Saturday, October 3, 2009

Get your erasers ready to scratch Valentine's name off the list

An ESPN report claims Bobby Valentine is in talks with the Florida Marlins.

At a time when Bobby Valentine has begun the process of talking with teams about a possible return as a manager in Major League Baseball, sources said he is in communication with the Florida Marlins about a possible position with that team -- less than eight months after Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez received a two-year extension.

Personally, I hope this happens. Because if the Marlins drop Fredi Gonzalez eight months after a two-year extension, it makes Drayton & Ed look like Father Time.

Recap for G161 - Astros @ Mets

Man, the Astros really know how to make a crap team look alright. Yorman Bazardo was shaky again, throwing 93 pitches in 4.2IP for a short outing that was made longer by a 2+ hour rain delay. Let's just do the thing, for the penultimate time.

Bazardo: 4.2IP, 5H/3ER, 3K:3BB, 15/23 first-pitch strikes, 19 non-contact strikes (3 16 called:3 swinging)
Gervacio: 0IP, 1H, 1BB, 1/2 FPS, 3/8 NCS (2c:1s)
Wright: 0.1IP, 1BB, 1/2 FPS, 3/5 NCS (2c:1s)
Byrdak: 1IP, 2K, 2/3 FPS, 5/8 NCS (2c:3s)
Fulchino: 1IP, 2H/1ER, 2BB, 2/6 FPS, 3/10 NCS (1c:2s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2H, 1K, 4/5 FPS, 3/9 NCS (1c:2s)

How did Bazardo throw that many pitches and only last 4.2IP? 17 foul balls. 10 of the 23 batters faced saw 5+ pitches.

Once again, the Astros were bottled up, going 1x7 with RISP (Pence getting the only RISP knock). Only Keppinger and Matsui got 0-fers (0x3, each), and Berkman had the only multi-hit game. Tejada extended his hit streak to 20 games, the most since Willy Taveras had his 30-game hit streak back in 2006. He'll need two hits tomorrow to get his 200th hit of the season. In eight combined plate appearances, Berkman and Lee saw a combined 16 pitches. J.R. Towles saw 23 pitches in 4 PAs.

Towles' second life makes me wonder. If Castro doesn't make the club out of Spring Training in '10, Quintero and Towles may very well be your C1/C2, leaving Chris Coste...uh...some time to write another book.

Man of the Match: Lance Berkman. Two hits, raising his average to .274.

UPDATE: The Man of the Match has been given to Deputy Jason, for staying through a miserable game, one of reportedly 1,000 fans to stay through the delay.

Goat of the Game: Yorman. It's tough to stay locked in (I'm not even playing. I just sit on the couch and pass dry sarcasm with little to no accountability.) However, you're auditioning here, and the Mets aren't very good, and this was pretty bad.

McTaggart: LaHawk for closer

AC has long been a champion of pushing LaHawk to the bullpen, giving him $5 million, and saving $8 million (Valverde's eventual $10 million + LaHawk's $3.5 million - the $5 million LaHawk should get) that can go to...name it.

Now McTaggart is championing the cause.

Which leads us to the setup role, which McTaggart (and I concur) says Fulchino should be able to handle. He also says not to expect Doug Brocail back - something for which we have been preparing you for quite some time.

David Wright sits because Manuel is afraid Bazardo has no idea what he's doing

Hey, remember when David Wright got hit in the coconut? Jerry Manuel acknowledged that David Wright was out of the G161 lineup because of Wright's "phobias" and that he didn't know whether Bazardo was "a control guy."

"Just being careful for a guy coming off a beaning such as he had. It's a different experience for him, a different test. You try to protect that going forward. I'd feel better if he gets through it without a setback."

Lineup for G161 - Astros @ Mets

Captip, Alyson Footer:

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

Do you think anyone would notice if Chris Johnson drove around the Long Island Expressway all afternoon?

Huh? Free Agent Compensation

Next in the series of "Huh?" is free agent compensation, a topic which has caused some moderate confusion in recent days, and is a timely topic, thanks to Tejada, Valverde, and LaHawk projecting as Type A Free Agents. What does this mean (with some help from Tim Dierkes)

-Players are classified by Type A, Type B, or Type Nada based on the two previous seasons' productivity. Let's use Tejada as the focus of this experiment.

-If Tejada is offered arbitration, declines, and signs with another team (lets just say, for demonstration purposes, that team is the Dodgers), the Astros would receive the Dodgers' first-round pick in the 2010 June draft, and get a supplemental pick between the first and second round.

-If Tejada were to sign with the Padres (again, for demonstrative purposes), they would just get the supplemental pick and the Padres' 2nd-round pick. Why? Because the Padres are in the bottom half of the overall standings, and the first 15 picks are protected.

-Now, for Type B players, if a Type B free agent signs with another team, the Astros would only receive the supplemental pick.

-Another possibility to consider is that if Tejada signs with another team before December 1 (the month in which arbitration is offered/declined/spat upon), the Astros would receive the appropriate draft picks

Recap for G160 - Astros @ Mets

Well, that couldn't have gone much worse, huh? The Astros were held to six hits, which is one more than Doug Brocail allowed in the 8th inning of a 7-1 loss to the Mets. Wandy did what's what, getting himself the "quality start," but gave up eight hits, including a two-run homer to Jeff Francoeur. Let's just do the thing:

Wandy: 6IP, 8H/3ER, 3K:1BB, 17/26 first-pitch strikes, 22/72 non-contact strikes (13 called:9 swinging)
Byrdak: 0.2IP, 1H, 2K, 3/3 FPS, 4/9 NCS (3c:1s)
Gervacio: 0.1IP, 1K, 1/1 FPS, 3/3 NCS (1c:2s)
Brocail: 1IP, 5H/4ER, 1/8 FPS, 3/23 NCS (3c)

Nope, that's not a typo. Brocail gave up 4ER in his one inning, needing 37 pitches to get through the 8th inning, with none of them of the "Swinging Strike" variety. How did it happen?

Carlos Beltran: Flyout to left
Francoeur: Single to center
Tatis: Single to right
Santos: Single to right (RBI)
Hernandez: Sac fly to left
Murphy: Pinch-hit homer to right
Pagan: Single to right
Castillo: Flyout to center

Yep, that's eight batters, three outs, and one first-pitch strike to those eight batters on Brocail's part.

And because the offense is predictably terrible, even against John Maine and the Mets, the Astros gave Wandy his 12th loss of the year (putting his record at 14-12, with a 3.02 ERA. Those six hits were spread out among six players, including pinch-hitter Darin Erstad. The other five hits were courtesy of Bourn, Tejada, Berkman, Lee, and Matsui. It takes a lot of factors to make the Mets look good. One of those factors are the Houston Astros. They only had three ABs with RISP (0x3, natch), and Michael Bourn was gunned down at 3rd base, denying him of his 62nd stolen base. And the Astros' one run came in the 4th, when Blum screwed up and grounded out, scoring Berkman.

The Astros seemed to have a good chance in the 5th, with the score tied at 1-1. Matsui reached on a bunt single, and with some grounders, made his way to third, where Bourn left him right there with a swinging strikeout.

Man of the Match: Jeez. This is like congratulating your foot for not smelling as bad as your rear end. I seriously have no idea. 5-8 in the lineup were a combined 1x12. No one did particularly well. How about Wandy, for the quality start?

Goat of the Game: This one goes to Brocail. See above.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Free Agent comp picks

Someone help me out. Why did I think that a Type A free agent got you two picks and a Type B was one?

(This is the blog equivalent of a dunking booth)

Lineup for G160 - Astros @ Mets

Courtesy, Alyson Footer:

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

Chris Johnson can't buy a lineup spot.

