Thursday, March 15, 2012

Angel Heredia suspended

Minor-leaguer Angel Heredia was suspended 50 games for testing positive for two different kinds of PEDs.

We don't know hardly anything about Heredia. So there's that.

The Second Cut is also deep

The Astros sent a few more players on to the backfields this morning:

Juan Abreu
Brandon Barnes
Paul Clemens
Rene Garcia
Jake Goebbert
Diory Hernandez
Lance Pendleton
Jonathan Singleton
Chris Wallace

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baseball America's Best-Case/Worst-Case

Baseball America posted their Best-Case/Worst-Case scenarios for each team in 2012.

Everyone has "Win the World Series," or "Return to contention in 2013!" The Astros' best-case? They don't f*** up the #1 pick. Awesome.

Astros sign Landon Powell

Alyson Footer says that the Astros have signed former A's catcher Landon Powell to a minor-league deal.

Powell was the A's 1st-Round pick (24th overall) in 2004, out of South Carolina, and won't be a free agent until 2016. He'll be 30 next week.

Powell wasn't much with the bat in his career. He hit .229/.297/.429 in 2009, his rookie season, where he got 155 PAs and half of his 14 XBHs went for homers. In 2011, he saw 36 games (122 PAs) of action for the A's, but hit .171/.246/.225. In 2008 Powell saw 88 games of action, and drew 63 walks in 367 PAs. His affiliation with the A's, and primarily their Triple-A club (where he hit .235/.358/.414 in four seasons (118 games, total), means that he's at least passing acquaintances with OKC manager Tony DeFrancesco.

The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan (aside from being one of the best blog names around) had this to say about Powell's cutting from the A's:
I wish Powell luck, he seems a good guy, will forever be a part of A’s history for being the backstop during Dallas Braden‘s perfect game. But from a baseball standpoint there wasn’t much of value having Powell on the roster.

Powell has dealt with knee injuries in the past, but also - more seriously - has autoimmune hepatitis, a rare liver disease with no cure, and will need a liver transplant in the next 10-15 years.

What does it mean? I don't know. He hasn't been an everyday catcher since 2006, when he caught 102 games over the course of the season. It probably doesn't bode well for Carlos Corporan, or maybe Humberto Quintero.

MLBPA: Astros' realignment was owners' idea

Zachary Levine talked to MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner about the Union's role in realignment.

It’s been the union’s stance really since expansion that 15-15 would be the preferred alignment. … We were very pleased that the owners wanted to move to 15-15 this time.

How that was accomplished was up to the owners, whether the Astros were going to be the team to move or a different team. The easiest way to accomplish that was to move a National League Central team to the American League West, to move a team from the six-team division to the four-team division because that necessitates only the one move. 15-15 was important to us. How that was accomplished was up to the owners.

And, of course, Weiner is not happy about the south-bound trend of the Astros' payroll, and there's an odd little note towards the end of his response:

We’re never happy when you have a franchise that’s had the kind of success that the Astros have had over the years drop the payroll. The way the system works, though, is that there are incentives and protections to make sure that all teams that are receiving revenue-sharing dollars are trying to field a competitive team, and we’re confident that the Astros are going to comply with that and try to field a competitive team.

Click the link for the whole interview - it's an interesting one.

Red Sox and Tigers "most focused" on Lannan

On the heels of yesterday's post about the Astros' interest in John Lannan, Hardball Talk has this update, which lists the Red Sox and Tigers as the ones "most focused" on the Nationals' 6th starter.

June 10, 1969 might be the scariest day in Astros history

Larry Granillo has a post up at BP talking about an on-field incident at the Astrodome on June 10, 1969:

Alou started in slowly and Torres hurried back. While the ball dropped just behind and to the side of them, their heads banged and they sprawled helplessly on the Astroturf.

The ball went for a three-run homer and gave the Pirates a temporary 4-0 lead.

