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Archive for October, 2007

Brad Ausmus Re-signs With The 2008 Astros

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Not exactly a surprise – 1 year, 2 million.
Ed Wade told the media that he wanted to re-sign Ausmus, and Ausmus called himself a true Astro (ahem) who wanted to play one more year. Of course this time, it will be as a backup to (most likely) Justin Towles.

Popular sentiment says he will catch Roy Oswalt, but I personally hope he continues to catch Wandy Rodriguez, who really made progress this year with Brad catching him. Wandy NEEDS a veteran guy who can get the borderline calls AND keep him focused.

Anyway, Brad can’t really hit worth a darn after a few months (he always hits great in ST and April) so hopefully, catching once every 5 days will keep him from getting too tired. He is incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable about pitchers and hitters and hopefully, can teach both Towles and young pitchers.

I know that a lot of fans will be all Up Set, but let’s be honest here – we do not have any Biggio 1988 waiting to take over and besides, backup catchers, by definition, can’t hit. It’s not as if we would Go All The Way if only we had a catcher who could hit. The truth is that the Astros have one of the 5 worst farm systems by any definition and we don’t have winning ML roster and we really don’t have chips to trade for anyone good.

So let’s just relax and let Brad teach Towles this year.

Oh yeah – I HOPE it isn’t Quintero, and Gimenez wasn’t anything to write home about – .273/.331/.389/.720 at AAA 2006 – before his shoulder surgery. I doubt Santangelo – .243/.317/.379/.696 in 206 AB at AA – is exactly ready and neither is Max Sapp, age almost 20 – .241/.330/.333/.663 at A Lexington. Yall remember, by the way, that Max was the Astros’ first pick in the 06 draft.

Looks as if the Astros need to hire some hitting coaches as well as replace the scouting director.

Why I Can’t Bring Myself To Congratulate Red Sox Fans

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Amidst a gooey gush from almost every baseball writer that the Red Sox are the Perfect Team and they’ve shown how the National League is sooooooo much inferior (re-writing the columns they saved from last year when somehow the Cardinals managed to beat the Tigers against all odds) I plug my ears. I always have, always will root against the rich, the privileged, the powerful, the popular. Far as I’m concerned, the Red Sox with their 200 mill payroll and simpering mainstream broadcasters are the 2007 Yankees with different unis.

A few years back, I don’t remember exactly where, most likely Baseball Think Factory, I remember reading a comment from a poster relating how his father immigrated to America in the early 50s and after learning about baseball, decided to root for the Yankees, perpetual winners, because he believed in supporting excellence. I don’t know the man, so I don’t know how he defined “excellence,” as winning baseball teams were directly correllated to their wealth, even more so in those days. Is “excellence” the same as wealth plus winning?

People, since time began, have tried to attach themselves to the rich, the powerful, the beautiful, the winners. Sometimes, the fame, riches and fortune rub off on the follower, but when it comes to baseball teams, it is mostly the being able to feel that you are part of the team’s success, that by rooting for them, you too have succeeded when, in truth, you, the fan really haven’t done anything whatsoever to contribute to the actual victory. How many times have you told someone “congratulations on winning the division/pennant/Series” as if that person had him/herself actually won? Over the years, one can see that roughly, a team’s popularity correllates fairly well with its winning, especially winning a pennant, or these days, postseason appearances. The core of die-hards is augmented by bandwagoners if/when the team has success. It is all about the winning.

The Yankees, especially, always seemed to me the team that was like the most popular kid in school – rich, perfect clothes, the best car, the perfect athlete, the perfect body, the kid who always had people eager to give him/her anything he/she could possibly desire. Who on earth could root for THAT? A person who had everything, who never lacked for anything, who didn’t know the meaning of lack? The Yankees were the richest team, with endless money and resources who could buy any good player they wanted (back in the 50s too.) Yankees have been supplanted by the hordes of Red Soxers – population hugely larger than it was back in 2002.

The world divides in two – those who want to identify with this and those who want to identify with the one who proves that having “everything” doesn’t guarantee winning.

I’ve always been part of The Underdog Rooters. You know the Underdog movies – ‘The Bad News Bears”, “Major League”, “The Mighty Ducks” and every copycat movie with the same theme. The Bad News Bears, the team that consisted of baseball no-goods and life rejects who somehow found something in themselves as well as the others and fashioned a team that was somehow greater than the sum of its parts. I guess I could call that Better Living Through Chemistry, or, more accurately, Better Winning Through Chemistry.

Most of us Americans ARE Underdogs our own selves, descended from the peasants and slaves of Europe, Africa and Asia, who came here willingly and unwillingly and had to make something from nothing. It is why those of us who are Underdog Rooters identify with the kids on the Bears. It is why we rooted for the 03 Marlins and 05 Astros, and will root for this year’s Rockies, none of whom were predicted by the “experts” at the beginning of the year to succeed, and who in fact, began the year with failure, only to manage to pull together and learn to win. Yes, it DOES sound corny, doesn’t it.

But it really touches those of us who started with nothing, failed and managed to make lemonade out of lemons. It is why we root for the Wandy Rodriguezes of the baseball world, the little guys, the “gritty” white boys who just aren’t very good but sure seem to tryyyyy just a little bit harder. It separates those of us who earn victory from those who are handed it.

