Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recap for G43: Astros v. Rays

At least they're consistent. The Astros can generally get two runs a game. Problem is, the other team can generally get more. Rays win 4-2. I thought the Astros would score four runs all weekend, and with David Price on the mound tomorrow, I just might be right.

Why They Lost

Because the offense is bad. And if the pitching isn't great, the losses will mount up.

Astros Pitching





NameIPH/ERK:BBPit-StrCS/SS
Wandy66/34:4107-59 (55.1%)17/10
Sampson11/00:120-9 (45%)4/0
Lopez22/0 (1R)1:239-22 (56.4%)6/3


The pitching staff threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 42 Rays batters, and the Rays have seen 323 pitches in two games. The Astros have seen 222.

That's pretty much all I have to say about that.

Astros hitting

Again, nothing really going on. The Astros let Niemann off the hook in the first inning, loading up the bases with one out. And then Pence and Blum grounded out to end it, having scored just one run. Berkman hit his 5th homer of the year, and that was it.

The Astros were 5x33 with 7K:1BB, and all five hits came from 1-4 in the order, with Berkman as your lone multi-hit gamer (his first multi-hit game in seven games - his 5th of the season). Lineup spots 5-8 were 0x15 and an RBI from Pence's groundout.

One thing I do want to point out is the offensive difference between these two teams. Let's look at the OPS of lineup spots 1-8, with the format going TB/HOU:

Leadoff: .679/.709
#2: .886/.702
#3: .798/.784
#4: .964/.572
#5: .672/.649
#6: .692/.667
#7: .661/.532
#8: .508/.585

Yes, that is correct. The Rays have some guys who are struggling, but it really helps when the Rays' clean-up guy (Longoria) has an OPS 392 points higher than Carlos Lee's.

Pitch Count Hero: Bourn (1x4) - 18 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Blum (0x4) - 9 pitches in four PAs.

Man of the Match: Jeez. Let's go with Berkman, shall we?

Goat of the Game: I don't even know. How about Blum?

McTaggart's Notes

McTaggart has a new post up and there are interesting things beyond the impending trade of Roy:

Byrdak is looking at a Tuesday return. Mills:
"He said he felt really good and threw the ball well, and he'll take the mound again tomorrow for another inning."

Also, you'll note that Pedro Feliz is not in the lineup tonight, and McTaggart says it was not an injury-related decision.

It's business. Nothing personal. And I'm hopping mad.

Bernardo Fallas has a report from Roy (don't miss Alyson Footer's video of the interview). Roy:

“I don't want people to think I'm leaving because we're not doing well. I have a small window (to return to the playoffs)...I've got two years left. In those two years, I'm trying to get back to the playoffs. I haven't been there since '05.”

One thing to note is his wording: "I don't want people to think I'm leaving because..." Not, "I don't want people to think I should/want/need to leave because..." This is a done deal.

Some further quotes:
"Some report came out saying I came in griping about a trade. I just kind of asked about my options, what they were taking as far as which direction they're going. Are they going to plan to get young or get more [veteran] players or what direction are they going? They didn't really have an answer for what they were going to do right now, and I thought if they were going to try to get young -- they have the option on my side that if they want to use a player to get younger players -- that I would be available to do that."

On the difference between 2010 and 2005:
"There's a different stance, I guess you would say, in the organization. Now, we're close to that record and the stance isn't the same as it was in '05. It's not like I'm not happy here. This is the only place I know. They gave me a chance to play since '97, and I've always wanted to finish here. I wanted to win, too. If we go into Spring Training and not willing to win the whole thing, there's no sense in playing."

One more:
"I've read a few reports where someone said I had a bad attitude in the clubhouse, which is the most furthest thing [from the truth] I've ever seen in my life. It's pretty much just made-up comments from a person [who doesn't] really know a lot about it. I knew that once it broke, it would get more attention than anything else I've done in the big leagues. That's part of it. The biggest thing I've seen here and there is the fans are behind me. That's my main concern. I don't want the people here in Houston to think anything less than trying to do what's best for the organization."

I'm guessing he means Richard Justice.

But also note this: If Roy's reasoning is playoff-based, it absolutely is because the Astros aren't doing well. If Roy is talking about his playoff window, the Astros' performance has everything to do with this. This quote implies that if the Astros were winning and contending, Roy would be asking for a trade, anywyay. And if that's the case, he just doesn't like being here. No, way. Just pick a reason, Roy.

Justice: Astros may win in spite of Roy, not because of him

Richard Justice has been busy today. His new blog post details how the Astros may actually rally from this, despite 20% of the rotation crying like he has a banana in his tailpipe.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros played better in the days ahead. I'm not saying they're capable of any kind of sustained run, but I believe there are players who will feed off Roy Oswalt's unhappiness. As Geoff Blum said, ''I'm proud to be an Astro.''

At the moment, I think there are 24 players proud to wear the uniform of the Houston Astros. I don't know if they truly feel that way, or if they're sending a not-so-subtle message about Oswalt's attitude...

...There was a buzz inside the clubhouse Friday night after Brett Myers' great performance against the Rays. Players were happy and talkative and feeling pretty good about things.

Their attitude was a huge contrast to Oswalt's sullenness. I don't know this for a fact, but I believe Lance Berkman has chosen not to comment on Oswalt because he's caught in an impossible spot.


Does Roy deserve to go to a winner, or should he play out his contract? Either way, he's getting his money, and the Astros will get something for him. But this got ugly quick. Ed Wade should move quickly, because this can be the defining moment of his tenure - something that takes him from being a five-year guy to a 10-15 year guy. If Wade can figure out how to trade Roy quickly, it just might overshadow the reminder that he was once choke-slammed by Shawn Chacon. This is the chance to assert his authority, to show that anybody who doesn't want to be here can get the hell out. Roy went from being a guy who could have been the most celebrated Astro (post-2000) to being a guy the fanbase can't wait to get rid of, and if Wade can figure out a way to trade him to...well, I can't think of a team worse right now, even better.

Astros remain aggressive on the international market

That Dominican facility is really starting to pay off as Ben Badler reports the Astros have signed two "top Dominican arms:" 16-year old RHP Michael Feliz ($400,000) and 17-year old RHP Jose Montero ($350,000).

Baseball America's Ben Badler, on Feliz:
Feliz had originally agreed to terms with the A's for $800,000 in March, but Oakland voided his contract when Feliz tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol and received a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball. According to scouts who have followed Feliz this year, Feliz was regularly hitting 92-93 mph with his fastball before his positive drug test, but in more recent months has been topping out at 91 mph. Beyond pure arm strength, Feliz, who is from Azua, also has a projectable 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame with feel for a curveball and a changeup.

On Montero:
Montero is another power arm with a projectable frame. The 6-foot-4 righthander from San Pedro de Macoris can pitch at 89-92 mph and has touched 93 for some scouts. Montero throws a slider and an occasional changeup, though his secondary stuff and feel for pitching isn't as refined as Feliz. Latin American sources have said the Yankees and Padres were among the other teams courting Montero.

Eddie's Farm Record Check

Let's check the records of each of the four teams playing:

Round Rock: 18-23, 3rd place (out of 4), 4GB
Corpus: 21-20, 2nd place (out of 4), 2GB
Lancaster: 15-26, 4th place (out of 5), 12GB
Lexington: 20-22, 4th place (out of 7), 6GB

Eddie's Farm: May 21

Round Rock

The Express scored the final five runs of the game, but fell short against Reno 8-7. Drew Locke grounded out to third with the bases loaded to end the game. Polin Trinidad had a bad one: 4.1IP, 12H/8ER, 2K:1BB, while Burton, Byrdak (rehab assignment), Bayliss, and Englebrook combined for 4.2IP, 2H/0ER, 4K:2BB. Jason Bourgeois was 3x4, while Matt Kata, Chris Johnson (double/homer/three walks), and Marcos Cabral each had two hits. Jason Castro was 1x4 with 2RBI and a walk.

Man of the Match: Chris Johnson

Corpus

Doug Arguello dominated, and the Hooks beat Midland 4-1. Arguello needed 106 pitches to throw a complete game with 4H/1R (0ER), 5K:2BB on the night. German Duran was 2x4, Jon Gaston had a two-run single, and Jimmy Van Ostrand hit his 1st homer of the year.

Man of the Match: Doug Arguello

Lancaster

High Desert scored five runs in the 4th, and that was enough to drop Lancaster 6-1. Ross Seaton dropped to 1-5 with a 5.25 ERA, giving up 10H/5R (4ER), 5K:0BB in 6IP. The JetHawks got four hits across four batters: Cartwright, Parejo (triple), Barnes, and Rosario (RBI single).

Man of the Match: Brandon Barnes (1x3, run, outfield assist)

Lexington

The Legends used a five-run 3rd inning to beat Greensboro 7-5. Tanner Bushue did enough to get the win with 6IP, 5H/4ER, 4K:1BB - serving up two homers (that's four in his last two starts. He had not given up a homer in his first seven starts: 39.2IP). Zach Grimmett and Kirk Clark held the game down, allowing one run (Grimmett's) in the final 3IP. Altuve, Mier, Goebbert, and Simunic had two hits each, while Kody Hinze was 1x3 with a walk, double, and 3RBI.

