Saturday, March 31, 2012

Alberto Arias' shoulder vs. Cecil Cooper

What with the news that Alberto Arias has been released, it's worth looking at what the heck happened to the 2009 breakout star - and it has a lot to do with Cecil Cooper. We actually speculated on just this subject in March 2010. Let's see what happened up to that point.

First of all, Ed Wade picked Arias off waivers on July 31, 2008 from Colorado, where he spent his whole career, signing with the Rockies as an amateur free agent in 2000. Arias was a starter in the Rockies' system for the first two years of what Baseball-Reference has listed, throwing 73IP in 2003, 135IP in 2004, 90.2IP in 2005, 111.2IP in 2006. In 2007, Arias made his MLB debut and, between the minors and Colorado, threw 33.2IP; that was bumped up to 91IP in 2008. With Colorado's system from the beginning of the season to the point where the Astros acquired him, he threw 59.1IP. Doing the remaining math, he threw 30.2IP in August and September for the Astros/Express.

And then 2009 happened, where Arias threw 62IP - again between Triple-A and Houston. We can go to FanGraphs and see his gamelogs from 2006-2008. What do we find?

Appearances on consecutive days

2006: 3
2007: 1
2008: 1 (with Colorado)
2009: 8

We don't have pitch# data from the minors, but we can see a few things about how Cooper used Arias in 2009.

Appearances on 0 days of rest, 2009: 9
Appearances on 1 day of rest, 2009: 13
Appearances on 2 days of rest, 2009: 10

Pitches per outing, May 2009: 13.45
PPO, June 09: 22.78
PPO, July 09: 21.46
PPO, Aug 09: 14.44

 There were some telling signs about Arias' future troubles towards the end of his 2009, which occurred on August 23 as a result of a sore knee:

*Arias threw 30+ pitches seven times in 2009 - five of them between June 26-July 27.
*In May, Arias' sinker was sitting at 93mph (1,555 rpm). In June, it was at 93.27mph (1,859 rpm). In July, it was at 94.07mph (2,051 rpm). And in August, that slider was even higher, at a season-high 94.53mph (2,045 rpm).
*From May-July Arias allowed a .224/.325/.294 line, with 35K in 38.2IP. In August, Arias faced 40 batters, and got 21 of them out, allowing a .459/.500/.595 line with 4K in 7IP.

Later in August, Arias pulled his hamstring slipping in the bullpen. On September 17, his simulated inning didn't go well, and he had knee surgery on September 23. Still, there was no reason to think that Arias wouldn't be ready in 2010. Wade mentioned him as a late-inning bullpen candidate in December 2009.

Thing is, Brad Mills was the manager when Arias was pronounced healthy enough to go after a middle-relief role in March 2010. That said, Arias strained his trapezius on March 9, threw two bullpens and a live BP before needing an MRI on March 21 before getting the report that he jacked his rotator cuff on March 23. Wade was not optimistic about his short-term recovery. On April 21, 2010, Arias was throwing, had a lot of pain, and ended up having surgery, ending his 2010 season. On August 30, he began throwing off flat ground, in preparation of 2011. On January 14, 2011, Arias would be ready for Spring Training, but felt tightness on Feb 21 - four days later he got a cortisone shot.

By March 2, 2011, Mills was talking about Arias' career with concern. On April 5, Arias was throwing off a mound and looking good, but had a set-back on April 19 and flew back to Houston to get examined by the team doctor. He was placed on the 60-Day DL at the end of June, and was outrighted off the 40-man roster in October.

So. Who is to blame for what happened to Alberto Arias? Cecil Cooper rode him hard in 2009, but ultimately what sent him down the injury path were knee and hamstring issues (and remember, the hamstring issue was a result of slipping in the bullpen). Now, was the knee issue a result of poor delivery? Was Arias pushed to return due to a questionable bullpen heading into 2010? Was the shoulder injury overcompensating from a dodgy knee, and things just snowballed? Was it a complete breakdown of the entire system as a whole? It's hard to say for sure. But while Cooper started him down the path, Cooper was gone long before Arias' career was in question.

More minor leaguers cut loose

Once again, Jayne over at What the Heck, Bobby? has learned of more minor league cuts. Getting the axe this time are pitchers Alberto Arias and Blake King, catcher Emerson Frostad, and 1B/OF Jordan Brown.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Minor league moves a'plenty

Jayne over at What the Heck, Bobby? has news of more minor league retirements and cuts. Steve Martin and Justin Shults retired, and David Flores, Ebert Rosario, Jimmy Van Ostrand, and Lance Pendleton were released.

I'm a bit surprised to see David Flores released given our lack of depth at third base and his successful season at Lancaster last year.

Astros release Livan Hernandez

So it just came down the pipe that the Astros have released Livan Hernandez from his minor-league deal today. There is, in my bones, a strange feeling of confidence in the front office. Honestly, if Ed Wade was still GM, do you think that Duke and Hernandez would have been released? I don't. As with the Duke signing, and subsequent release, Livan was a low-risk, high-(possible-) reward signing. It didn't work out, and so they move on. Not in June, but right now. However this team fares in the standings this year, I have more confidence in the franchise than I have since 2005. And you?

