Friday, October 28, 2011

Astros claim Craig Tatum

The Astros have claimed Craig Tatum from Baltimore, according to MLBTR.

In eight seasons in the minors, Tatum has posted a .249/.316/.377 line. He's managed 299 PAs in the Majors, with a .223/.291/.264 line.

I. Don't. Understand. Ultimately, it doesn't change that Castro and Quintero are your C1/C2, but...seriously?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Qs, As with Jason Chowning

Astros minor-leaguer and 2010 28th Round draft pick Jason Chowning took some time to answer a few questions for Astros County. And here we go...

AC: You were initially drafted by the Yankees in 2007, but elected to go to Oklahoma, instead. How were the two drafts and negotiations different for you - first with the Yankees, and then with the Astros in 2010?

JC: Getting drafted by the Yankees was kind of disappointing. Although it is every kid's dream to hear his name being called on that day. Being drafted that low was a little upsetting; we all have dreams of getting drafted by your favorite team and signing that big bonus. But since I was drafted so low I never really considered signing. That and knowing that I still had time left in college, in which I really enjoyed my college life, and the friends that came with it. Financially it wasn't worth it to sign with the Yankees. Being drafted my senior year, it was under their terms and their discretion, by the Astros, I was much more excited and ready to get out there, although I didn't have much of a choice: either play baseball or hang it up. At this point I'm not quite ready to hang it up just yet. Now it's my time to go out there and prove to everyone what I can do.

AC: Last season, you were with Tri-City when they won the NYPL Championship (and you also struck out three batters in 2IP in Game 1). What was the feeling throughout the clubhouse as the season progressed, ending up with the championship?

JC: I had gotten to the team a little later than everyone else (Note: Chowning signed on June 30). I was playing in the College World Series, so I came a few weeks late. As the season progressed and it got closer to the end of the year, none of us had really thought about playoffs, we weren't really in the hunt and were a few games back. During the last week or two of season, our coach had a meeting letting us know that we were only a game and a half back, and to continue working and keep motivated. That we did, it came down to the last game of the season to decide whether we made it or not. The other team we were competing against lost so we knew we were going to playoffs. Once we won that first game of the Championship we felt confident enough to go into Brooklyn and take one game from them. After two long days of rainouts we did just that. Great experience.

AC: Over the course of your two seasons with the organization, you've struck out almost a quarter of the batters faced (a shade over 24% in both seasons). For those of us Astros fans who haven't been able to make it to Tri-City or Lexington, how do you approach your games and opponents?

JC: I approach each game the same, never knowing when I'm coming in or in what situation, preferably bases empty (haha), but whatever situation I am put in, I tend to try and block everything out and focus on throwing strikes and getting outs. Playing the same teams over and over, you really need to learn to mix up the things you did the first time facing them. After facing them so many times, you really need to work on being able to throw strikes with the pitches that you used before to get them out, and be able to bury that one pitch every now and then. I would consider myself a strike out pitcher - over the years I have really focused on throwing my offspeed over for a strike and, that being done, it helps you as a pitcher because when that hitter sees that you can throw an offspeed for a strike, they are more likely to go chasing when it's time to bury it. I'm always working on things to get better, its the small things that make the biggest differences.

AC: In 2011, you made six appearances with Lexington (8.2IP) before allowing your first earned run. What adjustments did you make from 2010 to 2011 in preparation for a full season of baseball?

Practice practice practice. I worked on my fastball command, which is my biggest flaw at times. I work really hard and being able to locate my fastball better and working on a consistent delivery with all my pitches. I feel that I have always had the ability, but haven't always been able to prove myself. I know in college it's one of those things: if you fail one time then it will be a while if you throw again. Especially as a reliever role. I didn't have much of a role at Oklahoma my junior year, thus I worked hard and developed a new pitch, my slider cutter pitch. My Oklahoma coaches liked that pitch and so gave me more opportunities my senior year. A little too late, but it all works out in the end.

AC: What will you be doing this off-season to prepare for 2012?

This offseason, as of now, I am working for a gym, so I am able to workout pretty frequently and stay in shape. I've really been focusing on getting my shoulder strong due to the lack of strength late in the season in Lexington, which caused me to miss the last 3 weeks of the season. That is something that will not happen again and I'll do whatever I can to keep that from happening. I'm really going to work on long tossing as much as I can while the weather is good here. Building arm strength and hopefully put some more velo on my fastball and work on command.

