Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lineup for G5: Astros v. Phillies

Here's your lineup for tonight's game:

1. Michaels - CF
2. Keppinger - 2B
3. Pence - RF
4. Lee - LF
5. Feliz - 1B
6. Johnson - 3B
7. Manzella - SS
8. Quintero - C
9. Paulino - P

Footer points out that Bourn is not hurt, it's just that Michaels needs to play.

Who We Got - G5: Astros v. Phillies

Yep, still looking for that first win. And home run. And stolen base.

Who We Got

Philadelphia: 3-1, T-1st
On the Road: 3-1
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 32/11

Houston: 0-4, 6th place, 3GB
At home: 0-4
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 6/26

Starting Pitchers

Jamie Moyer: 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Felipe Paulino: 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Why the Astros Will Win

I'm running out of things for this part. Because Felipe Paulino has a defined role, and some motivation. Did you think that Paulino would have a chance to get the Astros' first win? I didn't.

Or because Paulino pitched against Philly last season on October 1, and threw 5IP, 6H/1ER, 5K:3BB.

Or because the law of averages says the Astros have to win at some point. Right...?

Why the Astros Will Lose

Because in 85 career plate appearances against Jamie Moyer, current Astros have hit him to the tune of .195/.241/.416. But this is good news for Hunter Pence, who is 3x6 with 2HR and 0K:2BB against Moyer.

Because the Phillies' offense is on a tear. They rank first in walks, batting average, OBP, slugging, runs, and hits.

Because the Astros' team ERA is 6.25, which somehow isn't worst in the NL. And this, with the last one is not a good combination.

New poll!

Eddie's Farm: April 9

Second day of the season for four teams in Eddie's Farm. Let's get to it:

Round Rock

Round Rock out-hit New Orleans again, 7-5, but were shutout, losing 2-0. Gustavo Chacin threw 3IP, 3H/1ER, 0K:1BB before leaving the game (for reasons as yet unknown). Polin Trinidad came in and threw 4IP, 2H/1ER, 2K:2BB and Daigle threw a perfect 8th. Taking a clue from how the Big Boys are doing it in Houston, the Express were 0x8 w/RISP. Jason Bourgeois had the only multi-hit game, and Edwin Maysonet drew the only walk.

The Express had some chances late. In the 8th inning, down 2-0, they had Yordany at second and Maysonet on 1st, and Bogusevic and Locke both grounded out. In the 9th, Chris Shelton lead off with a single, and then was doubled off first on Castro's flyout.

Corpus Christi

Corpus, however, was all over Tulsa in a 9-3 win in which the Hooks got 14 hits. Doug Arguello threw 5.1IP, 5H/1ER, 7K:0BB. Matt Nevarez gave up 2H/2ER, 1BB in his IP, but Danny Meszaros closed it out in the 9th. Koby Clemens was 3x5 with a 2-run homer, and Shuck, Steele, Gaston, and Sutil each had two hits. Shuck had two doubles and a stolen base.


The JetHawks took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th, but Bakersfield scored two runs for a 3-2 win. Ross Seaton threw 5IP, 7H/0ER, 2K:0BB, and Leandro Cespedes and Kyle Godfrey held it down for Pat Urckfitz to close it down. Except a single, double, and walk-off single ended the game before Urckfitz recorded an out. All of the JetHawks' offense came on the long ball, with homers by Albert Cartwright and Ebert Rosario. Jay Austin, Freddy Parejo, and Mark Ori had the other three hits. Brandon Wikoff drew two walks (and a CS).


And the Lexington Legends got in the win column with a 7-2 win over Charleston. Juan Minaya got the start, throwing 3.1IP, 3H/1R (unearned), 3K:5BB (brutal), but Arcenio Leon picked up the win with 3.1IP of scoresless relief. J.D. Martinez went off, gonig 4x4 with a 2-run homer, Jiovanni Mier had a two-run single, and our boy Aaron Bray went 1x4 with a double and a walk in his first start of the season, at 1B.

Interesting note on the lineup by Zach Levine

Zach Levine has an interesting blog post up on whether or not any of the Astros' starting lineup would actually start in Philadelphia. The short answer? Maybe Bourn. Maybe Pence. Maybe Lee. Depending. It's not pleasant.

And neither are some of the numbers he throws out about the first four games of the season. Chief among them, the combined .232 OBP.

Reaction to G4: Astros v. Phillies

Carlos Lee:
"Today was probably the only game so far that we were out of it, pretty much. The first series against San Francisco (which the Giants swept), the pitchers did great and kept us in the game. ... As an offense, I really don’t know what’s going on."

“We’re in a situation where we have to be real, too; they’re two good ballclubs (Giants and Phillies), and we do have some inexperience. But at the same time, we want to have good, solid at-bats in certain situations, and you’d like to have your pitchers at least be able to do some things that you can point your finger at. We’re better right now, (but) things just haven’t fallen into place.”

Note: This is a good point. The Astros haven't laid down to Padres and Nationals. These are two teams expected to go to the playoffs.

Recap for G4: Astros v. Phillies

Well, this is troubling. The Astros weren't even tied at any point during this game, meaning the Astros still haven't had a lead yet, as the Astros were shutout - again - losing 8-0 to the Phillies.

Why They Lost
Because Bud Norris was completely ineffective. In 2.2IP, Norris gave up six hits and four walks. And because the two pitchers behind him were completely ineffective. Wilton Lopez gave up 2ER in 1.1IP and Brian Moehler gave up 6H/3ER in 3IP. Jeff Fulchino was the only Astro pitcher to not allow a baserunner.

And because the Astros offense was ineffective. Again. This time, they went 0x10 w/RISP (Pence and Lee both going 0x3 w/RISP), and leaving ten men on base.

Phillies' pitcher J.A. Happ wasn't killing them, either. He needed 103 pitches to get through 5IP, and only threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 24 batters he faced.

Astros Pitching

Notice there's a different category below: CS/SS. This is the number of called strikes/swinging strikes by each pitcher, to see how filthy their stuff was.

Norris2.26/33:482-44 (53.7%)13/4
Lopez1.13/21:028-19 (67.9%)5/5
Moehler36/31:154-34 (63%)9/4
Sampson11/00:07-5 (71.4%)2/0
Fulchino10/01:013-10 (76.9%)2/1

Meanwhile, seven of the Phillies' extra-base hits were for extra-bases: six doubles (two off Norris, two off Moelher, two off Lopez) and a homer (Utley, off of Lopez). Five of the Phillies' eight runs came with two outs, and they still left 11 on base, as they went 6x17 w/RISP.

Astros hitting

Unbelievable. At least Hunter Pence got his first hit, an infield single. The pitch count with these guys is incredible. Astros hitters got ahead of J.A. Happ in half of their plate appearances. When starting out with a ball, Astros hitters were 5x18, 2BB, 5K (including one Chris Johnson AB in the 4th where he started with a 3-0 count, and struck out on seven pitches.

The only guy hitting for this team is Jeff Keppinger. If Keppinger comes out of the lineup anytime soon, then Brad Mills has cut a deal to get a part of that $1 million to the first person to throw a perfect game sweepstakes that MLB2K10 is putting on. Keppinger was 3x4 with the only extra-base hit of the night for Houston. Tommy Manzella had the other multi-hit game. Could you have imagined a start to a season where the hottest hitters were Jeff Keppinger (.545) and Tommy Manzella (.300)?

Pitch Count Hero: J.R. Towles (0x4) - 25 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Tommy Manzella (2x4) - 12 pitches in four PAs. But whatever works.

Man of the Match: Jeff Keppinger. He was on base three times this game, and it's not his fault that nobody knows what to do with him on base.

Goat of the Game: Bud Norris. Give me a break, man.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Token Afternoon Berkman Update

Alyson Footer has our customary Lance Berkman/"My knee still hurts but I'll play tomorrow" update:

"I don't think it feels much better. It feels about the same. In another couple days I'll see how it responds."