So, projected rotation:
1. Wandy
2. Norris
3. Happ
4. Weiland
5. Lyles*

*Lucas Harrell could find himself in this spot, as he is out if options, and Lyles could head to OKC.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Random random Astro - Scott Servais

This installment of RRA is all about catcher Scott Servais. Scott was drafted by the Astros in the 3rd round of the 1988 draft. After a couple of rough seasons in the minors, he put together a solid season in AAA Tucson in 1991 and earned a call-up. He would stay with the major league club until June of 1995 when he was traded along with Luis Gonzalez to the Cubs for catcher Rick Wilkins. Scott re-signed with Houston for 2001 when he split the season between Houston and AAA New Orleans. It would be his last season in the majors.

For his Houston career Scott hit .225/.284/.357 and caught 23% of base stealers. His best season with the Astros was 1993, when he hit .244/.313/.415 with 11 homers in 291 plate appearances while finishing 3rd in the National League in fielding percentage among catchers at .996.

A pair of games for Servais stand out as strong individual efforts. On May 26, 1992 the Astros went to Montreal to take on the Expos. That afternoon Scott went 3 for 3 at the plate with two doubles and two RBI before being removed in the 7th inning for a pinch runner. Both RBI came on a two run double off of Montreal starter Chris Nabholz in the second inning that gave the Astros an early lead as Houston went on to win 9-4.

Arguably the best game of his Astros tenure came on June 11, 1993. On that night Houston went to play the expansion Colorado Rockies in Colorado for the first time. Scott was 3 for 3 with two runs scored and one RBI on a solo homerun. That homerun came in the eighth inning off Rockies reliever Jeff Parrett and tied the game back up at 4-4. Unfortunately Houston would end up losing that came 5-4.

Scott is currently assistant GM for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Prior to that he was senior director of player development for the Texas Rangers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Minor league rosters

Some chatter on twitter from a few minor league players is indicating that minor league rosters may be set. We'll update as we get more information.

*Edit* So far this is what we've heard. I should note that the rosters have not been finalized, so some of this could change this weekend. Hat tip to Brooks over at The Crawfish Boxes for most of these.

Lexington - Bushue, Folty, Gouvea, Chowning, Muren, Jordan Scott. Hat tip to The Grand Old Game for Quevedo, Luis Cruz. Scooped by yours truly are Gominsky, King, Zach Johnson, Todd, Howick, Duffy, Pena, Kvasnicka, Hamblin, and DDJ.

Lancaster -Valenzuela, Mier, Kike Hernandez, Gabriel Garcia, Jorge De Leon, Streilein, Juan Minaya, George Springer, Sogard

Corpus Christi - Adam Bailey, Chris Wallace, Wates, Kreke, Hicks, Zeid

OKC - Dallas Keuchel

In addition, Ryan Cole has retired, and Justin Shults is no longer with the organization for as yet unknown reasons.

More major league cuts

As reported by the triumvirate of Astros newsbreakers Houston has removed five more from the major league roster this morning. Infielders Angel Sanchez, Scott Moore, and Brian Bixler have been reassigned to minor league camp, infielder Joe Thurston was released, and pitcher Enerio Del Rosario was optioned to the minor leagues.

Once you factor in the pending move to the DL for Sergio Escalona, that leaves 33 in camp fighting for 25 spots.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More minor league cuts

It seems that there may have been another round of cuts in minor league camp this morning. All we know for sure is that outfielder Jon Gaston has been cut. Gaston had a monster season at Lancaster in 2009 when he hit 35 homeruns with a slash line of .278/.367/.598, but he's regressed in the two seasons since with Corpus Christi.

We'll update as more names come out.

*Edit: Jayne over at What the Heck, Bobby has posted the list of today's minor league cuts. The list includes pitchers Adam Champion, Robert Donovan, David Duncan, Justin Gill, Kyle Greenwalt, Matison Smith, and Brandt Walker, outfielders Jon Gaston and Devon Torrence, and catcher Jacob Meskin.

Astros release Duke, Cust

The Astros have released Zach Duke and Jack Cust, according to Alyson Footer.

Honestly, it was easy to see this coming. I texted my cousin, a Braves fan, on Sunday afternoon and said that the Braves should be charged with murdering Zach Duke's career. In the previous post, we looked at Duke's stats, and his outing on Sunday sent his ERA up to 11.30 - and judging from Sunday's start (which I watched), he was lucky that's as high as it went.

Cust had one hit - a single - in 25 ABs this Spring. That's pretty much all you needed to know. Cust signed a two-year contract with the Astros - $600,000 (not-guaranteed) for 2012, and a guaranteed $1m option, if it was exercised.

Duke's contract was a minor-league deal, so there should be no major financial impact.

Also, it appears as though Jon Gaston has been released, as well. Gaston was the Astros' 7th Round pick in 2008, and busted out in 2009 - his 2nd year of pro ball - with Lancaster, hitting .278/.367/.598, with 35HR (tied for minor-league lead) and 100RBI. 81 of his 144 hits in '09 were for extra-bases. In the last two seasons - both with Corpus - he posted OPSeses of .720, and .646, respectively, striking out 212 times to 74 walks (he drew 71 walks in 2009 alone).

A few Spring Training stats for you

And we of course take this for what it's worth, but here's a little check-in with some notable stats (arranged by ABs):


How about some pitching stats, with rotation candidates: