Archive for March, 2009

One More Week Until Opening Day 2009!!!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I apologise about the earlier entry (now removed) in which only a title appeared. I have no idea what on earth I could have done to make the entire entry disappear, but I guess I will just have to re-write it.

Anyway, Mike Hampton got his butt kicked to heck and back today and Wesley Wright had his first bad outing all spring.

Honestly, I don’t understand why they don’t send the guys who aren’t going to be on the ML team to the minors where they can actually get work done. Drew Meyer and Eli Iorg got their first ABs all spring today.

My gawd. Drew Meyer. One of those “can’t miss” prospects who sure nuff missed. Drafted in the second round out of HS, then in the first round of the 02 draft (to the Rangers) he has been in AAA since 05 and has posted OPS (in the PCL) of .655/.583/.576/.674 – he has less power than Michael Bourn. Which goes to show that youneverknow.

Apparently, when he signed a minor league FA contract with the Astros, he as told he would be given an every day job. Not sure how that is going to work, unless he is willing to go to AA because Tommy Manzella will be playing short and Drew Sutton second base at Round Rock.

And actually, I feel sorry for the guys who get invited to Spring Training who, from the getgo, have zero chance of making the team in the first place, such as David Newhan, John Gall or Reggie Abercrombie. I suppose they are really there in case one of the already determined roster is injured, but still, it must be hard to march out there and do your best when you know that your best will NOT be good enough.

Sometimes, I look at career minor leaguers like John Gall, guys who put up great numbers year after year after year in AAA, yet didn’t get a chance in the majors, either from their parent team or from any other team who wanted them in a trade. Why figure that if team X didn’t want him nobody else would? Some guys are promoted, given chance after chance, then manage to hang on in some kind of reserve role for at least part of the year while guys like Gall really never get any sort of chance.

Look at Luke Scott – the Astros never wanted him on the ML team at all and weren’t real too happy when he hit himself onto the team in ST. They sent him down as soon as they could. Not only that, they signed a Proven Veteran (Preston “Whiff” Wilson) on the far far downside of his career after the season was over in spite of the fact that Luke had hit like crazy in AAA, yet again and was CLEARLY ready for the majors. Then, after he almost singlehandedly propelled the Astros into the postseason with a 165 OPS+ over 252 PA, they STILL wouldn’t give him a full time job, claiming that he couldn’t hit leftys when his OPS was essentially the same vs both.

They didn’t like him, didn’t want him to succeed.

I don’t get why.

You know, I hear a whole lot of the Keith Law stat geeks talking about how a team could save themselves money by using guys like John Gall, but teams rarely want to give any player past the agreed upon age of “prospect” a chance – except for, perhaps, a few pinch hits here and there, so that they can point to his failures and say – see, he can’t succeed.

WHY???

It’s not that you can say – use what works. You look at a Jason Michaels (to use an example) who has OPS+ of 73, 85, 87 over the past 3 years and as a team, you won’t allow the possibility that someone else is better or might could be significantly better given a chance?

Guess not.

One of these days, I like to ask someone who is out of baseball why on earth these predeterminations of Who Will Be Allowed To Succeed are so set in stone.

I am SOOOO ready for the season to start.

Still no word on whether Jason Smith or Edwin Maysonet will win the utility IF job, although at this point, I would guess it would be more likely to be Maysonet because of his superior glove.

3/27/09: Astros Have Now Won Six In A Row

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I apologise for no entries for several days now. I’m still grieving over the loss of my dear friend John Brattain. In fact, if any of all yall are fans of his wonderful work, we have set up a memorial fund to assist his widow and teenage daughters after his protracted illness, and if any of you would like to contribute, please go to www.thehardballtimes.com and click on the link in the upper left hand corner.

Astros news: Unlike John, Aaron Boone survived his heart surgery and is doing well; however, he will still not be able to play baseball this year.

The third base platoon position is still not settled and neither is the backup infield slot. Otherwise, in spite of the fact that final moves have not been made, Lance is starting to hit like his usual self, Clank and Bourn are also picking it up and now that Miggy Te-roider has gotten his wrist slapped, maybe he will settle down and at least hit for average, if not power. Pudge Rodriguez appears to have hit it off with Wandy (thank God) as well as the rest of the staff, who, by the way, are still pitching decently.

As far as I can tell, the bullpen won’t be different than it was at the end of last year and most likely, Capellan and Arias will be sent to AAA, at least until someone is hurt or stinks it up ala Villareal last year.

I am writing a piece called “Five Astros Questions” for The Hardball Times this weekend (check it out), and unless something else happens, I am going to take the weekend off and pull myself together. I can’t be at John’s funeral up in the middle of Canada in person, but at least I can be there in spirit.

