Archive for December, 2007

12/30/07: Darin Erstad, Grit And Bear It

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Darin Erstad was signed for 1 million plus incentives. He is essentially a defensive replacement in the outfield and at first – he’s won 3 Gold Gloves, and unlike Derek Jeter, deserved every one of them. I suppose he’s what I would call the 2 fer 1 – he replaces Biggio in the Grit Department (ever notice that only Caucasian males are Gritty? That there is no such thing as a Gritmeister who is Black, Latin or Asian?) and, if he isn’t hurt, replaces Orlando Palmeiro with the bat.

Lets take a look at his last 5 years: he was a regular with the Angels from 03-06 and supposed to be a utility OF last year with the White Sox, but was actually used as a regular until he – surprise, surprise – got hurt.

2003: .252/.309/.352/.642 – 7 doubles, 4 HR, 18 BB, 8 GIDP over 258 AB in 67 games
After the season, the Angels moved him to first base. Note the OPS for a 1B!!!!!

2004: .295/.346/.400/.746 – 29 2B, 7 HR, , 37 BB, 16 SB, 9 GIDP in 495 AB in 125 games

2005: .273/.325/.371/.696 – 33 2B, 7 HR, 10 SB, 47 BB, 9 GIDP in 609 AB in 153 games
Then in 06, he was moved back to center but played 13 games at first and 27 in center (before getting hurt, as usual): he had little to no value as a first baseman because his only real asset, his glove, was wasted in a premier power position.

2006: .221/.276/.326/.605 – 8 doubles, 6 BB, 2 GIDP in 96 AB (looks like Ausmus)
The Angels let him go and he signed on with the White Sox to replace Aaron Rowand’s Grit Factor.

2007: .248/.310/.345/.655 – 13 2B, 4 HR, 7 SB, 4 GIDP in 310 AB over 87 games (yep, you guessed it – he got hurt, as usual.

The press is going on about his .284 lifetime BA, but fact is that he hasn’t had an OPS over 700 (except for his .746 in 04) since 2000. He may hit with a slightly better BA, since this is the NL, but I certainly wouldn’t expect an increase in power. He most DEFINITELY won’t be any Mike Lamb, and who knows how good he will be as a pinch hitter.

What we NEEDED is some punch off the bench, and whatever Erstad is or was, these days, he has about as much punch as I do.

Ah well, he did kick footballs when he was in college. Why exactly kicking a football makes a man a better BASEBALL player, I really do not understand – must be my complete lack of testicular fortitude. But I thought I’d better mention how Erstad used to kick footballs. It MUST be important somehow, because media people keep bringing it up, as if it matters. Perhaps one of yall males might could try to explain it to me…

12/07: The Story Of Roger Clemens And The Astros Fans

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Romance, my mother said, is when you have the illusion that you will have all of the good and it won’t take any work.

Marriage, my mother said, is when you have the reality that sometimes there will be some good and it will take a lot of work from both of you.

Here is my story about the romance, marriage and divorce of Roger Clemens and Houston, Texas.

12/26/07: While Waiting For New Astros News, Several Articles For You To Peruse

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Of course we are all talking about Roger Clemens and steroids and what a bad guy Roger is for using them, while ignoring the fact that we Astros fans are all happy (well, most are happy) that we acquired known steroid user Miguel Tejada.

We are the proud, the many, the hypocrites. Hitting .300 absolves a player on our team from scorn for using steroids.

Roger Clemens is no longer an Astro, having deserted us for the bright lights of the big media, so he isn’t afforded the same absolution by Astro fans. We have decided (most of us, it seems) that Brian McNamee is a bastion of honesty and truthfulness. It has escaped most people that only a year ago, he gave an interview saying the exact opposite.

And please check out Jose Ortiz’ interview with Clemens’ lawyer.

Now, for a fun discussion, let’s suppose you, the reader, are Roger Clemens, and let’s suppose that McNamee IS lying and he never injected you with anything. How would YOU go about proving you are innocent of the accusations?

Now, for something completely different, here is John Brattain’s take on the MLBPA and the steroid issue. I’ve always liked to save the best for last.

12/21/07: Defending The Astros Defense Is Indefensible

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Man, that headline was FUN to write.
Tom Tango, the famous statistician, has just released data on fielding from 2003 to mid 2007.

The best fielder in baseball during that time was, surprise, surprise, Adam Everett.
Take a look:
Best infielder (by FAR) Adam Everett at +24
Ty Wigginton makes the worst list, coming in at -14
Two OF made the top Worst list: Jason Lane at -15 (and the Astros Organization liked his defense) and Lance Berkman at -16. Carlos Lee just missed the list at -12.

Actually, Lance got to double dip b

cause he made the top worst at first base, too, -16, beating Giambi and Sexson, but not by much.
These numbers were obtained with the UZR system, which is the intellectual property of Mitchel Lichtman, one of the authors of The Book, and backed by Sean Smith, inventor of the CHONE system (as you will read in the comments.)

The only real surprise was that neither Jeff Kent nor Craig Biggio made the list of worst infielders…

I forgot -
click here to check out Tango’s summary of the fans’ scouting report on the Astros (hope all yall voted. He does this every year, you know…)

12/19/07: Ed Wade Signs Chad Paronto, Middle Reliever

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Man, I was getting really worried wondering if Ed would ever get around to finding us a righty middle reliever, seeing as how we don’t have any and we are overloaded with ace starters.

Thank GAWD he managed to grab Chad Paronto, RHP, for a piddling half mill. Chad, age 32, will be 33 in July, is another ex-Brave who was DFA’d (joining Villareal.) In fact Chad was sent down in August of last year because the Braves bullpen was so overwhelmingly magnificent that he found himself on the outs.

Chad was drafted by the Orioles in the 8th round in 1996 out of U Mass. He had a cup of coffee in the bigs in his 6th year 2001, threw 27 innings with a 5.00 ERA, was put on waivers and claimed by the Indians. He split his time in 02 and 03 between the ML and minors, throwing 35 innings with a 4.04 ERA in 02 and then spent almost all of 03 in the minors, throwing only 6 innings in the majors.

He spent all of 04 in the Cards’ AAA club, split 05 between the Brewers and the Braves AAA clubs. He threw 56 innings for the Braves in 06, 5 HR, 19 BB, 41 K with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.

Last year, he threw 40.1 innings (before he was sent down in August) 1 HR, 19 BB, 14 K – 3.57 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP. But you notice we are talking about 3.12 K/9, 4.24 BB/9 for a guy who has never been an extreme GB pitcher.
In fact, he’s only thrown 166 ML innings in his career, and has a 4.00 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP – almost exactly his minor league numbers. He doesn’t strike out many – 5.41/9 IP, low for a reliever, and walks too many 3.41/9 IP, but he has never given up very many homers and you KNOW that is important with all the rightys taking aim at the Crawford Boxes.

One thing is that he hasn’t thrown more than 60 innings in a year since he was 23 years old – he averages around 52 innings/year, and that sure isn’t very much. In his best year, 2006, he had more appearances than IP, so it looks as if the Braves had him coming in to get out of innings. He was usually used in the 7th and 8th innings, reviewing the game logs.
Well, as you know, clubs have some time in ST to evaluate the pitchers and they can release them owing them only small fractions of their salaries if they don’t perform.

UPDATE: here is a report from ”Ann Onnamuss” who watches Braves players and prospects very closely, and sent me a report on Chad Paronto:

Me: How about a scouting report? You’ve watched him for 2 years.

“Ann” – yeah, i’ve actually seen Chad pitch quite a bit (he spent the 2004 season with the Cards’ Triple A affiliate and pitched VERY well there and he’s pitched well for the Braves too)….he’s a bit of a late bloomer (he’s in his early 30’s now I think) but he’s had FOUR good years in a row now while bouncing back and forth between AAA and the majors.

I don’t know WHY the Cards and Braves didn’t have him and/or keep him at the major league level cause he’s defiinitely good enough to be/stay there. I think he got caught in a numbers game a couple of times because both teams were kind of overstocked with middle relievers (Ed Wade’s not the only one obsessed with middle relievers). Anyway, he’s a real big guy, about 6′ 5″ or so and 250-260, and he’s really pretty good most of the time. He throws hard but also has excellent breaking pitches – his slider and his sinker are both OUTSTANDING, Also, he’s GREAT against lefthanded hitters for a RHP; for some reason, lefty batters, as a group anyway, don’t hit him well at all. The only negatives that I can think of are that he struggles with his command once in a while and is occasionally susceptible to the long ball, but what pitcher isn’t? He and Villareal should do a good job for you guys as they’re both pretty good. Bobby Cox liked both of them a lot.

Me: then why did he get sent down in August 2006?
“Ann”: they sent him down to clear a roster spot for Mark Teixeira when they acquired teixeira at the trade deadline. Now why HE was the one sent down – who KNOWS He was pitching well at the time, got caught in a roster numbers crunch again I guess. Like I said, he’s pitched well four years in a row now and hasn’t gotten as much respect from the organizations that he’s pitched for as he probably should have. Hopefully, that will change with you guys and he’ll get to stay in the majors because he’s definitely good enough to be there.

Interesting…

12/18/07: Marvin Miller, The Union And Foolish Attitudes

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

AKA why he!!! will freeze before Marvin Miller is elected to the Hall of Fame.

I wrote a piece on Marvin Miller for the Hardball Times.
Check it out.

12/17/07: Thank GOODNESS – The Astros Finally Sign A Desperately Needed Middle Reliever

Monday, December 17th, 2007

You know, what with all the absence of fuss about the Astros signing known steroid user Miguel Tejada – as Unca Drayton explained, never seen anything that no one had any idea of anything that was there which is the best explanation I’ve heard so far, Ed Wade can NOW concentrate on this team’s REAL need, acquiring mediocre middle relievers. He just signed 6 year minor league free agent Jack Cassel to a $400,000 ML contract and placed him on the 40 man.

Not sure why Cassel is getting paid more than the ML minimum, but what can I say. Anyway, he was drafted by the Padres out of Loyola Marymount in 2000 in the 25th round. He’s now 27, will be 28 in July. He’s thrown exactly 22 innings in the bigs (lasat year) since he was drafted at 19. He appeared in 6 games, started 4 and lasted more than 5 innings in 2 of them.

In the minors, he was used as a reliever from 02-05, as his ERA was considerable (2.5 points) lower as a reliever. He was changed to a starter at AA in 06, where he posted a 2.29 ERA over 68 innings, then promoted to AAA, where his ERA rose to 6.91. He repeated AAA last year, posting a line of 3.91 ERA, 1.54 WHIP – 13 HR, 42 BB, 117 K over 156 IP, 6.31 K/9, 2.67 BB/9 and 0.57 HR/9 IP.

Ed Wade calls him a “sinkerballer” – I have no stats on % of GB, so I don’t know, but he is a righty, so I feel sorry for the guy with our sorry left side of the infield if he really is a sinkerballer. I would guess he is going to take Dave Borkowski or Brian Moehler’s spot, or even have a few spot starts now and then, seeing as how we have only 1 young pitcher, Felipe Paulino, left after all the dealing so far.

Oh, and before I forget, Ed is not just checking out Jon Lieber (yecccccch) he is checking out Kris Benson, whose 5.7 mill contract was bought out by the Orioles. I wonder if Anna and her giant fake boobs are working their magic on ol Eddie Wade. And oh, I would just LUUUUVVVVV to be a fly on the wall when Anna joins the Astros wives club. But hey, she sure nuff should liven up Astros Fan Fair when she struts in in her Astros bikini and stripper heels. Sigh. I always miss out on all the fun…

Oh yeah – and before I forget
in honor of Miguel Te-roider, here are a few interesting roids articles
first – this one by David Jones in Florida Today, talking about how a long time baseball trainer tried talking to management about the steroid problem in 1988!!!!
yeh, back then. And this was before Jose Canseco started spreading roids around the Oakland clubhouse, too. Yeah, back then. Interesting that Mitchell, “impartial observer” chose to exclude his four conversations he had with the trainer from his report. Gee, wonder why…

And then there is this commentary about why, after Balco, it just might could be that the players didn’t trust Mr. Red Sox owner/ESPN honcho Mitchell… “I’ve

12/16/07: Mike Lamb Joins Adam Everett In Minnesota

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

The Twins, who desperately need a third baseman who can hit (Nick Punto hits like Everett) signed Mike Lamb, who will join his former teammate steroid-free Good Guy/Bad Bat Adam Everett next year. From Joe Christensen in the Star-Tribune:

“Lamb will make $3.5 million next year and $3 million in 2009. There are performance bonuses and escalators that could make the contract worth up to $12.5 million over three years. I spoke to Lamb. He said, The reality is I’ve been a bench player for 5-6 years now. I realize the Twins are taking a chance on me, and I definitely appreciate it.

We’ll miss the guy. I wish him the best. The Astros were most definitely wrong about no other team wanting either Lamb or Everett as a full time player. Still have NO idea where we’ll find a lefty PH. Or ANY PH for that matter.

I hope.

By the way, check out Aaron Gleeman’s evaluation of Adam Everett’s defense. He provides about every link I’ve ever mentioned over the years about the evaluation of Adam’s sterling reputation with the glove.

12/15/07: Chris Burke Finds A New Home And Houston Gets Closer Valverde

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Chris Burke is going to have a second chance to prove he can play second base. The Astros, ducking questions about accused steroid user Miguel Tejada, traded Burke, Qualls and Juan Gutierrez to the Diamondbacks for their closer Jose Valverde. Seems as if Tal Smith wanted just about everyone from last year’s team who could be traded/released off the team. He CAN’T trade Roy, Lance or Carlos Lee, and I doubt he wants to trade Ausmus, Towles or Wiggy, and I doubt that anyone would take Woody.

(It’s a good thing that I have never completed my entry on next year’s pitching – the roster changes like almost every day.)
The fans hated Burke, the Organization had soured on him, and I am delighted he is getting the chance he should have had 3 years ago. Good luck there, boy.

Gutierrez is 24, and not much of a starter. At AAA, he had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. He has a .93 HR/9 and a 6.23 K/9 with a 3.63 BB/9. I always hear that this guy has “upside” – not sure exactly why.

