Saturday, January 21, 2012

Random Random Astro - Mike Brumley

This is the first of a new series here at Astros County. The premise is simple; at random times throughout the coming year, we'll look at a random player from the Astros' 50 year history. Today's random random Astro is Mike Brumley.

Brumley actually had two extremely brief tours in Houston in the mid 90's, primarily as a pinch hitter and utility defensive replacement. He first came to the Astros as a minor league free agent in 1993. After an impressive season in AAA Tucson where he hit .353/.419/.471 with 0 homeruns and 24 steals as a SS/OF, he was called up to Houston in September. In 11 plate appearances spread across 8 games he hit .300/.364/.300. Brumley did get one start in right field that season, in game #162. His highlight of the season was October 2nd when, as an 8th inning pinch hitter, he hit a 2 RBI single to give Houston a 3-1 victory over the Mets. Houston placed Brumley on waivers October 4th.

Brumley's second stint with Houston was 1995 when he was once again signed to a minor league deal. Through two call ups that season, Brumley managed a .056/.056/.222 line over 18 games with 18 plate appearances, including one start in left field. Brumley again had one good pinch hitting appearance. September 28th against the Cubs he game to the plate in the top of the 11th inning and swatted a solo HR, temporarily giving the Astros the lead before the team lost 12-11 in the bottom of the same inning.

After spending the entire 1996 season in Tucson, Brumley's career ended. In his two seasons as an Astro, Brumley totaled a .143/.172/.250 line while appearing as a pinch hitter, pinch runner, 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, and RF.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jim Crane lost $24.5m in Alabama

Here's a little snippet on Jim Crane from the Wall Street Journal, in which there's a bit of a brouhaha in Alabama.

Crane has been ordered by a bankruptcy judge to reveal details of his settlement with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. over $35 million worth of sewer bonds that he bought from the investment bank four years ago—a personal investment that quickly turned to, er, garbage...

...Crane sued J.P. Morgan two years ago, accusing it of failing to disclose the type of things that investors like him would typically want to know such as, say, an alleged bribery scheme that put several county officials in prison and led the bank to pay a $722 million settlement to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission without admitting wrongdoing.

Display your Proof of Citizenship!

Our buddy Tim De Block from the Crawfish Boxes just tweeted this:

Remaining unsigned Minor-League Free Agents

Baseball America has a pretty sweet database (the link gets you to the point of this post) of the Minor League Free Agent tracker.

Here are the remaining unsigned minor league free agents who spent 2011 with the Astros organization:

LHP Kristian Bueno, C Robinson Cancel, 1B Koby Clemens, RHP Sam Gervacio, RHP Brad James, OF Drew Locke, 3B Jhonny Medrano, 3B Oswaldo Navarro, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, 2B Jose Vallejo

You can never have enough prospect rankings

Head on over to Bullpen Banter, where they've posted their 2012 Farm System Rankings. Jeff Reese and Al Skorupa have each ranked the organizations, and both have the Astros right around the 33rd percentile.

You can find a good review of the Houston system here, when they broke down the top 15 for the Astros.

Could Carlos Lee replace Victor Martinez

So by now you all know about Victor Martinez' likely season-ending ACL injury. This puts the Tigers in quite a pickle. They need a DH/1B to win the division, something the Tigers could very easily do. But now that's sort of up in the air. What about Prince Fielder? GM Dave Dombrowski said that he'd consider Fielder but he was "probably not a good fit," and that he expected Martinez to be ready to return to form for 2013.

So that leaves the Tigers with a short-term need at DH/1B. Jon Paul Morosi mentioned this morning that talks with the Tigers and Astros have not been "in depth" about Carlos Lee. Our question is, "Could Carlos Lee even replace Victor Martinez?"

Martinez hit .330/.380/.470 in 595 PAs in 2011 for the Tigers, with 12 homers and 103 RBI (if RBIs matter to you). That's a 29.2% XBH rate for Martinez. But he also had a .343 BABIP.

Carlos Lee, in 653 PAs for the Astros in 2011, hit .275/.342/.446, with 18 homers, 94 RBI, and a 37.3% XBH rate, but with a .279 BABIP.

Also:
Martinez, vs. LHP: .311/.363/.459
Carlos Lee, vs. LHP: .348/.413/.615

I can sit here and cherry pick stats to make it look like Carlos Lee is Babe Ruth, but if the Tigers want to come close to replacing Martinez' bat, and want to do it for 2012 only, then Carlos Lee - a middle-of-the-order hitter whose contract expires after the 2012 season - makes temporary blogger sense, especially if the Astros are willing to eat half of Lee's contract.

You can never have enough catchers

The Astros have apparently signed catcher Chris Snyder to a 1-year deal with a club option for 2013.

