Archive for August, 2008

8/29/08: USA Today Interviews “The Astros Dugout”

Friday, August 29th, 2008

In case all yall missed yesterday’s paper, I was interviewed as an Astros blogger. I only had a few hours to answer, so I didn’t really address the question about obtaining players in trades (next year.) Feel free to offer opinions.

1. After this weeks series with the Brewers, where do the Astros playoff dreams stand?
- In the dreams of the owner and a few overly hopeful fans.

2. What does the team need to do in order to attempt to make it to the postseason?
- It needs to acquire 2 ace pitchers for essentially nothing, then run into a streak of good luck in which the opposing team doesn’t turn balls in play into outs as well as have the starting pitchers give up 2 or fewer runs in 8 innings. These things won’t happen.

3. Who is one player who will need to increase production or remain consistant in order to keep the Astros’ record about .500?
- Miguel Tejada needs to increase production (and decrease double plays) now that he is hitting in the 3-hole and Ty Wigginton needs to remain consistant. Also, as LaTroy Hawkins now seems to be the new set-up man, he needs to continue his run of good pitching.

4. Do you think the Shawn Chacon/Ed Wade altercation earlier in the summer affected the team dynamic in any way, and if so, how?
- That is a very difficult question to answer, as the few comments the players made were supportive of Chacon as a person, and no one made comments about Ed Wade, at least not on the record. I don’t see any evidence that it either united the team or cause the team to split into warring factions.

5. What was the biggest pick-up last off-season?
- Jose Valverde

What should the team look for to help next season?
- at least 1, hopefully 2 good starting pitchers. I doubt that the owner will allow the trades of veterans for prospects or untried young players, so I would guess the team will look pretty much the same as it does this year.

6. Lance Berkman is having a great offensive season and Michael Bourn is #3 in the NL in stolen bases. Why isn’t the individual success translating to more wins?
- the Organization decided to bench Michael Bourn and delay his development in favor of playing a Proven Veteran, so he has seldom played since the All-Star Break. The starting pitching has been average, not great, and the run support provided by hitters other than Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee has been insufficient to overcome runs allowed too many times. Hunter Pence has regressed substantially from his rookie season, J.R. Towles and Michael Bourn did not provide the offensive presence they were expected to, and Miguel Tejada and Ty Wigginton have hit poorly with men on base.

7. If the Astros were in a different division, do you think they’d have a better shot at the playoffs? If so, which AL or NL division would they be most successful in?
- the Astros would best stand a chance of making the playoffs if they were in the NL West, the weakest division, against whom they are 17-13. However, I seriously doubt they would manage to win the NLCS even if they were able to defeat the WC winner.

8. Who are some specific people you’d want the team to sign/trade for in the offseason for next season?
- I would want the team to sign C.C. Sabathia and Kyle Lohse.

Do you think the team has a good shot at getting those players?
- The Astros have already committed 68.25 million in 2009 to 7 players, 47 million to Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, all of whom have no-trade clauses and an additional 13 million to Miguel Tejada, who is essentially untradeable. Sabathia is going to command Zito money and I seriously doubt that the owner will agree to pay 20 million a year for any player not named Roger Clemens. Kyle Lohse has no chance of playing for the Astros unless he changes agents.
- They stand a far better chance of signing Ben Sheets, who is friendly with Oswalt and apparently likes Texas, to a shorter and cheaper contract.

And do you think it’s possible to drastically improve on this season?
- DRASTICALLY improve? I suppose that anything is possible except for pregnant men. As the renowned baseball philosopher Joaquin Andujar once explained, in baseball there is just one word: youneverknow. But as for me, I’m not holding my breath.

9. What did the loss of Carlos Lee with his finger injury earlier this month mean to the team?
- Carlos Lee had been the only steady, reliable RBI man besides Lance Berkman. I had expected a drop in run scoring, but Ty Wigginton, who had previously been ineffective when hitting with men on base, picked up his game a few notches, as did Geoff Blum and the Astros have managed to maintain their standing. Wigginton has also done better than hoped for defensively in left.

NOTICE: The website will be down this weekend for maintenance/improvements and I’ll be back on Tuesday. I hope all yall have a safe and fun Labor-free day.

8/28/08: Quintero’s Fowl Buys Astros Fans A Chicken Sandwich

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

All 12,000 people actually THERE at the park (30,000 – yeah, surrrrrre, and Bradley Awes-Much gonna call me up and offer to do an, um, shall we say, in depth interview with me) looks like a Tampa Bay home game vs any team not named NY/Boston/Cubs say Thank you Q for the nice chicken sandwich (was it Burkie-poo or BGO who bought me my last one? I’ve forgotten – but they are pretty good.) And, by the way, that is the emptiest I’ve seen the Box since 03 pre-Roger days.