She adds that Berkman is still hopeful to play against St. Louis.

So let me get this straight. Berkman's knee doesn't feel any better than it did after he had it drained for the 5th time. He hasn't played any form of baseball, save for the odd BP, since the second week of March. Yet he's still planning on being ready by Wednesday. Interesting.

Lineup for G4: Astros v. Phillies

McTaggart has your lineup for tonight's game:

1. Bourn CF
2. Keppinger 2B
3. Pence RF
4. Lee LF
5. Feliz 3B
6. Blum 1B
7. Towles C
8. Manzella SS
9. Norris P

So much for Johnson getting playing time against lefties.

Farmstros' Interview with Jordan Lyles

Over at Farmstros there's a podcasted interview with Hooks pitcher Jordan Lyles. Well worth a listen.

Rosenthal: Astros are possible suitors for Carl Crawford

In Ken Rosenthal's article on the impending free agency of Carl Crawford lists nine possible suitors for the Houston-born soon-to-be-incredibly-wealthy more-hyphen-than-hype left-fielder:

Crawford is from Houston, but the Astros probably cannot move the contract of left fielder Carlos Lee, who is owed $18.5 million in both 2011 and ’12. Crawford in center over Michael Bourn? Perhaps, but baseball people view Crawford as better in left. He has made only 11 appearances in center since 2004.

So the Astros could be interested, but not with the price tag he'll command.

Who We Got: G4 - Astros v. Phillies

The Astros are still looking for their first win of the season as the Phillies come to town for a three game set.

Who We Got

Philadelphia: 2-1, T-1st
On the Road: 2-1
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 24/11

Houston: 0-3, 6th place, 1.5GB
At home: 0-3
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 6/18

Starting Pitchers

J.A. Happ: 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Bud Norris: 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Why the Astros Will Win

Because somehow the Astros are 10-5 against the Phillies in the last two seasons, including 4-0 at home vs. Philly in 2009.

Because, and I realize we're talking about one start, but Happ was hit hard by the Astros last season. Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, and J.R. Towles all got two hits off him last season.

Because Bud Norris can get ahead of batters. Last year Norris got a first-pitch strike in 54.4% of plate appearances (not counting when batters put the ball in play on the first pitch). When Norris is ahead of the batter, his line is .170/.189/.261

Why the Astros Will Lose

Because in 2009 J.A. Happ was 7-2 on the road, with a 1.99 ERA/1.08 WHIP (compared to 4.18/1.44 at home).

Because the Phillies have scored 24 runs this season already - most in the NL, and are hitting .327/.434/.509 as a team. They also have scored hit home homers than the Astros have scored runs.

Because we have no idea what to expect from Bud Norris. Or J.A. Happ. And in the fight between two unknowns, we can't yet bet on the Astros.

Bushue gets a shout-out from Baseball America

Baseball America tipped a cap to Tanner Bushue, who dominated last night for Lexington:

Last year it was Jordan Lyles motoring his way through the South Atlantic League for Lexington. This year it could be Bushue's turn to do the same. Bushue, the Astros' second-round pick out of high school in 2009, surrendered only one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out six and walking one in his full-season debut. The Astros have ranked dead last in our organizational talent rankings the last two years, but between two first-round picks in this year's draft and Bushue potentially keeping up this type of performance up all year, don't expect to see the Astros there again next year.

This is the sound of Bud Norris' girlfriend freaking out

The Dodgerhater, a Giants blog, posted an interview with SP4 Bud Norris. What did he do in his downtime during Spring Training?

Didn't go to Disney World this year, but I did go last year a couple times.

I'm a big golfer, so I was lucky enough to have quite the set up this year. I got asked by my teammate Geoff Blum to live with him during spring training, and I actually got to live at Tiger Woods's golf course called Isleworth...I played golf like every day at Tiger Woods's golf course and I actually got introduced to Tiger and just played a ton of golf this year.

The Dodgerhater: How's Tiger doing?

He was fine and was a really nice guy and he was definitely in a good mood.

And we get a clue on maybe why the Astros crapped the bed against the Giants:

We were supposed to have our meeting about (the Giants) the other day but the video got screwed up so, we haven't discussed them as a team yet.

On Berkman's injury:
At first they weren't quite sure what to do about it, but they wanted to get in there and clean it up. He was looking good the last few days of spring, but then it flared up on him a little. Right now he's a little more worried about it than the trainers are. He really wants to get it corrected so he can play the whole year effectively and be as healthy as possible.

Last year he tried to play hurt with that calf problem and saw his numbers slide and he hated the way he played. He realizes that playing at 75 percent is just not the same. He can't wait to get out there and we'll welcome he's back when he's ready.

Verducci choke slams the Astros

Tom Verducci brings it to the Astros today:

The Houston Astros are the official winners of the title of First Team in Trouble. Could the season have begun any worse for a team that lost 88 games last year and has lost half a million paying customers in two years? The Astros were swept at home by the Giants. How ugly was it? Houston was outscored 18-6, drew only two walks while striking out 22 times, never held a lead, never hit a home run, and lost reliever Sam Gervacio to the disabled list, where he joined first baseman Lance Berkman.

You say it has to get better? You haven't checked their schedule or their roster. Houston plays its next 12 games against the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs and Marlins, completing a welcome-to-2010 opening sequence of 15 straight games against teams that won between 83 and 93 games last year. Its roster continues to be curiously overloaded with older players for a team that is not a contender. Of the 23 players used in the Giants series, 16 are in their 30s and only two are younger than 27: Chris Johnson and J.R. Towles.

Brad Mills was an inspired choice as manager, a guy who ran an upbeat training camp. But he is being tested already: keep hope and faith alive for a little while longer, at least before schools get out in Houston for the prime drawing weeks when summer hits. Otherwise, as one former Astros coach might put it, it will get late early in Houston.

No, it's not "curious" how much the roster is full of older players. It's just that anybody who takes no more than a cursory glance at the Astros doesn't see that the Astros are full of no-trade clauses (except in the case of Moehler and Blum - which was just a terrible decision.) and Kaz Matsui. Want that "half a million" paying customer loss to double or triple? Then get rid of Berkman and Oswalt. Fair-weather Astros fans may be able to handle losing one or the other, but not both. Add to that the need to just let the contracts play out so that Heck's first two classes can advance, and the Astros won't be doling out contracts to big-name free agents who will clog up the ladder to the Majors.

'77 Astros fall again

Your '77 Astros lost again to the '77 Phillies over at Play That Funky Baseball.

Houston 5
Philadelphia 7

Another valiant try by Houston, who seems to be in every game, but Lonborg outpitches Niekro and survives two late Joe Ferguson bombs for the CG.

Run Differential:
104 RS/101 RA, 3rd in the NL

Record: 9-11
GB: 4

This weekend we take on the '77 Reds, who are 9-9.

The Astros and slow starts

Obviously slow starts are on my mind. So I got to wondering if this was normal among the personnel the Astros have used this season. Below is a list of the most active Astros who have seen time this season, and their career March/April OPS (and their rank among other months):

Geoff Blum's career April OPS: .601 (6th/last)

Michael Bourn: .631 (5th)

Pedro Feliz: .692 (4th)

Jeff Keppinger: .869 (1st)

Carlos Lee: .808 (6th)

Kaz Matsui: .699 (4th)

Hunter Pence: .690 (6th)

J.R. Towles: .733 (2nd)

Aha. So this tells us that the Astros are fielding a team who take the first month of the season to get used to playing again, as Jeff Keppinger is the only Astro that April is his "best" month of the season. Blum, Lee, and Pence all post the worst OPS' of their respective seasons in the month of April. So...

So about a win?

A profile on Bud Norris by Bernardo Fallas this morning sees him not as arrogant, just confident:

“You have to have confidence. Believing in yourself is important, because there is a lot of doubt in life in any occupation. If you have a positive outlook and confidence, you're going to have a better outcome, in my opinion.”

