Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend note


There's been a death in the family, so posting will be sporadic this weekend.

The Constable.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I can't quit you, Berkman

Jerome Solomon has an article up in which he talks to Lance Berkman.

How does Berkman feel about the reportedly improved chemistry after he got traded?

"When you're losing, which we were — we got off to a terrible start — when you're underperforming as a veteran player, you do tend to sulk a little bit. We were used to (thinking) 'Hey, we're right here. If we're not the best team in the division, we can certainly contend for that.' For the majority of Roy's and my careers, we had a good team, and we had a chance every year. You get spoiled.

"I didn't do a very good job last year when things weren't going well. It's difficult when you look around and see that things weren't going well and you look around and realize that it's going to be tough to contend. I wish that I could go back and do it differently. I'm not proud of how that was last year. I'm sure that it was a better environment (after the trades)."

Sigh. /Slow Clap.

Castro out for the year

As suspected yesterday, it looks as though Jason Castro will be out for (most of) the year with a torn ACL.

"The recovery for ACL and meniscus is about six months plus conditioning. There's going to be things as a catcher he's not going to be able to do. We're looking at sometime in September before he'll be back playing."

What the hell do we do now? Doesn't it seem strange to fret so much over a player with a .573 OPS (59 OPS+)? Well, the Astros are now going to take a harder look at J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan. Brian Esposito and Rene Garcia are also in camp, but it's likely that the catcher they choose will get the majority of starts, as the Astros are sticking with Quintero at C2.

Free Agency, you say? Yeah...the only catcher available on the free agent market is Bengie Molina. And I'm not sure I want the Astros to go down that road. Molina is 36, and made $4.5m in 2010. Of course, you're virtually assured of going to the World Series with him on your roster. But still, Molina will likely want at least $4m, and his OPS+ was 67 in 2010. That won't cut it. Can J.R. Towles post a .623 OPS? Maybe, but it's worth saving that money to try to find out. And now that his nemesis, Roy Oswalt, is gone, there's less of a chance that a pitcher will go all Michael Jordan v. Kwame Brown on him. And I know it feels like Towles is as old as Molina, he's still only 27.

I just can't envision a scenario where a trade makes any sense. J.R. Towles, you've got more lives than an alley cat. Make it count.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Options "inside and outside" abound for the Astros to replace Castro

Steve Campbell's article on Jason Castro lets us peer into the mind of Ed Wade, as he weeps and gnashes his teeth about the knee of Jason Castro, and just who in the world is going to start the season (because it ain't gonna be Castro).

“We’ll give J.R. lots of opportunities, Corporan lots of opportunities, and Q will continue to do what he’s been doing, and we’ll see if we have any answers internally. If we don’t, then we’ll look for possibilities. There’s not a lot of quality depth out there. I don’t know what we’ll necessarily be able to go outside the organization and get anybody the quality of Jason Castro.”

From the Office of the County Clerk - ST4: Astros v. Marlins

So the Astros have kinda-sorta won two in a row with a 5-3 win over the Marlins today.

*As the Astros look at different options for temporary C1, Humberto Quintero was 2x2 with 2RBI. Drew Locke had your other multi-hit game, going 2x2 (3B) with a run.

*Brett Wallace was 1x3 with a two-out, 2RBI hit.

*Jason Michaels (1x2), Chris Johnson (0x2), and Koby Clemens (0x1) all drew walks, while Clemens and Bill Hall provided the only strikeouts on the day. Walking more than you strikeout, as a team = good.

*Somehow Michael Bourn grounded into two double plays. Either the Marlins are all on speed, or Bourn is lolly-gagging. There is no in between, no other possibilities.

*Nelson Figueroa was relatively sharp with 2IP, 2H/0ER, 0K:1BB. Aneury Rodriguez (who is legally required to refer to as "Rule 5 pick Aneury Rodriguez") threw 2IP, 3H/1ER, 1K:1BB.

*Enerio Del Rosario had your only perfect outing of the day. Wesley Wright allowed two hits and a walk, and Henry Villar allowed a triple to Whatshisname Bonifacio, and a sac to allow the Marlins to cut the score to its final margin.

Man of the Match: Humberto Quintero! Step up and claim your prize!

Goat of the Game: Michael Bourn. Though he was 1x4 with a run, those two GIDPs...

FanGraphs' Team Preview

Here's your FanGraphs preview for the 2011 Astros.

