Saturday, October 17, 2009

Note for Saturday

The day of reckoning has arrived, and I'm leaving for the Cotton Bowl in 15 minutes, so I won't be scanning for Astros news. Look for updates later on this afternoon on Mackanin/Garner's interviews.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reactions to Acta's interview

Brian McTaggart has a series of tweets about Manny Acta's press conference:

Manny Acta also very impressive. Melvin and Acta are going to be serious contenders if they interviewed as well as they talked with media. Acta's knowledge of the Astros was outstanding. He seemed to know club from top to bottom and has managed Oswalt and Berkman in minors.

Same from Alyson Footer:

Humorous moment in Acta's presser. When asked about also interviewing with Indians, he said, "It's just like playing the lotto, the more tickets you play, the more chances you have to win."

On his record with the Nationals:
"For those that don't know what rebuilding is about, you probably can hold that against me," but expressed confidence that people in the baseball industry understand you have to judge on more than wins and losses.

Rudy Jaramillo update

While we wait for Manny Acta's press conference, let's get an update on former Rangers' hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo from's Carrie Muskat

Cubs have asked Rangers for permission to talk to Rudy Jaramillo to fill their hitting coach vacany. could be an announcement early Nov

Just FYI...

Reactions to Melvin's interview

Bob Melvin's press conference following his interview:

Melvin, on the difference between the 2010 Astros and the 2005 Diamondbacks:
"Probably a little farther along here. We actually had to transition away from some of the veteran guys, the Luis Gonzalezes and Craig Counsells and so forth in Arizona and go to a younger group. I think the year we won in 2007 and we were like 25th in payroll and probably the youngest team in the National League. So a little different obviously in a situation like this when you have some veterans and some really good players. You're probably a little farther along. You're probably a little different in that it was more a of younger core group where as your core group here is more veteran.”

On decisions to be made, should he become manager:
I think there's some decisions to be made. Certainly with some of the players they have on the team, you don't have Lance Berkmans and Roy Oswalts and Carlos Lees and guys like that if you don't think you can win. Now the trick is to mix in your younger players with them and get headed in the right direction early on, gain some momentum and hope to kind of flourish off of that. A good core group here. I think anybody would be lucky in a situation like this.”

On his qualifications:
“I feel experience, one. Two, I've managed a veteran team in Seattle, won 93 games my first year there. Managed a younger group in Arizona. Obviously we got to the Championship Series there. This looks to be a mix of both. Having experience with both of those groups I feel like I'm a good candidate for this one.”

Justice's reaction:
If Bob Melvin gets a second interview when Drayton McLane returns from Europe next week, I have a strong feeling the Astros' owner is going to really, really like Melvin. Melvin is thin, clean cut and has a solid, solid resume. He's managed teams like the Astros are going to become. If the Astros are honest, they have to promise the next manager that they'll be patient and believe in a five-year plan. They're not going to win next year or in 2011. They need a guy who can keep the club respectable and usher in the mix of young players with the veterans.

After the first five press conferences of the Astros' candidates, Melvin appears to really stand out. I would not be shocked if he's the next manager of the Houston Astros.

Brian McTaggart:
5 of 10 Astros managerial candidates have interviewed. Here are my rankings: 1, Melvin. 2, Yost. 3, Clark. 4, Ready. 5, Pedrique.

Berkman's Path to the Pros

Part of a series from Minor League Baseball is a look at how today's big-name players (I'm hesitant to say "superstars") got to where they are. So who's up today? If you're good at context clues, you'll already know.

Former Kissimmee manager John Tamargo:
I didn't know much about him. I knew he had power, but that was basically all I'd known about him. He ended up being a pretty good outfielder for me. The first I saw Lance, what struck me about him, was him taking BP. He'd hit the ball and it would take off. It didn't seem like it would take off, but it just kept going and going and going. Big, long swings, tremendous power. His presence on the field ... you could tell he'd be a Major Leaguer."

Jim Pankovits (now the manager of Tri-City):
"He just stood out. No doubt about it, he was by far the best hitting prospect in the league. It's always a thrill to see him every Spring Training. I get to talk to him and visit and catch up. He is one of the top five, in my mind, Astros of all time." "

More Tamargo:
"You could tell the way he hit the ball and went about his business, he'd be a successful Major Leaguer. I saw him when he was just a youngster, just starting out, taking swings and almost falling down, to when he got his balance, shortened his swing and had that tremendous power. It's been fun to watch his progression. He was a leader for us back then too. He was light-hearted and kept everyone loose."

Ahh memories of what once was...

Throw out the record books when the Javelinas and Saguaros get together

The Peoria Saguaros found themselves on the business end of a 17-9 beatdown at the hands of the cross-something rival Peoria Javelinas.

How did the Astros' prospects fare in G3?

Jason Castro: 1x5, 1 run

Danny Meszaros: 1.1IP, 4H/4ER, 2K:0BB, 22 of 31 pitches for strikes. Served up a grand slam to Dodgers prospect Andrew Lambo. In the seventh, Meszaros gave up singles to Lorenzo Cain and Dustin Ackley, got a sac fly, popped up Lucas May, and then gave up a homer to big-shot prospect Dayan Viciedo before striking out Casper Wells.

Could have been worse. Cleveland pitching prospect Connor Graham threw 9 of 33 pitches for strikes, getting two outs, and walking six batters.

Astros to offer paperless tickets

The Astros announced yesterday that they will begin a paperless ticket option, where you only need your credit card to get into the game.

This will not only help the environment, but help the psyche of the Astros fan by providing an option where there is no paper trail of you having ever attended.

Day Three: Melvin and Acta

So far, I'm guessing that Dave Clark and Ned Yost won their head-to-head interviews on Wednesday and Thursday (and I have no reason to think that). Today we get two solid candidates in Bob Melvin and Manny Acta. Today is also Melvin's first chance to throw Garner under the bus, who famously called Tal Smith to give a good reference of Bob Melvin, and ended up interviewing on Saturday.

Anyhow, McTaggart provided another tale of the tape of Melvin and Acta.

Melvin, notably:
Managed the Seattle Mariners in 2003-04 and Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005 until he was dismissed on May 9 of this year after a 12-17 start. He won 93 games with Seattle in 2003 but didn't make the playoffs and lost 99 games the following year. Melvin was hired by the Diamondbacks and led Arizona to the 2007 NL West title before being swept in the NLCS by the Colorado Rockies.

Interestingly, Melvin has no minor league managing/coaching experience.

Manny Acta:
Began managing at 1993 with the Auburn Astros of the New York-Penn League before moving to Quad City of the Midwest League in 1997. He took over the Astros' Gulf Coast League affiliate at Kissimmee in 1999 and won a league championship and managed again at Kissimmee in 2000.

Also, incredibly, McTaggart points out that the plane carrying the late Cory Lidle flew into an apartment building in New York actually hit Acta's apartment.

Want to go to the Dominican?

Zach Levine has a list of the minor-leaguers and where they'll be playing winter ball. This list is subject to change.

