Saturday, March 6, 2010

Meat Wagon runs starting to become more frequent

In McTaggart's recap of today's activities, he gives us some updates on injury concerns:

The Astros do have a few injury concerns creeping up as Jeff Keppinger sat out Saturday after hurting his wrist in a collision with a Tigers player Friday. Keppinger had X-rays taken Saturday, which were negative. Jason Bourgeois is nursing a sore hamstring and was unavailable.

Recap for ST3: Astros v. Braves

A 3-0 win by the Astros over the Braves improves their Spring record to 2-1, and we've seen three totally different results from the pitching staff.

What Happened?
RBI singles from Geoff Blum and Pedro Feliz, and an unearned run provided the offense. And the Astros overcame many plethoras of walks and 3x11 batting with RISP.

Why They Won
Pitching. Even though the pitching staff walked eight (striking out seven), they got the Braves to leave 12 men on base, and go 0x7 with RISP.

Astros pitching
Roy threw a couple of (obviously) scoreless innings, getting out of trouble after loading the bases. Fulchino had the only perfect outing. How about those in battle?

Jose Valdez: 1IP, 2BB
Fernando Abad: 1IP, 2H
Wesley Wright: 1IP, 1H, 1K

Astros batting
0-fers: Matsui (0x4), Quintero (0x3)

Out breakdown: Nine groundball outs, 11 flyball outs, seven strikeouts.

Positional Battles

Catcher
Quintero: 0x3,

OF5
Sullivan: 0x1
Bogusevic: 0x1
Romero: 1x2
Yordany: pinch-ran, thrown out at second

IF6:
Shelton: 1x2, run
Johnson: 0x1
Maysonet: 1x3, K

Man of the Match
Carlos Lee! Welcome back from the Rodeo - 1x1 with a walk and a run.

Goat of the Game
Kaz Matsui (get used to seeing that). 0x4 with a strikeout

Maysonet travels heavy

McTaggart's article focuses on Edwin Maysonet's versatility:

He makes sure to show up with a catcher's mitt, an infielder's glove, an outfield glove and even a first-baseman's mitt, just in case the Astros want him to stretch his versatility even more.

Mills:
"He fits in because he's very versatile, and if he can't play the outfield, he's capable of playing all infield positions and he makes good, solid contact and is a good guy to have in the clubhouse. He fits into the picture pretty well."

Maysonet:
"I don't know where I fit in their plans. I never played a game in the outfield in the big leagues. That goes against me. [Outfielder Cory Sullivan] has four or five years in the big leagues and has experience. If they're looking for a guy that can play outfield and infield, I can do that. But if they're looking for an outfielder, I'm going to have to get a lot of work out there so I can do my best."

What's the hardest part about playing the outfield?
"Fly balls, especially over your head, are kind of tough, and especially with a lefty hitting. You have to play the ball differently. If there's wind, it's going to tail away some. Fly balls are tough."

God knows that's true. I played in a wood-bat league a couple of summers ago, and they stuck me in right field and batted me 9th, mainly so they wouldn't have to forfeit. One time, the ball came off the bat, and I was sure I was going to make a Gary Matthews, Jr. catch at the fence. So I go sprinting back to the wall, eyes on the sky. The ball never arrives. So I look back towards the infield, and the umpire has his hands up. Everyone is looking at me like I just threw up down my shirt. It was a foul ball behind the plate. Lake Monsters 4-Eva.

Lyon "feeling well"

McTaggart explains that Lyon is feeling good, despite his rehab taking longer than he expected. You know, because having a cyst in your shoulder that presses on a nerve is like having a 24-hour stomach bug.

Lyon, who threw 30 pitches off the mound from the stretch - which he apparently does throughout his bullpen sessions:
"It felt like it has been a long process. I came in here and expected to come back really quickly, and it hasn't come back as quickly as I thought. I've never been in this situation, so I didn't know what to expect. I'm staying mentally sharp and trying to focus on getting strong and better every day."

Photos

As Astros County strives for more Citizen Interaction, feel free to print off the Proof of Citizenship, found on the sidebar, and take a picture with it. Send that picture to astroscounty (at) hotmail.com and see it featured on the blog. Because that would be cool.

'77 Astros improve to 2-1

Over at Play That Funky Ball, the '77 Astros improved to 2-1 with a 6-1 win over Scott Simkus' Cubs as Cheo was a home run away from the cycle.

Buckner returns from a short injury to see Ontiveros and Morales both go out, but it isn’t the reason the Cubbies lose. Joe the Lesser Niekro smokes them on just six hits, while Jose Cruz is at it again with a single, triple and double.

Record: 2-1, one game back of the Pirates.

Up next: St. Louis (managed by Stan Musial's Stance) for the home opener.

Lineup for ST3: Astros v. Braves

Alyson Footer has a picture of the lineup card for today's game against the Braves:

1. Bourn - CF
2. Matsui - 2B
3. Pence - RF
4. Lee - LF
5. Berkman - 1B
6. Feliz - 3B
7. Blum - DH
8. Quintero - C
9. Maysonet - SS

Choke-slamming Shawn Chacon when he's down

We know about the recent troubles of Shawn Chacon. Pause. Now here's another one!

Four parcels of land owned by former Greeley Central High School star and Colorado Rockies pitcher Shawn Chacon have been foreclosed.

The properties, located in the 2000 block of Bayfront Court in the Water Valley Hillside Subdivision in Windsor, are valued at $1.05 million. Chacon has an outstanding principal balance on the properties of $829,159.

At least Carlos Lee is putting his money back into the local economy

This article on the Rodeo tells us that Carlos Lee spent $31,000 on a two-year old prized heifer.

Geoff Blum: Suck-up

In the Arizona Daily Star's article on Brad Mills has Geoff Blum talking about how great the atmosphere is with Mills:

"You have be an idiot not to recognize the fact that guys are a little more upbeat. As far as personality of the leadership, it's definitely changed. Things were a little more somber last year, and then you have Brad Mills come in, who's energetic, intense and well-organized."

Felipe Paulino brought it (in the first)

In yesterday's B Game against the Tigers, Felipe Paulino dropped the hammer in the first inning:

In the first inning, he struck out all three batters he faced, throwing only 11 pitches. He was throwing strikes at the knees and consistently at 95-to-96 mph on the radar gun. He touched 97 mph in the second inning, but he lost his command and walked two batters.

When he was done, he had thrown 42 pitches (21 strikes) and allowed one run and one hit.


Wade:
"I thought he really threw well. I was certainly encouraged."

That command is going to have to be more consistent, but it's good to see him start off the Spring with that kind of velocity. It's way too early to make any judgments about pitchers, but I'm good with this.

Wandy's looking for that multi-year deal

Fallas' article on Wandy has a few things to note about his financial situation:

On whether the $5m arbitration decision will affect his game:
“I don't have any pressure, because I am satisfied with what they gave me."

But it's clear Wandy wants the security of a multi-year deal:
I feel comfortable in Houston. My whole career I have belonged to the Astros, and I want them to give me an opportunity to sign a multiyear (deal).”

