Saturday, December 8, 2012

Alan Ashby might be returning to Houston

The Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott openly speculated last night on Twitter that Alan Ashby was in the mix to return to the Astros to be their broadcaster. We say "speculated" because Elliott made a statement, but curiously ended it with a question mark.

Ashby, 61, was the Sports anchor for KHTV in Houston from 1990 to 1992 and was the Astros' Color Commentator from 1998 to 2006, when he was allegedly let go for being openly critical about the team.

Ashby is currently in the middle of a five-year deal with the Blue Jays, which he signed in 2010.

Chad Murphy, Am I Missing Something?

Chad Murphy lays out the Hall of Fame case for his father, and provides the following tidbit:

"Only player in history to compile a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in a single season, 1983"

Jeff Bagwell in 1999

.304 BA, 42 HR, 124 RBI, 143 R, 149 BB, 30 SB. 

Maybe he needed 31 stolen bases to joint this exclusive club? Nope, just checked. Murphy had 30 SB in 83. And 90 BB. Chad, check your facts in your next open letter, okay? 


Chad Murphy responded, and claimed he meant "only player in history up to that point [1983]", and did not mean to imply it had not been done since. He apologized for the ambiguity.     

Friday, December 7, 2012

Astros average salary is 1/10 of the Yankees' average salary

This isn't going to shock anybody, but the Astros' final payroll was pretty low in 2012. How low? The average salary in Major League Baseball was $3.2m. The Astros' average salary? $685,000. The Yankees' average salary was $6.9m.

Just to put this in perspective, MLB's minimum salary in 2012 was $480,000. Meaning that the average salary for the Astros was $205,000 above league minimum. The linked AP report says that the Astros' average salary was the lowest across the league since the 2006 Marlins.

As an aside: Of course it was. No team in full-on rebuilding mode should have a high payroll. In this case, the Astros got what they paid for.

Rangers official lets Astros know they got Justin Upton

According to Peter Gammons, an official from the Rangers called someone from the Astros on Wednesday night and said "We got Upton."

That's all the context I can give you. So what does it mean? A couple of possibilities:

1) The Rangers are a bunch of douches, and are calling the Astros to tell them of their acquisition of Justin Upton purely out of spite and to let the Astros know in no uncertain terms, "You guys are in some serious trouble now, were you not already in serious trouble before."

2) There is, in fact, a multi-team trade on the table involving Justin Upton. Thus, the Astros are somehow involved, and are about to trade somebody to someone else, and receive something back from that other team. And it involves the Rangers and Diamondbacks.

Either are strong possibilities.

UPDATE: ESPN Dallas's Ben Rogers tweeted:
WAIT! Source just called who talked to Gammons, who said: "They thought they had him, but it unraveled." Not sure why he didn't tweet that

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Astros claim Mickey Storey

The Astros filled up the 40-Man roster today, after the two Rule 5 selections, and by claiming reliever Mickey Storey off waivers from the Yankees. Back in November, the Astros waived Storey, where he was claimed by the Yankees. Now the Astros get him back.

Storey, 26, threw 65IP for OKC in 2012, where he posted a 3.05 ERA/1.17 WHIP, with 72K:14BB. In 26 games for the Astros, Storey threw 30.1IP, allowing 27H/13ER, 34K:10BB, for a 3.86 ERA/1.22 WHIP - and was one of the bright spots in the bullpen.

Astros sign Cameron Lamb

And with their 2nd pick in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Astros selected 23-year old RHP Cameron Lamb from the Giants. Lamb, 23, comes to us from Australia (where the ball spins in the opposite direction).

Lamb spent 2012 between Rookie ball Salem-Keizer of the Low-A Northwest League. Between the two, he was 2-1 in 12 appearances (three starts). In 25.2IP, he allowed 18H/6ER, 19K:7BB, and no home runs. He had a 2.10 ERA/0.97 WHIP in 2012.

Astros select Michael Burgess

With the first pick of the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Astros selected Michael Burgess from the Cubs.

Burgess turned 24 last October, and was the Nationals' 49th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and was traded to the Cubs in the Tom Gorzelanny deal. In six minor-league seasons, Burgess has hit .252/.344/.451, with 102 HRs, 63K:45BB.

At Double-A in 2012, however, Burgess hit .259/.350/.422, with 22 doubles and 10 homers. Against RHPs, he posted an .806 OPS (.654 OPS against LHBs).

The Scouting Book wrote:
Right now he's all power and no discipline, but that power is special enough -- Jim Bowden called it 'thunderous' -- that he's worth keeping an eye on.

