Friday, October 29, 2010

New Astros network starting in 2012

Boom. There it is. The Astros and Rockets are starting their own Regional Sports Network (RSN) in 2012, in association with Comcast.

Sports Business Journal's John Ourand:
Comcast SportsNet Houston would be an regional sports network that will be up to 80-percent owned by the Astros and Rockets.

Since both teams will be on Fox Sports Houston next year, they do not want to participate in a big announcement that could potentially embarrass the network. And Comcast, with its NBC acquisition still in front of regulators, it is not looking to make a big splash, either.

Update: David Barron says that the RSN will take effect for Astros games in 2013. Presumably to celebrate the end of Carlos Lee's contract. Barron points out that the old deal (with FSH) was worth $50 million per year for the Rockets and Astros, each.

The Crawfish Boxes brings it about Bagwell

Excellent post this morning from the Crawfish Boxes with some reaction to Bagwell, and the impact - if any - a hitting coach actually has.

Berkman gets ready for free agency, would like to stay in the NL

Fox26 talked to Berkman yesterday, who is preparing to be a free agent for the first time in his career:

On returning to Houston:
"I'm not closing the door to that. No matter what happens I will always consider myself a Houston Astro. I feel a tremendous allegiance to the team, to the city, to the fans. I'm a Houston Astro plain and simple, regardless of what happens going forward...

...The coaching staff is second to none. The future of the organization going forward, they have the right people in place, and it's just a matter if they see a guy such as myself as part of that plan coming out of the transition phase getting it back into being competitive like we were '04 and '05."

On what happens, if that doesn't happen:
"I definitely would like to be in the National League...It's a better game. It's crisper. I just like the way the game is played. That's one thing I would like...

...It's hard for me to say what I will and won't do because I don't know how much leverage I've got. I don't think I will know until we start fielding calls. If I'm getting one call from Kansas city, or some place like that, saying hey you can come here to try and resurrect your career, I'm probably not interested, but who knows."

There's just no way to know right now what kind of interest the Astros might have in Berkman, but at least it's something to talk about.

Clemens "no longer welcome" in Kissimmee

The New York Daily News is reporting that Roger Clemens, whose 10-year Personal Services contract hasn't ever really gotten started, is "no longer welcome" at the Astros' Spring Training facilities.

"We're just waiting to see what all revolves around Roger, and what the next step is in his career and his life. I think everybody's just on hold until they see where he is with the government. He doesn't get involved in any way in our spring training or when he goes to where Koby is on one of our minor-league teams. He doesn't get involved in the activities of the team. He's strictly a parent and a spectator."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The thought of The True Yankee Legend in an Astros uniform can make one nauseated

Here's a classic take from the East Hampton Star on what Yankees fans need to remember:

First and foremost, recognize that Jeter will retire a Yankee. The thought of seeing him play out his days in a Houston Astros jersey is nauseating not only to Yankee fans, but also to all of baseball. Some things must remain sacred, and in the case of Jeter, they will. But even sacred happenings can have the reins pulled back.

It's a decent point. Baseball fans from coast to coast would clutch motion sickness bags in an effort to catch all of the vomit spewing from their mouths if God In Pinstripes even thinks about playing somewhere else...

Tri-City ValleyCats: Oscar Figueroa

Oscar Figueroa
How did he get here?: Signed as free agent prior to 2006 season
Stats: 5'11" 154 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Hometown/Birthplace: Caracas, Venezuela
Age as of April 1, 2011: 23
Position: SS
2010 Men of the Match: 0

2010 Overview


Career (2006-2009)


What happened?

This was Figueroa's second season in the States, and his return to the NYPL after going 1x7 in two games for the ValleyCats in '09 before getting sent on down to Greeneville for the overwhelming majority of last season. And it didn't go so well. It went better than last year, don't get me wrong, when Figueroa's OPS fell by 301 points. His SLG in 2009 was .243, and he was remarkably consistent, posting a .242 SLG in 2010.

What went right?

Fielding. Figueroa spent 26 of his 38 games in the field at SS, where he made five errors for a .955 Fld%. This was a dramatic improvement over last season, when he committed five errors in 13 games for a .904 Fld%. He also spent a handful of games at 3B and 1B.

Hitting w/RISP. Figueroa had 25 ABs w/RISP, and hit .320/.455/.400, striking out twice and drawing six walks.

What went wrong?

Uh, hitting. Posting a .555 OPS at home, Figueroa hit .174/.309/.174 in 18 road games, for a .483 road OPS.

Despite finishing the season with three hits in his last ten ABs, Figueroa hit .191/.280/.236 in his first 37 games of the season, and only saw periodic playing time once August came around.

