wednesday). If he misses a start, we hope it's one."

on Kaz Matsui:
"We're going to have ongoing concerns about the health of his back, and that's why we talked so much at the end of last season about the best course of action being surgical or non-surgical, and he opted for a back stabilization program," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "It's something we're definitely going to have to monitor."

And on losing Brocail:
"Losing Brocail puts people in different roles," general manager Ed Wade said. "We felt coming into the season with Doug assuming more of the seventh in responsibility and Hawkins taking the eighth and Valverde the ninth, that was our best end-of-game lineup. Now we've got to push Geary to later in the game."

--

Brocail taking some time isn't going to hurt the Astros too much, I don't think - certainly not as much as him trying to pitch through it. Everyone basically gets pushed back, with Sampson and presumably Fulchino in that long-relief role. Obviously Geary in the 7th, Wright for matchups, LaHawk/Byrdak in the 8th and Valverde in the 9th - should he ever have to pitch a 9th inning ever again.

4-5-6 batters this season are hitting 3x7 with a 2B and a HR. Last year, those numbers were 21x73 (.287) with 5 2Bs and 1 HR.

Moehler day-to-day with knee sprain

McTaggart is reporting Brian Moehler is listed as day-to-day with a right knee sprain after undergoing an MRI.

Moehler is next scheduled to pitch on Sunday at Cincinnati against Edinson Volquez.

Order for June draft established

Baseball America has the order for the 2009 June Amateur draft.

1st Round: 21st pick. And because the Astros did not tender contracts to Randy Wolf or Ty Wigginton, there will be no compensation picks. But the Astros do get the 111th pick (third round supplelemental) for not signing 2008 third-round draftee, 6'6" first baseman Chase Davidson, who instead chose to attend the University of Georgia. It would have been nice to have the 46th-ranked prospect working his way up the ladder for the post-Lance years...

Off-Day Argument, Volume 1 Recap

So far here's what we have in the "Should the Astros move to the AL West" debate:

Kevin: In favor of re-alignment, but a deep playoff run would be hard to come by in the stacked American League.

Deputy Jason: At least Carlos Lee could DH.

Cody: 15 games against the Rangers would be fun, a DH would be nice, but a playoff run is hard to come by.

Citizen Spruce: Can't stay up late enough to watch games that start at 9:05pm.

Of all these, I'm inclined to agree with Spruce. When I was on East Coast time, I could barely stay awake for the end of the game, and they started at 8pm. No way I make it through a 9:05 start. They end so late I'm unable to hear the e-mail alert with the score.

More thoughts?

ESPN Power Rankings

ESPN released their Week 2 Power Rankings, as well...

29th - Astros
The Astros have been a disaster both at the plate and on the mound. They are last in the NL in runs scored (16), and their ERA (6.75) is 14th.

NL Central:

Cardinals - 3rd
Cubs - 4th
Pirates - 21st
Reds - 23rd
Brewers - 26th

Fox Sports' Power Rankings

Aram Tolegian released his Power Rankings yesterday. Where do we find our Astros? Prepare to scroll down...

29th - Astros:
We warned you this had the chance to be one bad team.

NL Central:
Cardinals - 3rd
Cubs - 7th
Pirates - 22nd
Reds - 23rd
Brewers - 24th

The Bleacher Report does it again

I'm getting tired of this.

In the vein of our Off-Day Argument, Volume 1 in which we debate (or have yet to debate, anyway) whether the Astros should go to the AL West, there is an article on moving the Pirates to the NL East and the Braves to the NL Central. It's worth a thought, but then in the explanations section of the article, five reasons were listed. Four of them are irrelevant, but #2 was put thusly:

2. The Astros aren't looking good with Craig Biggio and Brandon Backe on the DL.

Biggio. On the DL. If you click the link, you'll notice there is a comment by Astros County, in which I registered for an account specifically to comment on this article. If it's sarcasm, that's cool. I don't get it, mainly because the other four reasons why the Pirates should move to the NL East at least retain some semblance of logic, but the appeal of sarcasm is that it's going to go over 90% of people's heads. If I'm the 90%, cool. But somehow I don't think that's the case.

Look, I make mistakes. Just the other day I added 2+1+1 and got 3. I fixed it, but it stayed like that for a day. But saying Craig Biggio is on the DL...just like saying Backe gave up 31 homers last year (he gave up 36). That's something that is a pretty easy double-check.

