Saturday, May 30, 2009

Recap for G47 - Astros @ Pirates

Mm. Not so good - for the second time around - as the Astros fell to the Pirates, 7-4, ensuring that they'll stay in 6th place in the NL Central for a little while longer. And this time, Wandy didn't even get out of the fifth inning.

Wandy: 4.2IP, 9H/5ER, 6K:3BB
Fulchino: 1.1IP, 1K:2BB
Byrdak: 1IP, 1H
Backe: 1IP, 3H/2ER, 1K

So Wandy hasn't done so well the last two starts - so hold on to your Cy Young for a little while, anyway. And while we're here, let's welcome back Backe, who threw a very public bullpen, until he gets a chance to start - most likely next week.









PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Wandy105/6763.8%25/1456%4/4/6
Fulchino28/1553.6%6/466.7%1/2/1
Byrdak10/770%3/3100%3/0/0
Backe20/1575%6/350%1/1/1
Total163/10463.8%40/2460%9/7/8



So Wandy: what the hell? That's two starts in a row in which Wandy hasn't made it out of the fifth (though the May 25 start @CIN contained no ER, this one certainly did). Wandy threw 105 pitches - and there have been five previous starts where he threw 105+ pitches, but this is the only one where he didn't make it at least six innings.

The first five Pirates saw at least first base: 1 walk, four consecutive singles, ensuring that the Astros were in a 3-0 hole before coming to bat for the second time - so let's hold off on Pudge's sainthood, for now (not to put this on Pudge, solely).

Here's the thing: eight batters came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st. Seven of them saw first-pitch strikes. Five of those batters saw a 2nd-pitch ball.

Pitch-count alert...
1st inning: 32
2nd inning: 17
3rd inning: 18
4th inning: 16
5th inning: 22

Backe's outing included 1IP, but three doubles and a wild pitch. But the game was pretty much done by that point.

Offensively, nothing really happened. Tejada got two hits - the only multi-hit of the game. Maysonet continued his "I'm better than you, Matsui" streak with one hit and two walks in 4PAs. The Astros RBI were as follows: 2 from Tejada, 1 from Berkman; 1 from Keppinger.

And it wasn't as close as it looked. Tom Gorzelanny came in for the 9th and walked Maysonet, allowed a double to Michaels, walked Bourn (at which point the injured Matt Capps came in, and...) hit Tejada - scoring Maysonet - and walked Berkman - scoring Michaels. Lee grounded out with the bases loaded, down by three.

Man of the Match:
Miguel Tejada. 2x4, and extending a hit streak to 13 games.

Goat of the Game:
Between Wandy and Carlos Lee. Wandy gave up enough runs in 4.2 that the Away Team couldn't come back. Wandy it is.
Lost my internet connection. Back ASAP. And man, did Wandy get hit hard...

Other teams gathering around the Astros. Like vultures.

Add the Phillies and White Sox to the list of teams looking for a dance partner - and may find one - in the Astros.

The Phillies are likely to lose Brett Myers for the season to hip surgery and, according to Smiley Rosenthal, are looking for "an impact pitcher." Erik Bedard of the Mariners, and Roy are speculated upon by Rosenthal as potential matches. And remember, Easy Eddie looooves trading with the Phillies.

And, should you prefer not trading Roy within the League, the White Sox are apparently scouting the Astros. Remember the White Sox had a deal in place to send four players to the Padres for Jake Peavy. Peavy turned them down, so like a middle school dance, maybe the Sox will ask the best friend out:

Special assistant Bill Scherrer is following Houston, which is in last place in the American League Central.

The Sox weren't afraid to take on $63 million if Peavy had accepted a trade. Roy Oswalt, Houston's marquee pitcher, will earn $45 million from 2009-2011, plus a $16 million club option/$2 million buyout.


We'll give the Tribune the benefit of the doubt and assume they meant "last place in the National League Central, but the economics are there. Remember the fallen-through Jon Garland trade? I blame that episode squarely as what led to Pettitte's departure, Andy got his feewings huwt.

Meat Wagon updates

Valverde joined the Astros in Pittsburgh to rehab under trainer Nate Lucero's guidance. He'll play catch and run around a little bit at PNC Park...

“Next week I’m going to throw bullpens and then live batting practice. Then the week after that I’ll go to Round Rock or Double-A. That’s what I’m expecting. As I sat in my house, I was bored. I think it was too much for me. I’m a guy who wants to compete every time. When I see my team play, I want to be there. It doesn’t matter if I’m pitching or not.”

And Geary! Geary threw some BP, as well.

"I threw about 35-40 pitches. I started off good. Toward the middle I started getting tired and then I finished off strong. I felt like I was throwing the ball good."

And down in Oswaltbach, Texas, ain't nobody feelin' no pain:

"I feel pretty good", says Oswalt.

Reactions to G46 - Astros @ Pirates

Moehler, to Maysonet before the game:
"You starting tonight? Well, make sure you don’t screw it up.”

Maysonet:
“I thought he was just trying to give me confidence. When (Moehler) did that it helped me relax. I felt well today. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to play today and I felt good. First of all, I didn’t think the ball was going to go out on the home run. I hit it well. But because it’s a big park I didn’t think it was going out. When I saw it go, it was very emotional for me because we needed runs and that also was my first home run.”

Pirates' Brandon Moss, on Moehler:
“I know it’s easy to look at this game and say, ‘Hey, how can a guy with an ERA over eight shut you down like that?’ But he pitched a hell of a game. He was throwing four pitches for strikes, and everything was down and on the corners. I had a nine-pitch at-bat, and I couldn’t handle any of the nine pitches.”

Hey buddy, his ERA is now over six, thank you very much.

Moehler:
“We got (Thursday) off just to clear our minds, and everybody got a break. We came out today and we swung the bat and we played good defense. That’s more rewarding than anything."

Matsui to DL; Get ready to see more Maysonet

Who says there's no natural selection in baseball? Within the Chronicle's G46 recap, Kaz Matsui was placed on the DL with a strained right hamstring.

And with that, Matt Kata is now your IF5, his contract being purchased from Round Rock. I imagine this is because the Astros will need someone to share some starts with Keppinger. Maysonet is locked in at 2nd for the time being.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Recap for G46 - Astros @ Pirates

That was...unexpected. Who would have thought the first complete game of the season would come from Brian Moehler? Not I.

Moehler and Edwin Maysonet (Kaz who?) combined to beat the Pirates by themselves, 6-1.

On to the thing:

Moehler: 9IP, 7H/1ER, 4K:2BB

So I'll tell you who was able to get up for some competition with Backe's impending return. How did he do it?





PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Moehler123/8569.1%35/2777.1%11/12/4



Some breakdowns, if you will:
Of Moehler's 27 outs:
4 strikeouts
11 groundball outs
12 flyball outs
1x4 with RISP
20 first-pitch strikes
8 first-pitch balls
Only got to 2-0 twice
7 first-pitch swinging (1x7)
31 non-contact strikes
6 swinging strikes
25 strike-gazing

And here's the thing - it could have been worse. Pudge struck out swinging - on a baaaad pitch - with the bases loaded to end the first inning. But let's hear it for Edwin Maysonet! 4x4 with his first career home run, first two career doubles, two runs scored, and four RBI. The 6-7-8 triumvirate of Pudge, Keppinger, Maysonet were a combined 8x13 with 5RBI and five runs scored.

One thing that I did not appreciate were the three outs made on the basepaths. Bourn getting thrown out in a rundown at 2nd in the 2nd inning; Tejada pulling a Mays-Hayes in the top of the 3rd to get nailed at 2nd base on Berkman's flyout; and Hunter Pence getting thrown out at home in the 6th on Keppinger's single to left. Of course, the very next batter, Maysonet doubles, scoring Pudge and Keppinger (and what would have been Pence).