AC: Okay, gotta ask. There was a little story that came out last summer about a gem of a coach (Garnet Keller) in Canada who dressed players that looked like you for the last three games of the season, while you were at OU, so you could pitch in the playoffs for the team. This earned him a nice little three-year coaching suspension. What the heck was Keller doing?

You know, this is a crazy story - and one of which I was never able to tell my side of the story. I was playing in the Cape (Cod League) that year as a temp player and once everyone was there, my time was up. So I figured I would go home and have a relaxing summer with my family. About 3 weeks later I got a call from Coach Garnet Keller asking if I wanted to play for his team (the Melville Millionaires) in Canada. I told him I didn't have a passport and would have to pass. Well, he continued to call and said that he could get my passport to me within the week. So I thought, "Ok, I'll try Canada for the summer."

As the season came to an end, Coach Keller had approached me and told me to give him my passport - not thinking anything about it, I did. He later asked me to come to his house because he had paper work for me. As I got there he said that I was unable to play in the playoffs for his team, due to the fact that I missed the deadline. So he had gone online and made false documentation saying that I was there prior to when I really got there, and then went back to the books and put that I had played in 3 games earlier in the season to make me eligible. He had printed off the airline tickets with my name on it with earlier dates in the summer.

My hands were really tied and I could not tell him that I am not going to go through with this. He had my passport and all my papers. As the playoffs started the commissioner came to one of our games and wanted to talk to me. Keller insisted that it was nothing and to just tell him that I had been there the whole time and to just not worry about it. So needless to say, I was put in a bad situation and had really no way of getting out of it. He was the bad guy and he made it seem that I was in on it the whole time, and had been lying about the whole situation. It was a bad deal, and something like that will not happen again. I'm staying in the US from here on out.
-

Big thanks to Jason Chowning for his time.

Henry Sosa the Two Pitch Pitcher

Henry Sosa had a solid but unspectacular major league debut for the Astros this season. Sosa got by primarily on a fastball and slider combination thrown at the low ¾ arm angle that allowed for a decent amount of movement on his fastball. While there are a few starters out there who get by with a 2-pitch repertoire, most of them profile better as a reliever than a starter. In his 53.1 innings pitched with the Astros this year Sosa threw a fastball or a slider 97.3% of the time. With that in mind I was curious to see what other pitchers who utilize a similar arm angle as Sosa throw, and how often.

Due to the fact that there was no easy way to separate all of the different lower 3/4 arm angle pitchers I decided to pick 10 of them to look at in detail. The chart below shows the results based upon percentage of the different pitches thrown over the course of the pitcher’s career. All pitch-type data was gathered from Fangraphs.com.

Pitcher
Fastball
Slider
Cutter
Curveball
Changeup
Split-Finger
Carlos Zambrano
67.60%
13.40%
6.80%
1.40%
3.20%
7.60%
Roy Halladay
47.50%
0.70%
22.90%
22.60%
4.40%
2%
Chris Sale
54.80%
34.50%
 N/A
 N/A
10.80%
 N/A
Daniel Hudson
62.90%
14.60%
0.30%
 N/A
22.10%
 N/A
Edinson Volquez
57.30%
3.20%
 N/A
12.50%
27.10%
 N/A
Kevin Brown
74%
16.10%
0.40%
0.10%
7.20%
2.20%
Derek Lowe
67.60%
15.90%
1.80%
3.50%
11.20%
 N/A
Jake Peavy
57.70%
18.10%
9.60%
2.90%
11.70%
 N/A
Jeremy Bonderman
61%
30%
 N/A
0.50%
8.40%
 N/A
Michael Pineda
62.20%
31.50%
 N/A
 N/A
6.30%
 N/A
Total Average
61.26%
17.80%
4.18%
4.35%
11.24%
1.18%
Henry Sosa
61.50%
35.80%
 N/A
0.10%
2.50%
 N/A


Looking at the averages, the above group threw a fastball or slider about 79.06% of the time, which is about 18.24% less than Sosa. There were 3 other pitchers besides Sosa who threw a slider more than 30% of the time (Chris Sale, Jeremy Bonderman, and Michael Pineda.) Besides the fastball and slider the next most utilized pitch was the changeup which was thrown on average 11.24% of the time. Sosa threw his changeup 2.5% of the time, which was the least out of the pitchers sampled. No other pitcher on the list had a 3rd pitch that was thrown less than 5% of the time besides Sosa.

