Saturday, September 5, 2009

Time off

I'm on a break. It's not you, it's me. Back soon.

Quick Recap for G134 - Phillies at Astros

You could have given me 43 guesses for tonight's score, and I would not have come up with 7-0. Okay, maybe I would have, but it wouldn't be the Astros on the winning end.

Man of the Match: Really? Wandy. 7IP, 7H/0ER, 7K:0BB. 82 of his 111 pitches for strikes. And a two-run double.

Goat of the Game: I'm in a good mood, what with the holiday weekend, and all. Everyone got a hit and nobody gave up a run. No goat.

Happy Anniversary, J.R. Richard!

It was September 5, 1971 that J.R. Richard dominated the Giants in his major-league debut, striking out 15 batters.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Poll!

"Clemens' kid" has a first name, it turns out.

And it's not "Roger's son," either. Captip to Kevin for the link to a rundown on Minor Leaguers experiencing a breakout season:

Koby Clemens has always received a certain degree of attention -- the inevitable result of being Roger's son. But this year marked the first in which he made a name for himself above and beyond his famous father. His 119 RBIs aren't just the most in the California League -- they're the most in all of Minor League Baseball. And with five games left in the season, Clemens has an outside shot at the batting title as well. His .345 average is just three points behind Alex Liddi, the league leader.

Check the comments on the story for all the asinine you can handle.

Lineup for G134 - Phillies @ Astros

Lineup for tonight's opener against the Phillies:

Bourn CF
Matsui 2B
Berkman 1B
Lee LF
Tejada SS
Pence RF
Keppinger 3B
Quintero C
Wandy P

Matchup for G134 - Philles @ Astros

We're awfully late in the season to see a team for the first time, but that's exactly what we have here as the Phillies come to town for a four-game set, and the matchups really couldn't be less favorable. To be fair, the Phillies' rotation is mostly disgusting anyway.

The Phillies come into this series 77-54 with an 8.5 game lead over the Braves and Marlins. They just finished a three-game series with the Giants, winning two of them, in which Pedro beat Lincecum last night in a 2-1 pitchers duel. Their last road trip saw them go 4-3, actually losing a three-game series at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Oh yeah, and they 41-23 on the road. That's gross.

Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy hasn't faced the Phillies since September 2006, but he is neck-and-neck with Michael Bourn for Team MVP. That said, he has a two game losing streak for the third time this season (May 25 @ CIN / May 30 @ PIT; 7/27 @ CHC / 8/1 @ STL - though he allowed 2ER in 11IP in those Cubs/Cards games and took the loss in both.

Last three starts:

8/20 vFLA84/07:210/10103/70
8/25 @StL73/16:18/1093/64
8/30 @ARI67/47:38/9109/65

Wandy's on a three-game streak of striking out 6+ batters.

2009 at home: 7-2, 1.73 ERA/1.00 WHIP, 83IP, 72K:21BB

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: .255/.323/.415, 120K:48BB
vs Lefties: .190/.244/.278, 35K:9BB

When swinging at the first pitch (65): .308/.308/.508, 7XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (361): .198/.235/.275, 111K:15BB
After First-Pitch Balls (268): .288/.404/.523, 44K:42BB

RISP: 32x132, .242/.318/.364, 30K:14BB
Runners on: 60x238, .252/.330/.357, 49K:25BB
2OwRISP: 16x66, .242/.351/.394, 16K:9BB

Here's something disgusting: In Wandy's wins (12 of 'em), his ERA is 0.72. In no decisions, his ERA is 2.83. In losses, his ERA is 7.14. Translation: when he loses, he loses big.

Clifton Phifer Lee

Ah hell. Cliff Lee is doing a Sabathia, and is killing the NL. In six starts with Philadelphia, Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA / 0.89 WHIP. With 44K:6BB. Six walks! In 45 innings. Six! His Hits/9 is 6.8 - three H/9 lower than what it was in Cleveland. And his K/9 ratio is 8.8 - 2.5 higher than what it was in Cleveland. This could either be a great game, or it could be absolutely terrible.

Last three appearances:

8/19 vARI92/111:08/11106/81
8/24 @NYM76/25:010/11113/83
8/29 vATL510/65:07/1393/64

2009 road: 7-3, 2.67 ERA/1.15 WHIP, 101IP, 70K:20BB

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: .276/.314/.391, 117K:34BB
vs Lefties: .242/.261/.314, 34K:5BB

When swinging at the first pitch (93): .207/.200/.333, 7XBH (2HR)
After First-Pitch Strikes (434): .254/.279/.375, 103K:11BB
After First-Pitch Balls (288): .298/.362/.373, 48K:28BB

RISP: 35x155, .226/.267/.335, 31K:12BB
Runners on: 72x329, .219/.255/.304, 73K:18BB
2OwRISP: 16x77, .208/.274/.260, 13K:7BB

Astros "do nothing," still contend

This one baffles me. Jon Heyman's latest column on how the NL is benefiting from AL "rejects."

LaTroy Hawkins is yet another example of a complete turnaround. Released by the Yankees last year, he has been lights out with the Astros this year. His ERA in New York was 5.71; with Houston it was 0.43 last year and 2.05 this year.

Since the leagues draw talent from the same amateur and professional pools, it seems odd that one league would be so dominant. Theories abound, ranging from the DH in the American League to differing styles (the sac bunt is all but dead in the AL) to the high payrolls of the Yankees and Red Sox to increased competition based on trying to keep up with the teams at the top (usually those two juggernauts in the AL East).

"You can do nothing like the Houston Astros and still compete every season in the NL," one AL executive pointed out.

Heyman fairly points out the Astros aren't exactly in the mix this year, but, come on...

Round Rock ain't hurting for attendance

In fact, the Express rank 6th in all of Triple-A, drawing 589,612 through 68 home dates in 2009. That's 2nd in the PCL, behind Sacramento.

One of the most bizarre emails I've ever received

Not just for Astros County. I mean, ever. I have to reprint it in its entirety. Even union guys are getting all Sabermetric:

Friday September 4, 2009

Contacts: Eric Sharfstein, Workers United / Jason Oringer, Workers United,

Superstitious Fans Wonder: Is Ballpark Concessionaire Aramark bad for Baseball teams?

Baseball teams in stadiums that use concessionaire Aramark fall short of expected performance, get caught stealing more, and have fewer home runs than teams that don’t use Aramark

New York - As playoff races heat up across Major League Baseball, superstitious fans and statisticians may want to include one more factor when trying to guess which team will come out on top: What concessionaire is selling hot dogs at the ballpark? According to a look at the numbers by Workers United, baseball teams with home stadiums that use Aramark to sell beer, hotdogs and other ballpark snacks, get caught stealing bases more, hit fewer home runs and have worse “luck”.

“I’ve always heard that Wade Boggs used to eat chicken before each game for good luck,” said Brian Callaci, researcher with Workers United. “Perhaps luck-obsessed players today should look into which company is selling chicken to fans at their ballpark.”

The experts at track a statistic called Pythagorean Win-Loss, the expected win-loss record based on the number of runs scored and allowed by the team. They also track Pythagorean Luck, the difference between the actual win-loss and the Pythagorean win-loss. A lucky team is a team with a Pythagorean Luck score higher than 0. That means the team wins more games than it should based the number of runs it scores and gives up. An unlucky team is a team with a Pythagorean Luck score lower than 0. That, of course, means that the team wins fewer games than it should based on the number of runs it scores and gives up.

In a comparison between teams with home stadiums that use Aramark and teams with home stadiums that do not, Workers United found that non-Aramark teams’ average luck is .40 and Aramark teams’ average luck is -1.93.

The teams whose ballparks use Aramark are: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics,Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins.

Although several of these teams have a good shot at getting to the playoffs, their luck has been down.

To check out the data, go to:

No Luck at Work

“We don’t know that Aramark causes bad luck,” said Callaci. “But we do think that Aramark workers are unlucky to have an employer that is so cavalier about violating workers’ rights.”

At baseball stadiums and other job sites across the country, Aramark is violating the law and disregarding workers’ rights. For example, food service employees at Fenway Park in Boston won a $1.5 million dollar settlement of a class action lawsuit this July that accused Aramark of pocketing their tips and service charges. Elsewhere, Aramark is unlawfully withholding workers’ union dues at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and Coors Field in Colorado.

"I am a loyal fan of the Rockies,” said Michael Johnson, who is a food service worker at Coors Field in Colorado and a Workers United member. “I sure hope the bad luck we've had with Aramark keeping our dues and not recognizing our officers and staff doesn't rub off. I want the Rockies to make it to the playoffs again AND I want to be able to see my union rep in the building again."

Eddie's Farm: September 3

Last weekend of the season for everyone in the minor-league system, and then they'll all go home, and having learned a lesson from Ed Wade about "rewards."

Round Rock
Albuquerque got a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th for a 5-4 win over Round Rock. Reggie Abercrombie and Lou Santangelo had three hits each - Santangelo connecting on his 4th homer of the year. Chris Johnson was 2x4, and the other three RBI came from Johnson, Saccomanno, and Yordany. Billy Sadler threw 2.2IP, 4H/2ER, 3K:1BB as he continues to tune-up for his call-up after Monday. Capellan threw 5.1IP, 5H/1ER, 2K:1BB, and Daigle took his 3rd loss of the season, giving up the game-winner in 0.2IP.

Frisco got two runs in the 6th, providing the margin for a 3-2 win over Corpus. Collin DeLome and Mark Ori were both 2x4, with DeLome and Moresi getting the RBIs. Doug Arguello threw 3IP, 2H/1ER, 3K:1BB, while Weatherby took the loss, allowing the two runs on 4H, 4K:3BB in 4IP.

A 6-run first certainly helps, and the JetHawks used it to pace their way to a 14-8 win over High Desert. Steve Brown was 3x5 with 2HR/3RBI, 3 runs scored. The JetHawks also got multi-hit games from Shuck (2x4), Rosario (2x5), Gaston (2x4, 3-run homer), Weston (2x5, 1HR/3RBI), and Cabral (2x5, RBI). Tom Fairchild threw 5.2IP, 8H/7ER, 4K:2BB, and four homers allowed - but still got the win. Jose Duran and Pat Urckfitz threw 3.1IP, 2H/1ER, 6K:0BB to shut the High Desert offense down.

