Saturday, October 9, 2010

Just curious about your thoughts

Here's Richard Justice's new blog post. What do you think?

A bone thrown to Ed Wade?

I almost can't believe mine eyes. Is this a bone being thrown Ed Wade's way?

Ruben Amaro, on the Phillies' core of Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz:
"Our whole mantra when [former Phillies general manager] Ed [Wade] took over was to try to get a nice core together, and a lot of those guys are homegrown guys. Bring that core together and see where we'd go with them. It's great to have had that group of guys together."

Greeneville Astros: Garrett Bullock

Garrett Bullock
How did he get here?: Undrafted free agent, signed July 2009
Stats: 6'3", 195 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2011: 24
Birthplace/Hometown: Winston Salem, NC
Men of the Match: 1

2010 Overview


Career (2009, GCL-Greeneville cumulative)


What happened?

What happened? Garrett Bullock flat-out dominated the Appalachian League, that's what happened. Bullock had a break-out year in an App League reprise that came after a season in which he had already thrown a full season at Wake Forest.

His 1.26 ERA was the fourth-best in the Appy League - and his 43IP were 9.1IP more than the next-highest total in the three pitchers preceding him. Granted, ERA isn't the best way to judge a reliever, but 43IP are a decent indication that he limits those runs.

Last year, we noted that Bullock was going to need to work on those walks, and that's exactly what he did, walking over three batters fewer per nine innings than in 2009.

All this resulted in Bullock's being named Astros County's Greeneville Pitcher of the Year.

What went right?

What didn't? Let's start with August. It's been our experience that pitchers their first full season after college see a little bit of a jump in numbers towards the end of the season (we'll try to back that up at some point down the road), but that didn't happen to Bullock. In eight August appearances (21IP), Bullock allowed 19H/2ER, 19K:6BB, holding hitters to a .257 average.

Pitching with runners on. With runners on, Bullock allowed 15H with 25K:10BB in 25IP, and a .185 BAA. With RISP, Bullcok allowed 7H, with 15K:8BB in 15.2IP, and a .140 BAA.

Throwing to LHBs. Bullock allowed 19 baserunners (15H/4BB), getting 49 outs against lefties, and only two ER.

Groundballs. Bullock had a 1.47 groundout:flyout ratio on the season, including 2.20 w/RISP and 2.18 against lefties.

What went wrong?

If we had to pick something, July was a little bit rough - comparatively. He allowed 18H/4ER, with 13K:7BB in 15.1IP, and a .290 BAA before righting the ship in August.

Bases Empty. We talked about how shutdown he was with runners on, but that's partialy because he allowed 24 hits and four walks in 18IP with the bases empty, allowing hitters a .308 batting average.

Appy Astros says:
Bullock is able to keep runners close with an excellent pick off move that he refined to reduce the balks called on him. Bullock was too old for the Appy at 24. He was promoted to Tri Cities at the end of the season but didn't get to pitch. With his age, being a lefty with a good pick off move and his ability to keep the ball down (no home runs in a combined 62 1/3 IP for his career, I could see him landing in Lancaster next season but Lexington might be more likely.

I can't see Bullock simply moving up to Tri-City, and think he'll be in Lexington. A good stint to begin the season in Lexington, and he's probably off to Lancaster.

Drayton went to go give the young'uns a little pep talk

In Mark Berman's "Out-on-Loux" recap, we learn that Drayton took a trip to Kissimmee to talk to the Instructional League players.

"It's great to see the kids we are excited about. I wanted to see the 16-year old from the Dominican Republic who we paid $2.6 million."

Perhaps he means Ariel Ovando, the 17-year old.

DeShields has a Blum Elbow

Delino DeShields has been suffering from elbow soreness, which has limited his move to 2B, says Zach Levine.

DeShields is expected to be recovered by the end of the month and by the end of Instructional League in Florida, where he is making the transition from the outfield. But the Astros want to be cautious, and he is going to be held out of throwing.

He has not been totally shut down, though, as he works to get comfortable with his footwork and plays some designated hitter in Instructional League games.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Astros out on Loux, kill Deputy Street's dreams

Ed Wade was all shuffling his feet and vague about it, but the Astros say they're out on free agent Barret Loux.

"We've had further internal conversations and we're probably not going to pursue it. We talked long and hard about it and we wanted to make sure we did our advance work and tried to get an arm around the entire situation. At this point in time, it's something we're not going to pursue."