Blum, on Norris:
“He's highly excitable; he's got good stuff. If he can work on getting that changeup into his repertoire, he's going to be a great pitcher. This is not a game where you can ride your adrenaline for six, seven innings. This is more of a game of pace and maintaining your energy level throughout the game.”

Eddie's Farm: April 8

The beginning of the minor-league season means the return of Eddie's Farm!

Round Rock

Roy Corcoran gave up a 9th-inning triple to Donnie Murphy, and Logan Morrison singled him home for a walk-off 2-1 win for New Orleans. Josh Banks was outstanding in his Opening Day start, throwing 6IP, 3H/1ER, 3K:0BB, the only run coming from a leadoff homer in the third. Gary Majewski threw 2IP of perfect ball to keep it close. The Express got nine hits - two from Bogusevic - as every position player got a hit, except for Jason Castro, who was 0x4. The Express were 0x9 w/RISP, and left 10 on base.

Corpus Christi

Sergio Perez and the Hooks' pitching staff absolutely dominated the Tulsa Whatevers in a 7-0 win. Perez threw 5IP, 4H/0ER, 4K:1BB, and threw 51 of his 79 pitches for strikes. The bullpen of Henry Villar, Chia-Jen Lo, and Erick Abreu threw 4IP, 1H/0ER, 5K:1BB (4K from C-Lo in 2IP). Jhon Florentino and Wladimir Sutil had two hits each, David Cook had a two-run pinch-hitsingle, and Koby Clemens - hitting cleanup - got his first hit as a Hook, a double.


The JetHawks opened their season with a rough bullpen outing in a 4-3 loss to Bakersfield. Kyle Greenwalt got the start, throwing 5IP, 5H/2ER, 5K:0BB, and was in line for the lead after Lancaster got two runs in the top of the 6th for a 3-2 lead. Brian Wabick came in, gave up two runs in the bottom half of the inning, and David Berner cleaned it up with two scoreless innings. Brandon Barnes and Federico Hernandez both had two hits, with Barnes hitting a solo homer in the 1st, and Hernandez getting the other two RBI. The JetHawks were 1x11 with RISP.


The Legends fought a scoreless duel with Charleston for six innings as Tanner Bushue threw 4.1IP, 1H/0ER, 6K:1BB. Then, in the 7th, Jose Trinidad gave up three straight one-out singles and was replaced by Kirk Clark, who immediately threw a wild pitch, then a passed ball by Jonathan Fixler, and two singles. So it's really not fair to put it on Trinidad, even though he got the loss. Of the six Legends' hits, four came courtesy of J.D. Martinez and Jonathan Meyer - who both also made an error in the game. Jiovanni Mier was 1x4 with 3Ks, and our boy Aaron Bray was not in the lineup.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Brett Myers would like to remind you that the Astros are only three games under .500

Says Brett Myers:

It's only three games. Of course, it's magnified, because it is the start of the season. We could shoot off seven [wins] in a row and these three games don't mean anything. We're going to get better. We're not going to get any worse, because we're obviously 0-3. The only thing we can look forward to is just coming out Friday and playing the game the right way like we've been doing and try to keep battling."

"Nobody on our team is panicking, I promise you that."

"I'm not going use a cliché and say, 'One game at a time,' but we have to focus on what's right in front us right now. Yeah, we saw [the Phillies] in Spring Training and you look at the type of ballclub and pitching they have, but if you look at the whole thing, we've got to pick out bits and pieces and start building on those things."

Gervacio update

Brian McTaggart has a little update on Sam Gervacio:

Gervacio MRI reveals inflammation of right rotator cuff. He will begin treatment and could be back pitching in 15 days. He's on the DL.

So 15-day DL, a few rehab appearances, and back on the ML roster.

Great post on Bagwell

Morgan Ensberg has a new post on Jeff Bagwell and leadership. It's too large/good to post snippets of here, so just take a few minutes and read it for yourself.

More Minor-League Cuts

Baseball America is reporting some more minor-league cuts, which will answer some of our questions about particular players.

Confirmation of release:
Steve Brown
Phil Disher
Russell Dixon
Matt Ginter
Mike Hacker
Chris Jackson
Reinaldo Pestana
Philip Rummel
Jon Switzer
Jack Tilghman
Matt Weston

Astros rank 11th on Forbes' annual list

Forbes released its annual baseball franchise financial rankings. What do we see? The Astros are 11th, picking up a spot over 2009.

Courtesy, Forbes:

Value: $453 million (+2%)
Revenues: $189 million

Keep in mind, the Astros last year were worth $445 million, with $195 million in revenue.

The ten teams valued higher than the Astros:
1. NYY ($1.6b. Yep, billion)
2. BOS ($870m)
3. NYM ($858m)
4. LAD ($727m)
5. CHC ($726m)
6. PHI ($537m)
7. LAA ($521m)
8. STL ($488m)
9. SFG ($483m)
10. CWS ($466m)

Only a handful of teams actually lost value from 2009: Cleveland (-2%), Washington (-5%), Arizona (-3%), Baltimore (-6%), Cincinnati (-3%), Toronto (8%), Tampa Bay (-1%), and Oakland (-8%). Big gainers of the year were the Marlins (+15%), Twins (+14%), and Rangers (+11%).

Pence swears he's not pressing

In McTaggart's new blog post he talks to Hunter "0-fer" Pence, who swears the absence of Berkman isn't the reason for the absence of hits:

"I think for me, the only pressing would be to get going. When it starts to avalanche on you, you start pressing to try to get a hit and do too much or too little and over think things. You think you have a heavy bat, so I really have to clear my mind and get back to the drawing board."

Let's have us a gander at Pence's first 12 ABs of the season:

1st AB, G1: Bot 1st. 0 on-2 out. Strikeout swinging on a 1-2 pitch
2nd AB, G1: Bot 4th. 0 on-1 out. Strikeout swinging on a 1-2 pitch
3rd AB, G1: Bot 6th. 2 on-1 out. Groundout to third on first pitch
4th AB, G1: Bot 8th. 2 on-2 out. Pop foul to first base on 0-2 pitch
5th AB, G2: Bot 1st. 1 on-1 out. Groundout to third on 2-1 pitch
6th AB, G2: Bot 3rd. 2 on-2 out. Strikeout singing on 2-2 pitch
7th AB, G2: Bot 6th. 1 on-2 out. Flyout to left/center on 1-1 pitch
8th AB, G2: Bot 8th. 1 on-1 out. Groundout/fielder's choice to second on 1-1 pitch
9th AB, G3: Bot 1st. 0 on-2 out. Groundout to short on first pitch
10th AB, G3: Bot 4th. 0 on-0 out. Grounder to third, reached on error on 0-1 pitch
11th AB, G3: Bot 6th. 0 on-1 out. Groundout to short, 1-1 pitch
12th AB, G3: Bot 8th. 0 on-0 out. Strikeout swinging on 0-2 pitch

So. In 12 ABs, Pence has only reached on an error. He has not seen a 3-ball count. He has been out on the first pitch twice, but has only been seen two first-pitch balls. The Giants pumped strikes at him, or he swung at bad pitches. He has put the ball in play eight times, but only once to the outfield, grounding out to the infield in seven instances. He's gone opposite field (the pop up to 1st) once.

Pence traditionally starts the season slow. March/April is the lowest OPS split throughout the season (.254/.299/.391). It jumps up dramatically in May for his career (.358/.415/.561). Is Pence pressing? After three games, it looks like it, but it could just be that Pence is a slow-starter in a season where the Astros really need him to get off to a good start.