Olney's Type A Free Agents

Buster Olney's column, he breaks down how getting Type A Free Agent status actually hurts the trade value of a player, as the teams have to give up two draft picks when signing a Type-A (as opposed to one pick for a Type B).

The Astros' Type As, with Olney's commentary from a panel of six executives and player representatives:

LaHawk:
Four of six predicted that the Astros will offer him arbitration. Said one official: "They should offer it to both (Hawkins) and Jose Valverde, but I don't know if they will." Said a player representative: "If they offered arbitration to him, that would really hurt his market, a lot like it did with Cruz. Nobody is going to surrender a draft pick for an older reliever."

Tejada:
Six of six predicted the Astros will not offer him arbitration.

Valverde:
Four of six predicted that the Astros will not offer him arbitration. "They won't devote that much money to paying for a closer," said one official. Another countered: "He'd probably get $10 million or $11 million in arbitration, and so the worst-case scenario would be that you have to eat a little more money than you expected, and the best-case scenario is that you would get draft picks." Said an AL GM: "If they did offer him arbitration, it would hurt him on the market, because there are a lot of bullpen alternatives where you wouldn't have to give up the draft pick."

If you love Valverde, set him free...

Baseball America's South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects

BA's Top 20 Prospects features Lexington pitcher Jordan Lyles at #6. I'm not a BA subscriber, so...can't tell you much more than that.

Castro "one to watch"

NESN's Prospects to Watch in the Arizona Fall League feature Jason Castro.

He hits for a solid average (.300 in '09 at two levels), but minimal power (10 total home runs). He looks like an above average big leaguer who should be a serviceable fantasy backstop.

Wow! Ringolsby really screwed the pooch on that one.

And now you see why Astros County cites all rumors, and any speculation is duly noted before said speculation begins.

Tracy Ringolsby's unsubstantiated column-filler that the Astros and Diamondbacks were on the market has been refuted by Drayton, and now by Arizona Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick.

Kendrick:
“It’s a complete and total fabrication of the highest order. That’s the last thing on my mind.”

Drayton's net worth

Beneath the customary veneer of Richard Justice's sarcasm, we see a few things about Drayton and the For Sale sign sitting on the Train Tracks.

Now something has come to my attention that might explain why Drayton might be reconsidering whether he wants to own the Astros. I'll just be blunt. Drayton may need money. Forbes is out with its list of the richest Americans, and there was a tough truth in there for Drayton M. McLane Jr. His estimated net worth has declined from $1.6 billion on the 2008 list to $1.45 billion on the 2009 list. At this rate, he'll be broke by 2054. He has actually risen in the rankings, going from 301 to 272, but I'm sure that's no comfort to a bottom-line man like Drayton.

The Forbes article is here.

Kennett, MO coach has jokes!

In today's Daily Dunklin Democrat, there's a story about the flu going around in advance of the Battle of Dunklin County. Of course, this features the Malden Green Wave versus the Kennett Indians.

Except the Kennett Indians are all Tebowed with the flu. How hard is it hitting the team, Coach Kenneth Riedinger?

"Like Albert Pujols hit Lidge..."

If this is true, then this means that Kennett will get traded in a year and a half, run the table in 2012, and then collapse.

McLane: Astros are not for sale

Clarifying Tracy Ringolsby's uncited, unattributed popoff about how the Astros are for sale, Drayton McLane clarifies for MyFoxHouston:

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Our goal is to get the best manager in baseball and move aggressively forward to be a champion in 2010."

My favorite part of this story is MyFoxHouston covering their rear end with fellow FoxSports columnist Ringolsby:
Nationally respected writer Tracy Ringolsby, in his story online Thursday..."

If he keeps doing stuff like this, maybe you can scratch the first two words of his introduction.

J.B. MacDonald has a Money publicist

There's a lot of Astros prospect J.B. MacDonald in the news. Here's the local paper has a story on the young pitcher. Some highlights:

-“Over the next five plus months, I will be lifting weights and trying to find a job to save up some money before I go back. I won’t start throwing again until probably January, and from there I will work to get my arm in shape [in order to be] ready for the beginning of March.

“My end of the year meeting with my pitching coach [Gary Ruby] went well, and all he said was that I pitched well this summer, and they were happy with how I played, and the way I went about my business. He wasn’t sure what my role, or even where I’ll be placed as far as next season goes.

“All in all, I’m pleased with all that’s happened so far, and hope to have a similar experience next spring/summer.”

Chris Coste is an Astro

Chris Coste is a pretty stand-up guy. As a member of the 2009 Phillies, he has a lot riding on the Phillies' run, but he knows he's not a Phillie:

Most of the family is still here. Spiritually and financially, Coste remains at least a half-brother, his half-share of his old team's postseason money riding on the length of its run. His Astros teammates teased him all week that they were going to tackle him if he joined the dogpile when they clinched, but when Lance Berkman made that final out Wednesday night, Coste found himself curiously uninterested.

And when the texts came in from teammates like Clay Condrey and Shane Victorino urging him to join the late-night party, Coste said no thanks.

"I still consider them to be like my brothers," Coste said. "And they would welcome me as if I was still on the team. But it wouldn't have felt right for me. It would have been like walking on eggshells, in a way."

He went back to the team hotel.

Valentine: Just look at my interview notes from 13 years ago

David Barron's TV-Radio Notebook this morning addresses Bobby Valentine's interest in being Manager 16:

"They've heard my spiel (when he applied for the job in the 1990s) without the sushi connotations added to it. So if, in fact, I was something that would strike their fancy, they know what I'm all about."

Hm. That's...abrupt.

I'm sure he just went out to the car to get his wallet

Whoops!

Choker Shawn Chacon is in trouble again, this time for failing to pay Caesar's Palace $150,000, and a felony warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Lee out with sore wrist, should be back today

There is almost nothing of value in today's Notes column, but we can learn something. And we can laugh at something else. Verdict? Valid.

Carlos Lee was out for just the second time this season with a sore wrist. Lee:
“It's just a day off so I can rest my hand. The wrist is a little sore and it hurts when I swing and miss. At times if I miss, it hurts a little. But I've played with it like this and managed to go out there and keep at it for over a month. I think today was a good day to be off so I can finish the season strong in New York.”
-
And in one of the silliest quotes you'll see (really, it's up there with "It doesn't feel pretty good," and "Hump up."), from Dave Clark, on walking the warning track of a new ballpar - like CitiField:
I wanted to make sure that I walked the warning track to see if there's anything that's different or whatever about their ballpark and how the ball is coming off the wall and stuff like that and the ricochet and all that. It's just very important. And Al (Pedrique, the new third base coach) does the same thing. He's asking those same questions. It's very informative information that we get from that.”

As opposed to uninformative information. Which is exactly what this Notes column was.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now it's Footer's turn to bust on JJO

In JJO's ridiculous post yesterday, he incurred the wrath of Astros County. Now he's incurred the wrath and record-straightening arm of Alyson Footer.

JJO said, of Milo:
Count Dave Clark among the legions happy that the legendary Milo Hamilton, a four-time Hall of Famer who is fighting cancer, will land in New York tonight in anticipation of calling the Astros' weekend series at new Citi Field.

This is alarming, as nobody had heard of this. Footer had this to say tonight:
I'd like to take a quick moment to address Milo's health situation. He recently finished an eight-session treatment to regulate his white blood count, and he will meet with doctors next week to discuss how the treatments went and what's in store for his future. This is not a new development -- Milo has had a chronic form of leukemia since the mid 1970s and his recent treatment was necessitated because of his health history. As Milo explained to me a couple of months ago, this is to prolong his life, not to save it.