Mills ready to do this two, maybe three more times

Hey-Oh! The Astros have given Brad Mills an extension through the 2012 season, and added an option for 2013.

"This is where I want to be. I'm committed to this organization and where we're trying to get. I think we made a lot of progress this year."

“We can’t say enough about the job that Millsie has done for us. He brings every quality that you look for in a successful major league manager. All that he cares about is helping build a championship club."

Within Zach Levine's story, we find that Jeff Bagwell is expected to decide about his return this month. Regardless, we are 100% behind this extension.

Extreme Makeover: Home Plate Edition

This off-season the Astros are implementing their first renovation to Minute Maid Park since taking down that Enron sign.

Trying to keep up with the massive screen that shows us the taut skin of Jerry Jones to the north, they'll put in a 7,000 square foot HD video board in the outfield.

"We wanted to give fans the utmost experience...Fans have flat screen TVs and high-definition TVs at their homes, and now they'll have that at the ballpark. We need to constantly upgrade the ballpark especially in this era."

Pam Gardner:
"We've been researching this for the past 3-4 years. We knew we needed bigger, number one, because that's the trend, and we knew we needed HD."

A couple of things about this:

1. It took the Astros 3-4 years to decide on a tv. That says more than we can ever comment on. You give me $1000 and send me to Best Buy to get an HD tv, and I'll be watching Gladiator within the hour.

2. Sure, I buy the "It's been 10 years since we did anything to Minute Maid, so it was time to upgrade" rationale. We also can't discount that Drayton is basically staging his house, getting it all pretty to sell, with a cool new park and low payroll.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Astros County's Playoff Rules

Meant to post this yesterday, in advance of the first day of the playoffs, but you'll just have to make do with these ten rules for watching the 2010 playoffs.

1. It is okay to watch every game, despite what your wife/girlfriend/partner says. After the playoffs, it'll be five months before meaningful baseball is played again.

2. It is even okay to watch more playoff games in October than you watched Astros games in September.

3. It is not okay to "pick a new team." You made your bed, now you have to lie in it, even if it has crabs.

4. It is okay to be pulling for a Yankees/Phillies World Series. The prospect of Roy Oswalt pitching to Lance Berkman is too much for me to bear, but it is okay to hope it happens. And it is also okay to be happy for Roy/Lance (but not Aubrey Huff). It is also not okay to be happy for the franchises.

5. It is not okay to pull for the Rangers "because they're from Texas." Screw that. Does the Silver Boot mean nothing to you!?

6. It is okay to pull for the Reds because they're in the NL Central. Let's face it, we need all the respect we can get, and if you have been beaten up and left for dead in an alley, and someone who has previously kicked the crap out of you defends your honor, so be it.

7. Despite that, it was totally okay to hope Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds, if only for the historical component.

8. If you have a friend who is a fan of a team currently playing, it is not okay to call them after a game, even if they are winning. They have earned the right to make initial contact.

9. If a friend is a fan of a team who has something bad happen (say, Roy Halladay throws a no-hitter), it is not okay to crack-a-lack a joke to them . At least their team made the playoffs. You must also wait until they call or text you.

10. It is okay to laugh at the Cardinals. Always.

Greeneville Astros: Ricardo Batista

Ricardo Batista
How did he get here?: Undrafted free agent, signed prior to 2008 season
Stats: 6'1", 170 lbs, Throws: Left
Age as of April 1, 2011: 19
Birthplace/Hometown: San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic
Men of the Match: 1

2010 Overview


Career (2008-09)


What happened?

Batista has moved up a level in each of his three seasons in the Astros organizations, pitching in the DSL in 2008, the GCL in 2009, and making his way to Greeneville in 2010, where he...struggled.

Batista threw a (to-this-point) career-high in IPs this season, and his overall numbers actually improved across the board, save for his ERA. He was 0-5 in 12 starts, and after his 0-4 2009 season, it's now been since 2008 that Batista has won a game.

What went right?

Throwing at lefties. He recorded 35 outs against lefties, holding them to a 1.54 ERA, with 14 hits and two earned runs. Lefties also hit .298 - 27 points lower than against righties.

July. In six starts, he allowed 31 hits in 27IP.

August. In five August starts, Alaniz allowed 9ER - 4ER in one start against Johnson City - and posted a 1.09 WHIP. He also only walked three batters in 28.1 August IP.

Limiting damage via the long ball. Of the five homers Batista allowed, four of them came with the bases empty.

What went wrong?