Handed it? Well, yes, the 1997 Marlins who went out and bought up the expensive free agents, the 90s Yankees who went out and bought up a lot of free agents, the Red Sox who bought most of the players – expensive free agents on their 200 million dollar payroll (I’m counting the 50 mill they paid to purchase Matsuzaka. I don’t care what Buddy Boy calls that money) bought their Rings. Yes, of course I know they all had to perform well at the same time, the same year. Yes, of course I know it’s not like buying a sandwich. But yes, I know buying top notch free agents is more likely to purchase a Ring than hoping that your collection of kids and nobodies somehow comes through, as the Rockies hoped.

And before I forget – yes I know it’s coming – I know that all yall who know me too well are going to ask – how can Ms. Underdog Rooter POSSIBLY be such a stalwart fan of Barry Lamar Bonds, the modern epitome of excellence of a baseball player? I have no problem acknowledging and admiring any outstanding ballplayer (yes, even Alex Rodriguez, as much as it gags me) and have been in awe of his abilities since I was a child.

There is a difference to me between admiring a particular player and rooting for his team. Baseball is, after all, both an individual and a team sport. You could correctly point out that Barry Lamar could be considered baseball aristocracy, both by genetics and training, but I would happily point out that genetics and training certainly help, but the exit ramps on the road to the majors are strewn with numerous sons of Hall of Famers such as Mickey Mantle Jr, Pete Rose Jr, Bobby Bonds Jr and Reid Ryan, to name a few.

To misquote Yoda, Dude gotta DO, not try to Do. And how interesting it is that so many stars in high school simply fizzled out after graduation when it was in fact time to Do.

So why did I ever starting rooting for such a non-Underdog as Barry Lamar Himself? Because even when I was 7 years old, I knew how cute he was.

Besides, he was never a Red Sock.

(Prospective) Astros In The 2008 Infield – Part 1 – Chris Burke

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Unless someone knows something I don’t, as best I know right now, the Astros plan to start Chris Burke at second, Adam Everett at short and Ty Wigginton at third. There is no Chase Utley, A-Rod (pre-Yankees) or Scott Rolen on our AA or AAA team who could take over, so let’s not go there please. Let’s talk about each guy and his position in turn, remembering what happened when we played guys at second, third AND short who were terrible defenders – and yes, I know that hitting the baseball is a necessary component of a baseball game. Winning one, anyway.

Oh yeah, and let’s remember that Tal Smith and his, uh, underling, Ed Wade, are stating that pitching and DEFENSE wins ball games, which means that Loretta will NOT be the starting SS or second baseman. (Don’t ask me to explain Ty Wigginton. And, by the way, let’s not get started on the put Wiggy at second bandwagon. His glove at second is – looking for a word – abysmal. Which means it is so bad it makes his glove at third look like Brooks Robinson.)

First, Chris Burke. Drafted as our first round pick in the 01 draft, an outstanding college SS. The Organization decided his arm wasn’t strong enough to play short and put him at second, where he excelled. After a standout year at AAA in 2004 – .315/.396/.517 with 35 SB, he was clearly ready for the Show. Problem was that McLane had already decided to keep Biggio until he collected 3000 hits and Biggio was an unmitigated disaster in left (to be kind about it) and the Organization decided to keep Burke hanging around instead of trading him – he was QUITE valuable, for obvious reasons.

In 2005, as we all know, he started the season platooning in left with Luke Scott, an arrangement that didn’t do either of them any good. He was sent back to AAA for a few months, essentially repeated his excellent numbers from the previous year, then was called back up, with mixed results. It MUST be noted that unlike AAA, he didn’t bat leadoff OR play second, his natural position AND he continued to be platooned, in spite of the fact that he didn’t have huge lefty righty splits that would justify such a move.

Then, of course, we all know that Burke separated his left (no-throwing) shoulder in the 05 Series, and twice more during 06. He had an operation to prevent it from dislocating it again after season ended. As I’ve discussed before, he played really well in center field in 06, betwen the two times he injured his shoulder that year and in fact, I doubt that Willy Taveras would have played full time again in center if Burke hadn’t re-injured himself – in case yall forgot, in those games in which he played every day, he hit .295/.381/.500 – no wonder the Astros thought he could replace Willy.

At the start of 07, he faced significant fan displeasure because he 1) replaced popular Willy T; 2) was going to play center instead of Hunter Pence, the new darling; 3) he started ST and the 07 year in a terrible slump.

I seriously wonder if the shoulder operation somehow interfered with his swing, because for the first time, he didn’t hit at AAA either – .651 OPS in 66 AB (or am I gonna get the dreaded Small Sample Size complaint here too???)

He’s going to be 28 years old at the beginning of the season and will not have played winter ball. I have absolutely no idea whether or not he’s been ruined by his injury. I DO know, however, that his defense is better than Loretta’s (yes, Loretta is a butcher at second too – equal opportunity butcher) as his throwing was not affected by the injury. He will have had an entire year to heal and it is possible that if he is playing his actual position and leading off, he will be relaxed enough to do well. I will admit that at this point, I can’t/won’t predict how he will do. I thought Mo Ensberg would recover once his shoulder healed and I was wrong about him as his swing was permanently gone. Although I can’t describe it well, it was more than obvious that something was VERY wrong with Burke’s swing this year and I hope he works with a video/hitting coach this offseason.

Let’s look at his FA competition:

Luis Castillo, age 32. Just finished a 5.75 mill option year. Dude can hit – since he became a full time player in 99, he’s hit right around 300 every year except 01, in which he had a down year. His lifetime averages are .295/.368/.358/.726 (translation – a Mark Loretta singles hitter only 5 years younger). He was a good base stealer when he was much younger, but he’s slowed down a great deal and is caught far too frequently – not even a 70% success rate these past few years. Needless to say, his glove ain’t what it used to be now that he weighs (snicker) 190 – has a ZR of .798 (yikes) and a RF of 4.41 (well, at least Jeff Kent was worse) so let’s say he’s Loretta with a slightly worse glove. Yes, you read that right.