Man of the Match: Kody Hinze

Justice: Roy just forced a paradigm shift

Richard Justice's new column this morning describes how Roy is forcing Drayton McLane to reevaluate some things:

Thank you, Roy Oswalt. Thank you for pushing Drayton McLane to a place he was having trouble going on his own. This is where the reconstruction of the Astros should begin. Tear it down. Build it back. When they're whole again, we'll remember that the final chapter of Oswalt's legacy was important and timely.

He has helped the owner see his team for what it is instead of what we'd all like it to be. McLane swears he was starting to get it even before Oswalt asked to be traded.


Let's hold on here. The final chapter of Oswalt's legacy in an Astros uniform will be important, but this is not timely. Timely would have been to do something two years ago, or last year (though his trade value was depressed due to his version of a bad season). Let's continue:

Oswalt can veto any trade, and a source familiar with his thinking said he wants “to go to a contender, just wants a chance to win a ring. Yankees, Braves, Red Sox, Dodgers — the usual suspects.”

McLane:
“It's easy to say we want to change all these players, but most of them have no-trade contracts. You know where they want to go? They want to go to the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. They all want to go to the premier big show. They say, ‘Hey, I don't want to go to Baltimore or I don't want to go to Texas or I don't want to go to Arizona.' You know 'em as well as I do. They say, ‘I'm toward the end of my career. I want to go where I can win.'  ”

Yankees? No way. Red Sox? Maybe. Dodgers? Perhaps.

McLane:
“Now we need to rebuild the organization. Up until last year, we had teams we thought just needed one or two more players to make a big difference. That's why we would give up on minor league players to get a veteran we thought would move us forward. Now this is the new plan.”

So yes, Roy is forcing McLane to change his way of thinking. It sounds as though everybody should be up for grabs. Aside from Castro, most of the high-ceiling talent is between Corpus and Lexington, which means this is going to be painful, but it's no more painful than watching what is happening to this team. Roy may be a titty-baby, but McLane should have been willing to make these moves two years ago. The current state is on Drayton, Tal Smith, and Tim Purpura - Ed Wade has made some questionable moves, but ultimately it's Drayton and Tal behind the curtain.

If 2012 is the goal - or even 2013 - let's look at who can be beneficial to the club then:

Michael Bourn's Opening Day age will be 29 in 2012.
Hunter Pence will be 29
Tommy Manzella will be 29
Felipe Paulino will be 28
Wilton Lopez will be 28
Bud Norris will be 27
Sam Gervacio will be 27
Chris Johnson will be 27
Oswaldo Navarro will be 27

Down at Corpus:
Marcos Cabral will be 28
Doug Arguello will be 27
Chia-Jen Lo will be 26
Koby Clemens will be 25
Jon Gaston will be 25
Henry Villar will be 25
Jordan Lyles will be 21 (!)

Other notable projectable players for 2012 are Dallas Keuchel (will be 24), Brad Dydalewicz (22), Ross Seaton (22), Kyle Greenwalt (23), Jay Austin (21), T.J. Steele (25), Jack Shuck (25), Brandon Wikoff (24), Jose Altuve (22), Kody Hinze (24), Jiovanni Mier (21), J.D. Martinez (24).

Should the ML guys still be on the roster in two years? Will the above minor-leaguers make it to Houston? That's not my question. If we're looking at rebuilding, we need people who will be on their upswing in order to build a contender. That means the Astros will not be buyers at any point over the next two years. Carl Crawford won't be coming to Houston. Can you handle not being in on any free agent (such as they are) for the time being? I can. Just because this season is going to suck, doesn't mean it won't be interesting.

Berkman upbeat, realistic

So while I like that Berkman is standing up and being more vocal, his realism is even more impressive:

You know just how quickly it can turn around. As bad as this has been, it's still not as bad as the year we went to the World Series (2005), so we can make a comeback. I'm not saying we are going to go to the World Series, but we can certainly be better than we are, and I think we're going to be.”

And later, on Gerry Hunsicker:
“His track record speaks for itself; he's probably one of the most accomplished general managers in the game of baseball today. You saw what he was able to do here; he built not one but several championship-caliber teams. He's gone over there, has the right people in place and made some great moves. He drafted and signed me, so I think he's the greatest.”

Recap for G42: Astros v. Rays

See, Roy? It's not that hard. All you have to do is keep the other team from scoring more than two runs. Why can't you be more like Brett Myers, Roy?! Astros beat the Rays, 2-1.

Why They Won

Because of the pitching staff of Myers, Lyon, and Lindstrom. Really. The Rays were 0x12 w/RISP, and the defense took two Rays off the basepaths in the 5th - catching Zobrist stealing third and picking off Longoria at first.

Astros Pitching





NameIPH/ERK:BBPit-StrCS/SS
Myers76/0 (1R)7:4122-78 (63.9%)27/11
Lyon12/02:022-14 (63.6%)0/4
Lindstrom11/00:013-9 (69.2%)1/1


The Rays scored their only run of the game in the 1st inning - and I know what you were thinking. Something along the lines of, "Well. That's that." Zobrist's double (ah, former Astro Ben Zobrist. Forever linked to Aubrey Huff, and that's just sad.)

Myers threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 30 batters he faced, but let's look at the baserunners he allowed in each inning:

1st inning: 2 (0x2 w/RISP, 1R)
2nd inning: 2 (0x2 w/RISP)
3rd inning: 3 (0x1 w/RISP)
4th inning: 1 (0x2, sac w/RISP)
5th inning: 2 (0x2 w/RISP)
6th inning: 1 (0x1 w/RISP)
7th inning: 0

Lyon's inning was also impressive, but in the disaster-averted sense. With the Astros up 2-1, Lyon gave up a first-pitch single to Longoria, got Pena swinging, gave up a single to John Jaso (Jingleheimer-Schmidt). With runners on 1st/2nd, Lyon got Willy Aybar on another first pitch, and Reid Brignac swinging on a nine-pitch AB.

The Rays got their leadoff man on base in five innings, and scored one run.

Astros hitting

Still nothing really to speak of. The Astros were 6x30 with three walks (Berkman, Manzella, Myers). Your multi-hit game belongs to Jeff Keppinger, with an RBI for Keppinger on a single, scoring Cash in the 3rd. With Keppinger on first and Bourn on 3rd, Berkman struck out swinging to end the inning. In the 6th, Pence singled to center to score Keppinger - but after Lee had runners on 1st and 2nd, and grounded out to second. With Pence and Keppinger on base, Feliz popped out, Manzella walked, and Cash grounded out to third.

I know Manzella is only hitting .192 - and .146 in May. But he has been on base at least once in his last eight starts (4x20, 5BB).

And since we're keeping up with this, the Astros only saw 100 pitches. All night.

Pitch Count Hero: Keppinger (2x4) - 17 pitches in four PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Cash (1x3) - 6 pitches in three PAs.

Man of the Match: Brett Myers

Goat of the Game: Pedro Feliz (0x4 - 12 pitches). I don't know how much longer they can keep running Feliz out there, with his .536 OPS, and keep Chris Johnson in Round Rock.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Manzella hopes that he's not the problem

Trust me, dude, you're not the only one. Tommy Manzella gave an interview to NewOrleans.com:

"The losing has been tough. You hope that you are not letting veteran players down or your manager down. We have some good players here who will play better soon. We are better than our record indicates."

Writer Ken Trahan:
Manzella has always had tremendous defensive ability. It is simply a matter of contributing enough offensively that will determine whether his major league career is long and prosperous or short and forgettable. With his mature approach to the game and work ethic, Manzella appears poised to make his mother, father, Hannan and Tulane proud.

And the shoe drops

Roy Oswalt wants out.

McTaggart:
Astros general manager Ed Wade acknowledged Friday that Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, called owner Drayton McLane this week and requested that the three-time All-Star be traded. Oswalt has a no-trade clause, but he has previously said he would be willing to waive it to be traded to a contender.

Run-DMc:
"He didn't say we demand we trade him. He said, 'I'd like to you to think about it or consider it.' He didn't say Roy wanted to be traded or demanded it. He said, 'Why don't you think about that?' That was several days ago, and there has been absolutely no activity by myself, Ed or anyone else with the Houston Astros."

Wade:
"I just want to acknowledge the request has been made, but it really doesn't change anything on our end. We want to win with the guys who are here. And if, at some point in time, we feel it's appropriate to explore other possibilities, we'll do that. I'll maintain my policy to not talk about trades. We want to win with Roy here, but if at some point in time we feel it's appropriate to move in a different direction, we'll explore that. I'm going to put my tongue in my cheek again and say Roy's contract includes a no-trade clause, not a trade-me clause. There is no rule that allows a player in his contract status to demand a trade. Demand, request, hold your breath till you turn blue. It's all the same. It's acknowledged. Obviously, if Roy wants to be traded somewhere, he has a no-trade clause in his contract and would have some say in the final destination. Some say, not the complete say."