I fear for Figueroa. In two seasons in the US, he has hit .193 (51x264) and just hasn't been able to replicate that .776 OPS season in 2008 - his last in the VSL.

And yesterday, in predictable news

So the Yankees have paved the way for Lance Berkman to go somewhere else by declining Berkman's $15 option, instead deciding to give him $2m.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mills to have his number retired

Not by the retirement-happy Astros, however, by his old high school, Exeter Union.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, Exeter Union High School will retire Mills' jersey at a booster fundraiser dinner at the Exeter Memorial Building. The event will also honor former minor league player Ray Strable, longtime baseball coach Jesus Banuelos and historian/scorekeeper Chuck Knox.

And did you know that Mills is ambidextrous? Learn something new every day...

Decent chance the Astros will need a minor-league hitting coordinator

That's because Mike Barnett, who has been with the Astros in that role for the past two seasons, is in the mix to be Baltimore's hitting coach.

From the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly:
From 1998-2001, he was the hitting coach for Tucson, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. The big-league manager of the Diamondbacks for most of that time was Buck Showalter, the Orioles’ new manager.

Barnett also worked in the New York Yankees’ baseball operations department in the 1980s while Showalter was a minor-league player and manager in the Yankees’ system.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Tyler Burnett

Tyler Burnett
How did he get here?: Drafted, 2010 (17th Round)
Stats: 6'0" 205 lbs, Bats: Left Throws: Right
Hometown/Birthplace: Murfreesboro, TN
Age as of April 1, 2011: 21
Position: 1B/3B
2010 Men of the Match: 5

2010 Overview


What happened?

Burnett, drafted out of Middle Tennessee State University in the 17th Round, where he hit .351/.415/.584 in 2010 and was a pre-season All-Sun Belt Conference pick, hitting .344 in 2009.

Burnett had a solid season for the ValleyCats, leading the team in walks, earning July Employee of the Month honors for Tri-City, and was one of two ValleyCats named to the NYPL All-Star Team.

Burnett also stole six bases - getting caught stealing six times, also - but played solid defense. At 1B, where he played 36 of his 65 games in the field, Burnett made two errors in 355 chances, for a .994 Fld%. He also played 29 games at 3B, where he made six errors for a .929 Fld%.

What went right?

Walks. Burnett's 45 walks were good enough for 2nd in the NYPL. 37 of those walks were against RHP (18.2% BB/AB rate). 22 were at home with 23 on the road. 19 of his walks came with runners in scoring position.

July. Burnett exploded in July, hitting .330/.439/.511, with 16K:18BB, 12 XBH, and 18 runs scored.

What went wrong?

The stretch. In similar fashion for other college players in their first professional season, Burnett seemed to tire. In August, he hit .216/.347/.353 with 27K:19BB, and in five September games hit .190/.217/.333. In his last ten games, Burnett hit .220/.283/.341

Lefties. Burnett hit .228 (13x57) against LHP, but his .747 OPS was just 11 points below his OPS vs. RHP.

Burnett will also likely be sent up to Lexington, where his patience at the plate should pay off for him.

Astros re-sign four minor-leaguers

With a captip to Baseball America, the Astros have re-signed the following minor leaguers:

C Brian Esposito
RHP Brad James
SS Oswaldo Navarro
SS Wladimir Sutil

Apparently, Ed Wade turned down Cliff Lee

Richard Justice fills us in on a little rejected trade in which Ed Wade turned down a deal with the Indians that would have sent Brad Lidge to Cleveland for Cliff Lee in 2007.

"It was a combination of performance and health concerns that steered us away."

So off Lidge went for Bourn, and everybody wins. The article is actually more of a feel-good story about Lee - who I think everybody feels an appropriate level of love for.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tri-City ValleyCats: Adam Bailey

Adam Bailey
How did he get here?: Drafted, 2010 (23rd Round)
Stats: 6'1" 195 lbs, Bats: Left Throws: Left
Hometown/Birthplace: Lincoln, NE
Age as of April 1, 2011: 23
Position: RF
2010 Men of the Match: 5

2010 Overview


What happened?

Bailey was drafted out of Nebraska, where he hit .368/.431/.691 for the Cornhuskers in 223 ABs, and was a First Team All-Big 12 selection in 2010. He had a rough start to his professional career, but started to put it together towards the end of the season for the ValleyCats, and got an RBI single in G1 of the NYPL Championship, and a two-run double in G2 to put the Cyclones away in G2.

Bailey didn't commit an error in 41 games in RF or 20 games in LF, and had seven outfield assists.

What went right?

Home games. His Home OPS (.678) was 95 points higher than his Road OPS (.583). Three of his four homers came at Joe Bruno, and he also drew ten of his thirteen walks at home.