I should say that Ty Wigginton hitting a baseball 413′ to deep left center bought Backe a W – the third solo homer off of Aaron Harang, who pitched much better than he did in his last outing.

Brandon actually located his pitches really well, just as he did last outing until he lost his concentration in the 7th. He’d thrown only 65 pitches after 6 and I thought it was possible that he might actually complete the game. To start the 7th, he struck out Keppinger and got Votto to FO. Then, with a 2-1 count, Brandon Phillips hit a check swing ball just to the 3rd base side of Backe, who scrambled to get the ball but bobbled it and Phillips, who runs fast, reached. Backe was furious with himself – not sure if he COULD have gotten Phillips had he not bobbled the ball.

He then faced Jay Bruce, threw a strike, then a ball, then a high and outside (like a GOOD 2″ off the plate) changeup to Bruce, who sent it to left where Wiggy was playing – guess he thought it would go off the scoreboard, but it went over to the bullpen fence, where it looks as if it may have gotten stuck in the fence before dropping and next thing you know, Phillips scored easily and Bruce trotted into third standing up.

I’m not throwing stones at Wiggy – I think he’s played left a lot bettern Clank fer SHER and that was a tough ball to judge. Brandon got upset. He faced Adam Rosales, just up from AAA (12th round of 05 draft) who walked 20 times in 365 AB, went to 0-2, wasted a pitch (I’d love to know how many guys swing at a waste pitch out of the strike zone on 0-2 because it sure nuff seems like most pitchers do NOT throw a strike on 0-2) then got upset when ball 2 was not called strike 3. I understand – it was in the exact same location as strike 1, which SHOULD have been Ball 1. And he couldn’t locate and next thing you know, he issued a guy with a .724 OPS in AAA who almost never walks, a walk.

Brandon had lost it and Coop trotted out and told Backe that Patterson can’t hit and NOT to throw him a FB down the middle because that is the only thing he CAN hit. Brandon got lucky because Corey didn’t hit the meatball Brandon threw down the middle, but he DID hit ball 3 off the tip of the bat, sending it to left, where Ty was playing just a little to deep to get a sinking liner and run 2 crossed the plate.

THIS time when Coop went to pull a starter, I couldn’t have agreed more. 25 pitches in 0.2 innings with a complete loss of focus. I held my breath when Brocail went in to face Hannigan, as “Brokey”(or is it Broackie) has not been real too good lately, but he got him to GO to Blum at third and Blum just barely got the ball out of his glove in time to get Patterson at second.
LaTroy Hawkins gave up a single but no runs in the 8th (how long can this possibly last????) and Valverde struck out the side in the 9th and Brandon got his 9th W.

Yeah, I know this start was against the lousy Reds, but the fact is that Brandon had good command until he lost focus in the 7th. Which is good news. Better than him losing focus in the first. Or not getting focus till the 4th after the game is already gone. He got 6 Ks (and not just Harang) and didn’t walk a guy until the end of the game and only a couple of hard hit balls. And NO homers.

And the fielders made some great plays – Q with his throw to first to pickoff Dickerson, Lance to pick a few throws out of the dirt and his grab of Votto’s liner for a 3-6-3 DP, Blum a few grabs of hard hit liners and Erstad with a couple of long FB to deep right center.

And I hear tell some guys are pitching tomorrow night on Brad Ausmus bobblehead night. And you KNOW I gotta have that to add to my Brad Ausmus surfer bobblehead and yes I would rather have a life size doll, but sometimes you can’t get what you want. Probably a good thing or Husband might could go out and get a Serena Williams bobblehead…

8/27/08: Fogg Doesn’t Live Down To His Reputation, But Loses To Oswalt

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

The Fogg Man actually pitched VERY well, incredibly well considering his luck vs the Astros is the opposite of Roy’s luck vs the Reds. He gave up 6 hits and 2 Ks and was aided greatly by Tejada’s baserunning blunder (got called out by 20′ in a strike em out/throw em out, just like last night) and was beaten by Pence’s 340′ Crawford Box line drive.

Pence actually had good AB tonight – even his last one – he was called out on a “strike” barely above his ankle by Doug Eddings, the second worst umpire in the ML. Lance, who KILLZ the Fogg Man, went 3 fer 3 with a walk. And Wiggy nailed the coffin shut with a 2 run shot offn a luscious juicy meatball the reliever Majewski threw belt high down the middle.

Roy pitched 7 good innings – I think he must have had some sinking action on that FB because he mostly got GB outs, not Ks. All those Bruce Jenkins type people who screech about hardly no complete games these days would be all KINDS of Up Set about Coop pulling Roy after 7 fairly easy innings when he was only at 90 pitches.

I remind a whole lot of people that in the NL, pitchers often get pulled for pinch hitters, and it really isn’t because the pitcher is pitching poorly, and Coop usually pulls starters after 5 innings for a PH unless the Astros are ahead by quite a lot. Coop is a crappy manager (IMHO)…

La Troy Hawkins pitched another scoreless 8th. This guy reminds me of that game in which you pull out one thin rod at a time out of a structure until finally some poor sucker pulls out the critical rod and the whole thing collapses. I know it’s coming, but I don’t know when…

And Valverde came in, walked Votto on 4 pitches which weren’t anywheres near the strike zone, then struck out the side.

Favorite game moment – bottom of the 8th, Reds down by 3, 2 on, 2 out, Brad Ausmus up and Dusty Baker pulls a very good lefty reliever for a RHP. Like good leftys can’t get Brad out at this stage of his career – heck, that lefty had just gotten Pence out…

So tomorrow, it’s Brandon Backe vs Aaron Harang
Will be very interesting to see which Brandon shows up. Aaron Harang has pitched poorly this year and I would bet he’s still hurt.

8/26/08: Wandy Strikes Out 10 In 7 Innings But Astros Lose

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Wandy had Unca Charlie just KILLIN the Reds – he was all FB and curves tonight, laid offn the changeup and the boys were a swinging and missing. AND mind you, the ump had squoze Wandy off the corners, so he HAD to be good and not nibble. AND he niftly picked off the only guy he walked.

I guess I have also to tip my hat to Michael Bourn who made an incredible play to nab Joey Votto’s 425′ drive to the top of the Hill. And I have to commend Berkman for diggging some bad throws out of the dirt and catching a few tough popups too.

I Wandy – I wonda – why the Astros hitters didn’t exactly help him out, grounding into 2 DPs (Pence and Tejada) and Tejada would have grounded into 2 if Bourn hadn’t first stolen a base – and I should mention the strike em out throw em out Tejada/Berkman combo as well.

This was the third complete game thrown against the Astros in the past week (Sabathia and Pelfrey) which tells me that the hitters aren’t working the count very well. But I do have to compliment both Bourn and Pence for taking walks tonight.

Tomorrow, it’s Roy Oswalt (and we know how he does vs the Reds) vs Josh Fogg, who we know very well from his years with the Pirates, Cards and Rox. The Fogg-Man hasn’t done real too well vs the Stros, so be it and shall it remain…

8/25/08:Ty Wigginton Drives In The Only Astros Run

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Delgado hammered 6 of the 9 nails in the Astros coffin with a 3 run homer (barely) off Moehler and another off Wesley Wright’s hanging slider. Guess he shouldn’t have IBB David Wright.

But really, it didn’t matter. Pelfrey gave up a couple of hits, NO walks, got three GIDP (and Pence would have grounded into one too if Blum hadn’t managed to break it up) and 6 Ks – and absolutely NO question, he outpitched Santana in every way. I mean, the guy pitches a CG and in only two innings, did he not get 1,2,3 out. He was a bit tired in the 9th, gave up 2 hits and a run on a groundout. One of the 3 best pitched games by an opposing pitcher I’ve seen all year. The Astros hit exactly 2 balls well – Berkman’s flyout to center and Newhan’s double to right – Blum’s double was a well hit grounder. The rest of the balls basically didn’t leave the infield.

Awesome.

Simply awesome.

Gotta tip your cap to the opposition sometimes. Pelfrey for a masterful pitfching performance and Delgado for hitting two 3-run homers. I sure wonder if the homer to CF would have made it out at the Box – I don’t think that anyone has ever hit a homer to deepest center. I mean over the Hill, although I remember Reggie Sanders hitting one 434′ and The Jackal catching it.
I won’t kick Astro butts for not hitting pitches that just were not hittable. He had a Brandon Webb sinker goin on and all you get out of that thing is groundouts.

Moehler seems to me to be tiring as the year goes on. He hasn’t started in a couple of years and he isn’t exactly young. He had a little trouble iin the first – and Delgado’s HR I think was actually over the fence; I’ve re-checked the replay a couple times. What pretty much convinces me is when the fielder (Erstad) thinks it was a homer, which he did. Anyway, Moehler got through the second, third and 4th pretty well, then gave up a double and a walk in the 5th and ended at 80 pitches. He looked a little tired to me. He got an out, then gave up 2 singles to start the 6th and was pulled by Coop.

Moehler hasn’t made it out of the 6th inning in 4 of his last 5 starts. He’s already thrown 121.1 innings, but he threw only 60 all of last year and 121 in 06 – and he relieved the last 2 months, he threw 158 innings in 05 and was disabled in 03 and 04. I think that all the folks who are figuring on him being our #3 starter next year might could want to rethink this.

Anyway, we’re back home tomorrow to face the Dunn-less and Griffey-less Reds. It’s Wandy vs Bronson Arroyo. The Wand Man is happy to be home AND he’s happy not to face either Dunn or Griffey.

And me, as all yall know, I always root for the little guy. I got my WANDY t-shirt ready to go!!!!!

8/24/08: Bradley Awesome Hits The Game Winning Homer To Beat The Mets

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Oh Bradley
You so fine
You so fine
You blow my mind

HEY Bradley

HEY Bradley

You waited round all day
Came in and hit it long
I knew Coop had it right
Though some thought he had it wrong

Oooooh Bradley
It’s so lucky that you understand
You had to break the tie
Had to put it in the stands

It’s guys like YOU
Bradley
OOOOOOH what you do
Bradley

- apologies Toni Basil

Yeh, I can hear every male reading this gritting his teeth wondering why on EARTH a guy with an BA lower than Clank’s weight should be deluged with lustful looks/thoughts from bout every straight female of bout every race.

And now our heee ro comes through with a game tying homer in the gloamin (I think that word means at an unexpected time against a good pitcher) to break the 4-4 tie.

Yes, I could say that Ed Romero was really crazy sending Blum from second on Newhan’s hit to shallow right center, but in the end it didn’t matter because even though Bourn walked, Abercrombie hit what would have been a perfect 1-6-3 GIDP.

Anyone besides me wonder why Coop pulled Sampson after 2 innings, 18 pitches, with the score still tied – and not for a pinch hitter?

Randy Wolf pitched sort of OK – 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 HR (both to The Jackal) 3 walks and a WP – he struck out 4, the pitcher 3 times.

Wolf has now pitched 27 games: 7 were 4 or fewer innings; 2 were 5 IP; 11 were 6 – 6.1 IP and 6 were 7 IP. 13 of these were QS: In 8 starts, he gave up 5 or more runs.

He has started 6 games for the Astros, pitching 4.1, 5, 6, 7, 4, and 6 innings starts over 32.1 IP – 38 H, 4 HR, 16 BB, 28 K: 20 R/19 ER: 5.33 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. This is, by the way, about an 82 ERA+ which, by the way, is what it was when he pitched for the Padres.

In case all yall curious, Wandy has a 103 ERA+ and it was 112 a month ago – he’s had 3 really bad games since…

Tomorrow, it’s Brian Moehler vs Mike Pelfrey.

Moehler has only thrown 29.2 innings vs the Mets over his career started 4 games, relieved in 3 – 3.03 ERA. The Jackal is 9 fer 16 with a 1.401 OPS; Delgado is 8 fer 26 with 4 doubles and 3 HR – 1.187 OPS; David Wright is 4/11 and Brian Schneider is 3/10 with a HR.
I’m actually worried that Moehler might could be getting tired – in his last 4 starts, he’s gone 5, 7, 5.1 and 5.1 IP. AND he hasn’t had his usual pinpoint control. Actually, Moehler has averaged only 5.2 IP/GS – which is, by the way, the same as Wandy.

Pelfrey is interesting – he has a high BAA – .281 and fairly high WHIP of 1.48 to go with his low ERA of 3.86.
He pitched 96 innings in 06 (minors and majors), 152 innings in 07 and 154 innings this year already. He’s pitched an average of 6.2 innings for the past 10 starts with a 3.07 ERA, including a CG his last outing vs the Braves.
He’s had 3 starts vs the Astros, a total of 15.1 innings in which he has not pitched very well. Let’s hope he keeps it up. The suckage, I mean, as well as the baseball…

And please click here to go evaluate the fielding abilities of the Astros players for statistician Tom Tango. Thank yuh verra much.

8/23/08: Good Brandon Is Backe

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Brandon is like the most bipolar pitcher EVAH (or is it schizophrenic?) You remember the cartoons where the character has the devil (11 ER Brandon) on the left shoulder saying – hey, just throw it down the middle and MAKE em hit it – and the angel on the right shoulder saying – hey, put a little flava on the pitches and make em ground out.