Off-Day Arguments

Let's unveil a new series called Off-Day Arguments. Issues and positions that can, and will, be debated on off days. Today, let's do the math.

30 Major League Teams
16 teams in the National League
14 teams in the American League

6 teams in the National League Central
4 teams in the American League West
1 natural rival in the American League West already

I think you know where I'm going with this:
Should the Astros be moved to the American League West?

Go.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bugs Bunny Imitates Life

Does this look familiar? And with this I bid you good night...

Anyone notice Keppinger playing 2nd?

Yep. There was a reason. In the bottom of the 7th Keppinger headed over to 2nd base and Blum came in for Keppinger at third. That's because Kaz Matsui has a sore back, and is day-to-day.

This is interesting, because the last defensive play Matsui had a direct hand in before the bottom of the 7th was in the 4th, when Nate McLouth grounded out, 4-3. Matsui grounded out to short in the top of the 6th. The driver of the Meat Wagon better be getting Frequent Flier miles.

Moehler to have knee examined

Here comes the Meat Wagon! Says the punching bag:

“It’s one of those things that’s been bugging me a little bit and hopefully it’s not major, nothing serious is going to show up and we’ll treat it as need be,” Moehler said. “It’s aggravating, it’s there and I can feel it. I try to push off my back leg and it’s there — there’s no other way to describe it.”

Casey Daigle expected to sign

In need of pitching, the Astros are apparently ready to turn to Casey Daigle.

Here is the article, in its entirety, from the Austin American-Statesman:

Jennie Finch is coming to Dell Diamond. Sort of. According to a source within the Round Rock Express organization, the Houston Astros are expected to sign pitcher Casey Daigle and assign him to the Triple-A Express. Round Rock currently has an open spot on its active roster after pitcher Jeff Fulchino was called up on Sunday.

Daigle, 28, is married to Finch, an Olympic softball star. Daigle, a former first-round draft pick with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 58-65 with a 4.82 ERA in 304 games at the minor league level. He has appeared in 20 major league games.


If you were keeping score at home, that's two words into the article that reporter Danny Davis could lay off the Jennie Finch mention. And 77 words before you get to Daigle's stats. Great reporting.

Reactions to G7 - Houston at Pittsburgh

7-0 loss to Pittsburgh, in which Zach Duke looked like Rube Waddell.

McTaggart:
The Astros were probably asking each other the same question that has the majority of their fans in an uproar in only the second week of the regular season: Can their offense really be this bad?

Cooper:
“Same song,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “We just can’t seem to get any hits, can’t seem to generate anything. I don’t really have an answer right now.”

Berkman:
“We’ve struggled before. We have had stretches where we haven’t hit well, and during the course of the season that’s going to be the case. We haven’t hit well, and that’s all there is to it.

Moehler:
“I just didn’t feel that great. Bottom line. We’re not playing too well right now.”

But if the Astros can bring a little pleasure to Pittsburgh, I'm all for it:
Ryan Doumit:
"This is fun right now. We're playing to the level that I know this team is capable. You couldn't ask for a better game, a better atmosphere. We heard the fans the whole game."

Recap for G7 @ Pittsburgh

At some point you have to stop tipping your cap to the opposite pitcher. 24 hours after Kyle Lohse throws the best game of his career, so does Zach Duke, all 27-39 of him. Moehler again doesn't make it through the 3rd iwth 45 pitches in 2.1IP - but lowers his ERA from 37.80 to 27.00. Moehler could not keep the ball down, and the Pirates tattooed him - and anyone else wearing a red jersey who wanted to throw a ball - all over the place. And as it turns out, Moehler left with a right knee sprain.

Duke got 14 groundball outs, 8 flyball outs, and five strikeouts - three of which belonged to 1B1: Lance Berkman, who got pissed after the 2nd. Your Astros are now 7x61 (.115) since Saturday's game, and the Astros have trailed in 61 of the 63 innings in which they have played.