Snyder, a 30-year old out of Spring Woods HS and UofH, is coming off a three-year/$13.5m deal, playing with the Diamondbacks and Pirates.

In 2011, he only played in 34 games, hitting .271/.376/.396, having missed most of 2011 following surgery for a herniated disc.

Overall, he's a fine defensive catcher - posting a .998 Fld% as a catcher - the highest in baseball history for catchers.

In seven seasons with Arizona (2004-10), Snyder posted a .233/.335/.402 line, with his high-water mark coming in 2007, when he hit .237/.348/.452, with 39 extra-base hits, but has posted OPS' of .685, .696, and .772.

Perhaps you remember Chris Snyder from this piece of horrific news, where he and his wife were attacked during a traffic dispute, but Snyder couldn't move following back surgery.

Bottom-line, either Quintero is SOL, or Castro's injury is setting him further back than previously expected.

Tigers and Astros have not discussed Carlos Lee "in depth"

Jon Morosi made a point of mentioning that the Tigers and Astros have not discussed the possibility of a trade involving Carlos Lee "in depth".

But that "in depth" part is so tantalizing, isn't it? Because it means that it may have at least come up.

Thoughts?

2012 Bounty Offers from Astros County

I know for a fact that Astros County has in its number a few minor-leaguers (and potentially major-leaguers, but I can't verify it) playing in the Astros organization. That's why we want to spice up the 2012 season by offering this bounty:

1. Any Astros player - minor-league or major-league - who, upon hitting a home run, throws their bat at the press box and yells, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!" will receive $50 from Astros County.

2. Video proof is necessary.

3. Furthermore, if the crowd chants "SPANIARD! SPANIARD! SPANIARD!" after the home run, we will give the player another $100 and a box of Wheat Thins.

There's even an offer for pitchers:

1. If any pitcher strikes out a batter to end a road game, and he yells from the mound, "Smells like somebody died" (via Tombstone), he will receive $50.

2. Video proof is necessary.

Also:

1. If any Astros organization player (Major League or Minor-League) were to take a picture holding an Astros County Proof of Citizenship (on the right-hand side of your screen) - you will receive a prize.

2. If any Astros organization player records a humorous video mentioning Astros County, you will receive a better prize.

All submissions can be sent to astroscounty (at) gmail.com

Furthermore if you are just a loyal reader of Astros County, take a photo holding the Proof of Citizenship and send it in, and we'll post it on AC.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pam Gardner out

Brian McTaggart just tweeted that Pam Gardner - who had been the Astros' President of Baseball Operations has "voluntarily resigned" from her position, but will remain a Special Advisor to Jim Crane.

I had been curious about her role, seeing as how George Postolos had seemingly taken over those responsibilities. But now I guess we know.

At least someone is excited about the possibility of a Cust/Lee outfield

Over at the Platoon Advantage, they tackle the possibility of history and the 2012 Astros - namely in just how terrible a defensive outfield would be if it included Carlos Lee and Jack Cust.

Wallace, on why he got released by Escogido

Brian McTaggart has a story on Brett Wallace, who talks about being with the Astros longer than he's been with any organization (!). But he also addressed his Winter Ball experience.

If you recall, back in mid-November, Wallace was released by Escogido (Manager: Tony DeFrancesco; General Manager: Moises Alou). He was sort of sucking it up to that point in the season, but Wallace has an alibi:

"It was one of those things -- you start to struggle a little bit and people start pitching you differently," Wallace said. "And when I was down there, I actually hurt my back about two or three weeks in and I just wasn't really swinging the way I wanted to. I started making adjustments to try to play, and I think they realized that, too. It was probably best for me to come home and get ready to go. This season is the most important thing to me."

Highly-touted player hits homer off Astro

Big shot impending free agent Yoennis Cespedes hit a big ol' home run (video within the link) last night.

Who did it come off of? Astros' Rule 5 pick Rhiner Cruz, and his 97-mph fastball.

Craig Tatum DFA'd

In order to make room for Jack Cust on the 40-man roster, the Astros designated Craig Tatum for assignment.

Tatum was claimed off waivers from the Orioles at the end of October.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jack Cust: Clutch?

So The Examiner's Stephen Goff likes the Jack Cust signing, which is totally fine. For $600,000 of Maybe Money, it could pan-out.

But Goff says this:
The BA isn't great, but he hits for power, produces in the clutch and can get on base

Let's see if he's right - how "Clutchy" is Jack Cust?

For his career, Cust is a .242/.374/.439 hitter, for an .813 OPS, with 819K:444BB (1.84 K:BB ratio). With that in mind, some career splits:

Two outs, runners in scoring position: .198/.371/.391 (.762 OPS)
Late & close: .220/.358/.414 (.772 OPS)
Tie Game: .228/.373/.426 (.799 OPS)
Innings 7-9: .234/.360/.430 (.790 OPS)

That doesn't fully unpack what it means to be Clutch, so let's look at High-Leverage situations (according to Baseball-Reference): .229/.376/.386 (.762 OPS), 18 homers in 534 PAs.