Primary lists:
Fernando Abad (AA LHP) - Dominican
Erick Abreu (AA RHP) - Dominican
Yorman Bazardo (MLB RHP) - Venezuela
Marcos Cabral (A+ SS) - Dominican
Luis Cruz (R RHP) - Puerto Rico
German Duran (AA IF) - Mexico
Jhon Florentino (AA IF) - Dominican
Sammy Gervacio (AAA RHP) - Dominican
Edwin Maysonet (MLB IF) - Puerto Rico
Carlos Quevedo (R RHP) - Venezuela
Wladimir Sutil (AA SS) - Venezuela
Polin Trinidad (AAA LHP) - Dominican

Secondary list:
Luis Alvarez (R C) - Venezuela
Alberto Arias (MLB RHP) - Dominican
Jeiler Castillo (R RHP) - Venezuela
Leandro Cespedes (A+ RHP) - Dominican
Jorge De Leon (A- SS) - Dominican
Jose Duran (A+ RHP) - Dominican
Gabriel Garcia (R LHP) - Venezuela
Pedro Gonzalez (A- C) - Venezuela
Federico Hernandez (A C) - Venezuela
Arcenio Leon (A RHP) - Venezuela
Jhonny Medrano (A- SS) - Venezuela
Antonio Noguera (A LHP) - Venezuela
Humberto Quintero (LHP) - Venezuela
Yordany Ramirez (AAA CF) - Dominican
Ebert Rosario (A+ 3B) - Dominican
Jose Trinidad (A RHP) - Dominican
Henry Villar (A RHP) - Dominican

Import list:
Brian Bogusevic (AAA OF) - Puerto Rico
Chris Johnson (MLB 3B) - Puerto Rico

Justice wants Garner, and then explains why this will never happen

Because setting up a tragedy makes for the best copy. Justice, has a blog post this morning on why Garner won't be the next manager:

If Drayton McLane hires Scrap Iron, he's going to be admitting that firing him two years ago was a mistake. I think Drayton may have a tough time admitting he was wrong...

...Anyway, if Scrap Iron gets to the second round of interviews, his mission has to be to convince Drayton he deserved to be fired.

He must tell him that the club was going bad, and that since he'd tried everything he could, it made sense to bring in a different voice and see if it sparked a resurgence.

Garner can remind Drayton that he got the job in 2004 when the Astros were looking for a spark. They had no idea whether his hiring would get things turned around, but they'd invested so much in that season that they weren't going to leave any stone unturned.

Then Justice turns his attention to why everyone else should be fired. It's remarkable, really.

What'd I miss?

If I'm going to miss a day, I'm okay with it being the day that Little Neddy Nederlander and Rowdy Randy Ready interview. What'd they say?

Ned Yost, on what he learned from his firing in Milwaukee:
"Don’t lose 10 out of 13 games. That’s the best thing I could figure. Hope that your offense stays on track so that you don’t struggle to score runs. There’s a lot that you can take out of it, but it’s not over just a short period of time.

I think it’s six years of experiences that you learn. I think more than anything else the ability to sit home for the first time in 35 years like I did this summer to kind of review where you’ve been and where you’re going and to think of all aspects of your leadership and where you could become better at it was really, really beneficial for me. There’s a lot of areas where I think I can get better and be a little bit smarter in certain areas.”

Should we tell Ned that, if you're philosophy is based on the hope that your offense scores runs...maybe Houston isn't the place for him.

"I think baseball has been training me, grooming me to become a major league manager. When I first got back in the game, I didn’t anticipate being in the situation I am today. I think my credibility around the industry has brought me to this point.”

But make no mistake, for the Chronicle, this day was about Ned Yost.

“I don’t think that there’s any substitute for experience. I think I learned a ton of great lessons being 12 years with Bobby Cox. And I learned a ton of great lessons the last six years with the Milwaukee Brewers. I think it always helps...

...“The Atlanta Braves were in last place for years and years before I got there. And being a part of a staff that brought 12 consecutive division championships while I was there, I saw how Bobby did it. I watched how to go about it. And then six years in Milwaukee, which they were arguably the worst team in baseball and get them back to a playoff-contending team. I got the experience. I know how to do it. I know what it takes to be able to do that.”

"I think I have a knack for portraying my visions, my goals. I think that being a winner — what I’ve done the last 18 years has been on clubs that started in dead last place."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick note for Thursday

The Constabless and I are traveling to Dallas to watch our first Red River Shootout in person. It's a good long drive, so pardon the lack of updates. Back soon...

If you'll be at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, be sure to shoot an email to

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Acta fielding interest from Cleveland

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Manny Acta is one step ahead of the Astros, having already had a phone interview with Indians GM Mark Shapiro:

"I'm excited and honored to be part of this process. This team was only one game away from the World Series two years ago. They have lost some pieces, but I think things are going to be very exciting in Cleveland very soon. We are still very early in the process and I have to respect that process."

Remember that Acta will interview with Houston on Friday. And screw the Indians, we were only four wins away from winning the World Series four years ago. So there.

Footer, tweeting Pedrique

Al Pedrique also had his interview today, and Alyson Footer was there to catch his response in 140-character bursts. Here they are, in their entirety:

"I will bring a lot of energy and passion for the game and hard work. I'm very positive. Communication is a big part of my philosophy. Players need to understand we all need to be on the same page to make it work."

She goes on:
Pedrique also spoke at length about the importance of the veteran players being leaders. Clearly, we're not the only ones who realize there are some leadership issues with some of the highly-paid superstars.

GCL Astros - RHP Juan Minaya

Now that we're done with the GCL Astros offensively, let's turn our withering gaze to the pitching staff, beginning - appropriately, I think - with the Starting Pitchers.

The Astros had the second-youngest pitching staff in all the GCL (.2 years older than the Rays' GCL team), and perhaps as a result gave up the most runs per game at 6.57 (1.48 runs/game higher than the 2nd-worst). Because of that, the GCL Astros had the worst ERA (4.87) and WHIP (1.53) in the league. But enough of that.

Juan Minaya
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2009 season
Stats: 6'4", 185 lbs, Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

On the season: 3-3, 4.27 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 30K:18BB, .231 against, 1HR

vs. LHB (9.2IP): 4.66 ERA/1.65 WHIP, 5K:7BB, .268 BAA, 0HR
vs. RHB (43IP): 4.19 ERA/1.05 WHIP, 25K:11BB, .221 BAA, 1HR

Home (22.2IP): 5.96 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 12K:5BB, .289 BAA, 1HR
Away (30IP): 3.00 ERA/1.07 WHIP, 18K:13BB, .181 BAA, 0HR

Bases Empty (27IP): 0.33 ERA/1.15 WHIP, 22K:9BB, .204 BAA, 1HR
Runners on (25.2IP): 8.42 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 8K:9BB, .264 BAA, 0HR
w/RISP (14IP): 14.79 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 4K:6BB, .245 BAA, 0HR

June (1 start, 4IP): 2.25 ERA/0.50 WHIP, 0K:1BB
July (6 starts, 26IP): 2.08 ERA/1.08 WHIP, 15K:10BB
August (5 starts, 22.2IP): 7.15 ERA/1.46 WHIP, 15K:7BB

K/9 Rate: 5.1
BB/9 Rate: 3.1
Groundout/Flyout Rate: 2.54
K:BB Ratio: 1.67

Similar to what we saw with many of the batters in the GCL, Minaya just got tuckered out and faded in the last month of the season, posting a 2.08 ERA in July and a 7.15 ERA in August. Those home/away splits are a little alarming, but Minaya didn't strike a whole lot of guys out, he sure did keep the ball on the ground, and his BAA against righties was a nice little .221. Aside from Tanner Bushue, whose season came to an end after five starts, Minaya posted the lowest WHIP among SPs with 5+ starts.