3/25/09: Baseball Loses A Great Writer And Humanity A Great Person

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I know I should be celebrating Wandy’s outstanding performance, the Astros winning 5 in a row, Matsui getting his BA above my weight and Bourn getting his BA abover my husband’s weight, but I’m grieving because I’ve just lost a very dear friend, the great writer John Brattain.

John was just 44 (in January) and died after a long illness, but just the same, it reinforces that only the good die young. He helped and encouraged me in my writing since the beginning of this blog, promoted my work, helped me understand, made me laugh and made me love baseball and writing about it even more.

He was a Canadian, a Montreal Expos fan (and a Blue Jays fan) and an exceptional human being – one of the nicest, kindest people it has ever been my privilege to know.

He was a prolific, excellent writer.

Please click here and here and here to read some of his work.

The world is a sadder place for his loss.

3/23/09: Three Is The Astros Magic Number

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

As in they have now won 3 in a row. As in they took 3 walks this game. As in there were 3 GIDPs. As in 3rd baseman Chris Johnson made today’s error, which fortunately didin’t cost the Astros the game. As in Moehler pitched 3 scoreless innings.

But most important – 3 is the number of innings that Roy Oswalt lasted in the WBC before tiring. Sort of reminded me of Game 3 in the WS – gave up 2 piddly singles, then the second baseman screwed up a GIDP (Roberts reminded me of Jeff Kent there) and Adam Dunn in right looked like Biggio in left and couldn’t get a throw home from shallow right and let another ball bounce around for a triple and after 66 pitches, Roy was absolutely done for – poor control of FB (Joe Morgan was right) and curves hanging…

I keep telling myself that Roger Clemens never had a ST ERA under 6 when he pitched for us, and he ended up doing well, but I don’t like that Roy is looking tired after 60 something pitches.

In other news, as I expected, John Gall was sent down. As was Danny Graves, Clay Hensley (who really looks done) and Matt Kata (who can’t play short AND can’t hit.)

But the big news is that I was wrong about the Astros and Backe. I fully expected him to be released so that the Organization could use his salary to play I-Rod and not be out any money, but they have instead put him on the DL, which guarantees his contract. I guess they aren’t quite as taken with the idea that Moehler, Ortiz, Hampton, Wandy and Capellan will all pitch 30+ games with 3 something ERAs as the fans are. Well, the fans, as usual, are dissing Wandy. Which they were also doing last year, I might could remind all yall, when he had a great ST ERA…

Edwin Maysonet Hits TWO HR Off Ace Roy Halladay And Astros Win

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Two in a row. Edwin Maysonet, I mean. Roy Halladay is one of the 3 best pitchers in the entire AL. Edwin Maysonet is a 27 year old career minor leaguer who just finished his first year at AAA last year and hit exactly 6 home runs in 406 AB in the hitters’ PCL – and has a career SLG of .383.

Even if Maysonet doesn’t make the team, he sure nuff can always boast about the day he hit TWO homers offn Roy Halliday in the same GAME.

And, speaking of the game, the Astros won their second in a row thanks to Mr. Maysonet. Roy Halladay gave up 6 runs to the worst team in all of Spring Training and he didn’t give up 6 runs in even a single GAME last year.

Like I always say, it’s baseball and youneverknow and the darndest guys do the darndest things…

Anyhow, Capellan was perfect through 3 innings, when I tuned in, but then gave up 5 earnies in the 4th with a couple of doubles, a triple and a 3 run homer to Lyle Overbay. I would guess that after having seen him once through the batting order, they had him timed – and this is why he ended up in the bullpen in all his other stops.

Anyway, the other guys hit enough to win – Lou Santangelo has now taken the catchers’ BA lead at .214 with a 2 run homer off Scott Downs giving the Astros 9 runs, just enough to beat the 5 Capellan gave up plus the 2 Byrdak coughed up.

Ivan Rodriguez will join the team tomorrow and Roy Oswalt will pitch in the USA vs Japan WBC game.

And I saved the best news until last – the Astros didn’t make any errors!!!!! (of course, I don’t know how many of the hits allowed shouldn’t have been, but at least there weren’t any errors!

The Astros win 2 games in a row, they hit THREE homers and no errors were made. Tomorrow, the WORLD!!!!

3/21/09: Thuuuuuuuuuh Astros WIN!!! For The First Time In 3 Weeks!!!

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Waaal, jess kickstart mah heart.

Here I was putting the incredible finishing touches on the Astros greatest losing streak story and they had to go and win.