Blum:
"I don't know how these things work because I've never been in position to ask for a trade. But I'm sure he's got a lot of reasons why he's saying what he's saying and asking for what Roy asked for. As of right now I'm an Astro, and I want to be an Astro, so I'm going to play my heart out for the Astros."

(Ed Note: Whoa.)

Berkman:
"That's his deal. I really don't have anything to say."

Fallas notes that:
Oswalt did not make himself available pregame but did release a “no comment” through Astros spokeswoman Sally Gunter.

So this is a public acknowledgement of something we already knew, but it doesn't make it sting any less. With Roy five wins from the franchise lead (139, Dierker has 144), I would be very surprised if he became the franchise leader.

The Astros vs. the '62 Mets

I know. It's way too early to start comparisons between the Astros and what may be the worst team of all-time, the 1962 Mets (who went 40-120). So that's exactly what we're going to do.

After 41 games, the 2010 Astros are 14-27. After 41 games, the 1962 Mets were 12-29.

Team slash lines:
2010 Astros: .228/.274/.321
1962 Mets: .240/.318/.361

OPS+:
2010 Astros: 58
1962 Mets: 82

Hits/Game:
2010 Astros: 7.43
1962 Mets: 8.18

Runs/Game:
2010 Astros: 2.98
1962 Mets: 3.81

K:BB Ratio:
2010 Astros: 3.13
1962 Mets: 1.61

Cumulative Batter WAR:
2010 Astros: -4.7
1962 Mets: -3.4

Team ERA/WHIP:
2010 Astros: 4.14/1.38
1962 Mets: 5.04/1.50

Pitcher K:BB Ratio:
2010 Astros: 2.21
1962 Mets: 1.35

Team ERA+:
2010 Astros: 103
1962 Mets: 82

Team Fielding %:
2010 Astros: .982
1962 Mets: .967

So if we're looking at the different aspects of each team's game, the 1962 Mets incredibly have a better offense than the 2010 Astros do 25% of the way through the season. The Astros have already been shut out as many times (six) in 41 games as the Mets were in 160. The Astros have scored two or fewer runs in 51.2% of their games this season. The Mets scored two or fewer runs in 38.8% of their games.

The Astros pitching is holding it together, giving the 2010 Astros the nod over the 1962 Mets. But, depressingly, barely.

Wade: "Maybe you need to suck it up"

I'm starting to like this Ed Wade character. He's turned from a faceless, voiceless Dementor into a quotable face of the franchise (because Roy and Lance aren't too keen on being the face of this franchise). Seriously, has Wade been as chatty in the past as he is now?

Wade, on the "do-something" mentality (his quote):
"We're in a society where instant gratification is sort of the norm. It's got to happen now, and it's sort of the quote-unquote 'do something' mentality. I would rather us try to make smart decisions. Sometimes the smart decisions you make is, 'Hey, suck it up for a while.' That sends a message that we have faith and confidence in the rest of the guys here, but there is also accountability, and you need to step up and take advantage of the opportunities they're getting, whether veteran players or younger players. It's going to come down to the core guys here to step up and do what we know they're capable of doing."

Matsui may not be out of a job for long

Unbelievably, Kaz Matsui may be with another team soon, but after he clears waivers so they don't have to pay him his $5m. We'll take care of that, don't you worry.

Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweeted:
Talked to source tonight who said Rox would have interest in Matsui when he clears waivers. Makes sense for depth purposes.

Recapping yesterday's minor-league transactions

There was a lot going on in Eddie's Farm yesterday, so let's just get a recap:

Houston Astros
-Called up Oswaldo Navarro

Round Rock
-Assigned Erick Abreu, Sergio Perez, and Marcos Cabral to Round Rock from Corpus
-Placed Gary Majewski, Drew Meyer, and Sam Gervacio on the DL

Corpus
-Assigned Brian Wabick, Jonathan Fixler, and Barry Butera to Corpus from Lancaster
-Placed J.R. Towles on 7-Day DL

Lancaster
-Assigned Jordan Comadena to Lexington from Lancaster
-Activated Kyle Greenwalt from 7-Day DL

Eddie's Farm: May 20

Round Rock

Bud Norris had seriously better be nervous. Josh Banks throws yet another quality start and Chris Johnson brings the lumber, and the Express win 9-4 over Reno. Banks threw 6IP, 7H/2ER (3 total), 3K:3BB, while Roy Corcoran allowed a run in 2IP, while Erick Abreu struck out two in his Round Rock debut. That means Josh Banks has thrown quality starts in seven of his nine outings, and his only bad outing was against Omaha (5.1IP, 6ER), and Banks has allowed 6ER in his last 25.1IP. Chris Johnson, hitting 5th, was 4x4 with a triple, homer, and 4RBI. Every starter got at least one hit while Kata, DeLome, and Cabral (making his debut at SS) had two hits. Castro was 1x4 with an RBI.

Man of the Match: Chris Johnson

Corpus Christi

The Hooks took a 2-0 lead, and then nutted it in a 7-3 loss at San Antonio. Jared Wells threw 5IP, 5H/2ER, 5K:2BB while a bullpen of Wabick, Villar, and Payano allowed 6H/5ER, 1K:4BB in the final 3IP. Henry Villar, who had been untouchable, has allowed five earned runs in his last three outings (5IP). Jon Gaston hit his first homer of the season - accounting for the 2-0 lead - and got another hit while Clemens, Van Ostrand, Santangelo, and Fixler accounted for the other four hits. Gaston's starting to heat up, with an eight game hit streak, and has eleven hits in his last 30 ABs.

Man of the Match: Jon Gaston

Lancaster

A day after beating Rancho Cucamonga 9-2, it got flipped on Lancaster with a 10-2 loss. Kyle Greenwalt, fresh off the DL, allowed 6H/5ER (6 total), 3K:2BB, and a balk in 4.2IP. Mike Schurz had an unearned run in 1.1IP, and Leandro Cespedes gave up 3ER in 3IP. Mark Ori and Brandon Barnes had two hits (Barnes with a double and a homer), while Brandon Wikoff and Albert Cartwright had the errors.

Man of the Match: Brandon Barnes

Lexington

The Legends outhit Greensboro 12-11, but still lost 7-4. Jose Cisnero allowed 6H/6ER, 6K:3BB in 5IP for the loss, and Wander Alvino gave up 5H/1ER, 2K:0BB in 3IP. Six of the Legends' 12 hits came from J.D. Martinez (3x4) and Brian Kemp (3x5), while the Legends were 3x14 w/RISP, leaving 16 on base. Jose Altuve drew four walks.

Man of the Match: J.D. Martinez

Gerry Hunsicker is quite the diplomat

The Rays come to town to dominate the Astros this weekend, and it's a familiar sight for former GM Gerry Hunsicker. So what the heck happened?

“I would just say that, in all organizations, organizations are either successful or not successful because of the people that are in it. Not just one or two people. I guess I’ll just leave it at that. Having left five or six years ago and not being (in Houston), it’s hard for me to comment or speculate on what’s happened since.”

Your '77 Astros win again

Your Astros County-managed '77 Astros stopped the Cardinals:

"It’s actually Andujar who actually stops the St. Louis win streak at 11 with a tough 7+ innings. The Cards take a 1-0 lead in the 1st but a Terry Puhl double kicks off a big three-run rally in the 3rd that swings the game. Houston moves over .500 again and get this: they pass the Dodgers."

Record: 22-21
GB: 4

What? A hitting coach helped someone?

The Astros should fire that guy, then. Oswaldo Navarro credits Round Rock hitting coach Keith Bodie with turning him into a better offensive player.

Navarro:
“He helped me a lot, and I put up good numbers. Just mental, a little more concentration, and that helped me this time put up good numbers in AAA.”

In eight minor-league seasons, Navarro was a career .259/.330/.344 hitter, but in Round Rock (92 PAs, I know) he had been hitting .312/.418/.506 before getting called up.

Taveras working out in Houston

Yeah, because that's all we need. The Denver Post's Troy Renck is reporting that Willy Taveras is working out in Houston, and Yahoo Sports is saying that the Astros called him in for a workout.

Remember Taveras works out in Houston during the off-season, and while the Astros showed interest this winter, he still ended up signing with the Nationals. Taveras might be the one guy in baseball to make the Astros' offense worse. If Taveras is the answer, the question is all wrong.

Slight tinge of guilt works its way into Berkman's brain

And Lance Berkman feels kind of bad about what happened with Matsui.

Berkman:
"I feel like if I'm playing how I feel like I'm capable and the team is doing better, maybe something like that doesn't happen. I'm not saying that's the reality of the situation, but you certainly feel that way. The thing that stinks about the business of sports and just from a personal standpoint when the team doesn't do well and when you don't do well personally you feel responsible, not just for yourself, but for other people. It seems that kind of thing is certainly more prevalent when things aren't going the way everyone thinks they should. We all have a feeling of affection for Kaz, and I certainly feel bad and feel partly to blame for his release."

I'd say that's a valid feeling. But let's look at this a little more closely, because Matsui wasn't playing well, and got released. J.R. Towles was actually doing alright (offensively), and got sent down to Double-A. Towles had four extra-base hits in his 51 plate appearances, more than four Astros who have more PAs.

