Archive for February, 2010

2/28/10: The Ideas Of March

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Trying to come up with them, that is.

I see that most Astros fans really think that Jason Castro, after 100+ bats at AA, is going to make the ML team and hit like Mike Piazza 1999. Not sure why. I just wonder how long he’s gonna get IF he makes the 25 man IF he hits lousy before Astros fans start throwing rotten fruit.  Actually, I seriously doubt that he’d make the 25 man unless Quintero and Towles don’t hit at ALL and he does – mostly because the Astros would like to screw him out of a year of FA and get him for 7 years instead of 6.

Don’t know if he can hit ML breaking stuff, but he sure has mastered the art of the Bull Durham cliche lines – check out his interview with Baseball America:

    Mark (Chicago): What do you feel you need to do in spring training to win the starting catching job for Houston?

Jason Castro: Similarly to the previous question just continuing to get comfortable behind the plate this spring, working with the pitchers and getting to know each one of their games, and continuing to make adjustments at the plate to put myself in the best place to have success.

barrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrf

Kind of the anti-Berkman.

Meanwhile, we have the Astros Organization explaining that they expect Pedro Feliz to be this great bat – don’t ask me why, seeing as how he = Geoff Blum batting righty. And, of course, we have this lil nugget from Fast Eddie:

“If other players are paying attention, they can just see that this guy (Feliz) has been through the battles, he knows what it takes to get to the finish line,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “Having been there and having that understanding of what it takes to get there is a big plus, and other players can feed off that.”

Like they couldn’t do that with WS winner Geoff Blum and WS Winner Darin Erstad, who were playing with us the last 2 years to show them How To Do Things The Right Way and look where it got them.

I’m getting to where I hate all that stupid cliche crap more than Berkman does.  Especially after the Olympics. Every athlete says almost the same thing to any questions, almost verbatim. BLECCCCCH. Why on earth do the Olympics officials insist on promulgating this stereotype of the athletes as these pure, chaste people who devote themselves to the endless hard work of perfecting their craft, eschewing all else in the pursuit of Gold?

Anyway, there are really not much of any questions as to who will make the 25 man this year. We ALL know that the position players will be:

2 of Quintero/Towles/Castro, Berkman, Matsui, Manzella, Keppinger, Blum, Feliz, Clank, Bourn, Pence, Michaels – leaving only 1 spot for either Maysonet or Bogusevic or Bourgeois or Sullivan.

The pitchers will be Oswalt, Wandy, Wifebeater, Norris, Paulino, Moehler, Arias, Byrdak, Fulchino, Lyons, Lindstrom, Sampson. Too bad for Gervacio – at least at this point. Wesley Wright will be in AAA, learning to be a starter, I guess, and Polin Trinidad will be repeating AAA, working on reducing homers.

Will be interesting to see how the guys who have no chance at all do, especially the NRIs.

Astros 2010 Spring Training Starts

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Well, here I am freezing to death – we’re supposed to get our THIRD snowfall of the freaking YEAR in Houston TEXAS. You’d think we were in Alaska or something. Where is all this global warming we are supposed to be having and why is it so late getting here to Houston????!!!!

Anyway, sorry, but freezing weather is not my thing and here I am supposed to be thinking about Spring Training in Sunny Florida. I’m just incredibly delighted that the baseball season is starting up again. I love Spring Training – it seems like a new beginning, even if it really is a continuation of sorts.

For a week now, I have been watching the figure skating and ice dancing (so I like hot guys who can move it, what can I say) and I notice that with very VERY few exceptions, the skaters are scheduled to go in the order of expected worse to best and apparently, the judges actually take into consideration a skater’s position in the order when grading him/them/her. Hard to believe, but true. So anyway, unless someone has a bad night or falls, the names of the top 4 in a competition is a foregone conclusion. It is not much of a competition and after you get into the top 4, it is almost a crapshoot.

Sound familiar?

Also, NBC refuses to show ALL the skaters who compete, just Americans and/or the top 7 or 8. I guess they figure that pretty much everybody wants to watch the Yankees, Mets, Cubs and

uh, oopsies, there. Well, you get my drift. Actually, I wonder if they even bother to tape the first 10 skaters at all. But, as I was gonna say, Husband is finally freed from having to watch, as ice dancing ended yesterday night. It is something to watch all those Wandy and Wesley Wright sized males lift 100+ lb females and twirl them around while balancing on 1 leg, leaning backwards, or sideways. And Husband even came over to watch American skaters Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates – Emily is a 20 year old saucy redhead. He LIKEY saucy redheads, even if he ain’t dumb enough to say so… They were around the 7th couple to go, so you KNOW that no matter WHAT they did, they had no chance whatsoever to win, as the commenter snidely informed us. Not sure WHY, as she couldn’t ever bother to explain anything about what is being graded or how it is graded or WHY what any pair does is a higher grade or better technique. But she sniffed that Emily and Evan, of course, Were Just Happy To Be There, and were getting experience for the future. I guess they only get a chance to start later as the other American pairs retire, or something.

I noticed, by the way, that every skater/pairs interviewed were asked dumb questions and they gave almost the same answers. They are more thoroughly coached in what to say and how to say it than Alex Rodriguez. Part of the price for being allowed to skate in the Olympics. But I digress….

They sure nuff DID look as if they were enjoying themselves, even knowing that they weren’t going to win anything anyway, and I liked watching them, so I am gonna think of the 2010 Astros as the Emily and Evan year – I know they really have no chance to win, and the networks don’t want to show them because they aren’t hyped to death and have no chance to win anyway. But hopefully, they are Just Happy To He here and hope to do their best and God willing – um, I forget the rest of that there cliche. I should know it by now, I’ve heard if so often…

Me, I hope that Drayton has or will put a moratorium on his disallowing managers to play young players or give them more than a 3 week chance before discarding them in favor of some worn out re-tread. And I hope that the Astros fans will give rooks a lil more time to establish themselves – not everyone comes up and hits .300 and I am sorry that fans these days seem to demand it as a matter of course.

sigh

Here are the position players, including the NRIs:

Infielders:

