Saturday, September 8, 2012

From the Office of the County Clerk: G139 - Astros @ Reds

Bud Norris (5-11, 4.80) vs Bronson Arroyo (11-7, 3.76)

One day, the Astros will again win back-to-back games on the road, which they haven't done since April. One day, Bud Norris will again win any game at all, which he hasn't done since May. But that day is not today. Bud and the Astros lose to Cincinnati, 5-1, and inch closer to the ignominious century mark, at 43-96. 

*Bud was going well tonight through the first five frames, allowing just four hits and no walks, albeit two of those four hits on solo home runs. But the evening unravelled rapidly for Cuddly Budly in the 6th, leaving him with an ugly 5.1 IP / 6 H / 5 R / 5 ER / 2 BB / 4 K line. Fernando Rodriguez (0.2 IP) relieved Bud with the bases loaded and a 3-1 score, but his own throwing error resulted in the final two runs charged to Bud's line. Xavier Cedeno (0.2 IP) and Jose Valdez (1.1 IP) kept the Reds off the board for the final two frames after that.


*Houston actually out-hit the Reds 9-8 tonight, and three Astros had multi-hit games, but the team also left 9 LOBsters stranded.

*Fernando Martinez reached base in each of his three PA tonight, going 2 for 2 with a walk, a double, and scoring Houston's only run.

*Justin Maxwell was responsible for giving Houston a first-inning lead for the second night in a row, singling home F-Mart and finishing 1 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout. He also contributed a nice sliding catch on Wilson Valdez in the 2nd.

*J.D. Martinez singled twice to go 2 for 4 on the night. He's hit safely in each of his three games since returning to the majors.

*Matt Dominguez also continued swinging a hot stick, singling twice to go 2 for 4 himself. He's now hitting .361 (13 for 36) in 12 games with the big club.

*Tyler Greene (1 for 3, K) and Matt Downs (1 for 1) had Houston's other hits.

*Jimmy Paredes moved back to 2B in place of the injured Jose Altuve and went 0 for 5 with 2 K.

Turning Point:

At 2-1 midway through the 6th, Houston was hanging tough against the division leaders, but then their evening quickly came unglued. A leadoff ground-rule double for Joey Votto and a lineout for Ryan Ludwick were followed by an intentional walk to Jay Bruce and an unintentional walk to Todd Frazier, loading the bases. Ryan Hanigan dunked a single into right field to drive home Votto and chase Norris from the game, but things only got worse after Bud left. Fernando Rodriguez came in to face Wilson Valdez for a 10-pitch at bat, eventually getting him to chop weakly to the left side of the mound, but the play turned into the ugly step-sister of Lucas Harrell's DP in an identical situation last night. F-Rod slid to stop the ball and flubbed the initial grab, so it was too late for him to get the runner at home by the time he had possession. However, he made the very ill-advised throw anyway, which came nowhere remotely near home plate and allowed two Reds to trot home.

Man of the Match:

Fernando Martinez. He's now hitting .317/.391/.610 in his last 15 games.

Goat of the Game:

Fernando Rodriguez. What could have been another inning-ending, rally-killing double play turned into a dagger to Houston's hopes.

Friday, September 7, 2012

From the Office of the County Clerk: G138 - Astros @ Reds

Lucas Harrell (10-9, 3.81) vs Homer Bailey (10-9, 4.09)

While local thunderstorms were busy knocking out our power (temporarily), the Astros were busy putting on a power surge of their own. All of Houston's runs came on two big swings, in innings bookending the game, but it was enough for the Astros' 15th road win of the season, by a 5-3 margin. The club is now 43-95 overall. 

*Lucas Harrell didn't have his best stuff tonight, but he battled out of trouble in the 1st and the 5th (including a super nifty 1-2-5 double play), and still turned in another quality start. William Bradley's line: 6 IP / 7 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 4 BB / 5 K. The bullpen was rock solid after him, with Mickey Storey, Wesley Wright, Hector Ambriz, and Wilton Lopez combining for a 3 IP / 3 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 2 K line. Ambriz got the win, and Lopez picked up his third save.


*Jose Altuve got the Astros off on the right foot, singling on the game's first pitch, then stealing his 29th base and eventually scoring. He grounded out in the top of 3rd, but was pulled from the game before the bottom half of the inning with an abdominal strain.

*Justin Maxwell gave Lucas Harrell a two-run lead before he ever took the mound, launching a full-count Homer Bailey fastball over the Reds' bullpen in left center. J-Max finished 1 for 5 with a K.

*Matt Dominguez started the game on the bench with a wrist issue, but he came in at third when Altuve was forced to leave, with Matt Downs sliding over to second. Dominguez's wrist must not be bothering him too badly, because he proceeded to go 2 for 3 thereafter, including a three-run blast against Aroldis Chapman (!) in the 9th that won Houston the game.

*Tyler Greene (1 for 4) swung the bat against Chapman with one out in the 9th and our power went out until after the game was over, but I'm told (captip to Moguls73 on Twitter) that he hit a bloop single.

*J.D. Martinez followed Greene's single (again I'm told) with a pinch-hit bloop single of his own, preceding Dominguez blast.

*Jimmy Paredes (1 for 5, K), Brett Wallace (1 for 4, BB), and Fernando Martinez (1 for 3) had the Astros' other hits.

Turning Point:

The 9th inning bloop-bloop-blast sequence is obviously the game winner, but without Lucas Harrell's catlike reflexes in the 5th, it may not have mattered. After a Brandon Phillips groundout to start the inning, Chris Heisey tripled, followed by an IBB to Joey Votto and a not-so-I BB to Ryan Ludwick, loading the bases. Jay Bruce singled on a bloop over Tyler Greene's head at short, giving the Reds a 3-2 lead at the time and keeping the bases loaded. Todd Frazier then chopped a ball to the left of the mound, but Harrell literally pounced on it and fired home to Chris Snyder for the force. Snyder checked first, but then threw to Dominguez at third and caught Ludwick off the base, for an inning-ending, rally-killing double play.

Man of the Match:

Matty D! And I don't mean Matt Downs.

Goat of the Game:

Wins have been scarce enough for Astros fans since June that we're just not gonna do a goat anymore when the good guys come out on top. So there.

Hey, this Rangers fan is a complete tool

By now you've seen/heard about the horrific comebacker that got A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy earlier this week.

McCarthy's wife, Amanda, who is quite active on Twitter tweeted this today:
New rule tweet me that video and I come to your house and f-ing murder you.. What is the matter with you people?!

That sounds fair.

Until a douche who goes by TexasRangers_HQ had this to say in response (thanks to Aaron Gleeman for the screen captures).

This twatface is affiliated with MLBlogs, so feel free to tweet at MLB and MLB_PR.

Stark on the 2013 schedule

Jayson Stark previews what the 2013 schedule might look like in his new Rumblings & Grumblings column today:

20 interleague games
76 division games (19 versus each opponent)
66 intradivision games

Finally, each team in a division will play all of the same opponents, except for four interleague "rivalry" games. The only glitch is that teams won't play exactly the same number of games against each opponent. (A club in the AL Central, for instance, would play three games apiece against four NL East teams, and four games against a fifth.) But that was the only way to make the rest of the schedule pieces fit together.

So that means the Astros will be playing 20 interleague games (which will be awesome if the Cardinals are the Astros "rivals," seeing as how Houston was just moved to the AL West to take advantage of the new "rivalry" with the "Rangers"), 19 games vs. the A's, Angels, Mariners, and Rangers. This leaves 66 games with the other ten AL teams.

So there.

Paul McCartney to play Minute Maid

According to Kathleen Clark, Astros VP of Marketing and Strategy, Paul McCartney will be playing Minute Maid Park on November 14.

If he doesn't play "Getting Better," then...uh. Well, we'll be mad, I guess.

PreStros Playoff Recap: September 6

Corpus Christi

You gotta be kidding me. As if it's not bad enough to lose to a team with a condom for its mascot, the Hooks (and maybe manager Keith Bodie) blew it (the game, not a condom) for Frisco's second-straight walkoff, taking a 2-0 series lead with a 3-2 win over Corpus.

The thing that gets me is that Rob Rasmussen was straight dealing. 7IP, 5H/0ER, 2K:3BB, 93 pitches (54 for strikes). But Keith Bodie pulled him to start the 8th with a 2-0 lead, and things started to unravel almost immediately. With Kevin Chapman on the mound, Leury Garcia reached on Ben Orloff's fielding error, Chris McGuinness then doubled to score Leury Garcia, bringing the game to 2-1 Corpus. Chapman got a strikeout, then allowed the tying run on base with a walk. Jason Stoffel was then brought in, who gave up the game-tying run with a single to the first batter he faced. Stoffel got the last two outs of the inning with swinging strikeouts.

Stoffel remained on the mound for the 9th, where he walked leadoff batter Guilder Rodriguez. Engel Beltre sac bunted him over to second, after which Rodriguez inexplicably tried - and failed - to steal third base. Problem over, right? No. Dadgum Leury Garcia (I swear that guy is up to bat every other time) blasted a walk-off homer over the right field wall.