It's a decent rundown, and here's your money quote:
The best-case scenario has Houston finishing fourth in the division, as they did in 2010. If the Astros hit some bad luck, there is a good chance they finish last in the division and maybe the league.

Earmuffs! Castro has a torn meniscus

Jason Castro is likely headed for surgery after being diagnosed with a meniscus tear, and no one knows just how long he'll be out.

"If he does have to have surgery, they're going to have to see once they get in there how much damage and what they have to do. If they have to do more. It might be a little bit longer. We'll see."

"It could have been a lot worse. We still have to talk to Dr. Lintner and get his opinion on everything. Once we speak and I'm able to see him and we'll just go from there. Obliviously, it's frustrating. It's happened and it's over with and now we have to really focus on doing everything I can to get back as soon as I can."

Berkman dealt with a moderately similar injury last spring, and we all saw how well that worked out for him.

According to Dr. Jonathan Cluett, a torn meniscus is often accompanied with ACL/MCL injuries, as well.

So who benefits from this development? J.R. Towles, whom Alyson Footer has already noted will get more ABs in Spring Training, though the Opening Day catcher is yet to be determined.

Castro Update

Steve Campbell has an update on Jason Castro's knee:

(Over two tweets):
Astros C Jason Castro waiting on results of MRI he had on his right knee this a.m. Castro says knee fees pretty much the same as yesterday...Castro said there has been no additional swell, which he takes as good sign. Has been icing knee and taking anti-inflammatory medication.

He's had the MRI, but the results have not yet been revealed.

Collectively, FANs think the Astros are a disgrace

David Cameron posted a link to FanGraphs' FAN projections (which I got a little fussy about, admittedly) for 2011.

Where can you find the Astros? 60-102.

J.A. Happ is an anomaly

I'm left-handed. I write left-handed. But I bat right (poorly), swing a golf club right (also, poorly), play guitar (somewhat better, but overall, poorly) right.

J.A. Happ throws left. But he writes with his right-hand. And does everything else right-handed. You know what that makes him? Weird.

"I don't know why. It's a weird thing. I would think I would at least kick with my left."

"His biggest asset is not only does he have good stuff, he's very deceptive when he throws. He's very, very hard to pick up. He hides the ball really well."

From the Office of the County Clerk - ST3b: Astros v. Tigers

Well, well. Collect your $500,000 if you bet a dollar on Oswaldo Navarro getting the first homer of the Spring. The Astros defeat the Tigers 6-3 for the first Grapefruit League win.

*Navarro's homer was a three-run, two out shot in the 8th inning that made the game 6-1.

*T.J. Steele was 2x4 (2R), Hunter Pence was 2x3 (RBI), and Tommy Manzella was 2x3 for the multi-hit games.

*Chris Johnson was 0x3 with a K, and others who may make the 25-Man Roster include Angel Sanchez (1x4, R, RBI).

*Austin Wates was 0x0 with a sacrifice. Drew Locke was 0x3 with a BB, SB, R.

*J.A. Happ threw 2IP, 1H/0ER, 1K. Ross Wolf threw 2IP, 1H/0ER, and David Carpenter (picked up in the Pedro Feliz trade with STL - ha ha), threw two perfect innings.

*Wilton Lopez also threw a perfect inning with a K. Sergio Escalona had another rough outing with 1IP, 2H/1ER, 0K:1BB. Jorge De Leon gave up 1H/2ER, 1K:1BB, WP in the 9th inning.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From the Office of the County Clerk - ST3a: Astros v. Yankees

The Astros snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory by allowing five 9th inning runs for a 6-5 loss.

*The Astros actually out-hit the Yankees, 12-8, with two hits coming from Jason Michaels (2x3), Bill Hall (2x3), and Jack Shuck (2x4). J.R. Towles was 1x3 (2B, 2R).

*Among the Players Not Likely To Be On the 25-Man roster, Jay Austin was 1x2 (with an outfield assist), Jio Mier was 0x3 (BB, 2K), Jon Gaston was 1x1 (RBI), Jonathan Villar was 0x1, as was Mike Kvasnicka and Rene Garcia.

*Brett Wallace grounded into two double plays, and continuing the miscues, errors by Kvasnicka and Mier helped the Yankees put up the five-spot.

*Bud Norris got the start, going 2IP, 1H/1ER, 0K:1BB. Jordan Lyles threw 2IP, 1H/0ER, 0K:2BB. Jose Valdez was the only pitcher to have a perfect outing.