Guess Russ Ortiz just done gone and got his lil ol self a starting spot by thowing 6 innings of 1 hit no walk no run ball. Not that he hadn’t pitched reeel good befores, but this time the pitchin good, why it was connected to the OTHER guys hittin bettern than the other team’s guys (unfortunately too many of them baseball writers haven’t figgered out that no matter how good you pitch, iffn your guys don’t hit, you just ain’t a-gonna win…) And yes, I know that Ortiz’ main competition, Jose Capellan hasn’t given up an ER all spring, but pitching well didn’t get the team a WIN. Therefore, Ortiz has pitched better, you get it?

In fact, Ortiz was just desperate enough to go and drive in one of his own runs. Which I DO understand.

Lance Berkman finally remembered how to hit a home run, Matsui got his first hit in 3 weeks then promptly got hisself caught stealing, Tejada got his first hit since returning from the WBC, the one error that was made didn’t cost any runs and Manzella and Bogusevic got sent down.

Now, if we could just get the guys who are going to be on the team to start hitting, it would be great. Oh yeah – and if we could get them to quit making so darn many errors and missing so many catchable baseballs, it would be even better.

I’m still kind of in shock, accepting that the losing streak is finally lost, I’ve just gotten so numb from the suckage and am going to have to completely re-orient myself. I mean, what if we actually manage to win another game…

I’m not real too particularly interested in the WBC, but I’m just gonna hafta watch Roy Oswalt vs Daisuke Matsuzaka on Sunday night. Roy was tired out after 50 pitches in his last appearance and he’s expected to pitch as if it were a regular season game, although I would bet that he won’t be allowed to exceed 100 pitches.

 

3/20/09: astrOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOs Keep On Losin

Friday, March 20th, 2009

We are now 1-16-3.

I don’t know what to say, really, except that the only guys who keep hitting are the only 3 guys not expected to make the team. And that this team misses more plays and makes more errors than my kids’ T-ball team.

They got absolutely CREAMED by the Mets today 12-1, error after error, 4 in all, allowing 7 freaking unearned runs. They managed 5 hits, 1 walk (Abercrombie) and 1 piddly run. I suppose I should be saying all cheerful about how at least they didn’t get shut out.

Remember the infamous 2003 Detroit Tigers? The team that went 43-119? Well, their ST record was 10-19-2. The Astros are now at .059 – yes, you read that right. I can’t find any team, at least from 84 on, who all ended ST at at least .250. Yes, I know that ST stats correllate poorly with the regular season, but losing (not winning) 19 IN A ROW???

They better be taking a LOT of fielding practice.

And maybe it just might could be time to find a better hitting coach. Yes, I know a coach can only do so much with what he is given, but he hasn’t done a darn thing with what he HAS been given.

We’ve got 3 more games to match the 88 Baltimore Orioles 22 games lost to open the year. I guess if we can’t win, might as well get some notoriety with a losing streak, hunh.

Last year I called the team the Psychobilly Cadillac. This year, I’m gonna call em the Psychotic NO-VAs (you know about the old story of how Chevy tried to sell Novas in Mexico, only to learn that the reason they couldn’t sell any was because “No Va” in Spanish means “ No Go….”)

3/18/09: No Pedro And No Boone

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Well, Drayton actually told the truth – the announcement wasn’t a hiring/firing. Aaron Boone will not be playing this season because he has to have heart surgery. Fortunately, he isn’t sick or ill and he is an athlete in good shape, so he should do fine. BUT, it is enough to prevent him from playing baseball this year.

Good luck Aaron, hope the surgery is successful.

His 750K is guaranteed, but it really is a drop in the bucket, not like losing, say, Carlos Lee. But anyway, this does mean that Chris Johnson has a VERY good chance to make the team, seeing as how Drayton is opposed to going and buying any other 3B – not that one is available. (Drew Sutton also would have a decent chance of playing there, in case Johnson fails.)

But actually, speaking of available, it just might could be that Miggy will be moved to third and someone else would play short. It would really have to be either Manzella or Maysonnet, who are real actual SS, as no one else is actually good enough to play short as a full time position.

It is, of course, possible that we would try to trade for some other ML SS, but it would cost $$$ and unless it is someone who would make a big splash, as Pudge did, I seriously doubt Drayton would spend any more money.

3/18/09: Is Pedro Really Signing With The Astros?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I’ve gotten 5 emails in the past hour saying that Pedro Martinez has agreed to sign with the Astros. I can’t find any kind of mainstream baseball reporter saying that, although Tim Dierkes is quoting Baseball Prospectus’ John Perotto, saying that the Astros have signed Pedro.

Drayton is holding a presser at 8:45, and it is supposedly NOT about Ivan Rodriguez, so it just might could be.

Question is, who would he knock from the rotation? Or would he just be the #5 guy? Either way, it looks as if Brandon Backe is a goner. Not that he won’t immediately get picked up by some other team.

Guess we’ll have to see in a few hours.

