Saturday, May 8, 2010

Eddie's Farm: May 8

Round Rock

The 2011 Cardinals can eat one, after the 2012 Astros beat 'em 5-4. Wesley Wright threw 7IP, 5H/1ER, 5K:1BB, while Gary Majewski screwed up and got the blown save AND the win after allowing 4H/3ER, 1K:1BB in 1IP. Casey Daigle threw 1IP of scoreless relief for his 2nd save. Oswaldo Navarro was 2x4 with a walk and 2RBI, while Drew Meyer was 2x3 with a walk. Chris Shelton got a two-run single, as the Express overcame a 4-3 deficit in the bottom of the 8th for the win.

Man of the Match: Has to be Wesley Wright - 2.78 ERA on the season.


The Hooks never really had anything going in a 3-1 loss to San Antonio. Jeremy Johnson threw 5IP, 3H/1ER, 2K:2BB. Edwin Walker, Erick Abreu, Henry Villar, and Jared Wells combined for 4IP, 4H/2ER, 1K:3BB - with Walker getting the loss. Jack Shuck (that dog don't give a ****, for you Darkness fans), and Cabral had your multi-hit games, and Jhon Florentino had your other hit, for the offense. Here's some brutal for you: Koby Clemens is hitting .233; Gaston is hitting .188, Van Ostrand is hitting .217. Cabral is hitting .333 on the season.

Man of the Match: Marcos Cabral

The JetHawks got their 3rd straight win with a 5-3 win over Inland Empire. Brad Dydalewicz threw 5IP, 4H/1ER (2 total), 3K:1BB to lower his ERA to 11.72. Mike Schurz gave up 2H/1ER in 0.1IP, while Pat Urckfitz got the win, and David Berner got his 5th save with a combined 3.2IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB. The JetHawks got 11 hits, none for extra bases, but Ori, Federico Hernandez, and Brandon Barnes had two hits each. Only Ebert Rosario went without a hit, and the JetHawks stole five bases on the night.

Man of the Match: Brad Dydalewicz


The Legends took a 7-0 lead, and held on for a 7-4 win over Greensboro. Jose Cisnero had a rough night as the SP, throwing 5IP, 4H/4ER, 5K:4BB. Arcenio Leon threw 3.2IP, 1H/0ER, 3K:4BB and Kirk Clark got the save with the final out. J.D. Martinez was 2x4 with a double and a homer and 3RBI, and Kody Hinze with his 7th homer to go 2x4 with 2RBI on the night. Jonathan Meyer (.309), Rene Garcia (.290), and Jose Altuve (.327) had the three other hits. Meyer and Altuve had SBs (while Altuve was also CS), and Hinze and Mier had fielding errors for Hinze, and 8 for Mier on the season).

Man of the Match: J.D. Martinez

Alyson Footer: This ain't 2000

Alyson Footer's new blog post describes how the 2010 Astros aren't your 2000 Astros who, after 30 games, were 12-18. Not 9-21.

In 2000, the Astros lost about as many games as the this year's team has one month in, but back then, the pitching was so horrendous that the Astros had pretty much no chance to win, night after night, month after month. The pitchers were largely Astrodome pitchers, for whom the mantra was, throw the ball down the middle and let them hit it. Most likely, the balls will die at the warning track and you'll win ballgames.

So in 2000, in the new ballpark, Astros pitchers other than Scott Elarton and Shane Reynolds had no chance. The season was over on what we office girls affectionately referred to as Black Thursday -- a late-April afternoon game against the Cubs when Jose Lima gave up four home runs in the first inning and pretty much personified what the entire season would be -- 16-14 losses, 10-7 losses, 9-6 losses. You get the drift.

That is what is so infuriating about watching the 2010 Astros. The pitching has been just fine, and when your pitching is just fine, you have a chance. But then there's the offense. Where oh where is the offense? It's unfathomable that Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence have collectively contributed almost nothing, and we're a month into the season.

Michael Bourn, you're the best offensive player we have, what do you think?
"It's all on us. It's not the pitching. They've been great. This is on us."

Checking out this Run Differential stat

If anyone has seen this before, let me know, before I start to get excited. Here, what we do is to consider the score when the pitcher entered the game, and consider the score when they left, and come up with a +/- for runs. The offense obviously has something to do with this, so I realize the outside forces on this examination, but still...

Let's start with the rotation, who have all "enjoyed" six starts:

Oswalt: -4
Wandy: -15
Myers: -1
Norris: -18
Paulino: -15

And now the bullpen:

Sampson: -3
Fulchino: -8
Byrdak: -2
Moehler: -10
Lopez: -2
Gervacio: -6
Chacin: 0
Lyon: -6 (although it should be noted that, in his last eight appearances, he's at 0)
Lindstrom: -3

This is admittedly biased towards the starters, and the limitations of the offense, which for our chosen team, is a heavy bias.

Recap for G30: Astros v. Padres

New formula! Great starting pitching + no offense = another loss. Yes, friends, the Astros lost to the Padres 2-1, for their 11th loss in their last twelve games.

Why They Lost

Because the offense is terrible. Terrible. I don't know how this happened (well, maybe I do), but it's amazing that nine guys - guys who were once productive offensive members of the MLB society - all can not hit at the same time. Felipe Paulino was excellent, but the Astros have scored 20 runs in their last 12 games (1-11). Doesn't matter how well you throw, if nobody can hit.

Astros Pitching

Paulino75/1 (2 total)11:0115-75 (65.2%)25/16
Lyon11/01:231-18 (58.1%)6/2
Lindstrom10/01:017-11 (64.7%)4/2

Let's make this clear: Paulino is the 5th starter by calendar only. Bud Norris has been the biggest liability of the rotation. If you had to re-order the rotation, how would it look? Because, right now, I'd go with: Roy, Myers, Paulino, Wandy, Norris. It was really good to see Paulino step up and throw a high-quality start, his first no-walk start since June 27, 2009 against Detroit. June 27 was also his previous career-high in strikeouts, with nine. Tonight he had 11.

Having watched most of this game - thanks to a Girls Night Out (not me, smartass. My wife) - I was struck by Paulino's first-pitch strikes. He consistently threw 96mph, but he threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of 25 batters not swinging at the first pitch. I need to check this, but I think his 41 non-contact strikes are a season-high for the Astros.

Astros hitting

Just shameful. All of it. In two games against the Padres, the Astros are 6x58 (.103), with one extra-base hit - last night. No extra-base hits tonight. And thus, only two ABs w/RISP. Blum got the pinch-hit...uh, hit. Can you believe that Blum is actually hitting .333 on the season?

I do wish that Carlos Lee had waited to retire until after the game, because it looks like he gave up in the 9th. Here's the situation in the 9th: Bourn will get fined, because he was safe on an infield single, but 1B umpire Alfonso Marquez called him out, so he bumped him. This will, obviously, result in a fine or suspension, which means that the Astros will score zero runs, instead of our customary one every game. Michaels, pinch-hitting for Keppinger, grounded out to the pitcher for the second out. Berkman walked, which brought up Carlos Lee, who struck out looking to end the game as the winning run.

Pitch Count Hero: Berkman (0x3, BB) - 20 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Keppinger (1x2, BB) and Matsui (0x3) - 12 pitches in three PAs

Man of the Match: This isn't even a question. Felipe Paulino. 11Ks on the night, five baserunners in seven innings.

Goat of the Game: Carlos Lee. 0x4, and a chance to be a hero. When he struck out looking, he made all Astros fans say, "Yeah. I saw that coming."

Hey, the Mariners need a hitter...

But don't count on it being Lance, says the Seattle Times' Larry Stone.

Because who could have ever foreseen the Milton Bradley Experiment coming to crashing halt, the Mariners - who are 11-18, but only 4.5 out (at the time of writing) - find themselves in need of a hitter. Who's available? LANCE IS!

Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said this week he would waive his no-trade rights to go to a contender. That's great, except the renowned switch-hitter, 34, is batting .185, missed the early part of the season recovering from knee surgery and is signed for $14.5 million this season. Nothing to see here.


Wait, so is this a rumor, or not?

The Chicago Daily Herald says that White Sox GM Kenny Williams has "most likely" inquired about Lance Berkman, but has this quote from Williams:

“I don’t think anyone is really prepared to make any deals right now. And any interest expressed in any players out there who are impact guys has been done so for quite some time. There really isn’t much substance to anything at this stage of the season. Another 30 games, and you’ll start to see talk pick up. But if you’re not playing well it doesn’t make any sense to go down those roads, anyway. You've got to warrant that."

So...noted, I guess.

Tranzactionz - mostly injuries

Corpus Christi
May 7: Reliever (and future Astros...closer?) Chia-Jen Lo was placed on the 7-Day DL yesterday with an arm injury. Edwin Walker was called up from Lancaster to fill his roster spot.

SP Kyle Greenwalt was placed on the 7-day DL with an undetermined injury
Mike Schurz was called up from Lexington
Mike Modica was assigned to Lexington from Extended Spring Training

CF Brian Kemp was activated from the DL
RHP Juan Minaya was activated from the Temporarily Inactive List

Olney on the trade possibilities of Berkman, Oswalt

Buster Olney's Insider-only blog post today addresses the trade market for Berkman and Oswalt.

Rival executives said in interviews this week that both players would have trade value -- but perhaps not nearly as much as Houston owner Drayton McLane would require. Remember, McLane has demonstrated a fight-to-the-last mentality in his time with the Astros, imploring his front office to reload midseason in years when folks with other teams considered them a lost cause. He might well pass on the compromised offers he would get for Oswalt and Berkman.