Acta in mix for Indians job

Jon Heyman is reporting that, with Indians' first-choice John Farrell's withdrawal from consideration, Manny Acta is in the mix for Cleveland.

Clark, on his interview

And Brian McTaggart also posted a series of tweets on what Clark said after his interview. In their entirety:

"It went well. You talk about a pressure cooker and being put on the hot seat...It’s going to be a fun atmosphere, it’s going to be a winning atmosphere...I think I’m the right man for the job.

And in more than 140-character bursts from JJO. Clark stressed his communication skills and familiarity with the organization.
"I think that one of my stronger points is communication. I always felt that I was a pretty good communicator. That will definitely be something that I will stress that will come from me and it will come from the coaching staff that will be put in place here because that’s what these players want. That’s what they need. They need to know what’s expected of them. … They need to know on an everyday basis we’re trying to win ballgames."

What about the list of other nine candidates?
“I really didn’t see it. I tried to stay away from it, to be honest with you. At this particular time, this particular moment this was – I don’t like to pat myself or talk about myself that much - but this was about me. Not about anyone else, me being given an opportunity to fulfill a goal, fulfill a dream for me and my family."

His strengths?
"I’ve paid a lot of dues with this organization and in this organization. I can also point out that players like playing for me. We can say that as well. I’m not going to brag on that. Like I said, I don’t solicit players to go to the papers and say the things that they’ve said about that. If they said that, hopefully they’re speaking from their heart. But it’s going to be a fun atmosphere. It’s going to be a winning atmosphere. Like I said earlier, we’re in the transition of getting this team back to prominence. As someone who’s been in the organization and someone who knows the philosophy of the organization, I think I’m that guy."

Wade, on Cruz

Alyson Footer has a series of tweets on the reassignment of Jose Cruz from Ed Wade. Here they are, in their entirety:

"I know this is a hot button issue. We felt from an overall standpoint of communication in clubhouse, change was necessary. This was not an indictment on anybody. You get to a time where you say you want change in clubhouse and surroundings. We wanted to do something absolutely respectful to him."

She also points out that former pitching coach Dewey Robinson has accepted a position with the Rays' organization. All coaches who were not retained were offered positions with other organizations.

Hitting coach alert

SI's Jon Heyman is tweeting that Rangers' hitting guru Rudy (GuRudy?) Jaramillo has declined the Rangers offer to stay in Arlington. Come on south, Rudy. We play in air conditioning...

Deductive Reasoning: Rodney Linares needs a job

Doing a little deductive reasoning, now that Ed Romero is apparently managing A-Level Greeneville, that means now-former (oxymoron?) Greeneville manager Rodney Linares needs a job.

Boone to retire?

USA Today's Bob Nightengale is tweeting that Aaron Boone is likely to retire this off-season. And that, should he retire, he would like to go into a front office or broadcasting. Boone, not Nightengale.

Clark, Pedrique speak

Some quotes from the first two candidates, Dave Clark and Al Pedrique, as they head into their interviews.

“Let's get it on. I've been anxiously waiting for this day to come. My thing is to go in there and let them know my feelings toward the organization and some of the things I'd like to do when I'm named manager. We need to get back to that winning atmosphere, get back to that winning attitude. We feel there are a lot of kids that are in our minor league system that will be ready to play up here in a couple of years. The current team that we have right now, if we can just hold on — and by hold on I mean keep winning until these guys get here — these guys may be the guys that put us over the hump and keep us on top for many years.”

“I feel very happy for this opportunity the organization is giving me. I'm waiting for my interview at 1:30 p.m. to see what the process will be in the interview and what the questions are and what they want to know about me regarding the organization's philosophy and my philosophy and what chances I have to manage the team. Yeah, I know the system pretty well. The last two years I dealt with the players and dealt with the staff in the minor leagues. It gave me a good feel for our minor league system. Last year as coordinator it gave me a good idea of the players that are in the minor league system.”

Of these two, who has the best chance?

Reactions to Cruz' dismissal

So in the absence of anything worth talking about this morning, other than the Arizona Fall League kickoff and the impending managerial interviews, let's recap some of the comments made about Jose Cruz' dismissal as first base coach.

Richard Justice:
If you're only upset because he was a good hitter 30 years ago and he once gave your kid an autograph, I'm not shedding tears. If that's all you can come up with, his firing is a chance for the Astros to get better. My memory of him will be his leaving the ballpark so quickly after games that I wondered if he had his uniform on underneath his street clothes.

Paul Bradley
As for the firing of Cruz, the only thing that I can think of is that the ‘brain trust’ (I actually did LOL when I wrote that!) wants to bring in some fresh faces and invoke some new ideas. But this decision would have been better left alone...There also should be some blame heaped on president of baseball operations Tal Smith. What has he done the last four or five years to contribute to the team becoming a champion? It was under his watch that the clubs minor league system has fallen to the depths of embarrassment. And it was under his watch that they have gone from World Series participant to the back pages of the sports section. It’s pretty sad when the Houston Cougars and the lowly Texans can steal your thunder!

Wow! You know what, I see me not watching another Astros game for a very long time. Jose Cruz didn't fail the Astros, the Front Office and the Owner failed the Astros!

Shocked? Yes! Saddened? Extremely. Infuriated? To say the least. But on the brighter side of things, I have a real suggestion for the replacement 1st base coach...THE HAMBURGLAR...That's right, a little incentive for "El Caballo Gordito" To actually run one out, I bet he'll pick up some speed for that! What A sad, shameful day for the Astros'fans!

David in Spring:
Say it ain't so, Jose! How can the Astros dump a player who has more hits than Joe DiMaggio?! Yeah that's right, the Yankee Clipper. Look it up as Casey would say. Cheo is more than just a first base coach. His numbers are better than many HOFers. The great baseball historian and sabermetrics founder, Bill James, considers Cheo one of the best players of all time and one of the most underratred. And it is obvious that the bums running the Astros have no clue. A man of Cheo's stature has earned the right to retire on his own terms. Baseball is an ugly business. But nice guys don't have to finish last or get dumped because the GM is looking for excuses for not spending the owner's money wisely.

Huh? Saguaro

Next up in the "Huh?" series is a look at the word "Saguaro," the namesake of the team of six Astros prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

A saguaro is a type of cactus that can grow to the size of a tree, and can live up to 150 years. They can take up to 75 years to grow a side arm (so many jokes, so many jokes...). The image of the saguaro is on the Old El Paso brand label (though no saguaros grow within 250 miles of El Paso), and the saguaro blossom is the state flower of Arizona.

If you didn't know, now you know.

Dave Duncan is the duckling to La Russa's mama duck

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning, Dave Duncan says he'll pretty much do whatever La Russa does.

"My inclination is not to go somewhere else.Any issues I have I feel like can be addressed by talking with (Cards GM John Mozeliak)...