But enough negative stuff. Moehler had his first complete game since August 19, 2000 vs Baltimore (the one before that? July 13, 2000 vs Houston - go fig). Maysonet had the most significant start by an Astros rookie since Towles had 85 RBI in one game vs the Cardinals. Berkman and Bourn were both 2x5. Tejada extended his hit streak to 12 games. For one game, life is good.

Man of the Match:
As well - and unexpectedly so - as Moehler did, it has to go to Maysonet.

Goat of the Game:
Tell you what. Everyone, save Moehler, got a hit. No Goat today.
Philles-Astros 1980 NLCS Extra-inning game on the MLB Network Saturday at 12:30pm ET

Matchup for G46 - Astros @ Pirates

The Astros come in to this game reeling a little bit (to put it nicely). They're 9-20 vs NL Central teams, 2-8 in their last ten games, and have lost seven straight games. Who's here to stop it? How about Brian Moehler? The Astros were at Pittsburgh from April 13-16, and went 2-1.

Moehler

Moehler had done pretty well in three starts since returning from the DL, but then it all exploded for him against the Rangers on May 23 - allowing six extra-base hits to 22 batters. The last time Moehler faced the Pirates was the first game of the Pirates series, and the last game before going on the DL, allowing 5ER in 2.1IP.

Last three starts:






Date-OppIPH/ERK:BBGB/FBPit/Str
5/9 vSD75/16:19/1091/58
5/17 @CHC55/34:22/15106/65
5/23 vTEX59/64:07/1268/50


Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 26x51, .510/.519/.863, 8K:0BB
vs Lefties: 16x64, .250/.333/.391, 12K:7BB

When swinging at the first pitch (18): .688/.706/1.250, 5XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (60): .286/.322/.464, 10K:2BB
After First-Pitch Balls (49): .349/.417/.535, 7K:5BB

RISP: 15x40, .375/.419/.525, 6K:3BB
Runners on: 23x57, .404/.460/.614, 10K:5BB
2OwRISP: 4x17, .235/.316/.235, 3K:2BB

One refreshing stat:
With 2 outs: 5x29, .172/.314/.207, 7K:4BB

Ross Ohlendorf

Ohlendorf has had a pretty decent season so far, and is coming off his longest outing of 2009. 5-4 with a 4.20 ERA, Ohlendorf has a decision in all nine of his starts. Ohlendorf pitched against the Astros on April 15, but had the misfortune of running into Hampton's One Great Start of 2009, losing 4-1 in a five inning effort. We'll get to that in a minute.

Last three starts:






Date-OppIPH/ERK:BBGB/FBPit/Str
5/13 vStL62/15:07/788/59
5/18 @WSH56/51:35/1391/51
5/23 @CHW7.26/34:211/14114/71


Against the Astros on 4/15 (minus the pitcher's spot)?

Bourn: Walk, Strikeout swinging, flyout to left
Tejada: Infield single, single to third, double to right
Berkman: Single to left, double to right, groundout to 2B
Lee: Sac fly, double to right, strikeout swinging
Pence: Sac fly, single to left, groundout to third
Blum: Pop 2B, Pop 2B
Pudge: Lineout to third, GIDP
Keppinger: Double to left, Flyout to left

1st PA: 3x5, 1BB, 2SF
2nd PA: 4x7
3rd PA: 1x5

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 24x110, .218/.258/.409, 17K:3BB
vs Lefties: 25x91, .275/.350/.473, 10K:11BB

When swinging at the first pitch (36): .382/.417/.882, 8XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (93): .238/.264/.393, 18K:3BB
After First-Pitch Balls (96): .193/.292/.301, 9K:11BB

RISP: 9x39, .231/.320/.436, 4K:5BB
Runners on: 17x66, .258/.329/.485, 5K:6BB
2OwRISP: 2x16, .125/.263/.313, 3K:3BB

Newark Bears: Preferable to Houston Astros?

So it seems.

Jon Heyman's column has a fairly lengthy section on The Troubles Facing Cecil Cooper.

Regard:
One competing GM remarked, "This could be a record for the quickest firing after a contract is extended."

Astros higher-ups are now declining to provide a public vote of confidence to Cooper, creating the impression that Cooper could be canned. And if he is, that would be a shame.

Some people believe the real problem is not Cooper but general manager Ed Wade, who is said to be a frequent and negative presence in Houston's clubhouse, frequently talking tough while impressing few. Wade is viewed as a meddler who puts everyone in a defensive mode, including Cooper, who has no choice but to play along. "Being a new manager, Cooper tried to go along with it," one person close to Cooper said. "It's not Coop's fault."

Shawn Chacon was banished from the team, and ostensibly from the majors, for pushing down Wade last year, but privately his inappropriate actions were cheered by some other players. Poor Chacon is trying to resurrect his career with the Newark Bears, but he's probably happy to be out of the unhealthy atmosphere in Houston.


Whoa. So if you believe every media report you read, (and why wouldn't you?) Drayton is a moron. Wade is a meddler. Cooper can't communicate. Berkman is pissy. Roy can't find it in himself to actually compete for the Astros.

Good times.

The trouble with Lancaster's pitching

I get it. The California League is very much a hitter's league. That said, other pitchers do their thing in that League. Let's look at the JetHawks' pitching and rankings...

Wins - 14 (10th, or "Last")
Losses - 33 (10th)
ERA - 6.06 (10th, by almost a run per game)
Saves - 7 (10th)
Hits - 551 (10th, by 91 hits)
Earned Runs - 280 (10th, by 45ER)
Home Runs - 51 (10th)
Walks - 142 (4th)
Strikeouts - 327 (10th)
WHIP - 1.67 (10th)

Bright Spots:
Leandro Cespedes: 17IP, 18H/3ER, 15K:7BB, 1.59 ERA / 1.47 WHIP
Bryan Hallberg: 30.1IP, 27H/10ER, 19K:14BB, 2.97 ERA / 1.35 WHIP
Jordan Powell: 30.2IP, 38H/12ER, 19K:3BB, 3.52 ERA / 1.34 WHIP

Nice little article on Maysonet

...From the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"Like last year, it kind of shocked me because I wasn't expecting it. When you're not expecting it, it's like 'whoa!' Then I called my family and told them. I got real happy."

Coop:
"He's a guy that can play anywhere, and he's not going to hurt you. Pretty good defensive player ... and he's shown this last year that he can handle the bat a little bit better. He made a lot of improvements in his swing."

YotD: May 28

Round Rock
Jeremy Johnson scattered three hits across six scoreless innings as the Express took it to Salt Lake. Round Rock got multi-hit games from Brian Bogusevic, Tommy Manzella, Chris Johnson, and Matt Kata - who also had 3RBI.

Corpus
Arkansas got two runs in the top of the 8th to beat the Hooks 3-2 at Whataburger Field. Pitcher Brad James rebounded from that brutal game vs. Midland to throw 6IP with 3H/1ER. Drew Locke was 3x4 (now hitting .361) and Wladimir Sutil got a two-run single for the Hooks' scoring.

Lancaster
The JetHawks got 11 runs on 14 hits against Rancho Cucamonga last night in an 11-3 win. Nick Moresi was 3x4 while Eric Suttle, Jon Gaston, Jason Castro, and David Flores all had two hits each. Gaston hit his 12th HR of the season.

Lexington
Off last night.

Parish School Night at Minute Maid Park



(Click it - it gets bigger)

Log on to www.astros.com/parish and use the password "parish" to buy tickets. $2 from every ticket sold for the June 6 game vs. Pittsburgh will benefit The Parish School.

Attendance update

The series with the Texas Rangers drew more fans for a three-game series than any other series this season.