Unnamed GM on Roy:
"What scares you about him is his injury history. He's had back problems, and you'd hate to get the guy and then have him break down or underperform -- especially at that salary."

Unnamed AL Executive:
"I just don't know how many teams would be willing to take on that kind of salary right now. Not many, that's for sure. The White Sox are always a wild card -- they took on [Alex] Rios and [Jake] Peavy when nobody else probably would have. And even if someone was willing to take the contract at face value, I don't think they'd give up much."

Olney, on the two options the Astros may have:
1. The Astros could absorb a large chunk of the money owed to Oswalt/Berkman and receive decent prospects in return.

2. The team that acquires Oswalt/Berkman could absorb the salary cost -- but basically give up no high-end prospects.

Can't argue with that, and it kind of pisses me off, because Your Humble Constable will be on 610 Sports Radio with honorary citizen John Wessling about 10pm tonight talking about this very thing.

Chris Johnson lives!

Chris Johnson has been activated from the DL and will report to Round Rock today.

Berkman still complimentary of Mills

Well, this is nice:

“For me the toughest thing about (the slump) is it reflects poorly on (Mills), and that couldn't be further from the truth. He's been great and needs to be here for a long time. He's a great communicator and a very upbeat guy. But the best thing for me is I feel like he's here for our benefit, where in the past you felt maybe you were here for the benefit of the coaching staff. It's a shame that we as players haven't played to our capabilities to reward them for their effort."

We get it. Coop couldn't communicate. Mills can. No need to keep bringing it up. But he is right.

Norris and Mills on Norris

McTaggart's G29 recap gives us some quotes about what happened to Bud Norris last night:

"I felt I threw the ball pretty well. Once again, I got a lot of deep counts, which always hurts, but as far as I was concerned, I was down in the strike zone all night and threw the ball pretty well. A couple of pitches can go the wrong way, and that's what happened, and you have to give them credit for it."

"His location got him in trouble from the get-go. He went 3-2 on all those hitters in the first inning, and it really came back to haunt him a little bit later. He gave up five hits, four of them for extra-base hits, and when you're having problems locating your pitches, you give up extra-base hits, and that compounds the issue. We talked about it in the dugout after we took him out. It's a situation we're going to keep working with him. He's got the stuff, and I know you've heard me say it again and again. I've told him that I still think he's got the stuff, but we have to get it corralled and put in all in place."

So Norris isn't in danger of losing his job - just yet.

Recap for G29: Astros v. Padres

Same old formula for 2010: Bad starting pitching + No offense = 9-20. Astros lose to the Padres, 7-0.

Why They Lost

It's the Astros' second disaster start in a row. Bud Norris allowed eight baserunners in 4IP, and threw a wild pitch. Seven of his 12 outs were strikeouts, but he walked three and gave up five hits, throwing 94 pitches to get those 12 outs. And the Astros as a team hit .100 (3x30) with Matsui's double coming as the lone extra-base hit. Just as a note of clarification: Brad Mills in no way is responsible for this.

Astros Pitching

Norris45/47:3194-57 (60.6%)15/16
Chacin23/01:133-22 (66.7%)9/1
Sampson10/01:014-9 (64.3%)2/2
Lopez12/20:029-19 (65.5%)7/2
Fulchino11/02:021-15 (71.4%)3/3

Jeebus, Norris. Norris has given up 32 hits this year, and 22ER. Of course, by walking 20 batters in 26.1IP, it doesn't take too many hits to score a run. He's averaging 93 pitches per start, but is only average 4.1IP per start. That's bad. He threw a first pitch strike to 12 of the 21 batters he faced, and ran it to a three-ball count seven times. In fact, after three pitches, he was only in front of nine of 21 batters.

Starting pitchers are 5-18 for the Astros this season, while the bullpen is 4-2. SPs are allowing a line of .282/.356/.422, relievers are allowing .258/.308/.407.

And this is crazy, too. 2-hole batters are hitting .395/.438/.479 against Astro pitching. 3-hole batters are hitting .207/.287/.397.

Anyway, this is just ridiculous.

Astros hitting

Also ridiculous is the offense. We can talk about trading Berkman all we want, but the fact remains that he's 34-year old first baseman with a knee injury hitting .185, after last night's 0x3 performance. After Bourn's 0x4 night, he's hitting .300 - and he's the only hitter in the starting lineup hitting higher than .235, which is the next highest batting average, and belongs to Pedro Feliz.

The Astros had one AB w/RISP, when Matsui hit a double, and then Carlos Lee didn't do anything with it.

Pitch Count Hero: Manzella (0x3) - 18 pitches in three PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Bourn (0x4), Michaels (0x3), and Feliz (1x3) - 11 pitches in three PAs

Man of the Match: Jeez. Let's give it to Gustavo Chacin, who made his first major league appearance since April 28, 2007, and held the Padres to three hits in 2IP.

Goat of the Game: So many to choose from. Bud Norris. I know the offense has been poor, to understate things, but Norris has made six starts, and the Astros have been ahead in just one game that he left. I'm working on a new idea here (maybe), but the Astros have a -18 run differential in his appearances (Meaning that, when he left the game, the Astros have been ahead by one run once, and down 17 runs in the other five appearances).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lineup for G29: Astros v. Padres

McTaggart has your lineup for tonight's game versus the Padres:

Michael Bourn CF
Kaz Matsui 2B
Carlos Lee LF
Lance Berkman 1B
Jason Michaels RF
Pedro Feliz 3B
Tommy Manzella SS
Kevin Cash C
Bud Norris P

Eddie's Farm on the Hot Sheet

Baseball America posted their new Hot Sheet and some of Eddie's Farm gets a mention:

Jay Austin (No. 4)

If you've read Baseball America, you know we're skeptical of any sparkly numbers that come from a Lancaster hitter. Aaron Bates, Bubba Bell, Javier Brito, Jaime D'Antona . . . the list of Lancaster legends goes on. Yet while Lancaster does help every hitter, park factors don't affect every hitter the same way. The Lancaster winds help carry balls hit in the air, but that's not Austin's game. He hits most of his balls on the ground, relying on his ability to put the ball in play and let his speed take over. He's also showing a much-improved approach at the plate, a sign that this could be a true breakout.

Brian Bogusevic (Hon. Mention)

Astros corner OF Brian Bogusevic hit .464/.600/.786 with two home runs for Triple-A Round Rock, bringing him up to .323/.385/.494 through 26 games. Bogusevic is already 26, so while he's already at or close to his physical peak, he's still playing developmental catchup in his second full season since he gave up pitching.

Anyone notice the Astros don't have the lowest HR total in the Majors

Over at the Baseball Reference blog there is a post noting how low the home run totals are across baseball so far this season, and happy happy: the Mariners have ten homers, while the Astros have eleven. The Mariners, not surprisingly, are two games better than the Astros, but are still 11-17, and still in last place in the AL West.

It's all starting to unravel

Richard Justice's new blog post is a worthy read, namely for how we're seeing the train cars unhitch from each other:

Beginning around July, Drayton will have a chance to dramatically remake the Astros. He has relatively low salary commitments for next season, and if the organization makes the right decisions, the club can at least be interesting in 2011 and maybe competitive in 2012. That outcome is dependent on the young players progressing. There's your X factor.

But he must be sure that he has the right people making the decisions, and that they're making those decisions based on all the available data. In other words, the Astros need to be more like the Rockets...

... Going forward, Drayton must check out baseball's smartest teams and try to find out what they know that he doesn't. I'd suggest a lunch with Red Sox owner John Henry or a quick read of Money Ball. He has the revenues and the franchise to be successful, but he must be sure that the important decisions ahead are based on the best available intelligence.

The Astros stink now, but they don't have to stink forever. That is, unless Drayton is unwilling to understand how we got to this point.

Meanwhile things just get worse. Carlos Lee is talking about retirement. Funny how he put the retirement date right at the end of that embarrassing contract. If his heart is no longer in it, he should go now.

Royal brings up a good point

Dude's on a roll lately. After naming J.R. Towles the Official Scapegoat of the Houston Astros, John Royal takes on Roy Oswalt:

And from nowhere there was a lot of talk about Towles and the pitching staff, especially Roy Oswalt, having communication issues. That's a good reason for a demotion -- the pitchers not trusting a catcher. But it's kind of fishy sounding in that there has never been any talk in the past about Towles not being able to communicate with the pitching staff, and it just suddenly arose on Tuesday when Oswalt pitched to Humberto Quintero instead.

It's also kind of fishy sounding because we're talking about Roy Oswalt, and as Cecil Cooper will attest, Oswalt has never been shy about publicly expressing his dissatisfaction with the team, his teammates, and management decisions.

Dalati: Don't expect a trade

FSH's David Dalati has some helpful info for us:

And moving a veteran icon to get young prospects? Drayton has recently become more open to the notion of developing players and he’s more open- minded about the value of prospects. But he still prefers the proven name brand player over the guy with terrific upside. Rebuilding? He has told me in the past, “It’s not part of my make-up.” It’s an admirable stance and it’s the reason the Astros made six playoff appearances over a nine year period. But, it’s also the reason the Astros hang on to veterans until the very end.

And then there’s Drayton’s fear that trading his established players during the season sends a message to the fans that the current season is over. Time to look ahead. McLane believes he might as well hang a banner outside of Minute Maid with the message “Don’t Bother Coming Today-We’re Re-Building.”

Berkman tip-toes into the boss' office

Lance Berkman apparently phoned Ed Wade to explain himself a little bit about the whole hypothetical "If I were GM..." article:

“I'm not trying to play GM,” said Berkman, who reiterated his desire to finish his career as an Astro. “I wanted him to know that I'm not trying to force anybody's hand or communicate anything through the media. It was a hypothetical conversation (the comments), but I'm not going to back away from what I said because I still feel that way.”