Andy Simunic was 2x4 with a triple and an RBI, while Chris "Big Poppa" Wallace was 2x4 with a double. Austin Wates had the other RBI. Jon Singleton was 0x4 with 3Ks.

Man of the Match: Rob Rasmussen


The Best-of-Three is going to a third game as the JetHawks took Game 2 from Lake Elsinore with a huge four-run 8th inning for a 5-1 win. We have picked up the option on our Man-Crush on Nick Tropeano for 2013 after he threw 6IP, 3H/1ER, 6K:2BB. The bullpen of Pat Urckfitz (1H), Chia-Jen Lo (2BB) and Kenny Long allowed 1H/0ER, 4K:2BB in the final 3IP.

Jio Mier (2B), Erik Castro (2 doubles - including a clutch two-run double that broke open the 8th), Chris Epps (2B), and Roberto Pena (RBI) each had two hits. Domingo Santana was 0x1, but drew three walks - the only three walks Lake Elsinore pitching allowed.

Men of the Match: Nick Tropeano and Erik Castro

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Berkman may retire, coach at Rice

Lance Berkman spoke to Mark Berman about his plans for 2013 and beyond, and it sounds like you shouldn't get your hopes up about him DH-ing for the Astros next season.

"If I do decide to retire my next move is going to be to enroll at Rice and to be a student assistant for the baseball team."

Wayne Graham would be happy to have him, of course, should he decide to hang 'em up because of his bad knee.

"Like I told the (St. Louis) Post-Dispatch, if you put a gun to my head today and asked me what I was going to do 'I'd say I'm not going to play anymore', but certainly I deserve the right to change my mind on that."

UPDATE: Had we not been tearing our hair out, we would have noticed John Royal's story on just this topic back in June.

Playoff Preview - G2: Lancaster vs. Lake Elsinore

The JetHawks lost a 1-0 game last night, but return home to try to continue their season against Lake Elsinore in Game 2 of the best-of-three series.

Lancaster Starter: Nick Tropeano

The Astros' 5th Round pick in 2011, Nick Tropeano was promoted to Lancaster from Lexington (where he posted a 2.78 ERA/1.18 WHIP in 15 appearances/14 starts) in late June. For the JetHawks, Tropeano is 6-3 with an impressive 3.31 ERA/1.32 WHIP in 12 starts. He has struck out 69 batters, with 21 walks, in 70.2IP.

In the six starts since allowing 6H/6ER, 4K:4BB in 3IP on July 30, Tropeano has thrown 37.2IP, 35H/9ER, 35K:8BB, and has gone at least 6 innings in five of those six starts. Against Lake Elsinore, Tropeano has thrown 10IP (2 starts), 13H/4ER, 12K:4BB.

Lake Elsinore Starter: Chris Fetter

Fetter was the Padres' 9th Round pick in the 2009 draft, and will be making his 4th start for the Storm in 2012. He's spent parts of three seasons with Lake Elsinore, so he ought to know how to pitch in the Cal League.

In his three starts for Lake Elsinore in 2012, Fetter has put up 10.1IP, 13H/5ER, 6K:6BB, with a 4.35 ERA/1.84 WHIP. FanGraphs puts his FIP at an eyebrow-raising 6.30.

Fetter has made a start this season at Lancaster, on August 26, throwing 2.2IP, 6H/4R (3ER), 2K:4BB. His last start of the season went much better, throwing 4IP, 3H/2R (0ER), with 2K:1BB.

Playoff Preview - G2: Corpus at Frisco

Tough loss for the Hooks last night, but they don't have much time to dwell on it - Game 2 is tonight at 7:00pm Central.

Corpus starter: Rob Rasmussen

Rasmussen came to the Astros in the Carlos Lee trade on July 4 (which we maintain was the greatest July 4 since 1776). In 11 appearances (10 starts), Rasmussen has posted a 4.80 ERA/1.40 WHIP, with 44K:18BB in 54.1IP (.319 BABIP). Of course, he did jump up a league, having pitched the first half in High-A Jupiter for the Marlins. FanGraphs puts his FIP at a 4.07.

Rasmussen's last outing came on September 2, throwing an inning of relief, allowing 2H/2ER, 2K:1BB, 1HR. He has faced Frisco three times (once on the road, on August 29), totaling 14.1IP, with 18H/12ER, 10K:4BB.

Frisco starter: Wilfredo Boscan

2012 has been Boscan's first full season at Frisco, getting five starts at the end of the 2011 season (6.95 ERA/1.73 WHIP in 22IP). But he's been much more solid in 2012 as a 22-year old - with 34 appearances, but starting the last nine games of the season.