Opening series vs. Cubs: 104,995 fans (approximately 245,000 of those were Cubs fans).

vs. Rangers: 108,785 fans

Thursday, May 28, 2009

There it is. The Vote of Confidence.

"Firing the manager is not in the cards."

So I guess Run-DMc got back to JJO, because he then went on to say:

He's only been the manager for a year and a half. I think that's somewhat premature (to discuss firing Cooper). We believe in Cecil. We played great in the second half last year with Cecil. We just need to come together as a team and say our mission is to win. Hopefully we'll start winning in Pittsburgh.""

Coop says:
"I think I'm doing everything I can, changing the lineup, moving people around. That's all you can do. You change the lineup. You try to motivate them every day. That's all you can do."

I'll go one more and say that maybe communicating to your veterans is in there with "all you can do." That said, I'm still in favor of retaining Cooper, if only for the future of the organization. If Coop is not the manager after 2010, so be it. You still play Matsui, when injuries allow, because he's under contract.

We harp on football coaches - that's you, Bobby Petrino - for changing teams with no regard for the integrity of the organization. Things get tough, things get investigated by the NCAA, you leave. That's college sports. That's the NFL. I like to think that baseball is the only sport with every contract guaranteed because baseball is still played by men of their word. We're offended by Pete Rose - for whom there's still an Off-Day Argument, by the by - because he messed with The Integrity. PED users dishonor the memory of the game. We know the names of Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson because those are the guys who Played The Game Right. We know what the number 56 means. We know 714, 755, and now grudgingly, 762. We know what .406 stands for. Baseball is about honor and integrity. To fire a manager six weeks after hiring him for eighteen months beyond that does not show integrity, and reflects poorly on a poorly-run organization.

That can change by honoring a commitment to Cecil Cooper.

That Tejada...he knows chicks

"It all started when I had the breakup with my serious girlfriend," Pence said of his conversation with Tejada this spring. "He came up to me and said, 'you don't need to go out. You need to find a good girl and make sure you lay low and be careful with all that stuff that can happen off the field being single.'

Baseball America would like to add one thing about that Jordan Lyles

In an article reviewing the 2008 June Draft, Baseball America looked at the picks from Supplemental First Round through the Third Round who have stood out in 2009. Jordan Lyles is #2...

Lyles didn’t rank among the top 200 prospects for the 2008 draft, but the Astros had enough conviction in Lyles to take him off the board with the 38th pick. Now Lyles, 19, is building a case as one of the better pitching prospects in A-ball. In 48 2/3 innings with low Class A Lexington, Lyles has 56 strikeouts (10.4 K/9) and 11 walks (2.0 BB/9) with a 3.14 ERA. Lyles is a good athlete with a repeatable delivery, allowing him to throw strikes and miss bats with his low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup.

McLane is, again, not swayed by what Roy Oswalt wants or does not want

From Jayson Stark's Rumblings and Grumblings column today:

Here's a tale we've heard a couple of different times, from people tight with Oswalt: The Astros ace has lobbied on multiple occasions with owner Drayton McLane to get his club to make a run at Peavy. But that conversation is said to have ended when McLane turned to Oswalt and asked: "Are you gonna pay for half the contract?"

And further on down...

There are still no indications that the Astros are open to dealing Roy Oswalt, according to teams that have felt them out. But scouts who have watched Oswalt lately think he's pitching like a guy who needs a change of scene.

"It's time," said one scout. "The way he's going, I'm actually convinced that team could win more games with the pitchers they get back than they'll win with him pitching the way he's pitching. He's lost his edge. I really think that if he went to a more competitive club, he'd come back to a more competitive plateau himself. He's just not pitching with the kind of commitment a No. 1 starter has to his team."


I find it interesting that a couple of teams have "felt the Astros out" about it.

2.25%. Take it or leave it.

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds gives the Astros a 2.25% chance of making the playoffs this year.

The Astros have won games at a 46.6% clip this season, and BP says it'll take 90 wins to win the National League Wild Card this year. As you can see, we've been keeping track of the winning percentage needed to fulfill Coop's prognostication that 90 wins would come before the end of the season for the Astros. It'll take winning out at a 61.5% rate to hit it.

Only one team has a winning percentage above 60%, and that's the Dodgers - their 33-15 record (1-2 vs the Astros, thank you very much) is good for a .688 percentage.

Can it happen?

Off Day. Not much to report? No problem! Let's create some news!

So it goes at the Chronicle...

JJO's blog says not to expect to hear a vote of confidence out of Wade (although a contract for 2010 is a pretty binding vote of confidence, if you ask me) for Coop...

The Astros have lost seven in a row, and it's clear he has lost a great portion of his clubhouse's support and with some players even their respect. One player even told me "It's going to be Coop or me soon. Just watch."

But hey, if you're looking for someone to blame for 2009, and the rotation is just too darn likable, listen to this, from Fearless Leader Ed Wade:

"We all have to take responsibility for where we are. I don't think anybody can step out of the glare at this time. We have to recognize that we're all accountable and responsible. I take full accountability for this. I'm responsible."

Good enough? Not for JJO!

I'm going to call bull on that one. Listen folks, Wade inherited a mess. Has he been perfect? No. But he needs time to fix the organization from the farm system up.

Seriously, though, it's going to be at least a few more years before Wade fixes this mess. The Astros' farm system took a terrible fall under Tim Purpura.


There it is. Blame the last guy. Easy. Indefensible.

Minor League Notes

A minor-league transaction of note from yesterday:

Hooks infielder Jhon Florentino was placed on the DL, while Chad Spann was assigned to Corpus from Round Rock

BA vs. OBP vs. SLG

Ryan makes a good point. So let's take a gander at where our fair hitters fall in the OBP/SLG leaderboard...

Hunter Pence
3rd BA - .352
21st SLG - .515
10th OBP - .423

Tejada
5th BA - .346
19th SLG - .519
30th OBP - .369

Carlos Lee
18th BA - .316
18th SLG - .523
40th OBP - .358

Off-Day Argument #5

Here's one.

It's widely assumed (by me) that Joe Torre will go into the Hall of Fame as a manager, not as a 3rd baseman (though 2300+ hits, 252 HRs, 1185 RBI and a lifetime .297 average, 9 All-Star appearances - when being an All-Star was impressive - and 1971 MVP award is impressive).

So.

Should Pete Rose go in to the Hall of Fame as a player, and not a manager?

(Note: Pete is on the Ineligible List. Only the Commissioner can take him off. Even if 100% of the BBWAA voting members voted for Pete, he wouldn't be allowed in the HOF. This is a Commissioner's decision, not a HOF decision.)

YotD: May 27

Round Rock
Jose Capellan dropped his record to 1-7 on the season, allowing 7ER in 4IP (with 3WPs and 4BBs), and the Express couldn't overcome the deficit. Tommy Manzella, Chris Johnson, and Jason Smith (!) all had multi-hit games.

Corpus Christi
Arkansas absolutely shut Corpus down, giving up just three hits in a 4-1 win. Mark Ori, Brian Esposito, and Mitch Einertson got the three hits - Esposito's homer accounting for the run. Douglas Arguello went 8.2 innings, and was pulled after an Arkansas 3-run HR.

Lancaster
The JetHawks made a valiant run at it, scoring four in the 7th and two in the 8th, but fell short in a 7-6 loss to Rancho Cucamonga. Jason Castro was 2x4 with two doubles and 2RBI. Eric Suttle provided a two-out, two-RBI single, as well.

Lexington
Robert Bono threw 6IP of earned run-less baseball with 5K:1BB and lowered his ERA to 1.98 in a 3-1 win over Savannah. Michael Diaz, Andrew Simunic and Ronald Ramirez had two hits each.

