Archive for February, 2007

2/28/07: Astros Shoulder Pains

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Switch hitting AAA catcher Hector Giminez, who has been having shoulder pain, was diagnosed with a torn labrum, will need surgery, and will be out for the year. He’ll actually be put on the 60 day DL so he can’t be claimed off waivers. He’s gonna make his biggest paycheck ever – the ML minimum – by just sitting on the DL all year.

Brad Ausmus also had shoulder pain – I heard on the radio that he said he couldn’t lift his arm above his head back in January, but hadn’t hurt it. He was diagnosed with “fluid in the rotator cuff.” Supposedly, he’s better now, without any treatment.

Anyone here have the faintest idea what a labrum even IS? Or how a cuff has fluid?

Me neither. And yes, I HAVE noticed that newspapers never publish any pictures of either one so you can figure out what they are even talking about. Therefore, I am going to post links to pictures of the shoulder joint (sorry, can’t figure out how to get them to show up on the page here) so hopefully we can see what they are talking about.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh
the wrist bone connects to the
arm bone and the arm bone connects to the
shoulder bone
um, shoulder bones/labrums/rotating cuffs (something like that)

According to Jonathan Cluett, M.D., “The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, similar to the hip; however, the socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow, and thus inherently unstable. To compensate for the shallow socket, the shoulder joint has a cuff of cartilage called a labrum that forms a cup for the end of the arm bone (humerus) to move within.” Baseball players get tears from throwing overhand – it is called a “SLAP tear” and “occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.”

Here is a drawing of the labrum (called the “glenoid lig” in the picture – (Henry Gray – public domain) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Gray328.png – best I understand, the arm bone fits into the hole in the middle called the “glen fossa.” (I wonder if this is where Jeff Bagwell’s arthritis is located. I remember reading that he needs to have the shoulder joint replaced – and after reading, or trying to, some stuff on replacement surgery, it sounds nasty…)

Anyhow, back to the shoulder, the rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles: (picture is from the government – public domain)
http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/health/sports/shoulder.gif
“The rotator cuff is a group of flat tendons which fuse together and surround the front, back and top of the shoulder joint like a cuff on a shirt sleeve. These tendons are connected individually to short, but very important muscles that originate from the scapula.” (check that pic again) “When the muscles contract, they pull on the rotator cuff tendon, causing the shoulder to rotate upward, inward or outward, hence the name ‘rotator cuff’. ” (from scoi.com)

Does this help? Where does the fluid go? How does fluid go into muscles? Can’t find a pic showing where the fluid is, but here is a pic (from www.orthopedics.about.com) of a “rotator cuff tear” – it actually looks to me like the top ligament is the one gets torn. I’m not sure why it is so hard to sew it back together, but it apparently is, because most guys don’t come back from rotator cuff tears.
symptoms

Anyhow, I tried to save the worst for last – like Monk sez, here’s the thing – IF Brad really has something wrong with him besides “flu-like symptoms” of the shoulder and he can’t play, this means Quintero and (gaaack acccck) Munson. Maybe we SHOULD have signed Johnny Estrada, bad clubhouse rep and all – because let’s be real here, Lou Santangelo, who had a .765 OPS in A ball, (don’t ask and I won’t tell about the AA catchers) is NO Brian McCann or Joe Mauer…

Craig Biggio vs Bernie Williams

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

I was just thinking about the NY Yankees not offering lifelong Yankee Bernie Williams, a key member of 4 WS teams, a contract – he won’t accept a minor league deal and he won’t play for any other team. A long time fan favorite will be involuntarily retiring. He supposedly wanted just one more year (well, a whole lot of guys who need to retire want just one more year – it must be the hypercompetitive nature (big word meaning big ego…) Bernie, of course, isn’t going to go in the Hall of Fame, although he sure is in the Hall of Very Good, and he isn’t approaching any major milestones. AND his skills have been declining for a good 3 or 4 years.

Craig Biggio, a little older, a LOT better, and a sure fire HOFer if he had retired last year, also wanted one last year (and I wouldn’t be surprised if NEXT year he wants one last year, too.) Like Bernie, he was an indispensible member of 10 years of winning teams, and like Bernie, his skills have declined over the past few years.

I’m not sure he would have been re-signed if McLane didn’t want so badly for him to get to 3000 hits.

And I’m not sure how it will affect the team if Biggio is still looking for that 70th hit and he’s hitting like he did in the second half of last year. I also am reasonably sure he will stay in the lineup no matter what, until he gets that #3000….

2007 Astros Relief Pitchers Report

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Let’s start this one off with the guys we KNOW will definitely make it, no question (unless there is a trade.)
Brad Lidge, age 30, RHP, closer. I hope.