Alyson Footer says that Wade assured here, insisted that it wasn’t about Pedro. OK. Well, he insisted not 3 days previously that the Astros had no, had ZERO interest in Ivan Rodriguez. He pointed out to the Chron reporters that Pudge had been declining over the past 3 years and only hit .212 with the Yankees – he didn’t say that Pettitte refused to throw to him, but he could have. Anyhow, Ed Wade’s assurances that the Astros have had no conversations with Pedro cut no ice with me.

But it is true that the hitters aren’t hitting, even though the pitchers are sucking slightly less, so it might could be that Sean Berry is a goner. It would sure nuff make some news. If Drayton is firing Cecil Cooper, it would be the first time to my knowledge that a manager was fired in Spring Training.

I won’t go over Pedro until I am sure that he has actually signed.

But I do gotta say that it sure is interesting that Drayton has suddenly found money when he was supposed to be totally broke. And that Pedro ain’t Clemens 2004, but he sure will create buzz and sell tickets, even if he pitches as lousy as he did his last few years.

3/17/09: Ivan Rodriguez Will Join The Astros If He Passes A Physical

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Just 3 days ago, Ed Wade told ALyson Footer in no uncertain terms that Pudge would NOT be an Astro and to stop asking him about Pudge. Who was NOT NOT NOT gonna be an Astro!!!

PERIOD.

He wasn’t exactly honest with her, now, was he? He had to know he had actually talked to Boras more than once – I mean, besides telling him to take a long walk offn a short pier (ehy, this is a family rated site…) I guess Drayton actually WOULD do business with the debbil, just wanted to see him grovel first. Not that Boras exactly did any groveling – that would be done by Pudge himself, who was desperate for a job, hopefully a starting job, at darn near ANY price. The media has been saying for weeks that the Astros were interested in Pudge – most likely someone from Boras’ agency, um, leaked (ahem) that. Drayton wouldn’t sign Pudge until he had a choice of Astros or nobody. I’m surprised he didn’t make him sign for Jason Michaels/Aaron Boone money. Well, I guess he gets twice their salary because he is not gonna be platooned – much.

So now we have another strongly suspected steroid user joining the team and every single fan is delighted (they care about batting average, not much of anything else…)

The sportswriters are dead wrong – fans do NOT give a rat’s patootie if ballplayers used steroids (unless he hit a lot of home runs and is an inner circle Hall of Famer.)

Anyway, let’s take a look at his stats after steroid testing was instituted seriously – namely 2006 – 2008. He hasn’t had an OPS+ over 100 since testing started…And yes, I know very well that 37 year old catchers aren’t going to hit like Piazza 2000.

2006: 136G – 580 PA: 28 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 26 BB, 86 K, 16 GIDP: .300/.332/.437/ 97 OPS+

2007: 129G – 515 PA: 31 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 9 BB, 96 K, 16 GIDP: .281/.294/.420 85 OPS+

2008: 115G – 429 PA: 20 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 23 BB, 67 K, 15 GIDP: .276/.319/.394 87 OPS+

Of course, all he has to do to be worshipped in Houston (by the fans, that is) is to hit over .260 – I was gonna say .250, but Bradley Awesomeness hit .258 in 2005 and still earned the enmity of Astros fans (the male ones, that is – jealous, I say. JEALOUS!!!)

I don’t know whether or not the PITCHERS will like throwing to him, but only the PITCHERS seem to care about that. Fans think that catchers doing well with the PITCHERS is one of those silly things that sportswriters talk about for some bizarre reason, and that what catchers are there for is to hit – like first basemen. After all, that is how it is in fantasy ball, right? And yer granma could catch if that was all that was needed, right?

Pudge supposedly has a bad rep with catchers – calls too many fastballs and won’t attend catchers/pitchers meetings to discuss hitters and strategy. I don’t know what is true and what isn’t, but we’ll see. I KNOW Andy Pettitte didn’t want to throw to him last year when Pudge was with the Yankees and insisted on the backup guy, who couldn’t hit MY weight.

This means that Palmisano is NOT gonna be kept on the 25 man, so either he’ll be returned to the Crew or we’ll make a deal. He hasn’t thrown out a basestealer yet. And he’s not hitting.

The media keep saying that Quintero will be the backup and Towles will go back to AAA; guess they have heard that repeatedly from the Organization – unofficially, of course. Wonder who is gonna get stuck with Quintero? I would guess Moehler. I also wonder if Towles tears it up in AAA and Quintero doesn’t hit for spit, how long it will be before he’s sent down and Quintero is called up.

Berkman was telling Alyson Footer today that he thinks/hopes Russ Ortiz will be in the rotation, which means that Backe is out. Interesting. We’ll have to see how these last 3 weeks shake out…