Bourn would be mad, too

Michael Bourn would be upset if he was Roy Oswalt, too:

"You feel for somebody like that, who's going out there and throwing hard and has been putting in all the work and not saying anything about it, but you know it hurts. I would be hurt if I were the ace and we weren't getting any runs behind him.

"He's got all the right to be mad if he wants to. He deserves to win. He should be 5-1, 6-1, easily, just like Lincecum and Halladay. We've just got to put up some runs for him. You give him a comfortable lead, two or three runs, and he doesn't have to be as fine. He doesn't think he has to do this and do that and can just go out there and pitch."

Gervacio's DL stint is same old, same old

Zach Levine is tweeting that Gervacio's DL stint is due to a flare-up of the same shoulder injury that sent him to the DL for the first time this year.

Recap for G41: Astros v. Rockies

It's one thing to go into a game and think, "Yeah, they might get no-hit." It's another thing to believe it, and then it almost happen. Astros lose 4-0.

Why They Lost

Because the Astros are 1-7 when facing the opposing team's ace (and that's subjective, I know). But the offense didn't get anything - the only hit they got off Jimenez was an infield single to third that could have been counted as an error. And even that was the only hit they got until Manzella's infield single in the 8th. So when Roy makes one bad pitch and Troy Tulowitzki tattoos it - ESPN says it was 414 feet - to left and makes it a 3-0 game, that's all there is to it.

Astros Pitching






NameIPH/ERK:BBPit-StrCS/SS
Oswalt63/2 (3R)8:3106-73 (68.9%)29/8
Chacin13/11:030-19 (63.3%)3/3
Lopez10/00:07-5 (71.4%)0/0
Fulchino10/02:330-13 (43.3%)2/1


That's Roy's ninth straight complete game, and he now has a 2.66 ERA. So...bummer for him. He did throw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 25 batters. There were two errors made in the game - one by Oswalt himself on a catch that allowed Carlos Gonzalez to reach first and later score on that homer.

Oswalt needed 33 pitches to get through the first inning, and four of the six batters in the first saw a first-pitch ball.

2nd inning: 8 pitches
3rd inning: 22 pitches
4th inning: 9 pitches
5th inning: 12 pitches
6th inning: 22 pitches

The 3-4-5 of Helton/Tulowitzki/Hawpe were 6x10 with 4BB and 4RBI.

What's up with Fulchino? Needed thirty pitches to get his three outs, only threw 13 strikes, and walked the bases loaded before getting Tulowitzki to strike out looking.

Astros hitting

If we didn't have an "Astros hitting" section, would anyone notice? They were 3x28 on the night, and only drew two walks (Berkman and, unbelievably, Feliz). And again, the impatience at the plate is stunning. The Astros only saw 120 pitches all night - compared to 173 by the Rockies (six walks help.)

Check this: Hunter Pence has walked once this month, and that was on May 1. So he's had one walk in his last 82 plate appearances, dating back to April 27.

As a team, the Astros have drawn 79 walks. All season. One per 18.4 plate appearances.

Pitch Count Hero: Feliz (1x2, BB) - 17 pitches in three PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Pence (0x3) and Manzella (1x3) - 11 pitches in three PAs.

Man of the Match: Roy Oswalt, I suppose.

Goat of the Game: Everybody gets a goat. There's no way to just single out one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mitch Einertson got a job

And he'll be playing with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League.

More Tranzactionz

Captip to Farmstros for the further minor-league updates, because now we can see that, in addition to the earlier transactions...

Erick Abreu, Marcos Cabral, and Sergio Perez have been sent from Corpus to Round Rock, while Jonathan Fixler was sent to Corpus from Lexington.

This is also due to Gary Majewski, Drew Meyer and Sam Gervacio being placed on the DL at Round Rock.

Butera and Wabick promoted

Barry Butera and Brian Wabick have been called up to Corpus from Lancaster today. Butera was the Astros' 21st Round draft pick last year. Wabick was drafted in 34th Round in 2007.

We also learn that Jordan Comadena was sent down from Lancaster to Lexington, and that Kyle Greenwalt has been activated off the 7-Day DL.

Another Mock Draft!

Inside Pulse's Eugene Tierney has a mock draft for you. Where does he see the Astros looking at #8?

SS Christian Colon - Cal State Fullerton
The Astros have taken a few HS shortstops in the last 20 years; he’s the best available player for them.

And at #19?
2B Levon Washington - Chipola
Could be a quick mover and the Astros need the help.

And at #33?
LHP Sammy Solis - San Diego
Solis is a decent pitcher who will move quickly, which is what the Astros need.

New Poll! Sugar Land team name


Lineup for G41: Astros v. Rockies

McTaggart has your lineup for tonight's G41 vs. Ubaldo Jimenez and Colorado:

CF Michael Bourn
2B Jeff Keppinger
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
RF Hunter Pence
3B Pedro Feliz
SS Tommy Manzella
C Humberto Quintero
RHP Roy Oswalt

Wade: Nothing's off-limits

Jayson Stark's new Rumblings & Grumblings discusses the oft-told story of the Astros thinking about trading somebody, but never doing it.

Stark:
But GM Ed Wade tells Rumblings that McLane has never told the baseball operation that any kind of trade is off limits if it can make the Astros better.

Wade:
"We want to win with the group we have now. But if, at some point, it looks like that's not possible, we have to pay attention to any opportunity that makes us better. And if that means we have to look in a different direction, so be it."

But..but...it'll be the end of an era!
"I'm not sure it's my position to necessarily get bogged down in eras. I always say the glory years of the Astros coincided with Craig Biggio hitting the home run off Billy Wagner in 2005 (that launched the Astros to the wild card and, eventually, the World Series). But all that home run did for me was hasten my departure in Philadelphia. So it's safe to say I have a slightly different perspective than other people here."

Best Wade quote ever.

Oooh! Eat that, Roy!

Richard Justice thought he would be happy when Matsui was released. But he's not (I still am.). And he's not happy about a lot of stuff...

The Astros are losing at every level of the minor leagues, so it's not easy to be optimistic. But even if they stocked the big league rosters with journeymen and young guys, they probably wouldn't be worse than they are now.

At least those guys would act like they're happy to be here. I'm sick and tired of guys making $15 million to play the greatest game on earth to walk around ticked off all the time.

The Astros could get a player or two for Roy Oswalt between now and then trading deadline. It's time to get going. Likewise, Lance Berkman, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez...

Fans can say they don't want to rebuild, but there's no other way. Even the most dramatic rebuilding program won't be as bad as watching this club.


I totally agree with all of this.

The Lancaster Effect

Hey, so it's a slow news day, after the sigh of relief that came with Matsui's release. Let's see how those heavy hitters from the '09 Lancaster team are faring in Corpus. A couple of things to note:
-The players selected are only players who played 100+ games at Lancaster in 2009.
-I realize there is a period of adjustment, so let's reserve judgment on these stats and understand that we're dealing with 100-150 ABs at the Double-A level. Let's just call this a guide...












NameTeamAvg/OBP/SLGXBH/HK:BB
Clemens09LAN.345/.419/.6360.52.14
Clemens10CC.259/.350/.5400.522.39
Gaston09LAN.278/.367/.5980.562.14
Gaston10CC.217/.290/.3040.283.00
Steele09LAN.345/.385/.5620.364.44
Steele10CC.233/.263/.2880.177.17
Cabral09LAN.298/.358/.4610.351.75
Cabral10CC.284/.333/.3790.261.71
Shuck09LAN.315/.389/.4140.240.86
Shuck10CC.284/.354/.3560.211.67

Kody Hinze is your Player of the Week

Missed this from a couple of days ago, but Kody Hinze became the second Eddie's Farmhand to win minor-league Player of the Week honors last week.

Legends' GM Andy Shea:
"We're extremely proud of Kody for his accomplishments on and off the field. We're glad to have him with us, and happy to see him get recognized for his performance."

Eddie's Farm: May 19

Round Rock

Off.

Corpus Christi

The Hooks only got five hits, and scored their lone run in the 9th inning on a T.J. Steele RBI single in a 5-1 loss to San Antonio. Jeremy Johnson allowed 5H/3ER, 0K:1BB in 4IP to drop his record to 0-3. Erik Stiller made his debut, giving up a hit and a walk in 2IP. Edwin Walker allowed three walks and an unearned run in 1IP, and Danny Meszaros put up ones (1IP, 1H/1ER, 1K:1BB). The five hits came from five different Hooks, with Jon Gaston getting the only XBH - a triple.

Man of the Match: Welcome to Corpus, Erik Stiller!

Lancaster

The JetHawks rapped out 13 hits and Shane Wolf went 7IP, 5H/2ER, 5K:3BB for the 9-2 win over Rancho Cucamonga. Ashton Mowdy got the last six outs, allowing no runs, one hit and two walks. Albert Cartwright was 3x4 with a double and two triples, while Freddy Parejo, Mark Ori, and Raul Conteras each had two hits/two RBI. Barry Butera committed his first two errors of the season.

Man of the Match: Albert Cartwright

Lexington

Lexington had a 5-3 lead, and then a 4-run Greenville 5th inning pretty much took care of that, and the Legends lost 9-5, despite Greenville Knoblauchs committing SIX errors (five throwing, one fielding). The Legends only scored one unearned run, probably because they felt bad. The pitching staff was atrocious. Juan Minaya gave up 3H/3ER, 3K:4BB in 3IP, but the bullpen of Luis Cruz, Arcenio Leon, Colton Pitkin, and Jose Trinidad gave up 6H/6ER, 4K:6BB in 4.1IP. To be fair, Trinidad threw 1.2IP, 1H/0ER, 0K:1BB. The Legends were 3x16 w/RISP, and Jose Altuve (3x5) and Jake Goebbert (2x4) had your multi-hit games. Our boy Aaron Bray was 1x4.

Man of the Match: Jose Altuve

People in Denver are not happy

In the wake of last night's win over the Rockies, all hell is breaking loose in Denver.

The Denver Daily News' Daniel Williams:
And besides the Astros basically stinking for most the past decade, they are brilliant against the Rockies. Colorado has now lost 24 of 32 games to the Astros since 2000.

Denver Post's Troy Renck:
It's one thing to lose games, but deploying air bags against some of baseball's worst is costly and troubling.

2000-2009 Astros' record: 832-787
2000-2009 Rockies' record: 769-852

I'm not being snarky, but maybe Daniel Williams should re-adjust his time frame. "stinking for most of the last three years" I'm fine with. Last decade, I'm not so fine with.

McTaggart's notes

McTaggart's Notes column has a few things of note.

-Bud Norris is expected to pitch on Sunday, after taking that line drive off the elbow.

Norris:
"It started to swell up, but I wanted to keep pitching and try to help my team. [Mills] gave me an opportunity, and he said, 'Are you OK?' And I said, 'I'm OK.' In retrospect, I'm glad I stayed out there and battled the best I could."

-Sean Berry is worried. About the offense. About his job.

Berry:
"Every day is brand new, and I always put a lot of pressure on myself to keep my focus and make sure I'm not missing anything," he said. You try to cover everything. There's no way you point to one thing. It's a tough thing to do, to be a professional hitter at this level. It's difficult, and you're going to go through these things, I don't care how good they are. Hopefully they don't last every long. This one has lasted longer than we hoped but they'll get better."

Bidding adieu to Matsui

Of course the biggest story of the night is that of the Astros deciding to part ways with Kaz Matsui, and purchased the contract of Round Rock SS Oswaldo Navarro.

Ed Wade:
"Obviously, it’s never easy to talk to a player at this point in the season about an unconditional release, particularly somebody who has conducted himself with the level of professionalism that Kaz has here. We had great respect for the way Kaz went about his business here. Unfortunately, this year and for parts of last year, his performance hasn’t been what we expected or what we saw when he hit .293 in 2008 for us."

Matsui:
"I’m just going to keep myself doing exercise and keep my body fresh. I could be on a great team with great fans, and I could play in an environment with good teammates and good fans in a good city. I had a really good time, and it was my pleasure."

Wade, on Navarro:
"Even though he’s been in pro ball for what seems like forever, he’s only 25 years old, so we think there’s an upside with Ozzie that we can take advantage of."

Matsui's level of awfulness not only led to his unemployment, but also his translator's - Yoshitaka Ono was relieved of his duties, as well.

There's lots of reaction to the Matsui release, so let's get that in here.

Alyson Footer:
With Jeff Keppinger performing as well as he is and giving Brad Mills no reason to take him out of the lineup, there was really no justifiable reason to keep Kaz Matsui on the roster...Will this make the difference between the Astros contending or continuing to lose? Probably not. But it's a step, one that was necessary given the current state of the club.

Brian McTaggart:
Keppinger isn't the long-term answer at second, but he's certainly earned a shot now that Matsui is out of the picture. Matsui, although the utmost professional, will be viewed as a huge bust in Houston after signing a three-year $16.5-deal to replace Biggio. Matsui played well in 2008 but couldn't stay on the field. He played a career-high 132 games in 2009, but didn't play well. This year, he just looked like he was washed up.

Zach Levine:
In economic terms, the Astros' release of Kaz Matsui wasn't exactly just jettisoning a sunk cost, as real costs will involve Oswaldo Navarro's contract and whether or not a team picks up Matsui for the prorated minimum salary. But it was close.

Levine is absolutely correct, of course. Matsui signed a three-year, $15m contract with a $1.5m signing bonus. If we just count the $5m owed him over the 122 games left to play this season, the Astros will pay Matsui $3,765,408 to not be on the roster. And that's something I can handle.

There was just no reason to prolong this. With his .352 OPS, his OPS+ was -4. I don't think I've ever seen that. If you look at all of Ed Wade's moves, the worst one - even worse than the Tejada deal - was this Matsui signing. It didn't work out, and I just wish it had happened sooner.

Recap for G40: Astros v. Rockies

Okay, first things first. Jeff Keppinger was The Man for the Astros, and Felipe Paulino allowed seven baserunners (five by walks) in 6IP in a 7-3 win over Colorado.

Why They Won

Because even though the Astros were only 4x15 w/RISP, Jeff Keppinger made his 1AB count - and five of the Astros' runs came with two outs.

Astros Pitching






NameIPH/ERK:BBPit-StrCS/SS
Paulino62/24:5100-57 (57%)17/8
Sampson11/11:118-12 (66.7%)5/3
Lyon12/00:018-12 (66.7%)2/1
Lindstrom11/01:09-7 (77.8%)2/1


So this is obviously encouraging to see from Paulino - the only thing is those walks. In the 1st and 4th innings, Paulino walked batters consecutively, and after recording the first out of the inning. Paulino started 13 of 24 batters out with a first-pitch strike, but only five of those ABs continued on to a 2-0 count.

Big bummer was that of Paulino's record. He left with a 3-2 lead - only the second time this season that Paulino has left with a lead - and Chris Sampson served up a Clint Barmes homer to tie the game and give Paulino the No Decision. Paulino has only left his start with a lead five times since the beginning of 2009, and has two wins.

Astros hitting

Let's check out Jeff Keppinger's ABs, shall we?

1st inning: 0 out, Bourn on 1st, Keppinger takes a first-pitch for an RBI double to left-center
2nd inning: Not an official AB. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Manzella was picked off third base to end the inning.
3rd inning: Leadoff 1-1 single to left
5th inning: Leadoff 1-1 flyout to left
7th inning: Leadoff 1-0 flyout to center
8th inning: Bases loaded, two outs, 3-1 double to deep left, 3 RBIs.

That's nice. The Astros win by four runs, and Keppinger drives in four.

And check out the big bat of Carlos Lee! He was 1x4, but hit his 5th homer of the season, and of May. Lee is now 5x12 in his last four games, with three homers and five RBI.

Let's also give it up for Tommy Manzella, who was 2x4 (albeit with that pickoff on 3rd), and also reached on an error.

Pitch Count Hero: Berkman (1x5) - 25 pitches in five PAs
Pitch Count Punk: Manzella (2x4) - 10 pitches in four PAs.

Man of the Match: This one goes to Jeff Keppinger.

Goat of the Game: It's hard to give a Goat to a guy who drew one of the two walks, got a hit, an RBI, and scored a run, but this goes to Michael Bourn. Bourn was 0x2 w/RISP and ended the inning three times.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A change (might) gonna come

Of course Ed Wade didn't give any specifics, or even vaguaries, but changes may be brewing.

Levine:
While not suggesting any major changes and not going into specifics on the minor leaguers who could be called up in the near future, Wade said the club might try something as it tries to free itself from last place.

Wade:
“I do think there are some moves we can make coming out of AAA, but when you look at where we are right now, the primary struggles that we're faced with are not solved by some of the moves that would be readily available from AAA...There are no replacement 3-4-5 hole hitters at Round Rock. We need the guys who are here in the middle to do what they're capable of doing, and they're beginning to show signs of doing that."

On Manzella:
“We're going to continue to give Tommy opportunities here until we get to a point where we think it's unproductive or counterproductive for the club."

Matsui, you're on notice. Wade is disappointed. And, frankly, so are we.

Towles out for four weeks

Jeebus, Towles. Brian McTaggart is tweeting that J.R. Towles has broken his hand, and will be out at least four weeks.

Wrapping up Jim Callis' chat

Baseball America's Jim Callis held a big ol' chat today. What did he say about the Astros? Not much...

Q: With a horrid farm system and 3 picks in the top 40, is this the year the Astros finally take at least one high upside player that may require an over slot bonus?

Callis: The Astros typically don't go much over slot, though they did a couple of years ago for Ross Seaton in the third round. With extra picks necessitating more dollars, that usually makes a club less likely to exceed slot.

Astros sign P Erik Stiller

Corpus

May 18: P Matt Nevarez placed on 7-Day DL with an unspecified injury
May 18: P Erik Stiller assigned to Corpus from Houston

This would lead me to believe that the Astros had signed pitcher Erik Stiller, who has pitched the last two seasons for Cleveland's Double-A team in Akron. Ohio.com is reporting that the Indians had released Stiller five days ago. Stiller was 1-0 in eight appearances for the Aeros, striking out 12 and walking three. He had a 3.86 ERA and an even 1.00 WHIP.

He has a career 3.58 ERA / 1.17 WHIP in 291.2IP, with a 2.79 K:BB ratio.

Round Rock

May 17: Michael Garciaparra assigned to Round Rock from Corpus Christi

Lancaster

May 17: Released C Jose Lopez

Lexington

May 19: Placed Dan Sarisky on the 7-Day DL with an unspecified injury
May 19: Assigned P Luis Cruz to Lexington from Greeneville

Sugar Land, Meet Your New Baseball Stadium

Hey, Sugar Land, want to see what your new stadium looks like?

Planners have yet to map out an exact location for the facility among three possible sites, but are leaning toward a tract leased from the University of Houston System at U.S. 59 and University Boulevard.

Brooks Robinson, a partner in the operating Opening Day Partners, said this about the impact on the Astros:
“We’re talking about a 7,000-seat stadium here. As far as having an impact on the Houston Astros, I don’t think it’s going to make a difference."

So what should the team be called? I vote for the "Sugar Land Killer Bees."

Let's get some chatter about the name, vote on it, and submit it as a proposal, all of us together.

Mock Draft!

Frankie Piliere (former Rangers scout and national writer for FanHouse) has your latest Top 10 projections in the June draft. Where are the Astros looking at #8?

OF Michael Choice, UT-Arlington

No team in the top 10 has been as tight-lipped about its intentions as the Houston Astros. A college bat seems logical here; I don't see them grabbing a high school arm. If (Arkansas 3B Zack) Cox is available I can see them going there. It's hard to see Choice sliding any further than this spot.

And here's your daily dose of depression

Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein has this Insider-Only rundown of Eddie's Farm:

Pirates and Royals fans think they have it bad, and their long-term history of losing seasons is worthy of their misery, but if one were to take a snapshot right now, and ignore the past, no team in baseball has a more bleak future than the Houston Astros...

Even the one player who was expected to help in 2010, catcher Jason Castro, likely will not be ready anytime soon. The 2008 first-round pick ended up more than a bit overrated coming into the year, based on a somewhat fortunate showing at the high-octane environment of Lancaster in the California League. During the second half of 2009, his lack of true power was exposed, and that trend has continued into 2010, as he's batting a strange .260/.389/.298 for Round Rock. Plate discipline has always been a strong point, but he has no above-average tools. Like all catchers, Castro is not a runner, but his line-drive swing has led to just four extra-base hits in 30 games for the Express, all of them doubles, and scouts don't see him hitting more than 10-12 homers per season long term, while his defense, like the rest of his game, is solid, yet unspectacular.

Is this guy reading the same thing we are?

The site MLBCenter has the following on Roy:

This is his 10th season as a major league pitcher, and during that time has won 20 games twice. He pitches for the Houston Astros and has done so his entire career. This year he has decided to continue down that path by telling the organization the he does not plan on opting for another team. His loyalty comes after losing a couple of well pitched games due to a lack of run support. He faced the infamous Lincecum recently and was denied a victory regardless of having pitched 7 solid innings of 2 run ball. Overall this year, Oswalt has started in 8 games in which he’s accumulated a record of 2-5 with a great ERA of 2.62. This is a result of pitching for a team that is simply not winning baseball games with the bat. The Astros are on a 4 game losing streak and are at the bottom of the National League Central standings. They are also the worst hitting team in baseball with a dismal batting average of .227. Yet, Oswalt has expressed his desires to stay with the team and help them build a future winner.

I'm with them up until the last line...

Eddie's Farm: May 18

Round Rock

The Express beat the Sky Sox 12-9, completing the game that was suspended Tuesday night. But then, in last night's game, the Express scored three runs in the top of the 9th to tie it at 10-10, but T.J. Burton takes the loss as he allows three hits and a walk in 0.1IP. It's not like anyone pitched well. Wesley Wright gave up 6ER in 3IP (including 0K:5BB). Evan Englebrook gave up 3ER in 3IP. Jonah Bayliss allowed 1ER in 2IP. The Express got six doubles, with Matt Kata going 3x5 and Yordany Ramirez getting two hits and 4RBI. Jason Castro was 1x3 with 2BB. In this series @ Colorado Springs, the Express outscored the Sky Sox 46-36.

Man of the Match: Yordany Ramirez

Corpus Christi

It's almost like a captip from God that Jordan Lyles seems to pitch on nights that Bud Norris pitches. Lyles needed 95 pitches to throw a complete game, 4H/1ER, 5K:1BB outing on his way to a 3-1 win over San Antonio. Jack Shuck and German Duran were 2x4 and Koby Clemens was 1x4 with a homer and three strikeouts.

Man of the Match: Jordan Lyles

Lancaster

Brad Dydalewicz had a much-needed solid outing and the JetHawks beat Rancho Cucamonga 4-2. Dydalewicz threw 5IP, 5H/2R (1ER), 4K:2BB to lower his ERA to 9.11. Mike Modica, Brian Wabick, and David Berner combined for 4IP, 3H/0ER, 4K:0BB. JHay Austin, Freddy Parejo, and Mark Ori were each 2x4, with Ori getting two RBI and Brandon Barnes hitting a solo homer.

Man of the Match: Mark Ori

Lexington

Lexington scored the first three runs of the game, and then held on for a 4-2 win over Greenville for their 7th win in their last nine games. Robby Donovan threw 6IP, 3H/0ER, 8K:1BB. Zach Grimmett gave up two solo homers in 2IP, and Kirk Clark got his 5th save of the season. Kody Hinze was once again the story of the offense, hitting two homers for three RBI. Jose Altuve and Miguel Arrendell stole their 11th and 5th bases of the season, respectively.

Man of the Match: Kody Hinze

Byrdak working his way back

Tim Byrdak will throw a full bullpen session today, two days after throwing 20 fastballs.

Mills sure is having Manzella take a lot of breaths

Little article on Manzella's progress (such as it is) at the plate, and what he's been doing the last two games while not being the starting shortstop.

Manzella:
“I'm not one of those who believe things are just going to fix themselves. You have to put in the work. If my swing is not feeling right, I want to take whatever amount of swings I can to get it to where it's starting to feel short and quick.”

Mills:
“We've had two really good days of extra hitting with Tommy. And I think (Tuesday) especially was a really good session. He will be in there (today against Colorado), but this was just a chance for him to take a breath, do a lot of work at the plate, do some things, and hopefully, it will play out down the road for Tommy.”

More Manzella:
“You have to keep being a realist; I'm not an offensive prodigy, so I'm not going to come up and hit the best pitching in the world right away. Not to be discouraged by it, but the reasons these pitchers are in the big leagues is because they are the best at what they do.

“So for me to come up, I have to figure out the adjustment I have to make and what type of hitter I need to be at the major league level to be successful. And I've done that; I've figured out what kind of hitter I needed to be at the (Class) AAA level and the AA level. … I don't expect this to be an adjustment I am not going to be able to make.”

Blame it on the line drive

Bud Norris took a line drive off his throwing elbow in the 3rd inning, which explains something, but not the three-run first:

“It started to tighten up, but I wanted to stay out there and help my team, pitch as long as I could. I battled through it as best as I could.”

Recap for G39: Astros @ Dodgers

Good grief. Bud Norris: Who are you? Norris doesn't get out of the 5th - after the Astros had tied the game up at 3-3 - and the Astros lose 7-3 for their fifth straight loss. Since the 8-2 stretch following the eight-game losing streak at the beginning of the season, the Astros are 5-16.

Why They Lost

Because Norris is having trouble against everybody (except St. Louis. We know.) I'm not sure what the expectation is for a pitcher who has made 17 total starts. And maybe if I did, this would be a little more explainable. Maybe for a team playing like the Astros are, everything is amplified.

Astros Pitching






NameIPH/ERK:BBPit-StrCS/SS
Norris4.17/63:375-47 (62.7%)17/5
Moehler1.20/00:225-14 (56%)6/0
Lopez10/02:012-7 (58.3%)5/1
Fulchino12/10:022-13 (59.1%)6/1


Norris hasn't made it out of the 5th in three of his four starts in May, and this was his shortest outing - by pitch count - of the season. Norris got into real trouble in the 1st when, after two quick outs, he walked Manny, gave up a double to Kemp, a first-pitch single to Loney, and a single to Blake. Four straight batters reach, three runs score. Then it evened out, a sac fly in the 4th (with an OF assist by Pence/Quintero getting Blake at second to end the inning.) His problems started again with the 5th - walking Kuroda (for God's sake), allowing a first-pitch single to Russell Martin, a sac to Xavier Paul, and a two-run single to Manny. All three batters that Norris walked scored.

After the Dodgers going 4x4, batters this season swinging at Norris' first pitch are hitting .765 (13x17).

Another troubling trend is that of Jeff Fulchino. After giving up the homer to Casey Blake, Fulchino has allowed runs in three straight outings.

Astros hitting

Thanks to Carlos Lee's homer, the Astros have nine extra-base hits in their last five games. That's not good. But we do need to recognize that the Astros were down 3-0, and came back to tie it up - all thanks to Carlos Lee. Lee hit a homer (his 4th) to left in the 2nd, and then a two-out, two-run single to tie the game. Immediately after, Pence got an infield single to load the bases, and Pedro Feliz grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

Bourn, Keppinger, and Lee had six of the Astros eight hits. Berkman, once again, drew the only walk, and your Astr0-fers are: Berkman (0x3, BB), Feliz (0x4), Matsui (0x4). Matsui's OPS is now .352. There are four players in baseball with higher batting averages than Matsui's OPS.

Pitch Count Hero: Lee (2x4) - 20 pitches in four PAs.
Pitch Count Punk: Feliz and Matsui (both 0x4) - 12 pitches in four PAs.

Man of the Match: Easy. Carlos Lee.

Goat of the Game: So many to choose from, but we're going with Bud Norris, who didn't reward the offense for battling to tie the game up early.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mills a favorite to get canned

The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton is saying that the "betting co-favorites" to get canned next are Dave Trembley and Brad Mills:

The betting co-favorites for the next to go are Dave Trembley of the Orioles and Brad Mills of the Astros at 4-1. That seems harsh regarding Mills, who is in his first year as the Astros’ manager.

Yeah. That does seem harsh. I'll kick a dog if Brad Mills gets fired.

Oswalt's BFF: Oswalt won't be in Houston long

Jake Peavy, who knows a thing or two about being the ace on a rough-looking team, and is also Roy's BFF (they apparently talked on the phone Monday night), doesn't think Roy will be in Houston long:

"We'll see what happens with him. It's pretty inevitable he's going to be moved off of a tough situation. They have some holes to fill and trading him will help that organization and be a better situation for him...

...It would be nice to play with him, no doubt about that. I wish him the best. He has a lot left in the tank."

This cannot be made up, but it's pretty funny

Yesterday, Buffalo Wild Wings announced that they were the Official Wings of the Houston Astros.

Today their stock is down 1.3%.

Sugar Land gets Atlantic League team

(Captip to Zach Levine for the link)

So Sugar Land will be getting a baseball team, and they'll join the independent Atlantic League. They don't know what they'll be called, but as to where they'll play:

The city is assessing sites for the stadium. One site being considered is at U.S. 59 and University Boulevard where the city leases land from the University of Houston System at Sugar Land.

Shuck earns Player of the Week honors

Yeah, that about sums it up. Jack Shuck earned Corpus' first Texas League Player of the Week award since 2007:

In six games this past week, Shuck batted .407 (11-27) with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 runs and 7 RBIs. He also stole one base and went 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Shuck is currently riding a season-best nine-game hitting streak in which he is 16-for-39 (.410).

Eddie's Farm: May 17

Round Rock

Sleet and hail and cold and war and plague suspended the Express/Sky Sox game last night with two outs in the top of the 8th, and Express runners on first and second. Drew Locke had a three-run homer, while Shelton hit a two-run jack. The game will be completed at 6:05 Central time tonight, and the last game of the series will begin 30 minutes after that game has ended.

Corpus

Come on. Nelson Payano gave up a walk-off homer to San Antonio's Matt Clark for a 1-0 win over Corpus. Tyler Lumsden threw 7IP, 5H/0ER, 4K:1BB to lower his ERA to 2.39. The Hooks were 0x10 w/RISP, leaving seven on base, striking out 12 times and not drawing a walk (I realize there's an organizational philosophy here, but it doesn't have to be "Don't Walk.") Jhon Florentino and Lou Santangelo both had two hits - and both had doubles. Shuck, Gaston, and Clemens each had a hit, but Gaston was 1x4 w/3Ks.

Man of the Match: Tyler Lumsden

Lancaster

Lancaster followed Corpus' lead, only Lake Elsinore scored their run in the 1st inning, and the JetHawks only managed to scratch out two hits. Lancaster wastes Keuchel's effort and loses 1-0. Dallas Keuchel threw a complete game, 8IP, 6H/1ER, 11K:1BB. He has allowed 10H/1ER, 15K:3BB in his last 17IP. Brandon Barnes and Brandon Wikoff got the only two hits, while Jay Austin went 0x4 with 4Ks.

Man of the Match: Dallas Keuchel

Lexington

David Duncan and the Legends' bullpen were excellent, shutting out Greenville 4-0. Duncan threw 5IP, 1H/0ER, 4K:0BB in his season debut while Wander Alvino allowed 2H/2BB in 2IP, and Jose Trinidad threw 2IP, 1H/0ER. J.D. Martinez was 3x5 with a double, and Jake Goebbert and Kody Hinze both had two hits. Jose Altuve and Hinze both hit solo homers (Altuve's 2nd, Hinze's 10th), and Hinze added another RBI for his 40th. Hinze and Martinez are 1-2 for the SAL lead in RBIs, and Hinze's homer put him back on top.

Man of the Match: Kody Hinze

Recap for G38: Astros @ Dodgers

Hm. John Ely, making his 4th start of his career, made the Astros look stupid, striking out eight, walking none, and going a season-high 7IP. Wandy, on the other hand, allowed four runs - though just one earned, and the Astros lose 6-2, following up a four-game win streak with four straight losses.

Why They Lost

Two reasons: The Astros can't hit, and Jeff Keppinger's catching "error" that led to three unearned runs in the bottom of the first. When the Astros are behind at the beginning of the second inning, they are 3-11. Second base umpire Phil Cuzzi (whom we know has 20/200 eyesight) called Manny safe after determining that Keppinger had taken his foot off the bag.

Astros Pitching





NameIPH/ERK:BBPit-StrCS/SS
Wandy6.27/1 (4R)1:2100-68 (68%)24/7
Sampson0.10/00:03-2 (66.7%)0/0
Lyon12/21:120-11 (55%)3/2


And so. Through eight starts in 2010, Wandy has done the following:
46IP, 56H/22ER (30R), 27K:14BB, 4.30 ERA/1.52 WHIP

Through eight starts in 2009, Wandy did the following:
52IP, 37H/11ER (12R), 48K:15BB, 1.90 ERA/1.00 WHIP

And Brandon Lyon's 2ER were the first runs he had allowed since April 17 - a span of 12 appearances.

Astros hitting

The Astros were 6x32 with no walks - for the tenth time in 38 games. Two of their hits were courtesy of Jeff Keppinger, while Berkman and Feliz got the RBIs on the night. Berkman scored Bourn on an RBI single in the first and Lee ended the inning with a GIDP, and Ely proceeded to get the next ten Astros in a row (striking out six in that span) until Pence singled - and later scored on Feliz' single.

There just isn't much to write about that doesn't involve horrific blandness about the Astros' offense. Except for after the top of the first, the Astros weren't ever within two runs of the Dodgers. They had 3ABs that could have tied the game, but nothing that could have given them the lead.

Pitch Count Hero: Bourn (1x4) - 22 pitches in four PAs.
Pitch Count Punk: Blum (0x3) - 9 pitches in three PAs.

Man of the Match: Do we have to? Michael Bourn, I guess. Keppinger got on base twice, but also made the error that allowed three runs to score. Bourn also had an outfield assist that nailed Manny at home.

Goat of the Game: Carlos Lee? How many other teams have cleanup hitters with a .533 OPS?

Monday, May 17, 2010

This Alvin Reid has some definitive statements

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat's Alvin Reid has some bold statements for you, most of them of the "OMG! The Holy Cardinals Are Behind the Reds!" variety. But then he sets his sights on the rest of the NL Central:

The Cardinals will win the division, I’m still quite convinced.

The Reds’ young pitchers will most likely fade as the summer heat takes its toll. The Milwaukee Brewers are on the way down, not up. The Chicago Cubs had one of baseball’s easiest schedules during the first six weeks of the season and have done nothing with it.

Look for Lou Piniella to be out of work – probably by choice – by the All-Star Break in July.

The Pirates and Houston Astros are dreadful. Don’t let the sweep of the Cardinals fool you, the Astros will hold a fire-sale and unload what few stars are left on the roster come midseason...

...If you told me that the Cardinals would be a half-game out of first place on May 17 I would have told you that you were crazy.


Poor guy, just doesn't know how to handle expectations...

Do you like Buffalo Wild Wings? The Astros do

Hey, so it turns out that Buffalo Wild Wings have the preferred wings of the Houston Astros.

Says Maury Brown:
Following Friday and Saturday night home games, Buffalo Wild Wings is offering special food discounts for all patrons wearing Astros gear. After every Sunday afternoon home game, Buffalo Wild Wings is offering special food discounts for all families wearing Astros gear.

Sit down, and let Grandpa tell you a story

Larry Dierker's new article today has some things that you need to remember, young'un:

When I got the manager's job with the Astros in 1997, I often said I didn't want to simply do what everyone else was doing, but do it better. Instead, I wanted to do what everyone else was going to do next, but do it first. I didn't want to use my mop-up men in the bullpen. So I tried to push the starters deeper into the game. Since most hitters of recent vintage have no clue what contact hitting means, I hardly ever employed the hit-and-run play. I did encourage practically every one of our players to steal on their own. But -- and this is a very big but -- I told our hitters to hit away when a runner was stealing. "You're only going to get that fat pitch a few times in a game," I said. "If you get it, swing! Forget the runner!" You'd be surprised how many times I was credited with the masterful use of the hit-and-run play.

We didn't win because I had a crystal ball. We won because we had good players. But I do believe that I anticipated the next cycle, though perhaps prematurely. If the pitchers gain the upper hand again, it will augur a new trend toward speed and defense.

I grew up in L.A., following the Dodgers of the late 50s and early 60s. They won a lot of games with a puny offense. But it was exciting because almost every game was close.

I still remember trying to beat Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Claude Osteen, Bill Singer and Tommy John. I also remember 1968.

Good pitching beats good hitting -- period!


This article sets the record for the most implied "Back in my day"s in MLB.com history...

Focus much?

Disclaimer: This is from a couple of weeks ago, after the demotion, but look at Towles' focus during these warm-up tosses between innings (captip to R.N. Coyote):

Tranzactionz!

May 17

-Lexington activates P David Duncan from 7-Day DL
-Places Brandt Walker on 7-Day DL with right bicep strain.

May 16

-Lancaster places catcher Jordan Comadena on temporarily inactive list
-Assigns catcher John Curtis to Lancaster from Tri-City

Is this the first time you've heard of John Curtis? Me, too. So I did some digging, and Curtis was a catcher at Cal-State Fullerton from '03-'06. Other than that...

Trade Proposal Showdown

As many of you know (or if you read the sidebar), Astros County is a part of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. In light of the recent events with Mr Berkman and Mr Oswalt, I've asked the BBA to submit their best trade proposals for either player, a package deal, or to confirm a complete and total lack of interest. We will then vote on the best proposal we get. Two have already rolled in, and I'll wait to get a few more, and update it as they come in.

Dodgers interested in Roy?

The Around the Horn site has an interesting note about the potential pairing of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Roy Oswalt:

It's my understanding that the Dodgers who desperately need pitching help are interested in Oswalt however the prized possession the Astros want is minor league pitcher Chris Withrow, someone you would think the Dodgers would be unwilling to give up...

...While now would certainly be a great time to make a trade solidifying the Dodger pitching staff, one would think the public divorce over the teams owners, the McCourt's, would prevent Colletti from taking on that kind of salary. From where I sit, Oswalt is apparently healthy and pitching well. If the Dodgers feel they could win now, Oswalt would certainly be what the doctor ordered for the Dodgers symptoms.

Chris Withrow is the Dodgers best pitching prospect at the moment and I think the Astros would be wise to do the deal if they could.


With all of that, the author - a retired baseball scout (of 34 years) doesn't think the deal will get done for a couple of reasons: the impending divorce of the McCourts, and the Dodgers just like Withrow too much.

What can we expect in a trade?

Okay, so the two guys who are likely to be moved are obviously Berkman and Oswalt. Oswalt has the highest trade value, since he's been a titty-baby over the last month or so, and is more motivated to apparently get out of dodge.

Citizen Spruce asked the following question:
All right, Constable, a question for you: What would you like to see the Astros get in return if they were going to trade Roy?

Well, the Mets report this morning drew some good comments:

From OremLK:
They have several good SS/2B prospects: one of Ruben Tejeda, Wilmer Flores, or Reese Havens would all be a good centerpiece. Pitchers Brad Holt or Jeurys Familia could be intriguing throw-ins....There's no way you're going to get multiple ML ready A-/B+ prospects for Oswalt... not on that contract. The best case is probably more like a couple B- guys and filler, and maybe not even that.

From Joe:
Havens and Familia with a C guy...I love how everyone on clutchfans.net thinks we will easy net Mejia, Davis, and Havens because they have no clue how Oswalts value has diminished over the past three years. Funny to hear someone who actually has a grasp on the truth.

The crux of this is what the Astros want in return. You all know that I believe my own conspiracy theory that Ed Wade overpaid for Lyon to force Detroit into signing Jose Valverde, thus getting two extra draft picks.

Under my own, possibly deluded, thinking, I could see how the Astros would be willing to eat some (or most) of Roy's contract to get better prospects and replenish the top of the farm system.

If it's just salary relief, then a couple of B/C prospects might get the job done. If the Astros want someone like Ike Davis (whom I have a hard time believing the Mets would part with), then they will have to eat a part of his contract.

The whole Trade Oswalt scenario comes down to expectations, and what the Astros are out to accomplish. But as John Royal points out this morning, this Oswalt v. Houston Astros Base Ball Club could get ugly. The more Oswalt whines, the worse the trade market will get for Easy Eddie. I think we've all made peace with the fact that Oswalt is going to get sent to a farm in Connecticut, where he'll get to run with other pitchers, but let's hope that he keeps the whining to a minimum so as not to sink what teams are willing to do to get him.

Could the Nationals actually make a run at Roy?

ESPN's Rumor Central says yes. Buster Olney has the following:

"The feeling among rival executives is the Nationals are apt to be very aggressive before the trade deadline, the kind of team willing to take on a contract -- like Oswalt's -- that might appear outsized to other teams. Washington's window of opportunity is opening, and the promotion of Storen so early tells us that they will work like crazy this summer to climb through (in spite of their three-game slide in Colorado.)"

Mets have payroll available for a pitcher

The New York Daily News' Andy Martino says the Mets have enough flexibility to add a starter:

The Mets know they need pitching and, according to sources, they will have the payroll flexibility to add a top starter if they remain in contention...

...Though the Mets have been in contact with several teams about pitching, all conversations have been preliminary. In any season, trade talks do not usually heat up until June. It is therefore too early to gauge the team’s chances of landing a big-name pitcher such as Houston’s Roy Oswalt. It is not clear, however, that they will have the trade chips. Their top prospects, Ike Davis and Jenrry Mejia, are now major leaguers, and their third-best prospect, outfielder Fernando Martinez, is on the triple-A disabled list with a hamstring strain.

Oswalt shoving his way out the door

The big story from Saturday was when Oswalt was outdueled by Lincecum, and got all snarky after the game.

Oswalt:
"I feel pretty good. My mechanics wasn't as good as it was last start, but good enough to lose...I knew I needed to probably throw a shutout, you know, maybe we can get one [run]. A pitch backed up on me on a slider. I was trying to go down and away, and it backed up over the plate."

Oooh. What did Berkman say?
"We're a team, you know what I'm saying? As much as you want to cry for a guy not getting run support, it's a team game. We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we lost today. I certainly understand his frustration, but it's not like we're not trying. We're out there grinding them out and trying to score some runs, and it hasn't happened."

I can see both sides here. Surely the offense isn't tanking in Oswalt's games, but back when Roger Clemens was throwing 7IP/1ER games, I can't recall him ever coming out and saying anything about the offense. Both sides are justified in their frustration, and I'm happy Berkman bowed up to Oswalt - because that's a doucher thing to say. But I just wonder if Oswalt is forcing his way into a trade. For a guy who isn't too concerned with numbers, he sure is making a lot of noise.

Carlos Lee on the rhythm of 2010

Carlos Lee, on what has happened this season:

"It's been tough. It seems like we can't find the rhythm. We will do good and score some runs and hit with people on base and all of a sudden stop doing that. It seems like we find a way to lose by one run. I think nobody's playing as many close games as us. It's frustrating, especially when it seems like you have a chance and you fight all the way to the end and keep coming up short. Hopefully we'll be able to score more runs and support our pitchers."

Brett Myers knows how to take a loss

Oswalt: Eyes up. This is how you take a loss:

“I made a couple of them; long ball hurt me today. Usually when you make mistakes sometimes you get away with them and sometimes you don’t and today I didn’t get away with any. I’ll take the loss because I gave up four runs. You shouldn’t win when you give up four runs. It’s not acceptable for me.”

Mills:
“He’s done a great job. We knew coming in that he was a competitor, and we knew the guy was going to battle, and that’s exactly what he did today."

You're still going to see Kaz in the lineup

Don't get your hopes up, what with all the DFA-ing going around baseball, Kaz Matsui will still be in the lineup.

Mills:
Definitely against righthanded pitching he's going to get some playing time. I've talked to him many a time (and told him) ‘you're not out of our plans for sure.' We try to put guys in positions to have success. And we're going to try to put him in matchups and in games in which he has that opportunity. The attitude is there, the desire to work and to get better is there, so that's where we're at. That's part of moving in the right direction.”
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You'll also read an account in Fallas' linked Notes column about how many Astros were not driven to AT&T Park from the hotel because taxi drivers would not find a way around the Bay-to-Breakers foot race. Cory Sullivan walked the whole way. Kaz Matsui never found the stadium.

Morning note

A lot happened in the almost-48 hour hiatus I had to take. Let's skip the game recap (know that Kaz Matsui might have just avoided back-to-back Goats), and focus on some of the more pressing matters, and then we'll just move on.