I agree with the organizational decision not to sign long-term deals with arbitration players, because of the fact that you'll be getting market value - at least for the previous season. If the Astros had signed Pence to a Nick Markakis-esque deal, you run the risk of that being a very poor contract four or five years down the road. Going year-to-year with younger players at least allows the organization to see more ABs, more situations, and to better project that player's career, helping to determine the worth of a long-term deal.

Nocturnal Emissions, Vol. 5

Today we bring you Volume 5 of Nocturnal Emissions, in which Richard Justice gushes over Lance Berkman:

Those of us who love the guy know how far off they are. Berkman is obsessive about his statistics, work habits, faith, family, politics, pretty much everything.

He's also very, very smart. He's a voracious reader, a debater, a thinker. And sometimes interviews bore him...

...Berkman, 34, thinks it's funny how Bagwell has become a better leader and player since he retired. He figures it'll be that way with himself.

Once he's gone, some finally will appreciate how special he was. That's a shame because the truth is we're seeing one of the best offensive players that has ever walked the earth....

It's not a recap, but some thoughts on ST2

I won't recap yesterday's 17-7 loss to the Tigers, but I do have some things to point out:

-Five of the 14 hits came from Chris Johnson (3x4, 3 doubles) and J.R. Towles (2x2, 1 double)

-Errors by Johnson (fielding) and Shelton (throw) led to three unearned runs.

-Polin Trinidad gets the "Holy Crap" award of the game. Facing six batters, he allowed two hits, four walks, six earned runs, and no outs.

-I do appreciate Brian Bogusevic' nailing of Miguel Cabrera at the plate.

-Shane Loux and Evan Englebrook were the only pitchers who didn't give up a walk.

Still, Brad Mills didn't get all worked up:

“In a lot of terms, I was happier today with a lot of things that happened. The score right now doesn't concern me as much as how we need to go about playing the game. We had some really solid at-bats today – we had solid at-bats yesterday, too – but by that I mean we worked the count better. Defensively, we hit the cutoff man and were able to work on some things.”

Berkman to start at 1B today

Alright, alright. We're back, and ready to get to it, until I have to leave again. But let's get in what we can, and we'll start wtih Berkman, who DH'ed (Yes, I know I just abbreviated that to Designated Hitted) yesterday, but will play 1B in today's game vs the Braves:

Berkman:
“It doesn't necessarily feel a lot better, but when the doctor told me I couldn't hurt it any worse, why not go back out there? I need to get ready for the season.”

I have something of a problem with this. First, I understand he needs to get work in and prepare for the season, but without the benefit of a day of medical training, I guess I don't believe that it can't be hurt worse. And that doesn't sound like a very good thing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Astros County 3/5 update

Okay, Citizens. Bear with me today - and to an extent, this weekend - as I'm traveling for work. I'll be able to hit some things in the morning, but your best bet is to keep an eye on that Twitter update box on the sidebar. Even better, Follow Astros County on Twitter. We have 222 followers, and I want more. More than McTaggart, anyway. And there's always a chance to bust my balls, as a few of my followers have done recently. My favorite?

You tweet more about BS than the Astros

Good times!

Survivor: Kissimmee, Episode #1

Let's take a look at what we know about the roster, and then use some information from Bernardo Fallas to supplement it.

1B - Berkman
2B - Matsui
3B - Feliz
SS - Manzella
IF5 - Blum
LF - Lee
CF - Bourn
RF - Pence
OF4 - Michaels
C2 - Quintero

We see from Fallas that the Astros plan on carrying seven in the bullpen, meaning there will be 13 position players on the Opening Day roster, meaning there are only a couple of spots open: IF6, C1, and OF5.

Norris has to come out and go all Wild Thing in order to go back to Round Rock, and there's a good chance that if Paulino doesn't impress The Law Offices of Mills, Arnsberg, and Wade, he'll go back to Round Rock to continue to develop - thanks to his one remaining option. So let's look at this:

If Paulino craps the bed:
SP5 - Moehler
BP1 - Sampson
BP2 - Wright/Gervacio
BP3 - Byrdak
BP4 - Arias
BP5 - Fulchino
BP6 - Lindstrom
BP7 - Lyon

If Paulino wins SP5:
BP1 - Moehler
BP2 - Sampson
BP3 - Byrdak
BP4 - Arias
BP5 - Fulchino
BP6 - Lindstrom
BP7 - Lyon

On the bubble is Yorman Bazardo, who either has to make the team, or clear waivers. Wade:
“He's got to be knee-deep in the competition. If we decide Yorman is not going to make our club, there's a real good chance we're not going to get him through waivers.”

Keep in mind Gustavo Chacin, Josh Banks, and Shane Loux are all looking for a job, too. And if they don't win it, they'll need a good Spring to find a place on another team. But it won't just come down to statistical results, right Ed Wade?

“We're all human. We remember the guys who work hard and do certain things.”

God may have given Cory Sullivan an advantage

Bernardo Fallas' Notes Column addresses the OF5 spot, and how Cory Sullivan might have a natural advantage:

Mills:
"We’d like to have a lefthanded bat off the bench; there’s no doubt. (But) is that going to take precedence over someone else who is so much better and maybe adds another ingredient to the team, such as speed? All those ingredients mixed together are important."

Our first prediction of the Spring!

Red Sox blog Fire Brand of the AL has posted their first predictions of the Spring. How do they think the Astros will do?

72-90 - 5th Place
The Astros just don’t get it. On one hand, while it’s admirable they’re giving Tommy Manzella a shot, they went out and paid for Pedro Feliz and Brandon Lyon. Those will certainly not be difference makers. The ‘Stros need to realize that all they have going for them is Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. That’s it. (Carlos Lee still produces, but is near untradable.) It might cause massive PR backlash, but the prudent move this offseason would have been to trade Oswalt, then move Berkman at the trade deadline. Unfortunately for Houston fans, with the club potentially for sale, they’ll keep “trying” to win. Hope for a new owner and fast.


Anybody want to take a shot?

Pence's Keys to the Game

McTaggart's recap on Pence's big day yesterday had a few things to say:

Mills:
"Can I put my order in for two home runs?"

Pence:
""It's a nice start. But it's still Day 1, and there's a long way to go. It felt good today, and maybe I was a little too excited. But what can you say? The big key was laying off some balls and getting ahead in the count. I got to look for a fastball over the plate, and fortunately, I was able to connect with it...

...I love the game. I had trouble sleeping last night. I know everybody will make fun of me, but I was very excited. It felt good to play some baseball and play well."


Mills, on Pence's preparation:
"He's been working every day early, during batting practice and later. That's Hunter. That's how he does things. It's no surprise for him to be right on target right out of the chute."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

ST1 Recap: Astros vs. Nationals

Take a look at this random recap from 2009. What do you think? What can be changed? What can stay the same?

Until we get an idea at what you, dear reader, want in game recaps, we'll try a few different things out.