[Pittsburgh trainer Tony] Bartirome reached Alou first. Noticing that Alou had swallowed his tongue, Bartirome pulled it out, inserted a rubber hose and inflated the hose.

This reopened Alou's throat and restored a normal air flow into the lungs.

"He looked like he was dead," Houston infielder Denis Menke said of Alou. "It was the hardest collision I've ever seen."

Umpire Al Barlick, one of the first on the confused scene, said "Alou's eyes were turning blue. Those trainers did a great job of taking care of him."

Everything turned out fine in the end, but...good God.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Random random Astro - Denny Lemaster

It's time for the long awaited next installment in Random random Astro. In this post, let's reminisce about left handed pitcher Denver "Denny" Lemaster.

Denny pitched for Houston from 1968-1971 after being traded from Atlanta following an All-Star season with Denis Menke for Chuck Harrison and Sonny Jackson. He spent the first two and a half seasons with Houston as a starter before converting to relief to finish his career. Overall with Houston he was 30-46 with six saves and a 3.40 ERA.

His first two seasons with Houston were the two best of his career and included a few outstanding starts. On May 2, 1968 Lemaster faced a St. Louis team led by Orlando Cepeda that would go on to the World Series. Denny gave up just three hits and one walk, striking out five as he shutout the Cardinals for a 4-0 victory.

Two months later, the Reds came to Houston to face Lemaster. On July 2, 1968 Denny gave up just four hits and one walk while striking out seven, including Johnny Bench twice, as he shutout Cincinnati for a 2-0 victory.

1969 saw some changes in the National League, as the Astros joined the newly formed NL West. In a June 22 game against new division rival San Diego, Lemaster locked into a pitcher's duel with Joe Niekro as neither of the two would allow a run through the first six innings. In the end the Astros rode Denny's arm to victory, winning 2-0. Denny scattered five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts for his last career shutout.

Following the 1971 season, Lemaster was sold to the Montreal Expos.

These days Denny Lemaster can be found around Lincoln County, Georgia spending his days fishing and wood carving.

Astros watching John Lannan

Danny Knobler tweeted out that the Astros joined the Red Sox and Tigers in watching Nationals pitcher John Lannan today.

Lannan, a 27-year old 6'4" LHP, was 10-13 last year with a 3.70 ERA/1.46 WHIP for Washington, and has posted sub-4.00 ERA in three of his last four seasons (but has outperformed his FIP in every year but 2010). He's under contract for $5m in 2012.

Astros have been contacted about sharing Spring Training facillities

The New York Times' Barry Meier has an article about the Mets looking to share Spring Training facilities with someone, anyone.

County officials here say they have also contacted the Houston Astros, who play in Kissimmee, Fla., but whose new owner happens to own a golf course just south of here.

That's true. Jim Crane bought The Floridian Golf & Yacht Club from former Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga for $25.6m in April 2010. The Floridian is 9.7 miles south of Port St. Lucie, Florida.

An article on last night talked about Crane touring the Yankees facilities, presumably to get ideas for improving the situation in Kissimmee:
"We're definitely studying the facilities. We're going to take a walk around inside. Of course, the Yankees are at the top of the food chain, so we want to work our way up. This is a great facility. I think the facility we have up there is nice in Kissimmee. You've got to look at everything when you're doing that."

The Astros are under contract with Kissimmee through 2015.

Would you trade for Kyle Drabek?

The Blue Jays were apparently interested in Wandy Rodriguez at last year's Trade Deadline. Well, MLBTR is linking to Ken Rosenthal, who is saying that the Blue Jays could be interested in moving Brett Cecil, or Kyle Drabek (though with Drabek's trade value down, they're reluctant to move him now).

Earlier today, Rosenthal listed the Blue Jays as a team looking to add starting pitching.

Might there be a match with, say, Wandy Rodriguez?

Drabek basically grew up in clubhouses, with father Doug. Kyle (September 2010):
“Being out there with all those guys, it was a lot of fun just seeing what they do. Not so much inside the clubhouse, but having the opportunity to talk to other players other than my dad. . . . Like, with the Astros, guys like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, talking to them helped so much as I grew up and got drafted.”

The Woodlands' Kyle Drabek was in the deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, but has a career 5.83 ERA in 21 games (17 starts) with the Blue Jays. He got tagged especially hard in 2011, when in 78.2IP, he struck out 51 batters and walked 55, for a 1.81 WHIP. Even worse, for the Blue Jays' Triple-A Las Vegas in 2011, he threw 75IP, allowing 111H/62ER, 45K:41BB, for a 7.44 ERA/2.03 WHIP - for a total line of 96K:96BB in 153.2IP.

So that's not good, but he was a Top-30 prospect heading into 2011. Add to that Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail played with Doug Drabek in 1995 and 1996, and there could be an intriguing match on a flyer with Kyle Drabek for a pitcher the Blue Jays have shown interest in before.

Astros' ETA for contention

Keith Law has an Insider-only post up at ESPN on when five teams can realistically expect to compete.

We don't pull much from pay-sites, but Law basically says the Astros can realistically expect to compete in 2018. Law:
Even great drafting won't give them a winning club in 2015-16, and real contention is probably two full cycles away.

In 2018:

Bud Norris will be 34; Brett Wallace, Jordan Schafer, and J.B. Shuck will be 32; J.D. Martinez will be 31; George Springer will be 30; Jose Altuve and Jarred Cosart will be 29; Jordan Lyles and Jonathan Singleton will be 28. Milo Hamilton will be 91. I'll have a 6-year old daughter, who should just be appreciating (and able to remember) the Astros' resurgence.

Where should Springer start the season?

This morning I had a pretty massive brain fart when tweeting out that I bet the ValleyCats would be pissed if George Springer goes straight to Lexington. Of course the Astros aren't going to let him miss the first two months of the season waiting around for NYPL ball, so that one is totally on me.

However, it brings up a good point. Where should George Springer start the season?
First of all, it's worth noting that Springer turned 22 last September.

The average age of batters in the California League was 22.7 in 2011. In the South Atlantic League, it was 21.4. So if Springer goes to Lexington, he'll be a little older than most of the players (while pitchers averaged 21.9 years old). If the Astros think he's sufficiently advanced, they could send him straight to Lancaster, where he should put up ridiculous power numbers, but still be a touch younger than his competition.

With the need to move the higher-profile prospects along, I think it could go either way. Since Springer only has eight games' worth of professional (non-2012 Spring Training) experience, I could see him opening the year at Lexington and, if he rakes, moving up to Lancaster fairly quickly. Double-A isn't out of the question by the end of the season...

The First Cut is the Deepest

The Astros have sent six players to minor-league camp:

Delino DeShields
Jorge De Leon
Arcenio Leon
George Springer
Henry Villar
Jonathan Villar

None of these are terribly shocking. But, as Levine noted, that Jonathan Singleton was not re-assigned is a surprise.

Wilton Lopez shut down with forearm stiffness

Wilton Lopez has been shut down with forearm stiffness "for a few days," but Brad Mills doesn't think it's all that serious. In 3IP this Spring, Lopez has allowed 0H/0ER, 5K:0BB.

Brocail wants to cut Norris' strikeouts

Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail wants Bud Norris to lower his strikeouts this season, to make him more efficient:

“Here’s a guy who’s going to throw 200 innings-plus for us this year. I personally would like to see the strikeouts cut down and more contact so that he can have quicker innings and not have so many pitches at the end of the year. The more I can keep him in the game and the less pitches he throws, the more chances we have of winning the ballgame.”

Norris threw 3,195 pitches in 2011 to 795 batters, for an average of 3.96 pitches per batter. The Astros - as a rotation - threw 16,258 pitches to 4,174 batters for a 3.90 PPB ratio. Even more knowledge: All starters across MLB faced 124,544 batters, throwing 470,896 pitches, which works out to 3.78 PPB. So, yeah, Norris throws .18 pitches per batter more than average (or, about 1 pitch per five batters).