...It's always hard to change environments. There's a lot involved in that for me. You build relationships, and through those relationships you get assistance that is special and very helpful, whether it be the pitchers' participation or what you do in the video room. To try to start that all over again would not be an easy thing to do. From that standpoint, it would be hard to make a change."

FanGraphs: Hold up on making LaHawk your closer

FanGraphs points out that LaHawk has lived off one-year contracts, except in instances in which he has parlayed one successful season into multi-year contracts, where he has been nothing short of terrible.

Hawkins has essentially lived off one-year deals since that Cubs contract – which he finished with the Orioles in 2006 — and his free agency is going to be fun to watch for one reason in particular: will any club give him a multiple-year contract? If one does, I would have to assume it’s going to because of his shiny ERA and closer potential. This seems like a very bad idea. Hawkins’ tRA has finished above 5 two of the last three years and his FIP will likely be near 4. That’s not to say Hawkins is unserviceable, just that he’s not as valuable as his ERA suggests.

Recap for G1 - Peoria @ Scottsdale

In the kickoff to the Arizona Fall League, the Peoria Saguaros - home to six Astros prospects - lost to Scottsdale 8-4 last night. (German Duran was initially on the Saguaros, but now is not. Investigation will continue.)

But four prospects were in the game last night. How'd they do?

-Batting leadoff, Jon Gaston went 0x3 with 2K:2BB, 1 run, 1SB (and advanced to third on a throwing error)

-Batting sixth, Jason Castro went 1x3 with 1K:1BB. He was HBPed in the 6th and got doubled off 2nd on a fly out by Carlos Rivero.

-Pitching the 4th/5th inninngs, Chia-Jen Lo came in with the bases loaded and threw 2IP, 0H/0ER (one runner scored on a groundout), 2K, HBP, 16/25 pitches for strikes, 3 groundouts-1 flyout. Struck out Giants' 2010 C1 Buster Posey.

-Pitching the 7th inning, Danny Meszaros threw 1IP, 0H/0ER, 1K, 6/6 pitches for strikes, 2 groundouts. Got Posey to groundout, leading off the 7th inning.

And JJO ain't happy

I guess, even for the Chronicle, the blog is a place to vent. So it is, though, for JJO, who is pissed about Cruz.

A nugget:
At what point are the fans going to start asking Drayton McLane why the St. Louis Cardinals can run away with the division with a payroll similar to the Astros? At one point are the Astros fans going to ask for accountability from the guys who really make the decision.

Fans stopped showing up at Minute Maid Park because the product was horrible, one of the worst clubs in all of baseball. How did the Astros get this bad, Drayton? I promise you it wasn't because of Cruz, a quality man who is sent to pasture way too, too early.

Astros fans want answers, and yet Drayton rewards the folks who created the mess. Why does Ed Wade have such a mess to fix? Wade didn't create it. He found it here. Now it's up to the fans to ask Drayton to make real changes, not cosmetic ones like getting rid of Cruz, who was stunned.

How can you continue to have one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball with more drug suspensions than winning teams in the minors this season and still keep the same folks employed?

Have the Astros become a joke?

Does the Cruz decision make you feel different about the Astros?

All of that is fair up to the point in which a correlation between Cruz being let go and Mitch Einertson is drawn. That's a joke.

And after my feelings were reinforced by Street, it's worth noting that this was an incredibly unprofessional blog post by Ortiz. Can we officially coin a term indicating "Ortizian levels of ridiculousness?"

"It's bad luck to be part of this coaching staff"

First base is going to look really strange as Tal Smith and Ed Wade informed Jose Cruz his services will no longer be needed at first base.

Cruz has been offered a dual role helping the field staff at home and in spring training and then as part of community outreach while the team is on the road during the regular season.

“It was sad because I felt real good as a coach. That's part of the front office's decision. They're making changes, and it's bad luck that I had to be part of this coaching staff. It wasn't just me. All the coaches (save Berry) were let go.”

And in other coaching moves, only hitting coach Sean Berry has been retained from the coaching staff.

Astros' bullpen coach Mark Bailey is now the hitting coach at Class AA Corpus Christi, while bench coach, Ed Romero, will manage Class A Greeneville. Pitching coach Dewey Robinson was offered a position in player development, but he has accepted a job with another organization.

So whomever the new manager is, even if it's Dave Clark, is going to have the opportunity to assemble, top-to-bottom, their full coaching staff. I'm just sad that Cheo won't be at first.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Astros' television viewers drop

Sometimes, $0 is too much to watch the Astros. 3.2% fewer people watched the Astros this year, meaning about 61,000 households watched the Astros each game.

The Rangers saw a ~50% increase, thanks to their flirtation with the playoffs, but Fox Saturday Baseball dropped 10% while ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball dropped about 6% from last year.

I don't know. Maybe it's forcing people to watch the Phillies (Fox), or the Red Sox (ESPN) every weekend.

McTaggart's Tale of the Tape on Clark and Pedrique

I was working on this, and McTaggart beat me to it. A comparison of Clark and Pedrique.

Notably, Clark:
Made managerial debut in 2003 at Class-A Lynchburg in Carolina League and was named league's Manager of the Year. In 2004, he managed at Class-A Hickory in the Pittsburgh organization and went 85-55 and won the South Atlantic League title. The Astros hired him in 2005 and he managed for three years at Double-A Corpus Christi, leading the Hooks to the 2006 Texas League title and winning Manager of the Year honors. He managed at Triple-A Round Rock in 2008 and went 64-79.

Al Pedrique, notably:
He managed for eight years in the Minors, posting back-to-back winning seasons in 2002-03 at Double-A Tucson in his final two seasons as skipper. He began managing in 1995 and guided the Astros' Class-A affiliate in Michigan in 1999-2000, winning the Midwest league title in 2000. He's also managed in the Venezuelan Winter League and the Arizona Fall League.

Footer to Justice: This isn't a circus

It's a compelling argument Footer makes, seemingly in response to Justice's hissy-fit about how demeaning it is to actually make people interview for a job.

This has been perceived by some as a circus. I disagree. Sure, it's unconventional, but we're not living in the stone ages. It's a world of 24-hour news cycles and the internet, and the list of media outlets trying to cover a story has quadrupled in the last 10 years. Keeping major news under wraps is pretty much impossible.

So the Astros got ahead of the story, revealed the names and are making every candidate available to the media once his interview is complete. In turn, life became a lot easier for Wade and the media, and the fans benefit as well, because they're going to be able to follow along with the process as it's happening.

What's her take on Garner?
The Astros' interest in Phil Garner, and Garner's interest in the Astros, came as a shock to everyone. Heck, I had him on my "no chance" list. But the longer I think about it, the more sense it makes. And Garner seems sincere with his desire to return.