Gordon Edes picks a dance partner for the Astros

Yahoo's Gordon Edes shakes down some trade candidates, and of course, a team with a $100m+ payroll that is 8.5 back by the end of May is mentioned. That would be us, if you're wondering...

The Tampa Bay Rays, who just placed closer Troy Percival on the disabled list and are anticipating his retirement after one too many injuries, need a closer. The early returns on Jason Isringhausen are not promising. One scout said that Isringhausen could possibly help as a middle reliever, but his days as an elite closer are history.

A logical trading partner for Tampa Bay would be the Astros because Jose Valverde is a year away from free agency, but that’s assuming Astros owner Drayton McLane would commence on a long-overdue rebuilding plan. Houston would probably ask for Wade Davis, Tampa Bay’s best pitching prospect after David Price.

Make room, make room.

I didn't see that coming. Well, I did, kind of. We mentioned on Saturday about sending Wright down to get himself worked out. Which is exactly what happened.

So it looks like, at least for this turn in the rotation, Backe will pitch out of the bullpen, and Paulino's job is safe - for now.

Says Backe:
“Wherever it is, bullpen or starter, it doesn’t matter. I think my teammates know that more than anything”

Says Wright:
"You can kind of see the writing on the wall. I was kind of the last guy on the totem pole in the bullpen. I've been around enough, not at this level, but enough to know what the next move is. It's always disappointing, but I've got to do whatever I can to get back. That's the main focus right now."

-

And Oswalt offered up a glimpse of what took place after getting a chopper to the fingers, and sorta vindicates his bosses...

“(Pitching coach) Dewey (Robinson) came up and said, ‘How you feel?’ I said, ‘It’s kind of numb right now. Let me wait until the sting comes out to decide.’ I went down in the tunnel and threw some balls. I felt like I could go back out there. I told them I wanted to go back out there. It ain’t like they sent me back out there and my arm was hurting. ... I was trying to get through some innings because I knew the bullpen’s been used.”

-

Reactions to G45 - Astros @ Reds

Coop, on the day off:
“At this point in time it probably is what we need. We’ve had a rough stretch here in the last eight to 10 days. We probably do need a break to get away from it and kind of refresh ourselves a little bit. Hopefully we come with some energy and a little bit better focus and come Friday with a sense of urgency.”

Paulino:
“I feel really great now. The only matter for me (is that) I’m healthy and I know I can throw my pitches like I want. What happened today, that happens. Just two pitches, two home runs. There’s nothing I can do.”

Coop, on Paulino:
“I thought he did OK. Just a couple of mistakes. I thought he did a pretty good job...I just thought he pitched pretty good. I was encouraged in what I saw.”

Coop, on whether or not the Astros have any energy:
"When guys pitch well against you, it's going to look that way. If you don't go out and throw up zeros and they pitch well against you, you're going to look like you're flat and like you're not a very good team."

No one is talking. And that's not so good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Justice brings it hard

Now Cecil Cooper is publicly calling out Roy Oswalt, and the wheels have pretty much come off. There were errors on Monday and baserunning mistakes on Tuesday. In between, Cooper called a team meeting that did absolutely nothing.

His players seem to have little respect for him, and whatever he says is irrelevant. I don't know if it's his oddball strategic decisions or how he uses the bullpen or his personality.

There was a team meeting last year in which some veteran players believe Cooper wasn't honest. He laid down a new policy about players staying out of the clubhouse during batting practice, and when challenged, he said it was GM Ed Wade's idea. It wasn't.


I thought what Coop said about Roy was on odd quote. I really did. But I didn't want to make too much of it.

But let's read it again, in the context through which Mr. Justice sends it:

When a manager calls out a star the way Cooper did Tuesday, players take note. They begin to think the manager supports them only as long as they're doing great. When things go south, the manager won't be there.

"You have to ask Roy." Cooper said. "I have no idea. Ask Roy."

Then Cooper refers to the lost leads and says: "... we let two leads slip away there. We just need him to step up to be who he's supposed to be."

Is he telling the truth? Sure he is.

Is he doing himself any favors in the clubhouse or with Oswalt? No, he's not.


And he doesn't seem to be in favor of retaining Cooper:

There may be some tweaking from the minor leagues, but not a single guy at that level is really pushing for a place in the big leagues. There's so much wrong with the Astros that the only thing Wade can do is sit on his hands and hope that his spring decisions end up being better than they look at the moment.

However, the last couple of days seem to have made a growing problem worse. Mental mistakes, baserunning mistakes and errors are inexcusable. Fixing those things is a must, and if it takes a new manager to refocus the clubhouse, so be it.

It's gut-wrenching to advocate firing someone, especially when it's obvious that many others are way more responsible for creating this mess. Will changing managers suddenly fix the bullpen, get Berkman and Oswalt straightened out and make the Astros respectable? Of course not. But it's at least worth discussing.


Look, a Reds fan told me the same thing we discussed here - if Cooper gets fired six weeks after getting an extension - no one is going to want to manage here, unless we're talking about another first-time manager.

Recap for G45 - Astros @ Reds

Just your average, everyday 2h08m tail-whoopin' by the Reds. The Astros lost 6-1, and were swept in a three-game series at Cincinnati for the first time since September 2000.

Bronson Arroyo threw a complete game, allowing just six baseunners in nine innings, and the Reds scored four of their six runs on homers - one by Jerry Hairston Jr and two by Jay Bruce.

Let's just do the thing:

Paulino: 6IP, 7H/4ER, 4K:0BB
Arias: 1IP, 2H/0ER, 2K:0BB
Sampson: 1IP, 2H/1ER, 1K:1BB

Did Paulino do enough to stave off Backe? Probably not. But is he the only one deserving a little trip to the Hill Country to remember how to do his thing? Absolutely not.








PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Paulino84/5970.2%25/1872%7/7/4
Arias19/1578.9%5/360%0/1/2
Sampson27/1659.3%6/350%2/0/1
Total130/9069.2%36/2466.7%9/8/7



Paulino gave up all three homers while Quintero erred on a throw, leading to an unearned run. Notice the 46 pitches it took to get Arias and Sampson through two innings of relief work? Bronson Arroyo needed 92 pitches to get through all nine innings. Paulino actually got six of the first seven batters he faced, but Bruce's two homers both came on the first pitch of the ABs.

The Astros offense, as usual (lately), wasn't worth a whole lot. Tejada got a liner up the third base line to extend his hit streak to 11 games. Maysonet was 0x3 in his third game at 2nd base, while Keppinger was 1x3. Nobody had more than one hit, and the Dark Jerseys got their only run on a Lance Berkman sac fly, that scored Bourn in the first inning. The Astros got sat down nine in a row at one point.

Just a brutal series for the Astros. Hopefully a day off will clear some heads, we'll see if there are any moves made tomorrow before the series in Pittsburgh.

Man of the Match:
How about Michael Bourn? 1x3, only run of the game, stolen base, and a walk.

Goat of the Game:
Who's to say. How about Carlos Lee? 0x4 with a groundout, line out, line out, groundout. Goes a couple of feet either way and maybe he's 2x4. But he didn't.

Astros County has ears everywhere

Deputy Jason heard tell on a radio interview with Coop today that...

1) Kaz will play less when/if he gets healthy - Keppinger will get more starts

2) Changes in the rotation are on their way. Does that mean Backe/Norris/Bazardo (who was lights out last night)? Stay tuned.

Minor League Transactions

Hey! We got some transactions to report over the last few days!

Round Rock
May 24:
Activated Tyler Lumsden

Lancaster
May 27:
Released Chris Minaker

This is something of a question mark for me. His line was .319/.350/.416 with 9XBH in 31 games for Lancaster at 2B this season.