The View from the Bleachers wrote:
After not even being considered a prospect a few short months ago, though, Burgess has turned himself into a prospect again. He will likely be in most Top 20 organizational lists, and could even sneak into the very back of a couple of Top 10s based upon a solid ceiling and his proximity to the Majors.

Astros select Nate Freiman

With their 2nd pick in the Rule 5 draft, the Astros select Gigantor 6'7" 225lb righty Nate Freiman (who will be 26 at the end of the month) from the Padres, their 8th Round pick in the 2009 draft.

At Double-A San Antonio in 2012, Freiman hit .298/.370/.502 - with a .324 BABIP - in line with his career slash line of .294/.364/.482. Freiman hit 24 homers, and his HR total has increased in each of his first four seasons (11 in 2009, 14 in 2010, 22 in 2011, and 24 in 2012). He led the Texas League in games, hits, and RsBI.

The Padres apparently didn't think he'd be selected, but the Astros said they wouldn't have made a selection if Freiman wasn't available.

He has spent his entire minor-league career at 1B, with six appearances at DH.

Astros select Josh Fields in Rule 5 draft

With the first pick in today's Rule 5 draft, the Astros selected 27-year old RHP Josh Fields, from the Red Sox.

Fields was the 20th overall pick by the Mariners in the 2008 draft. He was part of the three-team trade in 2011 that sent Erik Bedard to the Red Sox.

He spent time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. In Double-A, he went 3-3 in 32 games (all in relief), throwing 44.2IP, allowing 30H/13ER, with 59K:16BB. For Triple-A Pawtucket, Fields made ten appearances, throwing 13.2IP, allowing 8H/0ER, 19K:2BB, good enough for a 0.73 WHIP.

He throws a 93-95mph fastball that occasionally hits 96mph. Here's a nice little write-up from the Woonsocket Call, where he says:
That's been a dream of mine, to close in the big leagues.

Well, hey, he just might get that chance.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Defense of the Lopez Deal

The Wilton Lopez deal has come under some scrutiny, questioning the return for the Astros closer. I am not a scout, and don't have a feel for how Alex White will do outside of Coors Field, but I do believe that these are the kinds of deals that the Astros have to make right now. If we have any trust in the Astros scouting and player development side, which I do, I think we have to accept that this deal has the potential to help.

The thing about relievers is they are the most fungible assets a team has. A shutdown closer is a luxury for any team, and an unnecessary one for a rebuilding team. If the Astros can turn their closer into a young starting pitcher with upside, even one with question marks, I believe they have to do it. And I don't have any doubts that White has upside. His numbers were awful last year, but he was only 23 in Coors Field. His peripherals, if not his results, were better on the road. He has consistently dominated in the minors, and was a top 50 prospect as recently as 2011. Will he pan out? I have no idea, but he is in no way a lost cause.

Looking at this another way, the Astros traded 70 innings for 150 -180 innings. That has value, even if the quality of the pitching is not equivalent. In 2011, Wilton Lopez was very good, pitching 71 innings with a 2.79 era. He accumulated .5 WAR. In 2012, Alex White was horrible, pitching 98 innings with a 5.51 era. He accumulated .5 WAR.  WAR is obviously not perfect, particularly when it comes to relievers, but it does demonstrate how much more valuable a starting pitcher is than a reliever. If we see even marginal improvement in White, combined with more innings, White can easily match the 1.4 WAR from Lopez's stellar 2012. (To put that in perspective, Bud Norris has 1.5 WAR last year. Can White match Norris' 2012? I sure hope so). None of this takes into account Lopez's health issues, which allegedly killed a previous deal, or the other Alex that came back in the deal.

At the end of the day, White might never live up to the high expectations he has had so recently, and this deal might be looked back on as an abject failure.  But I still think that this is a deal that has to be made.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Meet the Alexes

Earlier tonight, the Astros traded Wilton Lopez and a PTBNL to the Rockies for RHPs Alex White and Alex Gillingham. Who are these guys?

Alex White

Alex White is a 24-year old RHP (6'3" 215lbs), and was the Indians' 1st Round pick in 2009. He was acquired by the Rockies in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal. He's not arbitration-eligible until 2015, and won't be a free agent until 2018.

In 23 games (20 starts), White threw 98IP, allowing 114H/60ER, for a 5.51 ERA/1.68 WHIP, with 64K:51BB. His FIP was a little better, 5.23, while his xFIP was 4.72.

Ben Badler tweetedAlex White's stock has tumbled. Perception isn't as good as reality here.

Back in March, White was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, coming in at a .174 BAL. GM Dan O'Dowd said:
We have not seen any indication of this since we got the kid. He's been a choirboy, but he screwed up.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

Alex Gillingham

Gillingham is a 23-year old 6'3" 200lb RHP, drafted in the 11th Round of the 2011 draft by Colorado.