Ed Wade:
“Players have the right to make comments and express their opinions. Our goal, and I'm sure his goal is the same as everybody else's goal, is to be in a position that we don't have to make those types of decisions or consider making those decisions in June or July...

...I appreciate Lance's comments if he were the general manager; if I were the first baseman, I might want to be hitting .350 right now.”


Carlos Lee may retire

Wow. Berkman says he'll waive his no-trade clause, and Carlos Lee says he could retire when his contract is up, approximately three years after the earth crashes into the sun:

“I don’t know if I’m going to play after this contract. I’m ready to go home. Maybe on my last year if I still have a love for the game and I still feel like I can play, I will probably come back. As of right now, me and my family have plans to finish up here in Houston. I want to be able to spend time with my kids (two sons and two daughters) while they’re still young. I want to enjoy that.”

Anyone notice what he did there? I'll paste it again:

...As of right now, me and my family have plans to finish up here in Houston.

So, I'm guessing he isn't willing to waive that no-trade clause.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Carlos Lee's HR prediction contest winner

Michael, Dusty, and Sides (kind of) all selected May 5th as the night that Carlos Lee would go yard. As a result, Astros County will be donating $30 to Nashville flood relief. And I should totally give another $10 for Kelsey's "May 32nd" response. So I will.

FanHouse has some trade suggestions for Berkman

So this whole Berkman trade thing is causing a little stir in the media, mainly to see if Ed Wade will seize the chance he has been given to bring in prospects. FanHouse has some potential destinations:

The biggest problem for Berkman could be where he'd go in a trade. His contract is reasonable enough for a rental, $14.5 million this year with a $2 million buyout or $15 million option in 2011, but there are other factors. He's coming off of knee surgery and first basemen aren't in tremendous demand among contenders. For teams that do want to add a player at that position, Adrian Gonzalez and, potentially, Prince Fielder are younger options.

They'd cost more in terms of prospects, however, and that might make a team like the Giants interested in seeing what it would take to pry Berkman away from Houston. He's just old enough that Brian Sabean might be interested in buying the next four years of his career. A handful of AL teams come to mind too, but the Red Sox have to figure out what they're doing with David Ortiz and it's a bit too soon to know whether the A's, Rangers or Mariners are in the mix and/or willing/able to pay the freight.

If Berkman's knee proves sound, however, Wade should heed his player's advice and see what's out there in a deal. While he's at it he should see if there's any interest in Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt because there's just as little reason to keep them around when the team should be focused on building for the future.

It would be interesting to see if the Astros make a team take Carlos Lee, in the same way that Florida made Boston take Mike Lowell in the Beckett trade.

Baseball America is impressed with Jay Austin

In their Daily Dish, Baseball America is taking note of Lancaster's Jay Austin:

It can be a trap to make too much of a player's splits, even for an entire season's worth of performance. But for raw teenagers playing pro ball for the first time in a full-season league, there can be an adjustment period as they get used to playing every day and receive professional-level instruction on a daily basis for the first time in their lives. Astros center fielder Jay Austin's second-half last year with low Class A Lexington—he hit .245/.296/.308 in 228 plate appearances in the first half, .291/.346/.418 in 207 PAs in the second half—might have been a sign of a breakout waiting to happen. Yesterday Austin, 19, was a double short of a cycle, going 3-for-5 with a home run, a triple and a single for high Class A Lancaster, raising his season numbers to .281/.360/.483 in 23 games. There's an asterisk that has to go next to any hitter playing in the Lancaster launching pad, but it looks to be true improvement for Austin, who is showing better control of the strike zone, making solid contact and showing basestealing efficiency with 10 steals in 11 attempts.

Rojo Johnson

We're with AstroAndy, and just so we don't look like putzes, we weren't ever really sold on Rojo Johnson to begin with. However, the Express acquiring Rojo Johnson doesn't appear on the League Transaction page, so I hope Will Ferrell does get some in-game action.

Lineup for G28: Astros v. ''''''''''''

Brian McTaggart has your lineup for tonight's game against Arizona:

Bourn CF
Keppinger 2B
Lee LF
Berkman 1B
Pence RF
Blum 3B
Manzella SS
Quintero C
Rodriguez P

The Crawfish Boxes just brought it

Want to read an excellent explanation of the mechanics of the pitching motion? Click here.

Berkman willing to waive his no-trade clause

We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the Astros as we have known them: unwilling to sell, and move forward. Of course, thanks to an early, busy morning at work, I missed it until just about everybody else had seen it, but Lance Berkman is open to the idea of being traded.

“If it was me and I was running the show here, if we didn't make a great comeback like we did in '05 and be sort of around .500 by the All-Star break, I'd try to trade every veteran I could to reload,” Berkman said. “That's the quickest way you're going to be able to reload and get it going in the right direction.

“As a player, if they came to me and said, ‘Hey, we've got a deal to go to a contender,' I'd take it. Heck, it's only a three- or four-month deal. It's not like I'm signing on for 10 years with another team.

I would say yeah. I think it would benefit the organization, and in the end, it would be a benefit for whoever it is — whether it's me, or Roy (Oswalt) or Carlos. I'm not saying we're at the point where they should start pulling the plug on us, but they need to start thinking forward. If this thing keeps going like this, they've gotta do something.

If you're running a team, you don't want to get caught in baseball purgatory — where you're not really getting young and you're not really (competing). Where you're in this deal where every year you're signing a marginal veteran and you just never get in the mix.”

This is very altruistic, but let's keep in mind that Berkman isn't offering to go to the Royals to help turn the team around.

“I have been fortunate to play on at least competitive teams for most of my career, and it just stinks, you know, when you're getting older and really want to win. And then you kind of think, ‘Aw, man, how long before we win here?' This organization has been great to me. I love the Houston Astros. No matter what happens, I'm always going to be an Astro at heart. But as you get older, you definitely start to look at things like that, and you say, ‘How many sub-.500 seasons do you want to play?' ”

There it is. It would be good for Lance (and Roy), and getting rid of Lee's contract would induce me into a barbecuing meat coma in celebration, but it would be good for the Astros. Berkman and Roy's contracts are manageable in the short-term for teams looking to contend, but if Wade can trade Carlos Lee (who isn't interested in waiving his no-trade clause - and why would he? No one made Tim Purpura sign him to a long-term, expensive deal. It's like blaming A-Rod for taking $252 million. Like you wouldn't do it.) then he deserves Executive of the Year.

Carlos Lee's untradeable contract

In Jayson Stark's Rumblings and Grumblings column today, we see that Carlos Lee's contract is bad.

Want just a few of the ugly facts? Until his walk-off bomb Wednesday finally ejected him from the Zero Hero Club, he was homerless through his first 99 at-bats of this season. He also had a lower OPS (.495) than 13 pitchers with 10 or more at-bats. And over on the other side of the ball, FanGraphs ranks him last in the entire sport in UZR (ultimate zone rating) in left field. Other than that, though, he's having a sensational year.

He also has a full no-trade through the end of this season -- and no interest in waiving it. So the Astros couldn't unload him even if somebody wanted him. But that's irrelevant at this point. He'd be untradable even if he were tradable. Or something like that.

"He's in the wrong league," one NL executive said. "His body's breaking down. And he's making $18 million. So I think it's safe to say he's trending the wrong way."

Dude, Stark. Shut up, we're hoping to trade him to the Yankees.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recap for G27: Astros v. Dia'ondback'

First of all, I'd like to thank MLB.TV for having technical difficulties and/or "Media Errors" for allowing me to watch this on ESPN's AutoUpdate feature. But it doesn't mean I didn't yell when Carlos Lee went yard for a walkoff 4-2 win to ensure the avoidance of their third straight sweep.

Why They Won

I just about had this post written. But Carlos Lee took Juan Gutierrez deep, scoring Kaz Matsui for the win. Brett Myers was the hard-luck no decision earner, throwing 124 pitches to get through 7IP.

Astros Pitching

Myers76/26:3124-75 (60.5%)23/16
Lyon10/00:05-5 (100%)0/1
Lindstrom12/00:015-10 (66.7%)1/0

I'll admit it. I questioned - internally, of course - the decision to pull Lyon with a tie game, having thrown just five pitches, and the Astros showing no real signs of life. But I guess it worked out.

Astros hitting

There was no record of ABs w/RISP, because the Astros didn't have a single at-bat with runners in scoring position tonight. Zero. Tommy Manzella homered to left to give the Astros a 4-2 lead, and Carlos Lee - obviously - homered to left to score Kaz Matsui, who drew one of the two walks (Berkman drew the other).

The Astros were again impatient at the plate, seeing 121 pitches - three fewer than what Myers' threw in 7IP - on the night. Rodrigo Lopez lowered his ERA to 4.14 against the Astros.

Tommy Manzella still hit his first HR of the season before Carlos Lee.

Pitch Count Hero: Pence (1x3) - 17 pitches in three PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Feliz (0x3) - 9 pitches in three PAs

Man of the Match: This ought to go to Brett Myers for battling through 7IP, but come on, it's Carlos Lee's first homer of the season. And it was a walk-off.

Goat of the Game: Amazing. One swing of the bat and I went from giving the entire offense a Goat to being completely ecstatic. The goat goes to Pedro Feliz. Three groundouts, got to first because of a fielder's choice and an error by Mark Reynolds.

AstroAndy wins the Skeptic Award

Within the comments of the post about the Express signing Billy Ray "Rojo" Johnson, AstroAndy brings up a great point. Here's his comment, in its entirety:

This is coming a little bit too close to the Will Ferrell appearance at Dell Diamond for me to not get those Sidd Finch vibes.