The Legends gave up three in the 6th and two in the 7th in a 6-4 loss to Asheville. Albert Cartwright, Jay Austin, and Chris Jackson had two hits each. David Duncan threw 5.2IP, 6H/4R (2ER), 5K:0BB, and Michael Hacker threw 0.2IP, 1H/2R (0ER), 0K:2BB. Yep, a two-run loss, and three unearned runs on two errors (Duncan, Pellegrini).

And that's a 4-2 win over Vermont. Erik Castro and Rene Garcia had two hits each, J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer, and Barry Butera and Nick Stanley provided the other RBI. Four pitchers were used - Robby Donovan threw 5IP, 7H/1ER, 1K:2BB, and it only got hairy for Mike Schurz, who threw 1IP, 4H/1ER, 1K. Dan Sarisky had 3Ks in his 2IP, and MacDonald got his 7th save of the season.

J.B. MacDonald likes playing baseball

Profile on J.B. MacDonald, Tri-City closer and NYPL All-Star:

"It was a great honor, and the [New York-Penn] league had a lot for us to do over the two-day event. I was one of 10 pitchers selected as an all-star, and I was able to pitch two-thirds of an inning retiring both batters that I faced on just three pitches — one on a liner and one on a grounder to shortstop. I feel pretty good and pretty confident right now."

So what will happen this off-season?
Macdonald should be back in town sometime after the Sept. 6 finale. He has no plans to play fall or winter ball; he just wants to relax for a while and rest up, so that he’ll be fresh for spring training next February.

“I’m certainly happy with the way things have been going so far,” he said.

JVO off to Europe

Hooks standout Jimmy Van Ostrand is off to Europe, as he'll be playing with Team Canada at the IBAF Baseball World Cup, which begins next Wednesday in Stockholm, Sweden.

We'll be taking a gander at the World Cup every day, because of JVO and Jason Castro's involvement.

Bourn produces, Lidge falters, and Ed Wade fervently thanks The Sweet Lord

In the off-day profile, JJO sets his sights on the Bourn/Lidge trade.

“Both clubs clearly helped themselves in a significant manner. Philadelphia, all they need to do is rerun the tape of the parade down Broad Street to see the impact Brad Lidge made. And for us, to be able to add a top-of-the-order bat and a Gold Glove center fielder met our expectations as well.”

Coop, on Bourn:
“Michael's been playing great. I think I said this a couple months ago, he's probably the MVP of our team. He's been great. Defensively he's been great. Stealing bases, he leads the league. He's just been outstanding. This last streak, this one he (was) on has been particularly good for him.”

And Bourn drops some perspective on Philadelphia:
“They're way ahead of where we're at now. They're almost in the playoffs and we're on the back side of it and hoping for a miracle. That's not a big deal to me. It's good to have a good season going to play against them, but there are bigger things I'd rather be accomplishing than that...

...I'm happy with the way things have gone, but I want to do it when we're competing for a top spot in the division, a top spot in the wild card. That makes it more special. It's good to accomplish the things I've accomplished. It's an individual game, but it's also a team game. You want to win. And it makes everything more fun when you're winning and things are going good. It will be exciting, but I wish we were competing with them. That's what would make it even more exciting. We're going to try to give them a battle."

Astros decide to go ahead and call somebody up

And that somebody, the first actual September Call-Up (as opposed to a Well-timed DL Activation), is J.R. Towles
We also read in that link that The Troof (Bud Norris) is scheduled to start Sunday vs. Philadelphia.

Justice: Run-DMc out of ideas?

Column from Justice today saying that it would have made perfect sense for Run-DMc to fire Coop yesterday, what with nothing to play for, but still needing fans to come to the park.

If the 2005 National League pennant stands as McLane's finest hour, his inability to understand Hunsicker's value to the franchise is his biggest mistake.

What should he do now? We might agree Cooper hasn't done a good job, that he's not a good major league manager and that he's probably never going to be a good major league manager.

He doesn't have the trust or respect of his players, and his strategic decisions can be baffling. So when McLane finally fires Cooper, it'll be impossible to argue it was a bad decision.

On the other hand, how fair would it be to fire Cooper while the architects of this team — McLane, Wade and Tal Smith — remain in charge?

Does firing Cooper and some of his coaches fix what's wrong with this franchise? Of course not. Cooper isn't the guy who put this team together. He's not the guy who invested too much money in position players and too little in pitching.

Wade threw so much money at Miguel Tejada and Kaz Matsui that he had nothing left for the starting rotation. By the time he got around to doing something about the pitching last winter, the economy was in free fall and McLane was in no mood to spend...

...McLane has said and done all the right things about realizing the importance of rebuilding the minor league system. Whether he has the patience to stay the course remains to be seen.

I don't think there's any way Tal Smith gets fired, nor Ed Wade, who has taken steps to rebuild the franchise. He did this in Philadelphia, rebuilt through drafts and risky trades. Problem for Ed - and it may be his problem here - is that his long-term decisions tend to pan out better than his short-term ones, and he isn't around long enough to see it through.

But Coop...I don't know how you can justify keeping him. He may be the scapegoat, but he hasn't made a case for returning in 2010.

Interesting development on the managerial front

Scott Miller is saying "the name to watch" is Bobby Valentine, who is leaving Chiba Lotte after seven seasons. (Miller also refers to Coop as "a goner.")

He's linked to Washington here, but:
"Whichever teams have an opening, they'd be silly not to seriously consider Valentine, who has a history of turning around poor teams and winning."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Astros County's Employees of the Year: Greeneville Branch

And as the Appalachian League drew to a close this week, it's time for Astros County to hand out some hardware of its own.

Position Player of the Year
Hard to give it to anyone but 2B Jose Altuve. He only played 45 games before going up to Tri-City, but he made them count. He had the highest average of anyone playing more than 20 games - by 40 points, and the next infielder (Our Boy Aaron Bray) by 46 points. Also led the team in hits, doubles, stolen bases, OBP, and slugging.

Honorable Mention
Jiovanni Mier. 1st round pick signed quick enough to get 51 games - and that's after missing some time after an HBP - under his belt. Hit .276/.380/484 and was second to Altuve with an .864 OPS, and led the team in RBI, total bases, homers, and triples. His 30 walks were 3rd highest on the team, and he stole ten bases.

Pitcher of the Year
Of pitchers who made 10+ starts, the only one with an ERA lower than 5.60 was Jose Cisnero. He was also one of three pitchers (not just starters) with a winning record, coming in at 4-2 in 13 starts, 3.56 ERA/1.11 WHIP, and had the most strikeouts and fewest hits allowed (among starters).

Honorable Mention
Reliever Nathan Pettus. In 15 games, posted six saves - a team-high - a 2.60 ERA/1.10 WHIP (lowest among pitchers with 10+ appearances). 18:5 K:BB ratio, as well.

Astros County's Employees of the Year: GCL Branch

As the Gulf Coast League drew to a close this week, it's time for Astros County to hand out some hardware of its own.

Position Player of the Year
Free-swinging shortstop Luis Bryan gets the nod here. Among players with more than 100ABs, Bryan led the team with a .340/.345/.491 line. Of course, it's troubling that a player can not draw a walk in 106 ABs (20:0 K:BB ratio - Inf...), but...whatever.

Honorable Mention
Second baseman Enrique Hernandez. You could make the case that these two should be flip-flopped, and you may be right. Hernandez racked up 207 ABs and a .295/.336/.396 line (28K:10BB), and led the team in doubles, triples, and RBI. Problem is, he needed about 60 ABs more than anyone else on the team to do it, and he committed a team-high 16 errors. But never mind that.

Pitcher of the Year
Rafael Pio. In 17 games, went 1-4, but with a 3.12 ERA/0.99 WHIP. Struck out 41 batters, only walking 10 in 43.1IP (2nd highest on the team).

Honorable Mention
Mike Schurz. In 15 games, got a team-high six saves, a 2.25 ERA/1.00 WHIP. 22K:6BB.

Tough Luck Player of the Year
The Netherlands' own, shortstop Jan Baldee. In 18 games for the GCL Astros, went 1x41, but drew two walks (hey, that's two more than Bryan), for a final season line of .024/.070/.024.

Smiley Rosenthal wouldn't put money on Coop's returning

So who does he put as the front-runners for Coop's replacement?

Never mind that the Astros exercised manager Cecil Cooper's option for 2010 in April. Cooper is almost certain to be fired, major-league sources say, and several of his coaches also are in jeopardy.

Third base coach Dave Clark would be the leading internal candidate to replace Cooper, but the team likely would consider a wide range of outside options.

On that list of outside options:
-Jim Fregosi, Atlanta's assistant (to the) General Manager, Frank Wren

Fregosi managed the Phillies from 1991 to '96, when Ed Wade, the Astros' current GM, was in the Phillies' front office. He also met Astros owner Drayton McLane when he interviewed for the managerial opening that went to Jimy Williams after the 2001 season.

-Phillies' bench coach Pete Mackanin
-Giants bench coach Ron Wotus

Yesterday in Zach Levine's live blog of the G133, commentors were throwing out names like Manny Acta, Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter. That may very well happen. Allow me to throw out another name that has not yet been discussed as a possibility: Bo Porter.

Who is this Bo Porter? Bo Porter has been the Marlins' third-base and base-running coach for three years, and has spent five years total as a coach. He lives in Houston, and is on Fox Sports Houston all the time when the Marlins are in town. He also, according to his bio, has a degree in communication. Which would be an, uh, upgrade.

Hey, That Guy's an Astros Fan! Volume 2

Click the link for Volume 1 of "Hey, That Guy's An Astros Fan!" with SportsCenter anchor Robert Flores.

Today we bring you an off-day treat while we wait for someone to get canned for this season - a second volume of "Hey, That Guy's an Astros Fan!" That Guy in question is Brad Horn, Senior Director of Communications and Education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. They're not all Yankees/Mets/Red Sox fans up there.