A recent blog stated simply that Milo has "cancer," with no explanation of the circumstances surrounding the disease. Technically, yes, it's cancer. But this is not a new thing, as Milo has spent the last 35 years living with his illness.

I hope this clears up any confusion that report may have caused.


Snap.

If Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke made manlove, and one of them had a uterus, and gave birth, it would look like Felipe Paulino

JJO's blog post this evening has this after Paulino's 5IP, 1ER performance:

Tejada:
"He showed today how good he can be in the future for this team," Tejada said of Paulino. "I think he's going to be learning how to pitch. By the power that he has in his arm, I think he just needs to learn how to pitch and learn how to pitch in the big leagues. I think that kid is going to be like Verlander or Greinke later on his career because he throws. He just needs to learn how make the location like the way he did today."

Dave Clark:
"We've always said all along this kid is a work in progress. He's definitely a power arm. We just got to get him more consistent and make him more a pitcher than a thrower and he'll get better. He's got the stuff to definitely (have) the chance to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter here in the big leagues. That's what we're looking forward toward. His fastball was real good and when he was able to spot it and put it in real good locations he got his outs. Again, we're talking about a guy with a power arm really and truly learning to pitch up here."

Recap for G159 - Astros @ Phillies

Well, the Astros are 17 back with two to play, so time is running out on the Astros season, but a 5-3 win sure does help.

Let's do the thing:
Paulino: 5IP, 6H/1ER, 5K:3BB, 13/24 first-pitch strikes, 28/64 non-contact strikes (14c:14s)
Fulchino: 1IP, 1H, 1K:1BB, 3/5 FPS, 6/11 NCS (3c:3s)
Wright: 1IP, 1H, 2/4 FPS, 5/14 NCS (3c:2s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 2H, 2K, 3/5 FPS, 6/13 NCS (3c:3s)
Valverde: 1IP, 3H/2ER, 1BB, 5/7 FPS, 4/12 NCS (4c)

Congratulations to Felipe Paulino, who scored his first win since June 27. Valverde gave up the 2-out, 2-run double to Pedro Feliz (who was 5x17 with 7RBI). But Paulino's only run came in the 5th - Francisco doubled, and with two outs, gave up an infield single to Rollins, walked Ryan Howard, and another infield single to Ibanez - scoring Francisco.

The Astros only had one 0-fer from the position players (Quintero - 0x3), and multi-hit games from Tejada (2x3, 3RBI, 18-game hit streak, 196 hits, rain in the forecast in NY), Berkman (2x4, 2RBI), and Jason Michaels (2x4). Berkman led off the scoring with a 2-run double, scoring Matsui and Tejada. With Berkman's two RBI, that brings his RBI total to 80. And isn't that surprising, considering Berkman had 10 RBI in April.

Man of the Match: Tejada. Needs four hits in the final three games to get to 200. What, so I can't get sucked into this bullcrap?

Goat of the Game: In 4th Grade I won the Student of the Month. And the next day, I started a two-classroom brawl. True story. That's why I can give Valverde the Employee of the Month at 9am, and give him the Goat at 10:45pm. Of the same day.

Hang on, are the Astros for sale?

Tracy Ringolsby has an update on the bidding for the Texas Rangers, and then a curious side note - perhaps on the availability of the Astros? All of this is after a rah-rah piece about how great the Rockies are.

The bidding for the Texas Rangers appears to have been reduced to groups headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and former player agent Dennis Gilbert. Greenberg's group has offered current Rangers president Nolan Ryan an equity position with the deal that he would continue to run the team.

Word is two other teams are available — the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks — although there is no indication that there have been any serious talks with a prospective buyer for either team.


Let me know if I misread this...

Lineup for G159 - Astros @ Phillies

Here's your lineup for the series finale with the NL East Champion Phillies

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

Carlos Lee gets the night off, J.R. Towles gets to follow up the first multi-HR game of his career by sitting on his rear end.

Employees of the Month: September

Because there aren't any meaningful games in October, we'll go ahead and call it with the Employees of the Month for September. Winners get 10% off in the Astros County store, and a parking spot up front for the month.

Position Player
Miguel Tejada. Making his push for 200 hits by going .363/.387/.549 and getting 37 hits, 12 of them for extra-bases, and seven multi-hit games.

Pitcher
Goes again to Jose Valverde. He had five saves in September for a 1.80 ERA/0.90 WHIP. Opponents hit .152/.237/.242.

Pitch-tipping

Watch Joe Mauer allegedly tip pitches for Jason Kubel against the Tigers (link courtesy Deadspin.)

JJO: Lopez should have thrown the sinker

In an unbelievable blog post by JJO, the sum of whose knowledge could fill the fabled Library of Alexandria thrice over, he says Wilton Lopez should have thrown the pitch he wanted to throw.

Now, remember, following last night's game, Astros County (that's right: 3rd person) pointed out that JJO pretty much hung Lopez out to dry.

Listen to this, as a follow-up, from JJO:

Wilton Lopez had wanted to throw a sinker with the bases loaded, nobody out and the score tied at 1. Dewey Robinson visited the mound and told him to throw a slider.

Not wanting to disobey his boss, Lopez threw a first-pitch slider. Now, to be clear, Robinson didn't tell Lopez to hang the slider. Whatever the case, Lopez's first-pitch slider was crushed over the left field wall for a grand slam that gave the Phillies a 5-1 lead in a game they won by three runs, 7-4.

A more established pitcher would have likely gone with his instincts.


There's an old-time baseball word that comes to mind, and that's "Bullcrap."

You're asking a 26-year old pitcher, who was in Double-A 32 days ago, to "trust his instincts" and defy his pitching coach. There's a little anecdote to lead the post about how Roy told Wandy earlier this season to throw what he wanted to throw, despite what fingers Pudge put down. There's a big difference when Wandy, who has been in the Majors for five years now, shakes off his catcher, and when Wilton Lopez, who was making his first career Major League start, goes against his Major League pitching coach.

This now qualifies as the Worst Idea Ever.

Dave Clark:
"He's the one that's out there. He knows what pitch he has a real good feel for that particular night and what's working for him. Again, like we said earlier, this is definitely a work in progress for him. I'm not going to get into an argument on what he should have thrown or what he should not have thrown. The thing is it's his game and he's got to realize that if this is what's working for me tonight and this is my best pitch of the night then that's what I'm going to go with."

Horse**** (this is a family blog, after all). He's making his first career start. The bases are loaded. I don't care if he's facing Moonlight Graham, he's going to be keyed up, and whomever comes out of the dugout and tells him what to throw, he'll throw it. Dewey could have said, "What I want you to do here is throw a fastball about 30 feet in front of the plate," and Lopez probably would have done it. In your first career start, you're not going against anybody to throw "what you want to throw."

It's fine if it's Roy or Wandy. It doesn't fly with a rookie.

Bourn's four stolen bases

As you're aware, Michael Bourn is four stolen bases short of the franchise record (Gerald Young - 65). Is it on his mind?

Bourn:
"If I'm on, I'm going to go. As far as [the club record] being in my mind, it's not on my mind to where it's going to bug me. It's in my mind because I know what the record is. If I got the opportunity to get it, I'm going to try to get it. I'm going to try to tie and break it. That's only if the opportunity presents itself and how much I get on base. We'll see what happens the last few games."


On his approach:
"I'm more laid back and let Lance or Carlos drive the ball. It makes it easier on them to make contract with the ball and drive it to the outfield or hit the ground ball and I can get in either way. Just have it in the pitcher's mind that I might go, so he can't concentrate on Lance and Carlos and he might leave a pitch up."