Dan Wheeler, age 29, RHP, setup guy.

Chad Qualls, age 28, RHP, 7th inning guy – might could have a sore shoulder, who knows how serious. I don’t trust anyone to be honest about injuries.

Trever Miller, age 33, designated LOOGY
- now, the guys who I don’t think will be relievers if they fail to make the starting rotation

Matt Albers (who I talked about yesterday) – because I think they want him to be a starter, so he’d go back to AAA for more experience. On the other hand, they might could give him some work in the pen, as they did Roy when he started out in the majors.

Wandy Rodriguez (who I talked about yesterday) because he’s just not a reliever – ESPECIALLY if there are MOB.

Zeke Astacio (who I talked about yesterdsay) because he sucks no matter if he starts or relieves

Troy Patton ( who I talked about yesterday) – because they want him to be a lefty starter and he NEEDS some more minor league experience

Now, the minor league guys who know they aren’t gonna make the team, but were invited because of good behaviour:

Jimmy Barthmaier, age 22, RH starter. Just finished A ball – 3.62 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 8.4K/9 IP, 4.22 BB/9 IP, 0.37 HR/ 9 IP. started 27 games, pitched 146.2 innings. beeg deeel… Someone needs to explain to me why he’s at ST and Brooks Conrad, who could be a useful switchhitting utility IF is not.

Paul Estrada, age 24, RH reliever, just finished AA. 3.05 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, pitched in 56 games over 88.2 innings. 13.6K/9 IP, 3.76 BB/9 IP, 1 HR/9 IP. Looks more useful than Barthmaier.

Juan Gutierrez, age 23, RH starter. Just finished AA – 3.04 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in 20 games over 104 IP. 9.2 K/9 IP, 2.95 BB/9 IP, 0.87 HR/9 IP. Not bad.

Felipe Paulino Del Guidice, age 23, RH starter. Just finished A ball. Not impressed – 4.35 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.48 K/9, 4.21 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9 in 26 GS over 126.1 IP. I have NO idea why the Organization is impressed with this guy.

Jose Rodriguez, age 25, RH reliever (who has not yet gotten to Florida because of visa problems) He’s a 6 year minor league FA who was on the Tampa Bay AAA roster – 2.43 ERA, 1.30 WHIP – 7.54 K/9, 3.28 BB/9, o.49 HR/9 over 49 games and 74 IP. Has never played a ML game.
- and the contenders?

Miguel Asencio, age 26. The throw in in the Jennings trade (as I wrote earlier this year), signed by the Phillies as a 17 year old in 98 and was picked in the Rule V draft by the Royals in 02 – was mostly a starter – went 4-7 in 21 GS and 10 in relief over 123.1 IP (which comprises most of the ML innings he has pitched) with a 5.11 ERA; 1.62 WHIP; 1.24 HR/9; 4.67 BB/9; 4.23 K/9. Yep. Lousy. And he was just as lousy in the 48 innings he pitched the next year for the Royals. In 05, he pitched 19 innings in the Padres minor league system. He was then signed as a FA by the Rockies last year, and in AAA, he started 16 games, relieved in 22 more and, well, letís say he wasnít any good – 5.03 EA, 1.51 WHIP; 1.05 HR/9; 3.32 BB/9; 5.76 K/9 . He pitched 7.1 innings in Denver and again, he just sucked. I see absolutely ZERO evidence that this guy is any good at ALL – I suppose he is the much vaunted “long reliever” that Purpura, Phil and Drayton thought was gonna be so much better for the team than Russ Springer.
I’ll believe it when I see it.

Dave Borkowski, age 30, RHP – who I talked about yesterday

Lincoln Holzkolm, age 25, RH reliever. He’s a minor leaguer we picked up in the Rule V draft from the Cubs. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2001 draft by the Marlins, spent a whole lot of time on the DL for the past few years, including Tommy John surgery in 04. Heís never pitched higher than the Southern League AA. Last year, he pitched 32.1 innings with a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.78 BB/ 9 and 7.52 K/ 9 IP. He hasnít done quite so well this winter in the AFL, 20.1 IP over 13 games, with 3 HR, 13 BB and 21K – he gave up 19 runs, 16 earned, for a shiny 7.08 ERA. Must say that the local media sure do seem to like him – he’s already gotten 2 stories.

Mark McLemore, age 25, LHP (talked about him yesterday too. Interesting that none of the local media have so much as mentioned his name as even being at ST.)