What Happened?
Hunter Pence had the big day with two homers in the 4th inning - that's right, a solo shot and a three-run homer in the same inning - as part of a 21-hit barrage in a 15-5 win over the Nationals in the Spring Training debut. The Astros hit five home runs total - two by Pence, one each by Jason Michaels, Yordany Ramirez, and Chris Johnson.

Why They Won
The 9-run 4th inning. It's hard to lose a game when you score nine runs in one inning. And because four Nationals pitchers gave up 2+ ER (Martis, Peralta, Capps, and Guardado).

Astros pitching
For the most part it was solid. Things got off to a shaky start with Brett Myers walking three batters, and a throwing error by Kaz Matsui leading to two earned runs (three total), and the Astros were down 5-0, after Arias and Sampson gave up a run each. Then the pitching settled down, with Gervacio, Majewski, Corcoran, and Wright throwing scoreless innings.

Maybe the most remarkable stat of the day was in the groundball/flyball category: Astros pitchers induced 17 groundball outs, 1 flyball out, and six strikeouts.

Positional Battles
Catcher
Towles: 2x3, RBI (two 2Bs)
Castro: 1x3, RBI
Quintero: 1x1

OF5
Yordany: 2x2, 4RBI
Bogusevic: 1x2, K
Sullivan: 0x1

Man of the Match
Hunter Pence! 3x3 with 2HR, 4RBI

Goat of the Game
Brett Myers. His first start was rough, but it is the first game of the Spring.

LOUD NOISES!

Okay, that's freaking it. Sports Illustrated's Tim Marchman ranked all 30 MLB GMs. According to what, I'm not sure. There are two pages of this article, and I bet you can guess where Marchman put Ed Wade. Yep, second page. In fact, only Dayton Moore ranked worse than Ed Wade on Marchman's list:

Did you realize that six of eight Astros regulars were 33 or older last year? That five of the six pitchers who got the most starts -- two of whom were Brian Moehler and Mike Hampton -- were 30 or older? And that the team has arguably the worst farm system in baseball? Wade isn't to blame for all of this. But he certainly hasn't done anything about it.

Yesterday, The Crawfish Boxes had an excellent defense of Ed Wade, and I'll post my defense tonight, after the Mrs. has gone to bed. This will address the problem the national media has with our General Manager, and how idiotic those problems are.

70% chance of Lyon

The Sporting News breaks down the closer battles, with chances for each. There's not much in there that we haven't already discussed, but note:

Lindstrom, who posted a 5.89/1.65 line with the Marlins last season and lost his closer job to Leo Nunez, could get some saves early on, but expect Lyon to eventually take over full-time.

Lyon: 70%
Lindstrom: 30%

Judging from this, Pence less likely to bat 2nd

In this article on the evolving role of the #2 hitter, Brad Mills had a telling quote:

"It would be great to have a No. 2 hitter to be able to drive the ball, but you don't want to sacrifice the rest of your lineup. You want to be able to spread those hitters out to give yourself a chance to drive in some runs."

McTaggart, and Berkman:
Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, who hits third in Houston's order, likes the hitter before him to ultimately be able to get on base while working counts and tiring out the pitcher. Berkman said he's read some studies that argue the best hitters on a team should bat second and fourth.

"You need a guy that can give you a tough at-bat, even against a great pitcher," Berkman said. "I don't think your No. 2 guy has to hit with a lot of power, but I do think he has to have a knack for coming up with big hits because I do think you're going to be in a big situation a lot. The most important thing for me is that a No. 2 hitter makes as few outs as possible, which translates into a high on-base percentage."


Jeebus. Who would that be?

Clemens may be the next Inge, will head to Corpus in 2010

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo has a nice little profile on Koby Clemens and his breakout season in Lancaster:

Ricky Bennett, on making apologies for the ballpark in Lancaster:
"From what our people told us and what I observed personally, he had huge hits. Clutch hits. When there were guys on base, Koby always seemed to come through. There’s no question, he can hit a baseball."

How did he learn to hit? By taking BP from Roger:
"I’m fortunate to be able to go up against Dad, and the sessions are just great. I’ve learned so much from his knowledge of pitching, and for me as a hitter, I get to think along with the pitcher. He’s always taught me what he’s thinking on this count or that count and what he’s trying to do to get me out. He’ll drop the forkball over and get me once in a while, but once in a while he’ll brush me back or I’ll take him deep and I give it right back to him because he loves that. It’s really taught me the game."

What will Koby's role be? (And this is interesting), from Ricky Bennett:
“I’ve talked a lot to him about (Brandon) Inge. He came up as a shortstop and then we moved him to catcher and then he got moved to third and the outfield. Our No. 1 pick [in 2008], Jason Castro, was going to get the bulk of the playing time, but I wanted to make sure we kept Koby’s bat in the lineup. So we played him at DH and then when Castro moved up, we caught him. He’s played third and left field and this year he’s going to play first base at Corpus Christi. But we still want him to catch some, maybe a couple of times a week."

It's really an excellent article. So excellent, in fact, that I'm almost ashamed that Houston media didn't write it.

Berkman's rehab includes WTF

Alyson Footer tweeted a note this morning about Berkman's possible rehab solutions:

Two possible remedies for Puma's knee issue: injections of 1) shark cartilage or 2) rooster comb. No, I'm not kidding.

Thanks to Newcomer, here's some explanation:

Rooster Comb:

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) may very well be the single most important compound in the structure of the human body.* It makes up the backbone of cartilage, the synovial fluid around joints and under the skin, and even cushioning behind eyes. Wellness Resources Hyaluronic Acid is natural, low molecular weight HA. It is easily absorbed and used by the body, unlike cheap sodium hyaluronate.

Shark Cartilege:

Although some laboratory and animal studies have shown that some components in shark cartilage have the ability to slow the growth of new blood vessels, these effects have not been proven in humans.

Awesome.

Astros are pumped, and so am I

So today obviously marks the beginning of competitive Spring Training (Fulchino, Daigle, and Berkman got their tails kicked by non-competitive Spring Training), and I am absolutely beside myself. And so are the Astros.

Berkman:
“Clearly the longer camp goes the more reality sets in and you're like, ‘all right, well now I'm back to work,' but there is a different feel and a different atmosphere. I think guys have benefited from that, and we'll see how that plays out as we move forward.”

Moehler:
“Spring training kind of goes in stages; you have to get those first couple of weeks where you're getting through all the drills and then all of a sudden, the games start. I think everyone's eager to get going with the games and turn the page on the first two weeks of spring training.”

Blum:
“I'm ready for the season to start. If we could avoid spring training altogether, I would, but it's one of those necessary evils.”

Why is everyone so excited? Well, they'll start drawing paychecks, for one. But Mills has had a lot to do with it.

Moehler, on Mills' Spring Training:
“It's been intense; it's been quick. We get our work done, which is good. It's good to get in there and get your work done but still get quality work in in a short amount of time.”

Blum, on Mills:
“Some people call it high intensity; I call it he cares. (Pause for "Awwww...") He wants to be hands-on; he wants to be involved. He wants to see what personnel he's got so I appreciate him getting out there, and he's been the same every day...