Lexington

May 24:
Jose Trinidad placed on 7-Day DL
Steve Brown activated from 7-Day DL
Ricardo Bonfante placed on 7-Day DL
Brad Dydalewicz activated from 7-Day DL
Kirkland Rivers called up from Tri-City ValleyCats
Russell Dixon sent down to Greeneville Astros

YotD: May 26

Only two games in the Astros farm system last night. Let's get to it:

Round Rock
The Express spotted Yorman Bazardo six runs in the first two innings as Bazardo threw 8IP, allowing 3H/0ER with 6K:1BB against Salt Lake last night. 75 of his 112 pitches were for strikes, while Yordany Ramirez - hitting 8th - was the only Expresser (Expressite? Express?) to not get a hit. Saccomanno, Johnson, and Abercrombie each contributed 2RBI to the cause in an 8-1 win. Brian Bogusevic had three hits, while Manzella, Towles, Gall, Abercrombie and Johnson had two hits each.

Lexington
Ross Seaton (5IP) and Henry Villar (4IP) combined for a 4-1 win over Savannah, striking out seven and walking none. Lexington hitters got five doubles while Michael Diaz knocked in two runs.

The Bud Norris bandwagon is getting crowded

This time, a nice little scouting report from ESPN:

Bud Norris, SP, Astros: Norris, a 24-year-old who was drafted in the sixth round in 2006, put himself on my radar screen with a dazzling effort as a reliever in the 2008 Arizona Fall League, showing a three-pitch mix that one front-office NL executive told me "was the best stuff I've seen from a reliever at the AFL in the last five years."

Norris, a 6-foot right-hander whose stocky build has him being compared to Ben Sheets, has tree trunks for legs and good arm action. He has been a starter virtually his entire pro career, including 19 outings at Double-A last year, where he posted a 4.05 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 80 innings even though he missed two months of the season with an elbow injury. But working in relief in the AFL, he dialed up his fastball to 95-97 mph, and also showed a high-80s slider with short, late break and a mid-80s changeup that flashed plus at times, dropping off the table.

He's working as a starter at Triple-A Round Rock this season, and has posted a 2.55 ERA in nine starts, with 54 strikeouts in 53 innings, although he also has walked 29 batters. I took a trip to Sacramento last week to watch him against the A's farm club, eager to see what he looked like when he wasn't working in one-inning stints.

As a starter, Norris' fastball has been dialed down to 91-94 mph, and he can work it on both sides of the plate. Though he still had that short strike-zone bite on his 85-88 mph slider, he had trouble throwing it for strikes. He again flashed good changeups in the 81-84 mph range, but he loses the feel for it at times and leaves it up.

Norris is aggressive but tends to rush his delivery. He needs to repeat it better, as his lack of command at this juncture of his career is exposed more as a starter. He also needs to throw more strikes, as he has been running up his pitch counts early in games. However, the command is a bigger concern than the control at this point. He needs more "pitchability" and feel.

The bottom line is I still like Norris more as a potential shutdown closer in the ninth than as a starter, although he certainly has gotten results in the starting rotation thus far. Norris has nasty stuff, with great movement on his secondary pitches, but his command of them still has a way to go. His live arm is certainly one to watch.

Keith Law posts 1st round mock draft

ESPN's Keith Law has posted his first round mock draft today. Where do the Astros fit in?

21. Houston Astros
Chad James, lhp, Yukon HS, Yukon, Okla.: Their two major prep pitching signings from last year are off to good starts in pro ball, which doesn't hurt any argument to take a guy like James, even if he ends up signing for more than slot.


More about Chad James (which, should the Astros select him, would be fun keeping straight from Brad James):
James is a four-pitch lefty with two above-average pitches (watch scouting video) in his fastball and curve. His fastball will touch 95 mph and he sits 89-92 deep into starts, while his sharp mid-70s curveball has good depth and some angle to it. He works primarily with those two pitches but does have a slider that's somewhat flat and a show-me changeup. He has an excellent pitcher's frame and a clean delivery with just a little recoil at the end. In the windup, he can rush off the rubber and could see a little more velocity if he stays vertical longer before striding to the plate, although this is less of an issue for him out of the stretch. As a good-bodied lefty with velocity and a good delivery, he's not likely to get out of the first round.

If Miguel Tejada hits .380 but no one notices, does it still happen?

Because .380 is exactly what Miggs is hitting so far this month. He has a 10-game hitting streak. In those ten games, Tejada...

-Is 19x41 with five doubles and three homers.
-Has a line of .463/.476/.805
-Has raised his batting average 34 points
-Has raised his slugging percentage 81 points
-Has 2+ hits in six games

Meanwhile, at Surprising Statistics Station, Hunter Pence ranks 3rd (.352), Tejada 7th (.348) and Carlos Lee 15th (.324) on the NL batting average leaderboard.

Matchup for G45 - Astros at Reds

Game Three of this series in which the Astros try to avoid getting swept in consecutive series for the first time since June 2008 when they were swept at home by the Yankees and on the road at Baltimore.

This might be the last start we see from Felipe Paulino. Backe is eligible to come off the DL and will be pitching this week. Fulchino has shown himself to be at least reliable in the bullpen - something that Paulino was unable to do (and what we have discussed, at length, was a stupid decision).

Paulino

Good news for Paulino is that what may have been his finest two outings came against Cincinnati.

Against Cincinnati:




IPH/ERK:BBERA/WHIP
11.29/19:40.77/1.11


Against Everyone Else:




IPH/ERK:BBERA/WHIP
23.241/2616:145.32/2.32


I did some looking, and last year Roy induced more fly balls than ground balls in 13 of his 32 starts. So far this season, Roy has had more FBs than GBs in five of his ten starts, including each of his last four.

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 26x77, .338/.420/.455, 10K:9BB
vs Lefties: 17x47, .362/.455/.596, 12K:7BB

When swinging at the first pitch (17): .467/.500/.933, 4XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (63): .404/.452/.509, 10K:4BB
After First-Pitch Balls (67): .250/.400/.385, 12K:12BB

RISP: 19x41, .463/.542/.561, 9K:6BB
Runners on: 24x64, .375/.467/.484, 14K:9BB
2OwRISP: 11x19, .579/.636/.632, 4K:3BB

Brutal.

How are these Reds doing against Paulino this season?











RedHxABXBH-RBIK:BB
Nix4x52-11:0
Gonzalez2x40-01:0
Taveras2x40-00:2
Bruce0x30-01:0
Hairston0x30-01:0
Hernandez0x50-01:0
Phillips0x30-00:0
Bruce0x60-01:0


Bronson Arroyo

Arroyo has made five starts in May. Two were great, one was good, one was alright, and one was really. Bad. He's pitched 31 innings in May, and given up 18 ER, though to be fair, nine of those earned runs were against Milwaukee in one inning on May 6. So take that out, and Arroyo has looked pretty good.

He did pitch against the Astros - and got the win - on April 20 when Geary was going through his turmoil. What happened there?

7IP, 9H/3ER, 2K:0BB, 2HR - to Berkman and Lee, back to back in the 6th - though Astros hitters were 4x7 leading off the inning.

Last three starts:






Date-OppIPH/ERK:BBGB/FBPit/Str
5/11 @ ARI710/55:010/16123/81
5/17 @SD76/34:46/17119/70
5/22 vCLE85/12:215/9105/61


Arroyo has lowered his ERA from 7.02 to 5.79 in his last two starts.

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 30x108, .278/.361/.556, 14K:12BB
vs Lefties: 32x106, .302/.359/.462, 15K:9BB

When swinging at the first pitch (27): .231/.231/.385, 2XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (110): .283/.309/.453, 22K:2BB
After First-Pitch Balls (104): .317/.447/.622, 7K:19BB

RISP: 16x49, .327/.393/.673, 7K:6BB
Runners on: 24x90, .267/.356/.478, 10K:11BB
2OwRISP: 10x26, .385/.484/.769, 4K:5BB

USA Today says we may be able to start getting excited about Bud Norris

Jeremy Deloney and Ron Shandler's look at some prospects around the league, mainly for teams who don't have much to be excited about...

Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt are mainstays in the Houston Astros starting pitching staff, but there are opportunities at the tail end of the rotation. RHP Bud Norris is arguably their top prospect. At Class AAA Round Rock he was 1-3 with a 2.72 ERA in eight starts. He's experiencing control problems, a pitfall seen in years past. But Norris can be overpowering with a mid-90s fastball that induces ground balls. His slider can also be a plus pitch at times. An upgrade to his changeup would enhance his prospect status.

I got June 8. What date do you have for Bud Norris' Astros 09 debut?

Houston Press at it again: Berkman, Lee, Tejada "don't care about winning"

Back at it, I say! Regard:

There's no word from the clubhouse over whether Cooper's crappy managing was discussed, but according to the Chron, one veteran player implored his teammates to stop trashing Cooper in the media. Jose de Jesus Ortiz won't name this player -- not until he's talked to him -- but I'm thinking it's either Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, or Lance Berkman, primarily because I don't really think any of them care much about actually winning.

Cooper's Team Meeting; Blum to DL?

According to multiple players, Cooper used the meeting to discuss the team's poor play lately.

Multiple players also told the Houston Chronicle that a veteran player also used the meeting to implore teammates not to air their disdain for Cooper in the media.


Well, that seems like it's about a month too late, which could be an appropriate reflection of what the 09 season holds for the Astros...

And don't expect to see Geoff Geary back any time soon:
"I threw I think 25 pitches. I didn't blow it out. I threw the ball pretty hard. I had one particular pitch that I felt pain and it took me a second or two to kind of let the pain go away."

Added Cecil Cooper: "It could be a little bit longer that I thought."


And Geoff Blum knows how to say the right things about his hamstring:
"It's (the DL) an option. I don't want to do anything that's going to hurt this ballclub. I want to play. I want to win. I want to help. I don't want to be a hindrance. If this thing proves to be a hindrance and going on the DL is an option to help this club I'll have to cross the proverbial bridge when I get there."

Reactions to G44 - Astros @ Reds

So Roy bruised his hand in the fifth trying to stop a chopper up the middle. Did that affect his sixth inning?

Coop:
“You have to ask Roy,” Cooper said. “I have no idea. Ask Roy. You have to ask him. I don’t know. You have to ask him. Maybe it was his hand from the inning before. With your (ace) on the mound, you figure if you don’t have it you got a pretty good chance of getting it. And we let two leads slip away there. We just need him to step up to be who he’s supposed to be.”

Roy:
“I lost feeling in my hand in the sixth inning. The first two guys swung at some balls (in the sixth). That’s the only reason I got them out. If they had (taken the pitches) right there, I probably would have walked more that inning. They got a good team over there. There’s some young guys that can play. It’s not like you’re going to come in here and roll over them."

Byrdak:
“There’s no excuses. Down the middle. It was down. I didn’t quite get it out far enough. I probably paid maybe a little too much attention to Hairston over there at first. I tried to slide step, and I didn’t get the ball over the outside part of the plate.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recap for G44 - Astros @ Reds

Hm. Brutal 6-4 loss to the Reds in which the Astros led the game 3-2 and 4-3 before giving up the final three runs of the game.. There are certain things you can count on. One of those things was Roy dominating the Reds. Now you can't even count on that. It's a bleak day. You have to go back five starts to August 7, 2008 to total four earned runs that Roy gave up to the Reds.

Let's just do the thing:

Roy: 6IP, 7H/4ER, 5K:2BB
Byrdak: 1IP, 1H/2ER, 2K:1BB
LaHawk: 1IP

We had mentioned the tendency of the leadoff hitter to get hits, and the problem of the sixth inning. So let's see both:
Leadoff hitters: 2x6, 1HR
Sixth inning: 2x5, 2BB, 1HBP
When swinging at the first pitch: 2x4, sac bunt








PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Roy94/6164.9%28/1864.3%6/7/5
Byrdak22/1150%5/360%1/0/2
LaHawk9/777.8%3/3100%1/2/0
Total125/7963.2%36/2466.7%8/9/7



Let's give it up to Edwin Maysonet, hitting .286 after going 2x4 tonight with an RBI single scoring Carlos Lee to put the Astros up 3-2. Just want to point it out: apparently the PTBNL for Keppinger was between Maysonet and Sutton. Obviously Maysonet made it to the Majors quicker (though the team circumstances a'twixt the Reds and the Astros are different). Are you still upset about trading Sutton? And speaking of the Player to be Named Now, Jeff Keppinger hit his second homer of the season, off his old team to lead off the 6th, giving the Astros a 4-3 lead.

Berkman was 1x3 on the night with two walks. Came up to bat with a runner on, down by two, one out...and the walk-off drought continues. Tejada continued his torrid pace with another three hits, and is now hitting .348.

Man of the Match:
What the heck, huh? Edwin Maysonet! First two hits of the season, one of them a lead-inducing single.

Goat of the Game:
Tim Byrdak. 2-run homer to Votto isn't anything to be ashamed of, but someone (other than Sampson, LaHawk, and occasionally Fulchino) is going to have to step up and prove that the bullpen is worth something.

Backe cleared!

Let's hear it for Brandon Backe, cleared of all charges stemming from a bar fight at the San Luis Resort after a wedding (Best. Reception. Ever.)

City officials said the bride's brother, Cole OBalle, tried to bring a drink from elsewhere into the bar. An officer at the scene reportedly denied him entry, and a brawl broke out.

OBalle and his father were both Tasered, and police also used pepper spray. Cole OBalle was rushed by Life Flight to a hospital in Houston and later released. Backe and three others were charged with interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest. They were cleared of all charges on Tuesday.

Post #1000! Matchup for G44 - Astros @ Reds

This is the #1000th post of Astros County. Let's get a win, huh?

So remember from May 8-14 when the Astros won five out of six to pull within two games of .500? Yeah, they've gone ahead and followed that up with winning two of their last nine to fall seven games below .500 - worst of the season so far (and it could get worse).

Lucky for us, Roy pitches tonight against the Reds. Unlucky for Roy, the Astros can't score any runs for him. Against the Reds this season, Roy has allowed 1ER in 13IP - and has two no decisions...

Roy

Roy comes in at 1-2 on the season with a 4.47 ERA. Good news though - since the shortened game at Atlanta, Roy has had 20+ non-contact strikes in each game.

Last three starts:






Date-OppIPH/ERK:BBGB/FBPit/Str
5/10 vSD66/44:25/14104/68
5/16 @CHC66/37:06/12108/72
5/21 vMIL6.110/37:19/12106/77


I did some looking, and last year Roy induced more fly balls than ground balls in 13 of his 32 starts. So far this season, Roy has had more FBs than GBs in five of his ten starts, including each of his last four.

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 32x118, .271/.326/.500, 20K:9BB
vs Lefties: 29x99, .293/.333/.455, 22K:6BB

When swinging at the first pitch (32): .433/.433/.833, 6XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (126): .244/.272/.361, 26K:4BB
After First-Pitch Balls (79): .279/.380/.529, 16K:11BB

RISP: 7x37, .189/.279/.297, 9K:5BB
Bases Empty: 40x128, .313/.358/.484, 26K:8BB
Runners on: 21x89, .236/.289/.472, 16K:7BB
2OwRISP: 2x16, .125/.222/.125, 5K:2BB

Roy hasn't pitched through seven innings a lot this season, and that might have something to do with his 6th innings. Check it out:
17x39, .436/.488/.897, 8XBH (5HR)

How are these Reds doing against Roy this season?