Moehler: 2.1IP, 7H, 4ER, 0K/1BB, 1HR. Six of the seven outs he got were fly-balls
Byrdak: 0.2IP, 1H, 1ER, 0K/2BB
Ortiz: 1IP, 1H, 1K
Sampson: 2IP, 2H, 1BB
Wright: 1IP, 1H, 1K/1BB
Geary: 0.2IP, 2H, 1ER, 1HR










PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Moehler45/2555.5%15/746.6% 1/6/0
Byrdak30/1653.3%5/240%2/0/0
Ortiz17/1058.8%4/375%2/0/1
Sampson21/1257.1%9/666.7%2/4/0
Wright18/950%5/360%0/2/1
Geary14/1071.4%5/360%2/1/0



With Pirates' 3B1 Ramon Vazquez' single in the 7th, every Pirates player had at least one hit - including Duke.

The Astros simply don't know how to hit when ahead. Duke threw 1st-pitch balls to six of the first eight Astro batters, and 15 1st-pitch balls overall. How many of those at-bats resulted in a hit? Two.

Man of the Match:
No one on the offense gets this award, so we'll give it to Chris Sampson, who only needed 21 pitches to go through 2IPs.

Goat of the Game:
Sorry, Lance. 0x4 with 3Ks.

Lineup for G7 @ Pittsburgh

Matsui
Tejada
Berkman
Lee
Pence
Michaels
Keppinger
Quintero
Moehler

This is interesting. I like Pence in the 5-Spot, but I question sitting Michael Bourn, who has arguably been the Astros' best player so far this young, crappy season.

Have a seat:
Bourn
Blum
Pudge

Matchup for G7 - Houston @ Pittsburgh

The Pirates split the season series in 2008 with the Astros at 8 games apiece. Can Moehler come back from a disastrous 1st start of the season?

Moehler's last start (For 45 minutes on Wednesday vs. Cubs):
1.2IP, 8H, 7ER, 1K:1BB



Moehler's 2008:



vs. Pit2-19.39 ERA/1.76 WHIP2 HR3K:1BB
July 9 AW6IP7H/4ER3K:1BB
July 23 HND2.1IP9H/6ER0K:0BB
Sept 20 AL1IP5H/5ER0K:0BB









Moehler vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Vazquez4x7.571/.571/.8570-21:0
McLouth6x11.545/.583/.8180-10:1
Sanchez7x13.538/.538/.6920-22:0
LaRoche8x22.364/.440/.6361-60:3
Wilson5x15.333/.375/.5330-02:1


Zach Duke

Last start (Tuesday vs St Louis):
6.1IP, 5H, 1ER, 4K:2BB, 1W

2008 splits:

vs. HOU1-12.92 ERA/1.22 WHIP1 HR3K:2BB





June 4 AW7.2IP7H/2ER2K:2BB
Sept 11 AL4.2IP6H/2ER1K:0BB









Duke vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Pence2x6.500/.500/.5000-00:0
Lee7x22.318/.333/.4090-31:1
Berkman6x20.300/.440/.3500-40:5
Bourn1x4.250/.250/.2500-00:0
Tejada1x5.200/.429/.4000-10:2
Matsui1x6.167/.167/.1670-01:0


Duke has never given up a homer to Astros batters.

Who's hot - Houston?
Jeff Keppinger: 4x7, 1HR
Geoff Blum: 6x17
Hunter Pence: 8x23, 2HR
Michael Bourn: 7x22

Who's hot - Pittsburgh?
Nyjer Morgan: 11x26
Freddy Sanchez: 9x27, 1HR
Jack Wilson: 7x22

Brian McTaggart did it to himself

Are you kidding? Inviting the Chronicle-commenting public to offer what they would do to fix the Astros? Thankfully - and this is said without a trace of sarcasm, I promise - we have an intelligent readership here at Astros County.

Here are some of the responses:

Kirk:
Fire Tal Smith!!! He's clearly been at the heart of this teams problems for a long time, yet he's not held accountable like the more public faces of the organization (the managers and GMs). He should have went the same day that Garner and TP went.

David:
If the Astros don't win more than five games in April and the offense sputters than hitting coach Sean Berry has to go. I'm simplistic, but why would you hire a hitting coach who was a mediocre hitter in his (Berry) MLB career? Wouldn't Bourn do better if the hitting coach was someone who hit over .300 in their MLB career and was one to hit to all fields?

I would definitely give Keppinger more at bats and hit in the #2 hole. Rest Tejeda and Matsui and let Keppinger get more plate apperances. The guy has been torrid offensively but he sits on the bench - only plays against LHPs.