...“In business or anything, if you're in an office-type situation, you're still playing a team game. A lot what's predicated on the field has to do with what happens up top. Having good leadership is going to overflow onto the field, so I think we're in a pretty good position right now.”


Mills:
“They have done a great job through all of our drills, all of our fundamentals that we've gone through. Everything we tried to accomplish we have been able to accomplish. The energy and enthusiasm has been there to want to get it done. You put those things together, and we're right where we want to be.”

I don't know what this year will bring to the Astros. Maybe it's another 85-loss season, and if that's the case, okay. It depends on how they lose 85 games. If they're running out ground balls (eyes up, Carlos) and playing good defense, but just getting beat, I can abide by that. If Mills gets some improvement out of a team and gets a fair chance at managing this team, I'm okay with that. But if it's July and the Astros are ten back and they look like they did at the end of 2009, and the trade deadline comes and goes without any movement, I will not be okay with that. I think, like most fans, I want to see some spark. Having purchased MLB.tv so that La Constabless can watch tv while I scream at the computer, I want to see some swagger.

Cows > Spring Training

Carlos Lee won't be in the lineup today or tomorrow, as he's been given permission to travel to Houston for "a business matter." It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes, or even Mycroft Holmes, to figure out that with the Rodeo going on, that's where Lee will be.

Mills:
"He has my blessing. We had discussed it when he first got here. I already told him he is in the lineup for Saturday."

Does it seem like it's a bit off-putting to show up and start talking about vacation days? That's a big no-no in my industry. Which is obviously not baseball.

We also see from Fallas' blog post that Berkman could DH in tomorrow's game, but will definitely be out today.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Clemens: Big-time HR in 1st game at 1B

Koby Clemens hit a three-run jack off Matt Lindstrom in his first career game at 1B, a telling sign of where The Apparatus may want him to focus as he likely heads to Corpus in 2010.

Clemens:
"I had a lot of confidence last year and hit in a really good lineup and a really good-hitting league. It was very much a perfect storm kind of situation. I got an opportunity to hit behind guys like Gaston, Shuck and Steele, and they're getting on base for me three out of four times and I'm having a lot of opportunities to hit with runners on first and third and less than two outs. Kind of similar to how today went. The pressure is on the pitcher, and I just trust what I can do..."

...So far, I've played pretty good. That was my first full game at first base ever in my life, so it went pretty well. I didn't make any errors and caught every ball thrown to me and missed a few assignments on balls down the line because I got a little confused, but by the time Spring Training is up, I'll be ready to go."

A lot of pitchers threw. Mills mentioned one.

In McTaggart's recap of today's Spring Training events, highlighted - of course - is the inter-squad game, which Meacham's Mashers won 16-13 over Clark's Crushers.

McTaggart mentions Yorman Bazardo having the roughest day of all the pitchers to throw, but Mills took note of Matt Lindstrom:

"It was good to see the pitchers throw the ball to live hitters. The biggest thing was to get them out there in a game situation and run through some things. Successes and failures are absolutely nothing today, especially with the weather like it was. But it was nice to get them out there in game situations and throw the ball. I thought Lindstrom threw the ball real well. He was letting it go there for a while. I know he gave up a couple of balls hit hard, but it was sure nice to see him throw the ball extremely well."
-

Tomorrow kicks off the Grapefruit League season, and Brett Myers will start, throwing - hopefully - two innings.
-

Towles, Quintero, and Castro will all get ABs in the DH spot as Mills tries to establish who will be C1. Mills:

"There's going to be some times we're not going to, but for Friday's game in Detroit we're going to wait to see if Berkman needs to DH or play first base. I'm waiting to see how he is [Thursday]. Most of the time, it's going to be our catchers."
-

Norris signs

Bud Norris signed a one-year deal today worth $401,000. And that's everyone on the 40-man roster signed.

By the by, let's take a look at the projected starting rotation and their rate of pay in 2010:

Roy Oswalt: $15m
Wandy Rodriguez: $5m
Brett Myers: $3m
Bud Norris: $401,000
Felipe Paulino: $415,000

That's a total of $23,816,000. What was it in 2009?

Roy Oswalt: $14m
Wandy Rodriguez: $2.6m
Mike Hampton: $2m
Russ Ortiz: $750,000
Brian Moehler: $2.3m

2009 Total: $21,650,000

Obviously, Wandy's $2.4m raise had something to do with this. But don't you feel better now?

Berkman may miss Friday's game, too

McTaggart's follow-up on Berkman says that he may miss Friday's Grapefruit League game, as well.

Mills:
"We are going to let it calm down, and if I can get him in the lineup a little bit on Friday, we will, but I will have to wait and see. I'm not opposed to waiting to see if we can get him in the lineup on Saturday. We might take two days, we might take one day. We'll see how he is after the workout today."

Lineup for Grapefruit League opener

Alyson Footer posted a picture of the lineup card for tomorrow's opener vs. Washington. Here you go:

1. Bourn - CF
2. Matsui - 2B
3. Pence - RF
4. Blum - 1B
5. Feliz - 3B
6. Castro - DH
7. Michaels - LF
8. Towles - C
9. Manzella - SS

Intra-squad updates

Rather than inundate you with Twitter updates regarding the intra-squad game happenings, I'll just keep this post running...

Moehler: 1IP, 2H/1ER, 2K
Koby Clemens hits three-run HR off Lindstrom (McTaggart: Let me add wind is blowing out around 20mph)
Byrdak: Was scratched, but will pitch his inning

Michael Bourn and his 140 Strikeouts

So after reading this morning about how Michael Bourn wants to cut down on his strikeouts, I got to wondering about those strikeouts. He said:

"I would love to cut down on my strikeouts. I like being aggressive; when I am too passive that's when I strike out more."

Is that true? Let's look at each and every one of Bourn's strikeouts.

Games in which Bourn struck out twice: 31
Games in which Bourn struck out three times: 2
Games in which Bourn struck out four times: 1

Vs. LHP: 35 (22.9%)
VS. RHP: 105 (20%)

Home: 71 (21.4%)
Away: 69 (19.9%)

In Astros Wins: 57 (17.7%)
In Astros Losses: 83 (23.3%)

Leading Off Game: 21 (17.2%)
Leading Off Inning: 43 (15.8%)

After First-Pitch Strike: 94 (27.6%)
After First-Pitch Ball: 46 (16.9%)

Bases Empty: 95 (20.6%)
RBI Situations: 45 (20.8%)
w/RISP: 24 (19.4%)

1st-3rd innings: 51 (20.2%)
4th-6th innings: 39 (20.1%)
7th-9th innings: 47 (24.2%)

vs. SP: 93 (19.5%)
vs. RP: 47 (27.0%)

Strikeouts Swinging: 103 (73.6%)
Strikeouts Looking: 37 (26.4%)

The most telling of all this to me is the last one: 103 strikeouts that were of the swinging variety, 37 of which were looking. So this would indicate to me that, at the very least, Bourn thinks of a "passive at-bat" in a different way than I do, in that three-quarters of his strikeouts were swinging.