 This does not mean that Sosa has to learn a 3rd pitch to be successful as a starter, but the lack of a 3rd pitch may limit him to a back of the rotation type starter. Looking at the pitcher’s who throw from a similar arm angle the changeup may be Sosa’s best chance at adding another pitch to his arsenal. However, due to the fact that he throws with kind of a slingshot sort of motion similar to Carlos Zambrano he may have more success picking up a split-finger fastball or a cutter. Whatever the pitch may be, adding another one could go a long way in determining how successful he can be. The cards may be stacked against this happening though, given the fact that he is already 26 years old. What we see could very be what we get out of Henry Sosa. If he is successful in adding another pitch then he could make what seemed to be a weak haul in the Jeff Keppinger trade turn out to be a pleasant surprise for the Houston Astros.





Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ratings, and what they mean

Over the course of the playoffs Sports Business Journal and Darren Rovell have provided breathless tweets about ratings and baseball. Ratings are down for the post-season, if you didn't know, where fewer people are watching baseball, and more people are watching football, Desperate Housewives, reruns of The Simpsons, Terra Nova, or Jimmy Fallon commercials. The baseball sky is falling, according to sports media gurus.

So most of you know that I (your Constable) make my home in Nashville, Tennessee. Afternoon sports talk radio host Clay Travis tweeted earlier that:
15 years of Nashville TV ratings demonstrate death of baseball, triumph of NFL, and then provided a link to a column on his Outkick the Coverage website showing just how baseball has fallen off among Nashvillians, and how this is a microcosm of the rest of the country, nay, THE WORLD.

[Baseball is] dying off and shrinking. The more sobering fact for baseball: it lost much of my generation to disinterest. The scariest fact? Most members of the current generation don't care about baseball at all. They aren't even going to be there to be lost.

Good riddance. If you can't be bothered to watch this postseason, you're missing out, because it's been the best postseason since 2001. Do you want more baseball fans, or smarter baseball fans? I'll take watching a baseball game with the buddies I have who care about baseball, than a douchebag bar full of people wearing Yankees/Red Sox hats because "when they play against each other, the World Series is always better."

Baseball is now apparently an indie band. And we, as fans, have our favorite local band. And it's better for us if nobody else likes our favorite band. In fact, we prefer it to be so. If the band we like blows up and becomes huge, we stop liking them, amirite? All you Beta Band fans who stopped listening once they were featured on High Fidelity, because they invited a larger audience? You can all move along.

How someone can look at a sport that is played day after day (matching the ebb and flow of life, if you ask me, and probably George Will and countless other sentimentalists), and compare it to a sport played - at the most - 20 times a year, is completely ridiculous. Baseball is not football. It doesn't feature high-impact collisions, convenient viewing (weekends, or Monday nights), easy gambling (see "The Betting Man" for why you shouldn't bet on baseball), or 19 hours of ESPN coverage every day (they're currently doing pre-game of Terrell Owens' workout. This is not a joke).

Ratings only matter to advertisers, people who have to report on sports ratings, and bloggers who rail against using ratings to determine popularity. I don't believe this is an original thought, but I did make this analogy independently: If you're looking at ratings for the popularity of baseball, then it's akin to looking at record sales to determine which band is best. And I don't think anyone believes the Black Eyed Peas are the best band in the world.

Anyone looking at ratings to determine the popularity of baseball, particularly baseball in Nashville, which has no major league team, is split geographically between the Reds and Braves, and has a Triple-A team belonging to the Brewers - of all teams - is misguided, completely missing the point. If you don't want to watch baseball, good. We don't want you.

Friedman won't leave Tampa for the Angels

It doesn't look as though Andrew Friedman is too amped up to leave the Tampa Bay Rays of Tampa, at least for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In fact, according to DiGiovanna’s sources “their chances of luring the 34-year-old executive away from the Rays are slim” and “Friedman’s loyalty to Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg … appears to be the biggest obstacle to the Angels luring him to Anaheim.”