Lance Berkman, age 34, SH, 1B: oh my GAWD can Lance really be that old??? In spite of what Astros fans think, he was the best hitter on the team last year – 139 OPS+ .274/.399/.509/.907. He’s in the last year of his contract and will either be playing for a new contract, playing to get the Astros to pick up his option for next year, or hoping to get traded to a contendah at the deadline. He was hurt some of last year, and had a terrible start to last year – didn’t hit for spit until mid May, which earned him the undying enmity of many Astros fans who felt that maybe if he had thrown things of kicked some rookies, he would have done better. Hopefully, with a better manager and coaches, he’ll have a great year.
Geoff Blum, age 37, LH 3B (can play some 2B and supposedly SS – although I bet he’d make Loretta look like Adam Everett). I’ve discussed him several times these past few months, and remind everyone that although he hits mostly lefty, he has essentially the wsame offensive numbers as Pedro Feliz over the past 4 years, in spite of the fact that the Astros Organization is portraying Feliz as the second coming of Scott Rolen 04. Blum did a better than average job with the glove, too. This year, he is ostensibly the LH PH off the bench, backup 3B and (PLEEEZE Lord, NOOOOOOO) backup 2B and SS as well. Last year, over 467 PA, he hit .247/.314/.367/.681
Pedro Feliz, age 35, RHB, 3B: came up with the Giants in 2001 and signed a FA contract with the Phils, and has played with them for the past 2 years. His career line is .254/.298/.422/.715 and last year, he hit .266/.308/.386/.694. He used to have a little bit of power, but his ISO (isolated slugging percentage) over the past 5 years has gone – .209/.184/.165/.153/.121. while his OPS+ have stayed a nice steady 85/79/80/80/81/81 (Geoff Blum territory, just to translate.)
Chris Johnson, age 25, RHB, 3B: the guy the Astros fans are already rejecting before he has even gotten to ST: the Astros 4th round pick in the 06 draft: In 07, his first full year, he split the year between A and A+ and had around a .700 OPS. In 08, after 220 AB at A+ with a .685 OPS, he was promoted to AA, where he suddenly hit like a man possessed – posted an .870 OPS, seemingly because he learned to hit for both average and power, and was promoted to AAA, where he had 100 lousy ABs. Last year, he was hurt for around 2 months, and when he returned to AAA, posted a .784 OPS over 324 AB. Like a good little Astros prospect, he doesn’t walk, and that should please Astros fans with fond memories of Miggy Tejada. Actually, his fielding should do even more to please Astros fans as he racks up as many errors as Miggy did. All this and for only 400K/year!!! All the boy needs to do is hit .300, not walk or strike out much – unfortunately, he’s got about twice as many as Miggy, and jump around out there. Not that he’ll get much of a chance THIS year with both Feliz and Blum…
Jeff Keppinger, age 30, RHB, utility IF, glove of lead: .801 OPSA LHP, .661 OPSA RHP. He’s another guy who doesn’t walk or strike out much. Astros have a THANG for this kind of guy. No base clogging allowed. Hopefully, he won’t take away ABs from Manzella. Or Maysonet…
Tommy Manzella, age 27, RHB: supposed to be the duplicate of Adam Everett, but a slightly better hitter. Which makes Astros fans unhappy because they don’t think it matters if fielders are horrible as long as they hit .300. But I am happy, as I LIKEY seeing baseballs caught, fielded and thrown well. Manzella was drafted by the Astros in the 3rd round of the 05 draft. He repeated AAA last year and hit .289/.339/.417/.756. In 530 AB, he had 40 BB and 99 K with 12 SB and 3 CS. I hope HOPE that Astros fans (and Drayton) will give the boy a little more than the usual 3 weeks to prove himself. Not that we really have any other SS ready and waiting except for (shudder) Keppinger…
Kaz Matsui, age 34, RHB: Mr. Fragile managed 533 PA over 132 games (career highs) but dropped his OPS+ from 106 to 74, although he continued to field well. I hope that the manager is going to be allowed to rest Kaz and will have the sense to do so if allowed to. He could play
Edwin Maysonet, age 28, RHB, 2B/SS: Did great when called up to fill in for Kaz Matsui on one of his DL stints, but Cooper still managed to find excuses not to play him and play luminaries such as Jason Smith and other assorted failures. In 79 PA, he hit .290/.333/.362/.694. He’s yet another low walk, lowish strikeout guy who doeasn’t hit for power. The Astros grow these guys like weeds. He has a good glove, from what I’ve seen, too.
NRI – Drew Meyer, age 28, LHB, 2B: don’t ask me why he was even invited to ST, because he is teh sukc. To be nice about it. He was the Rangers’ 1st round draft pick in 02, spent 05, 06, 07 and 08 at AAA and posted a .655, .583, .576 and .674 OPS in those years. He spent last year at Corpus Christi AA and posted a .711 OPS.
NRI – Oswaldo Navarro, age 25, RHB, 2B/SS: signed as a FA out of Venezuela by the Mariners in 01. Spent 07, 08 and half of 09 at AAA and posted OPS of .632, .659 and .594. Whatever. Doesn’t steal, and is the usual no walk, low K guy.
NRI- Chris Shelton, age 30, RHB, 1B/DH: picked in the 33rd round of the 01 draft by the Pirates. Man do I remember THIS guy. He was picked by the Tigers in the 03 Rule V draft – it was a year that the Pirates had a lot of great young prospects and left a lot of them unprotected, preferring to keep crappy veterans on the roster. But anyway, guess Detroit must have worked out some trade I’ve forgotten because Shelton only got a couple of ML ABs instead of spending the year on the roster, but he had a, shall we say, dramatic debut in 05 after hitting .986 OPS at AAA: in June 05, he had a .931 OPS, bested it in July with a .951 OPS, slid to .755 in August, but rebounded a bit to .860 in Spetember. He had a glove like a DH, but he was the talk of the town. He started off 06 with an explosive 1.186 OPS in April (with 10 HR) then he fell off the proverbial cliff and was finally sent down in August, after 3 months of no power at all. He spent 07 at AAA, hitting .801 OPS, then was traded to Texas at the end of the year for PR/DR Freddy Guzman. He had a .979 OPS at AAA Oklahoma and had 97 ML AB with a .661 OPS (he’s reminding me of Todd Self). He signed a FA contract with Seattle last year, had a .905 OPS at AAA and a .546 OPS in the ML over 26 AB. He appears to be a guy who can’t hit ML breaking stuff. Guess we need a AAA 1B this year who can, you know, like hit.
Wladimir Sutil, age 25, RHB, SS/2B: FA from Venezuela signed by the Astros in 03. He is supposed to be 5-10, 135. I gots to admire the guy for admitting to weighing less than David Eckstein. As yall might could have guessed, he has no power, in his second year at AA, had a .672 OPS. In 472 AB, had 44 BB and 40 K, 19 SB and 13 CS. No idea what the glove is like, but the bat isn’t much…
Jose Vallejo, age 23, RHB 2B/SS: signed with the Rangers out of the DR in 05, was one of the players traded to the Astros for Ivan Rodriguez last August. Appears to be a good base stealer – 42 SB/4 CS in 08, didn’t run much last year. Had a .589 OPS in 309 AB at AAA Oklahoma last year. Low walks, medium high Ks. Silly fool sliced tendons in his pitching hand while cutting meat and didn’t tell the team for a week until it got worse, so he’ll miss the year.

The Astros Extend Ed Wade’s Contract To 2012

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

I’m shocked, SHOCKED that Drayton extended Fast Eddie’s contract for 2 more years.

Sun rises in east, sets in west – news at 11.

Although I would have really enjoyed it if Marvin Zindler (rest his blue glassed, face lifted soul) were here at 10:25 to announce – SLIIIIIIIME IN THE ICE MACHINE!!! I WADE-ED KNEE DEEP IN CRAP!!!!! on AHHHHHHHH WITNESS NEEEEEEEWS!!

sigh

It’s like this – unless the fans start blaming Fast Eddie, or unless Drayton starts losing money (and no, I don’t believe that he has ever lost so much as a penny), or unless Ed defies him, Ed ain’t goin nowheres and neither are my Astros – well, that is, unless Pedro Feliz steps up and provides the Albert Pujols-like offense that Eddie and the Astros fans are, for some reason I do NOT get, expecting – not to mention the fact that Feliz and Blum had similar offensive stats these past 2 years. But I digress…

So Ed, “working with” Tal will continue the fine Astros tradition of absolutely refusing to sign any player to anything long term or longER term while he is still cheap (see Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman or ANY other young player) as well as overpaying for players in their decline years, as long as they are ex-Phillies.

And yes, I know that Drayton still holds the reins around Ed’s throat, and yes I know that in spite of Bobby Heck, Drayton STILL won’t pay much for draftees and he STILL won’t let Heck get the best player (see Smoak vs Castro) and it remains to be seen if Drayton will actually allow Brad Mills to play players with an eye FIRST to winning instead of attendence – not to mention refusing to allow him to play young guys instead of the Jason Smiths of the baseball world.

Ed Wade’s strength, as I have said many times, is getting cheap relievers off the scrap heap. Unfortunately, it is his ONLY strength.

Until Drayton changes his attitude, unfortunately, Ed Wade is going to be the GM for a long LONG time – unless, as the saying goes, he is caught with a live boy or dead girl.

shrug

sigh

It’s unbelieveably hard to remember that the Astros won the pennant only 5 years ago – that they have slid this far, this fast into lousiness is tough to swallow.

sigh

The Astros are passing out their propaganda about this year’s schedule being good for one of their old “patented” late season runs for the postseason. Uh-hunh. I know bettern that. But still, there are a few guys to root for besides hoping that Bourn and Wandy can keep it up, that Pence and Clank will maintain and that Berkman and Oswalt can get it BACk up. So here are my big hopes for this year:

1) Tommy Manzella hits at LEAST .250 in April to shut up a couple of the Astros fans who think that Miggy Tejada was the Best Player EVAH had (besides The Saints) because he hit 300. Anyway, it’s not that there is anyone else on the 40 man who can play SS and Geoff Blum is NOT a SS and watching Jeff Keppinger “field” second or third is like watching a car wreck

2) the wifebeater pitches as well as my 7 year old son and gets released

3) Fulchino, Gervacio and Arias continue to ROOL and move into the setup and closer roles

4) Lindstrom is used for mopup (because, unless Arnesberg teaches him how to throw something besides a straight FB, that is all he is gonna be good for

5) Wesley Wright pitches like a lefty Pedro 1999 and makes the rotation and gets the Cy Young (I like how all the small guys on this team are all suddenly 5’11″ and 195 lbs. Funny that I don’t hear people screaming about the “weight gain…”

6) last but not least, Towles finally takes his chance and hits as well as he did in AAA.