I think Bourn is aggressive enough, and if he's trying to be more aggressive, well...we'll just have to see what exactly that means.

And the '77 Astros are 1-1

This is much more like it. Your '77 Astros scored four runs in the top of the 12th and defeated the Cubs 6-3, to improve to 1-1.

Meat wagon update

Here's an update on Lance Berkman, who will be held from running drills today:

"It feels OK. It's still a little swollen and a little sore, but the good news from the MRI is I'm not going to be able to hurt it worse."

Let's hope that wasn't just a jinx.

And Tim Byrdak has been scratched from the inter-squad game with a stiff neck.

An exercise in ridiculous...ness, by Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi decides the best use of his time yesterday was to write a timeline of how the Mets will win the World Series.

Why is this important to you and I? Because on July 31, 2010, the Mets will trade stud 1B Ike Davis and SS Reese Havens for Roy Oswalt, giving the Mets "one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball."

Will this happen? Who freaking knows? But I'll tell you this much: the Astros aren't likely to be trading for a shortstop, not with universally-beloved SS Jiovanni Mier making his way through the system. Ike Davis would be nice, though...

Bourn's primary objective: Cut those strikeouts down

This is something we'll be looking at closer today, but we learn from the Chronicle that Michael Bourn's primary objective is to cut those Ks down.

Bourn:
“I would love to cut down on my strikeouts. I like being aggressive; when I am too passive that's when I strike out more, I feel like.”

Which is the crux of today's exercise. Look for it later today.

Bourgeois wants to set your table

McTaggart's article on Jason Bourgeois has some nice things to say about the young man who was Little League teammates with Carl Crawford and Michael Bourn (which is just...not fair).

Bourgeois is one of four players looking to nab the OF5 spot, with Alex Romero, Yordany Ramirez, and Cory Sullivan challenging for the role, as well.

Bourgeois:
"All I can worry about is what I bring to the table. I'll try to be available, and I'll show them everything that I have -- my versatility, my speed and trying to be a table-setter. Hopefully, that's something that they want."

Wade:
"We're going to continue to look at him in the outfield, because we know he can play some infield positions, and if he increases his versatility he might be an alternative to consider."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Best. Comment. Ever

Peanut referred us to a comment from a while ago on the Chronicle that sounded too hilarious to be true. Here it is, in its glory:

Edwin Maysonet agrees to contract

McTaggart's reporting that Edwin Maysonet has signed a split contract worth $400,000.

McTaggart's Berkman/Lyon update

McTaggart has an update on the HurtStros:

On Berkman:
The injury doesn't appear to be serious. Berkman isn't limping or wearing a wrap. This is all very precautionary, and manager Brad Mills said he's leaning towards holding Puma out of the the first Spring Training game Thursday. The Astros will be extremely cautious with Berkman considering how early it is in the spring.

Lyon, who threw about 25 fastballs to Brad Arsnberg off the mound today:
"I went out there and tried to progress a little bit and get a feel for that mound and see where I'm at right now. I feel pretty good. I'm feeling a lot stronger, and for the most part I felt pretty good where the ball was doing and didn't really overdo anything."

It's Bray Day! Episode 18

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 week, Aaron will write a column for Astros County detailing his off-season. Check the sidebar for archives.

Yesterday, Aaron was able to give us a brief update of his Spring Training, so far...
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Spring Training is going well. I arrived Sunday night. Today, Monday, I was able to watch the big league guys take B.P. I went and did some hitting on my own, since it's voluntary for me. It is kind of awe-striking to be so close to big leaguers. I thinks that is what's good about me coming early. I can get my feet wet and get the jitters out. I am excited for my official day to get here, that way I can start doing some things officially. I will say this: the weather has been nice the two days I have been here - 70 today while I was in the batting cages. I am looking forward to having a great time and working hard. Not much has happened up to this point. Check back in a few days and hopefully that will change and I will be busy.

Got a question for Aaron? Send it to astroscounty (at) hotmail.com

Pence as #2 hitter

Bernardo Fallas tweeted this morning that Brad Mills will consider Hunter Pence for the #2 spot in the lineup.

Let's examine. In the #2 spot in 2009, Pence was .238/.238/.238 in 21 plate appearances.

Should this happen, it will push Matsui and Feliz further down in the order. We know a few things for sure about the lineup: Bourn will leadoff, Berkman will hit 3rd (if he's even in the lineup), Lee will hit 4th, Manzella will likely hit 8th.

If we're looking at it from the "Who will hit 5th" perspective, that leaves two candidates: Kaz Matsui and Pedro Feliz, because I don't think Towles/Castro will hit 5th to begin the season.

We'll start with Matsui. In 2009 Matsui got 200 plate appearances with runners on. His line? .288/.348/.442, 28K:17BB. Compare that to .230/.276/.313 with the bases empty.

In 2009, Feliz got 275 PAs with runners on. How did he do? .325/.366/.482, compared to .221/.263/.314 with the bases empty.

Now, Feliz didn't hit 5th in 2009, and only got 7 PAs in the #5 spot in 2008. Likewise, Matsui didn't hit 5th in 2009, and has three career plate appearances as #5.

So if Pence hits second, which would stack up baserunners for the Big Boys, I could see the lineup as follows:

1. Bourn
2. Pence
3. Berkman
4. Lee
5. Feliz
6. Matsui
7. Towles/Castro
8. Manzella

What say you?

Transactions!

A few things to report for today:

The Astros have signed Wesley Wright to a split contract worth $444,500.

Meanwhile, the Astros agreed to a minor-league deal with Jason Bourgeois, and have released pitcher Carlos Gil.

Gil had a bad 2009 (or more specifically, a bad July 2009), but in his recap (linked), we wrote:

There just wasn't a whole lot of improvement from 2008 in the DSL to 2009 in the GCL. Throwing 38IP in 2008, Gil posted a K/9 rate of 5.9 (there's an improvement of 1.5 K/9), but the walk rate rose slightly from 5.7 to 5.9, and Hits/9 rose slightly from 12.6 to 12.8, as well. Gil also hit six batters and threw 10 wild pitches, so combining that with the 20 walks in 30 innings, command should be the order of the off-season.

Get your chosen expletive ready...

Because Lance has already hurt himself.

He was held out of today's practice with a left knee contusion from running the bases on Sunday, something that has held over through the off-season. Berkman:

“I guess I twisted it wrong or did something when we were running the bases. Anybody who has played for any length of time and you get to be over 30, you're going to have aches and pains. Every once in a while working out, my knee didn't feel great, but it never swelled. I didn't have any idea that there was a problem at all. It was never debilitating in the stuff I was doing in the offseason. I felt a twinge every once in a while but my joints hurt from time to time all over the place. It was nothing that was out of the ordinary. This is the first time it's swollen like that, and that's an indication that's more than the standard ache or pain.”

Berkman had an MRI, and team physician Dr. David Lintner will be reviewing the results today.