Brad, prior to his position at the Hall of Fame, spent six years with the Texas Rangers, including the 1999-2000 seasons as assistant director of public relations. A native of Houston and a TCU graduate, Brad Horn - most importantly - is an Astros fan.

AC: What's your favorite Astros memory as a fan?

BH: Billy Hatcher's home run in the 14th inning of Game Six of the 1986 NLCS to tie the game at 4-4. I remember coming home from school to catch the game, starting in about the 7th inning. I thought for sure we were going to win it at that point, and with Mike Scott set to go in Game 7, I was ready for the World Series. Jesse Orosco had other ideas.

AC: Tell us your coolest Hall-of-Fame-related Astro story.

BH: Meeting Shaun Dean in 2005. Fan who caught two home run baseballs in the Astros' 18th inning playoff game, including Chris Burke's game-winner. Then, he is gracious enough to donate them to the Hall of Fame. Meeting him in Houston and then being able to share his excitement when he came to Cooperstown later that off-season.

AC: What's the best aspect of working at the HOF?

BH: The people and the stories. Baseball captures us and ignites the emotions unlike anything else in our society. To see people of all walks of life beam at experiencing part of baseball history, or being a part of the game, from Hall of Famers to major leaguers to regular fans, makes all of the efforts worthwhile.

AC: Which Astro would bring the biggest crowd for an Induction - Biggio or Bagwell?

BH: That's like asking a parent which is his favorite child. You can't separate Biggio and Bagwell. They go together like Hall and Oates, Captain and Tenille, Mexican food and Margaritas. Let's just hope that the voters feel as passionately about their Hall of Fame chances as Astros fans do.

AC: Who is the nicest Hall of Famer you have encountered?

BH: We are fortunate to have so many "good" people who are involved with the Hall of Fame and are who Hall of Famers. I have many, many favorites among our 65 living Hall of Famers, but they don't come any nicer than Harmon Killebrew, Ozzie Smith, Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage. The list goes on and on.

AC: Who is your favorite all-time Astro?

BH: Alan Ashby. In a landslide. I don't personally collect any baseball memories or autographs, but I have one prized possession, and it is in my office in the Hall of Fame. An Alan Ashby bat lamp, circa 1983, made from a Alan Ashby Big Stick personal model bat barrel, with an orange plastic "lamp shade" shaped like an Astros helmet. I turn it on the mornings after an Astros win in my office, it stays dark after an Astros loss.

Captip to Brad for answering some questions about his citizenship in Astros County, and I bet Brad is working in the dark a lot lately...

Know someone who's an Astros fan for Volume Three? Email

Eddie's Farm: September 2

Round Rock
Round Rock beat Albuquerque again, this time 4-2, as more Express players jockey for a call-up, even if it's just sitting on the bench. Which makes me wonder, would the Astros prefer the prospects go home and play Halo all day, waiting for Spring Training, or learn some aspects of the Major-League lifestyle? Anyhow, Tommy Manzella hit a two-run shot in the 6th, while Jason Smith added a solo homer. Polin Trinidad threw 7.2IP, 10H/2ER, 9K:0BB, and Armando Benitez got his first save for The Rock.

Brutal loss for the Hooks, losing on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th, 1-0. Corpus only managed three hits (Sutil, DeLome, and Moresi), while DeLome and Florentino struck out four times each. Francisco Abad threw 6IP, 1H/0ER, 5K:1BB while Erick Abrew threw 4IP, 4H/0ER, 7K:1BB. Ryan McKeller took the loss, giving up the homer.

Got shut down again at the hands of High Desert, 7-0. Only three hits again for the JetHawks (Simunic, Weston, Cabral). Clemens was held hitless for just the second time in his last ten games. Leandro Cespedes threw 5IP, 6H/4ER, 5K:2BB and Jordan Powell gave up 5H/3ER, 2K:2BB in 3IP.

Asheville scored four times in the bottom of the 8th to provide the margin in a 6-2 win over Lexington. Jay Austin was 2x4 with two doubles and an RBI. Ross Seaton threw 6IP, 4H/2ER, 5K:3BB while Brian Wabick got the loss with 2IP, 6H/4ER, 2K:1BB.

Double-header with the Vermont Lake Monsters, and it was a tale of two games.
Game 1: Vermont whooped up, 10-5. Renzo Tello got the only multi-hit game (2x3), while Brian Kemp (1x4) and Jorge De Leon (1x2) had two RBI each. Robby Donovan took the loss with 2.1IP, 3H/4R (2ER), 1K:1BB. Brendan Stines threw 2.1IP, 3H/2ER, 2K:5BB. Kirk Clark had a scoreless 1.1IP, and David Berner came in for 1IP, 4H/4R (1ER). Yep. Two errors (De Leon, Martinez) led to five unearned runs.

Game 2: And then Tri-City scored 15 runs in a 15-5 win, scoring seven in the first alone. Jhonny Medrano was 3x4 with 5RBI, Erik Castro was 3x4 with a two-run homer and 3RBI total. J.D. Martinez was 2x2 with an RBI. Wander Alvino got the win with 5IP, 8H/5ER, 1K:5BB (hard to lose a game when you're spotted seven runs). Mike Modica and J.B. MacDonald threw a scoreless inning each.

Follow Roy on Twitter

If you tweet, and you know Astros County does, then now you can follow Roy's tweets.

Actually, it's Roy's website's tweets. A sampling, so far:

-Hey guys the site has finally launched! Check it out!

-Hunt at Roy's Ranch! Here at the Double 4 Ranch, we strive to maintain the finest whitetail deer herd in the...

-The new site is almost up. Should be be any day now!

Roy is much more exclamatory than I imagined he would be. I guess when you only have 140 characters, you need to shout more.

Coste: The catcher who catches

The .203-hitting catcher is getting some notice for his defense, which apparently is rare:

"One of the most underrated things in catching is a guy having good hands. It's always been amazing to me that when they judge defensive catchers, they always talk about a guy's arm strength, which rarely ever comes into play in the game. When you catch a ball 100 times a game, the actual catching of the ball should be the most important thing, and no one ever says that. If a pitch is outside and the catcher is stabbing at the ball, it makes the pitcher look like he's wild and the umpire is less likely to give him future pitches...

...For my whole career, it's for the most part gone unnoticed. I've always had decent hands. The pitchers in Philly noticed, but it never got brought up to the media and the coaching staff. As many times as I've had pitchers talk to me about it the last 10 years, since I've come here it's the first organization they've talked about it. Hopefully that means something...

...This is a much better opportunity than I could have ever foreseen, coming over here and getting to catch two out of three games and three out of five games. I get to catch Roy, Moehler, and Bud. I just need to take better advantage of it."

Justice: Someone should get axed today

New post from Justice on the off-day:

The Astros have Thursday off, and if Drayton is going to fire someone, it's probably going to happen today. I keep thinking he'll do something to put a little juice in these final 16 home games.

This guy has fired more managers, general managers and coaches the last five years than any other owner in baseball, so it's not like he's philosophically opposed to finding someone to hold accountable.

Memo to staff: If Drayton calls a staff meeting Thursday morning, don't anyone raise their hand...

...Drayton would be justified in firing anyone. When a team has a real high payroll and a real bad record, everyone should be vulnerable...

...This is four straight years out of the playoffs, and while the Astros may not have bottomed out, they have to be close. It just can't get much worse than this.

Now that's actually true. I don't know if anyone is getting the can today, but should someone get fired? I've been flip-flopping all year on this, and as of now I say yes. The Brewers fired Ned Yost in the 6th inning of G162 (that's not true, but you know what I mean.)

Levine offers a theory for the minor-league system

As many of you read the Eddie's Farm reports every morning, you know it hasn't been pretty. Zach Levine has a theory on why every team in the farm system finished with a losing record, and notes the Astros' three lowest levels of the farm system had a cumulative .354 winning percentage, dead last in the Majors (the Reds were 29th, with a cumulative .400 WP).

What is his theory, you ask?

The Astros expanded to three teams at these levels, spreading the talent too thin.

I would put some stock in this, though not nearly the whole thing, because some teams do fine with three clubs.

The brief history is that the Astros expanded to seven affiliates in the United States for the first time since 1992 when they gained an entry in the Gulf Coast League. It's allowed them to bring more players on board and force players to sit on the bench less, so if they can afford it, it's definitely good for development.

But does it show in the record?

The top 11 teams in that organizational rank that I briefed above have only two affiliates.

Seven teams have three domestic affiliates at or below short-season A. The seven teams rank 12th, 13th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 26th and 30th in overall short-season winning percentage, an average winning percentage of .464...

...And ultimately producing a few top prospects and turning them into big leaguers is the goal of the system, not wins and losses.

But wins and losses are a reflection of organizational depth — the pool that has a chance to improve down the road. And right now, the short-season Class of 2009 appears, actual sight unseen but with numbers that are damaging to the eye, to be lacking in the depth department.

I'll go along with this. The Astros don't need a new crop of 50 players fighting for a Major-League roster spot each spring (though it would be nice). They only need a few, so you go into the draft knowing that if you can get four major leaguers out of each class, you've got a pretty successful system.

That said, I would like the Astros to keep the seven minor-league teams, and push their players to succeed faster and more aggressively.

Norris feels good, and Bourn's streak ends

Notes this morning:

Norris threw a 35-pitch bullpen yesterday:
“It was just to get back on the mound. I'll throw another regular one (today) and hopefully get out there Sunday. Any time you get an extra couple days to let your arm catch up, it's needed. I feel good, and I want to get back out there.”

And about that PCL Top Pitcher award?
“That's a great honor. Obviously, I worked very hard down there. To come away with that award is quite an honor. Obviously, I had a good time in Round Rock with my teammates. The Triple-A All-Star game is something that I won't forget, but obviously all the hard work I had down there I want to transfer here.”
Coop ended Bourn's 25-game on-base streak by throwing him in to pinch-hit in the 9th against the Cubs:
“Well, I didn't really want to (sit Bourn). I know he's been swinging good and he's on a nice streak and all that. I'm going to do my best to not put him in a difficult situation unless it's just game-winning and I got to have it. Then I got to have it. I explained that to Michael. I got to do it if I got to do it. I'm going to try my best to not put him in that situation, but if I have to, I have to.”