Brian Moehler, age 35, RHP – I had to talk about him yesterday, sorry that I have to do that today again…

Fernando Nieve, age 24, RHP – discussed him yesterday

Stephen Randolph, age 32, LHP – He has pitched 147 ML innings, in 2003 and 2004 – heís been primarily a reliever, but was pressed into service as a starter by the desperately dreadful Dbax in 04. He has started 6 games, relieved in 89 more. He has 7.12 K/9 and a glorious 7.65 BB/9. Of course, Phil is drooling over him because of his low ERA in AAA Charlotte last year – 3.67, but he still gave up 6.65 BB/9 and that is in a hit happy league.
Color me unimpressed. But I guess Phil is seeing a lefty long man and drooling…

Scott Sauerbeck, age 35, LHP – wrote about him already

Kevin Walker, age 30, LHP – let’sd say he’s another AAAA guy – has logged 103 ML innings over 11 years – 4.76 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 8.38K/9, 5.56BB/9 and 0.88 HR/9. Last time he pitched more than a few innings in the ML was 2000, when he threw 66 innings for San Diego. He’s lousy. To be nice about it.

Rick White, age 38, RHP. Wrote him up already (2/5/07)

Ok, let’s figger we’ll have 12 pitchers – 5 starters, 7 relievers

Let’s say Oswalt, Williams, Jennings, Wandy and Sampson (interesting that Richard Justice doesn’t think that either Wandy or Sampson will make the 25 man – he predicts Albers and Nieve as the 4th and 5th man…)

Relievers will be Lidge, Wheeler, Qualls, Miller
and there are 3 more spots. Now you KNOW that Phil wants a long man and another LOOGY.

Long man candidates: Asencio, Borkowski, Nieve, Holzkom (who has to go back to the Cubs if he’s not on the 25 man) Randolph and Moehler.

Loogy candidates: Randolph, McLemore, Sauerbeck and Walker
Last man: White. Maybe Estrada

So who am I guessing will make it onto the 25 man?
Borkowski, Nieve and Sauerbeck. Although I think I’d really prefer Borkowski, Estrada and McLemore – hey, be daring….

2007 Astros Starting Pitchers Report

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

I’m having an unusually hard time getting into spring training this year, not sure why. Maybe because the Roger Saga is on its last legs, maybe it’s because I just can’t get myself into feeling that THIS is gonna be the year, maybe it’s because how a guy does in ST may or may not have anything to do with how he does the rest of the year, maybe it’s because I’ve gotten tired of the media insisting on turning all the ballplayers into public figures who are supposed to act and think all the same – the way the sportswriters say.

But, gotta look and see wassup anyhow…

So, I’m really not gonna discuss the three guys we KNOW are gonna be starting – Roy Oswalt, RHP; Jason Jennings, RHP; Woody Williams, RHP.

- here are the rest of the guys who will be fighting for the 4th and 5th spot:

Matt Albers, age 24, RHP, homeboy. Really, he should start the year in AAA – he started last year in AA, really looked ace – went 10-2 in 19 GS over 116 IP (6 IP/ GS) with a 2.17 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 0.31 HR/9 IP (and this is in the Texas League, mind you), then was promoted to AAA, where he pitched in only 4 starts – he had a 3.96 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9 IP, 8.9 K/ 9 IP and 0.72 HR/9 IP. He was (in my opinion) rushed to the ML to start (instead of starting Chris Sampson) when Buchholz and Wandy were sent down, and let’s just say he really wasn’t ready for prime time. I think he’s gonna be fine, he just needs a little more time in AAA.

Ezequiel Astacio, age 27, RHP (aaaaack, gaaaack) – I am just mentioning him because for some odd reason, Phil did. Phil fell madly in luuuuvvvv with him a few years ago because he looked like Pedro 99 in spring training. Unfortunately, ML hitters caught up to him right quick and sent a whole lot of his supposed to be strike 3s out of the park. He spent last year in AAA, whre he belongs. He strikes out a lot of guys – approximately 9 an inning, but he walks over 4/9 IP and gives up almost 2 HR/9 IP. In case yall thinking he just might could be that fireballing setup guy/closer, you wrong – he simply sucked as a reliever, too.

Dave Borkowski, age 30, RHP. He did OK as a reliever/long man last year. He’s one of those ex-Tigers Phil luuuuvvs. He hasn’t started a game in 4 years, and frankly, he does league average as a reliever/long man, and Sampson is MUCH better, so why rock the boat? He reminds me of Pete Munro – does fine the first time through the lineup… Last year for us, he was almost exactly league average – 4.69 ERA (well, yeah, that IS high for a reliever), pitched 71 innings in 40 games – 6.6 K/9; 3 BB/9 and 1 HR/9.