*Doug Arguello got 0.2IP, but allowed 4H/5R (2ER), 0K:2BB, WP, and left the bases loaded for Lance Pendleton, who walked the game-winning run in.

It took approximately 27 hours for one of Will Carroll's prophecies to come true

Yesterday, Will Carroll said that Jason Castro was on Red Alert for an injury. Today, it happened.

Alyson Footer:
Castro sprained knee running down line & trying to avoid tag. He stepped on side of base, his foot stuck and his upper body kept turning.

Tweets from McTaggart and Steve Campbell say that Castro is "cautiously optimistic," but that he will have an MRI tomorrow.

Mills just referenced Arias' career in talking about his shoulder

Scary words from Brad Mills regarding Alberto Arias' shoulder:

"He's going to be behind, there's no doubt. This latest incident that has come up is really going to put him back there. The important thing is to get him healthy and strong and going again. In the long run, we hope that's going to happen for him.

"We haven't seen him pitch now in quite a while. We need to get him back and healthy and strong for his sake and his career, and if he can help benefit us, we're all better off."

The Astros gave out the 2nd-highest bonus in the league

When the Astros gave Ariel Ovando $2.6m, it was the 2nd-highest bonus given out to an international player, $200K behind the Blue Jays' bonus to Adonys Cardona.

Wonderful Flowchart

And accurate, if I may say so.

Arias' news getting worse

Brian McTaggart continues to share bad news about Alberto Arias, as he'll have an MRI today on his shoulder.

Farmstros posts Locked In With Drew

Farmstros has managed to get Drew Locke to post regular updates from Spring Training. Give it a click and read.

Duncan back with the Astros

With a captip to Farmstros, Baseball America tells us that the Astros have re-signed pitcher David Duncan.

Follow him on Twitter.

Chris Johnson's approach: To not have an approach

Steve Campbell's article on Chris Johnson is an interesting one, with the traditional "veteran-tricks-rookie" story, courtesy of Roy Oswalt.

But on to how Chris Johnson is going to adjust to pitching in 2011:
“Everybody’s always asking me, ‘What adjustments are you going to make this year, because guys are going to adjust to you?’ I really don’t know the adjustment yet. I don’t know what they’re going to do. I’m going to stick with what I was doing until it doesn’t work. Then I’m going to have to adjust.”

Ed Wade:
“CJ last year got challenged late in the season and made the adjustments. He made them in a very significant way. I wouldn’t be surprised at the end of the season to see CJ hit 30-plus home runs.”

30 HRs? Johnson hit homers at a rate of one every 32.9 plate appearances. So to hit 30 homers - based on last year's limited sample - he would need 987 plate appearances. Of course, this doesn't take into account any growth on his part over the course of the season. That number came down slightly in August-September, with a homer coming every 32.3 PAs (1HR/21.4PAs in September alone). What say you? Does Johnson have 30+ HR power?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Meat Wagon Update

McTaggart has your ST2 reaction and some injury updates, which we'll pass along here:

-T.J. Steele (elbow) and Anderson Hernandez (back) are dealing with some issues, but were cleared to play.

-J.D. Martinez (quad) will be out until Thursday, when the Astros can reevaluate him.

-Fernando Abad had a temperature of 101, and was sent back to The Facility.

Ed Wade: Friends are fleeting, but Major League glory IS FOREVER

McTaggart has an article on the Law Offices of Shuck, Steele, and Gaston, and the friendship they've developed from playing next to each other since the dawn of time.

Not so fast, sez Ed Wade:
"We tend not to look at them as a trio. We tend to look at them as individuals, because we're not looking for all them to graduate at the same time to the big league level. We're looking for the best player who can help us at any particular time and can get here and excel.

"It's great for them to have the camaraderie they've got and established those relationships, but at the end of the day, we're putting the best 25 players on the field, and if at some point in time, one of them is here, or all of them are here, the No. 1 criterion is how they help the Major League club."

'Stros before Bros.

Gaston realizes that, with the Astros outfield as it is, he may be auditioning for someone else, too:
"It's not just playing for the Astros, because you're playing for the other 29 teams, too. Whether you make it with the Astros or not, ultimately your goal is to make it to the Major Leagues. You've just got to get your opportunity and take advantage of it."

From the Office of the County Clerk: ST2 - Astros v. Braves

Your Astros drop to 0-2 on the Spring, with the pitching holding up but the offense doing two things:

1. Jack
2. Crap

in a 3-0 loss to Atlanta.

Hunter Pence got a triple for the Astros' first extra-base hit of the Spring, with Carlos Lee and Brian Bogusevic collecting your other hits. Lee also drew the only walk of the day.

Eight pitchers got work in today, including starter Brett Myers (2IP, 2H/0ER, 1K:0BB), and Brandon Lyon (1IP, 2H/1ER, HBP). The Astros then trotted out three pitchers who had perfect outings - Ryan Rowland-Smith, Mark Melancon, and Jeff Fulchino. Pat Urckfitz got knocked around for 3H/2ER, 1K:1BB in his 1IP, while Wesley Wright (1H) and Gustavo Chacin (perfecto!) closing out the game.

Your Astros not likely to make the Opening Day squad saw some action on the day: T.J. Steele (0x1), Jon Gaston (0x1, K), Drew Locke (0x1), Koby Clemens (0x3, 2K).

So. What can we take away from it? Pitchers were good. Hitters were bad.

Man of the Match: Brett Myers, I suppose. Nine pitches, nine strikes.

Goat of the Game: Anyone who held a bat.

Will Carroll's Team Health Report

Our collective man-crush on Will Carroll is well-documented, but he straight brings it today on SI with the Astros' Team Health Report (including an incredible intro paragraph).

Read it for yourself, but there are seven players on his Red Light list:

I don't expect to see the Astros anywhere near October glory but if they surprise us, it will be because the medical staff worked a miracle, holding together a team that's risk profile is alarmingly high. If it all goes wrong and the Astros are back on the bottom of a weak NL Central, the DL days stacking like so much cordwood, don't blame the medical staff. This one's on the front office.

The players with a higher injury risk: Jason Castro, whom Carroll describes him as such: The System seems to have something against Castro, rating him as one of the highest risks in the league despite a clean injury history. Also, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris (yes, four of the five starting pitchers), Carlos Lee, and Brandon Lyon.

Can you imagine what will happen if all these actually stop at the Red Light? Apocalypse.

Rob Neyer had a hard time coming with with one interesting thing about the Astros

It's basically, if Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace can hit...

...there might actually be a couple of reasons to watch the 2010 Astros, even when Wandy Rodriguez isn't pitching.

Barmes or Wallace could be hitting #2

Brian McTaggart mentions within this notebook that the 2-hole is up for grabs, with Barmes - or Wallace - hitting in that spot.

Oh great, Abad is sick

Brian McTaggart just noted that Fernando Abad has been sent home because he's ill. And apparently not in the Beastie Boys sense of the word.

Delino DeShields got himself a #54

Baseball America posted a list of the prospects who each received a vote on somebody's Top 150 list.

Delino DeShields peaked on Somebody's Ballot at #54.

The Most Vague Travel Guide Ever has the most vague guide to Minute Maid Park, where it's pretty clear the writer didn't actually visit the venue.

Just in case you give a crap what the sports editor of a newspaper in Illinois thinks...

Paul Hines thinks the Astros will finish last.

I don't.

Lance Pendleton isn't really interested in rejoining the Yankees

Steve Campbell interviewed Lance Pendleton yesterday (as did Stephen Goff), and found that Pendleton isn't so interested in going back to the Yankees.

"I enjoyed my time with the Yankees, but if you understand, I'm not really itching to go back,. I want to stay."

"I like him a lot. I like his stuff. He's kind of that older guy with a younger arm, a fixed arm, a new arm. I see some great upside."

He's throwing the ball very well. He's really made a good impression. He's a strike-thrower. He's been consistent so far. That shows he was really working in the offseason."

Pendleton was one of three pitchers to not crap his pants on the mound yesterday, so that's a good start for the Rule 5 pick.

Bagwell to Clemens: Maybe it won't work out here

Jerome Solomon has an interesting article up today, in which Bagwell talks to Koby Clemens:

“I told him, ‘You can’t worry about who is in the big leagues. You’ve just got to do your thing. As long as you keep hitting, they’re going to find a spot for you. There is a place for you to play, and if it’s not here, it’ll be somewhere else.’

“There are not a lot of guys who get drafted by and finish with the same organization.”

This one time, I was dating a girl who told me, "You're going to make some girl the luckiest girl in the world." That was nice to hear. And then she broke up with me. This sounds like that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

ST1 Reaction

McTaggart has your reaction from ST1 vs. Atlanta.