Matt:
What should have been done at least a year ago-blow it up:
1. Drayton sell the team
2. Dump Ed Wade and get a real GM. Pay Billy Beane or one of his posse whatever it takes.
3. Dump Cecil Cooper
4. Trade Valverde, Oswalt and maybe even Berkman and reload. Dump Tejada for anyone that will eat any of his contract.
5. Play the kids you do have and find out if any of them can play.


Bric:
The overall tone of management has to change ...

Drayton is not helping the Astros cause with all of his mind-numbing chatter. He hasn't had all of marbles in one place for several years now. He needs to agree to fade into the background back in Waco, stop coming to the home games, and shut up. ENOUGH DRAYTON, SO STOP IT. His constant interference is hurting the team.

After that, fire Tal Smith and the rest of the monkeys up there. Hire a real GM like Paul dePodesta, then get the %#@* out of the way and let him do his job without interference.

Give Cecil Cooper another 25 games to find a groove. If he doesn't then send him to the showers and bring in a more experienced manager and try to salvage this mess.

Lastly, stop coddling players like Berkman, Oswalt, and Lee - it's disgusting. These guys are underperforming yet nobody upstairs seems to really mind. If these guys can't do their job let them know that THEY MUST PLAY BETTER. We need some life on this team ... maybe a little friction will light a fire.


This one's my favorite. First, the owner of a multi-million dollar company needs to agree to not come and watch his investment in person. Then get rid of the entire front office. And six games isn't enough to judge a manager, let's give him another 25 - that's fair. Then stop treating your stars like stars. Add that up....=success!

Brian Moehler cares not for your "video" analysis

Interesting note on Moehler's preparation for an upcoming start:

Good or bad, you move on, and you get ready for your next start the next day,” said Moehler, who was 2-1 with a 9.39 ERA in four 2008 starts against Pittsburgh. Moehler doesn’t study video of himself to gauge his mechanics, choosing instead to use video time to watch the players he will face.

“I think too many guys — I’m not saying our guys — look at video for the good and not the bad in situations,” he said. “I’d rather look at opposing hitters and see what their tendencies are.”


I'd rather Moehler take advantage of all legal, ethical, and for crying out loud available technology to succeed.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Minor League News

Round Rock Express
Josh Muecke: 6IP, 6H, 2ER, 3K/5BB, 3.00 ERA / 1.83 WHIP
Felipe Paulino: 5IP, 3H, 0ER, 6K/3BB, 0.00 ERA / 1.20 WHIP
Jose Capellan: 5IP, 9H, 5ER, 1K/3BB, 9.00 ERA / 2.40 WHIP

Tommy Manzella: 8x18, .444/.444/.500, 3K/0BB, 1RBI
JR Towles: 4x9, .444/.444/.889, 2K/0BB, 1HR, 1RBI
Drew Sutton: 4x12, .333/.467/.333, 2K/2BB
John Gall: 3x9, .333/.571/.333, 1K/5BB
Reggie Abercrombie: 4x12, .333/.385/.583, 4K/1BB, 1HR, 3RBI
Brian Bogusevic: 5x17, .294/.368/.471, 3K/2BB, 1HR, 3RBI

Chris Johnson was hit on the hand by a pitch, X-Rays negative

Corpus Christi
Douglas Arguello: 5IP, 3H, 1ER, 2K/3BB, 1.80 ERA/1.20 WHIP
Sergio Perez: 5IP, 1H, 1ER, 1K/3BB, 1.80 ERA/0.80 WHIP
Casey Hudspeth: 6IP, 2H, 0ER, 3K/3BB, 0.00 ERA/0.83 WHIP
Polin Trinidad: 6IP, 7H, 4ER, 6K/1BB, 6.00 ERA/1.33 WHIP

James Van Ostrand: 4x6, .667/.800/.667, 1K/3BB, 2RBI
Andrew Locke: 3x8, .375/.375/.750, 1K/0BB, 1HR, 3RBI
Jhon Florentino: 4x15, .267/.267/.467

Lexington Legends
Lyles, Seaton and Dydalewicz all got wins, leading Lexington to a 3-0 start.
Ebert Rosario: 7x11, .636/.636/1.000
Brandon Barnes: 5x10, .500/.545/.600
Albert Cartwright: 6x13, .462/.462/.692
Steve Brown: 4x9, .444/.444/.556