Gervacio "nothing serious" and Pence thinks he's identified his problem

Within Bernardo Fallas' Notes column we see a few things:

Gervacio, on his injury:
"I felt some discomfort. It's nothing serious, I think, and I expect to be back throwing soon.”
Pence, who already has two Goats, thinks he may have found the problem with his first 12 ABs:
“It's back to the drawing board. It's a good thing that we can get it out of the way early; we have a day off here to regroup, and I'm going to get to the bottom of it and make the adjustment. I think my front hip has been flying open a little bit, if you want to get technical. It's a minor adjustment, but I have to make it."

B.J. Hyatt is going back to Greeneville

2009 4th-Round pick pitcher B.J. Hyatt is heading back to Greeneville after a brutal season.

It'll be interesting to see the role the Astros have in mind for Hyatt. As a starter for the Gastros, Hyatt posted an 8.84 ERA/2.17 WHIP. Ouch, right? Well, as a reliever, Hyatt dropped that to 1.64 ERA/1.36 WHIP.

Oklahoma City is pulling for extending their agreement with the Rangers

Good article out of the Oklahoman on the upcoming turmoil between the Astros, Rangers, and Oklahoma City RedHawks.

RedHawks Executive Director John Allgood:
"We have had continuing discussions with Texas’ front office, including (general manager) Jon Daniels last week. Our hope is to extend the agreement beyond this year.”

But it's not like the Astros can just swoop in and pick up the RedHawks if Nolan takes the Express, says Allgood:
"The way player development contracts work is a lot like a marriage because both teams get to choose. It’s not just the major league team that gets to choose.”

I would be very surprised if the Rangers did not pick up the Express following this season. If the team has to choose the major-league affiliate, as well, then Round Rock, who is owned by Ryan would most likely just rubber stamp the Rangers' request. They're called the "Express," for crying out loud.

Wes Clements is no Luis Pujols

New Hooks manager Wes Clements is a little more even-keel than his predecessor:

"There's nothing positive from me about screaming and yelling at somebody because they didn't get something done. If somebody makes an error, what good does it do if I get up and scream and yell and cuss and everything else? What good does that do? I can see it. I know that they know they booted the ball. They know that they booted. They don't need anybody else screaming and yelling at them. The players know that I will have a lot of fun. All the players. We joke, we play around, but they know when I'm not (kidding). They know, my voice, whatever it is, all right, it stops, for lack of better words. But it only comes into play if we're not playing the game the right way. It doesn't come into play with hits or errors or things like that."

It's interesting to move Clements to Corpus, but with a lot riding on developing upper-level talent in Eddie's Farm, I totally understand bringing along the manager who guided the breakouts of Jon Gaston and Koby Clemens.

"I like his approach. He had a lot of the players with him last year in Lancaster and a lot of those players will move up, like Koby, Gas, Steele and Shuck and I think that had a huge part of the thought process when I made the decision to move him to Corpus. He's familiar with them and he understands the game and that's what we want to do. We want to teach the kids to play the game the right way and Wes is the right man for the job."

Koby: Put me wherever

In a profile on Koby Clemens in the Caller-Times today, Ricky Bennett talks about Clemens' bat:

""We've challenged Koby every year, especially defensively. He obviously started as a third baseman, we put him behind the plate. Now we're asking him to change positions again and learn to play first base. He's met every challenge. He's coming into spring training with an open mind and a positive outlook on learning a new position....

...We've really focused on making sure that Koby's bat is in the lineup. The way he performed last year in Lancaster was just great. I think he's looking to build on that this year. He's a good hitter. He can definitely drive in some runs. He drove in 120-plus runs last year and I'm hoping he's able to do that again this year. He's a good kid. He works hard. He understands what he needs to do to prepare for his season. I'm looking forward to seeing him put up quality at-bats in Double-A this season."

Koby, and the pressure that comes with being a Clemens:

"There's good and bad that always comes with that. He set the bar so high. I'm reaching for it, I'm reaching for that bar. I want to get there and maybe pass it. But to be honest, if I get an opportunity to get to the big leagues and play well, and I do half the stuff he did, that's a pretty dang good career....Definitely those are my goals. There's a huge target on your back with the pressure. You see a kid like me, last name Clemens, 'There he is, that's Roger's son,'" There's these huge expectations because the bar has been set so high."

Navarro to DL

Within this piece on Edwin Maysonet, we see that Oswaldo Navarro will be unavailable for the Express for the start of the season as he has been placed on the DL with that nagging quadriceps injury. Too bad for him he doesn't have Tommy Manzella's regenerative powers.

Hooks vs. Express - Hooks win

Koby Clemens was 2x4 and starter Jeremy Johnson allowed one run on 5IP (with three walks) as the Hooks defeated the Express 2-1 in the final exhibition of the Spring. Corpus' Matt Nevarez threw 2IP, allowing 1H/0ER.

Wesley Wright got the start for the Express and threw 5IP, allowing 2H/0ER, but with newest Astro Wilton Lopez getting the L after giving up Koby's 2-run single.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gervacio to DL

So Sammy Gervacio is on the DL with a strained right rotator cuff, and Wilton Lopez has been recalled from Round Rock.

And the Ballad of Dr. Gene Coleman continues...

Recap for G3: Astros v. Giants

Before we all get twisted up, this was an ugly game. Ugly. The Astros actually made a late-inning rally, getting a big hit from Cory Sullivan to tie it at 4-4 in the bottom of the 7th. But the Giants rattled off six runs for a 10-4 win. Out of 27 innings of 2010, the Astros have not yet finished an inning with a lead.

Why They Lost
The Astros got shut down by a starting pitcher - again. Couldn't get anything - going. And this time, the bullpen completely failed.

Myers wasn't great, either, throwing 100 pitches (73 for strikes), allowing 12 hits, four earned runs, striking out three and walking one. What's more, according to MLB At Bat Myers only threw 22 fastballs.

The Astros also recorded just seven hits, with Feliz recording the only multi-hit game, and Myers adding one of his own. Once again, RISP was a problem, the Astros going 3x8 w/RISP, meaning the Astros were 4x21 against the Giants.

Gervacio and Fulchino accounted for six of the runs, though Gervacio, who was placed on the DL threw a pickoff attempt up the left field line, therefore not getting charged with one earned run since he committed the error.

Astros Pitching

Myers612/43:1100-73 (73%)9/6
Byrdak10/00:112-7 (58.3%)2/1
Gervacio0.12/10:09-6 (66.7%)2/0
Sampson0.20/00:116-9 (56.3%)0/2
Fulchino0.14/40:116-10 (62.5%)1/0
Moehler0.21/00:08-4 (50%)1/1

Let's recap - Giants' bullpen: 2.1IP, 1H/0ER, 1K. Astros bullpen: 3IP, 7H/5ER (6 total), 0K:3BB.

Another troubling trend: Astros pitchers threw a first-pitch strike in 32 of 49 plate appearances, yet only recorded three strikeouts - all Myers'.

Ultimately, the Giants were 5x19 with RISP and left 12 on base. It's unbelievable that they still came up with 10 runs.

Astros hitting

Big Hit goes to Cory Sullivan, who hit a fly ball deeeeep to Aaron Rowand, who thankfully dropped it. Runners were going, since there were two outs, and ultimately scored. Bourn scampered out an infield hit to tie the game up.

All of the starters now have at least one hit, except for Mr. Hunter Pence, who wrapped up another 0x4 day.

Pitch Count Hero: Blum (1x4) and Keppinger (1x4) - 18 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Pence (0x4) - 10 pitches in four PAs

Man of the Match: Cory Sullivan. Someone had to get a big hit, and it was Sullivan coming through with a 2-run triple.

Goat of the Game: I'm not going to give it to Pence everytime he goes 0-fer. So this goes to Jeff Fulchino, who allowed a homer, double, single, and single (and a walk) to give it to the Giants.

Scott Migl signs with Fort Worth Cats

Astros' 34th-Round pick Scott Migl, released last week, has signed with the Fort Worth Cats.