Bourn told McTaggart that he's looking to steal third base more often in 2010.

On Towles

Towles, who enjoyed his first multi-homer game last night, was jealous of the Phillies:

"I was a little jealous. I wanted to be out there with them. All the hard work they put in paid off, and hopefully one day we can get to where they're at right now."

(Note: what would have happened if Towles had decided to jump the railing and get out on the dogpile? Hilarity.)

On those homers:
"I am getting my confidence back, and Clarkie told me to just go up there and swing the bat and have fun. That's what I was trying to do, to get something I can hit and put a good swing on it. Fortunately, they're starting to drop for me."

Clark, on Towles:
"It was just a matter of time. I've always said this kid can hit. It's just about him really getting that confidence back again. Hopefully with a game like tonight, he'll get that confidence back and he'll get a chance to catch two or there more games before the season is over. It's really good to see him going well."

Paronto probably won't be pitching this weekend

This morning's Notes column gives us an update on the chances of Paronto pitching this weekend (again, "Why the heck not" is generally a poor rationale.)

Dave Clark:
“It doesn't look good. I know the hamstring pull was pretty severe. We're talking about a guy who's 270 pounds. He wasn't that easy trying to get off the field (Tuesday) night. You can only imagine how long it's going to take a body like that to heal from a hamstring injury. I'm sure we're going to probably shut him down for the rest of the year.”
-
And who has any idea about who pitches on Sunday? Nobody!
“We're going to try to stay status quo unless Chad can't come back." What happens if Paronto is done? Wilton Lopez might not start, and the Astros might "empty out the bullpen."

I'm confused.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Levine's Minor League notes

Some notes from Levine on the minor league front.

-The Instructional League, consisting of lower-level minor-leaguers, runs through October 17.

-Jay Austin, who missed time with hamstring problems, will be working on baserunning and baserunning.

-Tanner Bushue, out with stress fractures in his back, is about a week behind everyone else in the program.

-Drew Locke, out with a broken hand, is now expecting to play Winter Ball.

-The Arizona Fall League begins October 13 (which is later than anyone on the Big Club will be playing), and runs through November 21.

Recap for G158 - Astros @ Phillies

Well, at least the Astros made it tough for the Phillies. Wait. The Astros had the lead, twice. But in the end, the Phillies scored the last nine runs of the game, and...well, the Astros aren't built to come back from seven down. Phillies win, and clinch the NL East, with a 10-3 win. (Did you see Matt Diaz get thrown out at third, with the bases loaded, and the Braves down by one, in the bottom of the 9th, scurrying like a freaking rat to get back to third on a wild pitch, when he could have scored the tying run, and kept their playoff chances alive? Get that guy a skirt. Maybe a scrunchie.) ESPN noted that Brian Moehler is now 8-22 for his career in September, and 1-13 in September since 2002. Let's do the thing:

Moehler: 4.1IP, 6H/7ER, 1K:3BB, 15/22 first-pitch strikes, 17/45 non-contact strikes (15 called:2 swinging)
Wright: 0.2IP, 1/2 FPS, 0/2 NCS
Gervacio: 1IP, 2H/1ER, 1K, 2/4 FPS, 4/8 NCS (2c:2s)
Byrdak: 1IP, 1H/2ER, 0K:2BB, 3/6 FPS, 2/8 NCS (1c:1s)
Valverde: 1IP, 1BB, 4/4 FPS, 4/10 NCS (3c:1s)

Interesting to note that the Phillies swung and missed at six pitches all night, out of 126 total pitches. And that's two straight disaster starts for Moehler, and the symmetry is disgustingly gorgeous, as his first two starts to 2009 were also of the diaster variety. Like his last two of 2009. It's also his 9th start of 2009 in which Moehler didn't make it to 80 pitches. Here's hoping Wesley Wright blows them away in Winter Ball.

Offensively, once again, the Astros had their chances, actually having the lead twice this game. In the first inning, the Astros had the bases loaded with one out. Blum struck out swinging, Pence walked, and Matsui flied out to right. Seven batters, one run. In the 3rd inning, Lee doubled to lead it off, and Blum grounded out, Pence struck out looking, and Matsui flied out to center. Okay, that's pretty much it for chances.

Tejada was 2x5, extending his hit streak, and giving him 194 hits on the season, needing six hits in the last four games to get to 200 (because the math is free here at Astros County). And Bourn stole his 61st base of the season, moving him into 2nd place for all of MLB (unless Carl Crawford stole a base tonight, I didn't check), and within four stolen bases of tying Gerald Young's franchise stolen base record.

But the story for the offense was J.R. Towles, whose two homers almost doubled his career home run total - which, before tonight, stood at three. It also means that he has five hits in last 12 ABs, before which he had one hit in 21 ABs.

There were a few 0-fers tonight: Bourn (0x5), Pence (0x3), Matsui (0x3).

Man of the Match: J.R. Towles. Hopefully he can build on this.

Goat of the Game: Brian Moehler. Are you kidding me? Are we sure he's locked up a 2010 SP spot?

The Astros are in no way America's Team

That's according to a Sacred Heart University poll in which they ask which MLB team is "America's Team."

The Yankees won in a landslide, with 41.6% of the vote. However, the Astros didn't get a single vote. That's exactly two votes less than the Blue Jays. Who, as you know, play in Canada. That's cold.

Crasnick: Berkman/Lee have "prospered"

Crasnick's Starting 9 today deals with players who have prospered in losing situations. Somehow, Berkman and Lee are on this list.

Still, Berkman and Lee capped off a decade of all-around hitting excellence with their production. It's a tribute to Berkman's craftsmanship at the plate when he can have a season that's considered a disappointment by his standards, and he still ranks 14th in the National League with a .911 OPS.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada also did something special this season. He's closing in on 1,578 games this decade, which would tie him with Brooks Robinson in the 1960s for the second-most games played in a decade. The record belongs to Pete Rose, who appeared in 1,604 games in the 1970s.


Here's my question. It IS a tribute to Lance that he can lead the team in Goats and still have an OPS as high as it is. But at what point do we proclaim that Berkman isn't paid to take walks. It's great to have his OPS, but Berkman needs to be an RBI guy, as well. Am I right? Or am I wrong?

Manzella learning from Tejada

Astros Notes column today talks about how Manzella is learning from Tejada this month. The Astros have apparently asked for adjoining lockers for Manzella and Tejada.

Manzella:
“I just try to pay attention to just little things that (Tejada) does. You don't really want to mimic your game after anybody. I'm a pretty firm believer that you grew up playing a certain way, and that's probably a large reason why you're successful. You don't really want to make any major changes to what makes you a good player. But I think there's a lot of little things you can learn from Miggy and watching players like Jimmy Rollins, who is right there on the other side of the field. Miggy's a real open guy, always willing to share information and just toss ideas around and not really forcing any ideas on you but just giving you a lot of good things to think about. Any information he wants to give me I definitely will keep in mind.”

Miggs:
“I always try to teach them what I do well. I've always concerned myself with trying to help younger players. I do it because when I got to the majors I got a chance to play with a team where there were a lot of good players with good hearts. They did it for me and I have to do it for the youngsters.”
-
And Ed Wade hasn't really started the managerial search yet, so you still have time to get your references in order:
“We really haven't done anything of consequence. We're still having internal discussions, which are a little bit disjointed with us being on the road. I would assume at this point that nothing of consequence will occur until the season is over. Most if not all the people that we would consider on the first list of candidates would require us to ask permission to talk to them. It's something that could stretch out into postseason. We haven't really formalized our approach yet, but we will.”