Lancaster JetHawks
Christopher Hicks: 5IP, 4H, 2ER, 6K/1BB, 3.60 ERA/1.00 WHIP
Shane Wolf: 4.1IP, 6H, 5ER, 4K/2BB, 2HR, 10.38 ERA/1.85 WHIP
Jeff Icenogle: 4IP, 5H, 2ER, 7K/1BB (3 HBP), 1HR, 4.50 ERA/1.50 WHIP

Koby Clemens: 3x7, .429/.556/1.000, 2K/2BB
David Flores: 5x14, .357/.438/.571, 1K/0BB
Jack Shuck (That Dog Don't Give A...): 6x18, .333/.368/.444, 2K/1BB
Jason Castro: 5x17, .294/.294/.588, 3K/0BB

That was your series: Astros @ Cardinals

Friday: 5-3L
Saturday: 11-2L
Sunday: 3-0L

Most telling stat: 4XBH, 36LOB
















AstroHxAB2B/3BHR-RBIK:BBLOB
Matsui3x130/00-12:15
Pence4x130/00-03:07
Berkman1x101/00-12:24
Lee4x100/01-10:15
Tejada0x110/00-02:08
Blum3x101/00-01:13
Pudge2x100/00-02:02
Bourn3x100/10-10:11
Smith0x10/00-11:00
Michaels0x10/00-00:10
Erstad0x10/00-01:11
Keppinger1x10/00-00:00
Total22x912/11-514:836






StaffIPH/ERK:BBERA/WHIP
Starters17IP18/1213:96.35/1.59
Relievers7IP13/54:46.43/2.43

Reactions to G6 - Houston at St. Louis

McTaggart:
At least manager Cecil Cooper didn’t have to field countless questions Sunday afternoon about his team’s ineptitude with runners in scoring position. Finding a way to get clutch hits wasn’t very high on the list of worries for the Astros.

Cooper on Lohse:
“He pitched well, but we’ve got to figure out a way to start hitting at some point. He didn’t have but 60 (pitches) or so by the sixth inning and was cruising along pretty good. We only hit probably two or three balls hard all day and that won’t get it. We need to figure out a way to score some runs and string two or three hits together. We know we’re a better offensive team than we’ve shown.”

Lee on Lohse:
“You’ve got to give credit to Lohse. He was throwing 2-0 changeups for strikes, 3-1 curveballs for strikes. When a guy feels self-confident like that on his pitches, it’s kind of tough to go out there and just attack because you never know what you’re going to get. He pitched a great game, in and out and soft and hard. You have to give credit to the pitcher sometimes.”

LaRussa on Lohse:
"He was masterful. Kyle signs a deal, and he wants to show he's going to be the same guy."

Recap for G6, Houston @ St Louis

This isn't going to go so well if the Astros post a .167 WP against the Cubs and Cardinals. But they can apparently only get something going in the 9th inning, not that it would have helped as the Astros made Kyle Lohse look like Juan Marichal in a 3-0 loss. Kaz Matsui singled on the 1st pitch in the top of the 1st, and then that was it until Michael Bourn's single in the top of the 9th. Pence singled three batters later to put runners on 1st and 2nd for Lance - the tying run - who flew out to center. Wandy pitched well, but you can't match 24 batter straight - that's what Lohse came up with. Again, the Astros had no extra-base hits.

Wandy: 6IP, 5H, 3ER, 4K/3BB
Byrdak: 1IP, 2K
Valverde: 1IP, 1H, 1K






PitcherPit/StrStrike%Batters Faced/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Wandy91/5863.7%25/18 72% 11/3/4
Byrdak11/872.7%3/3100%1/0/2
Valverde13/1076.9%3/3100% 0/2/1



Khalil Greene had three hits, and the Cards scored runs off Wandy in the two innings where they got their lead-off man on base. Lohse only needed 112 pitches to make it through the Astros batters, including a 5-pitch 4th inning that mowed down Pence-Berkman-Lee. That's flat-out unacceptable.

First-pitch strikes: 14
First-pitch balls: 12
First-pitch contact: 4

Man of the Match:
The Astros are making it hard to find someone who did well. Let's give it to the only Astro to get a hit in every game this season: Michael Bourn, who got a leadoff single in the top of the 9th to start a rally that was ended by our...

Goat of the Game:
Lance Berkman. 0x3 day drops his BA to .200 and enjoyed 3 LOBs today.