For comparison's sake:

Brett Myers: 3.65 PPB
Wandy Rodriguez: 3.89 PPB
J.A. Happ: 4.26 PPB

I think this George Springer fella will work out just fine

Within Zachary Levine's piece on George Springer's big night (catch, go-ahead RBI double, steal, run), about the Yankees...

“I hate ‘em.”

Lowrie sees himself as the #2 hitter

In an interview with his hometown paper, Jed Lowrie sees himself hitting second in the lineup:

"I have hit everywhere in the lineup. Minus third, I hit everywhere in Boston. I see myself in the two hole at the top of the lineup. But I don't get paid to make those decisions."

Now you can make your girl all hot and whatever in Astros gear

Here's some good news for those of you guys with women who like lingerie. Victoria's Secret decided to go ahead and add the Astros (as well as six other teams) for their PINK collection.

I'll tell you this much: If I accidentally put on a pink Astros thong, and they win 12 straight, I'll ride that out all season long.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Astros rank 26th in organizational rankings

Kevin Goldstein posted his Organizational Ranking list at Baseball Prospectus, and your Astros rank 26th.

Things are looking up thanks to the Hunter Pence trade and 2011 first-round pick George Springer, but it's still the same ol' mess after that.

At least the Astros are ahead of the Tigers, Brewers, Phillies, and White Sox. As far as the AL West is concerned, here you go: A's (4th), Rangers (6th), Mariners (7th), Angels (23rd).

Hey! Don't go to the baseball camp in Corpus today!

If you signed up for the Ryan-Sanders Baseball School, supposed to run from today through Wednesday, stay home because it's been canceled with nary an explanation given...

TCB's Injury Report

The Other Astros Fan in Nashville, otherwise known as Brooks (Subber10), has an excellent look at the injuries of Sergio Escalona and Humberto Quintero.

Monday Morning Link Dump

To catch you up from yesterday's news:

*The idea is for Cosart to be in Major-League Camp next Spring.

*Paul Clemens has been listening to Brett Myers, Bud Norris, David Carpenter, and Livan Hernandez.

*Greg Lucas says there's no reason not to pick Mark Appel with the 1-1 in June.

*Lyon didn't feel right, Escalona seems to be healthy, and Angel Sanchez was supposed to make his Spring debut yesterday - but the game was rained out (+1, God.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Training Stats Check-In

The Astros only have a handful of guys with >10ABs, but let's just take a look and see how things are stacking up:

Jordan Schafer (15ABs): .333/.333/.467, 2K:0BB, 4R
Chris Johnson (14ABs): .286/.286/.571, 3K:0BB, HR
J.D. Martinez (14ABs): .357/.375/.786, 3K:1BB, 8RBI
Jose Altuve (13ABs): .308/.308/.385, 2K:0BB
Jason Bourgeois (12ABs): .250/.308/.333, 2K:0BB
Matt Downs (12ABs): .417/.417/.667, 1K:0BB
Marwin Gonzalez (12ABs): .083/.154/.083, 2K:1BB
Fernando Martinez (12ABs): .250/.308/.583, 4K:1BB, HR
Brad Snyder (12ABs): .250/.308/.500, 3K:1BB
Brett Wallace (12ABs): .083/.214/.083, 3K:2BB
Jason Castro (10ABs): .400/.455/.500, 2K:1BB
Jack Cust (10ABs): .000/.231/.000, 3K:3BB
Jed Lowrie (10ABs): .300/.462/.500, 1K:3BB
Chris Snyder (10ABs): .400/.455/1.100, 1K:1BB, 2HR

Other notables:
Carlos Lee (9ABs): .222/.222/.222
Brian Bogusevic (9ABs): .111/.333/.111, 3K:2BB, 3SB