Overall, Boscan is 7-5 with a 3.75 ERA/1.22 WHIP (.298 BABIP), with 89K:28BB in 98.1IP. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five starts, and those starts, has thrown 29IP, 24H/7ER, 29K:5BB. His last outing came on August 31 against Corpus, at home, where he threw 6.1IP, 2H/1ER, 7K:2BB.

Note: Greg Rajan tweeted that Adam Bailey had to have an emergency appendectomy (because they're never really planned events), and Jonathan Villar has been activated to take his roster spot.

Hooks bring in a ringer

Brian McTaggart is tweeting that Jed Lowrie is on his way to Corpus to make a rehab start(s).

Seeing that the Hooks are in Frisco for G2 of their playoff series, if he's heading to Corpus, he'll play in G3 tomorrow night.

This isn't unprecedented. The Yankees sent Andy Pettitte to Double-A Trenton to make a rehab start in the playoffs back in September 2010.

Tyler Heineman wins NYPL batting title

ValleyCats catcher Tyler Heineman - the 8th Round pick of the 2012 draft - wrapped up the New York-Penn League title last night by hitting .358.

In 233 PAs (55 games: 37 at catcher, 18 at DH), Heineman had 69 hits, fourteen of them doubles, to go with a .452 OBP (2nd in the NYPL) and a .430 SLG (9th in the NYPL). Heineman struck out 12 times, with 26 walks. His .882 OPS was 2nd in the NYPL behind Jamestown's Jesus Solorzano.

Over those 55 games, Heineman had...

Games with Three Hits: 3
Games with Two Hits: 18
Games with No hits: 10
Games with 2+ strikeouts: 0

Astros place five on Top 100 Prospect List

Courtesy of KevinBassStache we get this link to's Top 100 Prospects, where the Astros have five (!) players on the list - earning them the #12 overall farm system in baseball.

#27 - Jon Singleton
#38 - Carlos Correa
#55 - George Springer
#84 - Jarred Cosart
#85 - Delino DeShields

In their pre-season rankings, Mayo listed three Astros: Singleton (#44), Cosart (#61), and Springer (#84).

Here's some trolling from Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gene Collier has a nice little farewell column to the Astros, as they played their last game in Pittsburgh last night not with a bang, but with a whimper: "Woeful Astros in a league of their own."

The lede:
Not to be presumptuous, but I think I can speak for all of Pittsburgh when I express the city's sincere thanks to the Houston Astros for bringing us 51 seasons of generally dreadful National League baseball.

"Generally dreadful" you say? Hold the phone. You can't expect a fan of a team - this team - to not take some slight offense to this Looking Down the Glasses column. "Generally dreadful" is not an appropriate term for a team that has won at least 80 games in 30 of 51 seasons, and went to the playoffs six times in nine seasons.

Houston is 3986-4122 overall in their 50.8 seasons of baseball. Pittsburgh, in the same time frame, is 3982-4111-8. In other words, the Astros have a winning percentage of .4916 in franchise history, through last night. The Pirates have a winning percentage of .4915.

Have the last two seasons' worth of home games been played in Dante's 4th Level of Hell? Absolutely.

An aside, if you will, because that wasn't a random level. Read the description of Level 4 of Dante's Inferno:
Just before the river Styx is the Fourth Level of Hell. Here, the prodigal and the avaricious suffer their punishment, as they roll weights back and forth against one another. You will share eternal damnation with others who either wasted and lived greedily and insatiably, or who stockpiled their fortunes, hoarding everything and sharing nothing. Plutus, the wolf-like demon of wealth, dwells here.

If Carlos Lee isn't Plutus, I don't know who is...

Anyhow, in order to say "We'll miss you suckers!" you have to be engaging in some highly selective history. Collier throws out a stat: the Pirates are 215-134 against Houston at home.

Verdict? True, but in the last 20 seasons (1993-present), the Astros are 170-120 overall, and 70-71 at Pittsburgh - an away record that is pretty damn far from getting dominated. From 1993-2010, the Astros were 65-57 at Pittsburgh, and 160-98 overall.

So, yes, the Pirates are 215-134 at home against the Astros. From 1962-1992 (a span which saw some flat-out incredible Pirates teams), the Pirates were 150-87. That's domination, holmes.

I'm sure Pittsburgh will miss the 2011-2012 Astros. Who wouldn't? (Aside from the Mets, who are 5-7 against the two worst Astros teams in franchise history, I mean).