McTaggart said that Mills will wait before filling out his lineup for Thursday's Spring opener vs. Washington:

"If I was leaning toward one way or another, he wouldn't be in the lineup."

This is interesting. Because Berkman has had knee problems, requiring surgery in 2004 and 2006, but those were on his right knee. Keep in mind that Berkman's Grade II calf strain was also on his left leg. Whether that's a holdover injury, I don't know. I was a history major. But Will Carroll would know, and he's not so rah-rah, no matter how minor Berkman says it is:

Big worries about Berkman's knee. "Bruise" with no trauma indicates arthritic problems inside knee.

This is not a good sign. Virtually the first time the Astros are running the bases, and Berkman has swelling in his knee without really knowing what happened. Like everyone else, we'll have to wait and see. But go ahead and use that expletive...now.

We interrupt this message for a brief moment of delusion

I don't harp on Roger Clemens. My reasons are many: he could still whoop my rear, it's not fair to his family (not that I imagine they care about what a blogger thinks), I'm still hoping that Koby will do a little interview for AC, and what is there to gain from ripping Roger Clemens?

However, in an interview with The Trentonian, the Rocket says some things of note:

When asked about his public image:
Well, my public image is great...

There's more, but I just thought you should see that. I'm not going to disagree, but I don't agree 100%, either. There are a lot of opinions of Roger Clemens today, and I would be very surprised if the majority of them were positive.

Let's move on. On whether or not he'll coach:
People ask me if im coaching and I’ll see the kids and the kids will come over to me and ask questions whether it be pitching or just anything. They still think I’m in great shape, and they always ask, ‘Do you want to coach,’ and I’ll say, ‘If I’m going to coach I might as well just go ahead and play because the travel is still the same.

On Koby:
He had a breakout year again last year. He’s got his eye set on certain goals, he’s 23 now and he’s a young man. Every once in a while we’ll talk about pitching and different sequences and how to handle a staff. And he caught probably about four major league pitchers this off-season and he handled them very well. So the next couple of years for him are going to be real important and if he doesn’t make it, he’ll go back to school and study and move on. But right now, he’s chasing his dreams.

It's interesting that Roger focused on Koby's catching abilities, because if Koby has a future in the organization, it's almost certainly going to be at a position other than catcher.

Expect Lindstrom to start punching Lyon's shoulder in 5...4...3...

Now that Brandon Lyon can throw - lightly - off the mound, it's about to go off for the battle for Closer.

Despite being two weeks behind schedule, Mills expects Lyon to be able to start the season:
“As of right now, the concern isn't there. He's a little behind in spring training but not for the season, so we're still anticipating him being able to start the season.”

Both say that they don't care about which role they have, and Mills wants to name one of them. Lyon:
“I want to say it's easier in a sense to be the closer. Sometimes sixth-, seventh-inning guys, they get worn out a little more because they have to pitch in different situations. That's the toughest part: knowing when you're going to pitch and preparing yourself.”

Mills, on Lindstrom:
"He's closed before, and he's got the stuff to close. We're just going to have to wait and see how he throws the ball here in spring training.”

Mills, on Lyon:
"He's a late-innings guy, and those guys are invaluable on any ballclub. With the ballclub that we have this year and with the guys that we lost at the back end, to have a guy like that is invaluable.”

Lindstrom:
"Brandon's earned every right to have this opportunity, and I know I need to go out there and show the club that this is what I want to do.”

Lyon:
“When that bell rings and Millsie tells me to get ready, that's what I'm going to do. I don't really care. We're all a team here. We all have one goal, and that's to win games. And when teams can do that, jell and get along real well, you can do great things. That's my plan. I'm just going out there and trying to get ready for a season. That stuff will play out by itself.”

So everyone is saying the right things, but we just can't project who will be in what role until the Spring Training games start. Oh, and they start tomorrow.

Play the infield, Cinderelli, Play the outfield, Cinderelli

Fallas' Notes column highlights the emphasis on versatility in those players looking to land on the bench - and not in Round Rock - in 2010.

So when you have six outfielders fighting over two spots, you want to maximize where they can play. That's why Edwin Maysonet was shagging balls in the outfield, and Cory Sullivan was taking grounders in the infield.

Ed Wade:
“There are important decisions to make. When you carry 12 pitchers and two catchers, you're a five-man bench. So keep in mind, those extra four men have to be versatile.”
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And one more note, from Mills on a now-healthy Alberto Arias:
"He's got such good stuff. If we're able to get him in situations, we can use him probably in a middle-type role.”

Fulchino: 2nd MVP

McTaggart's article paints a picture of Ed Wade as a man with a metal detector, scouring the landfills of baseball teams, looking for something shiny.

And he found them, in Alberto Arias and Jeff Fulchino, Wilton Lopez and Jason Bourgeois!

Wade:
"I thought Fulchino was the second most valuable pitcher last year behind Wandy. He filled every possible role you could ask him to fill other than closer -- he worked in back-to-back games, threw multiple innings, the sixth inning, eighth inning, with men on base and bases empty. He covered it all. We'd be lost without him, and the same thing is true with Arias until his knee barked at him last year. Those were big innings, valuable innings. You have to figure out a way to cover them, because fewer and fewer starters get to the seventh inning."

So how does Ed Wade do it?
Wade makes his sure his staff, particularly assistant general manager David Gottfried and director of baseball research/pro scouting Charlie Norton, pays close attention to the daily waiver bulletin and is prepared to act accordingly if they come across a name that could fill a need.

Fulchino:
"I came here in Spring Training, and they didn't know me other than scouting reports and seeing me a couple of times in Major League games. I had thrown 15 innings at the Major League level with the Royals, so I came in here ready to go and hoping to impress them and get a shot at making the team. I didn't make the team, but I had a good Spring Training and I was the first guy they called up. It took a couple of times, but I showed them I belong here."

See? Running a major league team IS a lot like running your fantasy team! Ahh, I jest. But Ed Wade has hit on these waiver wire pickups more than he has missed. Still wondering why his perception is so skewed...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lyon throws lightly off the mound, Astros work on cut-offs

McTaggart's Day 10 recap tells us a few things:

-Brandon Lyon threw lightly off the mound in an effort to throw a full-on bullpen session on Thursday

"It was just getting a feel for the mound. I'm just going to get out there and get a feel for everything and try to evaluate where I'm at after that."

-The Astros spent significant time doing cut-off drills, with Mills hitting balls to the gaps (that's the first time that "cut-offs" and "balls" have been used in a sentence without a smirk):

"We got some things ironed out. I'm not going to say it went absolutely outstanding, but it didn't go bad, either. Some organizations do things a little bit differently, and when you have guys from other organizations coming together sometimes there is some confusion. We wanted to make sure everything was run exactly the way we wanted to do it. That's why we were able to take a little extra time and talk about it as much as we can. There are subtle differences that help protect us against certain things happening."