Astros attendance versus other teams who can't get their crap together

Richard Justice's blog post this morning talked about the vicious cycle of baseball revenue/payroll/attendance (The economy sucks, so fans don't come to the ballpark, which hurts revenue, which hurts payroll, which hurts the standings, which hurts the attendance, because the team sucks, and so on. At least for a team with no real plan in place.) Anyhow, there is a question in the comments field from "justbob" wondering about how the Astros' attendance compares to other teams that sucked in 2009. So let's take a gander:

The Astros are 73-84 and have completed their home schedule for this season. Other NL teams under .500 include: Mets, Nationals, Brewers, Reds, Pirates, Padres, and Diamondbacks. This is organized by drop in per game attendance from 2008 to 2009.












TeamAttendancePer GameDiff from 08
Mets3,055,28239,170-10,593
Nationals1,793,28222,416-6,589
Padres1,816,54423,591-6,484
D-Backs2,509,92426,281-4,706
Reds1,963,10721,873-3,957
Astros2,521,07631,124-3,619
Brewers3,068,90837,499-388
Pirates1,609,07619,480-385


It's worth noting that the Reds, Padres, and Mets still have home games remaining.

The fact that the Mets moved into a smaller ballpark almost eliminates them from consideration here, as they have the sixth-best attendance in the Majors.

But note that the Astros have the third-highest total attendance and the third-lowest per game drop for the eight NL teams under .500. It's not particularly surprising that the top five teams for total attendance have already locked up playoff spots. I'm probably most surprised by the Brewers attendance from 2008 to 2009, as they made the playoffs last year, and haven't been within five games of the division lead since August 9.

Let's talk velocity

I got curious about the velocity of the pitching staff. When I get curious, you have something to read. All figures are courtesy of FanGraphs. In the off-season, we'll look at changes from 2008 to 2009, and what we might be able to expect in 2010. For the time being, let's just look at the velocity of pitchers based on four pitch types.

FB = Fastball
CB = Curveball
CH = Changeup
SL = Slider

















PitcherFB VelCB VelCH VelSL Vel
Arias9381.480.582
Bazardo92.1-83.183.4
Brocail89.275.984.585.3
Byrdak89.4-82.782.4
Fulchino92.982.184.883.2
LaHawk94.180.68688.2
Moehler87.677.681.282.9
Norris93.5-86.587.5
Oswalt93.17283.484.1
Paulino95.281.985.285.8
Valverde95.884.185.385.8
Wandy90.176.98479.6
Wright91.278.984.983


Biggest change in velocity from fastball to changeup goes to Alberto Arias with a -12.5mph drop.

Yeah, I sent my resume

McTaggart has word that 60-70 applicants have inquired about becoming the next Astros manager. I'm one of them. Hey, I got five votes in the Approval Rating poll.

Paronto and his hamstring

Chad Paronto left last night's 7-4 loss in the 7th inning thanks to a strained left hamstring:

"It felt like it pulled and just was all knotted up. There's a giant knot back there now. I told [head athletic trainer] Nate [Lucero] that's really the first leg injury I've ever had in my career. It's one of those things. I don't know if I slipped or what it was. I saw the pitch and then I planted my foot and after that... They said Jamie had a problem [with footing], too, so I don't know."

Will he pitch again this year?

"I don't know what they'll tell me, but I plan on being out there tomorrow. I don't know if that's realistic or not, but that's the way I'm going to approach it. I know it's going to be sore, but with [five] days left, what the heck?"

I think that's a short-sighted decision.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A hanging slider, or hanging Lopez out?

Wilton Lopez didn't want to throw the slider.

Lopez, on the AB that gave the Phillies a 5-1 lead:
“I had dominated (Feliz) with sinkers. That’s what I had to look for because I was thinking about getting a double play because it doesn’t matter if they score a run, but at least they don’t hit a home run like when the slider stayed up."

JJO might have put Lopez in an awkward situation by letting him continue to talk, and then publishing what he said:
After loading the bases in the fourth inning Tuesday night, Wilton Lopez was willing to trade a run for two outs. He wanted to try for a double play with a sinker. Then, pitching coach Dewey Robinson visited the Citizens Bank Park mound and told him to throw a slider to Pedro Feliz.

Lopez:
“As they say, I’m getting started and I have to pay attention to the pitches they tell me because if I don’t obey and I throw another pitch and they hit me with the pitch they asked for them I’m making a mistake. I’m new at this. I have to keep learning like today’s start. That happened, and I have to work hard for my next outing. Whether it’s starting or in relief I have to prepare.”

So, JJO. Thanks for that. Hopefully Lopez doesn't have to avoid eye contact with Dewey for the rest of the year.

Recap for G157 - Astros @ Phillies

So that streak ended, and another continued. The Phillies broke their five-game losing streak against Houston this season with a 7-4 win, but Miguel Tejada continued his 16-game hitting streak and his Race to 200 hits with a 1x5 night, bringing him to 192 with five games left.

The night didn't go so well for Wilton Lopez. Or Chad Paronto. Let's do the thing:

Lopez: 3.2IP, 6H/5ER, 2K:2BB, 8/19 first-pitch strikes, 12/33 non-contact strikes (9c:3s)
Wright: 1.1IP, 1H/2ER, 2K:1BB, 1/6 FPS, 8/14 NCS (6c:2s)
Paronto: 1.1IP, 1H, 3/5 FPS, 3/12 NCS (3c)
Fulchino: 0.2IP, 1K, 0/2 FPS, 2/4 NCS (1c:1s)
Gervacio: 1IP, 1K, 1/3 FPS, 6/8 NCS (5c:1s)

Lopez served up a real nice grand slam in the 4th to Pedro Feliz, and Chad Paronto left with a leg injury - as did Jamie Moyer - which makes me wonder about the pitcher's mound. I mean, Jamie Moyer could hurt his leg going to get a LuAnn Platter at Luby's Cafeteria, but when Chad Paronto gets hurt in the same game? Come on.

Yep, it really got away from Lopez in the 4th, with the game tied 1-1. Ryan Howard reached on an infield single to lead off the inning. Raul Ibanez singled to center. Jayson Werth walked. And Happy Pete sent a big fly to left. That's all with nobody out. Lopez recovered to get Bako to ground out to first and Happ to fly out to center. But a Jimmy Rollins single later, and Lopez is gone. After 57 pitches. Five games from the end of the season. Again, why risk an injury to a reliever (that happened in the 6th)? To save Lopez' 9.42 ERA? To keep him rested for the final start against the Mets on Sunday? Nope, instead, Wright throws 27 pitches, Paronto gets hurt, and it takes two more relievers after that to close out the loss. The 84th loss of the season.

Offensively, it wasn't a bad night, even though the Astros were 3x11 with RISP. Berkman got himself his 25th homer of the year; Matsui, his 9th. Lopez had a chance to break it open in the 1st with the bases loaded, but grounded out to 2nd to end the inning. Matsui (2x5), Berkman (2x4), Lee (2x5), Pence (2x4), and Towles (2x3) all had multi-hit games, with Pence and Towles recording the only two walks for the Astros all game. The Astros had the tying run at the plate with Ryan Madson on the mound in the 9th. Matsui and Berkman singled to left, and with one out, Lee struck out swinging, and Pence struck out looking to end the game.

This is the fourth straight year Berkman has had 25 homers, and the 8th season out of ten (and in 2005, he had 24). In all, Berkman has hit 20+ homers in every season in which he has played (not counting the 34-game 1999).

Man of the Match: I guess it's Matsui, much as I'm afraid Ed Wade will read this and not trade him for eight foreskins and a busted resin bag. 2x5, 2RBI to cut the deficit to 7-4.

Goat of the Game: Hard to give it to a guy who threw one bad pitch, and who was pitching in Double-A this season. But I'm gonna. Wilton Lopez, get your goat.