Damion Easley, age 38. Has been a utilityman, IF and OF, for 4 years now and hasn’t exceeded 300 AB since 02. Obviously, he can’t be a full time 2B and as a utility guy, Bruntlett is younger and better.

Marcus Giles, age 29. Just finished a 1 year 3.25 mill contract with the Padres, who have just let him go. I have NO idea what on earth happened to this guy. From 03-05, he hit for average (.312) and power (.480), then had a substantial decrease in those numbers last year with the Braves – his OPS dropped 100 points from .826 to .726, and the Braves chose not to offer arb and waived him. The Padres picked him up, and he was even worse, even away from Petco – .252/.318/.354/.662. I know what conspiracy theorists are saying about, uh, substances, but he fell off 2 years after testing started. I really don’t see the point of substituting Giles for Burke. Giles, by the way, still has a very solid glove – RF of 5.08 and a ZR of .829.

Tadahito Iguchi, age 33. Just finished his 3 year contract and was paid 3.25 mill this year. The White Sox traded him to the Phils when Utley broke his wrist, so at least in the NL, Iguchi played second for a solid month, did VERY well – .304/.361/.462/.803 in 45 games, then was relegated to bench/utility when Utley returned. His ML numbers are solid – .276/.347/.421/.768 (please remember that most second basemen are Iguchis, not Utleys/Biggio ‘97.) He doesn’t GIDP very often, just 6 in 533 PA this year and 7 over 627 PA last year. He strikes out quite a bit, around 110 times a year, walks around 44 times a year and will steal 12-14 bases a year with a 77% success rate. His glove is solid if not golden – RF of 4.85 and ZR .830. I could see signing him – and someone surely give him 3 years. Adam Kennedy, who was expected to produce similar numbers, was given a 3 year 10 mill contract by the Cards last year, so I would expect Iguchi to get a good 4-5 mill a year contract, which is hardly out of line.

Mark Loretta, age 36. Finished a 1 year 2.5 mill contract. He’s a good singles hitter, .287/.352/.372/.724 for the year – as we all know, who clearly tired significantly in the second half. Pre ASB, he hit .317/.394/.410/.810 over 243 AB and post ASB, hit .253/.303/.323/.626 over 217 AB. Glove at short simply dreadful. He didn’t play much at second, but the previous year he had a ZR of .805 and a RF of 4.88 and was rated something like 12th of 14 AL second basemen by UZR and Chris Dial (as soon as they post ths year’s data, I will re-post it.)

Kaz Matsui, age 32. Was supposed to be an Ichiro sort of star when the Mets signed him 4 years ago. Unfortunately, the Big Apple took a bite out of him and the Mets traded him the Rockies at the trade deadline in 06 for some chewing gum, if I remember rightly. The booing had completely screwed him up, and when the Rockies signed him, they sent him to AAA for a few weeks to clear his head, and he seemed to be a new guy when he came back up. Of course, he has the usual extreme Coors splits, so just looking at his away numbers, he hit .249/.303/.333/.638, which is not exactly, uh, good. He almost never walks (around 15 a year), strikes out (around 30 a year) or GIDP (about 2-3 a year). As for his glove, well, he was a SS in Japan and started there when he signed with the Mets. Unfortunately, that was a, uh, disaster, so they switched him to second, which worked a little better, and it was clear that he had been improving when they traded him. He’s been really great since he hit Colorado and had a 5.33 ZR and a .866 RF, which is almost as good as Chase Utley, the top dog. I would guess he will get a 1 year contract somewhere with an option, probably a couple mill a year. I’m not convinced that he is even Tad Iguchi with the bat

Jose Valentin, age 38. Was a SS for most of his career, didn’t play second until 06, when he was actually used more as a utility guy until the Mets decided that Matsui HAD to go and inserted Valentin into his spot. He was hurt and on the DL since the middle of July, not that he’d been either hitting or fieldoing very well. He’d had a career year in 06, but hadn’t hit over his lifetime OPS of .765 since 2001. Actually, he’s been hurt or played part-time for the past 3 years and I doubt he could be a full time second baseman any more. He’s really a utility guy at his age – we ALREADY have a younger better utility guy, as I said before.

Conclusions? Well, Burke will cost around 500K. Iguchi, the only decent looking ballplayer on the list will cost around 4 mill a year for 3 years and I’m not kidding myself that he’s this great ballplayer. If the Astros waived/traded Burke and signed Iguchi, don’t guess I’d scream as the Willy T luuuuvvvvvers did when their boy got traded.

So who would I most like to see at second? Bill Hall, that’s who. He’s just a few months older than Burke and is a solid bat who could play second, third or short with a GOOD glove, who has been tossed aside by the Brewers. Hall, like Burke, was put into center, where he didn’t belong, given a very VERY short time in which to excell and once he hurt himself, was relegated to the bench and is MORE than obviously not in the Brewers plans. He’ll be starting the second year of a 4 year 24 mill contract and would cost 4.8 mill next year. In 05 and 06, when he played full time, he hit .280/.331/.530/.870.

As for glove, well, he hasn’t played much second since 04 and he doesn’t, uh, fit the defense profile as his RF is 4.84 and his ZR is .804. His numbers had been improving every year, however, and I heard from Brewers fans that Bill works VERY hard to improve himself. I would bet he could be had for 1 young starting pitcher and I would agree to trade pretty much any of the ones we have, as they all look like #4 type guys to me.

Anyone who has trade suggestions, let’s hear em – except the ones that go – let’s trade Woody Williams for Chase Utley and we can throw in Borkowski too…

Biggio Wins The 2007 Roberto Clemente Award

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Craig Biggio received national recognition tonight before the World Series for his work with the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

This is really good news, as it will bring his name into the consciousness of all the mainstream East Coast reporters who, amidst all the Red Sox Worship, are having to actually acknowledge that there are real actual baseball players west of the Hudson River.

This way, when he’s up for the Hall Of Fame in 5 years, all those guys just might could dimly remember that they heard his name somewhere…

My Thoughts On The 2007 Postseason

Friday, October 26th, 2007

I’m not even 30 years old yet and yet I feel like a very old OLD lady. You know the kind – how things were SOOOO much better in the old days back when people never had sex or sinned in any way and folks in even south Texas used to walk 10 miles to school and back, uphill and in the snow. And they LIKED it.

Or something like that.

The first postseason I really remember was the NLCS between the Mets and Astros in 1986. Somehow I hadn’t remembered that games had started in the afternoon, even though they must have, or I wouldn’t have seen most of them as I would have been sent to bed. And am I remembering it wrong that even 10 years ago, the supposed to be national announcers didn’t have a storyline, or even take sides? Am I remembering rightly that the games used to have a quick pace, that the TV broadcasters didn’t interrupt the action by showing various faux celebrities in the stands, that they didn’t miss the first pitch or even first out of the inning? And that there was no Dane Jerk Cook pretending he’s this kewl 20 year old when he’s almost 40 and looks it too, pimping the postseason while trying like heck to not talk about the Denver Nuggets or New Mexico whatsizzes that for some reason are allowed into the playoffs with the blessed RedSox.

The Astros weren’t in the NLCS in 1987 – it was the Cards and the Giants. I remembered without even having to look it up, and in fact, I remember EVERY single NLCS clearly without having to look them up – well, not the scores or even all the pitchers, but I sure do remember the excitement of watching them all, even though they didn’t involve my own team.

Somehow, I’m not sure exactly when, perhaps during the long run of the Braves in the playoffs, the people who produce and direct the playoffs decided that they must be boring and decided to therefore drag them out and interject all kinds of boring irrelevancies. And somehow, they managed to make the games start later and later and last longer and longer. I remember reading Maury Brown, who runs the site Biz of Baseball, reporting that the networks claim that the late 8:25 – 8:40 EST starts generate the best ratings, and that (apparently) children are staying up to watch. So I guess that the extra extra long games and interminable commercials generate the best ratings too.

And I am not exactly sure WHY MLB/Fox decided to pimp some of the ballplayers – perhaps they didn’t understand that an NBA star such as Michael Jordan or Shaq on a 5 man team can win games virtually all by himself. Perhaps they thought they could increase ratings if people decided to watch one particular ballplayer instead of a baseball GAME. But for a good 10 years, since the first appearance of Derek Jeter, they surely have. The networks are virtually at a loss as to how to promote a postseason series in the absence of a glamour team or star, such as this year’s NL playoffs.

As Maury says,
“The difficulty is that MLB  and professional sports as a whole is a star-driven entertainment industry,” he said. “The Diamondbacks and Rockies are not laced with stars, and therefore, even in the West, interest has been lukewarm at best, with Denver and Phoenix the possible exceptions.”

And the difficulty with that approach is that when the networks act as if the playoffs are something boring, play them at a ridiculous hour at night, elongate them with idiotic interruptions, they unfortunately are viewed as boring and even more unfortunately, BECOME boring. The networks also do their darndest to try to shelve/ignore games which do not involve their 4 favorites – the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Cubs (see the NLCS 2004 – the best playoff games nobody ever saw because of the dratted youknowwhos).

I’ve been both bored and disappointed by the too long games and the long loooonnnnggg waits in between games and the too long intervals between the ending of one series and the beginning of the next. I can’t believe that I am admitting that I am recording the games so that I can fast forward through them the next day with the sound muted. My blood pressure can’t deal with Fox’ open rooting for the Sox and disdain for the Other League’s whatstheirnames.

Were the games more exciting before the Braves/Yankees years when there really WAS parity? When there were so many fewer games on TV? When there was so much less information available? I guess they were for me, but I know quite well that I am in the vast minority of viewers, who prefer to root for the big money team, the frontrunner, the rich Yankees/Red Sox right along with the supposed to be neutral announcers. (One of the things I liked best about the 2005 series was watching McCarver and Buck trying to find stats on Jeff Bagworthy and Greg Bijou during the few seconds they managed not to mention ex-Yankees Pettitte and Clemens, now exactly WHY on earth would ANYONE ever leave the Perfect Team?)

Maybe I’m not too old – I can thank modern technology for allowing me to turn off the sound, fast forward and watch the game simultaneously on gameday so I can chart pitches. And I can watch games from the Good Old Days on ESPN classic every now and then when they bother to show actual sports instead of crummy movies or whatever.

As for any thoughts about this particular series, well, all I can say is Willy Taveras left men on second an third with 2 outs in the 5th in a 1 run game – grounded out to short, as usual. Some things never change – he’s useless with men on base. I’ll never understand why so many Astros fans think that getting rid of him was the one of the worst mistakes ever made by any baseball team in the history of baseball. Good grief – you’d think he was the reincarnation of Willie Mays…

By the way
anyone who watched any of the Astros minor league teams live and would like to comment on any of the players, please email me with your opinions. I will publish your opinions, if you like, with or without your name. Thanks.