For Low-A Asheville in the South Atlantic League in 2012, Gillingham was 6-8 in 19 starts with a 3.66 ERA (3.43 FIP), allowing 122H/50ER in 123IP, with 83K:28BB. Gillingham allowed just five homers in all of 2012, good for a 0.4 HR/9 rate.

Wilton Lopez traded to the Rockies

A timeline of the Wilton Lopez trade to the Rockies:

10:27pm: McTaggart, quoting Luhnow, says White will be in the rotation. Luhnow says Ambriz and Cosart are possibilities for the now-vacant closer role in Houston.

10:11pm: @Rockies:
Rockies have acquired RHP Wilton Lopez and player to be named later or cash from HOU for RHPs Alex White and Alex Gillingham. 

10:08pm: Troy Renck:
Rockies acquire Lopez for Alex White and a minor-league pitcher. 

10:01pm: Troy Renck:
I expect Rockies to land Lopez...teams ironing out last few wrinkles. 

9:53pm: Brian McTaggart:
Wilton Lopez to the Rockies. More to come. 

9:26pm: Troy Renck:
Rockies would look to send two young pitchers to Houston for Lopez, a proven setup man. Parker Frazier would not be in deal. 

9:11pm: Troy Renck tweets:
Rockies closing in on acquiring Wilton Lopez from Astros. Know that the Astros like AA pitcher Parker Frazier. 

7:51pm: Troy Renck:
Rockies continue looking to add relief help and have talked with Astros about Wilton Lopez. If health fine, and told is OK, he'd help.

Goose Gossage is an idiot

You thought the BBWAA was the only lying sack of crap, didn't you? That they're giving mixed signals after remaining silent for so long regarding steroids, while standing idly by and watching home run after home run fly into McCovey's Cove - and now they're passing judgment on players?

We can add a Hall of Famer to that list: Goose Gossage.

Goose Gossage is kind of an idiot. Today he said that, were a "Steroid Guy" to be elected to the Hall of Fame, he would never go back to Cooperstown for Induction. Jim Bunning - himself an ignorant blowhard - apparently had a discussion with other Hall of Famers a couple of years ago, and said the same thing:
“The consensus in that room was, if they got in, (baseball commissioner) Bud Selig would have to greet whoever was inducted by himself. He’d be alone on the stage. None of the current members would show up.” 

Except, hey, what do you know? At the press conference announcing his own induction to the Hall of Fame in 2008, he admitted:
"They weren't around in my time, but if they were I probably would have been tempted to use them...
The money is so great that it would be easy to be tempted. And who am I to say I wouldn't use them?..."If you did it, the best thing is to fess up and life will go on,"

Unless, of course, a jury decided that you weren't guilty of lying about taking steroids. That doesn't count.

Gossage, June 22, 2012:
"Even though he was found innocent, it was because of the bad testimony. No one believed (Brian) McNamee and (Andy) Pettitte kind of changed his thing, 'Did I really hear what he told me.'... Cheaters? Does a test count when you get busted for cheating on a test. No and neither should steroids. There is no place for them in the Hall of Fame...."

Gossage was asked again whether he would take steroids:
"I probably would have. Steroids weren't a part of the game when I was playing. Toward the end, we wondered what was going on. We knew something was going on. Absolutely, I probably would have."

So, just to get this straight:

1) Gossage, towards the end of his career, wondered what was going on with baseball.
2) But not enough to take a stand, or say anything about it.
3) And furthermore, "probably would have" taken steroids.
4) But Gossage's suspicions transcend legal boundaries, thus
5) Nobody should be allowed to join the club.
6) Jim Bunning is a jacknut.

How do you expect the BBWAA to sort all this out when the Hall of Famers themselves contradict themselves?

Deshaies reaction, updates

Some reaction to the engagement of James Deshaies and the Chicago Cubs, of Chicago.

Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan:
The Astros never were really competitive with their offer, one source said, believing Deshaies' ties to the organization would keep him from leaving.

Houston Press:
(The) pair was a match made in broadcast heaven. But, like all things with the Astros over the last couple of years, the only constant is change on the field and in the broadcast booth.

Chicago Sun-Times:
Industry insiders viewed Deshaies as “wild-card’’ candidate considering his lack of Cubs ties, and one Chicago sports TV veteran called it “shocking’’ to see him win the job over former Cubs Eric Karros and Todd Hollandsworth.