This could turn into a long night...

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel conducted a closed-door team meeting prior to this evening's game against the Astros.

The Phils’ skipper closed the doors and booted out all outsiders from the clubhouse hours before Tuesday night’s game against the Astros at the Bank in order to give the team a little pep talk and accent the positives. Mostly, Manuel wanted to inform his slumping team that a playoffs bid is there for the taking.

All they had to do was go get it.


If it's at all like the Astros' team meetings, someone's going to apologize, someone's going to get weepy, and the home team will lose, 10-3.

Lineup for G157 - Astros @ Phillies

Here's your lineup for tonight's game.

Matsui 2B
Tejada SS
Berkman 1B
Lee LF
Pence RF
Keppinger 3B
Michaels CF
Towles C
W. Lopez P

Come on. If you're going to leave Tejada in to get to 200 hits, take into account that Bourn needs six SBs to get the stolen base record...

Chat Wrap with Ed Wade

Earlier this afternoon, Ed Wade and Richard Justice participated in a live chat. Some highlights:

On the plans for adding personnel in the off-season:
Our preference is to fold as many young players into our mix as we possibly can. We'll be as resourceful as possible to improve the club. I don't want to have the oldest opening day roster again.

On Miggs' return in 2010:
I love Miggy and what he brings to a club. We still have to sit down at season's end and determine what we will be able to accomplish with our payroll for 2010. But he's been great.

On whether Matsui is 2B1 come 2010:
I believe he will be. It's been an up-and-down season for Kaz. But he's been healthy for the past couple of months and he has played at the level that we anticipated when we signed him; his numbers aren't that different from what he put up in Colorado in 2007. That said, we will pay close attention to Keppinger, Maysonet and others.

Paulino still hasn't locked up an SP spot:
Felipe has all the weapons to be a Zambrano type pitcher in the major leagues and I told him that in a meeting last week. He needs to dedicate himself to a conditioning program this off-season and come to Kissimmee prepared to force us to hand him the baseball every fifth day for the rest of his career. He can be very good.

Whether Carlos Lee mails it in on his way to first base:
I expect him to be in better shape next year. But the reality is that Carlos is a big man and is never going to be a burner. What some perceive as lack of effort is really just a case of a really big man going as hard as he can.

Maysonet's role in the future:
I really like Edwin Maysonet's versatility and we're trying to get him some work in the outfield during BP to enhance his value.

On the Lexington Four skipping Lancaster:
Even with that happening, we still have to exhibit the patience that allows them to develop, so we're still looking years vs. months.

On a Bagwell/Biggio managerial position:
Both Craig and Jeff were huge contributors as players and they can be great contributors down the road if they choose to do so. But I don't envision either of them factoring into our managerial decision.

Wesley Wright's rotation chances:
Wesley is going to winter ball in the Domincan Republic and he'll be a starter down there...Wes wants to start and we would love to have him battling for a spot in spring training.

On Chia-Jen Lo's Astros uniform in 2010:
Glen Barker did a great job signing CJ and we expect him at the big leagues at some point, maybe even out of the gate in April '10.

On Yordany Ramirez:
This kid's defense is otherworldly. He is off our grading charts with regard to his outfield play and throwing arm. He also runs well. If the bat comes, he's a star.

On 2010 payroll:
It probably will be lower than this year's app. $107 million as a result of the economy and other factors that have impacted on the entire sports industry.

On Koby Clemens:
Koby had an absolutely incredible season at Lancaster and everyone in the organization is proud of the way he's handled himself. No, he won't make the club out of spring training. We need to find the right position for him to play. Bobby Heck has stressed letting him play first base exclusively and I think his rationale makes a lot of sense.

Matsui back at 2B. Maysonet in the outfield. Koby at 1st. What's the biggest surprise for you?

Valentine "committed" to ESPN

Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post participated in a conference call with newest ESPN employee Bobby Valentine.

Since it's in the Post, it focuses mainly on the Nationals' managerial opening, though Sheinin graciously notes that Houston needs a manager, too. On that ESPN out clause though, Norby Williamson, ESPN's Executive VP of Production, says:

"Teams, at some point, would be crazy not to approach Bobby to manage their teams... I'm OK with that. People's aspirations change."

This "Norby" also says that he expects Valentine to be employed by ESPN through 2010.

An excerpt:
Asked whether he would be willing to step into a rebuilding situation, such as that of the Nationals, who have lost 100-plus games in back-to-back seasons, Valentine said he was more interested in a team's future direction than its past mistakes.

"I don't know about 100-loss seasons," said Valentine, "But I do know about a No. 1 draft choice [pitcher Stephen Strasburg] that was signed. I don't necessaily know about the baseball culture of many cities, other than the ones I've worked in. But I can tell you what would draw me to any job would be the people I would be working with day in and day out, who would have to be on same page, pulling in the same direction."


That could, or could not, be Houston.

What does Tejada deserve?

JJO has himself a blog post explaining that Miguel Tejada "deserves" to play the last few games of the 2009 season.

Tejada has bought suits, given girl advice, and is apparently an all-around good guy. But what about Manzella?

Some people would rather start to see what Tommy Manzella can do in the majors, and that is completely understandable. Yet, when Miguel Tejada is really the one willing this club to make sure they don't mail it in, well, he needs to remain in the lineup. Tejada will give the final drop of energy he has for his paycheck. And if you've been paying attention to the Astros lately, you know not everybody is doing that.

Did you see the nasty look and shake of the head he gave Lance Berkman Monday night when Berkman refused to slide when he was tagged out at home plate? Tejada knew the play was going to be close and urged his teammate to slide. Berkman didn't and got thrown out.

The games may not mean anything in the standings, but Tejada knows he owes it to you Astros fans and to Drayton McLane to play hard. As Dave Clark said Monday night, if you have a young player wanting to see how to play in the majors, have him look at Miguel Tejada.


Oh, and of course, JJO would resign Tejada to play third base, The Astros need his presence in the clubhouse more than you'll ever know.

I almost forgot how much knowledge JJO has. He has forgotten more than we could ever learn. We, as readers, sit and bathe in the sunlight of his favor.

This sounds like it's right out of a Chris Rock skit ("You're not supposed to beat your kids!" You're supposed to play hard every game.) Still, just because Berkman is playing like he'd rather be anywhere else doesn't mean Tejada deserves to be resigned. Tejada might as well play the last six games of the season, because we're not going to find anything out about how Manzella can play now. If the Astros weren't already committed to $3.8 billion in payroll for 2010 (approximately), maybe. But they've been hamstrung by bad contracts, and Tejada in 2010 would be a bad contract. Anything beyond would be a disaster. So what does Tejada "deserve?" Tejada deserves the $13 million he has already been paid, and nothing more.

Minor League Player of the Year

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo is leading a discussion regarding the Minor League Player of the Year:

Mayo lists six nominees for hitters: Oakland's Chris Carter, Oakland's Grant Desme, Seattle's Alex Liddi, San Francisco's Buster Posey, and our very own Koby Clemens and Jon Gaston.

There's a disclaimer about hitting in Lancaster, but what do you think?

Tuesday Morning Trivia

Name the Hall of Famer whose name appears on the most Hall of Fame plaques.

Brocail doesn't know what to do

Doug Brocail is waiting on the results of an MRI on his shoulder to take place next week before deciding what to do about 2010.

"It all depends what the MRI says at the end of the season. I've had a good run of luck lately, but health is the main concern. If I'm healthy, I'd like to play again. If not, I'll see...

..."They're going to look at the shoulder and make sure everything is fine and I haven't ripped it up due to [compensating for] the leg and everything. Hopefully that will help me make up my mind....