Bill James thinks little of the Astros young talent

The latest from the Angels blog on the Orange County Register is reporting from Bill James' Gold Mine 2010, that the Astros have stayed consistent from last year. In that they have the 30th-ranked talent pipeline in the Majors.

Lineups for Wednesday's Intra-Squad game

Alyson Footer posted pictures of Meach's Mashers vs. Clark's Crushers in Wednesday's intra-squad game:

If you're too lazy to click it, I'll fill you in:

Meach's Mashers
1. Koby Clemens - 1B
2. Chris Johnson - 3B
3. T.J. Steele - OF
4. Cory Sullivan - DH
5. Brian Bogusevic - OF
6. Edwin Maysonet - SS
7. Drew Meyer - 2B
8. Jason Bourgeois - OF
9. Kevin Cash - C / Lou Santangelo - C

Pitchers: Moehler, Lindstrom, Loux, Lopez, Villar, Trinidad, Lo, Valdez.

Clark's Crushers
1. Chris Shelton - 1B
2. Jonathan Meyer - 3B
3. Alex Romero - RF
4. Jon Gaston - DH
5. Drew Locke - LF
6. Wladimir Sutil - SS
7. Oswaldo Navarro - 2B
8. Yordany Ramirez - CF
9. Brian Esposito - C / Federico Hernandez - C

Pitchers: Norris, Byrdak, Fulchino, Bazardo, Banks, Nevarez, Englebrook, Abad.

Who you got?

Throwdown over local TV rights starts in Houston

Here's an excellent, in-depth article from the Biz of Baseball regarding the impending showdown between Fox Sports Net and Comcast.

If you're playing on Wednesday, it might not be a good thing

Brian McTaggart is telling us the following:

#Astros manager Brad Mills said most of the key position players on the club won't participate in Wednesday's intra-squad game.

Bernardo Fallas has an update with the pitchers for each team, who will throw no more than one inning:

"Home": Moehler, Lindstrom, Loux, Lopez, Villar, Trinidad, Lo, Valdez.

"Visitors": Norris, Byrdak, Fulchino, Bazardo, Banks, Nevarez, Englebrook, Abad.

Astros are middle-of-the-pack in international scouting

Baseball America posted an article regarding the activity of all 30 MLB teams in international scouting. The Astros have six international prospects in the 2010 BA Prospect Handbook, which puts them right in the middle of the road (there are caveats, click the link and read them).

Play That Funky Ball: Opening Day!

If you've been reading every single entry over the past month, you'll remember that I'm the manager of the 1977 Houston Astros for the Play That Funky Ball Strat-O-Matic replay of the 1977 season.

Yesterday was Opening Day, and your '77 Astros started off with an 8-3 loss to the Cubs:
Houston finally wakes up on the late side with a flurry of hits and all three of their runs, but this is a Cubbie onslaught for most of the game. Slim Rick Reuschel puts Ferguson and Cedeno on with a walk and single to start the day, then whiffs Watson, Cruz and Puhl in a row, and four of the next six he faces.

W-R. Reuschel L-Richard HR-Gross


And I'm already pissed off.

Manzella knows he'll be judged on his hitting

We know about Manzella's overcoming adversity in the loss of his mother, and how Katrina destroyed his home, and we respect those things greatly. But in Fallas' article on Manzella, he explains that Mills is pleased with how Manzella is coming along, and Manzella knows how everyone will be focused on whether or not he can hit:

Hitting is the one thing I'm probably going to be judged the most on, just because athletes are always judged on what people perceive their weakest attribute to be. In my mind, I don't look myself as a defensive player; I look at myself as a good, all-around shortstop. I take pride in the fact that I have a lot of confidence in myself, and really, when I'm at the plate, the only thing that matters is, do I believe I can hit? I know I can hit.”

Manzella benefited from a .340 BABIP in Round Rock in '09, and we can expect some regression over his .289 average last year. But I don't know that he'll be as bad as CHONE expects, projecting a .244/.295/.349 line for Manzella. He only walked in 6.9% of his PAs last year, and that's going to need to come up. Otherwise, we can only wait and see...

How the Astros ended up with Lyon/Lindstrom

Richard Justice has another excellent blog post on how the Astros ended up with Brandon Lyon, and why Ed Wade continues to get slammed.

Justice got a hold of some scouting reports on both Lyon and Lindstrom. An excerpt from Lyon's:
Strong compact athletic body. Can field position. Holds runners. 1-3 delivery. Has good stuff. Has closed on occasion early in the year. Has in the past. Effective setup reliever. A couple of strikeout pitches with slider and curveball. Occasional fastball stuff is mostly hard. Curveball defuses the style some. Aggressive with first-pitch strikes. Both sides of the plate. Uses curveball early in count. Competes well, has intangibles, which allows to use all of his pitches and go after hitters. Is more sinker-slider type, who can run a four-seamer into right-handed hitters. Can be stretched out multiple innings. See him as a good piece at the back of the pen as a depth reliever who has some flex in use, including closing.''

On Lindstrom:
"Big tall kid. High three-quarter delivery. Power arm. Quick delivery out of stretch. Often rushes, leaving fastball up in the zone. Gets hitters to chase, who will learn in time to stay off that pitch. Needs to get fastball down in the zone more often. Challenges hitters. Will use both sides of the plate. Fastball occasionally will have short cut action. Slider is his next-best pitch. Tight bite with tilt, primarily away from left-handed hitters and occasionally backdoor to lefthanders. Sliders to right-handed hitters when ahead in the count can be chaseable off the outside edge. Good arm. Still a bit of a thrower. Has trouble putting hitters away. Occasional spit-finger, some tumble out of the zone, primarily a show pitch. Still a work in progress as a closer. Like his arm and power."

So basically, this is what Brad Arnsberg is charged with correcting. If Arnsberg can produce according to his history, the Astros were able to save some money, get younger in the bullpen, and manage to avoid a drop-off in the loss of Valverde/LaHawk. I've always been okay with the decision to cut Valverde and Hawkins loose, but I'm continually worried about getting filleted by the likes of Keith Law.

Who's your #2 hitter?

Bernardo Fallas has a blog post (that sounds vaguely familiar) on who exactly will hit in the #2 spot.

Mills:
"We're going to wait and see. The way our lineup sets up, obviously it would be outstanding if we had a guy in the second hole get on base all the time. We're going to search for that person."

It's probably going to be Matsui, but there's another possibility:

"Is Manzella going to be able to do it? Probably not to start of with. That's a lot of pressure putting on a young kid, batting that high in the order. But as the season goes on, if he is there, that might be a good spot for him. Could J.R. Towles fit there if he's our catcher? I don't know. He probably hasn't shown that sometimes but the ability is there."

Mills, on Matsui:
"You'd like to have your No. 2 hitter have a real good on-base percentage. But injuries have been a factor in his seasons. I've talked to him about being healthy and staying healthy throughout the year."

Yay! Mills is down with OBP!

You would think that Drayton is trying to throw deck chairs off the Queen Mary

Why is it that every time the Astros look to the future, it has to do with Drayton and the possible sale of the Astros? Because that's what FanGraphs is saying, regarding Berkman's 2011 option year.