Mark McLemore, age 26, LHP – I doubt it, I really do. I only threw him in here because just in case Wandy, who is the frontrunner for the lefty starter, simply sucks, Phil is gonna panic and grab SOME lefty – Troy Patton is “supposed” to start in either AA or AAA this year, according to Purpura. Anyhow, McLemore has spent a lot of the last 2 years injured, but when he pitched last year, he was excellent – strarted 9 games and relieved in 12 more – 2.81 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP over 57.2 IP – 8.3 K/9, 5 BB/9 (yecccch) and 0.78 HR/9. But hey, youneverknow…

Brian Moehler, age 35, RHP. I didn’t wanna put his worthless ass down as a possible starter, but unfortunately I had to because of Phil’s serious addiction to ex-Tigers. I remember Moehler’s worthless ass on our payroll back in 2003. Last year, he pitched for the Marlins and he was simply terrible – of course, he’s been terrible for a long time and how the heck he could get considered before Sampson I just do NOT know…

Fernando Nieve, age 24, RHP – started last year as our #5 guy, pitched like a #5 guy, and was put in the bullpen when The Prodigal Roger Returned. There was a whole lotta talktalktalk bout grooming Nieve to close, but I don’t think that worked out. Naturally, he had better numbers as a reliever – pretty much every pitcher does. Had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.3 WHIP over 96.1 IP – 6.54 K/9, 3.83 BB/9 and 1.68 HR/9. Unfortunately, he had a nasty habit of giving up waaaayyy too many homers into the Crawford Boxes… I doubt he would edge out Sampson, but it IS baseball and youneverknow.

Troy Patton, age 21, LHP. Homie. Big prospect. Started last year in A ball, did well, was promoted to AA in July. Started 8 games, had a 4.37 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP over 45 IP with 7.35 K/9, 2.35 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9. Let’s be real here – dude is NOT ready for the majors. Yes, I know the 03 Tigers put Bonderman in the rotation, but really, what did they have to lose? It’s different with our team – we have guys who are ready.

Wandy Rodriguez, age 28, LHP. Yeah, I’m prejudice. I just like him, I can’t help it. I just gotta give it up for a 5′11″ (yeah, surrrrre) 160 lb lil guy who disbelieved he was too small to pitch in the ML. He’s a GB pitcher and although he allows waaaay too many baserunners, he seems to get a whole lot of DPs to get himself out of trouble. He started last year great – won his first 4 games and pitched well enough to win the 5th – in fact, he was 9-5 with a 4.95 ERA at the ASB with really only 2 really bad games. But, not sure why, he just lost all control, was given a few relief opportunities, and then was sent down on July 17 – he didn’t do well down there, neither, and was recalled in mid August, put back in the bullpen, and continued to suck. Larry Dierker mentioned in his blog that he noticed that as soon as Wandy dropped his elbow, his sinker didn’t sink as well, and he got hammered. Not sure why Jim Hickey, who had been working with Wandy for 4 years, didn’t notice that or correct it. Phil has publically said that Wandy is penciled infor the #4 spot, but, it IS baseball and youneverknow, so I’m not gonna assume nothin.

Chris Sampson, age 28, RHP. Here is the guy who REALLY deserves the last starter’s spot. I’ve talked about him a LOT, so I won’t bore yall with hearing the same thing. Chris is a homie, is a GB pitcher, has great control, is a former SS and can actually hit and field (like Backe) and deserves the last spot.
(I refuse to include Dan Wheeler in this group in spite of the fact that his name was being tossed around as a possible starter. Puh-leeze – these days, a great setup guy who can close is a LOT more valuable than a #5 guy – and this assumes that Wheeler after 4 years, could actually pitch more than a few innings. Bah, humbug…)

So here’s what I think:
DEFINITELY – Chris Sampson
PROBABLY – Wandy (and I hope hope hope he pitches like Glavine 1992)
POSSIBLY – Nieve, Albers (although I think he needs some more time in the minors)
MIGHTCOULDBE – McLemore, Patton
DEARLORDPLEEEEZE NOOOOOOOOO – Moehler, Borkowski, Astacio
- tomorrow, relievers….

2007 Astros Catchers Report

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Here’s the list of 40 man roster and non-roster invitees freezing their butts off in freezing Florida:

Catchers:
- 40 man
Brad Ausmus, age 37 (turns 38 in April), RH (we ALL know he’s a lousy hitter and a great game caller. Maybe he’ll just catch 1 or 2 guys this year, since both Roger and Andy are gone.) He supposedly has a sore shoulder, so he might could just catch Roy. Actually, he should just catch Wandy, who needs all the help he can get.

Humberto Quintero, age 27, RH – an unimpressive career 64 ML games (translation – OPS lower than Brad Ausmus), but had a good year at AAA last year – .298 BA; .352 OBP; .425 SLG; .777 OPS. Hit .302 and slugged .475 in winter ball this year. Has a rocket arm. NO idea how good he is at blocking pitches or calling games. Built like Raul Chavez, unfortunately…
Hector Giminez, age 24, switch – had a .720 OPS last year at AAA. Hit .302 and slugged .527 in winter ball this year.