..."I'm going to get input from the guys [on the team] and the coaching staff and see if they think I still have it. If I still have it, then I'm going to continue. If the majority says, 'Man, you need to listen to your body,' and then I don't know. I don't have a plan yet."


The Astros can either exercise Brocail's $2.85 million option for 2010, or buy him out for $250,000. Which is my vote.

Bobby Valentine returning to ESPN

Bobby Valentine, who has spent the last six seasons managing Chiba Lotte in Japan, is returning to Baseball Tonight as an analyst.

Why is this important? He's a trendy name for Manager 16. However:

Valentine, who previously worked for ESPN in 2003, will take on expanded duties in 2010. He will appear on "Baseball Tonight" and 1050 ESPN Radio in New York, and contribute to ESPNNewYork.com, the local ESPN sports site that launches next year.

Does this disqualify him? Not necessarily, as Yahoo's Gordon Edes explains Valentine could have an out clause in his contract should he be offered a managerial position.

Miguel Tejada and the Elias Rankings

Besides the question of Who Will Be Manager, perhaps the biggest off-season decision the Astros have to make is regarding the status of Miguel Tejada. Should Ed Wade sign him to a new contract, or let him walk as a free agent?

Obviously, the Astros would like to get something in return for Tejada, should they let him walk. This is where arbitration comes in. If the Astros offer Tejada arbitration and he signs with another team, the Astros would be entitled to extra draft picks in the 2010 June Draft. Problem is, Tejada has apparently fallen in love with Tha 832/713/281, and is fervently hoping to return to Houston.

There's no way the Astros will resign him at his previous contract's rate, but as an experiment, Jon Heyman got together with an agent and a GM to predict the market value of some key free agents, Tejada included. They each separately pegged Tejada in the $9-10 million range. Tejada has had such a great year offensively that his arbitration case would probably be in that range, as well.

One of the keys to this is what type of free agent will Tejada will be named. Trade Rumors has Tejada currently listed as a Type B free agent - meaning the Astros will receive one draft pick from a team who signs him away. Is running the risk of Tejada accepting arbitration worth $10 million for one draft pick? Me say no.

Clark to work on Towles' confidence

It seems as though J.R. Towles needs a little confidence boost, and Dave Clark is more than happy to oblige. Towles will be starting the next two games on this road trip.

“More so than anything it could possibly be a confidence thing with him. You look back and you can even go back to this year at Triple-A. He was hurt a little bit and he didn't get a whole lot of at-bats at Triple-A and the fact that we're getting him here and he's not playing on an everyday basis. He's going to be given an opportunity to be our guy. That's what I believe in. That's what I'm going on.”

Of course, with Jason Castro on the horizon, there's a decision to be made with the C3 spot - Quintero, or Towles.

Recap for G156 - Astros @ Phillies

Oho! I bet Phillies fans are pissed! Congratulations to Yorman Bazardo, who recorded his first win of the season in an 8-2 win at Philadelphia. Miguel Tejada had his 6th 4-hit game of the season (best in the Majors), as part of a 15-hit attack on Cole Hamels. Let's do the thing:

Bazardo: 5.2IP, 2H/2ER, 4K:4BB, 14/22 First-pitch strikes, 24/45 non-contact strikes (16 called:8 swinging)
Gervacio: 0.1IP, 0/1 FPS, 2/3 NCS (2s)
Byrdak: 2IP, 1H, 1K, 6/8 FPS, 10/19 NCS (6c:4s)
Brocail: 1IP, 1H, 1/4 FPS, 4/12 NCS (3c:1s)

Bazardo settled down after allowing a single and a stolen base for Rollins, and a sac fly to put Philly up 1-0. Walks were really the only aspect of Bazardo's outing that would qualify as "troubling." Jayson Werth led off the 2nd with a walk, but Bazardo got Ibanez to GIDP. Things got a little hairy in the bottom of the 6th, when Victorino doubled to right and Utley moved him over to third. With two outs, and the Phillies down 3-1, Bazardo balked, scoring Victorino, and then walked Howard. Gervacio came in for the final out and got Jayson Werth to fly out to right.

Offensively, it was going on. Bourn was 2x5, Tejada 4x5, Berkman was 0x1 but had three walks, Lee was 2x5, Pence was 2x4, Keppinger was 3x5. Carlos Lee added 2RBI, pushing him over the 100-RBI mark for the seventh time in the last eight seasons (2004 was the exception, and Lee had 99 RBI). The big inning came in the 7th, when the Astros got five hits - four singles - to string together five runs. But more as a relief, the Astros were 7x15 with RISP. Even little J.R. Towles got into the hit column (1x5). And still, in a late-inning blowout, Johnson and Manzella sat on the bench.

Hamels' final line was: 6.2IP, 9H/6ER, 5K:3BB to drop his record to 10-10 with a 4.25 ERA, and it was his worst start since August 2.

Man of the Match: Yorman Bazardo. He really needed to show something going into 2010, which he had not yet done, and came out and threw a gem. Third Major League win.

Goat of the Game: Everyone got a hit (except Berkman, who has reinvented himself as The Most Patient Man on Earth), and for the first time in a long time, the Astros looked like a Major League team. No Goat.

Monday, September 28, 2009

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Lineup for G156 - Astros @ Phillies

Here's your lineup:

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

Astros 2009 Home Attendance

We'll look at this more in the off-season as a companion piece to the post during the All-Star break detailing attendance from 2008 to 2009, but we can at least do a quick glance at how the season ended, attendance-wise.

The Astros drew (or "sold," depending on the faith you put in attendance counts) 2,521,729 fans this season, down from 2,779,487 in 2008 and 3,030,405 in 2007. This represents a drop of 257,758, or 9.2% from last year (or 16.8% drop from 2007).

This works out to 31,132 fans per game.

Highest paid attendance of 2009: Opening Day vs. Cubs - 43,827
Lowest paid attendance of 2009: June 3 vs. Colorado - 22,032

Could be worse: The Marlins failed to draw 1.5 million fans for the fourth consecutive season, averaging 18,770 fans per game.

Or the Blue Jays. They averaged 23,162 fans per game.

Or how about the Diamondbacks, who saw a 15.2% drop in attendance from 2008.

Heyman: Astros the 4th-worst team money can buy

And he takes this opportunity to rip the idea of giving half your payroll to three players - and $5.5 million to Kaz Matsui - to shreds.

$102 million. Almost half of that is wrapped up in Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and Lance Berkman, so the roster is just a tad top heavy. Kaz Matsui at $5.5 million looks like a misprint, but unfortunately no.

Dispatches from Aaron Bray: Volume 2

Aaron Bray was the 27th round draft pick for the Astros in last June's amateur draft. He was also the winner of the Astros County Adopt-a-Player contest. Each Monday, Aaron will write a column for Astros County detailing his off-season. Click here for Post #1.

Astros County,
I hope all of you enjoyed the first week's post, I am happy to be doing this. Another week of playing catch up in school. I got tests and papers to write as I try to finish my degree. But with all that work, my dad and I found time to head to Houston and catch two games. I am in the hotel now after a 10-4 defeat, but I did enjoy my day at Minute Maid Park. It was a hot day, so the roof was closed and that made it easy to relax during the game. I got to see a teammate of mine from this summer, Jose Altuve, as they were honoring the MVPs of the Minor League affiliates. My trip will end tomorrow with a couple innings of the 1:05 game then it is back to home to Charlotte to go back to class and continue to work out. And now for my question for the week.

Can you detail the circumstances around your getting drafted by the Astros? What was it like in the leadup, what conversations did you have with the Astros (and any other teams), and what were you doing on Draft Day?