August and September. After hitting under .200 in June and July, Bailey hit .225/.281/.326 in August, and .579/.600/.842 in September (11x19). In short, he hit .190 in June and July, and .287 in August and September. Over the course of his last ten games, Bailey hit .385/.400/.513.

RISP. With a Bases Empty OPS of .622, a Runners On OPS of .644, Bailey hit .250/.303/.397 - all slash line highs - w/RISP.

What went wrong?

Obviously, that start to the season. Not to mention that drew five walks in his first 35 games.

And those walks are another thing. He drew a walk in 5.1% of his PAs in 2010 (4.0% of his ABs in June and July). That came up over the last 31 games of the regular season, when he drew a walk in 7.4% of his ABs. Not great, but still an improvement.

Thanks to the strength of the close of the season, and his success in the playoffs, Bailey may get a shot at Lexington next season, where we'll get a better sense of his ability to adjust to the level of competition.

AFL October 25 recap

Many apologies, as it's been quite some time since we've done an AFL update. Yesterday's game with the Javelinas and Surprise ended in a 9-9 tie after 11 innings. Yes, a tie. Peoria got seven in the top of the 2nd, and Surprise answered with six in the bottom of the inning, and got the game-tying run in the bottom of the 9th.

Astros update:

Brandon Barnes: 0x2, K
Jay Austin: 1x4, 2BB, K, R, picked off first
Pat Urckfitz: 2IP, 0H/0ER, 2K, 14 of 18 pitches for strikes

Monday, October 25, 2010

The HOVG interviewed Bryce Lane

On Friday, our friends at the Hall of Very Good interviewed Astros prospect Bryce Lane.

Read the whole thing, but here's a nice quote on how he expects his career to turn out:

I'm going to do my time in the minors for a couple of years then I'm going to get the big call-up. (I will) try and see if I can make a career out of it and be the Brett Favre of baseball.

I love the confidence. I'm not in love with the possibility of seeing pictures of his ding-dong.

Greinke to Houston "makes sense" says Yahoo

Yahoo's Tim Brown breaks down the market for Kansas City pitcher Zack Greinke, and thinks the Astros are among a handful of teams that make sense.

The timing isn’t great for Moore: Greinke’s ERA in 2010 was 4.17 ERA, nearly double the season before. Yet, there’s no doubting Greinke’s stuff. He’s also smart and durable and seems to be wearying of the go-nowhere Royals. The low-key Greinke, because of the no-trade clause, has some say here. The Yankees and Red Sox are long shots, but not impossible. If Greinke wants to keep his market manageable, the Minnesota Twins, Tigers, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves make sense.

Bagwell reacts to his not returning

Zach Levine has the transcript of Bagwell's press conference this afternoon in which he explained why he would not be returning to the Astros in 2011 - in the same role.

My initial thought was, "What the heck did he expect it to be like? The guy played for 15 years, how could he not know how much he'd be away from his family?"

Bagwell answered that question:
Let me tell you something right now. When you're playing you have no idea what goes on in that coaching room. In today's game it's even more because you have that video room back there, and they're back there every single second. Brad Arnsberg's back there for hours breaking down hitters. And I was not in there for hours. But it was a lot of time and a lot of work.

So that's that. It's understandable, but I wish it wouldn't have happened. How much impact did Bagwell have? That's something we're going to have all season to figure out in 2011.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baseball, and its length.

One of my favorite books is Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch." By the time that Jimmy Fallon (whose middle name might as well be the same as Bucky Dent's, in my opinion) bastardized it on film, I had read it twice. Mike Lupica made me think of Fever Pitch this morning, and I resent him for it. On September 13, 1980 Arsenal played Stoke City in what is today the English Premier League (was it Division One then? It doesn't matter). Stoke City's manager, following the game, angry at the press' reponse to his team and their tactics famously said, "If you want entertainment, go and watch clowns."

This morning, on the Sports Reporters - one of the most asinine television programs ever to air after 4:00am - Mike Lupica said Baseball needs to speed up baseball games, because one inning in the ALCS lasted as long as an NBA quarter.

Perhaps Lupica should remember that baseball games are not played for his enjoyment. Baseball games aren't played for the fans' enjoyment, at all. They're played for one team to win and move on to the playoffs, where they go through three rounds of playoffs, in an attempt to win a World Series. If we want entertainment, we can go and watch clowns.

Teams would play every game if fans weren't even in attendance (see: Marlins, Florida). And maybe because the media dissects every playoff game to the point where there is nothing but a carcass left on the tray, it's the media (and yes, bloggers - though nobody is under any illusion that the presence of blogs affects the game in any way, shape, or form) who has contributed to the length of the games.