The real reason the Astros wanted Boone back? For something good to talk about.

Congratulations to Aaron Boone, who returned to Major-League action yesterday.

“It’s great to get back out there and be a part of a real game. It didn’t go our way, but it’s good to get out there and get the competitive juices flowing and deal with your nerves.”

“Well, I’m just tickled that the guy’s back and healthy, first of all. That’s important because health comes first. It looks like he’s got all the clean bills of health and all the things and he’s good to go. This is all secondary, but I know he’s excited, and I’m excited for him. He’s a good person. You know he’s worked hard to get to this point.”

“He’s a great character guy. That’s one of the reasons we signed him in the first place. I don’t know too many guys who make the effort to come back from open-heart surgery, and it’s really incredible that he can, considering the procedure he had done. I thought he was done permanently, not just this year. It’s a testament to him wanting to come back. It’s great that he’s going to get an opportunity to play. And everybody across baseball is happy to see him out there.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Recap for G133 - Astros @ Cubs

Well, that's what a 2-7 road trip looks like. The Astros were shutout for the 11th time this season, and the third time on the nine-game road trip. That said, there were two positives: Aaron Boone kept the Cubs in check with at least one great stop at first base, denying extra-bases in one instance. And Paulino, who was basically pitching today for a job next year, definitely rose to the occasion, throwing only one bad pitch. It's a shame that the offense couldn't bail him out for a win. Let's do the thing:

Paulino: 6IP, 4H/2ER, 7K:2BB, 13/23 first-pitch strikes, 37/61 non-contact strikes (20 called:17 swinging)
Byrdak: 1IP, 1BB, 3/4 FPS, 5/8 NCS (3c:2s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2K, 1/3 FPS, 5/8 NCS (2c:3s)

Offensively...jeez. Tejada was 0x4 to send his batting average (.298) below .300 for the first time since May 8 vs. San Diego. But the Astros only managed five hits, and couldn't take advantage - going 0x7 with RISP. In the 8th, down 2-0, Quintero hit a 1-out double to right. And Berkman and Matsui left him there. In the 9th, the winning run was at the plate twice, with Pence on second and Lee on first - and Tejada and Blum left them both there.

It's just a pretty bad time to be an Astros fan. And help isn't on the way. It's probably going to be 2-3 years before it gets better. This season's Hole-Plug Gamble (which is going to be the name of my new band) didn't pay off, and now it's time to turn it over to the young'uns, who are still pretty far off. I'm happy with a Roy/Wandy/Norris/Paulino/Bazardo rotation in 2010, but even if The Quints at Lexington skip High-A ball, we're still looking at late-2011/2012 before they wear an Astros jersey.

Pitch Count Hero: Pence - 20 pitches in 4 PAs (1x3, walk)
Pitch Count Punk: Boone - 10 pitches in 3 PAs (0x3), but you can't blame him for being excited.

Man of the Match: Felipe Paulino. Had to do a job for the future, and did it.

Goat of the Game: Miguel Tejada. All eyes on you.

Lineup for G133 - Astros @ Cubs

Captip, Alyson Footer:

Matsui 2B
Keppinger 3B
Pence RF
Lee LF
Tejada SS
Michaels CF
Boone 1B
Quintero C
Paulino P.

No Berkman (Boone), and no Bourn (Michaels). Coop knows that Boone has played third in his rehab starts, right? He's not going to crump out playing over there in the 3B spot.

However, the Cubs are running out a getaway lineup, themselves. No Soriano, Theriot, or Ramirez:

Fukudome CF
Blanco SS
Lee 1B
Bradley RF
Fox LF
Fontenot 2B
Baker 3B
Hill C
Lilly P

Justice burns Norris

After it was announced that Bud Norris is the PCL's Top Pitcher, joining Jason Hirsh as the two Triple-A Top Pitchers in Express history (Tim Redding won it in 2001 when Round Rock was a Double-A team), Richard Justice responded. Classy-like:

Bud Norris named PCL Pitcher of Year. Congratulations. Now go learn to command your fastball, or be prepared to be back in the PCL in 2010.

Coop, on Paulino

No more silly pitch counts. Via Alyson Footer:

"This is basically an audition. He's one of our young guns. Let him prove himself."

Pence up for Clemente award

Hunter Pence is up for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, combining sportsmanship, skillz, and community work.

Biggio won the award in 2007, and Albert Pujols in 2008.

You can vote here. The winner will be announced before Game 3 of the World Series, which I can almost assure you will not be in Houston.

Tri-City sets attendance record

Good for them. Those fans put up with a lot of not scoring runs, and still came out to Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy.

Tri-City drew almost 146,000 fans, up about 4% over last year, with 12 sell-outs, and a July 4 game with 6,838 in attendance (more than Reds games. Ha!).

ValleyCats GM Rick Murphy:
“To eclipse the record given this time of economic uncertainty, combined with unprecedented amounts of rain, is truly a testament to our dedicated fans and staff.”

Lyles has a bunch of different pitches

For instance:

Fastball: 90-92mph
Curve: 75-76mph
Tighter curve: 78mph
Changeup: 80-83mph
Slider: 82-84mph

Lyles, on the fastball:
"When I started the season, I wasn't going inside and out. If I throw a fastball outside, they can put the bat on it, foul it off into the stands. So a couple weeks into the season I learned to go inside and that's why all my strikeout totals have been up. Since then, just working in and out has been really successful."

On the curves:
"There's a couple curveballs I use. I use a show-me curveball early in the count when they're not looking curveball-and that's OK to have a big loopy curveball to show them-but others I like to bury in the dirt."

Pitching coach Travis Driskill, on the slider:
"He came out of high school with it, but we wanted to concentrate on just having one breaking ball to see if we could get that going. He was able to get it going-obviously not tonight-but it's been a real good pitch for him and we just add in that slider to give him a different look."

Driskill, on the changeup:
"For a young guy, he has a lot of confidence in that pitch. His willingness to throw it shows that he'll be able to throw it when he gets to a higher level, and he'll be able to take that to the major leagues and keep guys off his fastball. It's always been there. I had him last year in Greeneville and we had some special rules about how we were trying to use some pitches because we wanted some more changeup use. When we did that and we made him throw it, he found out it was real good. It's just unbelievable for an 18-year-old kid to come out of high school and have a changeup like that."

Driskill, on Lyles:
"Overall, he's been terrific. He locates his fastball as well as anyone should at this level. He does have a real good breaking ball, he's finding a slider and, then again, he has a real good feel for a changeup. For a kid who's only 18, he's got four pitches right there that we're talking about. And we know two of them are outstanding, and the two breaking balls are good and should get better as he matures and becomes a more experienced pitcher."

Gastros hand out their season awards

The Greeneville Astros hand out two awards prior to the last game of the season each year - team MVP, and the Oscar Padron Award (named for former Gastros pitching coach killed in a car accident in Venezuela in 2005). The Padron Award, is given to the Astros player each year that not only excelled on the field, but more importantly, is considered to be a leader in the clubhouse and an outstanding all-around person with great character off the field.

This year, that honor went to Grant Hogue.

And your 2009 Greeneville Astros MVP award went to Jose Altuve who, despite getting called up to Tri-City on August 11, still managed to lead the team in hits, doubles, runs scored, and stolen bases. This is the second Appalachian League award for the non-Appalachian League player this season.

Eddie's Farm: September 1

Round Rock
The offense went off for 12 runs on 13 hits in a 12-7 win over Albuquerque. With multi-hit games from Towles (2x3, double/homer), Bogusevic (2x5, 2RBI), Manzella (2x3, 2-run homer), Saccomanno (2x5), and Kata (2x5), it would have been hard to lose this game. Yet it almost happened. It took a 6-run 8th inning to push the Express over the top. Mark McLemore only lasted an inning, giving up 4H/3ER. Roy Corcoran came in for the next 4IP and gave up 5H/2ER, 4K:1BB, while Armando Benitez got his first win as an Astro-in-training (anyone else think he's the backup option if the Astros don't re-sign Valverde?).

Corpus, behind the hot bat of C Jonathan Fixler, beat up Frisco 6-1. Fixler was 3x4 with two homers and 4RBI. DeLome provided the other 2RBI with a 2x4 night. Tyler Lumsden is showing some late-season return in the Parraz trade, and went 5IP, 5H/0ER (1 total), 2K:4BB. C-Lo closed out the final four innings with 3H/0ER, 5K:0BB.

High Desert shut the JetHawks down, winning 6-2. Koby Clemens was 2x4 with his 21st homer of the year, and Craig Corrado was 2x3 with a double. Shane Wolf threw 4.2IP, 10H/6ER, 1K:3BB while Jose Duran and Ashton Mowdy threw the final 3.1IP, with 1H/0ER, 2K:4BB. Mowdy's ERA at Lancaster currently sits at 9.82, while Duran's is 8.26.

Lexington scored in three different innings, and that was enough to beat Asheville 3-1. Jay Austin was 2x5, Albert Cartwright was 2x3 with an RBI, and Brian Pellegrini hit his 25th homer of the year. Robert Bono improved to 9-8 with a 3.35 ERA after giving up 6H/1ER, 5K:0BB in 5IP. Henry Villar threw 2.2IP in relief, striking out five, and Matt Nevarez got another save for the Legends.

Despite scoring three runs in the bottom of the 9th, it was one run short as Aberdeen beat the ValleyCats 4-3. Erik Castro was 2x5 with a 2-out 3-run homer. Brandt Walker dropped to 1-6, after allowing 7H/4ER in 3.1IP, and Nathan Pettus, Dan Sarisky, and Max Fearnow threw the final 5.2IP, allowing just 3H/0ER, 4K (all Sarisky's):0BB.

And it's with sadness that we bring you the final Greeneville recap of the season, as the Gastros finished the season last night with a 6-2 win. Jiovanni Mier was 2x3 with 3RBI, Bubby Williams was 2x3 with a homer and 2RBI, Kyle Miller was 2x4, and Our Boy Aaron Bray was 2x3 with an RBI - finishing the season hitting .278. Angel Gonzalez threw 5IP, 3H/1ER, 3K:2BB, Murillo Gouvea threw 3IP, 1H/0ER, 4K:1BB in relief. We'll have a full season recap of the Gastros in the coming days, but the Gastros finished the season 27-40, 17.5GB of APP West winner Elizabethton.

Boone in the lineup

McTaggart is saying Aaron Boone will be in the lineup today for G133 @ Cubs.

Levine: Concerned about Pence

Which I think we all should be. Anyhow, Levine's blog post this morning has to do with a surging Michael Bourn and a fading Hunter Pence.

"The right fielder is in a tailspin, both in the lineup and the statistics. He's now a No. 7 hitter and since the All-Star break, he's hitting .245 with a .753 OPS compared to .295 and .839 before.

He's healthy and has been streaky his whole brief career, and as such, we still don't really recognize a true Hunter Pence. If he continues this slide, I'd be a little more concerned if I'm an Astros fan about the true Hunter Pence.

Pence is looking at arbitration eligibility after this season, and the last month could have a lot to do with his value and whether it might make more sense to lock him up through his arbitration years."

What's he been doing on this road trip?

Sept 1 @CHC
9th inning: Single to CF
7th inning: Groundout to 3B
4th inning: Walk
2nd inning: GIDP to SS

Aug 31 @ CHC
8th inning: Lineout to SS
6th inning: Single to CF
4th inning: Walk
2nd inning: GIDP to 2B

Aug 30 @ ARI
8th inning: K (swinging)
7th inning: Single to CF
4th inning: K (swinging)
2nd inning: Flyout to RF

Aug 29 @ ARI
9th inning: K (looking)
7th inning: Walk
5th inning: Single to CF
2nd inning: Flyout to RF

Aug 28 @ARI
8th inning: HR to left-center
6th inning: Double to LF
4th inning: Groundout to SS
2nd inning: K (looking)

Aug 27 @StL
9th inning: Groundout to SS

Aug 26 @StL
8th inning: Flyout to CF
6th inning: Groundout to SS
4th inning: Single to CF
1st inning: Lineout to 2B

Aug 25 @StL
9th inning: Groundout to SS
6th inning: Groundout to 1B
4th inning: K (swinging)
1st inning: Groundout to 3B

First, here are your basic stats. 29 PAs: .269/.345/.423. 5K:3BB. Nine groundouts, three flyouts, two lineouts. 21 balls in play, 14 to the middle of the field, four to the left side, and three to the right side.

Of his seven hits in this road trip, five were singles to CF, one was a homer to left-center, and one was a double to left (notice a trend?). He's had nine groundouts: Six to the middle of the field, two to the left side, and one to the right side.

So it looks like, from here, that he's hitting the ball squarely, or pulling it. There's just nothing to the right side. To say that, in 29 PAs, he has had three ABs that he has taken the ball to right field is pretty incredible.

Call up clues

In JJO's Notes column, we get some updates (which, I suppose, is the purpose of doing it):

Coop, on more call-ups:
“There might be one name or two on Friday and the others will come after they finish (the minor league season). We're not going to bring the whole house. It's going to be limited. I think if we were a younger team, we might see a lot of guys.”
Depending on how this stint goes off the DL, Brocail may try to come back next season, or he may retire:
“We'll see how it goes. Hopefully everything is better and I'll finish out the year and see if I'll retire or have another chance to come back. … Well, it's definitely pride. I don't know if it's important because they have guys they have to look at for next year.”
Wright, who was not required to throw until his body ran out of electrolytes (unlike his last visit to Wrigley):
"My shoulder feels great. I'm back to pretty much full strength. It's just now getting my arm back to where it was before as far as game shape and everything like that. I'm close to being back to where I was before the injury.”

Coop, on Wright:
“I’m going to do my best to try to stay away from (long relief) this time around for (Wright). That’s what really got him, I think, the last time, a couple three-inning stints.

Let's give him a hand for leaving the park on the team bus, and not an ambulance. But here's an idea, how about we bring up some more of the Round Rock pitchers (Muecke, Daigle) so that Coop won't be forced to rely on one reliever to pitch three innings?
Dewey, on what the heck they're doing with Norris:
“He's going to throw a light pen (today) and see how that feels. If that goes OK, he'll throw a little more intensive one on Friday to see where he's at. We don't think at this point he's going to miss a start, but we can juggle some things so he gets two or three extra days because of the off day and keeping Wandy and Roy on five days.”
And Alberto Arias and his jacked-up hammy played catch (though not with each other) for the first time since going on the DL.
And finally, consider today an audition for Paulino: 2010. What does he need to do? Let's ask Coop:
“Hopefully he’s kind of settled in and he’s got some consistency with his fastball down in the zone. I thought last outing that he had with the relief appearance he was down in the strike zone, really good with his fastball. He actually did throw some pretty good breaking balls. If I could see that on a pretty consistent basis (today) that would be pretty good.”

Recap for G132 - Astros @ Cubs

Make that 21IP. Randy Wells has thrown 21IP against Houston this season without allowing an earned run, and the defense sunk the Astros in a 4-1 loss to the Cubs at Miller Park South. Let's do the thing:

Moehler: 5.1IP, 6H/1ER (3 total), 2K:0BB, 17/23 first-pitch strikes, 21/52 non-contact strikes (19 called:2 swinging)
Gervacio: 0.2IP, 2K, 2/2 FPS, 5/7 NCS (1c:4s)
Fulchino: 2IP, 2H/1ER, 1K:2BB, 6/9 FPS, 8/18 NCS (3c:5s)

I have no idea why Moehler was pulled. Ramirez was on first, Lee was on third (after Pence's error), and Moehler had struck out Fukudome. With Soriano up, Coop pulled Moehler after 80 pitches. Soriano, who was due up, was 1x2 with a single on the night coming into that at-bat, and while Moehler had allowed two singles in the 6th, he had retired eight of eleven batters (I'm counting Cubs who reached on errors as being "retired.") after giving up the homer to Milton Grouchy. Nevertheless, Gervacio came in and finished the inning, and his ERA now sits at a nice round 1.00.

Offensively...they had their chances. The Astros had a runner on base in eight innings, and even got the leadoff man on in five innings. To no avail. None of them scored. Michael Bourn got three hits, and Miguel Tejada took him off the basepaths and ended the inning, respectively, grounding out in the first inning (though, to be fair, moving Bourn over to third in the process). Blum had two hits, and Pence, Matsui, and Coste contributed the other three hits. Meaning the Astros had eight hits, and one run. Even worse, Houston was 0x7 with RISP. The Law Offices of Tejada, Berkman, and Lee were a combined 0x11.

Pitch Count Hero: Carlos Lee - 19 pitches in 4 PAs (0x4)
Pitch Count Punk: Michael Bourn (3x4) and Kaz Matsui (1x4) - 13 pitches in 4 PAs

Man of the Match: I'm giving this one to Moehler, because he deserved to at least finish the inning. Getting pulled after 5.1IP and 80 pitches was silly.

Goat of the Game: Pence is certainly deserving of the goat with the defensive error, but he got on base twice. So it goes to Miguel Tejada. He did draw a walk in the top of the 8th, and the line-out double play wasn't completely his fault. But he had Bourn on base three times in front of him three times, and was only able to move him over on a groundout once.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Purpura drops some knowledge on Lidge

Scott Lauber, of Delaware Online, is worried about Brad Lidge. So naturally, who do you ask? Tim Purpura.

Here's the verdict:
"When he throws his slider for strikes, it's tough to hit him. Watching him from a distance, it seems like goofy things have happened. A bloop, a flare, a double down the line, and now, that changes the pressure gradient. Now, instead of throwing the slider down and away, it ends up over the heart of the plate."

Interesting. So, throwing your breaking ball for strikes. That's the key. Who knew?

Let the September call-ups begin, the Red Mist Descendeth

The Astros have made their first official call-ups and activations in this young September:

Welcome back, Doug Brocail, Wesley Wright, and Aaron Boone.

But can I share something disgusting with you? (This is normally the part where there is some hideous YouTube clip. Not here, though.)

The reaction to Aaron Boone and Doug Brocail's rejoining the team among commentators - a ridiculous term, because you don't commentate. You comment - is despicable. Anyhow, allow me to share some reaction:

From cswaff03:
Oh my gosh! I'm SO excited! We're getting back a thirdbaseman (sic) who's batted .252 over the last six seasons, a middle reliever with an ERA over 5.00 and a lefty specialist who can't get lefties out! Oh, this team just went from lousy to awesome overnight! I'm so thrilled! Can I ask again - why are they pimping all these old palyers (sic) and not giving any of the youngsters that might actually be GOOD a chance? This organization is totally lost.

Or this one:
Fast Eddie can't think of any reason to see how young guys do because hey, you can't go by September numbers (guess all they good for is rotting in AAA) and they won't have "roles" because he is gonna continue to use all the crappy Old Guys because we're gonna WIN. Oh yea, we're just in the right position to surge ahead of everyone else in the NL, uh, WC, uh, um, Reds, Pirates and Nats?

They're a little more gracious here, except for terry180, who craptastically wrote:
Dont thank Aaron for that homer. Thank the steroids.

Should we, as fans, be disappointed with this year and this team? Sure. I think we're a little spoiled by the Astros consistently running out a decent team (though that's fading a bit, lately). But we're talking about Brocail, who has been on the DL a lot this year, and hasn't thrown in the towel, continually working to get back to contribute to the club. He hasn't done much of that on the field, either, but a captip to him for at least going through some wacky rehab to try to earn his money. No one was complaining when he, at 41 last year, went 7-5 with a 3.93 ERA. So when his body acts like a 42-year old's does, someone is going to take a swipe?

And Aaron Boone? The guy had open-heart surgery, and was not going to play a role beyond providing leadership and platooning at third base. He wasn't supposed to be Brooks Robinson. So let's grumble about the decisions that have been made another time, and congratulate Brocail and Boone for acting like they want to come back and help a team that needs help out.

Matchup for G132 - Astros @ Cubs

Alright. Three games back of the Cubs. Brian Moehler versus Astro-killer Randy Wells.

Brian Moehler

Since the All-Star Break, Moehler is 2-4 in eight starts with a 5.36 ERA, and opponents hitting .305/.355/.439 against him.

Last three starts:

8/15 @MIL510/32:213/8104/62
8/22 vARI5.26/23:211/879/54
8/27 @StL66/31:113/976/50

Moehler's pitch counts are crazy. He's only made it to 100+ pitches in one of his past seven starts.

Career vs. Chicago: 3-4 (13 games), 5.60 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 54.2IP, 31K:11BB
Career @ Wrigley: 2-0 (4 games), 3.71 ERA/1.18 WHIP, 17IP, 11K:2BB
2009 road record: 5-3 (11 starts), 4.35 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 62IP, 37K:21BB
2009 vs. Chicago: 1-2 (3 starts), 13.97 ERA/2.69 WHIP, 9.2IP, 8K:5BB

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: .336/.381/.557, 40K:18BB
vs Lefties: .280/.343/.480, 37K:21BB

When swinging at the first pitch (62): .424/.433/.712, 9XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (283): .288/.320/.464, 50K:11BB
After First-Pitch Balls (211): .267/.367/.439, 27K:28BB

RISP: 38x125, .304/.403/.480, 16K:22BB
Runners on: 67x219, .306/.382/.484, 33K:26BB
2OwRISP: 10x53, .189/.306/.321, 10K:9BB

Randy Wells

Last three appearances:

8/14 vPIT67/23:210/1086/58
8/21 @LA6.27/03:212/11106/66
8/27 vWSH6.15/54:47/13110/65

Wait for it...

2009 vs. Houston: 1-0 (2 starts), 0.00 ERA/1.07 WHIP, 14IP, 5K:5BB
2009 @ Wrigley: 5-4 (10 starts), 3.45 WHIP/1.31 WHIP, 62.2IP, 36K:19BB

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: .219/.267/.311, 43K:14BB
vs Lefties: .302/.362/.429, 35K:19BB

When swinging at the first pitch (61): .310/.317/.466, 5XBH (2HR)
After First-Pitch Strikes (264): .237/.277/.341, 54K:11BB
After First-Pitch Balls (193): .262/.349/.357, 24K:22BB

RISP: 25x89, .281/.323/.472, 11K:5BB
Runners on: 46x195, .236/.280/.359, 25K:10BB
2OwRISP: 34x113, .301/.360/.416, 18K:11BB

Post-season All-Star teams begin to come in

As we're coming up on the end of the minor-league season, post-season All-Star teams are starting to get named. Let's get to the ones we know about:

Pacific Coast League
Bud Norris was named the top right-handed pitcher in the Pacific Coast League as the Express' only post-season All-Star.

Texas League
Confirming what we heard yesterday, Wladimir Sutil and Drew Locke were named to the Texas League PSAST.

South Atlantic League
Unbelievably, no Legend, not even Lyles/Seaton/Dydalewicz/Greenwalt, were named to the SAL's PSAST.

Houston Press: Hammering Miguel Tejada since 2001

Brutal story recapping Tejada's alleged pitch-tipping to friends, Dominicans, countrymen:

Now I keep reading and hearing things about how Tejada is a great clubhouse guy, and how he's a great team leader. And I think this is something that ought to be thought about for a moment. The team leader of the Houston Astros is a convicted liar who purchased HGH and lied about his age. And one of his former teams thought he was tipping pitches to opposing batters. Is this really the type of guy who should be allowed to be a team leader?

As I write this, the Houston Chronicle has been silent on this story though, as always, and had a story on it. So I'm assuming the Chron, as usual when it comes to Tejada, thinks there's nothing to the story and that he's telling the truth with his denial. Which leads me to ask why it is that Tejada, a known liar, keeps getting a pass when allegations like this come his way? Barry Bonds wouldn't get a pass like this, and he's never been convicted of anything. Neither, for that matter, has Roger Clemens, and his denials are mocked just like Palmerio's denials are mocked.

So there you have it. Miguel Tejada, known and convicted liar. Purchaser of HGH. Probable user of HGH. And a guy whose teammates thought he was tipping pitches. All of that said, I think we owe Rafael Palmerio a big apology. Palmerio probably just thought that Tejada was injecting him with B-12. It's just that Palmerio hadn't learned of Tejada's tendency for lying.

Juri Perez: Arm injury

Earlier this morning we found out about Greeneville's Juri Perez leaving last night's game against Princeton. Let's turn it over to the Greeneville Sun's Wayne Phillips:

It sounds like a broken record, but the same problem that has tormented the Astros all season, pitching woes, continued to plague them Monday. This time, the starting pitcher, Juri Prez, never made it past the second batter of the game before he apparently suffered an arm injury and left the mound with the trainer on his way to the locker room. He struck out the first batter he faced, then on the first pitch to the second hitter he sustained the injury.

Tonight is the season finale for the Greeneville Astros.

ESPN: Why Roy won

Courtesy, Buster Olney:

1. He had the Cubs chasing pitches all night; they swung at 23 of 47 pitches outside the strike zone (49 percent, MLB average 25 percent) and 13 of 19 2-strike pitches off the plate (68 percent, MLB average 38 percent).

2. He threw just 3.3 pitches per hitter (average 3.7 pitchers per hitter entering the game).

Or, because he's awesome.

Blum back in the lineup, Matsui out (for now)

But there will be some more rotating with the lineup to keep some guys fresh. For what, it's not clear.

Coop on Blum, who admittedly is not 100%:
We decided to go back to playing Blum at third. I'm going to kind of rotate Keppinger a little bit. Like yesterday (Miguel) Tejada got a day off. Today Matsui's getting one. Maybe Wednesday I might even try to give Lance (Berkman) one … just to keep Keppinger in there. He's swinging the bat pretty good .”

True? Keppinger does have a four-game hit streak going (4x17, with 2HRs). So I guess that qualifies for great offense with this club.
Paulino will definitely get the start tomorrow:
“We think (Paulino) deserves an opportunity to pitch. I think it's a good situation for him. He just threw an inning, almost two innings, on Saturday. He should be fresh for Wednesday. He's going to go out and throw a bullpen, just a light pen to touch and feel and kind of get ready for Wednesday. He'll go on Wednesday, and(Brian) Moehler will go on Tuesday. We have not decided on Friday.”
Coop, on sliding Pence down to 7th:
“(Jeff) Keppinger's been swinging the bat pretty well in the second hole, and (Miguel) Tejada's been hitting fifth recently. I'm a big believer in breaking up righthanded hitters when I can, and (Geoff) Blum slides right in there. That's the reason he's hitting seventh. It's not any kind of punishment or anything, if that's what you think. That's just the way it falls out. It ain't nothing special from that in my standpoint.”

Trainees of the Month

First time we try this with Eddie's Farm, but you can bet we'll be all over it in 2010.

Round Rock
Tommy Manzella: .337/.374/.459 with 9 XBH-17 RBI.
Josh Muecke: 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 7 games/4 starts. Has allowed 15 homers all season, just two since the All-Star Break

Drew Locke: Until getting his hand broke up, Locke was hitting .391/.446/.609 in 28 games in August.
Danny Meszaros: In 20IP in August, Meszaros had a 1.80 ERA/1.40 WHIP. Pre All-Star Break, Meszaros had a 6.04 ERA. Since? 1.98 ERA.

Koby Clemens: Hit .375/.436/.702 with 7HR/31RBI with 21K:12BB
Leandro Cespedes: 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA, and improved his K:BB ratio from 28:20 in July to 27:13 in August.

Federico Hernandez: Hit .306/.327/.429 in August, improving his OPS by .303 from July.
Jordan Lyles: Though he went 0-2 in August, he had a 2.89 ERA/1.18 WHIP, striking out 28 and walking just six batters.

Barry Butera: Followed up a July in which he hit .211/.310/.250 with a .374/.424/.462 month.
Dallas Keuchel: Dude can't catch a break in the win column. Went 2-2 with a 2.65 ERA/1.09 WHIP, striking out 24 and walking seven in 34IP.

Aaron Bray: Our own Adopted Aaron Bray. Only Gastro to hit .300 over the month of August, with a .300/.398/.363, and has had five multi-hit games in his last ten games.
Jose Cisnero: Went 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA/1.07 WHIP, with batters hitting .146 off him all month long.

GCL Astros
Nestor Santana: Hit .292/.370/.354.
Mark Jones: In six appearances (11.1IP), Jones gave up one earned run for a 0.79 ERA.

Employees of the Month: August

Employees of the Month for August! Winners get 10% off in the Astros County store, and a parking spot up front for the month.

Position Player
This one was close. I almost gave it to Jason Michaels, whose .355/.375/.742 month was fun to watch, but he only had five starts (because you'll naturally want to sit someone who's swinging the bat like that). But this one goes to Michael Bourn, who hit .309/.385/.423 in August with eight extra-base hits, scored 16 runs (a week's worth for the Astros), and stole 11 bases.

Goes to Jose Valverde. Nine of his 20 saves this season were in August, where he posted a 1.15 ERA in 15.2IP, striking out 19 and walking just five, giving up 2ER all month long.

Eddie's Farm: August 31

Round Rock
A 5-run 7th inning pretty much did it in as Albuquerque surged to a 6-4 win over Round Rock. Chris Johnson was 2x3, Brian Esposito was 2x4 with an RBI, and Mark Saccomanno was 2x4 with a 2-run homer. Billy Sadler, in a tune-up for joining Houston, threw 3IP, 4H/1ER, 2K:1BB. Andy Van Hekken threw 3IP, 3H/3ER, 0K:2BB, Casey Daigle had his 8th BS of the year with 1IP, 3H/2ER, and Roy Corcoran had the only scoreless outing of the staff.

Those head-hunting, season-ending Missions were up 7-1 by the end of the 4th, and won 7-2. Six hits were scattered among six Hooks, with Van Ostrand and Moresi getting the two RBIs. Sergio Perez dropped to 10-11 with 4IP, 10H/7ER, 5K:3BB while Danny Meszaros threw 4IP, 2H/0ER, 1K:1BB.