Spring Training 2010 – Astros Pitchers Report

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Yes, I know this is not exactly a staff to boast about, but at least there are plenty of middle relievers. Ed Wade is GOOD at picking up middle relievers offn the trash heap, waiver wire. He’s not so good at signing them as FA or trading for them, however. Interesting that this Organization, like the Giants, in spite of monstrous effups in the draft, has managed to develop some pitchers. And NRI does NOT mean no chance to make the team – remember Moehler and Rick White… Let’s take a look:

Fernando Abad, age 24 RH RP: signed as an undrafted FA out of the D.R. in 021 by the Astros. Started and relieved in Rookie League Greenville (a hitters’ paradise) in 07, did OK with a 4.14 ERA. Threw 76 innings in relief of 3.30 ERA ball at Lexington in 08. Last year, threw 82 innings in relief at A+ with a 4.14 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, low BB and HR and 8.4 K/9. Promoted to AA, started 3 games over 14 IP with a 3.21 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, increased to 1.9 BB/9, but 0.6 HR/9 and 8.6 K/9. Not sure if the change to starter is going to stick, but at least he seems to have some control. Of course he needs more time in the minors.
Alberto Arias, age 26, Rh RP: one of Ed Wade’s GOOD scrap heap pickups – this time from the Rox at the trade deadline in 08. He uck-sayed as a starter, but this year excelled as a 1 inning reliever until Cooper overused him and he broke in August. He spent the rest of the year on the DL, but should be ready for ST. He threw 45.2 innings over 42 games, ended with a 3.35 ERA/1.49 WHIP, 0.2 HR/9, 3.7 BB/9, 7.7 K/9. He should make the ML team – he’s out of options and would have to pass through waivers before going to AAA…
Yorman Bazardo, age 25, RH SP/RP: signed as a FA in 09 after he was released by the (surprise, surprise) Phillies, who let him go after ST. He had a great year at AAA, was the second best pitcher in the PCL behind Bud Norris (would have been nice if someone at RR besides JR Towles and Tommy Manzella had been able to hit the ball, but I digress…) but he had a very low H/9 AND, unfortunately, a very low K/9. It didn’t translate into major league success, as he exhibited poor control and mediocre stuff and he managed only 1 decent game – threw 5.2 innings against Cole Hamels and NL Champion Phillies, giving up only 2 runs. Yes, I know that every now and then, pitchers with low K rates manage to have ML success, but not combined with high H/9 and high BB/9. I seriously doubt he makes the ML team out of ST, but yeah, youneverknow.
NRI – Josh Banks, age 27, RH SP/RP: second round pick of Toronto on 02. He’s one of those guys with a high ERA and low WHIP who doesn’t walk many, but gives up too many hits. He was called up in 07, pitched 7 lousy innings. He started 08 in AAA, his 3rd year in AAA, and when he had 3 bad starts, he was released and picked up by the Padres. He had 14 starts and 3 relief appearances in 08 with a 4.75 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9.9 H/9 IP, 1.3 HR/9. 3.4 BB/9, 4.5 K/9 over 85.1 IP (around 5.2 IP/GS). He started off 2009 badly, 3 GS, 3 in relief over 22.1 IP with a 7 something ERA – reduced walks AND Ks and increased HR. He spent the remainder of the year at AAA – did fairly well with a 3.46 ERA, 1.25 WHIP over 125 IP – lowered homers and walks, and increased K/9 to 6.8. He’s one of those guys who has minor league success but has a tough time translating it to ML success. I would guess that he’d be stashed in AAA along with Bazardo.
Tim Byrdak, age 36, LH RP: one of Ed Wade’s scrap heap pick up middle reliever success stories (see, I DO give Fast Eddie credit when credit is due) in ST 2008. He posted a 108 ERA+ over 55 innings in 08 and a 130 ERA+ over 61 IP in 09. (By the way, he is supposed to be the exact same size as Wandy – 5’11″ and 195 lb – all yall look at them next time you can, see who is larger – hint, it ain’t the Wand Man…) Last year, he had 2 BS (both L) and 9 holds. He was used quite a bit as a LOOGY, although leftys hit a little bit better against him: – .700 OPSA vs .640. But that is just year to year variation as in 08, leftys hit .469 OPS against and rightys hit 1.005 OPSA. He is certainly capable of pitching 1 full inning, even 2, and it will be interesting to see how Brad Mills uses relievers.
NRI – Gustavo Chacin, age 29, LH SP: now this one really IS 5’11″ but last I saw him, he was a HECK of a lot more than 205 lb. Anyway, he was signed out of Venezuela by the Blue Jays in 98, had a cup of coffee in 04, then pitched 205 VERY good innings in 05 with a 119 ERA+ but, um, let’s say he sure nuff didn’t repeat his excellence in 06 at the ML level. Don’t know why – maybe he was hurt, maybe he was eating too many donuts, but he spent the next couple of years bouncing between the ML club and AAA, doing lousy. After 45 execrable innings in 08 at AAA, he was either released or went on the DL. You’ll never guess which Organization he was with last year. Yeah – but at least he had a decent year at AAA – pitched well for the first time since 05 at ANY level with a 3.21 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.9 H/9, 0.6 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 5 K/9. Like some of the other guys, I would guess that he has little to no chance of making the ML team but would be AAA filler.
NRI – Roy Corcoran, age 30 RH RP: Signed as an undrafted FA by the Expos in 01. Pitched a couple of good innings in 03 and 04, but spent all of 05 and virtually all of  06 at AAA because he has a leeeeeeetle problem with control and giving up almost 5 BB/9 IP at AAA is not good. He was picked up by the Marlins as 6 year minor league FA for the 07 season, kept his ERA down, but couldn’t lower all those walks. He was signed by Seattle in 08 and, surprisingly, pitched 72 decent innings over 50 games with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP (his old walks problem) but only gave up 1 homer – actually, not givein up homers is definitely his strong point – his lifetime HR numbers are 0.4/9 IP. Anyway, in 09, he pitched 19 horrible innings for Seattle (walks out of control at 8.1/9 IP and Ks decreased to 2.8/9 IP, and he was released and picked up by Ed Wade. He only threw 22 innings at Round Rock and he actually DID decrease walks, but unfortunately, at the expense of increased hits. He CERTAINLY isn’t a better reliever than either Arias or Gervacio, so I would guess he gets to go back to AAA.
NRI – Casey Daigle, age 29, RH RP: AKA Jennie Finch’s husband. First round pick of the DBax in 99 – has had limited ML action because, well, let’s just say they should have picked his wife instead. He had a low ERA last year, 2.91, but a 1.54 WHIP because of a high hit and walk rate, even though he had 8.3 K/9. He appears to me to be another AAA lifer.
Evan Englebrook, age 28, RH RP: picked by the Astros in the 8th round of the 04 draft. Has moved up a level every year, having trouble with adjustint when he first moves up. He started the year at AA, taking some of the closing duties, threw 26 innings in 21 games with a 3.16 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 5.6 K/9. He was promoted to AAA, threw just 10 innings with a 6.97 ERA, 1.69 WHIP (too many hits.) He uck-sayed in the AFL this year, so I would gues he’s AAA bound. He doesn’t appear to be remarkable in any way.
Jeff Fulchino, age 29, RH RP: One of Ed Wade’s GOOD waiver wire pickups – this time from the Royals. He threw 82 innings of 123 ERA+ ball over 61 games: 3.40 ERA, 1.18 WHIP. Walks were a little high at 3.4/9, but he kept the hits low, 7.7/9, the HR low at 0.8/9 and the Ks reasonable at 7.5/9. Hope he repeats his numbers this year – he had a .707 OPSA leftys and a .649 OPS vs rightys.
Samuel Gervacio, age 25, RH RP: signed by the Astros as an undrafted FA out of the DR in 02, called up in August and was a VERY pleasant surprise – he was great. In fact, he almost duplicated his minor league numbers which are 3.11 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.1 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 3 BB/9, 11.2 K/9. In the majors, over 22 IP, Sammy had a 2.14 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 6.9 H/9. I hoped he would move into the setup position, but not until the more expensive Lindstrom fails, I guess. He SHOULD make the ML team, but youneverknow…
Matt Lindstrom, age RH RP – either set up or closer: click here to read my evaluation.
NRI – Chia-Jen Lo, age 24, RH RP: signed out of Taiwan 2 years ago. This year, threw 39 innings over 30 games with a 2.31 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.9 H/9, 0.2 HR/9, 4.6 BB/9 (uh-oh), 9 K/9. In the AzFL, he threw 10 innings over 6 games with a 3.60 ERA and a 0.9 WHIP – 7 H, 1 HR, 4 ER,  12 K, 1 BB. I expect him to be promoted to AAA.
Wilton Lopez, age 26, RH SP: picked up on waivers from the Padres by Ed Wade (and at this point, he don’t look so good, but at least he’s not someone who is expensive.) He threw 110 mediocre innings at AA – 3.90 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 10.9 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 1.1 BB/9 (GOOD) and 5.6 K/9. Got called up to pitch a couple of starts because darn near everyone was already on the DL and SOMEbody had to do it. Let’s just call it batting practice and let it go. Not sure if he’s even going to make the AAA team. He’d BETTER NOT make the ML team.
NRI – Shane Loux, age 30, RH SP/RP: picked by the Tigers in the 2nd round of the 97 draft out of HS. Saw ML service for the horrible 02, 03 and 04 Tigers and trust me on this, he was DEFINITELY part of the problem. After another lousy year at AAA in 05 (5 something ERA, 1.49 WHIP) he was let go and the Royals signed him as a 6 year minor league FA. He was slightly worse, believe it or not. Anyway, for some reason, the Angels picked him up for the 08 season and he lowered ERA, H/9 and WHIP at AAA and also pitched 16 good relief innings in the ML. He wasn’t able to duplicate his success in 09 and his contract wasn’t renewed. Minor league totals: over 1291 innings, 4.43 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 10 H/9, 0.8 HR/9, 3 BB/9, 5.4 K/9. Not even AAA material.  Meh.  
Brandon Lyon, age 30, RH RP: will setup or close. Picked by the Blue Jays in the 14th round of the 99 draft. Originally a starter, he threw 63 innings of 108 ERA+ ball in 01, then threw 62 lousy innings in relief in 02 and was sent down to AAA, started and continued to suck. Placed on waivers at the end of the year, he was picked up by the BoSox and threw 59 innings of 113 ERA+ ball in relief in 03. Which was an, um, INteresting year for him – he was part of the infamous Mike Gonzalez trade with the Pirates (he was traded back a week later) and then, after the Pirates found out he was hurt, demanded Gonzalez back PLUS Freddy Sanchez.
At the end of the year, Lyon, Casey Fossum and Jorge De La Rosa were traded to the DBax for Curt Schilling. Lyon missed the vast majority of 04 and 05 due to injury, came back in 06 and threw 69 innings of middle relief with a 3.89 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. As a 7th inning guy and setup man, he did very well in 06, throwing 74 innings with a 2.67 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
The DBax were confident that he could replace Valverde as closer, so they traded him to the Astros for Qualls. Lyons didn’t do particularly well as closer – his ERA increased to 4.79 and his WHIP to 1.49 – he significantly increased both hits and HR/9 and by mid August, lost his closing job to Qualls. He signed a 1 year deal with the Tigers in 09 to be a setup guy and pitched well again: 78.2 innings with a 2.86 ERA, 1.11 WHIP – had a career low 6.5 H/9 and a career high 3.5 BB/9, and had his usual low K rate of 6.5/9 and his usual HR/9 of 0.8. He was signed by Ed Wade, supposedly bidding against some other team, to a 3 year 15 mill deal – imagine – a setup guy is getting the same $$$ as the #1 starter. I have a feeling this is gonna be a Kaz Matsui type deal…
NRI – Gary Majewski, age 30, RH RP: Native Houstonian drafted by the White Sox in the 2nd round of the 98 draft out of HS. While still in the minors, he was traded to the Dodgers for Antonio Osuna and a bunch of minor leaguers, and was again traded that July back to the White Sox for James Baldwin. He was in AAA, picthing very well and closing when he was traded in July to the Expos/Nats for Carl Everett (yes, I’m serious.) He was called up and threw 21 innings over 16 games with a 3.86 ERA, marred by a hit rate of 12/9 IP. He had a career year in 05, throwing 96 innings with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. In 06, he had thrown 55 innings of 3.58 ERA, 1.34 WHIP relief innings when he was traded to the Reds for Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez. I guess he was already hurt or immediately hurt and let me say that in the m,ajors, he has uck-sayed and in the minors, has been barely mediocre – he has a low K rate for a reliever – 5.3/9 IP in his good seasons and he tends to give up too many hits – at least 10-11/9 IP, although he is not homeriffic. He spent last year at AAA, you NEVAH guess which Organization, and threw 65 innings of 4.02 ERA/1.55 WHIP ball. He never recovered from injury, looks like.
Brian Moehler, age 38, RH SP/RP: AKA El Cucaracho. Started 29 games and threw 154 innings of 77 ERA+ ball: 5.47 ERA, 1.78 WHIP. The ERA is a little better – 4.91, if you omit his 2 April starts when he was OBVIOUSLY hurt. He also had 2 bad starts at the end of the year – he was obviuosly tired, but the Astros had no one else to take the ball, so he did – increased his ERA from 4.80 to 5.47. He’s not a terrible 5th guy and he can relieve (as long as he doesn’t go more than 3 days without work and he isn’t over worked, and he can pitch long relief. He’s getting paid 3 mill – just 2 more than Wandy, our best pitcher.
Brett Myers, age RH SP/RP: I’ve already talked about the Wifebeater enough – click here to review what I wrote (stat stuff starts about halfway down)
Matt Nevarez, age 23, RH RP. Drafted by the Rangers in the 10th round of the 05 draft and traded to the Astros last August for Pudge Rodriguez. Just finished A ball – for his minor league career, he has a 2.94 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 5.2!!! BB/9 and 11.3 K/9; I should not that his walk rate decreased significantly last year to 3.5/9. Hope it continues its downward trend.
Bud Norris, age 25, RH SP: picked by the Astros in the 6th round of the 06 draft out of Cal Poly: Expected to be our #3 or 4 starter this year. Was the top pitcher in the PCL before his promotion. After callup, he had 3 good starts, 1 bad start, 1 relief appearance from heck, another bad start, then 4 straight good starts to end the year. Historically, he has kept the H/9 below 9 and the K/9 around 9.4 with noce low HR rates of 0.5/9 – but he sometimes has a bit of trouble with control – his walk rate is 3.7 in the minors and was 4.0 in the majors. I hope he sticks. He looks like a tough guy out there.
Roy Oswalt, age 32, RH SP: Roy struggled with injuries, his manager and his pitching coach last year – and oh yeah, his catcher – between Pudge and Coste, that is. He threw fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 03 when he hurt his groin, but managed 29 starts and 6 IP/GS. He had his worst ERA in the majors – 4.12, but the rest of his numbers really reflected his career norms: 1.24 WHIP, 9.1 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 2.1 BB/9. 6.8 K/9. I have NO idea how he’ll do this year – guess it depends on his back, how bad it really is, and whether or not THIS year, he has better communication with his manager and pitching coach.
Felipe Paulino, age 26, RH SP: well, last year, he was shuffled between AAA, starting and relieving until he hardly knew which way was up. I will say that once Coper was fired and he was put in the rotation and kept there, he did better – 3 starts lasting 6 innings and 3 lasting 5 and only one bad one, really. He had 3 hard luck losses – 2-0, 2-1 and 2-1. He just might could be a decent 5th guy. In the minors, he has a 4.07 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 8.1 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 4.3 BB.9 and 8.3 K/9. I’ve seen him throw exactly ONE excellent game, but if he has a better pitching coach and knows he has a spot in the rotation, he just might could surprise me. I sure hope so.
Wandy Rodriguez, age 31, LH SP: (see the last entry) just lost his arb. Must be, um, interesting to hear the Organization brass tell exactly why you suck and aren’t worth much…
Chris Sampson, age 32, RH RP: did fantastic until the ASB when he got hurt – had 40 games, had a 2.68 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He got hurt, they let him spend a week on the DL after the ASB, he came back, or at least tried to, and he just gave up hit after hit and run after run until they FINALLY, um, sent him down and THEN he went on the DL, where he should have been. He had surgery, he’s ready for ST and he should be back in great form. Too bad the Organization was so determined that he not start…
Polin Trinidad, age 25 LH SP: split last year between AA (did awesome) and AAA: 87 IP with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. Career minor league stats: 3.57 ERA, 1.14 WHIP: 8.7 H/9, 1.0 HR/9, 1.9 BB/9 (HEY, control!!! What a concept!!!) and 6.9 K/9. Will be interesting to see how he does in AAA this year. His minor league numbers look incredibly better than Paulino’s – except for the Ks, that is.
Jose G. Valdez, age 27, RH RP: picked up on waivers from the Yankees – he repeated AA last year, had 38 IP with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP and was even worse in his 19 innings at AAA. Minor league filler – not sure why on earth he’s an NRI.
Henry Villar, age 23, RH SP/RP: undrafted FA from the DR, joined the Astros in 08. Threw 90 innings at A ball with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8 H/9, 0.8 HR/9, 1.7 BB/9, 10.1 K/9. Looks good all right, but surely not ready for prime time…
Wesley Wright, age 25, LH RP: maybe I should put down LH SP, seeing as how the Organization has in mind to train him to start. He went to winter ball to learn to pitch more than 1 inning at a time and did pretty well for his first 5 starts, then he pulled something and it went kinda downhill. Wesley struggled, uh, a bit last year, got sent down to work some stuff out, ended up with a 77 ERA+ which is a  5.44 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP (ugh) due to a huge spike in hits/9 IP from 6.5 to 10.5 – and he kept his horrid walk rate or 5/9 IP. Dude gots to learn some control. Coop liked to use him as a LOOGY – trouble was that leftys hit him better than rightys – .924 OPSA vs .853. But it just might be year to year variation, as leftys hit .621 OPSA last year. Youneverknow. IF they want him to start, they’ll probably start him in AAA so he can be sure to go every 5 days. Between him and Polin Trinidad, we might could have a lefty factory underway.