GCL Astros - Outfielders

We'll turn our steely gaze away from the managerial search to return to a recap of the minor-leaguers' 2009 season, and we're on to the outfielders of the GCL Astros:

Emilio King
How did he get here?: Signed contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 6'0", 180 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20

Season line: 42 games, 173 PAs. 35x138 - .254/.399/.384 - 13XBH-20RBI. 31K:18BB

vs. LHP (46ABs): .283/.400/.435, 11K:5BB, 6XBH-6RBI
vs. RHP (92ABs): .239/.398/.359, 20K:13BB, 20XBH-13RBI

Home (65ABs): .215/.378/.385, 19K:12BB, 8XBH-10RBI
Away (73ABs): .288/.418/.384, 12K:6BB, 5XBH-10RBI

Runners on (69ABs): .304/.443/.449, 11K:11BB, 9XBH-19RBI
w/RISP (40ABs): .225/.418/.275, 8K:9BB, 2XBH-15RBI

June (11ABs): .364/.588/.909, 2K:3BB, 3XBH-2RBI
July (79ABs): .291/.412/.430, 15K:9BB, 9XBH-11RBI
August (48ABs): .167/.322/.188, 14K:6BB, 1XBH-7RBI

K/PA rate: 17.9%
XBH/H rate: 37.1%
K:BB ratio: 1.72

King stole eight bases in nine tries this year, and committed three errors in the outfield (to nine total assists) in 41 games, after spending 07/08 as a catcher.

So using context clues, 2009 was actually King's third year in the Astros' organization, having spent the previous two seasons in the DSL, and posting respective OPS' of .537 and .566 before getting it together for a .783 OPS this year. His dropoff from July to August is disconcerting, but K:BB ratio is down, SLG is up, and his average with runners on (though not in scoring position) is encouraging.

Geber Suniaga
How did he get here?: Signed to a contract prior to 2009 season
Stats: 5'11", 160 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 18

Season line: 38 games, 158PAs. 28x145 - .193/.253/.255 - 5XBH-20RBI. 47K:11BB

vs. LHP (44ABs): .136/.274/.205, 18K:1BB, 2XBH-5RBI
vs. RHP (101ABs): .218/.286/.277, 29K:10BB, 3XBH-15RBI

Home (73ABs): .192/.272/.260, 19K:7BB, 3XBH-9RBI
Away (72ABs): .194/.234/.250, 28K:4BB, 2XBH-11RBI

Runners on (65ABs): .246/.275/.385, 22K:3BB, 5XBH-20RBI
w/RISP (65ABs): .289/.317/.447, 15K:2BB, 3XBH-18RBI

June (14ABs): .000/.000/.000, 5K:0BB, 0XBH-0RBI
July (49ABs): .306/.358/.388, 10K:3BB, 2XBH-11RBI
August (82ABs): .159/.231/.220, 32K:8BB, 3XBH-9RBI

K/PA rate: 29.7%
XBH/H rate: 17.9%
K:BB ratio: 4.27

Suniaga made seven errors (three assists) in all 38 games (76 chances) in CF for 2009.

Starting 0x14 can really hurt a season's average, but Suniaga did rebound enough in July to hit .306, and then tanked it in August with a .450 OPS. Just a bizarre season, but one in which Suniaga's final ten games saw him hit .105/.244/.158.

Carlos Reyes
How did he get here?: Signed to a contract prior to 2007 season
Stats: 6'0", 180 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 22

Season line: 23 games, 58PAs. 8x52 - .154/.241/.173 - 1XBH-3RBI. 22K:6BB

vs. LHP (16ABs): .188/.235/.250, 9K:1BB, 1XBH-2RBI
vs. RHP (36ABs): .139/.244/.139, 13K:5BB, 0XBH-1RBI

Home (30ABs): .133/.212/.167, 15K:3BB, 1XBH-3RBI
Away (22ABs): .182/.280/.182, 7K:3BB, 0XBH-0RBI

Runners on (21ABs): .238/.360/.286, 8K:4BB, 1XBH-3RBI
w/RISP (11ABs): .273/.333/.364, 4K:1BB, 1XBH-3RBI

July (10ABs): .300/.417/.400, 4K:2BB, 1XBH-1RBI
August (42ABs): .119/.196/.119, 18K:4BB, 0XBH-2RBI

K/PA rate: 42.3%
XBH/H rate: 12.5%
K:BB ratio: 3.67

In just 20 chances in the outfield, at least Reyes didn't commit any errors. I don't know about the future for a 22-year old player in Low-A with a .414 OPS, but here's hoping Reyes puts together a strong 2010.

Jason Castro at #6, no love anywhere else

In Baseball America's Top 20 Texas League prospects, only Jason Castro was able to crack it - at #6.

However, three catchers made the list, and Castro was at the top of that one.

Interview Schedule

Alyson Footer has your full schedule of interviews. And they are:

Wednesday, October 14: Dave Clark, Al Pedrique
Thursday, October 15: Ned Yost, Randy Ready
Friday, October 16: Bob Melvin, Manny Acta
Saturday, October 17: Phil Garner
Monday, October 19: Brad Mills, Tim Bogar exactly did Garner become a candidate?

Brian McTaggart, of course, has the story.

But first, I'd like to point out that JJO is kinda sorta taking credit for Garner's candidacy.

Upon hearing the Astros were in search of a full-time manager with plenty of experience, Phil Garner last week called president of baseball operations Tal Smith to give an endorsement of Bob Melvin, who had coached under Garner in Milwaukee.

Before Garner could even mention Melvin's name, he became a candidate himself.

"All of sudden on the caller ID it showed Phil Garner was calling, and I picked up and said, 'Are you a candidate?'" Smith said. "I was being facetious. 'Well,' he said, 'I wouldn't mind it, but it's up to you guys.'"

"I'm not opposed to interviewing. Your first thought is, 'They know me. Why interview?' The truth is Ed Wade and I have known each other for years, but I've never had a formal, sit-down conversation about my philosophies or his philosophies.

The one thing I think is important if this goes anywhere is I would want to be comfortable with Ed and I would want Ed to be comfortable with me. The question is what can you learn in an interview? And Ed interviewing me is a good thing."

Tal Smith:
"When Drayton and Ed and I met on Thursday to talk about candidates, I brought up Gar and we kicked it around and decided that I'd call him back Friday to determine if he was seriously interested. I pointed out that it would be applauded by a lot of people because Phil led the team in '04 and '05, when we did well, and also a lot of people think highly of him from his playing and managerial days here. By the same token, some could take the point and argue we made a mistake when we let him go during the 2007 season. I don't think that's the way we look at it. Times are different. I thought he did a real fine job for us, and obviously [he] has a great background with the Astros and did well for us. It's a new day and a different situation and different circumstances."

Wagner to retire

Word from Yahoo Sports is that former Houston, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston closer Billy Wagner will retire.

So the question is, what's your favorite Billy Wagner memory?

Oooh, I've got one:

Sunday, June 8, 2003. Astros are hosting the Devil Rays at the typical 1:05 start. I was at the game by myself, because it was my wedding shower that day, and I was under the impression that I wasn't supposed to be there. So I had lunch with my in-laws-to-be and bride-to-be after church, and then took off for Minute Maid Park.

I had just upgraded to a new phone, which I had in my pocket. I put my Coke under my seat, and in the 2nd inning reached down to get a drink and was poked in the eye. By the antenna of my brand new phone, which had fallen out of my pocket and into my Coke. Regardless, the Astros win, 2-1, Wagner picks up his 200th career save, and the game takes 1h54m, so I'm back at the church building in time to pick up all the presents, and head home. The Future Constabless was pretty upset, because I didn't answer my High Fructose Corn Phone, but we worked it out. Six years later, we're still quite happily married, and I have a new phone that stays out of my pocket.