I'll believe it when I see the radar gun.

Well done.

Max Sapp ain't doing so hot

The Astros might not have been on the up-and-up with Max Sapp as recently as March, says Mark Berman in this report.

Missy Sapp said as recently as two months ago her son had spoken with the Astros and was thrilled by the fact the team had not given up on him even though he has not played since 2008.

Missy Sapp:
"Max talked to (Astros assistant general manager) Ricky (Bennett) in March and he said, 'Mom, I'm on a roster and I'm so excited,'"

Sapp's agent, Doug Rogalski:
"The Astros said when Max is ready let us know and we'll find a spot for him. Last Monday Max's doctors told Missy that what he has is treatable, that he will recover and be able to play baseball. I called Ricky Bennett Tuesday and left him a message and said Max is doing great and in 30 to 90 days can resume some sort of activites with the Astros...

...On Wednesday the Astros called Max in the facility to let him know he was going to be released. I'm disappointed the Astros let it go this far and then didn't let Max get back on the field. There was no indication he would not be given a chance at some point."

Missy Sapp:
"I'm saddened with the timing of their decision. Max is grieving right now because this came out of the blue. We have been through Hell. It's the things you read about that happen to other people, but not you."

Ed Wade:
"Max has dealt with a series of health issues over the past two years. It became apparent to us that it would be difficult for him to resume his professional baseball career. It's our hope that Max can move on to a productive and successful career off the field."


Lineup for G27: Astros v. Diamon'backs

Alyson Footer has your lineup for tonight's game against Arizona, and guess who's catching:

1. Bourn - CF
2. Matsui - 2B
3. Lee - LF
4. Berkman - 1B
5. Pence - RF
6. Feliz - 3B
7. Manzella - SS
8. Cash - C
9. Myers - P

Esposito promoted

In the wake of Towles' severe demotion, the Express are saying that Brian Esposito has been promoted from Corpus to Round Rock, presumably to backup Jason Castro.

So let's recap. 24 hours ago we had:

C1: J.R. Towles
C2: Humberto Quintero
C3: Jason Castro
C4: Kevin Cash
C5: Brian Esposito
C6: Lou Santangelo

Today it's...

C1: Humberto Quintero
C2: Kevin Cash
C3: Jason Castro
C4: Brian Esposito
C5: J.R. Towles
C6: Lou Santangelo

Express acquire "Rojo" Johnson

The Express sent out a press release saying the Express have acquired Billy Ray "Rojo" Johnson.

Johnson, who was born in East Texas but was raised in Venezuela, recently had his prison sentence commuted. He served time for running a smuggling ring that imported rare and illegal species of reptiles into the United States from South America during the mid-to-late 1990s. Thursday night's game marks Johnson's first in American professional baseball after a storied career in the Venezuelan leagues.

Farmstros has been all over this.

Johnson will be available for tonight's game versus Nashville. How Disney doesn't have the movie rights to this is beyond me.

Mock! (Draft!)

This is from a while ago, I realize, but there's a good Mock Draft over at Bonus Baby projecting the 1st Round & Supplemental. Who do the Astros take?

#8: Austin Wilson, OF from Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
This pick assumes that Wilson doesn’t want $10 million, not that I’m saying I’ve heard anything about him wanting that much. Wilson represents the best raw upside in the entire hitting class outside of Harper, and the Astros typically love their raw, powerful, athletic hitters. With a pair of first-round picks, it’s questionable that they could afford an Austin Wilson type of prospect, but don’t underestimate them.

#19: Kevin Gausman, RHP Grandview HS (CO)
It really bothers me when I continually plug in the same player in the same slot over a number of mock drafts. However, this pick just makes too much sense. The Astros really like projectable prep arms with good command and plenty of potential, and they also aren’t afraid to find those pitchers in non-traditional baseball states. Gausman fits all of that criteria, and his season is just heating up.

#33: Robbie Aviles, RHP Suffern HS (NY)
The Astros have been building strong pitching depth through the draft in the two years since Bobby Heck took over, and I expect more of the same this year. After getting their hitting prospect with Austin Wilson early, going with Gausman and Aviles, a pair of high-ceiling arms in the Astros’ style of drafting would make a lot of sense. No matter who the names are on draft day, I expect the Astros to walk away with at least a pair of high-level arms.


I did just stumble across the latest Bonus Baby mock draft:

#8: Zach Cox, 3B Arkansas
I keep coming back to pairing Cox and the Astros together, and this is the third mock I've done so. It just makes a lot of sense from multiple standpoints. He should be pretty affordable for close to slot money for a team with a couple extra early picks, he fits a mold for solid hitting and power projection, and he also fills an organizational need at either third or second base.

#19: Kaleb Cowart, RHP Cook County HS (GA)
Though the feeling in the scouting community is still split on Cowart's long-term position, I see a team that values athleticism on the mound jumping on him early as a pitcher. The Astros love athletic arms with projectability and a decent pitch mix, and Cowart has both.

Fleshing out the Towles situation

We got a nice link from the fellas at the Crawfish Boxes from their article on J.R. Towles, and some interesting points were made:

1. Towles never had a real chance to see if he could hit.

2. It's not like Quintero was lighting up the world, and it's not like Kevin Cash is dominating at Round Rock.

3. This is a move designed to clear the path for Jason Castro.

This may all be true, and the Greg Lucas story makes things a little bit more clear - he couldn't communicate with the pitchers.

No, Towles wasn't ever given a real fair shot, having not even amassed the seemingly-requisite 500 PAs in the Majors. But his Spring Training numbers were surprising, even for a guy who once got 8RBI against the Cardinals. He won the job out of Spring Training - and was given the opportunity to be the C1 come Opening Day - with Quintero playing a couple of times a week. I thought Towles had turned a corner this Spring, having knocked the cover off the ball all through March.

But apparently he didn't, once the calendar turned to April.

Now Lucas' article is really surprising, because I wonder if he had trouble communicating with pitchers throughout his stints in Houston, or did this come up in 2010? It would seem that, if a catcher had trouble communicating with pitchers, his career wouldn't have lasted as long as Towles' has.

Greg Lucas brings the noise about Towles

Greg Lucas knows why Towles was sent down:

Towles has not shown to be a solid backstop. His throwing is erratic. But like his hitting or lack of it that is not really why he is headed to Corpus Christi.

J.R. Towles is no longer an Astro because pitchers don’t like working with him. It has not been a secret within the Astro clubhouse that at least two starters—one with significant prominence—have had problems communicating with J.R. Everything from pace of the game, to targets offered, to being on the same page contributed to the split.

Despite manager Brad Mills saying there was no reason why Humberto Quintero caught Roy Oswalt on Tuesday instead of Towles except to try a new look, there was.

...Had J.R. Towles proven to be a good hitter he would still be here despite his lack of skills working with pitchers. Hitting—like scoring in basketball—overcomes all other ills. But he didn’t hit and didn’t work well behind the plate either. So J.R. Towles is a Corpus Christi Hook. He will probably hit there as he did at Round Rock last season. He may hang around professional baseball for several more seasons. Whether he ever gets another shot at being a major league starting catcher? That is a real question.


Carlos Lee: Homers on May 5

So we all know how Carlos Lee hasn't been able to "muscle" out a ball into the stands. It's now May 5 and Lee has no homers and 6RBI. Where does he stand in his career on May 5 in terms of home runs and RBI?

2009: 5HR / 19RBI
2008: 7HR / 17RBI
2007: 5HR / 25RBI
2006: 12HR / 25RBI
2005: 3HR / 17RBI
2004: 4HR / 10RBI
2003: 6HR / 19RBI
2002: 5HR / 15RBI
2001: 3HR / 12RBI
2000: 5HR / 23RBI

At least your '77 Astros can win something

Over at Play That Funky Baseball, your Astros have now won five straight.

Astros 4
Reds 3

Yes folks, that’s FIVE in a row for the Astros, as Gene Pentz takes Bannister’s spot in the rotation and pitches five and a third gutty innings, before Forsch and Sambito hold the fort for him.

Record: 16-18
GB: 4.5

Would Towles ask for a trade?

Buried within McTaggart's piece on Towles getting sent down is this nugget from Towles:

"I have to talk to my agent and see the options I have and go from there."

Will he ask for a trade? It makes sense. I can't remember an instance in which a player was sent down two levels. It's clear that Towles had one more chance, and it looked like he earned that chance coming out of Spring Training, but has now lost that chance. He didn't get a ton of ABs, and he - like everybody but Bourn and (sometimes) Keppinger - didn't do much offensively.

The long-term priority for the Astros at catcher is clearly Jason Castro, given that Cash was called up, and Quintero will suffice in the meantime. Towles had 47ABs this season, and hit .191/.235/.319. In 2009, Towles got 48ABs, and hit .188/.250/.354. My guess is that Mills and Wade had seen what they needed to see, didn't see any improvement, and made a move.

I can't imagine Towles coming back to the Astros. But I do hope he gets traded to a good situation, where the Astros are able to recoup something for him.

Justice: Roy is good, which reminds us of better times, which depresses us

Richard Justice's new blog discusses how Roy Oswalt would be a prime trade candidate, mainly because he's good - and no one else on the Astros is right now, at least of the Big Three of Berkman, Roy, and Lee.

As Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman have diminished, Oswalt is still the lone Astro that could fetch a couple of prime prospects. I still say we let the thing play out another few weeks and make sure these Astros are as bad as they appear to be.

By next fall, let's hope we see Oswalt in the post-season, that he'll get his moment on national television, that he'll help some team get to the World Series or perhaps win the World Series...