Astros In The Outfield For 2008, Part 2: Right Fielders

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

No Astros news this past week. The Yanks hogged the team-out-of-the-playoffs-spotlight with the Joe Torre drama. So back to checking on the free agents.

Part 1 looked at free agent CF.

Now, let’s take a look at free agent RF and at out own OF on our 40 man:

Right fielders (and 2 guys who could play right)

Bobby Abreu, age 34 -Yanks have a 16 mill club option. As for fielding, well, he has a very bad rep, which he doesn’t totally deserve with a RF of 2.15 (high is 2.68) and a ZR of .858, which, I admit is not quite as good – high is .971 (among guys who played at least 400 innings in right – 11th of 16, and, in fact, Jack Cust had a better rating – yikes!!!) Offensively, he’s definitely on the downslide of his career. He steals between 22-35 bases a year and usually hits 20 homers, but his walk rate and slugging rate dropped considerably this year. He has a career OPS of .908 and he slid to .814 this year. Of course he won’t get any 16 mill on the open market, but I wouldn’t be surprised if SOMEone will give him a multi year deal, which I sure wouldn’t.

Shawn Green, age 35 – Mets have a 10 mill club option. Dude can NOT field and he can’t hit lefties at all and barely hits rightys. Ummmm, no.

Jose Guillen, age 32 – Mariners have 9 mill club option. Good hitter, and I will be absolutely stunned if the Mariners don’t keep him. He has the reputation of, uh, whatever the Latin is for uppity, so much so that his team, the Angels, chose to bench him at the cost of losing the playoffs. As for fielding, he has the reputation of being good, but I was surprised to see that his numbers are below those of Bobby Abreu with a RF of 1.96 and a ZR of .796 – interesting that Bobby has the rep of being a totally lead glove and Guillen of being a totally golden one. Neither one deserves it.

Geoff Jenkins, age 33, who really can’t hit lefties very well any more. Had a VERY good glove most of his career, but had fallen the past few years. He’s still got a good RF – 2.30 (5th of 15†NL fielders with over 500 innings. You DID guess correctly that Carlos Lard was dead last with 1.77) and a decent ZR of .889 (again, 5th of 15 and guess who is last)†

Luis Gonzalez, age 41 should consider himself lucky that he got a contract THIS year. He’s been cooked for several years. He is only a part-timer at best and these days, he can’t even hold a candle to Luke Scott with either bat or glove.

Reggie Sanders, age 40. Has been hurt for almost 2 years straight and it is most DEFINITELY time to retire. I always liked Reggie and he had a very nice career and it’s a shame he never played for us – he hit like Barry Lamar 2001 in the Box.

Shannon Stewart, age 34. Has that nice high average low power sort of stats that Stros fans clamor for. Bats around .295 with a .390 SLG. Few Ks, few BB, 13-15 GIDP a year. Thing is, he’s been playing left for the past 6 years and at his age, I doubt he could move to center and do well – he’s about a league average fielder in left. Needless to say, with an 88, 88 and 96 OPS+ over the past 3 years, yes I know, in the AL, he certainly isn’t better than Luke Scott, who hits for power.

Brad Wilkerson, age 31 – only had 320 AB this year and 358 last because of injuries. He’s lifetime .250/354/451/804, but since the Expos left Montreal, he’s declined. This year, he’s walked 43 times and K’d 107. That, my friends, is a higher rate than the King of K Preston Wilson. He only played 275 innings in left, which is really not the best sample size, but he had a ZR of .880. However, last year, he played 664 innings in left and had a ZR of .814, which is seeping dangerously down to Carlos territory. He has spent very little of his career playing right, and the sample size over the past 6 years is only 356 innings.

Our OF (not including Carlos Lee, who is cemented – hahahaha – in left)

Luke Scott, age 29 – not sure exactly what he did to earn the enmity of the Organization, but here is a guy who hits a homer every 20 AB. His seasonal average in the ML is 36 doubles, 9 triples, 20 homers, 65 BB, 112 K and 74 RBIs. And as I’ve said before, Luke’s glove in right is excellent – 4th best among regular RF in the NL. AND he’ll earn a salary barely above league minimum.

Hunter Pence, age 25. Will of course be paid barely above minimum. In 484 PA, he hit 30 doubles, 9 triples, 17 HR, 26 BB (kept em low, didn’t he) 95 K, 10 GIDP, 11 SB, 5 CS. Hit hitting line .322/.360/.539/.899. VERY good for a CF, in fact, first among CF with at least 400 AB. His glove wasn’t bad either – RF of 2.83 (believe it or not, Jason Lane was better at 2.85, but Ryan Church was best among fielders with >300 innings at 3.02) and a ZR of .866 (and again, Jason Lane was better with .876 and Hunter was 15th among CF with >300 innings.) And Willy Taveras, so terribly missed by so many Stros fans, had a RF of 2.76 and a ZR of .823 – so much for Willy’s “incredible” defense.

Reggie Abercrombie, age 27. Claimed off waivers from the Marlins in spite of the fact that he, uh, well, um, got some, uh, flava to him and he hits worse than Jason Lane. In 2006 in 225 AB, he hit .211/.271/.333/.604. He was even worse this year – in 76 AB, he hit .197/.238/.316/.554. His minor league numbers aren’t exactly outstanding – in almost 3000 AB, he hit .266/.310/.438/.748. I don’t have minor league fielding stats such as zone rating and range factor, but in 716 innings in the majors (104 games) he has a 2.90 RF and a .909 ZR, both good, but VERY small sample size. Of course, he’d get the ML minimum, but unlike Josh Anderson, he’s a righty. Not sure exactly why we bothered to get him except to show that the Astros aren’t opposed to having brothas on the team.

Josh Anderson, age 25. Would earn ML minimum, of course. Had only 67 AB in the majors – 21 singles, 3 doubles, 5 BB, 2 HBP, 6 K, no GIDP – hit .358/.413/.403/.816. He’s essentially a singles hitter who doesn’t walk much, just like Willy T. His line is .290/.342/.373/.715 over his minor league career.

And there you have it.
Unless we TRADE for someone, and let’s be honest here, we really have almost nobody to trade, best to stick with who we have.

Rox Rock, Win The 2007 National League Pennant

Monday, October 15th, 2007

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Astros blog to congratulate the Colorado Rockies on their incredible 7-0 postseason wins and their first NL pennant. How sweep it is.

It’s now 21 of 22 and how well I remember the feeling of being on an unstoppable roll.

Now it’s time for Purple Reign!!!

10/15/07: Astros In The Outfield – Part 1

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Ed Wade has said that the Astros are looking for outfielders and that Luke Scott is “in the mix” and that he supposedly has had problems with his Achilles’ tendon so who knows if he could really be a full time fielder blahblahblah. Which is why, of course, he is going to play winter ball on that bad tendon that is hurting him so much, I guess.

Of course, I’ve been hearing all this goop about how terrible it was that we no longer have Willy Taveras, the second coming of Willie Mays – or at least Kenny Lofton. Oh yeah, sooooo terrible. All those bunt hits make a world of difference, I guess. Color me unimpressed. Yeah, I know he made a great catch in Game 1 of the NLCS to rob Eric Byrnes of a sure 2 RBI single/double and preserve the W for the Rockies and yeah, it sure looked exactly like Jim Edmonds catch of Brad Ausmus’ sure 2 RBI double in game 7 of the 2004 NLCS to preserve the W for the Cards. Shrug. At least Edmonds can hit the cutoff man.

Anyway, seeing as how Willy will stay in Colorado, at least until Ryan Spilborghs takes his job next year, let’s look at the OF already on our roster as well as the available FA. (Stats from ESPN, The Hardball Times, baseball-reference.com)

First, as to FA center fielders: – age as of Opening Day

- Milton Bradley, age 30 (on DL with ACL tear, and anyhow, he’s an uppity N-word) – great hitter and fielder when healthy, but unfortunately, seldom healthy – he’s had exactly one full, uninjured season, back in 04, then he played in 75, 96 and 61 games in each subsequent year. He has a lifetime 110 OPS+ and can play right and center and has an above league average RF and ZR

- Mike Cameron, age 35 (lots of Ks, frequently injured, looks like a N-word) has played approximately 140 games a year, except in 05 when he was injured in an OF collision with Carlos The Jackal. Has a lifetime 107 OPS+ (actually 109 over the past 7 years) has averaged 22 homers, 32 doubles and 156 K (!!!) over an average season and also has a .251 BA, which will NOT fly with a whole lot of Astros fans, who value a singles hitter who hits .300 over a guy who hits for power whose average is only .250. He has won 3 GG and unlike Derek Jeter, actually deserved them as his RF, ZR and UZR have greatly exceeded league average. However, he WILL be 35 years old and for a guy who has a lot of leg problems, I can’t see a multi year contract as he will surely get a GOOD 8 mill a a year, at least.

- Darin Erstad, age 34 – gritty white boy who makes Jason Lane’s hitting look like Barry Lamar 2001 – White Sox have a 3.5 mill option. Erstad is a great fielder the few days a year he’s not hurt. Not even worth wasting time discussing.

- Torii Hunter, age 32 (a FINE lookin brotha if I say so myself and I do say so myself) who will very likely get a Vernon Wells sort of payday. Well, maybe for fewer years as he IS 32. Naturally he’s had a career year in his walk year, but he’s good for around 35 doubles and 25 homers a year, 114 K and 78 BB, 15-20 SB with 7 CS a year and also, don’t let me forget, 15 – 20 GIDP a year. Of course he’s famous for his fielding but he has lost some range since his ankle injury e years back, but he still is above league average in range factor and waaaayyy above league average in balls out of zone.

- Andruw Jones, age 31 (Boras client AND he doesn’t know how to ride a horse, so honestly, since heck will freeze over before he comes here, no point in discussing him.)

- Kenny Lofton, age 41 – yet ANOTHER brotha, and originally an Astro, who was traded for being uppity, for some crummy someone who wasn’t near as valuable. Good thing is that he can be signed to a 1 year contract.

- Corey Patterson, age 28 (Boras client AND Black. also ex-Cub. We all remember him – he was forced to hit leadoff by Dusty Baker, and did worse and worse until finally he was practically run out of town on a rail. He can’t/won’t walk, had some power and is a decent OF, but really isn’t worth much, especially as we ALREADY have Josh Anderson, who is younger, cheaper, and better)

- Aaron Rowand, age 30 – FINALLY a white boy. High Grit Factor. AND no Boras, neither. Beloved of sportswriters because he does stuff like smash his face into brick walls to catch a ball, then miss 60 games healing. It’s what too many males proudly refer to as “testicular fortitude” and females contemptuously refer to as “testicular stupidity.” Anyway, of course he’s having a career year in his walk year, but on average, he is ..286/.343/.462, an 805 OPS or 106 OPS+ and it is interesting to note that he gets HBP a little more often than he GIDP – over the past 3 years, he’s 58:48. That just might could get him some of that “gritty” Biggio luuuuvvv. He’s basically a league average CF for RF and ZR, but he seldom makes errors, which means a lot to the Astros community.