I guess that talk with Brocail didn't go so well

And just like that, the Astros bullpen gets younger by 12 years: Doug Brocail to the DL, the Astros call up Jeff Fulchino

“I was more worried about this one than when I blew out my elbow a second time,” Brocail said. “I’m a strike-thrower, and when I threw 13 straight balls (Friday) it’s not good. At least this way I can get the swelling out.”

It's Brocail's 13th stint on the 15-day DL.

Fulchino was claimed off waivers from the Royals in December, and had an outstanding Spring Training for the Astros.

UPDATE: Just heard on FSN Houston that Fulchino started yesterday's game at The Rock and left after two innings due to the possibility of his being called up.

Good article on Mark Saccomanno

Here's a good article on Mark Saccomanno in the Examiner.

Goff clearly believes Saccomanno is ready:

Despite developing into an All-Star Triple-A standout, the Astros' organization tends to overlook his consistent productivity. Last season, Saccomanno hit .297 with 27 home runs and 84 RBIs in 528 at-bats for Round Rock. He was named to the 2008 Pacific Coast League All-Star team and cracked the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth to lead the PCL to a 6-2 victory over the International League.

His statistics validate his readiness to play in the majors. Saccomanno has simply outgrown Triple-A and wants to take the next step in his career. However, the Astros' organization fails to recognize the 28-year-old Triple-A superstar as a top-notch prospect.

In a normal circumstance, Saccomanno would likely be the starting first or third baseman for the Houston Astros. Instead, he must compete with Berkman and Darin Erstad on the depth chart at first and Geoff Blum and Jeff Keppinger at third.


SS1 is probably his best chance at making the Astros in 2010. In any case, it's a fun retelling of Saccomanno's 1st-pitch HR last September.

Matchup for Game 6 - Houston at St. Louis

1:15pm today at Beck's Stadium in St. Louis as the Astros try to avoid the sweep... Forgive the spacing, I don't know what's up with the massive amounts of space between the lines - if you know, let me know.

Wandy's last start (Tuesday vs. Cubs)
6IP, 4H, 1ER, 8gb/7fb, 4K:3BB

Wandy's 2008 splits:




April1-02.31 ERA/1.11 WHIP3 HR24K:5BB
Away4-24.34 ERA/1.46WHIP7 HR 49K:22BB
vs. StL1-21.11 ERA/1.03 WHIP0 HR18K:5BB












Wandy vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Molina6x21.286/.286/.2860-3 3:0
Pujols3x18.167/.348/.1670-01:5
Ludwick3x13.231/.333/.3080-16:1
Ankiel0x9.000/.000/.0000-01:0
Greene2x8.250/.250/.3750-0 3:0
Duncan2x6.333/.429/1.0001-22:1
Schumaker2x3.667/1.000/.6670-1 0:0



Kyle Lohse

Last start (Tuesday vs Pittsburgh):
7IP, 5H, 2ER, 4K:1BB

2008 splits:




April3-02.36 ERA/1.17 WHIP0 HR14K:8BB
Home8-23.32 ERA/1.14 WHIP10 HR 66K:26BB
vs. HOU3-02.42 ERA/1.00 WHIP1 HR12K:5BB













Lohse vs.HxABBA/OBP/SLGHR-RBIK:BB
Pence7x16.438/.500/.6880-22:2
Pudge11x29.379/.400/.3790-23:1
Lee19x51.373/.429/.7254-56:4
Tejada8x24.333/.385/.3750-24:2
Blum5x15.333/.444/.6671-22:3
Berkman5x21.238/.304/.5712-54:2
Matsui3x13.231/.286/.2310-01:1
Bourn0x8.000/.000/.0000-00:1

Backe throws off mound, apparently in general direction of the catcher

Update on Brandon Backe within the Astros Notes section:

Backe threw 50 pitches off the mound yesterday, 25-30 were fastballs, and felt some soreness...

“I threw more pitches at a higher intensity this time. I’m just trying to be focused towards throwing the ball towards the catcher and not having any pain instead of worrying about location, but for the most part the location was there.”

Brocail out with inflammation in rotator cuff

Decent news for Doug Brocail, in that the MRI showed no structural damage, just inflammation and he'll be treated with medication.

Ed Wade:
“Hopefully it’s only a couple of days, but if it’s going to be longer than that we’ll have to think about making a move. We’ll sit down and talk to Doug and see how he feels, and I have a good idea how he’s going to feel.”

If Brocail hits the DL, I think you see Capellan come up from Round Rock. But I've been wrong many, many times before...