There are 25 professional baseball players in each clubhouse doing whatever they can to get a win, go to the playoffs, win a World Series, get their stats, etc., and if that takes as long as a quarter of an NBA game because Tommy Hunter needs an extra minute or two before he faces Robinson Cano, then so be it.

Baseball doesn't need to quicken its pace. We need to realize that, for once, we - as fans - are not the point.

Tri-City ValleyCats: Dan Adamson

Dan Adamson
How did he get here?: Drafted, 2010 (20th Round)
Stats: 5'11" 210 lbs, Bats: Right Throws: Right
Hometown/Birthplace: Springville, AL
Age as of April 1, 2011: 23
Position: CF
2010 Men of the Match: 9

2010 Overview


What happened?

Adamson was drafted in the 20th Round out of Jacksonville State, where he was called "One of the top defensive players to ever play the outfield for the Gamecocks," and was among the team leaders in hits, homers, triples, RBI, and stolen bases.

On defense, Adamson got 49 starts in CF and 16 in LF, committing four errors total, with six outfield assists.

Reporting to the ValleyCats, Zach Levine gave him the nod as Best Start by a Late Round Pick. He ended up leading the team in triples (4), homers (9), and strikeouts (79).

What went right?

Home games. Adamson hit .307/.378/.551 at Joe Bruno Field, where he hit seven of those nine homers, and his OPS was 269 points higher at home than on the road.

1st Half (which actually should be called Pre-ASG, as the NYPL All-Star Game is in August). Before the All-Star Game, Adamson hit .294/.384/.490 with 20 extra-base hits. The shoe drops in the section below.

Bases Empty. Though five of his nine homers came with runners on, Adamson walked in 15.1% of his ABs with the bases empty. With runners on, that percentage dropped to 6.8%. Eighteen of his 27 walks came with the bases clear. And his OPS was .858.

What went wrong?

Likely due to a long senior season Adamson tired down the stretch, hitting .155/.234/.293 after the All-Star Game, and finishing the last ten games of the regular season 4x34, hitting .118/.189/.147. That said, he hit an 11th inning walk-off homer in Game 1 against Batavia and got an RBI in the 3rd inning of Game 1 of the NYPL Championship series.

As mentioned earlier, away games. He hit .216/.324/.336 on the road, with 41K:17BB in 35 games.

Them strikeouts. It's fairly typical of a power hitter, but Adamson did strikeout in over a quarter of his PAs. In August and September, his K/AB rate was 30.4% (actually down from the 32.1% in June and July).

Adamson should get his shot at Lexington next year, and be a threat both with the bat and on the basepaths, after he stole eleven bases for the ValleyCats in 2010. It'll be interesting to see what he can do when he has an off-season to rest, and not start playing in February.

Chris Johnson simply won't do what the Astros tell him to do

Here's a nice article in Chris Johnson's hometown paper about his off-season, and his drive to become The Best. Player. Ever.

"I don't like to get complacent."

Writer Craig Handel:
That's why he and girlfriend Blakely Trettenero won't buy any property in Houston. That's why he's been working out when he's been advised to take October off, and that's why he adheres to a strict diet even though Trettenero is an accomplished chef who has written a cookbook and knows a thing or two about healthy eating.

"I asked him what he had for lunch, and he said two cans of tuna fish," (Girlfriend) Trettenero said. "I said, 'How about adding a tomato or some cilantro?'"

Zach Levine straight brings it

Zach Levine runs the numbers on just how far below average the Astros' offense was in 2010, and provides a comparison team: The Arizona Diamondbacks. We don't want to pull too much from it, because we would just be replicating his post. So read it for yourself.

Berkman back to the Astros? Hell, and yes, says Justice

And while we're talking about Richard Justice, we might as well link to this little blog post in which he says that we ought to have us a little reunion with Berkman.

Wait. That's not what he's saying at all. Or is it? Damn you, Justice, and your wandering theses!

Justice talks to Run-DMc; Hilarity Ensues

We all knew it was going to happen. Richard Justice was going to talk to Drayton and see what he thought about the Rangers going to the World Series, with their young players, nobody making $100m, and what looks to be a well-run franchise. Would the Astros respond accordingly (especially with basically every Rangers game soon to be broadcast in the Houston area)?

“You saw it the last two months of this season. We traded Roy and Lance and were really encouraged by how we played. It’s going to take next year to see what the real potential is of those young guys, but we’re excited. We’ve invested heavily in our minor league system and we’re excited about where we’ll be the next three or four years.”

It's an interesting column, and worth a read, but I feel like you already know what Drayton (and Justice) are going to say.