Wednesday, July 17, 2013

First-Half Awards

While we try to fill the wonderful void left by the All-Star Break, let's hand out some awards, eh?

Most Valuable Astro

Jason Castro. It cannot be argued that Castro has the highest OPS on the team (.806) and is the only player to hold a bat for the Astros with an OPS over .800. Among regular players, he has the second-highest average, highest OBP, and highest SLG. He also has 37 extra-base hits, highest on the team. And I like him. (James)

Ditto. This one is pretty obvious. Castro currently has 2.2 WAR. The rest of the batters on the team? -3.4.  ((Not Hank) Aaron)

Castro. See above. Other than fellow catcher Carlos Corporan, Castro is the only position player with at least 1 WAR at the break. In addition to the offensive improvements, he's also improved his caught stealing percentage this season. Passed balls are still an issue, but I think that's as much to do with our sinker-heavy pitching staff as anything else. (Bryan)

Jason Castro. He's becoming the player everyone expected prior to his knee injury and it's delightful to watch. He's improved across the board (offensively and defensively) and with the smarts to run a game from behind the plate, I think he's the perfect catcher to help usher in a host of new and young pitching talent. Plus, those eyes.... (Terri)

Astros Cy Young:

Bud Norris. But only because I couldn't vote for Jarred Cosart. The future ex-Astro is having a career year, assisted by cutting his home run rate in half, and his walks below 3.0 per nine innings for the first time in his career. Strikeouts are down and hits are up, but we should savor these last few starts before he goes off to a farm in Connecticut. (James)

Ditto. Although its closer than you might think. Jordan Lyles has not been in the rotation all year, but is matching Bud in most categories. Similar K rate, walk rate, similar FIP and much better xFIP and SIERA. Still, because he's done it all year, I go with Bud. ((Not Hank) Aaron)

Jose Veras. Really, I'm only saying Veras to keep this from turning into a Rush Limbaugh parody (MEGA DITTOS!!). But, honestly, Veras has been more than anyone really expected. Best K/BB of his career, 18 saves to just three blown saves, best WHIP of his career...I'm not big on bad teams buying saves, but Veras has more than held up his end of the contract so far. (Bryan)

Jordan Lyles. First of all, yes, Bud Norris is currently a better pitcher, but I think the improvements that we've seen in Lyles coupled with the fact that as Aaron mentioned, he reaches Bud's level in numerous comparisons earns him the Astros Cy Young. Just the fact that he can make it through the batting order a third time without getting lit up this season earns high praise from me. Plus, he's a level headed kid that you'll NEVER catch saying the wrong thing to the media - bonus points for that this season. (Terri)

Least Valuable Astro

Lucas Harrell. Not good on the mound, not good in the clubhouse.

Hector Ambriz. Its not really his fault he's not that good. He has never been that good. But for some reason he was still expected to be the 8th inning set up guy. Before mercifully being sent down, he racked up 9 melt downs, still tied for 9th most in the majors. ((Not Hank) Aaron)

Jimmy Paredes. Not only has he stunk at the plate (32 POS OPS+) and in the field (he's -0.3 WAR on defense alone in about 250 innings) but he's been fine tuning his Carlos Lee impression while colliding with our infielders on the regular. (Bryan)

Lucas Harrell. Once you start struggling as an athlete it seems your show your true colors. In the case of the Lucas Harrell those colors have been all the ugly ones. On a roster of kids, he's poison and the sooner the Astros realize that last season was a fluke and he has no business being where he is now, the sooner they'll keep his negative blame game away from impressionable young players. (Terri)

Most Delightful Win

March 31. In the only opportunity the Astros will have until 2014 - at the very earliest - to be on national television, they beat up on Matt Harrison on Opening Night, sending a flood of "Rangers fans" to their local Academy to buy "Ankiel" shirts. The next game didn't happen. (James)

June 20. An afternoon baseball game featuring an 8th inning homerun to tie it and a walkoff 3-run dinger from Pena is my definition of a great baseball day. Plus, it was my brothers' birthday, and I promised him a team win, so the win prevented me from having to get a real present. ((Not Hank) Aaron)

June 12. Down 1-0 in the top of the ninth against Seattle, the offense blew up for this sequence of events: single, single, sac bunt, walk, double, walk, single, strikeout, single, stolen base, single, walk, strikeout. The game quickly went from an "oh no, not another of these losses" to a 6-1 win over a division "rival". (Bryan)

July 12. With 23 year old Jarred Cosart on the mound, Astros fans collectively held their breath for nine straight innings. It was the most intense game of the season for me -  more so even than the "almost" no hitter by Darvish. the excitement of a pitcher who is pitching well, combined with the fact that it was his MLB debut and that he kept a no-no going for oh-so-long? Exciting. If nothing else, this game wins for me because it showcased the talent to come and the hope that is keeping us alive. (Terri)

Most Crushing Loss

61 games tied at (1). Every Astros loss eats at my soul, just a little bit, until I'm a shell of a person who fights the urge to kick puppies every chance I get. (James)

April 13. Taking a 4-1 lead into the bottom the 8th, the Astros finally lost the game on a two run double by Albert Pujols with 2 outs in the 9th inning. The 8th and 9th innings were just complete melt downs, with shoddy defense and a leaky bullpen snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Plus, the game started a 9:05, lasted 3 hours, and I stayed up that late to watch Albert Pujols celebrate a walk off win. Freakin Albert Pujols.  ((Not Hank) Aaron)

May 4. This was the 17-2 back alley prostate exam that the Tigers gave to Houston. The Astros simply didn't show up for this game, which is harder for me to stomach than any hard-fought but emotional loss. In this game we couldn't field and we couldn't hit, but we made up for it by not pitching, either. This game was so out of hand that when Paul Clemens gave up three runs in the last two innings it didn't even move the win probability needle; it was pegged by the fifth inning. (Bryan)

The most recent one. No matter when this post gets published, the hardest loss for me is always the most recent. I'm just nutty enough to go into every game thinking the Astros have a chance and whether that is blown in the 1st inning with poor starting pitching or in the 8th or 9th inning by an inept bullpen - it breaks my heart a a little bit. (Terri)

Biggest Surprise

Jason Castro can hit lefties! In 35 games in 2012, Jason Castro hit .148/.175/.175 with two doubles, 21 strikeouts and two walks. His OPS+ vs. LHP was 12. This season, in 34 games, he's hitting .204/.259/.426 with six extra-base hits and a .685 OPS (109 OPS+). It's not a great batting average, but the league-average for Lefty-on-Lefty hitting is a .682 OPS. (James)

Jose Cisnero can pitch. Cisnero never posted an ERA under 3.4 at any stage of the minors, and put up a 5.40 ERA in 48 AAA innings. He was called up on April 19, despite posting a 9.35 ERA to start the season. So he has, of course, been the Astros most effective relievers, with a 2.87 a 3.06 FIP and 7 shut downs against only 4 meltdowns. His rise was so out of nowhere that he didn't even make it into the Baseball Prospectus Player Annual.   ((Not Hank) Aaron)

Bud Norris seems to have transformed himself in one season. Before this year, Norris was a strikeout pitcher that also walked a lot and allowed a bunch of home runs. This year he's cut his strikeout rate by over 25% but by pitching to contact he's dramatically cut his home run rate, reigned in the walks, and is pitching deeper into game, too. (Bryan)

The return and seeming-success of Brett Wallace. Since he returned to the big club from AAA, Brett Wallace has been an offensive machine. He's hitting .351/ .415 / .730 with an OPS of 1.144. Wowza. After he struggled at the start of the season and the club sent him back to Oklahoma City I truly believed that was it for the first baseman. I figured he'd hit well at AAA again, but if the Astros gave him another shot, he'd fall apart as he had so many times before at the major league level. There's still time for that to happen, but this has been the most successful reintroduction to the majors he's had yet and I'm now cheering him on to prove me wrong. (Terri)

Most Crushing Disappointment

This is probably just the emotion of the last 24 hours, but Lucas Harrell's innate tittybabyness.(James)

The rest of the bullpen. Excepting Cisnero and Veras, who have been pleasantly surprising, the Astros bullpen has been atrocious. The relievers' ERA of 4.95 is over half a run worse the next worse team (the Phillies), and amazingly, they have actually been a little lucky, with a FIP of 5.06. They, collectively, have been worth -2.4 WAR. In the month of May the Astros had a losing record when taking a lead into the 8th inning, which is one of the most depressing stats I can imagine.  ((Not Hank) Aaron)

I'll go with Harrell, too, because he has serious control issues: his pitches, his attitude, his mouth, etc.

The bullpen as a whole kills me on a regular basis. In fact, I can't talk about it anymore or I may puke on my keyboard. (Terri)

What Helps You Get Through The Night

Jarred Cosart, Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski, Mark Appel, Lance McCullers, Carlos Correa, Jon Homerton. (James)

That this was all part of the plan. ((Not Hank) Aaron)

That our readers are more coherent than those of the Chronicle (Bryan)

Maker's Mark. (Terri)