Len Kasper:
“While JD is not a former Cub, he’s been in our division since he started pitching for the Astros. He’ll hit the ground running as far as knowledge of the Cubs, but I’m going to enjoy working with him. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It will take time to build chemistry in the booth, but we get three hours a day to do it.”

Houston Sports Counterplot:
Crane foolishly chose to play his own version of “businessman chicken” with one of his prized assets. And now that Deshaies has flown the coop for the Cubs, all that’s left for Crane is crow.

What the Heck, Bobby:
Seriously, I love what Luhnow is doing on the baseball side, but Crane needs to start getting some good PR and he needs to start getting it soon. Other than the uniforms, it's been the drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture on Astros fans.

Crawfish Boxes:
It's good to hear that the Astros gave it the ol' college try, but fans will nontheless be jaded by the Astros perceived disregard of the their opinions. We've lost so much - and this is just another kidney punch. We're getting used to them.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Astros listening on Bud Norris

Yahoo's Jeff Passan is tweeting that the Astros are listening to inquiries on Bud Norris - and that the teams that come calling will be influenced by Greinke. (Link forthcoming)

Deshaies to Chicago

Word broke about an hour ago, while I was waiting on the free Kindle sample of Ed Wade's book to be delivered, that popular Astros color commentator Jim Deshaies - who had been with the Astros since 1997 - has accepted the same position with the Chicago Cubs.

And what do you know, Deshaies fans? We (as in, "Astros Fans,") may be at fault. Carrie Muskat's article on says:
The news of Deshaies' possible defection to Chicago created a small firestorm among dismayed fans on the Internet. A combination of Deshaies' strong interview with network and club executives, the outcry from the Houston fanbase and support from Kasper may have swung the pendulum in Deshaies' favor earlier than expected.

George Postolos wrote in an email:
We value Jim highly and did everything in our power to retain him. While we are sorry to see him go, we respect his decision. We appreciate his many years as an Astros player and broadcaster and wish him well.

JD's partner, Bill Brown, still isn't sure what he's going to do...seeing as how he and the Astros haven't talked in two months:

"I need to talk to some people about this. I need to know a whole lot more about the situation than I know now. I was afraid something like this might happen because of the way in which Astros broadcasters are handled on one-year contracts. I'm surprised this didn't happen earlier....We have not talked in two months now. I need to know what the timing is, what the direction is, the philosophies. There are a lot of blank spaces to be filled in for me." 

Look, if Deshaies wanted to leave, he was going to leave. There was no incentive for him to stay. The Astros allegedly countered with "fair market value," but it was Deshaies' job to leave. We've talked about this before (both sides of the issue), but if the Astros haven't talked to Bill Brown in two months, then how hard were they were pushing to keep him. Whatever - Astros gonna Astro. I'm just personally upset that we've lost one of the few reasons to watch the Astros for the past couple of seasons.

We'll see who the Astros get to replace him before reserving final judgment, but for now, I'm not happy. 

Ed Wade wrote a book

Dave Raymond had a couple of bizarre tweets this afternoon - one about Cecil Cooper still being able to hit .300 and one about Ed Wade's new book.

Yes. You read that right. Ed Wade wrote "Delayed Honor." Here's the summary:

Steve Laun returns home to attend the funeral of a father he hasn't seen in years, only to learn that his father's "accidental" death is cloaked in mystery. With the help of neighbors and a burning desire to correct wrongs on a number of fronts, Laun sets out to get to the bottom of his father's death, and, in the process, uncovers and thwarts the efforts of a local arms dealer with worldwide terrorist connections. While following Laun's quest for justice, we learn that there is more to Steve Laun than meets the eye.

It's $9.99 for your Kindle. There is one customer review, and it was given five stars.

Heyman adds to what we already know

Jon Heyman adds to already-established information, that the Astros are interested in finding something called a "Designated Hitter," which sounds like something Bud Selig made up, much like an "All-Time QB," that can't possibly be real.

Nevertheless, that's what the Astros are after. Heyman says Berkman is a possible fit were the money to be right. But he also adds Carlos Pena and Travis Hafner as "in the mix." Whether he's just picking out names based on whose agents he sees in front of him, or if they're actual possibilities, is undetermined.

2013 Hall of Fame roll call

If you're an Early-Morning type of AC reader, you'll notice that we have deleted two separate posts detailing the Hall of Fame votes of BBWAA writers. We have moved all of that information to a separate page, which you can find at the top of the header, or right here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Two Fantastic HOF reads

While you are at home, likely celebrating the Texans' victory over the Titans (while I can hear weeping and gnashing of teeth from my Nashville home), there have been a couple of extremely well-written perspectives on the Hall of Fame.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz
The New York Daily News's Bill Madden: