Archive for June, 2004

6/30/04: Astros Need A Spark To Light Their Fire

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

Yesterday, Andy Petitte returned – 5 IP, 92 pitches, 3 BB,7K. Not bad. But the bullpen failed and Biggio had a 2 run error in left. No help in any way from the killer Bs. And we lost. Again. Today, Clemens didn’t look sharp. 5 walks and only 60% of pitches were strikes. Miceli pitched again today. Threw 13 pitches, gave up a walk and a homer. He looks really tired. Wade Miller is on the DL, Kent has a hamstring strain, is out for at least a few days and Berkman is 0/6 over the past 2 days with 6 guys left on base. Everyone looks DULL DULL DULL except Beltran and Lidge, who threw 2 innings today with 3 K and a walk.

Is there really such a thing as a guy who comes in and is a spark? Lots of stat geeks say there is no such thing as a spark or a cancer and that there is no such thing as chemistry (well, there isn’t on the stratomatic cards, is there???)

I know they always find some other reason that explains change, such as the pitchers had lower ERAs or DER increased or something. But WHY did these things change? Why couldn’t it be an attitude change in the players?

I know for a fact that a group of females can act better or worse after being joined by a new girl. Why not guys? Guys are humans too and have emotions and feelings, even if they show them differently than girls sometimes, and react to different people around them.

Let me explain.

10 days ago, my sister-in-law, who had just had a baby, got sick and had to go back in the hospital and asked me to keep her baby while she was in. I have 2 year old twins, missed having a baby around and said sure. Well let me tell you. That baby is the cryingest, complaininest baby I ever did see. Hollerin about EVERYTHING. Won’t sleep more’n an hour cuz it takes away from hollerin time. Soooooo? Well, my 2 year olds started whinin and crying and fussin like they don’t usually do and my husband, usually a nice even tempered sort of guy, got crabby. And I started yelling at him and my kids which isn’t like me at all.

So one small male who is unpleasant was, shall we say, a “clubhouse cancer” (even though I hate to say that about a brand new baby and the pediatrician told me at all 4 visits that lots of babies like him change as they get bigger.) So if one 7 pound male can cause 4 usually good natured people to get snappy and crabby, why couldn’t that happen with a 200 pound male and 24 other guys?

Or the other way around? Because the Astros sure do need someone to sharpen em up.

6/28/04: We Like To Watch

Monday, June 28th, 2004

Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus wrote a column the other day telling about his feelings watching an A ball game. He mentioned how much he liked watching the 3rd baseman play defense, so much, that he actually forgot to check his stats!! (the guy is a lousy hitter.) And don’t forget that Jonah is the Real Deal, stat wise. Makes me wonder how we would look at the game if we went in cold, just watched 2 teams play without knowing any stat whatsoever. Do all the numbers prejudice our thinking when we watch?

I know that I personally prefer watching great defensive plays to watching great hitting (except Barry Bonds – but he’s in a special class of excitement all by himself.)

Speaking of which, give it up for Carlos Beltran’s great catch yesterday saving Roy-O’s game. I knew he was good, but that was Mike Cameron good. Roy pitched really well and we didn’t need the bullpen, thank goodness. I was surprised to read that our bullpen was not one of the 5 most heavily used. It just seems like it.

What else would I like to watch? Guys hitting with RISP!!! No more sac bunts for Adam Everett when Biggio is on and no outs!!!!!! Lance start the all-star game!!! for starters…..

6/25/04: Good for Carlos (Beltran), Bad for Jason Lane

Friday, June 25th, 2004

We’re playing the Rangers tonight in one of those b o r i n g interleague games. Wade Miller is pitching and he’s done really well his last 4 games.

But, of course, the big news is that we have rented 3 months of Carlos Beltran before he goes to the Yankees. No doubt about it, he’s a better center fielder than Biggio (just about anybody is, but we won’t go there.) But this leaves poor Jason Lane out in the cold again, just after he’d been freed.

Can Lane hit leadoff? No, but he CAN hit and he CAN field and I hate to see him rotting on the bench another year. But I’m wondering if this will pay off. I mean, getting rid of Dotel. Lidge, by far our best reliever, will now close and we have a hole, a BIG one, at setup. And Brad hadn’t had a lot of 2 inning games. He seems to top out at about 20-22 pitches. On the other hand, Dotel hasn’t been as sharp this year as he was the previous 2. We’ll see how he likes it in the AL.

All-Star week is coming up fast!!!! And I have tickets!!!!! We have a good chance to have 4 all-stars this year – Jeff Kent, who will be voted in, Adam Everett (it’s pretty close), Lance Berkman and Roger Clemens. Pretty good.

6/20/04: From The Cheap Seats

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

The stadium was extra crowded and noisy today. Wade Miller pitched very well again and this time, we won. The guys are still leaving more guys on base than they should. But fortunately, Wade Miller, Brad and Dotel outpitched the Angel hitters.

Speaking of stats, I try to find time to read blogs and articles written by stat geeks. They make a lots of good points, but sometimes I think that some of them are more interested in numbers, betting and fantasy than in watching the actual game. So I started getting some stats of my own at the game. Yes, I know. Small sample size and unique results, but here goes:

Compare the “perfect” stat game (all batters walk or strike out or hit a home run so no defense, hit by pitch, bunts or stolen bases and the pitcher will have only DIPS stats) to a “small ball game” and find out which one fans in the strands would rather watch, assuming the Astros win.

Adults (sober) surveyed in my section:
16 males (one with scorecard) 14 females (2 with scorecard)
Question – would you rather see a game played by Matt Lecroy and Mo Vaughn types (2 tool players who can’t run or field) with lots of home runs and high scores or a game with Rickey and Juan Pierre and Ozzie Smith types with NO homers or strikeouts but lots of defensive plays and triples and base-stealing?
males: 3 “stat game” 13 “small ball”
females: 6 “stat game” 8 “small ball” (so maybe chicks really DO dig the long ball)

Adults (sober) surveyed down on ground level between 3rd base and home (richer???):
Most of the people down here are in groups, lots of them not bothering to even watch the game, talking about business deals or their kidz, etc, so the people I asked were looking at the field, watching the actual game, which is why we are supposed to be here. (Is this surveyor or sample bias?)
males: 12 “stat” games 43 “small ball”
females: 6 “whatever’s over quicker” 5 “don’t care” 2 “stat games” and 4 “small ball”
Should I conclude that most people think games that are “stat” games are um,
B O R I N G?

I think I can conclude that females in the actual stands (at least the cheap seats) are actual FANS and not just there because they’re afraid to let their man out of their sight (learn to cook, girlfriend.)

6/17/04: The Doggie-House

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

We knew it was coming. Doggie (Richard Hidalgo) got traded to the Mets for David Weathers and an average AAA pitcher, Griffith. Doggie just quit hitting and swung at most everything in sight right around May 1. Who knows why?

But it’s fer sher that he wasn’t gonna be here next year anyway, not with that 15 mill salary and Jimy, who isn’t quite as allergic to rookies as, say, Dusty Baker, decided to play Jason Lane.

Finally.

Sometimes, a guy just needs a change of scenery.

I guess I’d better mention that we’ve been losing lately. A lot. I know I said last week that we sure haven’t done well with RISP. Last night, poor Tim Redding was getting booed, even though he only gave up 2 runs and 2 walks in 7 innings. Dan Miceli relieved and gave up 2 runs in 1/3 inning. He has been used heavily and he looked tired. In fact, the whole team looked tired. I know that stat people don’t believe in chemistry or energy, but they’re wrong. Because these guys look like they need some kind of spark. I sure hope Roy-O wins tonight. Because we need it.

6/13/04: Roy-O, You’ve Lost That Winnin’ Feelin’

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

Roy-o lost yesterday. Seems that this year he’s been either on fire and won big or gets himself in jams in one inning and can’t seem to reverse bad luck. I didn’t see the game yesterday. Looking at the box score, he did fine until the bottom of the 5th when Brewers started getting on base with bloop singles, bunt singles and more singles.

Suddenly, 5 runs had scored and Roy was gone after 86 pitches, 56 strikes 30 balls, 4K and 1 BB. I didn’t have access to ball & strike counts/batter which I have when I watch and score it myself, but I wonder if his curve and slider were working. He’s thrown several other games where he’s lost the same way. Is it bad luck? Too many line drives falling in? Last DER I saw last week was .702, which is decent.

Today we get a spot start from Pete Munro, who we just picked off the scrap heap a week ago. He played for us last year, mostly as a mop-up guy with 54 IP, 4.67 era, .294BA, 26BB and 27K. He had 14 spot starts in 02 and went 5-5 with a 3.67era, 80IP, 24BB, 45K and .283 BA. I’m hoping for beginer’s luck and hot Astro bats. At least, hot at the right time, because we left 16 guys on base. AGAIN.

6/8/04: Interleague (yawn) Excitement: Astros vs The Hated Mariners

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Here we are with another exciting (yeah, right) interleague matchup with our long standing rivals the Mariners. Oh, the endlessly documented years of history and hatred…

We got beat by Clint Nagoette, a guy just called up from the minors to replace Gil Meche, who couldn’t find the strike zone. Clint found the strike zone just enough when it counted to beat us.

Jeff Kent struck out with bases loaded and later complained that Nagoette wasn’t a good pitcher and “didn’t have command of his pitches” and threw AL breaking stuff. He is embarrassing the Astros by his childishness and plain old poor sportsmanship and bad manners – par for the course for Kent, unfortunately. He is too freaking old to behave that way. He sounds like a spoilt little kid who didn’t get his way.

I remember reading all the bad things he said about Barry Bonds to any reporter who would print it. I also remember Barry Bonds saying that he ALWAYS respects EVERY pitcher, that when he is in the batter’s box, ALL pitchers are Randy Johnson. That sometimes the pitcher beats you and you tip your cap. I know a lot of people hate Barry for whatever reason, but the guy is a class act on the field. Too bad none of it rubbed off on Jeff.

In contrast, Morgan Ensberg said that the pitcher had a great slider and just beat them. We are STILL leaving way too many men in scoring position with less than 2 outs.

Andy Pettite isn’t ready to come off the disabled list. I am getting worried that he really does have an elbow problem, the Yankees knew it and that’s why he “wanted” to come home. I hope I’m wrong, because Carlos Hernandez still isn’t ready.

Roger vs. Mariners tonight. They’ve seen that show before and they have a lot more reason to “hate” that old rival than Brandon Duckworth last night.

As for me, I just can’t get it up for interleague ball -especially in AL parks. The Dh is teh sukc.

6/6/04: Sunday Win For Roy Oswalt

Sunday, June 6th, 2004

Roy Oswalt won today. He looked sharp – 6 hits in 6 innings and 1 walk. He “strained” a rib muscle and left after 87 pitches. He didn’t look hurt – the curve and slider were as sharp as ever, velocity was 94-96, his motion smooth and graceful as ever and he wasn’t taking longer between pitches.

Dotel, as usual, is looking better as the weather heats up. I am getting worried about the possible overuse of Miceli and Lidge. Also, I would love to know what Jimy has against Morgan Ensberg. (Lamb, who can’t catch a cold, has been playing and Vizcaino played today.) How could it be hitting or his glove? Must be personal.

Doggie has not been hitting well for over a month. All of a sudden, around May 6 he just started with 0-fers. It isn’t that he’s been unlucky and had well hit balls that were caught by glove wizards, but has been swinging late or at bad balls. Or not at all at hittable pitches.

Do guys happen to have a bad day then start getting down on themselves? And it just goes from there? I would think that with all the video they have to watch that if the stance or hand position were different, it would be discovered right away. I’m sure that we have NO intention of resigning Doggie, no matter how he does this year, so I guess I’m glad to see Jason Lane getting to play.

I’m sure that yall have noticed how well Daryl Ward is doing for the Pirates. I remember that when he was with the Astros, he had said that he needed a lot of playing time to be good and that he didn’t do well off the bench. So of course, Jimy kept him on the bench all the time. And of course he didn’t do well. When no one in LA could hit worth a bucket of warm spit last year, I wondered why they didn’t give him a shot. Like, who did they have who was better? Well, I guess you can suddenly improve even when you’re past your “peak” year. He must not read PECOTA or forecasts since he is officially OTH. Good for Daryl. As long as he doesn’t beat us.

It’s Play Ball, Not Work Ball Says Lance Berkman, NL Player Of The Month May 2004

Thursday, June 3rd, 2004

Lance Berkman is the NL player of the month!!!!!!!!

He has an OBP in the Barry zone (although unlike Barry, he gets virtually no media attention.) I like him because he looks like an old time player who pounds a few Budwisers. And I like him because he looks like he’s still having fun out there.

I watched a few innings of Dontrell Willis’ 7 innings against the Reds last night (replay today.) I love watching him pitch because he has that cool funky motion, but mostly because he looks as if he can’t believe his great luck, that someone is actually paying him $$$ to go out and PLAY!!! I know the stat geeks were NOT happy last year when he beat out a pitcher with better stats, but I think what really swayed the voters was watching a guy who says “happy to be here” and HE REALLY MEANS IT. It is somehow disappointing to watch someone who quietly goes about his business. Because it’s supposed to be fun and games, not WORK.

What got me thinking about this is watching the guys from different teams warm up before the games. The new guys look thrilled. The older guys don’t. Usually they look like bankers or parole officers or someone else grim (see Glavine, Tom). The thing about baseball is that it looks SO easy. And I watch David Eckstein and Fernando Vina and Juan Pierre and all the rest of the little guys go out there and I think, hey, I could do that (if I knew how.) Because lots of the guys look like regular guys. So I think, well, it would be great. Half the year I get up, have a few beers, go out, throw balls, hit balls and catch balls with the guys and have a great time and the other half of the year hang out with the guys, catch a little golf, hunt and fish and GET PAID FOR IT!!!!! Because it looks so easy and it’s fun.

But….. life ain’t like that.

Over at baseballthinkfactory.org, Sean McNally has an interview with Jeff Pearlman, the guy who used to write articles for SI (he’s the one who wrote the infamous expose on John Rocker.) Jeff comes off as an angry bitter man who seems terminally pissed off that ballplayers ain’t the way they used to be – at least the way he thinks they used to be.

There was an article in the San Jose Mercury news a few days ago about the A’s pitching coach and staff and all the work and preparation and charts and planning that goes on for hours every day. Plus video of hitters. Lots of it. The thing is, that the truth is that we want to believe that everyone is “just good” and goes out there, plays a game, has a good time and that’s all there is to it. But the truth is that now it isn’t just a game. It’s work.

A LOT of work. Every day all year long work. The guys get trainers, watch videos, practice all year round, see special doctors in Alabama who fool with their mechanics and deliveries. No coach just goes out there and says “throw strikes” and that’s all there is to it.

The pitchers get operations where they move tendons in arms. Players get operations on their eyeballs etc… Things just ain’t the way they used to be. You can’t just say if there weren’t steroids it would be the way it used to be any more than you could say that if your wife didn’t have wrinkles she would be the same as she was at 18. The world changes and the game changes too. And the more you know about what really goes on behind the scenes, the harder it is to pretend that we could be just like them – play games every day and all we need is a bat, ball and glove…..

Which is why I think that Ken Griffey is getting so many All-Star votes. We want our “Kid” back.

Will Blog On Astros For Fun (My Very First Entry)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

Roger Clemens pitched today and won. As usual. When I go to a game at the juicebox, about 10% of the fans are wearing jerseys and over half of them are Clemens jerseys. (I never see Oswalt jerseys even though he has been our ace for 3 years.)

I’ve noticed that usually Roger has a tougher time finding the strike zone during the first 3 innings, goes to more full counts and throws 15 – 20 pitches an inning. He’s lucky that so many hitters swing at stuff that looks to me as if it’s out of the strike zone. Then he settles down and really throws lots of strikes.

I know Roger’s good, and keeps us in the national news, but I still like Roy-O better. I love his motion. Fluid with no jerks. I also hafta root for the little guy. (cuz I’m small too). If he had ever told people that he is 5-10 or 11, they probably wouldn’t have given him a chance. I get so tired of hearing that you have to be over 6 feet to pitch. Roy throws a FB at 96-97 and there are lots of bigger guys who can’t throw that fast.

It seems that whenever Roy pitches, our hitters sure do strand a lot of runners. A few weeks ago, we left the bases loaded with less than 2 outs 3 times when Roy was pitching. I wonder if the hitters think they can let up because Roy is so good he won’t give up runs? He is better than 2-3 and I hope things will get better. Because Joe Morgan isn’t the only one who judges a pitcher by W/L.

My new favorite pitcher is reliever Chad Harville. He SEZ he’s 5-9 and is right handed. Like, I have to root for a guy who has the cojones to tell the truth when telling the truth will generally get you not picked. How did he get around the system? Did he used to lie and decided to come out of the closet (height closet) when he got called up?

I’ve listened to fans, sportswriters and stat geeks say that a pitcher is better because he is taller. They say that Jeff Nieman should be taken before Philip Humber in the draft BECAUSE Nieman is 6-9. And no other reason. They’ve got some splainin to do. How does being taller give you better mechanics, give you better control or even a faster ball? Or a better work ethic? Or “want to win” more? Or be more “aggressive” Or less likely to be injured?

How cool is it that Adam Everett is the top guy for NL SS on the all-star ballot? He really has a great glove. I haven’t seen a really good shortstop play for us before and he is a real thrill because he is always making incredible plays. To mis-quote Barry, “there’s no secret, he’s just good.” (I know i’m supposed to put range factor or defensive ratings or uzr here to prove my point but I don’t know how to calculate them in the first place so I’m not gonna. ) Anyway, Adam was on web gems every night the first week in May. So lots of fans got to see the same great action we do every game. So hopefully that helped.