The Legends defeated Greenville 3-2 on the strength of Brad Dydalewicz's 8th win of the year. Jay Austin (2x4) had the only multi-hit game, but Pellegrini, Diaz, and Jackson each had RBIs. Dydalewicz (nickname? anyone? Dydo?) threw 5.2IP, 7H/2ER, 3K:1BB and Kyle Godfrey threw 3.1IP, 1H/0ER, 5K:1BB for his 3rd save of the season.

Tri-City did what they've done a lot of this season, losing 4-2 to Aberdeen. The ValleyCats got multi-hit games from Goebbert, Martinez, and Kemp. Dallas Keuchel got the loss with 4IP, 3H/3ER, 3K:3BB, while Kirk Clark and Mike Modica threw 5IP, 3H/1ER, 9K:1BB (7Ks from Clark).

6-2 loss by the Gastros at the hands of Princeton last night. Oscar Figueroa and Kyle Miller were both 2x4. Juri Perez only lasted 0.1IP, recording a strikeout before getting pulled (I'll find out why, but methinks it's injury-related. I'm a regular Sherlock.), David Martinez came in and threw 4.2IP, 7H/6ER, 2K:2BB while Travis Smink and Joan Belliard threw 4IP, 5H/0ER, 2K:2BB in relief.

Boone back with the Big Boys

Here's your after-school special on Aaron Boone's improbable return to the Majors, less than six months after open-heart surgery.

Update on Locke, Johnson

Zachary Levine has a new minor league notebook up, with some updates.

It's true about Corpus outfielder Drew Locke, who was hit on the hand by a pitch in Sunday's win over San Antonio by pitcher Stephen Faris. He'll be in a cast for 6-8 weeks.

Ricky Bennett:
“Our plans were to send him to play winter ball. More than likely, he'll be out for the winter.”

Chris Johnson has managed to turn around a rough 1st half to a pretty good season overall in Round Rock.

Levine notes he had a 9:1 K:BB ratio in the first half, but that's down to 2.75:1 in the second.

Express hitting coach Ron Jackson:
“We've made some adjustments with him at the plate, especially closing his stance up a little bit. The key is his front shoulder. With it being open, it never got back closed.”

“It's helped me see the ball a little bit more. A little bit less movement at the plate, which helps me just focus on the baseball a little bit more.”

As a result, he's more discriminating with his pitch selection, a product of his quieter swing. Now Johnson appears to be hitting for more power.

Recap for G131 - Astros at Cubs

Basically the only thing that would salvage this season for me is if the Astros finish ahead of the Cubs. And Roy threw 7 strong IPs to help that cause, as the Astros took game one of this series with a 5-3 win. The Astros did a rare job of beating up Rich Harden, and Carlos Lee was El Hombre of the night. Let's do the thing:

Roy: 7IP, 6H/2ER, 3K:1BB, 22/28 first-pitch strikes, 24/68 non-contact strikes (15 called:9 swinging)
LaHawk: 1IP, 1H/1ER, 1HR, 2/4 FPS, 4/9 NCS (2c:2s)
Valverde: 1IP, 2K, 2/3 FPS, 6/9 NCS (1c:5s)

What is surprising me about Roy this season - who got his 8th win of the season - and needs two more wins in what looks to be around five starts to reach 10 wins, a mark he has reached in every season of his career - is the lack of strikeouts. Roy has recorded fewer than five strikeouts in 15 of his 27 starts in 2009. That's already two more than in 2008, when he had 5+ strikeouts in 19 of his 32 starts. 2007? His K/9 rate of 6.5K/9 innings in 2009 is at its lowest since 2007, which was also 6.5 - the lowest of his career. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Roy's 3.80 ERA is currently the highest of his career.

Offensively, Carlos Lee had it going on - something about the fans in left field - with a 2-run double and a 2-run homer. Michael Bourn had the other RBI for the Astros, and with a walk and a hit, Bourn has reached base in 24 straight games. In August, Miguel Tejada has gone 21x100 and has lowered his average from .325 to .303. So he won't be getting the Employee of the Month for August.

Berkman was 1x3 with two walks, so while his batting average is at .276 - the lowest since his 34 game stint with the Big Club in 1999 (.278 average in 2007) - his OBP is .406, highest on the team.

Pitch Count Hero: Berkman and Bourn - 25 pitches in 5 PAs each (Berkman 1x3; Bourn 1x4)
Pitch Count Punk: Miguel Tejada - 12 pitches in 4 PAs

Man of the Match: Carlos Lee - provided 4RBI on the night with two big hits.

Goat of the Game: Tejada. Clearly struggling, 1x4 with 3Ks, and a falling BA.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Locke, Sutil named to Texas League Post-Season All-Star team

That pretty much says it...

Locke done for the year

Professional raker and Double-A prospect Drew Locke is done for the year after getting HBPed. Zachary Levine is tweeting it's a broken hand and Locke will not be ready for winter ball.

Pump the brakes, Nolan

Captip to Street for a link following up on Justice's tweet earlier today about Nolan shifting the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate to Round Rock.

The Oklahoman's Matt Patterson:
Oklahoma and the Rangers are midway through a four-year player development contract that is set to expire in 2010. Any discussions about the team leaving before that agreement is idle speculation, said Rangers director of minor league operations John Lombardo.

"It's ridiculous. We're obligated to fulfill that agreement, and we want to fulfill it. We have no intentions of moving the team before that agreement is up, and we've had no internal discussions whatsoever about moving out of Oklahoma City. We're more than happy with Oklahoma City and have no intention of changing directions...

...From our understanding, the Astros are very happy with their relationship with Round Rock,. That would be against the rules anyway. We have an agreement, and to break it, Major League Baseball would become involved along with Houston. To my knowledge, the only time that (agreements broken) has happened is when a big-league club moves into a market that had previously had a minor league team in it.”

OKC RedHawks co-owner Scott Pruitt:
"There's no indication we've received from them at any time that they're anything but ecstatic about having their Triple-A team here. They love the accessibility to Arlington, they love the stadium and being involved in this market.”

Matchup for G131 - Astros @ Cubs least college football starts this weekend. The Astros are four games back of the Cubs, and two back of the Brewers, for fourth place in the NL Central, and are playing like the 66-96 team Baseball Prospectus thought they were (they are who they thought they were) at the beginning of the season.

Roy Oswalt

In the four starts since returning from injury, Oswalt has thrown two quality starts (one of them a gem), and two disaster starts. Roy is 7-5, and is in real danger of not winning ten games in a season for the first time in his career.

Last three starts:

8/16 @MIL68/55:28/1294/65
8/21 vA'I73/02:015/9100/71
8/26 @StL610/33:111/1399/70

Career vs. Chicago: 12-12 (28 starts), 3.86 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 174.2IP, 135K:30BB
Career @ Wrigley: 6-5 (14 starts), 4.71 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 84IP, 63K:11BB
2009 road record: 4-3 (15 starts), 4.07 ERA/1.18 WHIP, 90.2IP, 65K:23BB
2009 vs. Chicago: 0-1 (3 starts), 3.68 ERA/1.02 WHIP, 14.2IP, 11K:1BB

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: .246/.306/.411, 56K:20BB
vs Lefties: .273/.315/.414, 63K:18BB

When swinging at the first pitch (82): .373/.382/.653, 12XBH
After First-Pitch Strikes (354): .218/.255/.312, 86K:11BB
After First-Pitch Balls (230): .284/.371/.488, 33K:27BB

RISP: 27x124, .218/.336/.339, 30K:18BB
Runners on: 53x235, .238/.320/.396, 46K:24BB
2OwRISP: 10x57, .175/.329/.228, 18K:9BB

Rich Harden

Last three appearances:

8/11 vPHI72/26:26/1187/54
8/19 @SD71/08:36/6103/62
8/26 vWSH65/25:28/895/66

In the eight starts Harden has made since the All-Star Break, only one of them hasn't been a quality one, and that one (7/31 @ FLA) was because he only went 5IP, 5H/2ER, 11K:3BB, and his pitch count was running up on him.

Career vs. Houston: 1-1 (3 starts), 5.30 ERA/1.55 WHIP, 18.2IP, 19K:7BB
2009 vs. Houston: 1-1 (2 starts), 4.85 ERA/1.59 WHIP, 13IP, 11K:6BB
Career @ Wrigley: 5-5 (19 starts), 4.34 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 101.2IP, 128K:45BB
2009 @ Wrigley: 3-5 (12 starts), 5.98 WHIP/1.40 WHIP, 61.2IP, 67K:28BB

Let's do the splits:
vs Righties: .213/.314/.393, 74K:34BB
vs Lefties: .243/.312/.424, 69K:18BB

When swinging at the first pitch (42): .343/.361/.571, 4XBH (2HR)
After First-Pitch Strikes (244): .205/.240/.323, 91K:8BB
After First-Pitch Balls (238): .232/.381/.479, 52K:44BB

RISP: 21x86, .244/.350/.407, 24K:14BB
Runners on: 40x175, .229/.335/.406, 53K:27BB
2OwRISP: 10x42, .238/.385/.238, 14K:9BB

So the Astros will be facing Harden, after all

David Kaplan is reporting Harden will be staying with the Cubs.

Berkman: Calf still bothering him?

In a fantasy baseball article lamenting the loss of Berkman's power, Jason Grey wonders if his calf is still jacked.

"I see him running, running hard, so I don't think that's an issue anymore. He's still getting extra-base hits, scoring from second with ease. I just don't think his swing is where he wants it to be."

I watched Berkman from several angles this weekend, and it was apparent there are still some timing issues with his swing. Even with the assumption that pain in Berkman's calf is no longer an issue, it's possible that fighting through the problem has caused him to compensate or slightly alter his stroke in some fashion. Berkman is still making the same contact, but not really driving the ball as well I've seen him. A few times during this past weekend, his hands were late getting to the ball from the left side, sapping some of the power in his swing, and he's not getting the leverage with his lower half, leading me to suspect that trying to compensate for the calf muscle has caused some problems with his swing.