OPS' in High-Leverage situations in the following years:
2011: .709
2010: .544
2009: .699
2008: .747
2007: 1.150

Alright. It's been four seasons since he had an OPS over .750 in high-leverage situations. It's been since 2008 that his SLG was higher than his OBP in high-leverage situations.

Looking strictly at his home run log, Cust has hit 105 homers. 33 of those have been in Innings 7-End. 18 of those homers have been in high-leverage situations. 35 have been go-ahead homers, 11 have been game-tying homers, and one has been a walk-off. So you're looking at 46 of his 105 homers either tied the game up, or sent his team ahead. Impressive, right? But you're still only talking about 105 homers in 2581 PAs, one every 24.6 plate appearances.

Whatever. You can define clutch however you want, but I'm not sure Cust is "clutch." Feel free to disagree, and tell me I'm wrong.

Pure Lee Speculation

In Jim Bowden's latest piece at the WorldWideLeader, he lists five players who would make sense for the Tigers to look into as a Victor Martinez replacement at DH. Among them is our own Carlos Lee. Here's the Astros related stuff:

The Houston Astros would have to eat most of his contract, but .... Lee can still hit with power and would be a good fit for the Tigers.

Quick note on Cust

Buried in a links post over at Fangraphs, Carson Cistulli gives us this first hand account of Jack Cust during a minor league game:

I once saw Cust, playing in a Sacramento River Cats game, see 17 pitches over three plate appearances and swing only once.

Also in that post is a link to an analysis of the signing from a fantasy perspective from Rotographs, the fantasy arm of Fangraphs.

If Cust is able to meet the Bill James projections for 2012, he should end up worth roughly .5 WAR, which would place his value around $2-3 million.

Until we know the dollar amount of the contract and what moves the Astros need to make to the 40 man roster to make room for Cust, I'm going to withhold judgement on this deal.

*Edit: So now we know the deal is a non-guaranteed $600k with a club option for 2013. Almost no risk for the Astros. You can find a little info about non-guaranteed deals here.

So. Jack Cust, huh?

Late-ish last night, the Astros made as much of a splash as the Astros can make by signing 33-year old Jack Cust to a 1-year deal with a club option for a 2nd year.

The immediate question was: What the hell? (Note: This was written prior to me seeing Powling's post for SB Nation).

Currently on the 40-man roster, the Astros have Brian Bogusevic, Jason Bourgeois, Carlos Lee, Fernando Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer, and J.B. Shuck. Seven outfielders. Well, eight, now. What the hell is going on? Is Cust going to play Rover?

The way it looks now, Carlos Lee is probably going to at least begin the year at 1B, so that leaves J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer, and Brian Bogusevic as your potential outfielder, though there's room for someone coming up and killing the ball in Spring Training and beginning the year with some starts. Also, if Brett Wallace has figured out how to hit a fastball inside, it could push Carlos Lee back to LF, which would mean OUTFIELDER APOCALYPSE.

The question on my mind is, "Where does Cust fit in?" He had a miserable 2011, playing in 67 games for the Mariners, and hitting .213/.344/.329, the lowest OPS of his career since he got 78 PAs for the Rockies in 2002. He's been a DH-type player since 2007, hitting 25+ HRs from 2007-09 (also leading the AL in strikeouts with 164, 197, 185, respectively).

Like most everyone else, he could be the Bat Off the Bench - Jason Michaels 2.0. You can't look at his history as a pinch-hitter, as he's spent the overwhelming majority of his career in the American League, only getting a circus performer's handful of Pinch-Hit PAs.

For his career against RHPs, Cust has a .247/.383/.466 line, with 86 of his 105 career homers coming off righties.

Does it make senes? Not really. So, should you get upset about the signing? Probably not. Bogusevic, Shuck, and both Martinez' all have options left. As the Juvenile Court Clerk so deftly put it, they could have announced a Pudge signing instead. Click the SBN link above for further analysis...

Update: Cust has signed for $600,000. Compared to you and I, that's a huge amount of money. It's also $300,000 less than Jason Michaels made in 2011, so keep that in mind.

Updated Update: Cust's contract is a non-guaranteed contract. And if that doesn't help you out, the JCC posted this link from McTaggart (when he worked at the Chronicle) on the difference between Guaranteed and Non-Guaranteed Contracts. Hint: one of them is not guaranteed.

Ed Wade:
“Any player released after April 1 would receive full termination pay. So in other words, all non-guaranteed contracts would become guaranteed past the April 1 deadline."

So if Cust makes it through Spring Training, he gets his $600,000.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We have a bullpen coach!