... He seems to be the lone Astro ready to move on. If Ed Wade can find him a spot on a winner, I have no doubt that Oswalt will approve a deal.

Until then, we get to watch a really good pitcher stuck on a very, very bad team. But seeing him is a reminder of what the Astros once were.

Eddie's Farm: May 4

Round Rock

Josh Banks threw a good one, and the Express won 6-2, to move to 9-16. Banks went 6.2IP, 6H/1ER, 1K:3BB. Yorman Bazardo allowed 4H/1ER in 1IP of relief, while Roy Corcoran closed it out with a scoreless 9th. Edwin Maysonet was 3x3 with a walk, and Chris Shelton and Drew Meyer were each 2x4, with Shelton hitting a two-run homer. Collin DeLome also had a two-run double. Jason Castro was 0x4 with 2Ks, and is hitting .221 on the season.

Man of the Match: Chris Shelton

Corpus Christi

The Hooks were 2x12 w/RISP, and thus lost at Midland 4-2 to put them at 11-14, three games back of the Midland team that beat them, and have lost seven of their last ten games. Sergio Perez threw 6.2IP, 7H/4ER, 3K:1BB, and Nelson Payano closed out the last four outs, striking out three. Hooks batters had nine hits, two each from Steele, Duran, and Van Ostrand, but only got RBIs from Steele and Marcos Cabral.

Man of the Match: Jimmy Van Ostrand - 2x3 with a double and a walk.


The JetHawks got a 5-run inning in the 4th and Shane Wolf threw 7IP, 7H/1ER, 2K:0BB for an 8-1 win over High Desert, and are now 8-16. Ashton Mowdy and Brian Wabick had two scoreless innings in relief. The offense was 6x12 w/RISP, and Jay Austin was 3x5 with a homer and 2RBI. Albert Cartwright, Mark Ori, and Ebert Rosario each had two hits and 4RBI between them.

Man of the Match: Shane Wolf


Kannapolis jumped all over Lexington for an 8-1 win over the Legends, who fell to 11-15. Brandt Walker threw 4.2IP, 4H/5R (4ER), 5K:3BB, and Colton Pitkin gave up 3R - 2ER - in 2.1IP of relief. Kirk Clark and Dan Sarisky held the Intimidators scoreless. The Legends were 1x12 w/RISP, and left eleven on base. Jose Altuve was 2x4 with a walk, Jake Goebbert was 0x2 with 2BB. J.D. Martinez was 1x4 with the run scored. Jiovanni Mier committed his 7th error of the season, and Jonathan Meyer's throwing error made for his 11th of the year.

Man of the Match: Jose Altuve

The Examiner questions the umpire

The Examiner's Stephen Goff was blown away by Brian Runge's inability to tell the wide strikes. I watched a few innings of this game before my mood was visibly altered, and The Wife asked me not to watch it anymore if I "was going to be like that."

However, during the Arizona Diamondbacks' 1-0 shutout win over the Houston Astros Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, home-plate umpire Brian Runge executed one of the worst jobs I have ever seen in all my years of watching Major League Baseball.

Honestly, I am speechless -- Runge had one of the widest strike zones, which infuriated Astros manager Brad Mills, Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch and position players on both sides of the diamond.

Anyone agree/disagree?

Towles sent down, Castro stays put

After last night's game, the Astros sent J.R. Towles down, and not to Round Rock. No....all the way to Corpus. And he ain't happy:

“I’m not happy about the situation, but I guess they had to make moves and I’m that move...I thought I did all right, considering I had just a hair over 40 at-bats. A lot can change in 40 at-bats. You can shoot your way up. I know I’m not knocking the cover off the ball, but to be honest right now nobody really is.”

He has a pretty good point. Send them all down to Corpus.

Towles, a Crosby native, said the most frustrating part about the move was not knowing where he stands with the organization.

I think he does know. He earned a job in Spring Training that took him 47ABs to lose. He knew he had a thin margin for error, and he ended up on the wider side of that margin, and he lost his job. His place in the organization is now C3, because Quintero stayed put, being able to better communicate with Roy, but as Mills said that they want him to catch every day, he isn't taking Castro's job at Round Rock. So we can help: J.R., you're the third catcher. Kevin Cash came up to give Quintero a rest, and it's not an indication of Castro's performance.

Fallas says the Astros moved Arias to the 60-Day DL to make room for Cash on the roster.

Recap for G26: Astros vs. D''''''''''s

So in our second eight-game losing streak of the year, Roy was again given absolutely no help as the Astros get shutout for the fourth time this season. And have scored two runs or less in seven of the eight games they've lost, and two or less in 14 of 26 games this year. Astros waste a gem by Roy, and lose 1-0.

Why They Lost

Because while it's debatable if there is such a thing as being "clutch," we know the Astros - every single one of them - are not. They outhit the Diamondbacks 8-5, but couldn't push a run across. The eight hits came from eight different spots in the lineup, but they were 0x7 w/RISP.

Astros Pitching

Oswalt75/18:3114-69 (60.5%)27/12
Lyon10/00:012-8 (66.7%)3/0
Lindstrom10/00:06-5 (83.3%)1/1

Roy has thrown six starts, all of them quality. He has gone 7IP in each of his last four starts, and his record is 2-4, namely because the Astros have scored a total of 14 runs in his six starts.

Astros hitting

The lack of hitting w/RISP is well-documented, but let's document it again, in the hopes of making someone feel bad about themselves, and start their day in a bad mood:

1st inning - Bourn on second, no outs:
Keppinger: grounds out to second (Bourn to third)
Lee: walks
Berkman: strikes out swinging
Pence: grounds out to pitcher

That's four ABs w/RISP, and no runs.

2nd inning - Quintero on second, two outs:
Bourn - grounds out to short

4th inning - Feliz on second, two outs:
Quintero - Intentionally walks
Oswalt: flies out to right

7th inning - Matsui on second, one out:
Keppinger: grounds out to third
Lee: grounds out to short

In fact, after Matsui's single to lead off the 7th, the next nine Astros were retired in order to end the game.

And the Law Offices of Lee, Berkman, and Pence are now hitting .198, .200, and .215, respectively.

We should point out, just to have something to talk about, that Quintero and Feliz joined up on a pretty sweet pickoff of Chris Young. Watch the highlights to see it.

Pitch Count Hero: Lee (1x3, BB) - 19 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Quintero (1x2, BB) - 11 pitches in three PAs

Man of the Match: Roy. Hands down. If he walked in to Ed Wade's office, dropped trou, took a crap on his desk, and demanded a trade to St. Louis, I don't know that I could blame him.

Goat of the Game: So many to choose from! We could go with Keppinger, who was 0x2 w/RISP and 0x4 on the day. We could go with Berkman, who was 0x4 with 2Ks, and is now hitting .200. We could go with Pence, who got a hit, but was then caught stealing second. Let's go with Berkman, who ended the inning twice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ed Wade tells everyone why the Astros released Max Sapp. And it's still not cool.

Buried in McTaggart's fireside chat is Ed Wade explaining why the Astros released Max Sapp:

"It became apparent that he would physically be unable to perform."

Since 1994, here are your Astros' 1st round draft picks:
1995: RHP Tony McKnight. 21G, 7-7 record, 4.63 ERA/1.45 WHIP.
1996: RHP Mark Johnson. Appeared in nine games for the Tigers, after being the PTBNL to the Marlins for Moises Alou
1997: Lance Berkman. Enough said.
1998: RHP Brad Lidge. 519 games, 195 saves for the Astros and Phillies
1999: OF Mike Rosamond. Never appeared in the Majors.
2000: RHP Robert Stiehl. N/A.
2001: 2B Chris Burke. 477 games for the Astros, Diamondbacks, and Reds. .674 career OPS.
2002: RHP Derick Grigsby. N/A.
2005: OF Eli Iorg. Released, 2009.
2006: C Max Sapp. Released, today.
2008: C Jason Castro.
2009: SS Jiovanni Mier.

How's that make you feel?

I honestly wish I had thought of this first...

Sean Pendergast brings it:

I've been to a national championship football game. I've been to a Final Four. I've been to four Wrestlemanias. I was even at the game where Carlos Lee hit a triple two Sundays ago. I say with zero hesitation that I would trade all of those in to be at a game where someone gets tased on the field. Sure, you can relive it on the internet with your friends, but it's not the same. Not even close.

And unfortunately, for the part of me that wants to see 1.21 gigowatts of voltage course through the veins of a wayward fan, I live in Houston. Oh, don't get me wrong....I love Houston. Cost of living, no state income tax, Tex-Mex, barbecue, traffic with Jennifer's all good. But our baseball team is the Astros. They suck. The crowds seem to dwindle by another several hundred fans each night. Mere math dictates that pretty soon, there will be no more fans, and therefore by definition, there will be on one to run onto the field sans permission and take a heater for my amusement.

Oh sure, if I ask Drayton McLane nicely enough he'll come up with some sort of promotion whereby the police chase Carlos Lee around left field in between the fifth and sixth innings and try to tase Caballo, but it's not the same. Too rehearsed, no spontaneity, and the whole thing would only last about four seconds before Lee collapsed from a lack of oxygen, and was left screaming for someone to bring him a shot of ranch dressing.

That's...not cool.

There's a report on Twitter that the Astros have released Max Sapp, who almost died after a bout of meningitis.

Predict the HR contest!

I'll donate $10 to the Red Cross for Nashville relief to the person who leaves a comment with the correct date of Carlos Lee's first homerun of the season. And...go.