The phone that I got to replace that was shattered on Opening Day 2004, when I purchased MLB Extra Innings for the first time. We lived in Abilene, TX, and I was tired of watching Rangers game half the season. So on Opening Day, we threw a big party for our Astros-fan friends, and got a black screen for three hours, because Abilene was in the Astros' blackout zone. Six hours away. Thus, the shattered phone.

Hiring Melvin could lead to Price

Of course, one of the names on Wade's list is Bob Melvin. We learn from Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that hiring Melvin could lead to landing one of the up-and-coming (one of the worst phrases in the English language) pitching coaches in Bryan Price.

Price, who is working with the Phillies' minor-league pitching prospects, is pimped by Stone as a future managerial candidate. But if the Astros want to go on a 2-for-1 move, they should hurry, because the Marlins have already called about making Price their pitching coach.

Rowdy Randy Ready has been grooming himself for this

Of the ten names on Wade's list, the one I was least familiar with was that of Rowdy Randy Ready (nickname mine). The North County Times helps out.

Ready, who played in the majors for 13 seasons, started 2009 in the Padres' organization at Triple-A Portland and replaced San Diego's hitting coach Jim Lefebvre mid-season.

He began his minor-league managerial career in 2002 with Detroit's Single-A franchise.

"It's nice to be wanted. The last two months with the Padres were great. I think the veteran hitters ---- Adrian (Gonzalez) and Kouz (Kevin Kouzmanoff) established themselves. And the young kids stepped up. I think the Padres are in a great position heading into 2010. But I have to pursue this opportunity. I've been grooming myself for a major-league job, and this is a great chance.

There are some good names on Houston's list, though. There are going to be some knowledgeable people in that interview room. It's just a matter of who fits best."

The Astros will apparently be fighting with the Nats over Yost

Federal Baseball has an explanation of a tweet from Jim Bowden on the Nationals' manager search:

Nats MGR search includes:Mattingly,Duncan,Yost,Riggleman & BValen."

I would have really liked to see Mattingly on the Astros' managerial list - the former first baseman would have scared the piss out of Berkman.

Justice is pissed

You can just hear the stamping of feet. In a pissy blog post entitled, "Astros seem to be making a joke of the interview process," Richard Justice is mad.

If the Astros don't already have a substantive understanding of what the candidates believe, then they haven't been doing their job. To parade 10 men into town for interviews is demeaning...

...Too many people are involved in the interview process. This ought to be about Tal Smith and Ed Wade sitting down and having a serious discussion, then bringing in Drayton McLane to meet their choice.

The second part may be true. But we've known how this managerial search was going to proceed for about a week now. So the time for fit-throwing and talk of being a demeaning process was then, not now. Not after Justice had written about 4,000 words about how Jim Fregosi should have been the next manager.

JJO's Fave Five

JJO is also pimping Garner, but here are the five managers who have the best shot, according to JJO, based on the interviews I've conducted and the research I've done on past managerial searches Ed Wade has run.

Garner, Brad Mills and Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Dave Clark, Al Pedrique.

Justice now decides to ruin Garner's chances

Why? Because he already knows him. And meeting people is hard. So, dropping Jim Fregosi like 3rd period French, Justice picks Phil Garner as the next manager, which effectively ends his chance at actually getting the job.

Some nuggets (but it's a long article):

Was he the most strategically sound manager who ever walked into the room? No. But the more I've been around this stuff, the more convinced I am that the people side of the job is more important than the strategy side. If you get a guy who's smart and good with people, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself. Better still, Gar understands the Astros. He knows why the draft picks didn't get signed and why Willy Taveras got traded. And he knows the situation isn't perfect.

But Phil Garner is the best manager the Astros have ever had, and if he's willing to saddle up for another ride, I say we welcome him back.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wade speaks on the candidates

Ed Wade had a chat with JJO today.

On all ten candidates:
“We’re excited about the entire group of candidates. All 10 candidates have a great deal of experience and are held in high regard throughout major league baseball. Clarkie and Al are great internal candidates and are very well-respected both inside and outside the Astros family.”

On Brad Mills:
“I think Millsey is a very strong candidate. I talked to Tito about him, and he speaks very highly of him. Millsey’s serves as Tito’s right-hand man in Philly and Boston. He’s very bright, very detailed and he’s done a great job for Tito.”

That's three "Tito"'s in four sentences, for an abbreviation percentage of .750.

On having the necessary major league experience:
"As we stated earlier we’re putting a lot of emphasis on experience, either extensive minor league or managerial experience. That’s not to say that we don’t consider all the candidates to be strong, but certainly the major league experience will weigh heavily in the process."

On Dave Clark:
“I’ve been tremendously pleased with what they’ve brought to the organizations since I’ve been here. I thought Clarkie handled our Triple-A club extremely well in 2008. I thought he did a great job as our third-base coach this year, and I was very much impressed with what he did in the short time he took over on an interim basis. He’s a very strong individual. He’s got great convictions. And I think he’d make an outstanding manager.”

Clark and Al Pedrique will interview on Wednesday.

If Garner gets the job, we can pin it all on JJO

It all came about when JJO came sniffing for a column on what the next manager of the Astros should know.

"As we talked and I thought, 'What should a guy expect?' I said, 'Heck, I know all these things,'" Garner said, referring to an interview he granted the Chronicle last week. "I decided to throw my name in the hat, and they decided to take it. There’s no special favors. I’m going through the vetting process just like everybody else, and I’m OK with that. That’s a fine deal. I love the city. I like the city. It’s a fabulous city."

“Phil is somebody I’ve known since we both spent some time together in 1981 in Pittsburgh. I thought he did a tremendous job in Detroit and Milwaukee. And the job he did here in Houston speaks for itself. Phil has shown he can work with both veteran players and young players with what he’s done in the past. I’m happy to add him to the list of candidates.”

You're going to think I'm messing with you. But I'm not.

Alyson Footer has the names of Wade's Ten. The biggest surprise? Phil Garner.

Here they are, captip to Footer:
Phil Garner
Dave Clark
Al Pedrique
Ned Yost
Randy Ready
Bob Melvin
Manny Acta
Brad Mills
Tim Bogar
Pete Mackanin

Wade called Mills last week

Amy K. Nelson's ESPN report says Ed Wade called Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills to gauge his interest in the managerial opening last week.

Mills said he's already had a conversation with Wade, who was sensitive to the fact that Mills was still trying to do his job while Boston was in the playoffs. Mills told Epstein last week he didn't want to be a distraction or have the situation interfere with his job.

"I told Theo, 'Hey I'm doing my job here.' And Theo said, 'I'm not asking you to shift into that mode. And I hadn't. Because of everything that happened [on Sunday], I hadn't spent much time thinking about it."

What about Mills and Bogar vying for the same job?

"We're excited for each other," Mills said. "Bedsides, being on the same staff together and pulling in one direction -- I have a lot of respect for Tim and the job that he does and I want the best for him. We kind of chuckle and smile and help each other out the best we can because we think that much of each other."

I'm going to go ahead and give Mills the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't mean to say "Bedsides..."