To the credit of Pirates fans, read the comments for Collier's article. Lots of appropriate calling out of Collier. But look, Gene, I'm happy for your Pirates. I hope they knock the Cardinals out and beautiful PNC Park gets to host playoff baseball. Just take it easy on the suspender-snapping.

Astros and ValleyCats to renew PDC

In the first of what will be several negotiations with affiliates, it looks as though the Astros and NYPL's Tri-City ValleyCats will sign a 2-year professional development contract through 2014.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the ValleyCats. We like this facility (Joe Bruno Stadium), we like this area and we like this league, so there are a lot of (reasons) to keep our team here.”

Director of Player Personnel Fred Nelson spoke about the health of the farm system:
"Probably the thing that struck me the most is just the overall lack of depth, which is a sign of a weak farm system and I think with all the trades of the past three years, and plus the (past two) drafts (things improved)."

Astros affiliates with expiring contracts at the end of 2012 include Oklahoma City, Lancaster, and Lexington - all of whom Baseball America projected could see changes.

PreStros Playoff Recap: September 5

The Hooks and JetHawks opened the playoffs last night. How'd they do? Not so well, with a pair of one-run losses.

Frisco won on a a pair of one-out 9th inning hits, in which Leury Garcia scored from first, where a late relay throw from Kiké Hernandez allowed the walkoff run, 6-5.

Paul Clemens got knocked around with the help of an Andy Simunic error, throwing 2.2IP, 7H/5R (2ER), 1K:1BB, WP, with 35 of his 51 pitches coming for strikes. Erick Abreu threw a stellar 4IP, 1H/0ER, 2K:1BB; Kevin Chapman allowed a hit and a walk in 1.1IP, and Alex Sogard took the loss with 2H/1ER.

Ben Orloff got three hits and 2RBI from the 9-hole, while Austin Wates and Drew Locke each had two hits. Jon Singleton got a double and a game-tying homer in the 8th. The aforementioned Simunic drew two walks, while George Springer got a hit, a walk, and two runs scored.

Man of the Match: Going to go with Erick Abreu here.


We told you to watch out for Lake Elsinore's Matt Andriese in yesterday's preview, but Tyson Perez rose to the occasion, himself. Still, the one run Lake Elsinore scored in the 2nd inning was enough for a 1-0 win.

While Andriese threw 8IP, 3H/0ER, 7K:1BB (with 14 groundball outs to two flyball outs), Tyson Perez allowed just 3H/1ER, 8K:1BB in the losing effort. In the 2nd, Perez allowed a one-out walk, where a groundball advanced runner Luis Domoromo, who scored on Cory Spangenberg's two-out single to center. Kenny Long threw a perfect 8th inning.

The JetHawks got three hits and a walk all night long. Catcher Carlos Perez had two of said hits, with Delino DeShields providing the other, and Erik Castro drawing the walk. They were 0x1 with RISP, and left three on base for the game.

Man of the Match: Tyson Perez

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

From the Office of the County Clerk: G137 - Astros @ Pirates

Fernando Abad (0-2, 4.83) vs Kevin Correia (9-8, 4.40)

While two of the Astros' Minor League affiliates began their playoff journeys, the big club did what they could to help Pittsburgh's longsuffering playoff quest. Fernando Abad gave the Pirates an early lead, and they never looked back, winning 6-3. The Astros bid farewell to PNC Park and moved one step closer to the century mark, now 42-95.

*The Abad-as-a-starter experiment took another beating tonight. Fernando pitched a perfect 3rd, but he coughed up five runs in his other three innings, ending with this line: 4 IP / 6 H / 5 R / 4 ER / 3 BB / 3 K. Mickey Storey pitched 1.1 innings and left with two runners on, but Hector Ambriz allowed one of those two to score on a sac bunt. Xavier Cedeno and Wilton Lopez each had a scoreless inning thereafter to finish out the game.


*No Astro had a multi-hit game, but every Astro 2-7 in the lineup had one hit each.

*Brandon Laird didn't start the game, coming in on a double switch in the 6th, but he made the most of the opportunity. After 100 career home runs spread across six seasons in the minors, Brandon hit his first career big league bomb - a two-run shot in the 9th. He finished 1 for 2 with a K.

*Brian Bogusevic went 1 for 4 with 2 K and had Houston's other RBI, on a single in the 4th.

*Jimmy Paredes moved back to right field, going 1 for 4 with a double ahead of Bogusevic to score the first Astros run.

*Carlos Corporan also went 1 for 4 with a double and a strikeout.

*Brett Wallace went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored, but he also had a fielding error in the 2nd that led to Pittsburgh's unearned run.

*Jason Castro singled as a pinch-hitter in the 8th.