Lineup for G26: Astros v. Diam'ndba'''

Alyson Footer has your lineup for G26 vs. Arizona:

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

And if you look at the picture, you'll see that Gustavo Chacin is on the card. With Byrdak out, the Astros needed a lefty, and Chacin meets that need. When/If Chacin gets into the game, it will be his first major-league appearance since April 28, 2007.

McTaggart also notes that this will be the first game that Towles and Oswalt haven't worked together:

Oswalt and Towles appeared to have trouble communicating in his previous start, but Oswalt has been terrific this year.

Astros announce their own Minor-League Employees of the Month

Totally stealing our idea, the Astros went and named their own minor leaguers of the month. Here's what those guys came up with, as if they have any idea...

Round Rock

Jason Bourgeois, Andy Van Hekken (Hey! Same as us!)

Defensive POM: Chris Shelton

Corpus Christi

Koby Clemens, Henry Villar (we gave it to Lyles, but admitted Villar was a strong candidate)

Defensive POM: Wladimir Sutil


Albert Cartwright, David Berner (Thieves!)

Defensive POM: Brandon Wikoff


J.D. Martinez, Tanner Bushue (Scoundrels!)

Defensive POM: Jake Goebbert

Maybe we can agree on something with the Astros...

Assessing the Astros Hits-per-Run ratio

So earlier this morning we noted that the Astros have needed 2.64 hits to score one run this season, and 12.1 plate appearances per run. I figured that was bad. So let's compare among the other 15 National League teams, organized in descending order by runs scored.

LA Dodgers2491311.906.79
St. Louis2381231.937.32
San Diego2141171.837.44
NY Mets2031121.817.75
San Francisco2231082.067.46

A couple of things to see from this list:

-Only Atlanta has as few hits as the Astros, but they have scored 29 more runs. This is mainly due to the fact that they have 58 extra-base hits, while the Astros have 50.

-Only the Pirates need a trip through the lineup to generate a run, but the Astros need between 11 and 12 ABs to get one across the plate.

-The Astros are hitting .236 as a team, two points better than the Pirates and Mets, but they are getting on base by a margin of 28 points and 34 points, respectively.

-The Astros' .606 OPS is the equivalent of a guy at Double-A who is about to get cut.

John Royal deconstructs a myth

Excellent post by John Royal over at the Houston Press today deconstructing the myth that Run-DMc isn't cheap. It's well worth a click, but here's a good excerpt:

Has anyone ever seen a ballpark, anywhere, that is so laden with advertising? The "Fowl" polls and the Landry Crawford Boxes? The only space on the outfield wall that isn't plastered with advertising is the old-fashioned scoreboard in left field. No matter where one looks, there's advertising...

...And only a cheap bastard like McLane would forbid fans from bringing in their own food. The Astros are the only team in the major leagues that forbids its fans from bringing their own food...

...It's well-known that Drayton McLane is a cheap bastard because he was more than willing to endanger the lives of players, families, management, and umpires just because he didn't want to lose the projected revenue from a game against the Chicago Cubs in September of 2008...

...Repeat all you want that Drayton McLane being a cheap bastard is just a myth. Repeat it all that you want, but that still doesn't make it true. McLane's about as cheap as they come, and it's the Houston fans who continue to suffer as a result.

I can't refute any of that.

Berkman doesn't get it

Lance Berkman doesn't understand what's happening to the Astros:

"I scratch my head, I'm frustrated and I'm sure the fans are frustrated. I have no answers. I think if I did, I wouldn't be playing. I'd be a consultant and go around to every team and fix their problems. Certainly the onus is on the offense -- we have to get something going...You can score runs quickly without having to put three or four hits together, because it's tough to do that in the Major Leagues. For me, the key to being a good offensive club is getting on base and on-base percentage and hitting home runs, and we don't do either."

"I got a question the other day about the lack of power on the team and the reason we're not scoring runs, and I said that's not the point. To score runs, you've got to get guys on base, get them over and get the big hit. You can go in a game and score 10 runs and not hit a homer. We just need to get on base and get timely hitting. The other day, we got nine hits, the Braves got nine hits, and they got hits with people on base and we didn't. It's as simple as that."

We've been getting hits, but not the timely ones. If we do hit the ball hard, it's typically right at someone. We haven't found any ground-ball holes. Also, it's a pressing thing. You start pressing when things haven't happened and you start trying to do too much. We have to start having fun again."

Johnson nearing a return!

Chris Johnson is getting close to returning from his intercostal strain and took BP yesterday for the first time, says McTaggart.

"I had some soreness after we hit, so I backed it down and didn't hit. Today, I got back after it and I'll see how it responds. That's basically what it's coming down to, is how it responds to me taking full swings."

"He's almost to the point where he might be starting Spring Training all over again because he's missed so much time at this point. He's making good progress and [head athletic trainer] Nate Lucero and the coaches are monitoring it, and hopefully we get him on a rehab assignment sooner rather than later."

It's all about payroll

FSH's Dave Dalati talked to Drayton about what he thought about the Astros...

"If we had a low-budget team, a $40 or $50 million team, then we'd say we've got young, inexperienced players. We've got a $93 million team. In almost every position it's a veteran player. The quality ultimately comes through. This is just something you go through. Carlos Lee is our biggest challenge right now. But, over the years he has been one of the most consistent RBI producers. Hunter has had three good big-league years and is not hitting well. And Lance had his injury to his knee."

Do you buy it?


May 3

Lexington places Juan Minaya on the Temporarily Inactive List. Activates Jose Cisnero from same list.

Eddie's Farm: May 3

Round Rock

The Express snapped Nashville's seven-game win streak with an 8-3 win and a big night by Brian Bogusevic. Wesley Wright threw 6IP, 7H/3ER, 2K:3BB (ERA: 3.20), but Wilton Lopez got the win in relief. Lopez, Majewski, and Daigle held the Sounds to 2H/0ER, 2K:1BB in 3IP. Wright got 14 groundball outs, compared to 2 flyball outs, and the Express pitching staff held the Sounds to 0x11 w/RISP. Brian Bogusevic was 3x3 with a walk, homer, and 4RBI, while Chris Shelton also added three hits. Edwin Maysonet was 2x4 with 2RBI for your other multi-hit game. Jason Castro was 1x3 with a walk and a run to up his average to .234.

Man of the Match: Brian Bogusevic

Corpus Christi

The Hooks were held to five hits by the Martin Perez and the RoughRiders in a 6-1 loss to Frisco. Three of Frisco's runs were unearned as throwing errors by Garciaparra and Esposito led to two unearned runs for Jeremy Johnson and one for Jared Wells. Johnson threw 3IP, 3H/0ER (2R), 3K:0BB, exiting after 48 pitches. Erick Abreu threw 4IP, 5H/3ER, 4K:0BB, allowing three homers in relief. David Cook was 2x4 with a double, and German Duran provided the only RBI on the night. Jon Gaston was 1x3, BB to raise his average to .208.

Man of the Match: David Cook




Freshly activated Jose Cisnero got the start, but also a tough loss, as Kannapolis beats Lexington, 3-2. Cisnero threw 5.2IP, 8H/3ER, 7K:2BB (2HR, 3WP, and a balk) for the loss, and Arcenio Leon threw 3.1IP, 0H/0ER, 6K:0BB in relief. Jose Altuve and Jonathan Meyer had two hits each, while J.D. Martinez and Kody Hinze provided the RBI.

Man of the Match: Arcenio Leon.

Levine's Minor-League Notebook

Ricky Bennett has has some nice words to say about Lancaster outfielder Jay Austin:

“He does have some power. We have to remind him from time to time, ‘Hey, you've got to keep working on your bunting.' I think eventually he'll be a No. 1 or No. 2 hitter...We've really been focused on his plate discipline and his bunting. That has to be a part of his game, (and it's) something we talked about (a lot) in spring training.”
It also should be noted that the Hooks placed Fernando Abad on the DL with shoulder fatigue and soreness.

Roster moves!

So Brian McTaggart has the lowdown on three roster moves made last night:

-Tim Byrdak sent to the DL with a strained hamstring. Ed Wade:
"[Head athletic trainer] Nate Lucero called me after he came out of the game tonight and said Tim said he had trouble finishing his pitches, and Nate went back and looked at video of last year compared to this year and it was apparent to him he was really having trouble coming down on his landing leg. It seemed apparent he was trying to compensate for the hamstring."

-Astros purchase Gustavo Chacin's contract from Round Rock:
"I talked to [Round Rock manager] Marc Bombard and he said he Chacin could handle the role in the bullpen and [pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] is familiar with him from Spring Training and their days together in Toronto,"

Wade also explained that Wesley Wright was a candidate to come up, but that he pitched last night, so it wouldn't have made much sense. And it also wouldn't have made any sense, as Wright is being transitioned to a starting role, and Chacin is apparently headed to the bullpen.

-Astros option Gervacio to Round Rock, recall Wilton Lopez.

Alyson Footer's blog post will give you a cavity

Alyson Footer's new blog post talks about pride, determination, and hope:

Are they mad? Yes. Frustrated? You bet. Baseball might be a kid's game, but Major League Baseball is big business. Professional pride drives players to give everything they have, night after night. They're upset with how things are going so far, and they're a bit shell-shocked at the record. A bad start? Again? Really?

But while clutch hits have eluded them, determination has not. Confidence hasn't waned either. Believe it or not, the talk in the clubhouse after the game wasn't how bad the team is, but how much they're looking forward to that moment when things finally start turning. They're waiting. Patiently? Maybe not. But they still feel they can pull this thing together.

Ed Wade defies you and I

Interesting quotes in Bernardo Fallas' Notes column this morning from Easy Eddie:

“The best thing that anybody can do at this point in time is be patient, continue to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities. If you look at our club, it's guys with track records, guys with records of success who are going to be successful in this game. I think being patient, keeping the faith in our guys and have them keeping the faith in their ability is important. But you've got to go grind out the at-bats. You can't just say it will happen; you've got to make it happen, and I think our guys recognize that fact.”

Yeah, but Carlos Lee is so bad:

“I'd defy anybody to think that at the end of the season Carlos isn't going to be standing there with 100-plus RBIs, even with the start he's been off to.”

Anyone disagree?

Recap for G25: Astros v. 'Iamondba'ks

Goodness. I sure am glad that Arizona pitcher Carlos Valdez was able to get his first career win, mainly by making the Astros offense look foolish - as did Arizona's shaky bullpen. Astros get blown out for the third straight game, 9-1.

Why They Lost

It comes down to hits. The Astros got eight of them, but were only able to score one run. Felipe Paulino certainly wasn't great, but three of the four earned runs he gave up came on a homer by catcher Chris Snyder. The problem are the walks - four of them by Paulino (though two of those were intentional). Gervacio was the only pitcher to not allow a run, and he was only in for five pitches. The Astros were 1x9 w/RISP, so that doesn't help.

Astros Pitching

Paulino65/48:4124-72 (58.1%)21/16
Byrdak0.21/21:223-8 (34.8%)6/0
Gervacio0.11/00:05-4 (80%)1/1
Moehler25/31:044-27 (61.4%)11/1

So the Astros walked six batters - four by Paulino and two by Byrdak. Byrdak, by the way, had the lowest percentage of strikes thrown of any Astro pitcher this season.
Four of the six batters the Astros walked scored.

Astros hitting

So far the Astros are needing 2.64 hits per run, and we'll compare that to the rest of the League later on this morning. Even more depressing, the Astros are averaging 12.1 plate appearances per run.

Michael Bourn remains the one offensive threat on this team. Walking in the first inning (one of three Astro walks), then stealing second, and coming home on Carlos Lee's 3rd RBI of the season. Bourn got on base three times, with two hits and the aforementioned walk. Cory Sullivan, playing in place of Hunter Pence, got two hits.

Pedro Feliz left some men on base. Let's look:
1st inning: Berkman and Lee on base, 1 out, Feliz GIDPs
5th inning: Berkman on 2nd, 2 out, Feliz grounds out to third

Hey, and so did Keppinger:
1st inning: Bourn on 1st (then 2nd), 0 out, Kep grounds out to short
2nd inning: Bases loaded, 2 out, Kep grounds out to short
7th inning: Bourn on 2nd, 1 out, Kep flies out to right

As a team, the Astros are hitting .249 w/RISP, and .246 with men on.

Pitch Count Hero: Bourn (2x4, BB) - 27 pitches in five PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Lee (1x4) and Quintero (1x4) - 12 pitches in four PAs

Man of the Match: Has to go to Bourn, who got on base three times, and made a pretty great catch in center.

Goat of the Game: I don't even know. Paulino got victimized by Chris Snyder, leading to three earned. So that's one really bad pitch, but is it worthy of a Goat? Tim Byrdak crapped the bed, but since Arizona already had more than one run, were the Astros going to score enough, anyway? Let's give it to Jeff Keppinger, who had three opportunities to get one hit and score a run (or three runs, in the case of the 2nd inning), and...didn't.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Power Rankings! Week Four

The easy thing about Power Rankings this week? Just scroll down to the bottom to find the Astros:

Astros - 30th
"After sweeping the Pirates to get to 8-10 eight days ago, the Astros ceased to play the Pirates and have now dropped six straight to the Reds and Braves. In those six losses, they only cracked the two-run barrier once. Never base an entire evaluation of a team on one series against the Pirates."

TSN Canada:
Astros - 29th
"Not good when the corner outfielders -- Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence -- have combined for a .236 on-base percentage."

The Sporting News:
Astros - 30th
The ever-streaky Astros' six-game skid has them back at the bottom.

Astros - 29th
During their current six-game losing streak, the Astros are averaging two runs per game against teams that have ERAs of 5.42 (Reds) and 4.10 (Braves).

Strong words from Forbes

Strong words from's Michael K. Ozanian - whose reference of Apollo 13 means that the cliche has been used approximately 949 times since Opening Day, about what Drayon needs to do if he really wants to sell his team:

At 8-16 the team has the worst record in the NL, cannot hit (last) and is just so-so on the mound (9th). Attendance is down to under 27,000 per game from over 31,000 in 2009. McLane needs to pony up some of that $1.5 billion of his net worth to improve the Astros before this turns into a complete debacle. MLB does not need both of its Texas franchises to be embarrassments at the same time.

The Rangers are an embarrassment because of Tom Hicks. The Astros are apparently an embarrassment to baseball just because of how bad they are. Thanks for that, Forbes.

Atlanta blog does a good job of hurting our feelings

So when a team with a nine-game losing streak comes in and sweeps a team that at one point was considered a "rival," it's a good thing, right? Not so fast, says Ben Bussard:

The Astros may be the only team in the Majors playing worse than the Braves so let’s not read too much into this, folks.

Losers of six in a row, the Astros hold the National League’s worst record at 8-16 and have scored the fewest runs in the Majors with 72—not exactly an offensive juggernaut.

Houston has hit just 9 home runs as a team which is tied for the fewest in all of baseball and is three less than the number of deep balls Chicago White Sox first basemen Paul Konerko has hit by himself.

Not only does Houston have a problem (please excuse the played-out Apollo 13 reference) hitting the long ball, the Astros only have two starters who have an average north of .238—Michael Bourn (.317) and Jeff Keppinger (.301).

The Braves also dodged the only bullet in the Houston pitching rotation in ace Roy Oswalt, who leads the Astros starters in ERA (2.73), WHIP (1.15) and strikeouts (28).

Wins are great and series sweeps are even better—especially when you’re mired in a seemingly endless losing streak. But when they come against teams as futile as the Houston Astros, how much can we really take away from this weekend?

Lineups for G25: Astros vs. Diam'nd'ac's

McTaggart has your lineup for G25 against the randomly abbreviated team from Arizona (I said this last year, but readership has grown, so I'll explain it again. I hate the Diamondbacks. Not the team, just their name. They go by D-Backs. As if MLB made them choose their name, and they were opposed to it the whole time. If "Diamondbacks" didn't fit on a jersey then, by God, they should have chosen another name.)


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


1. Johnson - 2B
2. Upton - RF
3. Drew - SS
4. Reynolds - 3B
5. LaRoche - 1B
6. Young - CF
7. Parra - LF
8. Snyder - C
9. Valdez - P

Hometown Update

So many of you have probably guessed that The Wife and I live in Nashville, and if you've seen the news in the last two days, you'll know this is a rough time for Nashville and middle Tennessee. Having received between 13-20" of rain since Saturday morning, the flooding in town is significant and devastating.

I have received a few emails from loyal Citizens asking about how my wife and I were affected, and we really appreciate that. Thankfully, where we live in Nashville did not receive any significant flooding, and we are completely fine. But there are thousands of people in middle Tennessee (and west Tennessee, and Kentucky, and Arkansas, and Mississippi, and...) who are not. So if you're of the praying sort, be praying that the waters can recede - the Cumberland River, which runs through downtown, is currently at about 52 feet, and has overrun downtown. If you're of the donating sort, it is my understanding that the Red Cross is setting up shelters throughout middle Tennessee.

If you visit Astros County, hopefully it's because you enjoy the style of writing, opinions, and breakdown of the Houston Astros and the minor leagues. If this type of post doesn't interest you at all, then thank you for your time. That said, it is nice to be able to think about baseball.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scouting the SAL on Altuve and Mier

Mike Newman of Scouting the SAL watched the Legends this weekend, and had this to say:

On Jose Altuve:
It is not often I watch a player and think to myself, “this is the exception to the rule”. Jose Altuve fits into this category as a diminutive second baseman whose height would normally remove him from any sort of prospect discussion. However, Altuve flashed plus contact skills, the ability to drive the baseball like a much larger player, and was a very sound fundamentally. He may never start in Houston, but the fact I see him as a future big leaguer is a bit mind blowing.

On Jiovanni Mier:
Mier’s defense was as advertised, but his offensive game was nowhere to be found. In seeing eight at-bats plus batting practice, Mier showed little ability to drive the baseball and a swing more reminiscent of a left-handed hitter. The difference between a Wilmer Flores and Jiovanni Mier is while both have calm, fluid swing loads, Flores’ wrists explode through the zone while balls come off of Mier’s bat with a thud. For Astros fans expecting Mier to be a Nomar Garciaparra clone, it is never too early to temper those enormous offensive expectations.

Recap for G24: Astros v. Braves

Anyone hate this team yet? There's an old baseball adage that you win two, you lose two, it's what you do with the one in between that makes a champion. I guess the 2010 Astros lose eight, win eight, and it's what you do with the four in between. And that is not good, as the Astros get the hell beat out of them by the Braves, 7-1.

Why They Lost

The Astros got hits - nine of them - but they couldn't score, which is pretty common for this year. In this three-game set with the Braves, who had lost nine straight coming into this series, the Astros were outscored 21-4. Bud Norris crapped the bed again, allowing seven earned in 4.2IP - and allowing 12 baserunners (Eight hits, four walks) in his 14-out appearance. Oh, there was also an HBP and a WP. I say we dedicate 2010 to The Maturation of Bud Norris.

Astros Pitching

Norris4.28/73:496-54 (56.3%)12/11
Sampson0.10/01:05-3 (60%)1/2
Fulchino20/04:031-18 (58.1%)6/7
Lyon11/00:013-10 (76.9%)4/0

I take back everything I inferred about Fulchino getting sent to The Rock. I know he had a couple of bad outings - which for a reliever can kill their stats. I've been lazy and preoccupied, and for that, I repent. Four strikeouts. The bullpen - arguably the strongest factor of this team - had 3.1IP, 1H/0ER, 5K:0BB. In other words, they were the antithesis of Bud Norris.

Norris threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of 25 batters. Let's take a look at the Braves vs. Norris, inning-by inning:

1st inning (10 pitches): 0x3, K
2nd inning (27 pitches): 1x3, 2BB, sac fly, one run
3rd inning (15 pitches): 0x3, K
4th inning (20 pitches): 4x6, K, BB, three runs
5th inning (24 pitches): 2x3, BB, HBP - got two outs.

So let's examine:
1-3 hitters: 0x8, BB
4-6 hitters: 5x5, 3BB, sac, HBP
7-8 hitters: 3x4, BB

That ain't good. As if you needed our notification.

Astros hitting

Amazingly, the Astros and the Braves had the same number of hits - 9. And the top three in the order of Bourn-Keppinger-Lee had six of them, going 6x13 with one run and one RBI. The difference was the hits w/RISP. The Braves were 6x10, and the Astros were 1x7, with Keppinger getting the lone hit. Pence, Lee, and Berkman were 0x6 combined with runners in scoring position. Matsui went 2x3 to raise his average to .200, and Blum got a pinch-hit single to raise his average to .326.

And the Astros drew only one walk - Berkman, naturally. Let's take a look at the OBPs of the starting lineup:

Bourn: .404 - he's off the hook.
Keppinger: .370 - so is he
Lee: .234 - he is not
Berkman: .318 - neither is he
Pence: .239 - neither is he
Feliz: .250 - neither is he
Matsui: .256 - neither is he
Towles: .235 - neither is he

Pitch Count Hero: Pence (0x4) - 20 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Towles (0x4) - 10 pitches in four PAs

Man of the Match: Should we even continue this? This is pathetic. Bourn and Keppinger are an option, but this is going to Jeff Fulchino, who got reliever Medlen, Prado, McCann, and Glaus - all swinging strikeouts.

Goat of the Game: It's not even close. Bud Norris, who needed twelve pitches per out.

Lineup for G24: Astros v. Braves

Zach Levine has your lineup for today's game, in which the Astros try to avoid getting swept for the fourth time this season.

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

Eddie's Farm: May 1

Round Rock

The Express were down 6-1, and then scored 11 of the next 12 runs - including seven in innings 7-9 - for a 12-7 win over Albuquerque. Gustavo Chacin had a rough time of it, allowing 7H/6ER with three homers in 4IP. The bullpen of Wilton Lopez, Roy Corcoran, and Casey Daigle held the Isotopes to 5H/1ER, 5K:0BB in 5IP. Express hitters got six extra-base hits, and Bogusevic, Shelton, Kata were each 3x6 with 7RBI between them. Jason Castro was 2x4 with 2RBI.

Man of the Match: Chris Shelton

Corpus Christi

The Hooks jumped on Frisco early and the pitching staff held the Roughriders for a 5-2 win. Tyler Lumsden went 5IP, 6H/1ER, 3K:0BB, but exited after the 5th having thrown only 66 pitches (48 for strikes). Why, you may ask yourself - as I did? Because of the 6H he allowed, three of them came in the 5th. Payano, Wells, Villar, and Meszaros threw 4IP in relief, allowing 4H/1ER, 3K:3BB. Jack Shuck, Jhon Florentino, David Cook, Marcos Cabral, and Michael Garciaparra all had two hits each. Cook had two doubles, and T.J. Steele had 3RBI on the night.

Man of the Match: Hard to tell. How about T.J. Steele?


Hey-oh! It's a's a walkoff. JetHawks defeat Lake Elsinore 10-8 on a 10th-inning walkoff by Brandon Barnes. Dallas Keuchel threw 5IP, 7H/2ER (5 total), 6K:3BB, and Cespedes, Wabick, Urckfitz, and Berner threw 5IP in relief (though Urckfitz didn't record an out, walking the two batters he faced). Berner, after getting Employee of the Month honors, gets the blown save and the win, as the JetHawks allow the Storm to get one in the top of the 10th before Brandon Barnes saved the day with a three-run shot. Overall, the JetHawks got 22 hits - including five from Albert Cartwright, four from Mark Ori, and three from Barnes and Contreras. Catcher Jordan Comadena was 1x3 with a walk, but with two stolen bases.

Man of the Match: Brandon Barnes.


It only took 2h16m, but Savannah beat the Legends 3-1 yesterday. Juan Minaya threw 6IP, 6H/2ER (3 total), 1K:3BB, and Mike Schurz struck out three in 2IP. The Legends only got five hits, two from Miguel Arrendell (Goebbert, Garcia, and Hogue getting the other three). Jonathan Meyer committed his 10th error of the season, but Mike Newman of Scouting The SAL said last night that Meyer was working out at second base before the game. This would be huge for him, and would clean up the left side of the infield.

Man of the Match: Juan Minaya.

Eddie's Farm Employees of the Month

Round Rock

Position Players: Jason Bourgeois! Bourgeois hit .328 for Round Rock in 18 games, striking out just 11 times and walking ten times, and stealing eleven bases (caught twice). Slash line of .328/.416/.448.

Pitchers: Andy Van Hekken! Van Hekken started four games, and went 1-1 with a 1.66 ERA/1.01 WHIP, with a 23K:4BB ratio, .225 against, and no homers allowed.


PP: I thought really hard about giving it to Marcos Cabral, who posted a .378/.440/.511 line, with 3K:5BB in 45 ABs. However, he played in eight less games than Koby Clemens, who tentatively gets this award. In 80ABs, Clemens hit .263/.333/.575 with 7HR, 4 2B, and 18RBI. The reason this is tentative is because of the 28Ks in 84ABs. Get that crap under control. But w/RISP, Clemens is 8x20 with 5XBH.

Pitchers: Henry Villar was deserving, what with his 0.66 ERA/0.73 WHIP in eight relief appearances, but it has to go to Jordan Lyles. In four starts, Lyles threw 22IP, allowing 18H/6ER, 25K:4BB for a 2.45 ERA/1.00 WHIP.


PP: This wasn't even hard. Albert Cartwright. Hit .333/.377/.542 in 20 games in April with 10XBH and 5SBs. His .918 OPS was the only one above .800.

Pitchers: This almost went to Kyle Greenwalt, who had performed the best amongst the JetHawk starters, but I had to give it to reliever David Berner. His seven appearances resulted in three saves, but he also posted a 1.20 ERA / 0.80 WHIP, allowing 11 hits and one walk, with 16 strikeouts. That's right, 16K:1BB.


PP: This was a tough one, but due to having more ABs to perform, J.D. Martinez edges out Kody Hinze. Martinez hit .365/.419/.521 with 10XBH and 19RBI, striking out 14 times in 96ABs.

Pitchers: Tanner Bushue! In five starts, Bushue threw 25.2IP, allowed 23H/8ER for a 2.81 ERA/1.32 WHIP. He struck out 26, and walked 11 - eight of them with runners already on (so that's going to have to get worked out), but overall, an excellent showing.

This story on Backe will pull on your heartstrings

The Galveston Daily News' Evan Mohl has a touching story on Brandon Backe, and what his life has been like since the Astros released him last June.

After not having thrown a baseball in ten months, Backe is still weighing his options:

“I guess I felt I wasn’t done with the game,”


His shoulder surgery failed last summer. He refused to discuss the details or even the specifics of the injury for fear it might hurt his chances of a return with other teams.

Whatever the problem, it wasn’t fixed. In fact, it made life worse.

Seven months after the surgery, Backe still couldn’t lift his throwing arm above his shoulder. He struggled to sleep at night because of the pain and discomfort. At the same time, Backe had minor knee surgery, hoping to fix two problems at once. Instead, he sat sedentary, unable to lift his arm and walk around on his legs.

“My quality of life was awful,” Backe said.

Mohl says that Backe had another shoulder surgery ten weeks ago, but he doesn't know if he'll ever get another opportunity:

The harrowing reality and current prognosis pain Backe. He has not known life without a game of catch. He has spent the majority of his years reaching back behind his ear, dialing up a 90-mph fastball.

When spring training passed this year, Backe tried to think of the last time he spent a March not in a baseball uniform. He couldn’t remember. Maybe age 4...

...Backe recalls his good friend Jeff Bagwell’s situation a few years back. The future Hall of Famer had nothing left to prove yet he kept fighting for one more season, one more game, one more at-bat.

Backe understands the desire. The pain. The indecision. The inability to give up and quit.

“I miss baseball,” he said. “There’s a hole right now. Hopefully, I can solve it by playing, but maybe it’ll be something else. I just don’t know at this point.”

Read Backe's Five Greatest Games, as decided by Astros County.

Some return, some get hurt

Okay, so Sam Gervacio reinjured his right shoulder. Yeah, that one. The same one that sent him to the DL last month.

“In the bullpen, I felt it a little bit, but in the game, I felt like it really hurt."

Oh, so it hurt before you gave up the homer to Jason Heyward. Or walked David Ross. And walked Nate McLouth. Got it.

Rest? Lance Berkman doesn't need any rest. Especially resting that groin.

“It's still a little bit sore, but it's one of those things that I think I can manage, and I don't know that sitting out another game is going to do me any good,”
And Tommy Manzella gets to do what we do this weekend - sit and watch this ineptitude. Brad Mills has given Manzella some time to just observe:

“I just think it would be good for him every now and then to sit and watch certain things, and that's all. It's nothing against him or how he's been playing or anything else.”