Well, we got Good Brandon tonight – and it’s not like he kept the ball down most of the time, so the FB had good movement on it tonight. He only threw a couple of curves, 1 change and half a dozen sliders, and only one pitch was hit hard and that was Schneider’s homer in the 8th and that was a meatball. 5 hits, 1 walk, 6 Ks, 3 ER in 7 IP.

I hope it’s not the 11 ER guy next start. I have no earthly idea why he can’t do this more often – and it is not like the Mets don’t have any batters who can, you know, like hit?! And the Jackal went ofer. hehhehheh

Lance decided that tonight’s the night to stop with the limp bat and he went 3/5 driving in 4 runs and scoring 2 – and yeah, he’s still leading the NL in runs scored.

Even Miggy Tejada must have been feeling my complete and utter scorn at his ability to do anything more than hit a few singles or GIDP and so he drove in 2 runs – his first RBI in 2 weeks. He now has 5 for August – robust production from the #3 hitter, who is supposed to be the best hitter in the lineup, wouldn’t you say?

But all in all, I’m pretty pleased – Michael Bourn was back in the lineup and went 1/4 with a run scored, Lance came back to life and Backe pitched like a real major leaguer.

Let’s hope that Randy Wolf can match up to Oliver Perez tomorrow.
Wolfie has done pretty well vs the Mets: 11-5 in 27 GS over 169 IP – 155 H, 14 HR, 60 BB, 145 K: 3.25 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and a .243 BAA.

Ollie has pitched very well since the ASB, but he’s like Backe – you NEVAH know what you are gonna get…

8/23/08: Roy Oswalt Pitches Complete Game Loss To Mets

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Well, well, whaddaya know – Coop FINALLY let an Astro pitcher finish a game. Mostly because after the 5th inning, Roy only came to bat once, and that was to lead off the 7th.

Roy essentially lost the game the very first inning when he gave up a single, a WP, a sac-bunt and another single. Yep, because the Astros hitters left MOB in every single inning that Santana pitched except for the 4th. And they did ZERO against Heilman and Ayala and their 5+ ERAs.
sigh

Can we PLEASE get rid of the crummy veterans and call up some young kids????!!!! I’m tired of this. And the worst record we end up with, the better we’ll do in next year’s draft….

Your Turn To Scout ML Ballplayers

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

OK all yall Astros fans – those who think I’m a Moe Ronn cain’t tell good ballplayers from bad and those of all yall KNOW I’m a geeeeenyuss.

It’s YOUR time to put your opinion on paper.

Tom Tango, the famous statistician known as TangoTiger, is one of the 3 stat guys who wrote The Book. Every year, he invites fans to scout ML players, to post each person’s evaluation of a player’s abilities.

Click here to go to the site to evaluate the players.

8/20/08: Just Walk Away Ballgame

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

From deep inside the tears that I’m forced to cry
From deep inside the pain that I chose to hide

- Left Banke

sigh

Wandy gave up 5 walks, 3 hits, 3 R/2 ER. He was nibbling, like he used to do when he first came up. When he threw real actual strikes, only 4 were hit out of the infield – one went for a double off the wall, one was a sac-fly and the other 2 were caught at the CF wall. He gave up a “hit” to short that Tejada couldn’t handle and the other was a single to right – the last batter he faced. But the walks piled up – I can’t complain about the HP ump squeezing Wandy because he was also squeezing Parra.

But I sure can complain about Tejada, who, as usual, GIDP. And I am really concerned about Pence bases loaded, no outs, he GIDP, he isn’t getting good swings, he’s making baserunning errors, he’s just regressed from last year.

Brad Ausmus had a passed ball today – his 4th of the year – and it led to an unearned run. I can’t believe I’m typing that Brad has had FOUR PB this year. I love the boy, but it is the end for him. I was glad to see him out there catching Wandy – the guy needs to get his confidence back.

Sampson was nails – has been nails in all 3 appearances vs Milwaukee. But Brocail – he just looks tired – gave up a 2 run homer.

And the hitters left MOB all night.

sigh
They best rest up tomorrow, because the Mets have somehow picked it up a notch since we last faced them, even with their awful bullpen and Billy Wags on the DL.

The Astros picked up Jose Castillo, who was too awful for the awful Giants, on waivers and will send somebody down, probably poor JR House, on Friday. So much for a good bat off the bench. The guy gets 3 PA to succeed, fails, then is labeled a hopeless AAAA guy – and they would rather have a lousy Proven Veteran in a season in which this team isn’t going to win anything. Not that I’m saying that House is going to be the next Chris Coste, but I’m pretty sure Castillo is lousy…