Turning Point:

Houston cut into Pittsburgh's 3-0 lead with a run in the top of the 4th, but the Pirates struck back in their half of the inning. Rod Barajas led off with a single, followed by an Alex Presley triple that put them up 4-1. Brock Holt then followed a strikeout by Carlos Kevin Correia with a sacrifice fly to center to pad Pittsburgh's margin.

Man of the Match:

Brandon Laird. Kudos to the newest Astro on his first Major League home run.

Goat of the Game:

Fernando Abad. His future may be as a starter, but it's been a rough transition with Houston so far.

Playoff Preview - G1: Lancaster @ Lake Elsinore

The JetHawks go to the playoffs to face Lake Elsinore, who have one of the coolest caps in baseball. If I was a baseball player, I'd focus too much on the hat, and then I'd strike out looking on three pitches, intimidated by The Eyes.

Season Series: Lake Elsinore leads the season series 16-9. The JetHawks started the season 0-12 at Lake Elsinore, and didn't win their first game there until July 25, ending up 1-13 at Wherever Lake Elsinore Plays.

JetHawks starter: Tyson Perez

Perez was the Astros' 17th Round pick in 2011, and advanced from Greeneville in 2011 straight to Lancaster for the 2012 season. He ended his first full-season campaign 9-5 with a 5.03 ERA/1.51 WHIP, with 1.4 HR/9, and 79K:32BB in 120IP.

He's faced the Storm four times this season, throwing 21.2IP, 26H/13ER, 19K:7BB. At Lake Elsinore, he threw 12.2IP, 13H/9ER, 10K:5BB, 4HR.

Storm starter: Matt Andriese

Andriese was the Padres' 3rd Round pick in 2011, and compiled an impressive 146IP, 140H/58ER, 131K:38BB with a 3.58 ERA/1.22 WHIP. At Lake Elsinore, he has a 2.15 ERA, allowing 55H/17ER, 65K:18BB in 71IP.

This will be the 8th meeting between Andriese and the JetHawks. In 35.1IP, he has allowed 31H/13ER, 27K:10BB. But at home against the JetHawks, the guy is sick: 22IP, 14H/2ER, 14K:4BB.

Playoff Preview - G1: Hooks vs. Roughriders

Oh hellz yes. The Hooks return to the playoffs tonight at Frisco beginning at 7pm tonight. Frisco is the Rangers' Double-A affiliate so, you know, Strike 1. Also, they're the RoughRiders. A "RoughRider" is what you get for 75 cents in an Exxon bathroom.

Season Series: Hooks lead 15-13, (7-9 at Frisco)

Hooks starter: Paul Clemens

Clemens - who came to the organization in July 2011 as part of the Bourn trade - began 2012 at OKC, but had a rough go of it. In 20 starts Clemens was 8-8, but with a 6.73 ERA/1.74 WHIP, and 68K:32BB in 101.2IP. So he got sent back to Corpus, where he fared much better against lower-level competition, going 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA/1.25 WHIP, and 37K:11BB in 41.2IP.

His last start of the season actually came against Frisco, where on August 31 he threw 5IP, allowing 6H/2ER, 4K:0BB. In his last five starts for Corpus (he was presumably pouting in his first two Corpus starts), Clemens racked up 30IP, 27H/6ER, 20K:8BB.

Roughriders starter: Barret Loux

Perhaps you remember Barret Loux. First of all, he's from Stratford. But he was the 6th overall pick by the Diamondbacks in 2010, and agreed to a $2m signing bonus. But Arizona was quite surprised to find out that Loux failed his physical thanks to a torn labrum and elbow damage. So they didn't offer him a contract, instead taking the 7th overall pick in the 2011 draft. MLB made the somewhat-unprecedented move of declaring him a free agent. Ed Wade doofused around and figured the Astros didn't need any minor-league pitching, so they didn't pursue him. And then the Rangers signed him for $312,000. Now pre-draft physicals are required for the Top 200 prospects. No one calls it the Loux Rule, but that may as well be what it is.

Loux has been a stud for Frisco this season. He's 14-1 in 25 starts, with a 3.47 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 100K:41BB, and 10HR allowed in 127IP. In six starts against Corpus this season, He has thrown 26.1IP, allowing 28H/18ER, 27K:10BB. This includes his worst start of the season, on June 22 at home vs. Corpus, when the Hooks clapped him up for 8H/8ER, 4K:1BB in 3IP.

MLB moving to streamline rosters

Here's an interesting article from last night by CBS Sports' Scott Miller, in which Selig and MLB are moving towards a September-only rule change:

Teams would still be free to expand rosters during the final month of the season but would be subject to roster limitations on a nightly basis. Within this, clubs would have to designate which players are eligible before each game.

The most common scenario under discussion is to expand September rosters to 30, with each club's 25-man roster on Aug. 31 being locked in throughout September.

In other words, each team would use that 25-man roster as a base throughout September, and then have the ability to add five minor-leaguers (out of however many are recalled) to its active roster for each game during the season's final month.

Managers seem to be for it. Mattingly asked, "How do you prepare your guys for 17 pitchers?"

What about teams like the Astros, who are enjoying seeing which of their players can actually play? Last night's game took 3:07, and the Astros got 19 players into the game. Does that drag the pace of the game down? Does that "bring down the spirit of competition?"

What say you, dear reader?

Should Lucas Harrell get some Rookie of the Year love?

Yesterday, we noted on Twitter that Lucas Harrell and Arizona's Wade Miley were the only two NL "rookie" pitchers to have double-digit wins (according to I put "rookie" in quotation marks because I didn't know if Lucas Harrell actually qualified for Rookie status, having made his MLB debut in 2010. It actually turns out that Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn, with 13 wins, is also a rookie, so it was a little off.

However, if I had done four seconds worth of research, I would have found that, yeah, Lucas Harrell is a rookie, due to his having pitched less than 50 innings and spending fewer than 45 days on an active 25-man roster. So, should he get some love from the voters for NL Rookie of the Year?

Of course you know about Lucas Harrell. It's likely that nobody else does, but that's not the point. For a team with 42 wins, Harrell is the proud owner of 10 of them. He actually has a winning record for a team 52 games under .500. Harrell's 3.81 ERA leads the team among remaining starters with 2+ starts. The Astros' team ERA (with Harrell factored in) is a stout 4.73. His 1.31 WHIP is much better than the team 1.44 WHIP.

And it doesn't seem like a fluke. Via FanGraphs, Harrell's FIP is 3.70, and his xFIP is 3.85 - which tells us that he isn't getting incredibly lucky. His BABIP is a tad low at .285, but it's not J.A. Happ-esque.

But the question is, should Lucas Harrell get some Rookie of the Year votes? Let's look at the competition:

Wade Miley - ARI. 4.1 WAR, 2.90 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 3.79 xFIP
Mike Fiers - MIL. 3.0 WAR, 3.11 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 3.52 xFIP
Lucas Harrell - HOU. 2.6 WAR, 3.81 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 3.85 xFIP.
Lance Lynn - STL. 2.4 WAR, 4.07 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 3.76 xFIP

Bryce Harper - WSH. 3.0 WAR, .256/.325/.433, 485 PAs.
Todd Frazier - CIN. 2.9 WAR, .289/.348/.534, 400 PAs.
Zack Cozart - CIN. 2.3 WAR, .243/.285/.402, 560 PAs.

Bryce Harper is obviously the most visible candidate for NL ROY voting, and the Nationals and Reds are division-leaders, while the Cardinals are holding the last Wild Card spot by 1.5 games. The Diamondbacks - aren't awful. The Brewers aren't either. See where I'm going with this?

All of the players whose names don't rhyme with "Mucus Werrell" are on good to decent teams. If this season was about finding out where tha quality playas at, the Astros have a quality player that Ed Wade plucked off waivers last July. Will Harrell win NL Rookie of the Year? Probably not, but he certainly needs more credit than he's getting.

How to proceed

You may have noticed (but then again, you may not have noticed) that Astros County has been moderately quiet over the last couple of weeks. Between separate family emergencies, work, kids, etc., writing about a team 50+ games under .500 hasn't exactly been a priority. And judging from the complete lack of comments, reading about a team 50+ games under .500 hasn't exactly been a priority, either.

So how do we proceed? I don't want to pull Astros County's Annual "We're Taking a Break" post again. Should the day come where Astros County ceases to exist in its current format, I want there to be weeping and gnashing of teeth...not, "Well, they've been talking about it for three years."

Ultimately, the losing is awful. Yes, brighter days are ahead, and not guaranteed. You know what's guaranteed? This Astros team is the worst. Ever. Remember when the Astros were 2-1? That was the highlight of my season. I tweeted, "I am not emotionally prepared for 2-1." Three games in, and I was flying high. Even when they were 22-23, we all collectively couldn't believe our luck.

Little did we know how fast and hard the Astros would fall. Since 22-23, the Astros are 20-71, a .220 winning percentage, which would translate into a 36-126 full-season record.