- NRI
Kevin Davidson, age 26 RH – drafted by us in 2002, just finished AA, hit .203, SLG .279. Need I say more?

Eric Munson, age 29, LH ( the very definition of a AAAA player. His lefty bat isn’t really needed this year. FORTUNATELY.)

Louis Santangelo, age (almost) 24, RH – just finished his rookie year. Hit well – .855 OPS. Looks like Piazza compared to the rest of these guys….

OK

Let’s be real here. Davidson and Santangelo aren’t gonna make the big club any more than I will. And I hopehopehope Munson won’t neither, because we actually NEED a new main catcher, as Brad, well, he can’t hit, and we don’t exactly have a AL East lineup that can afford a Brad Ausmus average. I have no idea how well either Quintero or Gimenez calls games, or how good a defender Giminez is. Hopefully, this will sort itself out over the next 6 weeks.
Tomorrow, starters report…

Astros 2006 Season Recap

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

(sorry I haven’t written for so long – family troubles)

The Astros started the Roger Clemensless year with a bang, finishing April with a team best 16-8 record. Pitchers (except for Andy Pettitte, who seemed to have turned into Eric Milton – 6 HR over 36 IP with a 5.35 ERA) were winning – Roy Oswalt was 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA; Wandy Rodriguez was 4-0 with 4/5 QS and a 2.53 ERA; Taylor Buchholz almost threw a 1 hit complete game shutout and ended April with a 2.05 ERA. Hitters were hitting – Lance Berkman was batting .348 with a .728 SLG and a 1.141 OPS and 10 HR; Mo Ensberg was hitting like Barry Bonds 2001 – .329 BA, .467 OBP, .765 SLG and 1.232 OPS; Biggio, fresh from winter rest was hitting .304, slugging .511 with a .861 OPS. Even the much maligned Brad Ausmus was hitting .339 with an OBP of .462 and a .849 OPS. The Astros were leading the NL and the Chicago White Sox were leading the AL and it seemed that those who thought the Astros were a lousy team that suddenly got lucky at the end of 2005 were going to be proven wrong.

So what on earth happened?

- First, the pitching declined precipitously. Andy Pettitte continued to pitch poorly. Taylor Buchholz suddenly lost all vestige of control in mid May. Fernando Nieve was less than mediocre. Only Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez continued to pitch well.

- Second, the previously reliable bullpen was unreliable. The Astros, who had been seeking a 7th, 8th and 9th inning trio with the same success as Lidge, Dotel and Wagner back in 03, had decided on Qualls, Wheeler and Lidge. Unfortunately, Qualls was shaky, ending April with a 6.28 ERA (which didn’t go under 4 until the end of May); Wheeler, who was solid in April, was terrible in May, losing 4 games and blowing a save; Lidge, who had started his season early to play in the World Baseball Classic, had to endure endless hours with reporters who were demanding that he confess that Albert Pujols had destroyed his baseball life by hitting the infamous moon ball in Game 5 of the NLCS. He started off the year well enough, but he blew his first save in grand (slam) style on April 24 and the reporters, who had been temporarily silenced, immediately started pressing him. Lidge seemed to have lost control of his FB and was tipping his slider, and the hitters teed off. Trever Miller, designated lefty, hurt himself and was on the DL for several weeks.

- Third, by the middle of May, hitters, except for Lance Berkman, stopped hitting. Preston Wilson, who had been signed to protect Berkman and Ensberg, wasn’t hitting for either average or power and was striking out with men on base. Jason Lane wasn’t hitting his weight, Willy Taveras, the leadoff man, was barely exceeding an OBP of .300, Biggio stopped hitting on the road, Ausmus reverted to his usual sub .250 BA and the bench players, with the exception of Mike Lamb, weren’t hitting either.

Then, during interleague play, the Astros couldn’t beat the AL Central teams. The hopelessness of the season could be summarized by recapping Roy Oswalt’s revenge game against the White Sox: handed a 10-1 lead, the ONE time the hitters came through in a big way, bullpen managed to surrender all 9 runs – Roy got a ND and the Astros got to play yet ANOTHER 14 inning game.

After the All-Star break, management apparently noticed that Willy Taveras, in spite of his decent defense, was essentially incapable of hitting with men on base, was incapable of stealing against a lefty pitcher, wasn’t getting on base enough or scoring enough runs to justify his remaining in the lineup, so Phil Garner pulled him and substituted Chris Burke, a much better hitter, if not quite as good a center fielder.