Sure wish we could do as well with position players as we do with pitchers – I mean, actually having guys who seem to possibly have SOME promise…

And, by the way, I will be happy to post any of your own pics from ST and any of your own observations, if you like.

Wandy And The Astros Are Off To See The Arbitrator

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

The Astros must be awfully confident – Tal Smith is an expert at the arb game, and the old boy hasn’t lost his touch, beating Loretta and Valverde 2 years ago. The Astros and Wandy are 2 million bucks apart – Wandy believes he deserves 7 mill (as a 5th year player) and the Astros think he only deserves 5 mill.

In 2009, Wandy was the best starting pitcher on the Astros (yes, really) starting all 33 games, throwing 205.2 innings (6.1 IP/GS), 102 pitches/GS, 8.4 H/9 IP, 0.9 HR/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.4 K/9 to finish the year with a 139 ERA+ (3.04 ERA) and 1.24 WHIP.

Of NL pitchers who threw at least 165 innings and started at least 25 games, Wandy is 8th in ERA, 15th in IP, 8th in K, 8th in K/9 (starters only) tied for 7th in QS with 23, 7th in getting GIDP with 24 (and this is with Miguel Tejada sucking terribly with the glove, too – as well as having Jeff Keppinger playing “defense” on some of the games). In fact, Wandy was one of the top 5 left handed pitchers in the NL.

Yes, you read that right. Top 5.  (Right along with Clayton Kershaw and Johan and Ted Lilly and Randy Wolf – yeah, the guy Drayton was too cheap to sign.)

Of his starts, Wandy threw:

9 IP – 1 game – W: 5 H, 1 BB, 11 K, no runs

8 IP – 2 games – 2 W, no ER in either game (had 116 pitches in one, 102 in the second, but left after giving up 2 singles in the 9th and was rescued by Valverde)

7 IP – 13 games: 9 W (3 games 0 ER, 5 games 1 ER, 1 game 2 ER); 3 ND (left losing 1-0, left tied 1-1 twice); 1 L (gave up 1 ER, lost 1-0)

6 IP – 9 games: 2 W (0 ER, 2 ER); 2 ND (1 ER – left tied, 4 ER – left losing 4-2); 5 L (gave up 1,2,2,3,4 ER and received 0,0,1,1,3 runs of support)

did not win 8 QS due to lack of run support…

Of his non QS,

5 IP – 2 L (7,6 ER) and 1 ND (3 ER)

4.2 IP – L (5 ER)

4 IP – 3L (0, 6, 10 ER) – the 0 ER game was the one in which he gave up 6 runs because couldn’t nobody catch or throw the ball..

So, in 16/33 GS, he threw 7, 8 or 9 innings, and gave up no more than 2 ER. And he received virtually no run support in 8 of his 25 starts in which he threw 6 or more innings. With decent support he could have won 20.

And, by the way, he has improved in every category over the past 3 years. I always thought he was a keeper, but I honestly didn’t ever think he’d be this good.

So here’hs to the Wand Man who, by the way, is now supposed to be – get this – 5’11″ and 195 lb (according to all the stat services) – unless he’s been mainlining roids or is ready to give birth, all I can say is – hey, while you’re at it, why nor make him 6’4″ 240? If you gonna lie, make it outRAGEous.

And speaking of outRAGEous, I know I haven’t used Fangraph’s numbers of players’ worth – I think their calculations are, uh, a little outRAGEous their own selves because they are based on WAR (wins over replacement player – an imaginary person who is such a terrible player that he couldn’t even replace any ML player,) But I think that a pitcher who is one of the top 10 pitchers in the NL, in his 5th year of service, deserves more than 5 million.

Astros Spring Training 2010 – Catchers Report

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

I figured I’d get started a little early – not much else to write about and besides, the Olympics is starting and the GOOD part will be on in the next few days – meaning luscious, incredibly perfect males with absolutely perfectly proportioned bodies in skin tight tights, moving elegantly and gracefully on ice at 20 – 30 MPH while spinning and jumping. Yes, in direct competition with Bradley Awesomeness in the male hotness division, it’s the male figure skaters!!!!! (And don’t be startin with me telling me that if it is a male human and he figure skates, is a dancer, acrobat or gymnast then he MUST be, uh, um, er, not my, um, type (ahem)…

Yeh, I can hear all yall males out there grumbling. I got various men of the male persuasion in this very house doing that self same grumbling – wanting to watch hoops and they know that a certain small female gonna be REAL unhappy they mess with her TV and real unhappy females go in the bedroom with a “headache” and SOMEbody gots to fix their own damm food and sleep on the couch to boot. And yeah, certain males gots to put up with this when there’s male figure skaters and male gymnasts on;  I just tell them – well I don’t make you watch all that girlie stuff like dancing with the stars/various “reality” crap/Idol type stuff so DEAL WITH IT!!!