Walks. Despite the BB/9 rate coming down from 4.7 to 4.3, that's still high.

Righties. 19 of the 23 batters he walked were RHBs, and he allowed 50H/32ER in 37IP against RHBs for a 7.78 ERA/1.86 WHIP.

Groundballs. Or lack thereof. Last year we said that "Batista doesn't get many groundballs, for more flyouts than groundouts, but he keeps the ball in the park." That wasn't necessarily the case this season. But we should still remember that Batista was 18 this season.

August 9. We've said this quite a few times, but we're dealing with a small sample size. So when he went out and gave up 6H/6ER, 1K:2BB in 0.2IP against Elizabethton, that's going to skew the numbers.

Appy Astros says:
I expect him to be back in Greeneville next year. Even though the numbers aren't great, they were improved from his time in the GCL. Control must continue to improve.

Once again - and it seems like this is a ritual - we agree with Appy Astros. If he's going to be a flyball pitcher, he needs to limit those walks, so that when a hitter gets a hold of one, the game doesn't crater around him.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Daigle, Majewski out

With a big captip to Farmstros, we learn that Gary Majewski and Casey Daigle have filed for minor league free agency.

Cecil Cooper has been working the phone

Addressing the vacancy at the helm of the Milwaukee Brewers, GM Doug Melvin is putting together a list of candidates. And he's heard from someone we all know:

Melvin said he has already heard directly from several would-be candidates, including former Brewers star and Astros manager Cecil Cooper, or from their agents.

Go get 'em, Coop!

Justice: Be patient

Nice column from Richard Justice today on the future of the Astros' organization.

Ed Wade, on Jason Castro and Brett Wallace:
"Offensively, Jason has to make the same types of adjustments that most kids have to make when they get to the big leagues, and we believe he will. He's bright, focused and dedicated. And, he's talented...

"Before getting to the big leagues, Brett never struggled offensively, and now he has. He, too, has to make adjustments. ... This kid is going to hit, and he already is a good first baseman. He and Castro will succeed."

Join me in letting out a sigh of relief for Wade's mention of Wallace at 1B.

Rene Cardenas a finalist for Ford C. Frick Award

Former Astros broadcaster Rene Cardenas is among 10 finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award - for excellence in baseball broadcasting - by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cardenas created the first Spanish-language broadcast for MLB in 1958, and was the Astros play-by-play guy for 16 years.

Citizen Ryan Goes to Fan Appeciation Day

Hey, so Citizen Ryan went to Fan Appreciation Day at Minute Maid Park, and sent along some photos.

Citizen Ryan:

As you would expect, Pence ate the thing up. He really is the kid living the dream. The Manzella/Kepp story is just too funny though, mainly because I did NOT see it coming:

My cousin (to me as players are coming by): I bet these guys get real tired of hearing "You had a good year!" when they really didn't.
Me (in response): OK. So we'll only tell a few players that, since only a few really had good years. Like Kepp and Myers.
So as Kepp comes by... (followed by Manzella right behind him)
Me (to Kepp): You had a good year. Really. I'm only saying this to a couple of players and you're one of them.
Manzella: You can't believe that guy. He told me that a few minutes ago.

Now that's comedy. On to some photos.

Remember, if you have pictures of Astros players, send them along. If you print off a Proof of Citizenship, take a picture holding it and send it in, we'll post it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comment of the Year

Here we pause for a second to post what is hands down the Comment of the Year, on the David Carpenter-to-the-AFL post. So naturally, we'll repost it, and add some commentary where necessary.

This comment has nothing to do with this article.

This is the first time I've stumbled upon this blog.


I just want whoever that runs this blog to know how much you suck.

If I actually cared, I would feel sorry for you. I don't get what you get out of this.

Given the 243-word unprompted comment, I'll disagree with you on the not caring part. But you do bring up a good point. What do we, collectively (the writers of Astros County), get out of this? Well, it's three-fold:

1. We would likely be reading articles about the Astros, anyway. So it's a nice little resource for Astros fans, much like us, who would like to follow along with news and random, occasional views.

2. It's a writing exercise. The County Clerk has eighteen unfinished novels about the Rape of Nanking sitting on his kitchen table. So it's good practice for him to actually be able to post something - anything - with a conclusion.

3. To engage Astros fans in conversation. Which, thanks to you, dear Citizen, we're doing!

Do you spend all day in mom's basement on the Internet researching local and national Astros articles?