So, to summarize, the only guy listed who isn’t Black might could look good on a horse, is Mr. Grit #2, who will probably get a GOOD 12 mill a year for 5 years, if even that low…

Part 2 will look at available free agent RF as well as the OF we currently have on the 40 man.

- And to change the subject for a minute, speaking of the 40 man, Eric Munson was put on waivers and claimed by Milwaukee, so it DOES look like a battery of Justin Towles and Brad Ausmus next year, as I thought. Hopefully, Quintero will not be back either. Also, Steve Randolph and Cody Ransom were outrighted to AAA – so hopefully, I won’t have to be hearing nonsense about how Ransom should replace Adam Everett

Astros Arb Eligible Players And Free Agents For 2008

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Here are the lists – from Cot’s Baseball Contracts – which, by the way, is a great site. Check it out.
Arbitration eligible players:

Brandon Backe, age 29 – 5th year, finished 535K contract
Dave Borkowski, age 30 – 4th year, finished 535K contract
Eric Bruntlett, age 29 – 4th year, finished 525 K contract
Chris Burke, age 27 – 4th year, finished 415 K contract
Adam Everett, age 30 – 6th year. just finished 2.8 mill contract
Brad Lidge, age 30 – 6th year. last contract 5.35 mill
Eric Munson, age 30 – 5th year, just finished 425K contract
Chad Qualls, age 29 – 4th year, last contract 411K
Ty Wigginton, age 30 – 5th year, just finished 2.7 mill contract

Everyone on the list would receive a LOT more money if re-signed and of course, they could be traded. I would guess that if Brad Ausmus does agree to sign the one year contract, then Munson will not be offered arb, but he will be offered another minor league contract. I would guess that he won’t have a problem finding a job as a backup catcher with some other ML team, however. I suppose the team could go cheap and DFA Bruntlett and substitute Cody Ransom, age 32 or Brooks Conrad, age 28, to save a million or so, but Ransom has already proven that he can’t hit ML pitching and Bruntlett can play the OF, which neither of the minor leaguers can do.

Free agents:
Brad Ausmus, age 38 – has just been offered a 1 year contract
Craig Biggio, age 42 (if he files)
Jason Jennings, age 29 – just finished his 5.5 million contract
Mike Lamb, age 32 – finished 1 year 2.7 mill contract
Mark Loretta, age 36 – finished 1 year 2.5 mill contract
Trever Miller, age 34 – finished 1 year 1.3 mill contract
Brian Moehler, age 35 – finished 1 year 500K contract
Orlando Palmeiro, age 38 – finished 2 year 1.9 mill contract

Well, I would guess they’ll offer arb to Jennings, who will be looking for (and getting) a multi year contract. And I guess they will offer arb to Loretta, because they want him back anyway (and they can work out a contract). I would be stunned if they offer arb to Lamb, because they are practically riding him out of town on a rail as it is and what if he actually accepted??? At this particular minute, I’m not sure if they will want Miller or Moehler, neither of whom had a particularly good year, back, especially as Ed Wade can surely find more expensive available middle relievers out there…

And in the news,
Milo Hamilton had a mild heart attack over the weekend and is now doing fine.

And other news, I wrote a column for The Hardball Times and will be writing a column regularly for them every other Tuesday. Check it out.

10/8/07: Seems Like 05 WS – Roger Clemens Only Lasts Two Innings

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Even though I don’t like AL baseball, as yall know, I wanted to see how Da Rajah and his leg/butt/groin would hold up, remembering how poorly they help up 2 years ago in the Series in freezing windy Chi-town.

His performance was eerily similar – 2.1 IP, 4 H, 1 HR, 3 ER. Only he was lucky in that his teammates hit the darn ball and bailed him out. In case anyone doesn’t remember, 2 years ago, Wandy went in, pitched 4 innings, giving up only one more run, which was, unfortunately, the game loser. Ah well…

Amazing that both the White Sox and the Astros have fallen so far, so fast. This year, they ended the year 72-90 and we ended the year 73-89. Did everyone know that our bullpen blew 25 saves??? Or that we had only 5 come from behind victories?

Well, according to Lee Sinins at www.baseball-encyclopedia.com, we had the second worst pitching in the NL, according to his RSAA (runs saved above average) – partly because we had 2 of the 10 worst pitchers in the NL as starters, Woody Williams and Jason Jennings.

Take a look at these:
TEAM TOTALS
1††† Cubs††††††††††††††††††††††† 118††
2††† Diamondbacks†††††††††††††††† 88††
3††† Rockies††††††††††††††††††††† 78††
4††† Dodgers††††††††††††††††††††† 59††
5††† Giants†††††††††††††††††††††† 33††
6††† Padres†††††††††††††††††††††† 28††
7††† Braves†††††††††††††††††††††† 25††
8††† Brewers†††††††††††††††††††††† 3††
9††† Mets†††††††††††††††††††††††† -6††
10†† Phillies††††††††††††††††††† -43††
11†† Reds††††††††††††††††††††††† -52††
12†† Cardinals†††††††††††††††††† -55††
13†† Marlins†††††††††††††††††††† -60††
14†† Nationals†††††††††††††††††† -65††
15†† Astros††††††††††††††††††††† -79††
16†† Pirates†††††††††††††††††††† -99†

ASTROS

Roy Oswalt†††††††††† 24
Chad Qualls††††††††† 11
Brad Lidge††††††††††† 6
Dennis Sarfate††††††† 3
Brandon Backe†††††††† 1
Mark McLemore†††††††† 1
Brian Moehler†††††††† 1
Troy Patton†††††††††† 1
Travis Driscoll†††††† 0
Trever Miller††††††† -3
Juan Gutierrez†††††† -4
Chris Sampson††††††† -5
Dan Wheeler††††††††† -5
Felipe Paulino†††††† -6
David Borkowski††††† -7
Wandy Rodriguez††††† -7
Rick White††††††††† -11
Stephen Randolph††† -12
Matt Albers†††††††† -20
Woody Williams††††† -22
Jason Jennings††††† -25

Anyone besides me wonder what on earth happened to Dan Wheeler, why he suddenly lost it at the end of June? And, in case anyone is curious, just guess who led the Cardinals in RSAA? Yep, you got it – Russ Springer, with 16. I don’t know whether or not the decision to get rid of Springer, who WANTED to stay was Phil Garner’s decision that Timmy merely agreed to, or whether he also believed that Springer shouldn’t stay, but as Springer had pitched very well in 2006 and showed no sign of weakening, AND as at the time there wasn’t anyone better to replace him (Moehler and White were signed during ST) this has to go as one of Purpura’s stupidest moves.
As for the offensive part? Again, according to Lee Sinins’ RCAA (runs created above average) the Astros were tied for 8th in the NL, with zero.
TEAM TOTALS
1††† Phillies††††††††††††††††††† 139††
2††† Mets†††††††††††††††††††††††† 95††
3††† Braves†††††††††††††††††††††† 79††
4††† Brewers††††††††††††††††††††† 48††
5††† Rockies††††††††††††††††††††† 41††
6††† Marlins††††††††††††††††††††† 36††
7††† Padres†††††††††††††††††††††† 29††
T8†† Astros††††††††††††††††††††††† 0††
T8†† Reds††††††††††††††††††††††††† 0††
10†† Pirates†††††††††††††††††††† -39††
T11† Dodgers†††††††††††††††††††† -45††
T11† Nationals†††††††††††††††††† -45††
13†† Cardinals†††††††††††††††††† -48††
14†† Cubs††††††††††††††††††††††† -58††
15†† Giants††††††††††††††††††††† -96††
16†† Diamondbacks†††††††††††††† -102†

Anyone else surprised that the Cubs hitting was so poor?
Anyway, Carlos Lee is CERTAINLY not the team MVP – even in hitting alone (remember all those GIDP???)
ASTROS
Lance Berkman††††††† 35
Hunter Pence†††††††† 24
Carlos Lee†††††††††† 19
Luke Scott†††††††††† 13
Mike Lamb††††††††††† 10
Josh Anderson†††††††† 4
J.R. Towles†††††††††† 4
Cody Ransom†††††††††† 1
Ty Wigginton††††††††† 1
Humberto Quintero††† -4
Orlando Palmeiro†††† -5
Eric Bruntlett†††††† -6
Morgan Ensberg†††††† -6
Eric Munson††††††††† -7
Mark Loretta†††††††† -9
Adam Everett††††††† -12
Jason Lane††††††††† -12
Chris Burke†††††††† -15
Brad Ausmus†††††††† -16
Craig Biggio††††††† -19

Luke Scott, with only 369 AB, created 13 RCAA to Carlos’s 19 RCAA over 627 AB. And Luke had virtually the same OPS against rightys vs leftys – .856 : .850 AND 28 of those ABs came as a pinch hitter, a job at which Luke frankly sucks.
Luke also only GIDP 8 of 425 PA, as opposed to Carlos, who GIDP 27 of 697 PA. They both had 53 BB, but take a look at the rate. Luke also saw 3.98 pitches/PA as opposed to Carlos’ 3.56. And do I need to mention that Carlos was the second worst LF in the NL, ahead of only Pat Burrell – yes, worse than Adam Dunn, and that Luke was the third best RF in the NL?
Somebody needs to explain to me why this Organization hates Luke Scott. And somebody also needs to explain to me why this Organization greatly prefers Ty Wigginton to Mike Lamb. It isn’t hitting (see above) and as far as fielding, well, we all know Mike Lamb has a lead glove, but his lifetime ZR at third is .730 and his RF is 2.83 whereas Wiggy’s is .710 and 2.62. Lamb, who WANTED to stay with the Astros, made 2.7 mill this year, his last arb year. Wiggy, who is in his 4th year, made exactly the same salary. Who thinks that 2 years of Lamb would be significantly more than 2 years of Wiggy? Lamb was 32 in August. Wiggy will be 30 next week. Not exactly a big difference in age and there is a BIG difference in ability.
Other than all this, there is no Astros news, except that a contract has been offered to Brad Ausmus, which is leading me to believe that Brad will catch one pitcher and J.R. Towles will catch the other 4, which means that Munson will either be offered another minor league contract or will not be offered any contract. He is arb eligible, but if offered arb, would most likely command a salary significantly greater than his 2007 salary of 425 K, so I would bet that he will be with some other club next year.
And oh yeah, third base coach Mansolino has been fired (surprise, surprise) and replaced with Ed Romero, who Cecil Cooper knew from Milwaukee, who has not coached third in the majors before.