3x3 Wallace:
"We've all been champing at the bit to get out there and play games, and to finally get out there and play another team it's definitely exciting. I think we were all so ready to go. We faced some good pitchers today and it's you start to get timing down and see balls coming out of guys' hands."

Ball-rocked Wandy:
"You know what, today I tried to work on my location and I got a lot of guys behind in the count. That was my mistake today."

Bald Brad Mills:
"It happened with a couple of guys today, but with Wandy I think he missed on a couple of pitches early in counts with guys in that second inning. He tried to make adjustments mechanically and left some balls right over the middle of the plate, and they hit them hard."

From the Office of the County Clerk - ST1: Astros v. Braves

(This post is brought to you with the disclaimer that it's Spring Training for the County Clerk, too. And he'll likely suck up the joint until April 1.

Jeebus, Wandy. And the entire bullpen. No pitcher made it through their prescribed outs without allowing a baserunner as the Braves racked up 15 hits and drew eight walks in a 13-3 win over the Astros for ST1.

Wandy opened up the Grapefruit League by getting rocked, posting a final line of 1.2IP, 5H/6ER, 0K:3BB - though to be fair, two of those runs came courtesy of Enerio del Rosario, who inherited a field in which every single base was occupied by Braves.

del Rosario went 1.1IP, 2H/0ER, 1K:0BB, and Aneury Rodriguez is now -1 on Lance Pendleton with his 1IP, 3H/2ER, 0K:2BB performance.

Sergio Escalona kept up the ass-whoopin' with 1IP, 3H/4ER, 0K:2BB. The second half of the bullpen did fairly well, allowing 2H/1ER, 3K:1BB in 3IP - with Lance Pendleton allowing 1H/0ER, Henry Villar allowing 1H/1ER, and Fernando Rodriguez as the only pitcher to not give up a hit, but got 2K:1BB.

Brett Wallace was 3x3 with three singles on the day. Other Astros collecting multiple hits were T.J. Steele (2x2), Carlos Lee (2x3, RBI), and Tommy Manzella (2x3).

Jason Castro was 0x3 with a K and an inning-ending GIDP in the 5th. The GIDPs were a trend, as the Astros hit into five of them sum-bitches (four of them inning-ending GIDPs), went 4x14 w/RISP, and left ten men on base.

Of course, of the 14 hits the Astros got, 14 of them were singles (100% single rate).

Man of the Match: Brett Wallace! Hit 1.000 for the entire year, and expect a FanGraphs post entitled "Brett Wallace...meh."

Goat of the Game: The pitchers.

Dierker: Screw Spring Training, it's too long

Larry Dierker has a "Spring Training is too long" column on

I think every team could be ready to go in a month. Players are generally in better shape when they arrive in Spring Sraining than they were in my day. Most teams have offseason training programs to make sure they can hit the ground running in February. Agonizing over which players to cut and which to keep isn't really necessary. It seems like a big deal, and it gets a lot of print in the last week of spring training, but by the time May comes around, most teams have sent some guys down and brought others up anyway.

Some compelling arguments here, but I disagree if only to note that I would have been ready to rampage if baseball hadn't "started" today. Waiting another couple of weeks would have been like waiting for Christmas 25 years ago.

USA Today's Power Rankings

USA Today released their Power Rankings today, and we find the Astros at #25.

Need strong pitching to avoid tumbling to bottom on NL.

And in other news, grass is green.

And in other actual news, Astros County's Top 25 will return next Monday morning!

Update on J.D. Martinez

Alyson Footer tells us a little more about J.D. Martinez' sore leg:

JD Martinez has tight quad and will be sidelined a couple of days.

Monday Morning Catch-Up

As Astros County was busy doing husband/boyfriend/loser things (respectively) all weekend, here's what you missed from Saturday and Sunday:

*If Brett Wallace can be Brett Wallace, he won't be seeing Oklahoma City.

*The State loves them some Jordan Lyles.

*Chris Johnson knows his defense kind of sucked.

*The cuts will come early and often in March.

*Koby Clemens dominated Astros pitchers, again. J.D. Martinez was supposed to start, but already has a sore leg, so he was the DH, and went 1x2, BB.

*In signings news, the Astros agreed to deals with J.A. Happ ($474,000) and Angel Sanchez ($432,500)

*In today's Spring Training opener, the following players will see some action: Castro, Wallace, Manzella, Johnson, Lee, Bourn, Pence, and Downs.