No. All of us live above ground. Even in our own residences, which two of us own, and the other rents. I wouldn't call it so much "researching" as "having a pretty damn good Google Reader."

Then, you post them on a blog and make your personal opinion on the article known.

Actually, yep. That's the long and short of it.

What a creative name too, "Astros County"


Wow, was that the first thing that popped into your head?

No. Other failed blog titles were "Jeff Bagwell's Goatee," "The Ghost of Larry Andersen," "Hanging With Cecil Cooper," "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," "O, Pioneers," "Astros Blog: By Guys Who Are Unemployed Wannabe Real Sportswriters With A Big Dream In Life To Do Exactly That."

I'm guessing you're unemployed and a wannabe who's big dream in life is to be a real sportswriter.

Hey! How'd you know?! Actually, we're all quite happily employed in other capacities. The County Clerk is in politics, the Juvenile Court Clerk is a realtor, The Constable works for a non-profit organization. I run a camp for underprivileged kids. None of us have ever harbored a dream of spending 81 games on the road.

Since you're not and never will be, your jealous, wannabe nature goes after all the known Astros writers and either kisses up to them or tears them down.

That must be all that suppressed anger.

By nature, the only real options are to either kiss up to the writers, or tear them down. That varies by whatever they write. If it's a good article, sure, we'll give them a captip. If it's not, we'll respond accordingly. There isn't much room for anything in between.

Nobody even knows your name.

That means a lot, Anonymous. But it also brings up a good point. We don't post our names, because we all do aspire to climb up our corporate (or non-profit) ladders. Hopefully, when you do a Google search for our names, what comes up is work-related. Or in the case of the County Clerk, a misunderstanding regarding a hostage situation, Stockholm Syndrome, and a Chinese throwing star. And honestly, we didn't think it was that important.

I can only imagine how a conversation with a girl must go for you.

This ought to be good.

'what do u do for a living?'

So we're texting this conversation. Apparently.

'I sit around on my ass all day long surfing the Internet looking for Astros articles to put in my blog.'

It isn't all that much work, really. Especially when we can slide down the fireman's pole to the Blogging Room where we have emergency Editorial Conclaves.

'Oh, do you get paid for that.'


That's true. We don't get paid. It's called a hobby.

I think it's pathetic. Get a life, get a real job. It's one thing to be a fan, but this goes overboard.

You are the definition of 'loser.'

Is this still the conversation with the girl? Because while that was a word-for-word recreation up to the point where I asked my wife to marry me (you didn't happen to be in Seattle on New Year's Eve 2002, did you? Uncanny.), it's not all that overboard. Hanging off the edge of the starboard side, perhaps. But as long as we can maintain our families, wives, jobs, etc., we'll just keep doing what we do, and thank you for stopping by. I do apologize if your chosen web browser keeps automatically directing you to Hanging With Cecil Cooper Astros County.

David Carpenter to Arizona Fall League

Ernie Galusky is reporting that David Carpenter is headed to the Peoria Javelinas for the 2010 AFL season.

Minor league attendance figures

Congratulations to the Tri-City ValleyCats, who ranked 59th in all of minor-league baseball (160 teams) for 2010 attendance.

The ValleyCats were 18th in all of Single-A baseball. Meanwhile, the Lexington Legends ranked 13th in Single-A, and 49th overall.

Other affiliates:
Round Rock: 6th
Oklahoma City: 37th
Corpus Christi: 28th
Lancaster: 115th
Lexington: 49th
Tri-City: 59th
Greeneville: 139th

Despite Greeneville's low-ranking (comparatively), they did draw the highest average number of fans in the Appalachian League.

Rule 5 & Minor League Free Agents

Farmstros has your Rule 5 draft-eligible players and minor-league free agents:

Rule 5 Eligible:
Albert Cartwright
Koby Clemens
Collin DeLome
Drew Locke

Potential Minor-League Free Agents:
Doug Arguello
Arcenio Leon
Lou Santangelo

There are also some qualifications that Farmstros makes about a couple of other possibilities - click on over and read it for yourself.

Fulchino's surgery successful

Jeff Fulchino's elbow surgery was successful as doctors cleaned out inflammed tissue and a bone spur.

Bogusevic goes to see the doctor today, while Tim Byrdak will wait another week and let that sports hernia grow and fester before seeing Dr. Brian Buscani.