How do you continually talk about losing? Are there positives to come from this season? Sure. The Astros have $5.5m committed to payroll next season - $500K for Chris Snyder's buyout, and $5m to the Pirates for taking Wandy. There are five players eligible for arbitration, so that will send payroll up slightly, but areyoukiddingme$5.5millioncommitted. Luhnow got rid of every asset, sacrificing this season to prepare for what will be perhaps the biggest rebuilding project in modern baseball history (the 1998 Marlins should be on the list - but Loria's a douche, so...)

Talking about losing isn't fun. The "XX losses in their last XX games" stats are getting old, as are the "Jordan Schafer managed to strike out eight times in three plate appearances" stats. Yet every day that passes is another day The Luhnow Plan is put in place. Nobody said it would be easy. Nobody said it would happen soon.

Ultimately, we're still here because there's no way we're bailing on the Astros - and talking about the Astros. Why? Because we're looking forward to writing about the good times, however far away they may be. Just bear with us while why we figure out what the rest of the season looks like.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From the Office of the County Clerk: G136 - Astros @ Pirates

Jordan Lyles (3-10, 5.46) vs Wandy Rodriguez (9-13, 3.86)

Wandy was vintage Wandy again tonight, tossing his second straight scoreless outing and his third straight quality start. Alas for the Astros, he did it wearing the opposing colors. Astros lose 6-2, dropping to .500 (2-2) for September and 42-94 overall.

*Jordan Lyles ran into increasing trouble in every odd inning tonight, as he was ultimately unable to finish the 5th. A two-run error on Tyler Greene didn't help after Lyles left, and Jordan finished with this line: 4.2 IP / 7 H / 5 R / 4 ER / 1 BB / 5 K. Fernando Rodriguez didn't help either, issuing a walk and a wild pitch to put two runners in scoring position before Greene's error. Chuckie Fick, Rhiner Cruz, and Jose Valdez combined for three scoreless frames to finish the game, but Lyles and Rodriguez had already buried the Astros six runs deep.


*The Astros only managed four singles and a walk against Wandy over the first seven innings. Their only non-single of the night came on a RBI double by Brett Wallace (1 for 4) in the 8th off of Chris Resop.

*Jose Altuve went 1 for 4 and stole his team-leading 28th base.

*Chris Snyder had Houston's other RBI, singling in a pinch-hit appearance to drive in Wallace in the 8th.

*Jimmy Paredes went 1 for 4 in his first start in left field.

*Brandon Laird got the start at third and went 1 for 3 in his Astros debut.

*Lyles (1 for 2) and Matt Dominguez (1 for 2, R) had Houston's other hits.

Turning Point:

Houston was down 3-0 in the 5th, but Lyles was close to escaping the inning without any further damage by sandwiching a pair of outs around a Brock Holt double. Andrew McCutchen singled to drive in Holt and chase Lyles, however, then came F-Rod's walk and wild pitch to put runners on second and third. Tyler Greene was bumped by Brandon Laird on a Pedro Alvarez popup that should have been the third out, but Greene straight dropped it, putting Houston at a 6-0 deficit.

Man of the Match:

Hmm. Brett Wallace, for breaking up the singles parade and the shutout.

Goat of the Game:

Tyler Greene. Dishonorable Mention to Jordan Lyles, who gave up one in the first and two in the third on his own, without any poor defensive assistance. But Greene accompanied his two-run error with an 0 for 4, K, 3 LOBster night.

Astros going to six-man rotation

Brian McTaggart tweeted out this afternoon that the Astros are adding Dallas Keuchel to the rotation on Monday, and finishing up the year with a six-man rotation.

No Clemens in 2012, says everybody

Hey, so it looks as though Roger Clemens will not be pitching for the Astros in 2012.

Reid Laymance got a quote from Clemens himself:
“I don’t see it happening."

Of course, if you don't think Clemens can tell Congress the truth, then pay no attention to what he says to Reid Laymance.

While you were drinking: Labor Day

So as we try to find the will to blog again and recapture our souls, here are some links from yesterday:

*Here is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's post on Delino DeShields' record-setting season.

*We'll have our own post like this in the next couple of days, but here are Zachary Levine's minor-league awards.

*In this piece, we learn that Dallas Keuchel, J.D. Martinez, Chuckie Fick, and Carlos Corporan have been called up. Jed Lowrie may begin a rehab assignment with Corpus this week.

*Brandon Laird, claimed off waivers from the Yankees, will start at 2B today against Pittsburgh. Laird, who will be 25 next week, is a .272/.322/.455 hitter in 682 career minor-league games.

*Climbing Tal's Hill has a good piece up ripping Fox Sports Houston.