So I guess this means Ryan McKeller was released

2009 Express/Hooks pitcher Ryan McKeller has signed with the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League.

Berkman shooting for April 14

Fox26 is reporting that Berkman is looking at April 14 as his targeted return date. Kind of.

"I feel like I'm about a week away from getting into a game. I'm still not game-ready, but it's progressing...If this doesn't drag on and I get back within that time then it's a good investment."

And Bernardo Fallas adds this from Berkman:

"I'm not guaranteeing it ... but I'm starting to feel better and it looks like that might be a possibility. For the first time I feel it is heading in the right direction."

I'm still calling May 1. OremLK has April 24. What say you?

Update on Berkman

Alyson Footer has an update on the ailing Lance Berkman, from Brad Mills:

"His range of motion is better. He did 10, 30-yard sprints. Not all out, but at least he's doing that."

Berkman is eligible to come off the DL this weekend, but there's no way that will happen. I'm sticking by my May 1 prediction of when Berkman rejoins the lineup.

Lineup for G3: Astros v. Giants

As the Astros try to get in the win column, here's the lineup Brad Mills will be facepalming:

Bourn CF
Matsui 2B
Pence RF
Lee LF
Blum 1B
Feliz 3B
Keppinger SS
Towles C
Myers P

Note that Keppinger gets the start - and he deserves it after last night's start against another Giant lefty - over Manzella, who I'm sure has a pretty little bruise.

Plenty of options today

Well, two. Which is more than we normally get.

You can watch/listen to Brett Myers take on Matt Cain and the Giants today at 1:05. Or if that's too depressing, you can get a preview of 2011/2012 by listening to the live feed out of KKTX Austin at 1:05 for the Express/Hooks exhibition game.

How the former goes will determine how I respond to the latter.

Sweet photos of the Astrodome

Thanks to Street for the link - here are some great photos of the old Astrodome. It's linky!

Screw you, Joe Sambito

Over at Play that Funky Ball, your '77 Astros took a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the 9th at Philadelphia:

So Lemongello and Christenson both stink up the Vet. It’s 2-0 Phils when Watson belts a 3-run bomb in the 3rd. Phils tie it at three but ‘Stros get two more in the 4th. Solo homers from Bull Luzinski and Bob Boone tie it 5-5 in the 5th. Christenson homers in the 6th. Doubles by Puhl and Cabel in the 8th tie it 6-6, before a Cruz single off Garber and butchered fly by Luzinski put three on the board for Houston. Sambito’s in for the save, but Schmidt walks and Sizemore singles with one out. Mikey’s ripping off his shirt next to me, making more noise than the 30,000-plus combined. Boone walks to fill the bases and Maddox rips one to deep left center that drops just over the wall for a game-winning grand slam! In-freaking-credible.

Record: 9-10
GB: 3

Preview for G3: Astros v. Giants

Who We Got

San Francisco: 2-0, 1st place
On the Road: 2-0

Houston: 0-2, 6th place, 1.5GB
At home: 0-2

Starting Pitchers

Matt Cain, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Brett Myers, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Why the Astros Will Win

Because the last time Matt Cain came to Houston (8/3/09), he gave up 8H/4ER, including two homers to Matsui and Blum.

Or because the current Astros can mash Cain. Carlos Lee is 5x8 with two extra-base hits. Matsui is 8x26. Pence and Bourn are both 2x7 lifetime against the Giants' lefty.

Or because Cain's ERA at home is 3.24, and 3.88 on the road for his career.

Why the Astros Will Lose

Because they can't freaking score any runs (overreaction, I know), and it's a proven fact that the Astros are 1x13 w/RISP this season.

Because Myers doesn't exactly have a stellar track record against the Giants. Granted, he hasn't pitched against them much - 5 starts since 2002. But against current Giants (who may be in the lineup today), it's not pretty. Molina is 3x6, DeRosa is 6x13, Uribe 3x7, Rowand 2x5, Renteria 11x33.

Or because this will be Myers first start since May 27, 2009 when he went 5.2IP, 7H/5ER against Florida before leaving with an injury that would hold him out until September

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rodney Linares on his 2010 Legends

New Legends manager Rodney Linares is pretty pumped about his team:

"I think they'll be aggressive. I think there's a lot of kids, especially on the starting-pitching side, that in the next couple years are going to develop into really good starting pitchers in the big leagues."

To emphasize that point, Tanner Bushue will get the Opening Day nod.

What about that offense (which was anemic last year)?

"But I think we're going to be a team that hits enough and is going to score a lot of runs, because we've got a bunch of guys that just create situations."

Let's turn our attention to more optimistic things

Such as Jordan Lyles dominating the Express, despite the Express winning the exhibition 2-0.

His line:
5.2IP, 5H/1ER, 3K - 69 pitches.

Hooks manager Wes Clements:
“So much for his age, but he’s a pitcher and the ball doesn’t know anybody’s age. He was consistently in the zone and his command was very good.”

“It was a pretty good outing, I’d say. My mindset today was just working on my fastball and getting it down in the zone, and I think I did a pretty good job of that. It felt pretty good to come out here and compete with our team for the first time. I didn’t have the pitch count in my mind. I just went out there, attacked hitters and tried to work on things. I felt I did that with attacking the zone.”

Shane Loux was the winning pitcher for the Express, throwing 5IP, 2H/0ER, 4K:0BB.

Jimmy Van Ostrand was 2x3 for Round Rock, while Koby hit a deep fly to the warning track, narrowly missing a homer.

Mills sees some encouraging things

Brad Mills is still optimistic, despite not really doing much past second base (like a 15-year old boy...):

"Wandy kind of answered all our questions. He came out throwing the ball well. He struggled in the sixth and got behind walking those two guys and we weren't able to turn the double play [in the sixth], which was key in that inning, but he threw the ball extremely well. We didn't exactly swing the bats like we would have liked, but at the same time we really saw some positives signs from Wandy and [Jeff Keppinger] offensively did a pretty good job...

...The good thing about these first two games is how good our pitching has been. The bullpen, everyone's been solid. Wandy and Roy both had great starts, quality starts. We've just got to start scoring runs and swing the bats. Maybe it's a little bit of trying to do too much. Hitting is contagious. We've just got to get that first win and then maybe we can relax a little bit."

Manzella gets tomorrow off

Alyson Footer is tweeting that Brad Mills is giving Manzella the day off after his plunking, but is otherwise fine.

Manzella, on what happened:
"I just saw the ball coming at my head and I just tried to get out of the way. For the first couple of seconds after it happened I had that sick feeling and wasn't sure. I was kind of in shock a little bit and couldn't tell how bad it was. [Assistant athletic trainer] Rex [Jones] got out there and moved it around a little bit and it started wearing off. I was able to squeeze his hand and I knew at that point I was going to be alright."

Recap for G2: Astros v. Giants

Try not to overreact. Try not to overreact. Try not to overreact. The Astros got four hits and...uh, no runs as the Astros lost to the Giants 3-0.

Why They Lost
More Giant pitching dominance over the Astros lineup. Barry Zito looked like he was actually worth the $Gajillion contract the Giants gave him, allowing three hits and striking out five in 6IP over 90 pitches.

But somehow, the Astros didn't get behind in the count terribly often. 19 of 34 plate appearances resulted in a first-pitch strike. Meaning that in 15 plate appearances, the Astros were out in front of the pitcher.

And the Giants got their three runs in the 6th inning. After Wandy walked the first two batters of the 6th, Huff singled (scoring one), DeRosa FCed, Molina sac'ed in Sandoval, and Uribe singled in DeRosa. Ballgame.

Here's a troubling stat, as well: The Astros were 0x6 with RISP (including 0x3 from Pence and 0x2 from Lee), and this also means that Pence is 0x5 w/RISP over the last two games, while the team is 1x13 w/RISP, and have managed to get two runs in two games. The 3-6 spots in the lineup (Pence, Lee, Feliz, Johnson) were 0x16.