Pittsburgh likes Dave Clark

Dave Clark's name is getting thrown around as a possible replacement for the dearly departed John Russell in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Bob Smizik:
There is one ex-Pirate who deserves consideration but not because he once played and coached here. That would be Dave Clark, the third-base coach of the Houston Astros. He has minor-league managerial experience and served as interim manager of the Astros at the end of the 2009 season.

Clark would probably be interested and should be interviewed.

And the PPG's Chuck Finder:
Clark, like Sveum a fixture as a Pirates player and in the past decade as a coach, expressed interest in the Pirates opening.

Clark, on the Pirates:
"They're fun to watch. They're not a finished product yet, but you can see the direction they're going. They got some real good, young players over there. I tell you what, I think the future is going to be pretty bright."

Wade discusses the Blum/Michaels decision

Ed Wade talked about the decisions to let Blum go and keep Michaels.

On Michaels:
"He does a lot of things well for us," Wade said. "The fact he can play all three outfield positions and can give us a good at-bat off the bench, even when he's not playing, is big. Those are all huge contributions he makes. Aside from that, his presence in the clubhouse is very much appreciated. He's great at communicating with the young guys and sort of carrying the message that [manager Brad Mills] and the coaching staff are trying to deliver out there."

On Blum:
"Being a veteran influence on this ballclub was good and he did a real good job for us off the bench. As a manager, you're going to miss guys like that. ...What went into not having him back? I know we looked at a lot of things, maybe what we wanted to do with the money issues and things of that nature. Again, we're turning and moving on and that's no reflection on Blummer. He couldn't have been a more outstanding person, teammate and clubhouse guy."

Johnson: Once Roy and Lance were gone, the team could focus

In a nice little article in USA Today, Kristie Rieken talked about the Astros' 2010.

On the future:
"I'm excited about this ballclub and the prospects that we have. I think we gained a lot of experience going through the last almost 3 1/2 months. We came a long way, and the guys saw what it took to get where we needed to go. It was a process going through that."

Chris Johnson:
Johnson said that once Oswalt and Berkman, as well as all the distracting trade talk, were gone the team could focus on improving.

"I think we were able to relax," he said. "Once that happened we knew it was our team, and we were ready to go. It's good because we can all learn together."

Ed Wade: Meetings start today

Ed Wade told Dave Dalati that he doesn't have a three- or five-year plan. Don't believe me?

“I don’t believe in three-year plans or five-year plans. I want to go undefeated next year. All you have to do is look at the baseball landscape today: the Padres had absolutely zero chance of being in post-season play this time a year ago. They got within one game of making it happen.”

Regarding payroll:
“I’m assuming that with the composition of the club as it stands right now, with the younger club, our payroll is going to be at or below where we were this year."

That's thanks to the number of arbitration-eligible players. Baseball-Reference estimates the arbitration cases to be worth $48m alone. With the $39.8m in guaranteed money ($18.5m to Carlos Lee /weeping), we can pretty much count out the Astros making a strong push for Carl Crawford.

But what about other free agents, Ed?
“To start looking at the free agent market the day after the season is over is really premature. The reality is the free agent market as it stands today will not be the free agent market when the filing period ends."

The close:
The Astros’ brass is scheduled to meet Tuesday to begin mapping out the off-season more specifically.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Myers has nice things to say about Mills

Hey, so Brett Myers was complimentary of Brad Mills:

"He's doing a good job. He stuck with me plenty of times this year when he didn't have to and gave me an opportunity to pitch six innings almost every time. That showed me a lot about how he feels about his players."

Mills, meanwhile, is looking forward to checking out the Instructional League - information about which is extremely difficult, nay, impossible to find:
"I get to talk to the guys down there and see them and watch them play. That's what's so hard about this job is a lot of times, you don't get to see the guys at the Minor League level. You read reports on them every day, but you don't get a chance to see them. I'll get a chance to check them out, some of them anyway."

McLane "perplexed" by 2010

Run-DMc was "perplexed" by the Astros this season.

“In eighteen seasons, this is the most perplexing. It just wasn’t a good year. Not when Lance (Berkman) was here…nor was Roy having a particularly good year early. Carlos was not. We just got off to a terrible, terrible start in the first half of the season.

“But, if we could count just since the All-Star break, we’d be leading the National League Central. But you have to count the whole season.”

Unfortunately, he's right. You do have to count the whole season.

Drayton, on Mills and Wade:
“I think our best asset right now is our Manager, Brad Mills. He has come on very strongly. He has the support of the team. He has a good rapport with the players and knows how to make them better...Ed Wade has been a great General Manager. Our starting pitching could be some of the best starting pitching in all of baseball.”

Will he still be the owner this time next year?
“Right now I have those plans. When you’re my age, it’s something you’re constantly evaluating it. Is this something that you want to continue to do? Right now, it’s full speed ahead.”

As he has done in the past, McLane concedes that he is open to listening to offers for the Astros.

McLane notes in Dalati's post that the Astros need to upgrade their offense, but doesn't go into any specifics. Which is a shame, because I'd like to see where they plan on doing that - shortstop (obviously), left field (naturally)?

Vote for Doug Arguello

Doug Arguello is up for Best Double-A starting pitcher. Do him a solid.

Felipe Paulino to head south for the winter

Appy Astros found an article in Spanish that says Paulino will play winter ball for the Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela - same team as Matt Downs.

Remembering the 2010 Season Predictions

Now that *sniff* the 2010 season is in the books, let's take a look back and see just who said what, and how correct they were.


*On January 28, PECOTA said the Astros would finish 75-87, with a .264/.330/.403 line, with 766 runs scored and 829 runs against.

Well, the Astros did finish 76-86, so good for them, but they grossly overestimated the Astros' offense. They actually finished with a .247/.303/.362 line, 611 runs scored and 729 runs against.

*March 24 - The Boston Globe's Tony Masarotti ranked the Astros #13 in the NL. They were actually 12th.

*April 1 - The Sporting News was prescient, despite picking the Cardinals to win the division, and the Cubs to win the Wild Card:
1. Lance Berkman, recovering from knee surgery, will hobble through another season and the Astros will bid him farewell.
2. Tommy Manzella will play strong defense but won't hit enough to be rookie of the year.
3. Jason Castro will emerge as the regular catcher because of J.R. Towles' continued hitting struggles.

Blind squirrel > Nut

*On February 9, CHONE posted a disclaimer-laden prediction of a 73-89 Astros record.

*March 30 - Caller-Times' Joel Roza puts the Astros at 74-88.

*March 30 -'s John Schlegel picks the Astros 5th.

*April 2 - Baseball Prospectus picks the Astros to go 78-84, tied for 3rd.

*April 2 - Keith Law: 73-89, 5th place

*April 5 - Brian McTaggart: 79-83

Stevie Wonder throwing darts

*On March 5, Fire Brand of the AL predicted a 72-90 finish, for 5th place.

*On March 23, BetFirms said:
The Astros didn’t do enough in the offseason to improve their roster, as Brett Myers and Pedro Feliz are merely fill-ins. Lindstrom won’t be the best answer at closer as he’s too erratic, so expect more blown saves this season.

*March 24 - the Perpetual Post's Howard Megdal:
This looks like the worst team in baseball in 2010 to me.

*March 29 - Jon Paul Morosi says the Astros will finish last in the NL Central, with the Brewers winning the division, and the Reds in 4th.

*March 31 - SI's Albert Chen picks the Astros to go 69-93, and says:
The Astros...added expensive, nonimpact veterans, among them starter Brett Myers, third baseman Pedro Feliz and reliever Brandon Lyon.

One out of three gets you in the Hall of Fame.

*April 2 - 28 of 35 ESPN experts picked the Cardinals to win the division. Though Nostradami labels go to Aaron Boone, Jon Weisman, and Pedro Gomez as they pick the Reds to win the NLC.

*April 4 - Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: Last place.

*April 5 - Jonah Keri:
Owner Drayton McLane is one of the most stubborn characters in baseball, refusing to trade stars like Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt – same as he did with Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio – preferring instead to watch their immense talent wither on the vine, and the team fail to build anything decent around them.

*April 27 - Cardinals blog Redbird Rants:
The Cards should cruise to the division title by August. After that, it’s a jumble of mediocre teams. I’ll go with the Cubs to finish second because they have the talent to do so. But Chicago is also somewhat of a mess. Cincinnati should hang around with their young talent and Milwaukee and Pittsburgh should be competitive. The Astros are already planning for 2011.

Just like a smartass, who makes fun of everybody else's predictions and doesn't make their own, we didn't post our thoughts on 2010. But in a separate email to a couple of buddies, The Constable did say the following:

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Card: Braves

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Mariners
AL Wild Card: Red Sox

Yankees over the Braves in six.

The lunacy of the Mariners pick overshadows - and discredits - the fact that he nailed three of the four NL picks.