Thankfully, Berkman has at least hit for some average while balls aren't clearing the fence, hitting .294 since the break as his batting average continues to rebound from a slow start that saw him hitting just .162 after the first month and .230 at the end of May. However, based on what I saw this weekend, he's going to need to get back in rhythm or perhaps make a slight mechanical adjustment to expect a good power outburst in the final month.

And what has the Tout Wars Champion noticed about Michael Bourn?

Michael Bourn's performance this season hasn't surprised me. This is kind of what I've expected, and what's he's capable of. The fact that he fell so flat last season was the surprise. I did expect some struggles in his first season with a full-time starting job, but the depth of those struggles were unexpected. However, Bourn has bounced back nicely this season, ranking as a top-10 outfielder in our Player Rater. The speed has obviously still been there, and he's brought the batting average up. His batting average on balls in play is .370, which is probably a tad high even for someone with the Bourn's wheels. While his average does have a little bit of luck involved, it's legitimate.

One of the biggest changes in Bourn's game this year is being much more aggressive with fastballs early in the count. Last year, he was trying too hard to draw walks and see pitches trying to get ahead. That often works in the minors, but in the big leagues taking the first two pitches can mean you're quickly down 0-2.

"You try to be patient, because as a leadoff hitter you think you need to take as many pitches as you can, but I learned you have to hit the way you hit no matter where you are in the order and not try to change things. I feel like I have a pretty good eye, but if it's in the strike zone I'm swinging. Every so often, I'll go up there to take the first pitch no matter what, but usually if it's a good strike I'm going to swing."

Last year, Bourn wouldn't always stay back and behind the ball, instead lunging or reaching at it, and it threw off his swing path. He would drift forward, and when you do that your head is moving and everything looks faster. Last year, the book was that he could be beaten with fastballs, but that's definitely not the case this season, as he's become a very good fastball hitter. He's done a much better job of consistently staying back, and he's able to go to the opposite field, thus we're seeing the results. This is the version of Bourn we can expect going forward.

August 31, 2000-2009

The Astros are currently 62-68, 14GB of the Cardinals heading into play on August 31. How does that compare to the past ten seasons (without the Wild Card)?

2008: 70-66, 15GB
2007: 60-64, 9GB
2006: 65-68, 6GB
2005: 69-62, 14GB
2004: 68-63, 18.5GB
2003: 71-64, tied for 1st
2002: 72-62, 2.5GB
2001: 78-55, 4 games up
2000: 55-78, 20GB

Astros might face Harden tonight. Or they might not.

Because the Twins put in a waiver claim on Rich Harden, and the Cubs have until today to work out a trade. This will affect today's matchup post, so stay tuned...

The Albany Times-Union is just mean

Profile on the upcoming close of the 2009 Tri-City season.

Sports Editor Mark McGuire:
Maybe there's a more meaningless game than the Tri-City ValleyCats facing the Aberdeen IronBirds tonight at Bruno Stadium. Perhaps the Tuesday night game. That's the best I can do.

ValleyCats manager Jim Pankovits:
"Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to play a lot of meaningful games involving a pennant race. We struggled in just about every phase of the game. They certainly have a body of work that is full of adversity that they can call on down the road -- how they dealt with it positively or negatively. Certainly it was a learning experience in that respect."

For all the ineptitude, you can't say the ValleyCats underachieved; that would presume talent. While a small handful of players such as third baseman Erik Castro and shortstop Barry Butera may have gotten themselves on the radar of the parent club, the ValleyCats are too starved for power, speed and pitching to ever have been considered a contender.

And then this:
Enough. The fans and local management (which has no say on player personnel) deserve better.

The ValleyCats' franchise agreement with the Astros expires after 2010. Consider next season a make-or-break one -- not just for the to-be-determined players, but the Astros-ValleyCats union. Granted, the won-loss record of a Class A team is not paramount to the Major League club. But unless the Astros make demonstrable strides in getting some talent -- any talent -- to Troy (start by improving college scouting), then Tri-City owner Bill Gladstone should be looking elsewhere for a big-league affiliation.

So this morning we hear from Justice that Round Rock sucks enough to perhaps get taken away from the Astros. And that the NYPL team might suck enough to get taken away from the Astros after 2010. Rough year, huh?

Wade, on call-ups

Further evidence on a lack of call-ups:

"As best as possible, I would like to limit it to players who are going to get a chance to contribute. It doesn't mean there might not be a player or two here for atmospheric reasons, to learn about the big leagues a little bit, but by and large I don't believe in using September as rewards.

You start talking about [accruing] 30 days of big league service time and everything else that comes with it. As excited as players are to get promoted to the big leagues in September, when they get here and don't play, I'm not sure they're quite as enthralled as they thought they would be."

Interesting. Major League Baseball isn't as cool as we think, apparently.

Within this piece, we see Towles is "almost assured" of getting a spot. Sampson and Manzella are also strongly being considered.

"We want to win as many games as we can. We're committed to a lot of veteran players here, guys who have gone out there and battled for us all season long. I think they deserve the opportunities to continue to play. Can you find out some things about younger players in September? To some extent, but I've also been told by a lot of sage, veteran baseball people, 'Don't be fooled by what you see in Spring Training and don't be fooled by what you see in September.'

The players will be here to contribute when called upon, but my expectation is the bulk of the playing time will continue to go to the players who have gone out there and produced for us all season long."

Or, not produced all season long.

The Nolan Ryan Effect spreading to Round Rock?

Interesting tweet from Richard Justice this morning:

Round Rock Express may dump Astros and sign on with Rangers in 2010. Nolan Ryan must be tired of finishing last.

Eddie's Farm: August 30

Round Rock
Nashville used a 6-run 4th inning to beat the Express 7-3. Matt Kata was 3x4 with 2RBI, Reggie Abercrombie (2x5), and Bogusevic (2x4, RBI) had multi-hit games. Josh Muecke threw 5IP, 9H/4ER (7 total) and four relievers followed - three of them major-leaguers (Wright, Brocail, and Sampson), while Chad Paronto closed out the game. This was the second time Sampson has pitched since August 20, and surprise surprise, allowed 0ER in his those two games. So, rest. Who knew?

Corpus Christi
Corpus scored a go-ahead run in the 8th to defeat San Antonio 11-10. Jhon Florentino was 3x5, while JVO was 2x3 with a 2-run homer and 3RBI. Felix Molina and Nick Moresi had 2RBI each. Klingin' Kenny Baugh threw 2IP, 6H/7ER, 0K:3BB, and Ryan McKeller came in with 4IP of relief, 4H/2R (1ER), 4K:1BB. Weatherby blew the save, but got the win, while Evan Englebrook got his 8th save of the year.

Despite out-hitting San Jose 9-6, the JetHawks lost 4-1. Jack Shuck and Ebert Rosario had two-hit games. Chris Salamida threw 6.1IP, 5H/4R (1ER), 3K:3BB. Four errors (Rosario - 2, Cabral, and Salamida) led to the three unearned runs

Lexington scored a run in the 12th to defeat Greenville 4-3. Jay Austin was 2x6 with an RBI, Brandon Wikoff was 2x5, and Suttle and Pellegrini each added RBIs - Suttle's RBI double providing the winning run. Jordan Lyles thrwe 5IP, 7H/3ER, 6K:0BB while Henry Villar, Brian Wabick, and Matt Nevarez threw 7IP, 5H/0ER, 7K:0BB in relief - Nevarez picked up the win.

Tri-City beat Aberdeen 6-3 thanks to Nick Stanley's 3x4 day, with a 3-run homer and 4RBI. J.D. Martinez was also 3x4 with a solo homer. Colton Pitkin threw 5IP, 4H/1ER, 2K:4BB for the win.

A 5-run 5th inning for Princeton was what sunk the Gastros 7-3. Kyle Miller was 2x3 with two doubles, Our Boy Aaron Bray was 2x4 (hitting .436 in his last ten games, .316 in August). Jiovanni Mier hit a solo homer, and Carlos Mojica had the other two RBI. Luis Cruz threw 4.2IP, 8H/7ER, 3K:0BB while Jeiler Castillo and Scott Migl threw 4.1IP, 1H/0ER, 6K:2BB in relief.

2012 is going to be awesome

In a nice profile of the Legends' heralded pitching staff:

Jordan Lyles:
"We're pretty young, but experience wasn't a factor. We came out and threw strikes and got people out."

Astros' minor-league pitching coordinator Britt Burns:
"I've been tickled to death with what (the starters have) accomplished this year. I'm really looking forward to next year, (seeing) them progress and, hopefully, finding their way to the big leagues sooner rather than later."

Lexington pitching coach Travis Driskill:
"They're all 20 and under, and they've all performed in a league where most of the guys are probably either college kids or have at least three or four years of pro experience. They've all done well, and all of them have thrown one game that you can say, 'Wow, that was a really good game!'"

Robert Bono:
"The biggest stride is probably keeping the ball down. And going in and out. Command of my fastball, that's been the biggest jump."

Brad Dydalewicz:
"My changeup has been a great pitch for me this year, so I've pretty well mastered that pitch. I really feel comfortable throwing it in any count. My ball is moving a lot and I've got a lot of sink on my two-seam (fastball)"

Kyle Greenwalt, on what changed from last year:
"My competitiveness on the mound. I just became more willing to allow guys to hit the ball and I just learned a lot. That's what our pitching philosophy has been all year: just pitch to contact. You don't need to strike guys out."

Jordan Lyles, who has already set the Lexington record for Ks in a season:
"Midway through the season I came away with a pretty decent curveball from Travis helping me, and our pitching coordinators. I've really grown to like it and I expect big things from it in the future."

Ross Seaton:
"The game's faster. I know everybody says that, but I didn't understand it until I got here. Everything just moves faster and you have to learn how to slow it down and keep it at your own pace. We can't control whether we score runs or not. And it's not in our control how many runs we give up, either. You can have great suff and get killed, and you can have awful stuff and throw a shutout. It's the way it is, and we're learning from it, and you 'just pitch' no matter what."