Astros Pitching

Wandy67/34:496-55 (57.3%)9/5
Fulchino10/01:010-8 (80%)2/0
Lyon10/00:011-8 (72.7%)2/1
Lindstrom10/01:011-8 (72.7%)1/1

Encouraging things:
-The bullpen threw 3IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:0BB, and threw 24 of their 32 pitches for strikes. Great debuts from Fulchino, Lyon, and Lindstrom.
-Wandy got three GIDPs, two to end the inning.

Not encouraging things:
-Wandy's walks. Of Wandy's four walks, three were four-pitch walks, and one was a 2-2 count that he finished off with two straight balls. And of the three walks in the 6th inning, Renteria and Sandoval later scored.

Astros hitting

Here's why we shouldn't get too bent out of shape: The Astros only made eight groundball outs, compared to 12 flyball outs, and seven strikeouts. So the Astros were able to make some contact, it's just that none of them found a hole. Oh, and the Astros encountered 30 non-contact strikes (19 looking, 11 swinging).

Jeff Keppinger collected two of the hits - including one that should have been a homerun - and also drew the Astros first two walks of the season. I have no idea how the umpires went and looked at the replay and still called it a double. Wandy got a hit, and Quintero got the other one.

Scary moment in the 7th when Manzella got plunked on the top of the hand by a 97mph fastball, but stayed in the game.

Pitch Count Hero: Keppinger (2x2, 2BB) and Quintero (1x4) - 19 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Carlos Lee (0x4, K) and Pedro Feliz (0x4) - 13 pitches in four PAs

Man of the Match: Jeff Keppinger. The Astros left seven on base, and four of them were Keppinger.

Goat of the Game: Hunter Pence, for the second straight game. 0x4, for the second straight game.

More unsure...ness from Berkman

McTaggart has a new article on Chris Johnson, Lance Berkman, and Brad Mills.

Berkman, on his knee:
"My wife asked me that today and I think she's tired of me moping around the house. I have no idea [when I'll return]. I really wish I could tell you an accurate prediction of when I thought I would be ready to go. It isn't right this second, but I'm hopeful it will be soon. The last four times I had it done, it swelled right back up, but this time it stayed down a little bit and some of that has to do with the fact they included a cortisone injection with that and that keeps it from swelling. It feels better today than it has."

And Mills moved the dugout around, removing the protective screen, and changing it so there were Red Sox in the dugout, and not Astros:
"Everybody likes something different. I'm not saying one thing is right and another is wrong. The reason I wanted to be on this side of the stairs is I felt I'd have to cross over the stairs ... if I wanted to go talk to the players as they were trying to walk up the stairs to get to the on-deck circle, and this allowed me to not have to do that. I'm right here by the bat rack and the stairs, and when a guy goes out on the on-deck circle and I wanted to go down and give him a high five for a getting a sac fly or an RBI ground ball, I can talk to him. I'm not fighting through guys to get down and do that."

Note that he didn't say, "when a guy goes out and hits a three-run double." Or "A two-run homer." Sac flies and groundouts. That's Astros baseball.

Want to read an incredibly long and in-depth interview and analysis?

Holy Hannah. Here's a long interview with Morgan Ensberg, followed by an analysis of the 2005/2006 Houston Astros. Jeebus.

Lineup for G2: Astros v. Giants

Alyson Footer has your lineup for tonight's game against the Giants:

1. Bourn - CF
2. Keppinger - 2B
3. Pence - RF
4. Lee - LF
5. Feliz - 1B
6. Johnson - 3B
7. Quintero - C
8. Manzella - SS

We see a few things here. Just about everybody who didn't play last night is playing tonight. Feliz at 1B, Johnson at 3B, Quintero as Wandy's personal catcher.

Out of nowhere, J.B. MacDonald retires from baseball

Astros prospect and 2009 18th-Round pick J.B. MacDonald, 2009 NYPL All-Star and guest columnist for the Danvers Herald (where he had written on March 25 that he was working on getting his arm into shape) has retired from baseball. Says MacDonald, in the Herald:

I developed tendonitis in my rotator cuff, and so I haven’t been able to throw at all recently. On top of that, I decided to retire from baseball [April 6], and therefore I will be heading back to Danvers to find a job.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and finally decided to move on with my life.

I understand there are a lot of people, who would kill to do this, but it’s not for me. This was 100 percent my decision, and I am proud of it.

Also, it had nothing to do with my shoulder. I just decided this is not what I want to do with my life, and I needed to make this decision.

MacDonald was slated to start 2010 at Lexington. Best of luck to him.

Preview for G2: Astros v. Giants

Who We Got

San Francisco: 1-0
On the Road: 1-0

Houston: 0-1
At home: 0-1

Starting Pitchers

Barry Zito, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Wandy Rodriguez, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Why the Astros Will Win

Because the Astros are facing Barry Zito, who - against current Astros - has allowed a slash line of .243/.337/.378. Carlos Lee does well against Zito (9x33, four extra base hits).

Or because Zito struggles before the end of April. In his career, Zito is 13-26 with a 5.16 ERA/1.43 WHIP in March/April. Meanwhile, Wandy has the opposite issue. In March/April, Wandy is 7-5 with a 2.70 ERA/1.11 WHIP.

Zito hasn't pitched against the Astros since 2008, but in three starts against Houston, he's 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA.

Why the Astros Will Lose

Because Wandy had a rough spring. In six starts, he threw just 19.1IP, and allowed 34H/26ER, 17K:9BB.

Or because Wandy doesn't feel very confident in his abilities. Hopefully it's just a smoke-screen, but I can't imagine that anyone who feels like they can't find their spots can actually find their spots.

Or because Wandy has only faced four Giants in the current lineup: Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Edgar Renteria, and Mark DeRosa. And those Giants have tagged Wandy for .389/.459/.796 in 54 plate appearances.

Bruce Bukiet is back

Last year, New Jersey Institute of Technology professor Bruce Bukiet did some hard math and predicted the Astros would go 80-82. He also predicted that the Cubs would win 97 games.

Now he's back with his 2010 predictions. Where does he see the Astros?

73-89, one game behind the Reds for 5th place.

Zito/Wandy vs. Astros/Giants

In advance of the larger preview coming this afternoon, I thought we could take a moment to examine how tonight's starting pitchers have fared against the respective opposition:

Barry Zito vs. 2010 Astros lineup:

Hunter Pence: 2x7, 0K:2BB, .286/.444/.286
Carlos Lee: 9x33, 5K:3BB, .273/.333/.485
Pedro Feliz: 3x14, 2K:1BB, .214/.214/.429

Wandy Rodriguez vs. 2010 Giants lineup:

Juan Uribe: 1x2, 0K:0BB, .500/.500/2.000 (yeah, that was a solo homer)
Edgar Renteria: 3x5, 2K:1BB, .600/.667/1.800 (two homers)
Mark DeRosa: 7x24, 4K:3BB, .292/.370/.667

This adds up to five homers and ten RBI career against Wandy.

It looks as though Chris Salamida has been released

Given that he has just signed with the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

When the time comes, Ed Wade can count on Drayton

Interesting article from Fox Sports Houston this morning, regarding the Astros' cutting of payroll, and the direction Easy Eddie is taking the Astros:

“It’s critical to have your cornerstone players come from within. You have control of the player for six years once he gets to the big league level. Certainly (during spring training) Jason Castro was a very visible sign of the things we were trying to do. We were able to bring guys in like TJ Steele and some of our other young guys into big league games in spring training. Fans were able to see why we’re so excited about what may be on the near horizon.”

Drayton, on potentially adding payroll:
“I think you’ve seen almost every year, before the trade deadline, if we were competitive and we had a chance to win, we’ve invested.”