More OR trips scheduled

Zach Levine wraps up the regular season Notes column with reminders that, in addition to Fulchino (elbow) and Byrdak (hernia), Bogusevic (foot), and Brad Mills (knee replacement) also have surgeries scheduled.

On the Winter Ball front, Tommy Manzella and Henry Villar are headed to the Dominican, Angel Sanchez is going to Puerto Rico, and Jason Bourgeois is going to Mexico.

"Astros For Sale" is gaining a little traction

Richard Justice may prove to be correct, after all. The Sports Business Journal says the McLanes will have internal discussions regarding the future of the franchise this week.

If Drayton sells, then he'll leave his successor with $39.8m in payroll commitments and twelve arbitration decisions.

More on this in the days to come. And you were worried we wouldn't have anything to talk about...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jason Michaels will be brought back

Dampening the chances of Brian Bogusevic's 25-man roster spot (or Jason Bourgeois', or...), the Astros will pick up Jason Michaels' $900,000 option for 2011.

Astros won't be bringing Blum back

Geoff Blum told reporters after G162 that he will not be returning in 2011, with the Astros paying the $150,000 buyout instead of exercising his $1.65m option in 2011.

"I do know that I will not be here. I'll miss being here, trust me. I've had several conversations with people within the organization and my services are not going to be needed here."

Back on September 6, we had a little poll asking what you would do with Blum's option. 61% of you said you would exercise it.

Most likely Astros off-season destination? The OR

Brian McTaggart is reporting that two Astros already have surgeries scheduled:

Jeff Fulchino, tomorrow - elbow surgery
Tim Byrdak, October 14 - sports hernia surgery

Astros to be sold by the end of the year?

Richard Justice seems to think so. In a tweet in which one of Justice followers asked about an update on the sale of the Astros, Justice responded:

Drayton says nothing cooking. I still think it's likely to happen before end of year.

Nick Cafardo hands out his Astros awards

The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, who is one of the few members of the national media to pay even remote attention to the Astros, handed out his awards, team-by-team. For the Astros:

Best player: Hunter Pence continued to progress, with 25 homers and 91 RBIs.

Best pitcher: Brett Myers went at least six innings in all but one start.

Breakthrough: Third baseman Chris Johnson, son of Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, can hit, hit for power, and defend.

Regressed: Carlos Lee, who has $37 million remaining on his contract, is no longer a dominant player.

Carlos Lee is Ken Davidoff's LVP

Via the Victoria Advocate (who were actually very clearly instructed not to use this story on their website), we find that Carlos Lee is Newsday's Ken Davidoff's Least Valuable Player:

If he doesn't hit, he might as well quit (his defense doesn't cut it). Let's not forget - actually, let's forget - the Nationals' Njyer Morgan and Braves' Melky Cabrera.

Q&A with Jordan Comadena

Catcher Jordan Comadena signed as an undrafted free agent before the 2009 season (a story which will be addressed directly) and has split time between Lexington and Lancaster over the past two seasons. He was good enough to answer a few questions for us.

AC: You had a solid career at Purdue, hitting .340/.455/.620 as a junior before breaking your hand. What was your mindset going into your senior season, the following off-season, and the draft?

JC: My mindset going into my senior season was to try and duplicate what I had going during my junior year. Following my junior year, where surgery ended my season, I came back and played my third summer in Madison in the (Northwoods League), I got healthy and got back to hitting leadoff up there. I had my best summer of the three that year hitting .294 with an OBP around .460. I felt like I had shown that my hand was healthy that I hadn't lost anything in my swing. My senior year came around and I did put pressure on myself to perform, but that was no different than any other time. I got off to a decent start that season but was never able to get over the hump and really get hot. I hit a countless number of balls hard right at people and I was moved from hitting leadoff to hitting fourth. I was never really able to make that adjustment and I struggled. It was a very frustrating season. Despite the down year I still felt that my total body of work, including summer ball, would warrant me getting drafted by someone. When the draft came and went I was extremely upset and frustrated. Getting drafted had been my life long dream and I was not able to fulfill it. With the draft gone I turned my attention to trying to get signed with someone. I called everyone that I knew in baseball trying to get an opportunity and no one wanted to sign me. I worked out for a few independent teams and still could not find a job. I eventually decided to shut it down for that summer, finish my degree at Purdue and try again next year.

AC: One of the best stories we've heard in a while is about how former Astros great Jimmy Wynn discovered you playing in a Northwoods League alumni game. From your perspective, how did that all take place?

JC: This is a crazy story. After my long and frustrating summer with no baseball, I was invited up to Madison to play in their alumni game at the end of the summer. The game featured former Mallards players as well former MLB greats like Vida Blue, Fergie Jenkins, Blue Moon Odom, and others. Madison would draw roughly 7,000 a night so this alumni game even drew about 4,000 people. I was hesitant to go up and play in the game because I was embarassed of not getting drafted. I had been a big part of the organization's success during my three summers and I had even gotten my number 14 retired earlier in that summer. I was certainly a fan favorite. So I went to the game because I felt like I owed it to the GM and the owner because they had done so much for me. I played in the game, and I played hard as I always do. I also played shortstop, which ironically, was the only position that I did not play during my time in Madison (and I also never pitched). In the game I went 2-3 with two doubles and four RBI. I also turned a double play at short and made a couple other plays.

After the game Mr. Wynn approached me and asked me why I wasn't playing anywhere? I explained to him my situation and how I very much wanted to continue playing. He said that he would talk to the Astros about me. I said thank you and didn't think anything of it. As time passed into the fall I got an email from him that said he had talked to the Astros and that he would keep me posted. At this point I began to feel as if something may happen. Winter had now come and in the mean time I had signed to play for the Gary Railcats of the Northern League. I finally got an email in December from Mr. Wynn that said the Astros wanted to sign me, that was the last I heard from him. I had a million questions and was very excited so I had to wait for a phone call. Finally on January 8, 2009, (Director of Research and Analysis) Charlie Norton called me in the evening and asked me how I felt about signing with the Houston Astros? I was happier than I can even explain. Finally I would get an opportunity with an affiliated club.

AC: You've been back and forth between Lancaster and Lexington. What's the hardest part of that transition?

JC: Honestly the biggest transition for me comes off the field. For me, moving all my stuff creates stress for me. I'm a very organized person and I have a lot of stuff, so moving is no small task. Getting everything from point A to point B is the hardest thing for me. Also, I like to get into a nice daily routine and stick with it. A change in scenery and setting changes my routine. From a baseball standpoint I don't feel there is much difference at all between Low- and High-A. I felt much more comfortable in Lancaster than I did in Lexington.

AC: Looking at your 2010 stats, it seems as though you were pretty unlucky, with a .208 BABIP in 2010. How do you handle that, from a mental aspect?

JC: Well, when you don't play everyday it's important to get your extra work in and try and stay sharp and ready for when you are called upon. From my standpoint I just tried to get a good pitch to hit and hit the ball hard. I had a lot of good at bats, especially in the second half of the season. I hit a lot of balls hard right at people. I just didn't have enough at bats for things to even out. It's frustrating when you hit a couple balls hard and go 0-4 because you know you won't play tomorrow and it'll be a few days before you get another chance. Also a 1-4 or 2-4 would raise your average significantly. It's hard to get into a groove at the plate when the ABs don't come frequently. Another mental tip is to try and pull anything you can out of the game that was positive, like moving a runner, executing a hit and run, getting a sac bunt down, driving in a run from third with less than two outs. Even if you go 0-4, and you can do a couple of those things you have to make yourself feel like it was still a good day bc you did your job in those situations. Its a brutal game when you play everyday, it's even tougher when you don't.

AC: What are your plans for this off-season?

JC: This offseason I'll be doing some traveling. I'm actually writing these answers from the airport terminal in Tampa, FL. I'm also going to Toronto Canada next week to see some friends of mine. I might try and attend a couple more Steelers games as well. Also, I'll be working in Lafayette, IN where I live with my girlfriend, doing some hitting lessons. I'm able to workout at Purdue and mix in with the team when I want. It's very nice to be able to use the facilities here.

Big thanks to Jordan, and we'll try to check in with him later in the off-season.

Hunter Pence pulls a Roy Hobbs

Stephen Goff (who initially used The Natural metaphor), describes Hunter Pence's mammoth BP homer before G161, which we can't be bothered to even recap (short version: it sucked.)

Pence did his best impression of Robert Redford's character "Roy Hobbs" in The Natural by turning on a pitch that not only flew over the railroad tracks, but landed approximately 200 feet above the Crawford Boxes in left field on top of the stadium lights, where it still remains.

"How did you like that one," Pence said with a big smile.

Veteran outfielder Jason Michaels, one of Pence's close friends, was certainly impressed.

"That had to have been over 500 feet," Michaels said. "You figure its 315 feet down the line, and Pence hit that about 200 feet over that. It was a perfect Robert Redford shot."