So while I gaze in awe at the male perfection that is Stephane Lambiel (and he most certainly IS an athlete – you just picture Carlos Lee or Jeff Fulchino in clinging tights trying to even BALANCE on ice skates, you disbelieve me) I’ll leave all yall with a lil preview of the catchers who will report pitchers to follow in a few days:

NRI- Kevin Cash, RH, 32 yo: the very definition of backup catcher. I’m impressed with this guy, for it’s tough to do so much with so little. He went undrafted in the 99 draft and was signed by the Blue Jays as a FA. He had a .782 OPS in A ball in 2000, had his first cup of coffee in 02, then made it onto the ML roster in 03, and in spite of a .377 OPS (yes, not BA or even OBP) over 106 AB, he was the full time backup guy in 04 and had a .558 OPS over 181 AB. Then the Jays traded him to the Rays for Chad Gaudin in 12/04 (they didn’t have Gerry H yet.) He spent almost all of 05 and all of 06 at AAA – had an .898 OPS in 05 but a .598 OPS in 06. He was not re-signed, but the Red Sox picked him up and he had a .611 OPS over 186 AB. They re-signed him in 08 and he had a ML high .647 OPS. They didn’t re-sign him last year because they made Captain Tushy-doo the backup with Victor Martinez the main guy, and their rivals at the Evil Empire grabbed him (no I am not kidding – what happened to Jose Molina????) He only had 10 games for the Yanks – had a .558 OPS, and he had 68 games at AAA with bout the same OPS. I suppose the brain trust figured he’d hit .250 vs NL pitching or something. Not sure what they plan to do with him as Castro is certainly gonna start the year as the main catcher at AAA – guess he’s going to be the backup there???

NRI – Jason Castro, age 22, LH: finished the year at AA, had 239 AB and a .747 OPS. I am sure he’s going to start the year at AAA in spite of the fact that Astros fans think he can come up and face ML pitching and hit .300. Besides, the Organization is going to make sure he comes up late enough to screw him out of a year of FA, so IF he hits well, he won’t be up until June.

NRI – Brian Esposito, age 31, RH: a career minor leaguer, he was drafted by the Red Sox in the 5th round of the 2000 draft. He had a .481 OPS at A+ in 02, then in early 03, was either traded to the Angels or released and picked up. He only had 32 AB – don’t know if he was hurt or released, but he spent 04 and 05 in the Rangers Organization, mostly at AA with a couple of ABs at AAA each year. He was either traded or released and picked up by the Cardinals Organization and spent 06 and 07 at AAA in which he had a .584 and a .469 OPS. He did get called up in 07 and he did get to appear in a ML game, but had no PA. He was picked up bu Colorado in 08, spent the year at AA and had his usual horrible OPS. He was picked up by Houston last year, spent most of the year at AA, posted a .551 OPS, and was called up to AA, had 88 AB with a .790 OPS. And you think Towles is bad…

Humberto Quintero, age 30, RH: and all yall thought that Brad Ausmus was lousy with the bat? He managed 7 walks in 168 PA and a career high .286 OBP, but he did manage to raise his OPS+ from 51 to 74. He’s not a good defensive catcher either and he still hasn’t figured out that major leaguers don’t get picked off by snap throws to first. He’ll split time with Towles barring unforseen developments such as injury or Ed Wade managing to sign a better catcher or the Astros deciding to have Jason Castro skip AAA and then only get 6 instead of 6 3/4 ML years out of him.

NRI – Lou Santangelo, age 27, RH: Astros 4th round pick in the 04 draft, he spent a full year at AAA in 09, hitting .212/.270/.349/.619. I don’t know whether or not he’s a good defensive guy, last year his CS was 19% (down from 34% in 08) and he had 5 errors and 6 PB. I wonder why good hitting catchers are so rare, besides teams usually moving any of them who can hit…

JR Towles, age 26, RH: Well, this year, the manager who hated him is gone, so he has no excuse for not performing. He was injured a good deal of last year, but had 178 PA over 56 games, and put up a line of .276/.386/.455/.842. He’s one of the very few Astros prospects who has decent strike zone judgement and will take a walk. He seems to be a decent defensive catcher – has soft hands and frames pitches well – had 3 errors and 3 PB at AAA. In the majors, he had 53 PA over 16 games, hit .188/.250/.354/.604 – and 2 homers off Pedro Martinez.

I wonder who Roy and Wandy WANT to throw to…

2/10/10: Astros Heros (Berkman) And Zeros (Grousing Fans)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

There certainly hasn’t been much to write about this past week. Justice and Fallas have been, to quote Dan Werr, digging in the Astro Turf.

In spite of the paucity of comments from bored Astros fans, several comments caught my eye because they were disparaging remarks about both Wandy Rodriguez (who has been one of the 10 best lefty starting pitchers in the NL for 2 years running, and was certainly one of the top 5 last year) and Lance Berkman. I’m bewildered by the fans who insist that Lance is fat. He is most definitely NOT fat, no matter how you define the word fat – I’ve stood maybe 8 or 9 feet away from him and he looks like a solidly built, well muscled athlete – not the roided up kind with the popping veins, but the body of a man who works out, lifts weight and doesn’t sit around on the couch all day drinking soda and beer and eating bags of Doritos. They call him “lazy” as well. The term “fat” properly applies to Carlos Lee, who is hopeless on the basepaths (although not as hopeless as Pence) and, um, lollygags after 99% of balls hit to left or left center. Irrespective of Clank, why are fans calling Lance “fat” – a disparaging term, fer SHER, not to mention all the complaints that he is supposedly a cancer, or that he should be quiet and not talk to teammates or the media, and that he is supposedly not a “leader.”

I do NOT get this. Why on earth should Lance, an intelligent, articulate and educated man refuse to talk to the media or teammates? Should he say only the lines Crash Davis recited in Bull Durham, and if so, why? What is it that he supposedly says to teammates that makes him a cancer, or someone whose personality and behaviour is so poisonous to his teammates that he should be replaced – and he is without question, the best player on the team. Is it that he always seems to be in a good mood and tries to keep the other guys laughing and loose? Should he be grim and hostile and yell at all of the other players who don’t perform as well as he does? How on earth does being yelled at and constantly criticized help with either team morale or individual performance, seeing as how the baseball players THEMSELVES believe that “confidence” is crucial to good performance?

Why do so many Astros fans want him off the team, or, to say the least, spit on his accomplishments? I say Astros fans, because I understand why OPPOSING fans want him off the team… This past decade, which first baseman not named Pujols has surpassed Lance’s numbers? Why do so many insist that Carlos Lee AND Miguel Tejada were more valuable to the Astros? It can’t be just a question of hitting over .300 because Lance hit over .300 in 08 and Tejada didn’t.

Over the last 3 years (missed 47 games in 08 because of a broken finger), Clank has a OPS+ of 125, 144, 118, RBI totals of 119, 100, 102 hitting cleanup behing Berkman, walk totals of 53, 37 and 41, GIDP totals of 27, 8, 21. And each of those 3 years, Clank was the second worst fielding LF in the NL. With RISP, he had OPS of .930,  .984, and .855.

Over the last 3 years (note – had only 136 games last year and was only a PH in 6 of them) Berkman has an OPS+ of 130, 159, 139;  RBI totals of 102, 106, 80;  walk totals of 94, 99,  97;  GIDP totals of 11, 13, 13: In those 3 years, Berkman was in the top 5 for fielding of first basemen. By  the way, with RISP, he had an OPS of .952, 1.089, and .968. HARDLY a choker, AND he was better than Clank every single year.

Over the last 2 years, Tejada had an OPS+ of92, 109; RBI totals of 66. 86; walk totals of 24, 19; GIDP totals of 32, 29. In 08, he was the 6th best fielding SS in the NL and in 09, he was the 3rd worst. He also had a .768 OPS with RISP in 09 and .598 in 08.

So, Tejada and Clank are better than Berkman, like HOW??? Berkman was paid 14 mill each year, Clank was paid 16 mil, then 18 mill each year the last 2 years, and Tejada was paid 14.5 mill/year.

Yet, Berkman is the focus of fans’ discontent.

I mention all this also, because Willy Taveras was released by the A’s (and the Reds are paying his salary) and more than a few Astros fans expressed hope that Willy would re-join the Astros. I can’t imagine why as we certainly don’t need a PH/DR who is often hurt and whose forte is stealing bases after his team is ahead. I notice that Rockies fans and Reds fans weren’t exactly sorry to see him off their teams and can’t understand why so many Astros fans lionize this guy. In fact, one poster claimed that Willy was really responsible for the 05 team’s success (no, I am NOT joking.)

I have been told by Phillies fans that Mike Schmidt, the best all around 3rd baseman to ever play ML baseball, was, uh, not liked and frequently booed when he was with Philly – he supposedly “didn’t care” which was demonstrated by the quantity of his strikeouts. Apparently neither his glove not hits particularly mattered. I remember that even in 05, Astros fans constantly complained about Morgan Ensberg, in spite of the fact that he was without question the best player on the team – nothing he did was ever good enough.

Except for Albert Pujols, players don’t bat over .300 every month while slugging over .500. Willy Taveras certainly didn’t. Carlos Lee never has. Tejada didn’t. So why the complaints that Berkman doesn’t, or even that, like every single other baseball player not named Pujols, he has slumps?  Interesting that I sure nuff don’t remember Saint Bagwell or Saint Biggio, who, unlike Berkman did very poorly in the playoffs, taking all the stuff from the fans that Berkman does. Even the fans who are demanding that Berkman be traded (to dump his salaary, I guess) don’t know or care who would replace the production that he DOES give.

sigh

What’s that old song – you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…

And it is, in fact, Berkman’s last year of his contract and he very well may choose to retire or play elsewhere next year…

Only 8 more days until PACR. Winter drags on entirely too long…

Ex-Stros Willy Taveras And Aaron Miles Traded For Each Other

Monday, February 1st, 2010

OK, so Aaron Miles was actually only DRAFTED by the Astros and was let go after the 2000 season after finishing high A. Remember the old story about the Astros players who were held up in a Kissimmee hotel room by 3 armed robbers who tied them up and were going to kill them? Miles was the guy who managed to call the cops and save the rest of em – including Mo Ensberg, who was the only one not let go by the Organization after that year.

Anyway, Miles was picked up by the White Sox in the Rule V draft, had a cup of coffee in 03, then was traded to the Rox for Juan Uribe. He played second base for the Rockies in 04 and 05, posting a 72 and a 65 OPS+ as he hits for good average with no power, and doesn’t walk. After the 05 season, he was traded to the Cards for lefty pitcher Ray King. He played second base and was a utility guy for the Cards for 3 years, and after posting a career high 99 OPS+ with a gaudy .317 BA in 08, the Cubs signed him to a 2 year, 5 mill contract to replace Mark DeRosa.

Let me be kind and say that, um, he did not come close to even thinking about replacing DeRosa’s production (38 OPS+ over 157 PA) and the Cubs fans, um, well, they suggested he take his buddy Milton Bradley and take a very VERY long walk offn a very short pier. Hendry was forced to get rid of Miles, so he traded him and Jake Fox (a useful player) and 1 mill to the A’s for a couple of prospects. (Man, that Billy Beane sure does like to trade players, doesn’t he? You’d think it was fantasy ball or something. But I digress…)

Billy Beane had like zero use for Miles so at the first opportunity, he got rid of him – trading him to the Reds for

Willy Taveras – the guy who has a tough time hitting the ball out of the IF but can steal bases after he steals first. Astros fans support first and foremost players with high batting averages. They don’t like players who walk, and they LOVE players who run fast and steal bases. Willy was one of the 2 guys we got from Cleveland for Jeriome Robertson (Luke Scott being the other) and Willy was called up after finishing AA and inserted as the starting CF. He beat out bunts and infield hits and was hitting over .300 by mid April and the fans just LUUUUVVVED him. He ran so fast in the OF (no Carlos the Jackal, mind, and he couldn’t hit the cutoff man) but the fans didn’t care. He hit .291 (had an on base of .321 because he only walked 25 times in 638 PA, but who cares and slugged .341, but who cares because he stole 34 bases. Yeah, he got caught 11 times and didn’t steal but 11 after the break, but so what?) He lost out to Ryan Howard for ROY, but the fans ADORED him.

He didn’t do quite as well in 06 – in fact, Phil started playing Chris Burke in center in June after Willy could only manage a .260 BA. Willy got lucky because Burke, who was hitting .300 as a CF and playing remarkably well for a guy who had never played CF before, re-injured his shoulder and had to go on the DL and never recovered his stroke.

Willy actually ended up having a better year, cut down on his Ks (funny that the Astros fans never held that against him), slightly increased his walks and managed to slightly increase his OBP in spite of a lower average, but he was traded to Colorado in the infamous Jason Jennings trade in the offseason.

At the beginning of the 07 season, some guy kept bringing a sign to the Box which said “I want my Willy back” which I personally thought was a really stupid sign for a guy to wave about, but I digress. Anyway, Burkie-poo failed to raise his BA over .230 and screaming fans demanding blood caused the Organization to call up Pence at the end of April and that was the end of Willy-itis.

He posted a career high .728 OPS (89 OPS+) over 408 PA for the Rox in 07, but then descended into suckitude to suck a point that he lost playing time to Cory Sullivan (now in the Astros minor leagues) and then to Ryan Spilborghs in 08 – in spite of the fact that Willy posted a career high 68 SB. After the 08 season, the Rox didn’t offer arb and he signed a 2 year contract with the Reds for 5 mill.

You KNOW he’s Dusty Baker’s kind of leadoff guy (think poor ol Corey Patterson, who might could have had some sort of career if Dusty had left him batting 7th) and he had the worst year of his career – a 48 OPS+ over 458 PA – and that is a .240 BA, .275 OBP with 25 SB. He was eventually supplanted by couldabeena Stro Drew Stubbs (one of many guys who Drayton refused to pay more than slot).

At this time, the A’s have both Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp, very good fielding CF on the 40 man, so I can’t see any place that Willy could possibly fit.

Ah well, knowing Billy Beane, if I were Willy, I wouldn’t bother to get a uni fitted, as he’s most likely trade bait.

So, you want to know, like why am I talking about 2 Ex-Stros again????

To avoid having to deal with the mess that is the 2010 team, that is why…

Whatever Happened To The 2006 Ex-Stros?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Last week, I took a nostalgic look at the players who were on the 2005 team who were basically gone after the season.

So today, I’m taking a look at 2006 – the year we lost because the Organization hated Luke Scott and preferred to have him rot in AAA; they then signed Preston Wilson – an unbelieveably long time after he had last been good, just to prove to The Critics that the Astros Were NOT Against Players of African Negro Ancestry Who Grew Up In America (because Latin American Guys with similar ancestry don’t count…)

McLane made it more than clear to everyone that Craig Biggio was going to remain with the team as long as he wished, in any capacity he wished, playing any position he wished and Garner had to play on. McLane, as he had for almost 20 years, deferred to Biggio’s wishes, not forgetting that he had made sure that Biggio was firmly established as The Leader and The HEro, and he wanted to market Biggio’s drive for 3000 hits, too. Such a shame that it spilled over into 2007, the totally wasted season.

but I digress…..

Anyway, this was the last year of the Big 3 – Oswalt, Clemens, Pettitte; this was the year of Lidge (supposedly) trying to get over being Pujolsed in the NLCS and Podsedniked in the WS – trying new pitches, new this, new that and somehow managing to save 32 games in spite of being “finished”; this was the year that the Astros SHOULD have promoted Chris Burke to second base but wouldn’t do that or trade him – they put him in CF when Willy Taveras again proved that he couldn’t walk and couldn’t hit anything out of the IF and Burkie-poo did very well until he re-injured his shoulder, and that was the end of him – he never hit worth 2 cents again; this was the year that every player except for Biggio played in more positions than the Kama Sutra (one of Phil’s obsessions); this was the year that the Organization FINALLY relented on their stubborness about insisting that Luke Scott and his .989 OPS remain in AAA and when they FINALLY acknowledged that Preston Wilson stunk up the joint, Luke came up, hit for the cycle and almost, ALMOST led the Astros back to the playoffs; this was the last year of Lidge, Wheeler, Qualls and Springer anchoring the bullpen; this was the year that Backe appeared to be ready to ROOL during the regular season as well as the postseason and suddenly snapped his UCL and was out for the year with Tommy John Surgery…

So, here we go:

C Hector Gimenez – yet another good field no hit guy, had 2 AB, hurt himself before the 07 season, didn’t play and wasn’t re-signed by the Astros; played for AAA TB in 08 – had a .618 OPS, played in the Pirates AA/AAA last year, had a .694 OPS. He’s Quintero, only younger.
C Eric Munson – a lefty catcher, one of Phil’s ex-Tigers, a former #1 pick who had been converted to a 1B/3B and spent time bouncing between majors and minors. He didn’t exactly hit well and also spent a few weeks at AAA, but did surprisingly well defensively for a guy who basically hadn’t caught since college. Finished with a .617 OPS, then in 07 spent time bouncing between AAA and the ML, had a .669 OPS. He was let go in the purge of 07/08, signed with the Brew Crew, but hurt his back and was out almost the whole season. Spent last year at AAA Oakland, had an .812 OPS (they’d better re-sign him because last I looked, they NEED a catcher.)
2B/IF Joe McEwing – ah, Super Joe, a fan fave with the Mets (and Cards) who couldn’t hit. A good mostly AAA player, who was the MVP of the 06 AAA team (which was odd because both Luke Scott and Brooks Conrad outhit him and drove in more runs in fewer ABs – but I digress…) at age 33. This tells you everything you DIDN’T want to know about the Astros’ minor league teams. Got a few ABs in his brief callup - didn’t hit a lick. Had a .691 OPS with AAA Boston in 07, then retired.
2B Brooks Conrad – I am mentioning him, not because he went on to Astro greatness/suckitude, but because he was one of the guys with the AAA team who didn’t make it. He was 26 in 06, a switch hitting 2B/3B who hit for some serious power – 40 doubles and 24 HR, a .267 average, had a .868 OPS and drove in 94 runs in 138 games. I thought he’d have a chance to make the team in 07 as a utility guy, but nope. He repeated AAA in 07, had only a .217 BA, but had 36 doubles and 22 HR and drove in 70 hitting second. Maybe the Organization was disappointed with his low GIDPs and 2:1 K:BB ratio (and he walked 60 something times in 530 AB – can’t have that.) Anyway, he spent 08 with AAA Oakland, had  an .869 OPS. Had 19 lousy ABs with the ML club. He spent most of 08 with AAA Atlanta, had 54 AB, 11 H, scored 7 runs, drove in 8, 1 double, 2 triples, 2 HR. He might not have been Barry Lamar, but he sure nuff was a LOT better than Jason Freaking Smith. But failing to either utilize or trade Conrad wasn’t NEAR as bad as losing
SS Ben Zobrist who was a 25 year old SS at AA who was the best hitter on the team – and yes, I mean better than Hunter Pence. He was supposed to be the great hitting, great fielding, switch hitting SS who would replace Adam Everett and at the time of the STUPID trade to Tampa Bay for Aubrey Freaking Huff, he was hitting .327/.434 (unlike Pence, he walks)/.473/.907 – you know who went to TB, right? Yes, Gerry Hunsicker, who has managed to get hold of more than a few GOOD players the Astros didn’t want – but I digress. Anyway, Zobrist had 183 lousy AB at the ML in 06, spent 07 at AAA, was called back up in 08, hit for power, played all over the diamond, and as a full time 2B last year, hit .297/.405/.543/.948. Of course, he DID strike out 104 times and GIDP only 7 times and we can’t have THAT. You talk about a BAD trade that is usually overlooked. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
UT Aubrey Huff – the guy Benny Zobrist (and pitcher Mitch Talbot) was traded for when the Astros started worrying that perhaps the shoulder injury that Mo Ensberg had sustained in May really wasn’t healing very well – and he had an .819 OPS – the same as Mo did. The bad part wasn’t hit hitting or his indifferent fielding, it was that the Astros didn’t offer him arbitration, knowing very well that he wanted to go and get a multi year contract and that there was the demand out there, so we got nothing for him, just let him go (and note that this is different from letting 14 mill/year Tejada, who wasn’t even worth a 1/3 of it, go.) He signed a 3 year deal
UT JR House – was the 5th rounder of the Pirates in 99, a great hitting catcher. He was out all of 05 with a severe injury to his throwing shoulder which didn’t affect his hitting. He was picked up by the Astros, had a 1.120 OPS at AAA when he was called up – spent most of his time on the bench, got 9 PH here and was sent back down. He spent 08 with AAA Baltimore, had an .828 OPS, had 38 AB with the ML club, hit .211 and slugged .500. Spent 09 with AAA Royals and acquired the sucvkulesence of the rest of the club. Not sure why he never got a chance as a PH or DH in the bigs, but he didn’t.
OF Charlton Jimerson – one of the guys who had been touted as a Sure Thing – but he couldn’t handle breaking stuff – swung early and often – and had 183 K in 425 ABs at AAA. He had a cup of coffee – was mostly a DR/PR, but he did go 2 for 6 with a homer. Spent 07 and 08 in the Seattle minor league system with a couple of ML ABs, but continued to have huge numbers of Ks, but not enough power to overcome his deficiencies. He spent 09 with the independent Newark Bears. He is also a VERY hot guy too, not that most of you care real too particular much about that, yes I know…
LF Preston Wilson - AKA The Strikeout King. Had a .719 OPS and 94 K over 390 AB as an indifferent LF. I remember being particularly impressed with his 11 Ks over 14 AB vs Milwaukee in April. Although he never again attained a diamond sombrero (5 Ks in 1 game) – or is it platinum – I get those mixed up. He was supposed to be a great home run hitter and RBI man – but he only knocked in 55 RBIs over 102 games hitting 4th or 5th and he only hit 9 home runs (the Astros “brain” trust had apparently expected that he would hit 40 something based on him being a RH hitter and the Crawford Boxes being only 325′ away – you know how well that worked out for Adam Everett… He was  particularly indignant upon being released at the end of July, pointing out that he was hitting .270 – big deal. He got the last laugh, however, as he was picked up by the WS winning Cards and got himself a Ring. He got 64 terrible ABs for them in 07 before going on the DL permanently.

RH SP Taylor Buchholz – one of the 3 pitchers we got for Billy Wags when Drayton, in a fit of pique over Billy having the effrontery to point out that Drayton is a cheapskate when the going gets rough, ordered him traded, even if we had to take (gag) young players. Unlike the other 2 pitchers, Duckworthless and Ezequiel Astacio, Buchholz has some serious talent and the best stuff I’d seen since Roy-O debuted in 01. He had had shoulder problems in the past, but was healthy for the beginning of the 06 season – I thought he would eclipse Roy fer SHER – he had 1 shutout and should have had another, if Biggio hadn’t made an error on the last out, and then Phil pulled poor Buchholz and he got Francoed. He experienced shoulder problems in mid May – and his ERA exploded. Not sure whether he didn’t tell the team or whether they told him to pitch through it and not be such a girl or what, but he ended up back in AAA and then traded off to Colorado at the end of the year. He had a superb 07 for them, pitching in relief, then developed elbow problems to complement his shoulder problems in 08 and was out for the 09 year with TJ surgery. Too bad he was mishandled, because he sure nuff was worth a HECK of a lot more than Jason Jennings.
RH SP Mitch Talbot - the AA pitcher who was traded with Benny Zobrist to get 2 months of Aubrey Huff. He was our second rounder in the 02 draft.
RH SP/RP Chris Sampson - of course, Chris is still with the team. I am just bringing him up to note that he spent almost all of his callup time in June and August sitting on his dead butt – and Phil refused to let him start, even though he was a starter in AAA even when he 3 hit the Cubs over 7 innings in his only start. The Organization was bound and determined that he would be a ML reliever and dammed if he was gonna prove them wrong…
RH RP Dave Borkowski - another one of Phil’s ex-Tigers (now an A ball pitching coach with the Astros Organization). Threw 71 innings of 95 ERA+ ball in 06, 71.2 innings of 85 ERA+ ball in 07 and 36 innings of 56 ERA+ ball in 08 before being sent to AAA. Had a few innings in 09 for Philly AAA and in the indys. Was a decent long reliever, but was misused (what a surprise) by Cooper as a high leverage guy, which he wasn’t.
LH RP Phil Barzilla – a Houston boy, the 4th rounder in the 01 draft – had a cup of coffee, got exactly one appearance, 0.1 innings, gave up a single to the only hitter he faced. Never saw the majors again. He repeated AAA in 07, had mediocre numbers as a spot starter/reliever, then played for AA Seattle, then San Diego in 08, then threw 3.2 innings for AA Texas last year – looks as if he’s OOB.