So this is essentially Qualls for Valverde, with a AAA guy and an unwanted piece who wouldn’t be offered a contract anyway.

Chad Qualls is a VERY good relief pitcher, a bit underestimated because the Astros fans remember the game losing homers he gave up instead of all the games in which he excelled. He just finished his third ML year and is arb eligible.

He has a 3.39 ERA over 3 ML seasons with a cup of coffee, a 1.36 WHIP, 129 OPS+ and a career high 144 OPS+ last year. He’s more of a ground ball pitcher (59%) than a K artist, even though he throws FB and sliders, just like Lidge. He has a career 6.91K/9, 2.66 BB/9 and 0.93 HR/9 IP. He’s averaged 84 innings/year over his 3 full ML seasons. He’s finished 56 games, but only saved 6, and was used as a closer 5 times last year, amid the struggles of Wheeler and Lidge. I would bet that the Dbax are going to use him to set up and Tony Pena to close.

Valverde is a “legitimate Proven Closer,” a 28 yo RHP (born on Barry Lamar’s birthday) and just finished his first arb year, in which he commanded 2 million. Not surprised Tal Smith thought of him – he’s faced the Astros 11 times and has a 0.00 ERA. He has a 0.63 ERA vs the Cubs, a 3.25 ERA vs the Cards, but a 6.91 ERA vs the Pirates. All small sample sizes, of course.

He closed 11 games in 2006, but because the full time closer last year, saving 47 and blowing 7 and finishing 11 more games. Overall, he gave up 7 HR, 26 BB and 78 K over 64.1 IP in 65 games with a 2.66 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a .196 BAA.
He gets 11.46 K/9, 3.84 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 IP.

He won’t be cheap so we’d better hope he’s good. His numbers, by the way, aren’t significantly better than Qualls, who pitched over 20 more innings a year, by the way. Closers are notorious for being good one year and not the next, as we all know only too well (remember Doug Jones?) and I think we all got a bit spoilt by Billy Wags…

12/14/07: Mitchell, McLane and Tejada

Friday, December 14th, 2007

According to the Mitchell Report, Miguel Tejada paid his teammate over $6,000 by checks several times for SOMEthing alleged to be growth hormone and testosterone type steroids. (Can you believe how many guys paid their drug dealers by CHECK? Can you spell S-T-O-O-P-I-D???!!! Or were both player and dealer so arrogant/ignorant that they had NOOOOOO idea that someday someone might could check (hahahaha) it out?

I foolishly assumed that Drayton had first ascertained that Tejada was not on the steroid list before agreeing to the trade, as he’s so obsessed with the Astros image and how they are cowboys on horses, doo-gooders on the field and in the community, sin-free paragons of virtue like Bagwell and Biggio. I mean, when he asks Tejada – what have YOU done to become a champion – he has to hear – I used illegal drugs, Mr. McLane, sir. I shot up and hit lots of homers and won an MVP!!! And a Home Run Derby where a 5′8″ little guy hit a dozen homers over the tracks like Albert Pujols!!! And I just might could have ruined the career of a teammate by giving him steroid contaminated “Vitamin B-12″ Mr. McLane Sir, I mean Unca Drayton.

And exactly how that is good for “the community” that McLane talks about being an example for, well, I’m not sure. I would guess that they made sure to do the trade the day before the report so that they could say – gee, we had NOOOOO idea. Instead, McLane says “I was certainly disappointed.” We certainly did not (have the faintest glimmer of an idea).” Oh puhLEEEEEEEEZE. The guy had been the subject of rumors for YEARS – they couldn’t wait one more day to make SURE he wasn’t named by one of the federal informants?

But, you know, seems to me that except for Barry Lamar Bonds, and now da Rogah, that absolutely nobody gives a darn. Nobody. STILL. So far, every guy who was CAUGHT (not just accused, mind you, CAUGHT) using steroids by a positive test had absolutely ZERO trouble finding employment. I don’t see crowds booing Ryan Franklin. I don’t see the Astros benching Tejada for the next year and saying – gee, sorry fans, we realize it’s a lot of money down the drain, but we don’t want a cheat on our team full of “good guys” who “help” the community (not that I have one piece of evidence that any Astro has ever done diddly squat for MY community, but I digress…)

It will be interesting to see if the Astros fans boo Tejada, or scream STEROIDSSSSSS when he takes the field or if they say – well, he might could be a cheating drug user, but he’s OUR cheating drug user. Or if he only gets booed if he doesn’t put up good numbers. But, it will probably be fine, just as Smith/Wade undoubtedly anticipated. You see, except for Palmeiro, the drug user’s own fans didn’t ever turn on them. Maybe it is US who are the REAL “Good Guys” and as usual, we have an owner taking advantage of our good nature.