The Astros hired Rockies minor-league pitching coach Craig Bjornson as bullpen coach, replacing Jamie Quirk.

What's $600K between new friends?

You know how arbitration works, right? The player submits a number that they think they are worth. The front office submits a number they think that player is worth. Invariably, the player thinks he's worth more than the front office thinks he's worth. If they can't agree to adjust their expectations, the two sides go before an arbiter and the team tries to convince the arbiter that they player is not as good as he thinks he is. Then they try to win a championship.

So it happened with Jed Lowrie, who thinks he's worth $1.5m, and the Astros, who think he's worth $900K. More to come.

The Astros lost a long-time front office member

Within Mark Berman's piece on Happ's agreement, we get this note:

Meanwhile, the club has no comment on the departure of Charlie Norton, the Astros director of baseball research and analysis.

Norton is the second long-time Astros employee to leave in as many weeks.


I had never heard of Charlie Norton, but he had been with the Astros since 2002, and in his current position since 2009. Interesante.

Marty Noble is f***ing hilarious

MLB.com's Marty Noble has a bizarre mish-mash of ideas up now, where he talks about the things baseball fans can start to get excited about, now that January is over halfway over:

Darvish's five-start shutout streak, the Indians' 13-game lead in the American League Central, the Astros' 11th victory, Pujols' hitting streak reaching 46 games, the Royals' run of 16 victories in 22 games, Stephen Strasburg's 0.93 ERA, Bobby Valentine's third skirmish, the Astros' 12th victory, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the same batting order for the 106th time, the Mets' first no-hitter (by Johan Santana), Jose Bautista's four-home run game, the Brewers' third two-game winning streak, J.J. Putz's 50th save, a Steve Bartman sighting at Wrigley, Josh Johnson's ninth shutout ...

A few paragraphs later, Noble is still going; and by the time he's done, the Astros are all the way up to 17 victories! And I thought bloggers were supposed to be the unprofessional ones.

J.A. Happ gets himself a nice raise

The Astros avoided arbitration with J.A. Happ today, agreeing on a $2.35m deal for 2012, a nice little increase over the $474,000 he made in 2011.

According to FanGraphs, Happ had a 0.3 WAR in 2011, valuing him at $1.3m.

Jed Lowrie is the only other arbitration case the Astros need to take care of.

Phil Rogers saw Drayton in the French Quarter, on his cell phone

Here's a story from the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers, on Drayton McLane's tenure as owner of the Astros.

Among the things Rogers notes:

*You thought Selig put the squeeze on the Astros? That's nothing (apparently) compared to Drayton's wife:
Selling the Astros was widely seen as a concession from McLane to his wife. He's 75, none of his children was interested in taking over and, well, the timing was right.

Apparently, Minute Maid sucks:
Minute Maid Park is a great place to watch a game but not a great place to play one. The hitter-friendly dimensions make it a challenge to develop pitchers there.

Surely there is some data to back that up...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stuffing the ballot box

In the mood to vote for something Astros related? Minor League Ball has a poll up asking who the best "B" grade pitching prospect is, and Jarred Cosart made the runoff as one of the top three. Head over there and show a prospect some love.

The Cardinals aren't real happy with Luhnow

St. Louis GM John Mozeliak admitted that the Cards have pumped the brakes on Jeff Luhnow's access to the remaining Cardinals' personnel:

Mozeliak:
“You’re always trying to be professional and allow people to have career growth. But there is a point where you can only take so much of a fracture to your own infrastructure. That was something that was starting to become something of a concern. I was happy Jeff got the opportunity. But at the same time it was not going to be at the cost of us going backward."

For everyone who criticizes Luhnow's tenure with the Cardinals, it's saying something that so many of the Cardinals' people have come to Houston with him.

Also, wouldn't it be great if there was a realignment in baseball where the Astros could get back to their natural rivalry with the Cardinals?

About that Hector Corpas arrest thing...

We had a comment in the post on Corpas' signing that said he had been arrested last fall. Yeah, that's true.

Corpas was arrested at 6:31am in Davenport, Iowa and charged with three misdemeanors: assault with injury, false imprisonment, and obstruction of emergency communications.

More prospecting

Seedlings to Stars is taking a look at prospects that just fall out of their top 100, an honorable mention list, if you will. From the Houston organization, they highlight 4 players: Jarred Cosart, George Springer, Domingo Santana, and Michael Feliz. Jonathan Singleton had previously been ranked #65 by Seedlings to Stars.

Astros County has discussed the first three names fairly regularly, but Michael Feliz was a bit of a surprise to see mentioned. Looking through the AC Archives, I see that The Constable let us know when Feliz was signed, but since then he's flown under the radar. While he may not have dominated the GCL, he'll be just 18 this coming season and is certainly an interesting young arm. We'll have to keep an eye on him this season.