Wade, on that possibility:
“I want to get there. I hope we’re in that position. Drayton has always shown a willingness to listen to what his General Manager has to say at critical moments. And if there’s a piece out there at that point in time that we think makes sense from a baseball standpoint, I’m sure he’ll be a more than just an at tentative listener for us.”

I think if the Astros add payroll in July, it would certainly be at the expense of the younger players, which is in direct opposition to the philosophy Wade outlined. File this under, "Saying All The Right Things."

Rumor Central takes on Berkman

In ESPN's Rumor Central, there's a take on what Berkman's knee injury means for the long-term:

"It's possible Berkman, now 34, is hitting the downslope of his career. In terms of his rate statistics (AVG/OBP/SLG) last year, his batting average (.274) and slugging percentage (.509) were his lowest in any full season, and his on-base percentage (.399) second-lowest since 2001. He also, for the fourth consecutive year, failed to keep his line-drive rate over 20 percent, a sign he's just not quite smoking the ball with the same authority as during his prime.

Here's the other worry: After making some improvements batting from the right side of the plate a few years back, Berkman regressed almost entirely in that department, amassing .231/.293/.418 numbers that resulted in his lowest career OPS (.710) as a right-handed hitter, not to mention his road OPS (.859) was his worst in any full season. These are all tell-tale signs of the aging process, as is the calf injury that plagued him for much of last season, as well as the knee surgery he underwent in March. Berkman began the year on the disabled list, perhaps missing a couple weeks to a month, and he's a candidate to back on the shelf at any time. He might yet bounce back once healthy, but understand that there's as much a risk that he'll keep slightly trending downward."

Berkman is going to have to have a monster year in order for the Astros to pick up his $15m option, and thank God they haven't already done that. As we mentioned in the live chat yesterday (which may become a regular feature), if anyone will overpay for Berkman, it's going to be the Astros - but $15 million for a 34-year old 1B with a bum leg is too much.

Don't even try to put a date on Berkman's return

Berkman had his knee drained for the 5th time on Monday, and we shouldn't even mess with trying to figure out when he'll be back.

“They're trying to get things to calm down and get the swelling out, and until then, there's no sense in speculating. I don't want to make any prognostications until I see the next couple of days how it's going to respond...

...“They're trying to get things to calm down and get the swelling out, and until then, there's no sense in speculating. I don't want to make any prognostications until I see the next couple of days how it's going to respond.”

Oswalt explains that 2nd inning, Wandy not ready

Zach Levine has a quote from Roy Oswalt, who explained what happened in the 2nd inning of G1:

“In the second inning, I got out of sync a little bit with my mechanics, but I fell back in after that. I got going in the third, fourth and fifth and felt better mechanically.”

And what about Wandy's preparation for today?

“I've been preparing, watching video, paying attention to the mechanics trying to pinpoint the root of the problem. At least with my breaking ball, I have an idea of how I threw it last season and I how I need to throw it now."

That's...not a confident quote. What the heck?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Recap for G1: Astros v. Giants

Game 1 saw the Astros' best facing the Giants' best, and they went toe-to-toe, except for one inning where it got away from Roy - and the Astros lost 5-2.

Why They Lost
When it all went to hell in the 2nd inning for the Roy. He started off strong with a 12-pitch first inning. Renteria and Sandoval hit the ball hard, but for silly little flyouts. Then in the 2nd - it imploded. The first four Giants reached base, and Roy got a first-pitch strike on three of them. Huff took a 1-2 pitch to right, DeRosa worked a six-pitch walk, Molina took an 0-2 pitch deep to left. Bowker took a 2-0 pitch to deep left, and Uribe got a sac fly to score the 3rd run.

Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum was in mid-season, Cy Young form. More on that later.

Astros Pitching

Oswalt67/33:286-53 (61.6%)10/5
Sampson12/11:016-13 (81.3%)2/0
Byrdak11/10:012-10 (83.3%)2/1
Gervacio10/02:011-9 (81.8%)1/0

I'm not sure why Byrdak, having gotten Aubrey Huff, was left in to face Mark DeRosa - who hit LHP to the tune of .278/.341/.587 last season. But he was, and DeRosa knocked one over the right-field wall to make it a 5-0 lead. But Gervacio was weird, and awesome.

Astros hitting

It looked like Lincecum cruised, and for the most part he did. The Astros just didn't get the hit they needed. In the 6th inning, Mills lifted Oswalt after 86 pitches to put in Cory Sullivan and spark some offense. And Sullivan struck out swinging on five pitches. After Bourn and Matsui singled, Pence moved them over and Lee popped up a 2-0 pitch to third.

All in all, it was what you'd expect from Lincecum. He allowed four hits, all singles - the Astros didn't get their first extra-base hit until Blum got a double in the 9th - struck out seven and didn't walk anybody (the Astros didn't draw a walk all night). Lincecum only got to a 3-ball count four times, and exited after 98 pitches and seven innings.

Pitch Count Punk: Carlos Lee - 9 pitches in four PAs (2x4)
Pitch Count Hero: Geoff Blum - 20 pitches in four PAs (1x4)

Pence's ABs:
1) Bottom 1st, 2 out, 0 on, 0-0. Looking, looking, foul, ball, swinging
2) Bottom 4th, 1 out, 0 on, SF 3-0. Looking, ball, foul, foul, swinging
3) Bottom 6th, 1 out, 2 on, SF 3-0. Groundout to third
4) Bottom 8th, 2 out, 2 on, SF 5-0. Looking, Looking, Foul, Foul out

14 pitches, 12 strikes, 1 ball, and one groundout. Awful.

Man of the Match: I'm giving it to Tommy Manzella, never looked overmatched at the plate and had a sweet glove.

Goat of the Game: Hunter Pence.

Live Blog! G1: Astros v. Giants

Preview for G1: Astros v. Giants

Who We Got

San Francisco: 0-0
On the Road: 0-0

Houston: 0-0
At home: 0-0

Starting Pitchers

Tim Lincecum, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Roy Oswalt, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Why the Astros Will Lose

Because they're facing Tim Lincecum, reigning Cy Young winner, and the self-same pitcher who has held the current Astros lineup to a .129/.162/.143 line in 70 ABs (9x70, 26K:3BB).

Or because Roy Oswalt has allowed a slash line against current Giants of .323/.365/.476 (53x164, 24K:10BB)

Why the Astros Will Win

Because Roy handles business on Opening Day, not allowing more than three ER in an Opening Day assignment since 2005, and throwing 6+ IP in six of his last seven OD starts.

This section will get better as the season goes on. I promise.

Where you can find your 2008 draft class

Expanding on the previous post explaining where the 2009 draft class will be this season, let's take a gander at 2008:

NamePositionRound2010 Team
Jason CastroCatcher1Round Rock
Jordan LylesPitcherComp1Corpus
Jay AustinOutfielder2Lancaster
Ross SeatonPitcherComp3Lancaster
T.J. SteeleOutfielder4Corpus
David DuncanPitcher5Lexington
J.B. ShuckOutfielder6Corpus
Jon GastonPitcher7Corpus
Brad DydalewiczPitcher8Lancaster
Luis CruzPitcher9TBD
Jarred HollowayThird Base10Released
Jacob PridayOutfielder11Released
Jeff HulettShortstop12Released
Kyle GodfreyPitcher13Lancaster
Chris HicksPitcher14TBD
Phil DisherFirst Base15TBD
Andy SimunicSecond Base17Lexington
David FloresThird Base18Lancaster
Ashton MowdyPitcher19Lancaster
Danny MeierOutfielder24Released
Mike HackerPitcher25Released
Shane WolfPitcher26Lancaster
Nathan PettusPitcher27TBD
Zach GrimmettPitcher28TBD
Chris JacksonShortsop29TBD
Mike DiazSecond Base30Released
Philip RummelPitcher31TBD
Rene GarciaCatcher35Lexington
Kirkland RiversPitcher37Released
Nathan MetrokaOutfielder47Released
Danny MeszarosPitcher48Corpus
Chase LehrPitcher49Released

So. 1 1/2 seasons removed from the draft, and Jason Castro will obviously be the first Heckster to make it to the majors, but maybe more impressive are the five other 2008 draftees to start the season at Corpus: Lyles, Steele, Shuck, Gaston, and Meszaros. Of the 32 who signed in 2008, nine have been released.