Well, to start off, I received a questionaire from the Astros area scout during the last week of April. It said "Send in immediatley", so I did. Never once did I talk to the scout, never got one phone call on draft day from houston until my name was called with 821st pick. I was at home in my town house relaxing. My girlfriend was off to work, my roomates were gone because of school being out. I'm alone in a house expecting to be drafted by the Cincy Reds. I went to the workout for them, and did well. As the second day of the draft went on I began to get frustrated, as most people probably would. As I got ready to turn of the computer my name popped up. From there on it was blur....Phone call after text after phone call. It was a great feeling and I was happy to be an Astro. That was my draft day. Besides being nervous all day, I was excited.

Thank you all and have a good week.
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Got a question for Aaron this week? Send it to astroscounty@hotmail.com

Perhaps Lucas May needs some perspective

Following the USA's 10-5 win over Cuba to win the IBAF World Cup, Lucas May of the Los Angeles Dodgers and had 4RBI, said:

“Other than playing in a World Series, this is as big as it gets."

Hmm.

Jason Castro's final line:
.130/.286/.130 (3x23), 2 RBI, 6K:4BB

I've been looking to see how Jimmy Van Ostrand did in the World Cup, but it's easier to find stats for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders than it is to find World Cup stats. Check back for updates.

Matsui out sick, Arias rehabbing, Hampton stops by

So it seems as though Kaz Matsui with Tebow-like Symptoms, a side effect of which is the random breaking down of Erin Andrews.

Dave Clark:
“I took Kaz out of the lineup today. He's feeling a little lightheaded. He hasn't been eating regular as of late.”

Matsui:
“I should be OK tomorrow. It's tough to explain, but I'm just a little dizzy, lightheaded. But it's not serious.”

Who else is sick, Dave Clark?
"I tell you what, we can go around the whole clubhouse and probably say that about a lot of guys. We just hope we can get over it real quick.”

Though JJO gives us a quick list: Humberto Quintero, Michael Bourn, Edwin Maysonet, Tommy Manzella and first-base coach Jose Cruz.

So to recap: Maysonet and Manzella are sick. Maysonet got the start yesterday. Clark just hates Manzella and Chris Johnson.
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Alberto Arias will rehab his knee in Houston:
“I feel the recovery will be fast. Dr. (David) Lintner did a great job on my surgery, and I think I'll do my rehab here for a few weeks and then be able to pitch a few weeks of winter ball in the Dominican Republic and be ready for the start for the season.”
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Mike Hampton stopped by the clubhouse, because...well...I'm not sure. Anyway, he'll be around until October 7, if you want to hang out:
“Everybody's leaving, so I wanted to stop by. I just wanted to say goodbye. I'll start my rehab here and stay here until the 7th of October.”

Fan Appreciation Day

JJO:
The 10th season at Minute Maid Park was much like the first — a disappointment. For that reason, Berkman and his teammates took time to tip their caps to the loyal fans who showed up for the series and home finale.

Berkman:
“We haven’t given them a whole lot to cheer for. That’s been regrettable, certainly. I hope they know that we care as much about wins and losses as they do. I know sometimes they can feel like these guys just don’t care. That couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter whether we win the game or lose the game, whatever the score is I hope they feel we’re giving them a good effort...

...“I just want to tell them thanks for continuing to support us through a difficult season. The people who are still here are the ones that are really not bandwagon fans. They’re the ones that appreciate the team and the sport of baseball. And we appreciate them.”


Dave Clark:
“It means everything. Given that the economy is the way it is, too, that these people are spending their hard-earned money to come out and watch me and the ballplayers means a lot.”

Drayton:
“I wouldn’t trade them for any of them. They’re ready for us to move forward next year. I’m very thankful for them to be so supportive. We have the most loyal fans in baseball, and I wouldn’t trade them for anybody or any other city. I want to say just a great thank you from me and the Houston Astros. Tell them we’re going to be champions.”

Does this make you feel better?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Indirect managerial possibilities

Should the Astros get rid of pitching coach Dewey Robinson, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi has some intriguing possibilities. Among them:

-Phillies' pitching consultant Bryan Price, who was the pitching coach for the 2000/2001 Mariners, and the 2007 Diamondbacks (and subsequently resigned after Bob Melvin was fired).

-Former Cardinals reliever Chris Perez wouldn't be surprised if Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan took off after the season. This is notable, not just for speculative value, but also because the Cardinals would be in a state of flux. Which is better than Missouri.

Perez:
"I had a feeling during spring training that this might be their last go-around, just the way they were interacting. They seemed to be more happy, excited to be there, like, 'It's our last go-around. Let's have a great year.' I kind of got that feeling from both of them. They've been at it a long time. Thirty years is a long time to be away from your family, always on the road. It's a grind. Always competing. Always expecting to win. Having expectations with your teams. I could see them both leaving, especially if they win (the World Series). I think they'd both like to go out on top."

Recap for G155 - Reds at Astros

There. That wasn't so hard, was it? Keeping a team under 10 runs? With that 3-2 win, the Astros break a 143-game losing streak to the Reds (approximately) and head into the final seven days of the season, ending the "Home" portion of 2009 44-37.

Wandy: 6IP, 9H/2ER, 9K:1BB, 17/27 first-pitch strikes, 42/68 non-contact strikes (19 called:23 swinging)
Fulchino: 1IP, 2K, 2/3 FPS, 7/8 non-contact strikes (3c:4s)
LaHawk: 1IP, 1H, 3/4 FPS, 3/7 NCS (3c)
Valverde: 1IP, 1BB, 0/3 FPS, 5/11 NCS (1c:4s)

Wandy improved his record to 14-11 for the season, and will get one more chance, Friday against the Mets, for his 15th win. He's really been the only bright spot in the rotation all season long. Any fears we may have had regarding his yearly slide back in late May/early June were disspelled.

The bullpen today was excellent, allowing just two baserunners in three innings - LaHawk's ERA sits at 2.08, while Valverde's is 2.20. A strong second half from him all but assures him of a big ol' contract in 2010 - and probably not from the Astros.

The Astros were held to six hits on the day, with Pence getting two of them. Poor Maysonet, about 18 hours after I championed him for a start over Matsui, goes 0x3 with a GIDP. Quintero hit his 4th homer of the season, proving to be the game-winner, while Carlos Lee got his 99th RBI of the season. In the third inning, Wandy singled to center for the leadoff, Bourn singled, and Tejada walked to load the bases with nobody out, Berkman grounded into an FC - scoring Wandy. Lee grounded out to third, scoring Bourn, and Pence struck out swinging. So the Astros accidentally scored two runs, and Quintero added the third. And the Astros were 0x7 with RISP (making that 13x88 - .147).

Man of the Match: Wandy Rodriguez. 9K:1BB, one win.

Goat of the Game: Even though he got an RBI, Berkman was 0x3, 0x2 with RISP, and drops his career batting average to .299 (which actually happened yesterday).

Maysonet in the lineup for G155

Still no Manzella or Johnson, but Maysonet is your starting 2B.

Zacharly Levine's Weird Moments in 2009

I'm not going to poach the blog post, but Zach Levine runs down some of the more weird moments in the Astros 2009 season.

Among them:
-Hampton cuts his hand on a soap dispenser
-Astros sign Armando Benitez
-Jiovanni Mier lets slip that the Astros will trade Tejada
-Coop fills out the wrong lineup card

I'll add a couple:
-Intentionally walking Nick Johnson to get to Hanley Ramirez
-Carlos Lee forgetting what day he was supposed to show up for Spring Training
-The Astros picking up Coop's extension for 2010 on April 19, 2009