Also, they had the sense to FINALLY call up Luke Scott, a power hitting lefty wasting time in AAA, and install him in left field, replacing Preston Wilson, who, although signed to provide power and lineup protection for Berkman and Ensberg, provided mostly singles, strikeouts and terrible defense (three strikes and you’re out, you know.)

Jason Lane was sent to the bench (in fact, the Organization tried to send him back to AAA after he sat on the bench for 2 months, but found, to their shock, that he couldn’t pass through waivers), Willy Taveras, after intensive coaching by Sean Berry, the new hitting coach who replaced Gary Gaetti (who preached pulling every pitch) was reinstated as the center fielder. Willy promptly went on a 30 game hitting streak, managing not to (statistically significantly) raise either OBP or BA. Mo Ensberg, who couldn’t recover from his shoulder injury, was replaced by lefties Aubrey Huff, obtained in a trade with the DevilRays for AA pitcher Mitch Talbot and AAA switch hitting second baseman Benny Zobrist, and by Mike Lamb.

Andy Pettitte suddenly remembered how to pitch and began winning games. Wandy Rodriguez and Taylor Buchholz (and his sore finger tendon) were removed from the rotation, sent back to AAA and replaced by Roger Clemens and Jason Hirsh/Chris Sampson.

Dan Wheeler and Brad Lidge swapped setup and closer roles. The remainder of the bullpen performed well. However, the team remained below .500 until the last few weeks, when they began their usual and customary run for the wild card clinching on the last day of the season in the nick of time. Unfortunately, John Smoltz pitched the last game of the year defeating the Astros in a must-win game, avenging the last two years defeats in the NLDS.

Summary – as Tanya Tucker put it, well it’s a little too late to do the right thing now…..

Looking At Old Pitchers – NRI to Astros ST 2007

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Well, we’ve signed two more, um, veteran pitchers to minor league contracts. (info from the baseballcube.com. yahoo.com and baseballreference.com) These guys are non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Like I’ve said before, they can sign all the minor league contracts they want. We NEED filler.

Rick White, age 38, RH relief pitcher, actually played for the Stros in 03 (picked up on Aug 14 after being released by the White Sox.) He’s one of those well traveled guys who seemed to change teams every year, and I KNEW he’d been an Astro SOMEtime, I just couldn’t remember what year. I remember he was with the Pirates in 05 and I seem to remember him shutting us DOWN. Anyway, the Pirates were the organization that originally drafted him back in 1990, out of West Kentucky Community College. He was a starter in the minors, but was used mainly as a reliever when he finally made the big league club in 94. He did pretty well, too, throwing 75 innings with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.

He wasn’t quiiiiite as good the next year – as usual, too few K – and threw 55 innings – 9 GS and 6 in relief with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. He spent the next 2 1/2 years in the minors, then was signed by Tampa Bay as a FA in 98. Was traded to the Mets in 2000, so he’s gotten to go to a WS. Signed by the Rockies in 02, released, picked up by the Cards, did well, but wasn’t re-signed. Signed with the White Sox, sucked, was released, then signed by the Stros. Signed with the Indians in 04, sucked. Signed with Pitt in 05, had a very good year, but wasn’t re-signed. Signed with Cincy, sucked, as released, picked up by Philly, did OK.

Here are his career ML stats: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/5186/career
note that he has pitched well at the Box: 3 HR, 6 BB and 24 K in 26.2 IP – 2.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a .245 BAA. He doesn’t give up many HR – career 0.95 HR/9 IP; 3 BB/9 IP and 5.74 K/9 IP.
ERA+ for the last 5 years: 106, 106, 77, 86, 115, 91.

IF Purpura thinks this guy is bettern Russ Springer, he’s kidding himself. IF Purpura thinks White is going to be throwing multiple innings, well, last time he threw more than 2 innings was Aug 26, 2004. He’s 38 and on his last tottering legs.

Nexxxxxxxxt

Scott Sauerbeck, age 35, RH relief pitcher.
here are his career stats: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/6189/career
Picked by the Mets in the 23rd round in 1994, made it all the way to AAA by ’98, when he was picked up by the Pirates in the Rule V draft. Of course they had to put him on the big league roster, and he came through BIG, pitching 67 innings with a 2.00 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He asn’t quiiite as good the next year (4.04 ERA, 1.81 WHIP over 75.2 IP), sucked in 01 (5.60 ERA, 1.61 WHIP in 65 IP), recovered in 02 (2.30 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in 62 IP) and then was part of the infamous Mike Gonzales and Sauerbeck for Anastacio Martinez plus Brandon Lyon trade to the Red Sox where Lyon was discovered to be, um, damaged goods and was returned to the Sox and Gonzalez was returned to the Pirates.

After the fallout of the 03 Sox loss in the ALCS in which Sauerbeck was less than useless, he had surgery, missed the 04 season, then he signed as a FA with Cleveland in 05. He pitched 35 innings in 53 games (well Timmy P, don’t guess he’s gonna be this long reliever you hoping for) with a 4.04 ERA and 1.43 WHIP but was terrible last year – 13 IP over 24 games with a 6.23 ERA. He was released, picked up by Oakland and pitched 12 innings over 22 games with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. Lifetime ML – 0.72 HR/9; 5.66 BB/9 (yecccch) 9.06 K/9.

The guy has only pitched 50 innings over the last TWO years. Unless he has made some miraculous turnaround, I can’t see how he’d be the least bit useful to the Astros. But hey, it IS baseball and youneverknow…

Will the 07 Astros Find Suck-cess?

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

Suckulous – definition (courtesy of my mother the stat geek)

Excluding Roger Clemens, the cesspool of 6 year minor league FA and ML FA unsigned by Groundhog Day. The pool can be divided into three parts:

1) floating cess – leftys. Lefty pitchers who get SOME leftys out (think John Franco 2004, Mark Redmond) and lefty batters good ONLY for pinch hitting, and not real too good at that.
2) middling cess – the Jamey Wrights, because they can throw a ball up there; Neifi Perez – because there is always a Dusty out there…
3) sunk cess – Rafael Palmeiro

So all yall, let’s us all have a cess-ion to look at some of the guys who the Stros are supposedly interested in…

First, Steve Trachsel, who Ken Rosenthal thinks the Astros should sign to show Roger Clemens We Mean Business. No, I’m not kidding. http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/6432888 Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Robothal here, but Roger has got exactly ZERO to do with the Astros budget. Roger money is outside the Astros budget, even if it is counted by MLB budget, because Roger really pays for himself in tickets, publicity and merchandise. The real question is, is Trachsel worth even ML minimum on this roster, let alone 2.5 mill? Now mind you, I’m not holding that playoff game against St. Louis against him – heck, ANYONE can have a bad playoff game, hunh Roger? He’s one of those low K high BB pitchers who somehow succeeds anyway…

So let’s take a look at his career stats (sorry, can’t get it to post)

sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/5172/career”>http://sports.yahoo.com

ERA+ over the past 5 years 116, 112, 107, 101, 87
hmmmmmmmmmmmmm – do I see a trend here???

And may I remind you that he missed most of the 2005 season with a bad back. Yes, I know he went 15-8 for the division winning heavy hitting NY Mets last year. But he started 30 games, pitched ONLY 164 innings (5.1 IP/GS), had 12 of 30 QS and had only 5 QS after the ASB – which were, in fact, the only starts where he lasted at least 6 innings. So OK, he looks like a #5 guy, because I sure wouldn’t put him #4 before Chris Sampson. So the first question is – will he be better than Matt Albers or Fernando Nieve? And the second question is – if he sucks, will he be DFA’d along with whatever is left from his 2.5 mill contract? And the last question is, will signing Trachsel impress Roger Clemens? Sorry, I’m too busy laughing to answer that last question…

Now, on to a couple of homeboy relievers trying to make it back to the bigs – both were OOB last year, both are recovering from a few years of injuries.

Ben Weber, age 36 (just like Trachsel) RHP, born in Port Arthur, went to U of Houston a few years after Woody Williams. Drafted by Toronto in 91, made it to AAA in 95, then as a 6 year guy, was released. Played in the indy league for a year, in Taiwan for 2, then got a job as a 6 year FA with SF in AAA in 99, then got a few, um, unimpressive innings in the ML in 2000 and was released. Was picked up by the Angels and pitched 14 good innings in the bigs, then had 3 outstanding years as a reliever from 01 to 03, winning a WS ring in 02 with ERA+ of 139, 171, 158. He got hurt in 04, struggled, sucked, pitched only 22 gawdawful innings and was let go at the end of the year. He signed on with the Reds in 05 and was released after only 12 innings. He told Brian McTaggart of the Houston Chronicle he wants to sign with the Astros, the team he always wanted to play for (and yall KNOW what a sucker I am for talk like that) and that he feels good and is healthy. Which would be nice. Who knows if he can regain what he had a few years ago, but hey, I got NO problem with a minor league contract. He’s another guy who is not a high K pitcher – when he was on top, he only averaged 5.15K/9 IP and he averaged 2.75 BB/9 IP and he kept homers very low – 0.58/9 IP.