RedHxABXBH-RBIK:BB
Gonzalez3x50-01:0
Dickerson2x50-01:0
Votto2x60-10:0
Bruce1x50-01:1
Phillips1x51-01:1
Hernandez0x30-00:2
Taveras0x50-00:1


Micah Owings

Designated Hitter Micah Owings takes the mound for the Reds today, and is one inconsistent due lately (though, to be fair, who ain't?).

Last three appearances:






Date-OppIPH/ERK:BBGB/FBPit/Str
5/12 @ARI74/14:27/1390/53
5/16 @SD5.23/15:33/1281/44
5/21 vPHI36/53:35/671/41


That May 16 was the 16 inning game against the Padres. Wouldn't you know it, the Reds didn't score any runs in those 5.2IP Owings provided in relief, and the one run he gave up was the walk-off jack.

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: 18x94, .191/.276/.340, 18K:9BB
vs Lefties: 27x75, .360/.432/.507, 9K:11BB

When swinging at the first pitch (23): .273/.304/.409, 1XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (94): .270/.298/.449, 22K:3BB
After First-Pitch Balls (76): .259/.421/.362, 5K:17BB

RISP: 11x38, .289/.356/.342, 7K:4BB
Runners on: 21x69, .304/.390/.391, 12K:10BB
2OwRISP: 3x16, .188/.316/.250, 4K:3BB

Tejada: Player of the Week

Congrats to Miguel Tejada, who may be able to use the hardware to fix the hole in his glove.

Interview with Jeff Lasky

The Lancaster JetHawks are the Astros High-A farm team in the California League. For the last few years, Lancaster was the Red Sox' California League team. That changed for 2009 when the Astros changed their affiliation.

Jeff Lasky has been with the JetHawks for what is now his 4th season. As the Director of Broadcasting / Media Relations, Jeff has an everyday perspective on the Astros' prospects. Let's get to it:

AC: What differences have you noticed - if any - from the way the Red Sox handled their High-A team to the Astros' approach?

JL: There are some simple strategy things that are different. The Red Sox were a more patient team, grinding out more at bats, taking more pitches, trying to get into the bullpen that way. I think the Astros are a more aggressive team, looking to swing. The Astros run a lot more, although that may be the product of having so much speed on this team. We only had one player in two years with Boston steal 10 bases, and J.B. Shuck has already topped that. Because of the depth from the big league to the lower level of the minors, the Red Sox could afford to be very conservative in promoting players. The Astros are trying to be more aggressive in their promotions as they seek to fill out the system.

AC: Who do you come to the park excited to see play every day?

JL: I think Shuck is a lot of fun to watch. He handles the bat well with his ability to drive the ball the other way and bunt for hits. And he’s been very successful stealing bases. When he was here I would have said Chia-Jen Lo, as well.

AC: What is life like for a player in Lancaster, California?

JL: In most places there is so much of a grind that players don’t really get out and about all that much around town. Life consists of trying to get some sleep, going to work out, grabbing some lunch and maybe a nap, then heading to the ballpark. The Antelope Valley itself is a pretty quiet community and there aren’t a whole of lot extra-curriculars. But because we are in Los Angeles County, on off-days the players are close enough to be able to take advantage of all that L.A. offers, such as the beaches in Malibu, visits to Hollywood and Santa Monica, etc. I haven’t looked to see if the Astros come to Dodger Stadium in conjunction with an off-day, but it happened once with the Red Sox in Anaheim and a big group of players and staff went to the game.

AC: One of the signings we Astros fans were excited about this off-season was Chia-Jen Lo, what you can you tell us about him?

JL: Lo is the first big signing out of Taiwan for the Astros and he looks like a good one. He has a fastball that dominated at this level at 93 MPH or so with some movement and very good command. At this level with a fastball that good and command like that, you can get away with relying on it. At the higher levels, he’s going to have to establish his secondary pitches. We had a player here last year with Boston named Richie Lentz who through 94-96, but they forced him to throw a lot of sliders just to get feel with the pitch since they knew his fastball wouldn’t be enough once he moved up.

AC: How is Jason Castro handling his first season of professional baseball?

JL: Castro has done a very nice job in his first full-season. There is still a long way to go, of course, but what I have liked offensively is his consistency. He’s only had one mini-slump and has been pretty reliably hit around .275 this year. He’s got a handful of homers, but also a lot of doubles. He’s walked a little more as the season has gone on. He drives the ball well to the gaps. He’s been fabulous defensively. Blocks balls well and he is tops in the league by gunning out around 60% of base stealers. There is no doubt that teams are running less with him back there. It’s tough for me to judge pitch-calling, of course. That’s a big aspect of being a catcher that is tough to get a good feel for unless you’re on the team as a pitcher or coach.

Thanks Jeff, and hey! Only three more years until we can get see these guys in Astros uniforms!

Tom Verducci has something nice to say

Credit Deputy Jason with coining a term now in national use:

Wandy Rodriguez entered this season as the definition of a nondescript pitcher: 37-40 after 111 major league games and a 4.79 ERA. Now he is a Cy Young contender with a 1.71 ERA who makes left-handers look sick. Nobody throws more curveballs than Magic Wandy, perhaps because there's not a better curve in the game right now.

Must be Tuesday! Ken Rosenthal hammers the Astros...

Column from Fox Sports' Smiley Rosenthal today in which the leadoff snippet has to do with how (a) The Astros suck, (b) so does their farm system, (c) so it's time to start selling:

Much as owner Drayton McLane hates to concede, he needs to understand that A) his team is going nowhere and B) his farm system ranks last in the majors, according to Baseball America.

Trading closer Jose Valverde, shortstop Miguel Tejada and catcher Ivan Rodriguez would be a start. But Oswalt — even a declining Oswalt — could bring the most significant return.

Oswalt, like Jake Peavy and Astros teammates Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, has a full no-trade clause. He is earning $14 million this season, $15 million next season and $16 million in 2011. But given the thin states of both the summer trade market and 2009-10 free-agent market, he still would be attractive to contenders.


And that bastard "One NL Scout" has this to say about Roy:
"Every great pitcher has two careers. He hasn't come up with really good secondary stuff to carry him to his next career phase when he loses his fastball. He hasn't lost his fastball, but it's nowhere near as effective. He has lost some movement."

What say you?

YotD: May 25

Round Rock

The Express beat Salt Lake 4-2 as Bud Norris threw 6IP, allowing 4H/1ER with 5K:3BB for the win (ERA: 2.55). Tommy Manzella was 3x4 while Bogusevic and Johnson got two hits each.

Corpus Christi

Midland put 10 up on the Hooks (with 3 in the first and 6 in the 5th) to win 10-7 yesterday. Van Ostrand hit a 3-run shot and Josh Flores went 3x3. Pitcher Casey Hudspeth gave up 7ER in 4IP.

Lancaster

High Desert scored two runs in the top of the 9th to top the JetHawks 12-11. Even though Lancaster had a 7-1 lead after the first inning. Jon Gaston hit his 11th homer of the season while David Flores and Koby Clemens both had multi-hit games for Lancaster.

Lexington

Lexington got a two-run double from Brian Pellegrini, and then settled in to beat Savannah 2-1. Brad Dydalewicz threw 5IP, giving up 1H/0ER, to lower his ERA to 0.38.

On ridding ourselves of Coop

Much has been made of Coop's recent struggles, strategies, and woes in general. He's been called out for his tactics. His leadership. His communication skills. His demeanor in general. But the Astros should think twice about firing Coop any time soon, if at all.