Berkman’s future is now in doubt, however, as the Astros, mired in a rebuilding period and with current owner Drayton McLane attempting to find a buyer, may decline his $15 million 2011 club option. The 34 year old first baseman suggested that if the option is not picked up that he would choose not to return to Houston on a different deal and would instead test the free agent market.

Could it not be that the Astros would decline his option for baseball reasons, and not because Drayton's trying to pretty up the franchise? Is the perspective of the Astros that poor that they would make a smart baseball move on its own merit, and not because of some external circumstance? No? Oh, okay.

FanGraphs:
With his age and the Astros’ current position on the win curve, he probably isn’t worth the money to them. At the trading deadline, the Astros could probably pull in a decent haul of prospects for him, a much better use of that asset.

What would his next contract look like?
Berkman is probably better than anyone that hit the market this winter, and even at 35, he should be able to get a contract that pays him into the middle of the decade. A fair market value would probably be a 4 year, $50MM contract, taking into account the discounts players typically give for longer term deals. However, Berkman does have “money skills,” with loads of HRs and RBIs, and may command something above Jason Bay’s deal (4/$66MM) and maybe something similar to John Lackey’s new contract (5/$82.5MM).

Would you want the Astros - and remember, thanks to the extension, this is Ed Wade's (fine, and Drayton's) decision - to extend Berkman into 2015?

Don't mess with The Carlos

Richard Justice has a warning: Carlos Lee has been everything the Astros wanted him to be. And if you wanted a snappy defender, you have been sorely unprepared.

“I think I've done what they expected me to do. I'm a player that has been able to stay around .300, hit 30 home runs, drive in 100 runs. That's why they signed me — a guy capable of doing that. Why change?“

And Michael Bourn makes up for a lot of Lee's defensive deficiencies:
“I think I've improved over the years. The outfield was a new experience, and I'm still practicing at it. I'm not the fastest guy out there. When I play next to Michael (Bourn), he makes it a lot easier. I can concentrate on going in or toward the line. I know he's going to basically catch everything.“

CHONE predicts Lee's value to be around $10.3m this year (while the fan projections are a little bit kinder), but still not close to his $18.5m salary. Still, if Berkman can continue to get on base, and Pence can perform to a level that Lee sees some good pitches, he might be closer in value to his salary.

Keppinger is who Wade thought he was

A vote of confidence from Ed Wade for Jeff Keppinger:

"He's been exactly what our scouts saw since he came over here. I had [Lance] Berkman tell me during the season last year that he's very impressed with Keppinger because he's as prepared as any of the guys on our club. He prepares very well for the game. I've said before that with a 12-man pitching staff, you get a short bench, which then to me requires you to have a lot of versatility and have guys like Keppinger who can play all the field positions and pinch-hit and hit-and-run and move runners and those types of things."

Keppinger, on versatility:
"That means it gives me more options to get in a game. If you're stuck in one position and there's only 30 teams, it's tough to break through and get on a team. I spent my time in the Minors trying to do whatever I could to get up here, whether as a backup or starter. I'm happy to be here."

So the question is: Was Keppinger worth trading Drew Sutton for?

Lyon getting close

Brian McTaggart reports that Brandon Lyon is close to returning to the mound, and is the only pitcher to be behind schedule at this point in Spring Training.

Ed Wade:
"They think, from a health standpoint, he's fine and he just needs to continue to build the strength up. My guess is probably early in the week he'll get up on the mound, and we'll let him throw and continue to get comfortable with his surroundings. We're still of the mind he's going to be fine."

Lyon:
"When I first got here, I had no strength at all, and it came back really quick. I was expecting it to keep coming back really quick, and after talking to Dr. Lintner, he said 'Your strength will come back slower than you think.' I was really excited it was going to be really speedy, and now it's not going as fast as I expected it, but it's coming, and I'm moving along. Every day something gets better, whether my flexibility or a little bit of strength comes."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jon Paul Morosi quietly mourns the potential end of Roy Oswalt's career

And we should join him, because after 2011, Roy could be done. Says Roy:

"Oh, I'll be done. This year and next year will probably be it. I still love the game. I still love the competition. ... But when I get finished with my contract, if I'm not pitching at the level I'm pitching at now, then I'm not going to come back and hurt the team."

There is a mutual option, which Morosi reports Berkman thinks Oswalt will pick up.

Morosi:
Oswalt is eight victories away from becoming the franchise's all-time wins leader. He wants to finish his career with the Astros. (He said that Saturday.) He also wants to win a World Series. (He said that Saturday, too.) But if those desires become mutually exclusive, he would be justified in asking for a trade.

Berkman:
"I would love to see him an Astro for life, but I don't know that that's the case. As you get older, you don't want to play for a team that you feel like doesn't have a legitimate chance to win."

Oswalt:
"I've told them (the Astros) before. If we're going to go to the rebuilding mode here, then, only playing a couple more years, I would have to play somewhere else. If we're going to throw in the towel and try to get better four years from now, three years from now, I'm kind of running out of time for that."

Ed Wade, on the trade possibilities (amid Morosi mentioning Purpura almost shipped Roy to the Orioles - who else? - at the 2006 trade deadline):
"People understand the magnitude of making a deal for a guy like Oswalt. He's not the kind of guy you get a lot of calls about (from other GMs). And it's not because they don't like him. It's because they know that there are so few pitchers like that out there. I would listen on any of our guys -- and GMs say that all the time -- but the reality is, when you come down to the type of package it would take, it's probably a 'no' response. And in our case, we expect him to be our ace."

So if the Astros fall out of contention by the deadline, would Roy approve a trade? BFF Jake Peavy did, and is in a better position to win than he was in San Diego. Roy could very well ask for a trade, and if he does, Ed Wade better start listening.

What Tejada said to Manzella

In Bernardo Fallas' Notes column we get a glimpse at what Miguel Tejada taught Tommy Manzella last September, when Manzella was doing all that sitting around.

Manzella:
“We talked about how important it is for you to be out there every day. He said that, obviously, it is a long season and your body is going to bark at you a little bit and tell you that you need a day off. But he said some of those days, when he felt like that, that's when he played his best games.

“He said it is really important to pace yourself — it's a long season — but understand that you're needed on the field every day. And when you're less than 100 percent, you make sure you keep the same kind of approach in a game because you don't want anyone around you to know whether you're feeling good that day or feeling a little stiff.”


I guess "Avoid Jeremy Schaap" was just a given.

Wandy: A Grade C making good

John Sickels' Minor League Ball has a piece on how Wandy (or, "Eny Cabreja") broke out last season, and has put together a decent Major-League career, despite never being graded higher than a C+ as a prospect.

It's a nice recap, and closes with:
Rodriguez is now 31 years old. His development curve has been unusual, and he's become a much better pitcher than his minor league track record would indicate. I don't really have an explanation for it, other than weird things happen with pitchers sometimes. This is a good example of how a Grade C pitching prospect can still develop into something very interesting.