Reactions to G5 - Houston @ St. Louis

Oswalt:
“The way we’ve been scoring, instead of throwing to get around him and get to other guys, I was trying to get a double play and leave the game at 2-0 instead of maybe putting him on and making it 3-0 and try to get out of it from there. I did the same thing last year, first two games. We didn’t do well offensively and I was trying to be too fine and not give up one or two runs instead of just pitch.”

Berkman on Pujols:
“He’s the best hitter in the game. He continues to do things that are amazing. I don’t think anything he did would surprise me. If he homered in 10 straight at-bats, it wouldn’t surprise me. He’s that good.”

Wright on Pujols:
“He’s a tough out. You make good pitches and that’s all you can hope for. You can’t control whether he hits them or not. I think I made pretty decent pitches on him. The home run was a slider down and in, and he was able to get the barrel on it and get it down the left-field line.”

Pujols on Oswalt:
"That guy is just nasty. He knows how to pitch; he knows how to keep you off balance. Obviously, if you can see some other pitches he's got it can help you later on. If I'm starting an All-Star Game right now I take Oswalt from the right side. From the left side I'll take Johan Santana. They're unbelievable and so competitive. He takes the ball every fifth day. It's what I admire about him. He's not afraid to throw his pitch. He's going to challenge everybody, it doesn't matter who it is. From a short guy like that you don't think he's going to challenge you. But throwing 95 or 97, he's pretty tough."

Berkman on the offense:
“It’s frustrating whenever you keep getting guys on base and you can’t come up with any runs,” Berkman said. “It seems like we’ve done that a lot, but the good news is we’re getting guys on base against pretty tough pitching, and I think given enough chances we’re going to score runs in bunches. We just haven’t done it yet.”

Recap - Game 5, Houston @ St. Louis

An 11-2 loss in which, just when we were thinking that Pujols was a good guy, he went and did that. In the live blog yesterday, which I'm this close to retiring from after the OD Cubs loss and then that mess yesterday, Citizen Seth said after the first inning that leaving runners on 2nd and 3rd would come back to haunt us. I agreed, and then I agreed again after doing the same thing in the 2nd inning. And then leaving runners on 1st and 2nd in the 3rd. Coop can talk about not "getting the big hit" all he wants, but even a small hit would have helped. Wainwright was clearly struggling, and the Astros couldn't taken advantage. I believe the only time the Astros have led a game this season was in the 10th inning of G2 vs the Cubs.

Astros pitchers yesterday:
Oswalt: 6IP, 9H, 6ER, 4K/2BB
Wright: 1IP, 7H, 4ER, 1K
LaHawk: 1IP, 3H, 1ER, 1K




PitcherPit/StrStrike%Batters Faced/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Oswalt89/5966.3%27/18 66.7% 9/4/4
Wright28/1760.7%9/333.3%2/0/1
LaHawk26/1661.5%6/350% 2/0/1


Something I did promise we would look at was how poorly Roy fared against Molina-Thurston-Ryan, so how bad was it?: 5x7 with a sacrifice and two runs scored. 6x8 if you count the pinch-hitter Freese's AB.

Coop looked like he was going to leave Wright in all day if he had to - and who's going to blame him? No use burning your bullpen in a blowout. Wright was brought in specifically to face lefties, and he let six baserunners reach before recording his first out - including three lefties.

Matsui took himself off the basepath trying to steal on Molina, when if he just would have stayed put, it's a 1-0 game at the very least.

Offensively, we've already mentioned The Leaving of the Baserunners. But let's look at Wainwright's day just to get an idea of how shaky he was (admittedly, though, he got his crap together in the 4th and 5th - and with two outs in all innings)


PitcherPit/StrStrike%Batters Faced/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Wainwright102/6159.8%21/15 71.4% 8/2/4


Groundballs are killing this team. The Astros were 1x8 with RISP, and it wasn't until Bourn's triple in the 9th that they got their first extra-base hit. Pence got on base twice with two hits, while Berkman drew two walks.

Man of the Match:
Hard to say. No one stood out. Michael Bourn. On base twice, had the only extra-base hit, and in his 4ABs saw 26 pitches.

Goat of the Game:
It's easy to pin this on Roy, or Wesley Wright. But Roy had no help from the offense, and Wright came into an unwinnable game, anyway. Goat goes to Miguel Tejada:
0x4, 2Ks, 6LOB