Jonah Keri's prediction

Esteemed writer Jonah Keri posted his predictions today in the most in-depth prediction I've seen so far. Regarding the NL Central:


Yes, the Astros will be bad. Just don’t bet the under. Owner Drayton McLane is one of the most stubborn characters in baseball, refusing to trade stars like Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt – same as he did with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio – preferring instead to watch their immense talent wither on the vine, and the team fail to build anything decent around them. Perennially one of the worst farm systems in baseball, the Astros could have a long wait before they’re good again, and should prepare for a long string of last-place finishes. Wandy Rodriguez might be the loneliest top fantasy commodity in the game this year.

McTaggart's Prediction!

Brian McTaggart makes his predictions over at Tag's Lines. What do we get?

At the end of the day, it's going to come down to talent and health. This is not a bad team when it's healthy, certainly not a team that will compete with Washington and Pittsburgh for the worst record in the NL. But it's hard to convince me at this point the health of the Astros won't be an issue.

Thus, I'm picking the Astros to go 79-83 and finish in the middle of the pack in the NL Central. That's a more optimistic prediction than most, but still well short of contending for the playoffs.

Live Chat - 11am!

Where you can find your 2009 Draft Class

So there have been a few comments floated about the Minor-League Assignments, let's take a look at where they are by round.

NamePositionRound2010 Team
Jiovanni MierShortstop1Lexington
Tanner BushuePitcher2Lexington
Telvin NashOutfielder3TBD
Jonathan MeyerThird BaseComp3Lexington
BJ HyattPitcher4TBD
Brandon WikoffShortstop5Lancaster
Enrique HernandezShortstop6TBD
Dallas KeuchelPitcher7Lancaster
Brandt WalkerPitcher8Lexington
Ben OrloffShortstop9TBD
Erik CastroThird Base10TBD
Bubby WilliamsCatcher11TBD
Jake GoebbertOutfielder13Lexington
David BernerPitcher14Lancaster
Ryan HumphreyOutfielder15TBD
Ronald SanchezFirst Base16TBD
Justin HarperPitcher17TBD
J.B. MacDonaldPitcher18Retired*
Brian KempOutfielder19Lexington
J.D. MartinezOutfielder20Lexington
Barry ButeraSecond Base21Lancaster
Mark JonesPitcher22TBD
Robby DonovanPitcher23Lexington
Mike ModicaPitcher24TBD
Nick StanleyFirst Base25TBD
Aaron BrayInfielder27Lexington
Garen WrightOutfielder29TBD
Travis SminkPitcher31TBD
Brendan StinesPitcher33TBD
Scott MiglPitcher34Released
Grant HogueOutfielder35Lexington
Sean BarksdaleOutfielder38Released
Dan SariskyPitcher40Lexington
Mike SchurzPitcher44Lexington
Spencer HylanderPitcher50Released

(* = Updated since original post)

Note, then, that four players from your 2009 draft class skipped Lexington to head to sunny California: Brandon Wikoff, Dallas Keuchel, David Berner, and 21st-round pick Barry Butera. The highest pick yet to be assigned to a team (meaning extended Spring Training for a likely Tri-City/Greeneville destination) is 3rd-Round pick Telvin Nash.

Phil Rogers' Power Rankings

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers posted his MLB Power Rankings for Opening Day. Where can we find the Astros?

Astros: 25th
The departure of closer Jose Valverde created another opening on a team that already had too many of them.

Oh, and just so you know:
Cardinals: 5th
Brewers: 11th
Reds: 18th
Cubs: 19th
Pirates: 30th

Opening Day Oswalt

Roy will make his 8th Opening Day start today (live blog beginning at 5:30pm here at Astros County). What have the last seven been like?

2009 vs. Cubs: 7IP, 7H/3ER, 2K:1BB, 2HR (Loss)
2008 @ Padres: 5.1IP, 11H/3ER, 6K:1BB (Loss)
2007 vs. Pirates: 7.2IP, 5H/1ER, 3K:1BB (ND)
2006 vs. Marlins: 8IP, 5H/0ER, 8K:1BB (Win)
2005 vs. Cardinals: 6IP, 7H/6ER, 2K:1BB (Loss)
2004 vs. Giants: 7.1IP, 9H/4ER, 4K:1BB (ND)
2003 vs. Rockies: 7IP, 4H/1ER, 1K:2BB (Win)

Seven-year totals: 48.1IP, 48H/18ER, (3.37 ERA/1.16 WHIP), 26K:8BB, 2-3 with 2NDs

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Berkman not getting any better

April 10 is looking less and less likely for Berkman's return from the DL:

"It's pretty much the same. I hope to make an improvement, but it hasn't yet. It's hard to say [a return date]. I can bend it, but it's just a matter of bearing weight on it. And once you get to that point, you're still three to four days away from where you can do much."

And it looks like he's headed for Draining #5:
"I've had it drained four times, and I think we're going to do it a fifth time to try and get the swelling out of there. That's the biggest battle right now."


Ooh. I like that one

I'm tired of the "Houston, You Have a Problem" cliche. So the San Jose Mercury-News' Andrew Baggarly came up with something mildly original:

It looks like "all systems no" in Houston this season. Lance Berkman is the only "Killer B" remaining with the Astros, and he'll start the season on the disabled list because of a slow-healing knee. "... Ace Roy Oswalt was cleared to start the opener after receiving an injection in his back. "... The Astros have huge questions in the infield, at catcher and in the back end of their bullpen. At least the outfield has two competent hitters in Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence. "... Good luck to you, Brad Mills. 5th place

More prediction, this time from

1. Cardinals 2. Brewers 3. Cubs 4. Reds 5. Astros 6. Pirates: Too many stars for the St. Louis Cardinals to lose this division. Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter and Wainwright are all elite players.

And then goes on to give the Phillies the World Series over the...White Sox...?

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: 6th place

Another prediction, this time from the Star-Telegram - who has the Astros coming in last:

An already anemic offense now has to worry about first baseman Lance Berkman's balky left knee.

Although, hey, at least Tommy Manzella has a "chance to shine:"

The Astros' ability to produce from within has been awful, which is showing in the standings. But Manzella takes over for Miguel Tejada and showed he could hit at Triple A (.289, nine homers, 56 RBI). He has just five big league at-bats.

TWO Live Blogs tomorrow!

Let's try this, shall we? Join Astros County - right here - for a live chat tomorrow at 11am Central. Let's discuss the upcoming season, Spring Training results, Eddie's Farm, and 2010 expectations. And then I'll take a nap, and be back at it for a Live Blog of G1: Astros v. Giants at 5:30pm Central. Who's with me!?

Astros County's 1st Annual Spring Training Awards

And the Eric Munson Spring Training Offensive MVP goes to...

Chris Johnson

Johnson broke out this Spring, proving he absolutely can hit, and got an Opening Day roster spot for his efforts. He finished the Spring hitting .323/.391/.790, leading the team in homers (8), RBI (22), total bases (49), and drew six walks.

And the Taylor Buchholz Spring Training Pitcher of the Spring goes to...

Casey Daigle

If the Astros hadn't nutted it and exercised Brian Moehler's $3 million option, there may have been a spot on the team for Daigle, who gave up one earned run in 15.2IP for a 0.57 ERA, striking out 17 and walking just one. Daigle hit more batters (2) than he walked.

Another last place prediction

This time from Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue:

Hitting: Old
Pitching: Roy Oswalt and ... ?
Defense: Mediocre
Intangibles: Ed Wade finally leads this team to the basement