Kelly Wunsch, age 34, LHP (you KNOW Phil is drooling), from Bellaire, picked 1st round by the Brewers in 93 out of A&M. For whatever reason, he didn’t do that well in the Brewers Organization, and he was converted to a reliever in 98, but released after 6 years in the minors. He was signed as a FA by the White Sox in 2000 and finally made it to the bigs. He was very good his first year, pitched 61.1 innings with a 2.93 ERA. Unfortunately, he sucked in 01 – guess he must have been hurt, but he came back in 02, pitched well over 31 innings. Guess he must have been pretty much a LOOGY by 03, again he pitched only 36 innigns, but did well, posting a 2.75 ERA with 8.25K/9 IP, 0.25 HR/ 9, but a horrendous 6.25 BB/9. He was hurt again in 04 and basically didn’t pitch. He signed on with the Dodgers in 05 and pitched 23 innings with a 4.56 ERA – again the high K and high BB/ and low HR/9 IP. He had shoulder surgery last year, SEZ he feels great. Good. Again, I got NO problem with a AAA contract, seeing as how we are not really operating the AAA club as a normal progression to the majors, but as a profit maker stocked with mostly AAAA guys (you got Joe McEwing as your MVP, that sez it ALL…)

So all yall decide – success or suck-cess?

1/2/07: Extra-neaous Innings: How MLB Is Trying To Lose Fans By Restricting Access To Games

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Extraneous – definition: (from dictionary.com)
1) not belonging or proper to a thing; external; foreign
2) not pertinent; irrelevant

Sometimes I forget that I’m spoilt rotten, living in the same city as my baseball team. I can go to the games for $5 – 12 bucks a seat and I can watch every single game on just plain ol cable TV right here. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to watch their team on TV. Sure you can buy (satellite) XM radio and LISTEN, or “watch” on mlb.com, but watch a live game, nope. I had always thought if you paid enough, you could watch just about anything on cable, but wronggggg. For reasons I just do not understand, MLB blacks out certain games in certain territories if you pay for mlbtv (Extra Innings.) (from ondemand.com) “If you live in a zip code area that falls within an MLB team’s home television territory, that team’s games will be blacked-out from MLB EXTRA INNINGS. These games will generally be available on that team’s RSN or team affiliated OTA station. Blackouts protect the local rightsholders who arrange separate distribution agreements for their exclusive territories.”

Unfortunately, this means that IF your RSN does not broadcast the games, you can’t see them. It also means that if you travel and want to see games when you are away from home, you can’t (as my mama found out.) The territories are often huge and overlapping, and already many fans can’t watch their team under the current setup.

This year, not only is MLB continuing its blackout patterns, but they have made a 7 year exclusive deal with DirectTV to broadcast Extra Innings only through them – Maury Brown of www.bizofbaseball.com explains: http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=635&Itemid=52

Me, I do NOT get this at ALL. This means that no households with cable or other satellite services can get Extra Innings. This will DECREASE the number of people watching Extra Innings. Which means they will have to really increase the price of a subscription. Which means that a whole lot of people won’t subscribe who used to. The new stadiums which are being planned and built are decreasing the number of available seats AND the number of available seats sold to just plain fans, not corporations. If fewer fans can go to games or watch their team on TV, how is this supposed to increase the popularity of the game? Will there be bootleg broadcasts? Or will they just charge for mlb.com from now on? Seems to me that the more you limit who can watch a game, either in person, or on TV, the fewer people will be interested in it. And when fewer people watch or care, they won’t take their kids to games, watch games with their kids and the kids won’t play ball, and fewer people will grow up fans.

Seems to me that most people just really don’t care about the future – deal with what is happening now, and whatever happens later, happens. Maybe having a mother who is a CPA has, um, kinda, let’s say, influenced me, but I think you HAVE to consider the future and plan for it. Because stuff happens. And not caring if you lose fans who watch in person or on TV is just plain dumb.

And as for getting more money from the fewer tickets that will me more in demand they then sell to corporations for a higher price, let me tell you this – I have watched ball games from most every seat in the ballpark (except for the extra ritzy area where Drayton McLane and George and Barbara Bush and all the other celebs sit.) And I can tell you this – the business people who come to ball games don’t know a baseball from a soccer ball and they spend the entire game talking business. And yes I mean men – and yes there are men who honest to GAWD got NO idea how many players there are on a roster, or even how many players there are on the field, let alone the rules, even the basic ones, of the game. I promise you, they are not fans. Sure they clap when the whosis guy catches the ball. Sure they know who Roger Clemens is. But these are not people who will take their sons to Little League, and let me remind you that these days, kids don’t just go in the streets and play ball, and that pretty much only kids from upper income families play baseball.

You can’t afford to lose your fan base.

Fortunately for the Astros, the vast majority of Astros fans live in Houston, or at least in Texas and Louisiana where FSN broadcasts the games, so we won’t be affected by the Extra Innings loss as so many other fans will…