Interview process, as clarified by McTaggart

Brian McTaggart's new blog post details how the first round of interviews goes:

The Astros will try to interview two candidates per day beginning Wednesday and hope to finish the first round of interviews by later this week. Wade, president of baseball operations Tal Smith, assistant general managers Ricky Bennett, David Gottfried and Bobby Heck and special assistant to the general manager Enos Cabell will be involved in the first round of interviews. Owner Drayton McLane is scheduled to get involved later in the process.

Note that, should they take four days for interviews, at two candidates a day, equals eight managerial candidates.

"We'll have very specific questions about how he goes about organizing Spring Training, how he interacts with coaches and the authority he gives to coaches and things of that nature - basically walking through what one would expect a manager's responsibilities to be. And we'll ask some direct questions about how they go about things in each of those areas."

One question I'd like to be a part of the interview process, before Drayton gets involved:

"Let's say that Nick Johnson is up to bat. And Hanley Ramirez is on deck..."

Well, you just finish that up.

And add Bob Melvin, while you're at it. And Al Pedrique

MyFoxHouston has a report that former Diam'ndbac's manager Bob Melvin has been contacted about the open managerial job in Houston.

"I'm honored to be considered for this job in what I consider to be a great organization that commits to winning every year. In that respect I am very happy."

And add Al Pedrique, as well. Wade:
"I think Al is a tremendous baseball man. I think he'll make an outstanding big league manager. Al is a great asset to the organization."

Whether or not he'll make an outstanding big league manager in Houston remains to be seen.

So to recap, here are you're confirmed managerial candidates (in no particular order):
Bob Melvin
Al Pedrique
Dave Clark
Tim Bogar
Brad Mills
Manny Acta

Jim Fregosi has not been confirmed but is strongly linked to the candidacy.

Go ahead and add Brad Mills to your managerial pool

WEEI's Rob Bradford says that, in addition to Tim Bogar, the Astros will interview Boston's bench coach Brad Mills.

Mills has been Francona's bench coach in Boston for six seasons, and has managed for 11 seasons in the minors for the Cubs, Rockies, and Dodgers.

Cardinals' insiders promote the Cardinals

In Jon Heyman's Notes today, we get a little update on the likelihood of La Russa/Duncan coming to Houston:

There are rumors that the Astros might try to hire the vaunted tandem of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan (those rumors were even mentioned here once). However, Cardinals insiders say La Russa does love the history of the Cardinals and presumably isn't quite as upset as Duncan about the whole Chris Duncan situation. In a phone interview a couple weeks ago, Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt expressed some optimism that La Russa would be back.

We should also pump the brakes on the TLR to Cincinnati rumors, as Dusty Baker is still owed $3+ million.

Bogar to interview

The Red Sox getting it handed to them sure did speed up the Tim Bogar For Manager campaign, and the Chronicle has confirmed that Bogar will be one of the two candidates interviewing on Wednesday.

Manny Acta and Dave Clark are the other two candidates to have confirmed their interview times.

Brendan Ryan, meet King Kelly

La Russa and Fregosi

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a note on the Astros' managerial situation:

With La Russa's contract up in St. Louis, reports from Cincinnati say the Reds - who have suffered nine consecutive losing seasons - will make a pitch to hire him. That means Dusty Baker's tenure with the Reds could be over. reported that former Phillies general manager Ed Wade, now with the Houston Astros, will interview former Phils manager Jim Fregosi. The 67-year-old last managed with the Blue Jays in 1999-2000.

Valentine may return to Japan

Smiley Rosenthal said today that the Yokohama Bay Stars are making a hard push at bringing Bobby Valentine on board as their manager.

How does this affect the Astros? Not so much, says Rosenthal:

Valentine, currently working for ESPN, is not aggressively pursuing the Nationals' opening and is not believed to be a serious candidate for the Astros, sources say.

Bray Day: Episode 4

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. Check the sidebar for archives.

Hope everyone had a great week. I know I am excited for this week. Fall break is here so I get a short week of school. Friday starts alumni weekend for UNC-Charlotte baseball. It will be nice to see friends that have moved back home that are coming back for the weekend. I'll get to play some golf on Friday, which by the way I am not good at.

Deputy Jason asked, in reference to Episode 3, What do you mean by "if I go to Spring Training"? Is that something you don't know until right before it happens?

We will receive something in the mail with info on spring training. Not everyone gets invited, I'm sure being a first year guy I'd be invited back, just not jumping the gun. I'm not exactly sure how the process works since this is my first go round.

Can you talk about the workouts that you're doing to prepare for next season? And how unbelievable is it that guys report to Spring Training (I'm looking at you, Miguel Cabrera) 30 pounds overweight?

As for workouts, we were sent home with a certain workout plan to go by all off-season. The first few weeks have to deal with post season recovery. Then it gets into working out hard and of course put on weight but if you're going to show up to spring training overweight, it better be muscle and not fat. It is important you don't go to spring training overweight. From what I heard, spring training is not easy if you come in out of shape. Miguel Cabrera could probably get away with it, but me being a player who needs to prove himself needs to go into it in the best shape. That's why I am in the weight room getting after it.

Have a great week!!!

Got a question for Aaron Bray? Send an e-mail!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Houston as a destination for the La Russa/Duncan show?

There's an opening. And there's a need. In Buster Olney's Insider-only blog post, he mentions the impending free agency of Tony La Russa. And then there are some managerial positions open. And what do you know? Houston is one of those places.

The decks are cleared in Houston, and Drayton McLane is in perfect position to wrest La Russa away from a division rival, if he wants to -- and the timing might not be bad, considering that the Astros have so much money locked up in aging veterans that they don't have a lot of flexibility to make other moves. For less than what it would cost to sign Carl Pavano, the Astros could drum up tremendous interest in their team by adding La Russa and Duncan.

Olney also points out that Richard Justice wants Jim Fregosi, and of course, Justice doesn't mention Tony La Russa as a possibility - because Justice is having a hard time thinking outside the box.

Know this: the Astros will be immediately relevant on a national level (until the Yankees fart) if they get La Russa and Duncan away from St. Louis. Want to take a rivalry to the next level? Take their guys. And if La Russa and Duncan are pissed at the Cardinals, then this would be the logical equivalent of pouring kerosene on a wooden bridge.

GCL Astros - Left Fielders

We'll start with the two players who spent the most time in Left Field for the GCL Astros.

Garen Wright
How did he get here?: Drafted, 29th Round (2009)
Stats: 6'3", 230 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

Season line: 34 games, 126 PAs. 20x108 - .185/.290/.222 - 3XBH-7RBI. 35K:15BB

vs. LHP (28ABs): .143/.273/.179, 9K:5BB, 1XBH-3RBI
vs. RHP (80ABs): .200/.297/.238, 26K:10BB, 2XBH-4RBI

Home (50ABs): .280/.368/.300, 16K:6BB, 1XBH-5RBI
Away (58ABs): .103/.224/.155, 19K:9BB, 2XBH-2RBI

Runners on (48ABs): .167/.322/.208, 19K:11BB, 1XBH-7RBI
w/RISP (30ABs): .133/.257/.200, 11K:5BB, 1XBH-7RBI

June (11ABs): .273/.333/.273, 3K:1BB, 0XBH-0RBI
July (49ABs): .204/.316/.265, 12K:7BB, 2XBH-3RBI
August (48ABs): .146/.255/.267, 20K:7BB, 1XBH-4RBI

K/PA rate: 27.7%
XBH/H rate: 15%
K:BB ratio: 2.33

Wright played in 21 of his 34 games in left field (with nine games in right field), and committed two errors in 40 chances in the field

Nestor Santana
How did he get here?: Signed to a minor league contract prior to 2008 season
Stats: 6'0", 190 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

Season line: 35 games, 119PAs. 29x101 - .287/.381/.337 - 5XBH-9RBI. 27K:13BB

vs. LHP (19ABs): .474/.583/.579, 5K:5BB, 2XBH-2RBI
vs. RHP (82ABs): .244/.330/.280, 22K:8BB, 3XBH-7RBI

Home (45ABs): .333/.426/.356, 12K:6BB, 1XBH-4RBI
Away (56ABs): .250/.344/.321, 15K:7BB, 4XBH-5RBI

Runners on (45ABs): .267/.370/.289, 14K:7BB, 1XBH-9RBI
w/RISP (31ABs): .290/.343/.323, 12K:3BB, 1XBH-9RBI

June (9ABs): .222/.364/.333, 2K:2BB, 1XBH-0RBI
July (44ABs): .295/.396/.318, 12K:6BB, 1XBH-4RBI
August (48ABs): .292/.370/.354, 13K:5BB, 3XBH-5RBI

K/PA rate: 22.7%
XBH/H rate: 17.2%
K:BB ratio: 2.08

Wright was a better defensive left fielder, but Santana had the better bat. Santana did spend last year in the VSL, mostly at right field, so this is a bit of a switch for him.

GCL Astros - Pedro Feliz

Utility infielder Pedro Feliz gets the final look at infield for the GCL Astros.

Pedro Feliz
How did he get here?: Signed to a minor league contract prior to 2008 season
Stats: 6'0", 150 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 20

Season line: 43 games, 157 PAs. 27x132 - .205/.331/.273 - 7XBH-17RBI. 38K:24BB

vs. LHP (44ABs): .136/.269/.227, 12K:7BB, 3XBH-3RBI
vs. RHP (88ABs): .239/.362/.295, 26K:17BB, 4XBH-14RBI

Home (63ABs): .206/.333/.286, 15K:11BB, 4XBH-5RBI
Away (69ABs): .203/.329/.261, 23K:13BB, 3XBH-12RBI

Runners on (47ABs): .319/.458/.468, 8K:11BB, 6XBH-17RBI
w/RISP (29ABs): .414/.553/.586, 5K:8BB, 4XBH-16RBI

June (7ABs): .000/.125/.000, 4K:1BB, 0XBH-0RBI
July (63ABs): .238/.333/.317, 14K:9BB, 4XBH-12RBI
August (62ABs): .194/.351/.258, 20K:14BB, 3XBH-5RBI

K/PA rate: 17.7%
XBH/H rate: 25.9%
K:BB ratio: 1.58

Happy Pete played mostly at 3B (20 games) and 2B (27 games) this season, and showed the most range at 2B, with a .922 fielding percentage, committing eight errors in 102 chances.

If you can't teach patience, then Feliz has a leg up on everybody else on the GCL Astros' 2009 team, drawing a team-high 24 walks. One aspect of Feliz' numbers that jump out:

OPS with bases empty: .420
OPS with runners on: .926
OPS with RISP: 1.139

Look for Feliz in Greeneville next season...

GCL Astros - DH Telvin Nash

Before we take a look at the outfielders and pitchers of the GCL Astros and move on to Greeneville, we'll stop to take a closer look at 3rd round pick Telvin Nash.

Telvin Nash
How did he get here?: Drafted, 3rd Round (2009)
Stats: 6'1", 230 lbs, Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Age as of April 1, 2010: 19

Season line: 40 games, 157 PAs. 31x142 - .218/.280/.324 - 12XBH-20RBI. 45K:12BB

vs. LHP (46ABs): .217/.315/.326, 19K:6BB, 4XBH-6RBI
vs. RHP (96ABs): .219/.262/.323, 26K:6BB, 8XBH-14RBI

Home (79ABs): .228/.287/.342, 20K:6BB, 7XBH-11RBI
Away (63ABs): .206/.271/.302, 25K:6BB, 5XBH-9RBI

Runners on (83ABs): .229/.298/.301, 23K:8BB, 6XBH-19RBI
w/RISP (55ABs): .218/.297/.291, 16K:7BB, 4XBH-18RBI

June (16ABs): .250/.294/.313, 4K:1BB, 1XBH-1RBI
July (68ABs): .176/.247/.279, 20K:6BB, 6XBH-8RBI
August (58ABs): .259/.317/.379, 21K:5BB, 5XBH-11RBI

K/PA rate: 28.7%
XBH/H rate: 38.7%
K:BB ratio: 3.75

Nash spent 20 of his 40 games at DH, and it's easy to see why. In 19 games in LF, Nash made six errors in 34 chances. It's far too early to make any judgments about his defensive ability - he was, after all, the third round pick - but let's hope the off-season workouts include shagging flies.

It took Nash until August to apparently figure it out. While his average was pretty low, I can't imagine this is terribly uncommon for players who move from high school to the minors. His OPS jumped 171 points from July to August as he got 15 of his 31 hits in his final 58 ABs of the season.

Justice's Five Point Plan of course includes hiring Jim Fregosi

Justice's column this morning is like when your roommate in college asks you if you'll be able to give him a ride home every 15 minutes in Finals Week. We get it. You like Jim Fregosi.

Regardless, Justice outlines his Five-Point Plan to fix the Astros:

1. Be realistic. The Astros didn't become terrible overnight, and they're not going to be fixed overnight.

2. Establish continuity. The Astros have had three general managers and four managers since the middle of the 2004 season. No other franchise has had so much turmoil, which is an indication of organizational chaos and placing the blame for failures in all the wrong places.

3. Hire Jim Fregosi to be manager. Manny Acta, Bob Melvin, Don Baylor and Ned Yost would all be terrific choices, and Acta is especially appealing because of his history with the organization. However, Fregosi brings credibility the franchise needs and a personal presence to refocus the clubhouse on winning.

4. Return to the time-tested core principles of pitching and defense. Every move should be made with pitching and defense in mind.

5. Re-sign Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins for the back of the bullpen and spring for one reliable starting pitcher to put in a rotation that has Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Brian Moehler.

I wonder if Fregosi owes Justice money. And the only way that Justice is going to get it back is if he has to talk to Fregosi 80-100 times a year. I think this Five-Point Plan is similar to everybody's Five-Point Plan: Pitch well, play good defense, establish a respectable franchise. The only part of this that doesn't make sense is resigning Valverde.

Within Justice's column, he acknowledges it may be 2012 before the Astros can win their division again. So why commit $10m/year until Valverde is 35 (or 36, or...) for that to happen. Point Five flies in the face of Point One in being realistic. LaHawk can handle the 9th inning. Let's see if a bullpen anchored by Arias/Fulchino can get it to him. To commit what looks to be about 12% of the payroll to a closer who might be in a position to save 20-25 games is ludicrous. So let's be realistic, and let's use Valverde's $10m somewhere else...