One of the issues that has been brought up here numerous times is: If you're going to fire Coop, who would replace him? The list has been various and sundry - Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter, Jose Cruz, Brad Ausmus (though Ausmus wouldn't be available until 2010, as he's under contract with the Dodgers and I doubt the Dodgers would let their backup catcher out of his contract to manage another National League team).

But there's something else. When the Astros exercised Cooper's option for 2010 on April 19, they locked themselves in. Managers - especially veteran managers - like job security. If six weeks, or even six months, after extending Cooper's contract through 2010, Wade and McLane go back on their extension and fire him, what self-respecting manager is going to want to come to Houston?

Certainly not one the Astros would want in the clubhouse. Cooper, for better or worse, should be able to manage out this season - it's not like he was given the '55 Dodgers, in the first place. He has made some questionable decisions, and it doesn't seem as though his approval rating is very high, but injuries and inconsistency have hurt this team much more than Cooper has.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Pudge feels a Pop

So Pudge left in the first inning of today's miserable, depression-starting loss to the Reds, on a play in which Adam Rosales scored...

“I just felt a little pop in my left knee. I could have continued playing, but (Cecil) Cooper didn’t want to take any chances. But I’m good. I got some treatment already. For sure I’ll be playing tomorrow. I just got caught in the wrong place. I went down and my knee was in the wrong way. I went to tag him and my left knee got stuck. I felt a little pop on the inside of my left knee in the back.”

Maysonet knows himself some job security

So what would have happened if Quintero had gone down, after Pudge's 1st inning exit? Edwin Maysonet would have happened:

"I've caught bullpens in spring training and Triple-A. The only thing I'd have problems with is that I don't know the pitchers and what pitches they like to throw. I need to know the pitchers. Dewey told me to start catching a few bullpens so I can get used to it, because one never knows what will happen."

-

Geoff Geary threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session today, and though he is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, who knows whether he will?

"We'll see what the angle does to the old arm. There's always a chance to come off. I don't know yet. We have to go day-to-day. You can't jump in the last day of a DL stint."

I'm assuming the chance to come off is the DL, not his arm coming off.

Reactions to G43 - Astros @ Reds

Who was the culprit?

Coop:
“Defense was pretty much the culprit today,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “We didn’t catch the ball. We didn’t make plays. We had an opportunity to bail Wandy (Rodriguez) out, and we didn’t bail him out early. And late, we had a chance to bail the other guy (Alberto Arias) out and didn’t do it there. You can’t gift runs to other people and expect to win. The defense was the biggest culprit today.”

Who?

Tejada:
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us right now."

I'm not sure that anyone actually feels sorry for the Astros, anyway.

Tejada, on his leadoff booter:
“That’s a ball that we go in the hole and we have to get it perfect, especially when you’ve got a guy like Taveras running. I booted it a little bit. It is my (fault). I know I don’t want to make an error, but this is part of the game.”

Wandy, on his approach:
“I didn’t throw a lot inside today, and I missed a lot of my location.”

Cincinnati's Jonny Gomes:
"Fun day, long day. We ran out a good nine today. It was just good baseball all the way around. We did a good job with our situational hitting. We didn't leave a whole lot of runners out there."

Recap for G43 - Astros @ Reds

Eight unearned runs. Eight unearned runs? In an 8-5 loss? After Berkman's homer gets the Astros a 2-0 lead? Two errors from Miggs (in the first inning on a grounder and a poor attempt at a catch!) and one from Quintero (throw)? How does that happen?

Let's just do the thing:

Wandy: 4IP, 10H/0ER (6 runs), 3K:2BB
Arias: 1IP, 1H/0ER (2 runs), 3BB
Fulchino: 2IP, 1H, 5K
Byrdak: 1IP, 1H

Wandy lowered his ERA to 1.71, thanks to the 0 earned runs. Notice Fulchino's 5Ks in 2IP, and notice Coop giving Sampson an extra day off.









PitcherPit/StrStrike%BF/OutsEfficiency%GB/FB/K
Wandy78/4861.5%24/1250%3/5/3
Arias27/1244.4%8/337.5%2/1/0
Fulchino40/2870%7/685.7%1/0/5
Byrdak12/758.3%4/375%0/3/0
Total157/9560.5%43/2455.8%6/9/8



A 2:03 rain delay held the game off, hence Wandy's departure after four innings, but this was just a sloppy, sloppy game. I'm encouraged by a couple of things: Fulchino's 5Ks. And 3-4-5 going 7x14. Berkman was 2x5, Lee 2x5, and Pence 3x4. Pudge left in the 1st with a sprained knee (this patchwork experiment is unraveling...), and Quintero came in and made an error leading to three unearned runs.

Man of the Match:
Lance Berkman. 2-run homer gave the Astros the spark to start it off...

Goat of the Game:
...And Miguel Tejada killed it. Two errors in the first inning put the Astros in a 5-2 hole by the end of the first. And he left 5LOBs.
I was in the middle of an epic post about Cecil Cooper and his remaining employed by the Astros. Then my internet went out. More later, hopefully by first pitch

Richard Justice takes aim at Hampton

Ooooh, this was a Sunday column, too.

And it starts like this:
To believe in Mike Hampton at this point is to take a giant leap of faith.

Coop:
“Right now, I’m kind of at a loss. I don’t know exactly what to do. I would think that he’d probably continue to get the ball. We’ve just got to make some kind of adjustments with him. We can’t just lay it on Mike. From a starting staff standpoint, we haven’t done a very good job. We haven’t done a good job in the bullpen. Some of the excuses will be that we haven’t had the guys we need to have in there. You guys know where that’s at.”

Justice takes a different turn on Hampton's lack of pitching. Whereas my thought was "at least he'll be rested," Justice says:
Hampton teases the Astros with a decent inning here and there, but he has been unable to put a string of quality starts together. For the Astros, the ques-tion is a larger one. Because he’s 36 and has pitched so little the last four years, there are questions about what he’s still capable of.

So here's how the Hampton signing happened, according to the column, which is less than complimentary:

Ed Wade wanted to resign Wolf.
Had Wolf taken Wade's offer, Wade would have had to trade Valverde.
Wade preferred a first-rate closer than a #2-3 starter.
Wade pulled the offer to Wolf.
Wade signed Hampton on the cheap, gambling he'd stay healthy.

That part paid off - Hampton hasn't been injured, save for the Soap Dispenser Massacre of 2009. But he's been erratic. And let's be honest, Wade isn't one to publicly admit mistakes. Bourn was run out there for OD09 because not to would admit that maybe the Lidge trade wasn't such a good idea. That one - so far - has paid off.

To release Hampton would indicate the same thing, so when Backe comes off the DL this week, expect him to take Paulino's place, not Hampton's. Hampton will get chances to prove he was a good signing all the way to September.

Meat Wagon doubles back; Blum strains hamstring; Backe

So Blum will be out "two or three days" with a strained left hamstring.

“In my third at-bat when I took that swing, I felt it. It bit pretty good, and it hurts."

-

And now Backe is eligible to return. Where? Who knows.

Coop:
"He’s going to pitch somewhere on this road trip, I don’t know exactly when or where. We’ve got to determine that, whether it’s in the bullpen or whether it’s starting, we’ve got to figure that out."

Zach Levine added that Coop was leaning toward a rotation spot.

Ed Wade:
“We just need to see what our needs are and where he fits in.”

-

Jose Valverde is coming along in his rehab after his second opinion confirmed the first opinion.

Ed Wade:
“The discomfort that he had was just part of the healing process. We expect him to start running here in the next couple of days. We’re still probably weeks away from him being able to pitch in a game at the big league level.”

Hopefully "weeks away" means "before the trade deadline."

About Sunday, May 24

Yeah, so, moving in and all, meant that yesterday was a no-posting day - the first in a very long while. Back on track - mostly - today. We'll see how this "getting an internet signal from somewhere else" works out.