Archive for February, 2011

Hunter Pence Beats Tal Smith At Arbitration!!!

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

YeeeeeeeeeHAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Good for Hunter – yes, he’s doubling his last year’s salary with 2 more arb years to go, but I’m glad because I don’t care for Tal Smith real too particular much.

I do think I’d better mention, however, that this is Pence’s second arb year and he has 2 more to go and the Astros don’t like signing long term contracts with players before their last arb year (Tal Smith again) which has more than a few times really cost them a lot more $$$ than it would have if they had done the sign the player early route – see Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Both times, it cost the Astros 20-30 mill more by waiting until the last possible second.

If Pence gets 7 mill this year and posts his same numbers, he’s going to get another hefty raise next year. If Drayton isn’t able to sell the team before this time next year, and he may not with the glamor franchises Mets and Dodgers most likely going up for sale, I wouldn’t be real too surprised if Pence is traded to get rid of his salary.

Before you jump on me, let me say it isn’t because I don’t think he’s “worth it” but because Drayton won’t want to pay and will try to pimp a younger outfielder. I mean, cheaper outfielder.

Before you say – Wandy is getting mucho dinero – I’ll say yeah, but he is a very good LEFTY starting pitcher who will get only 7 mill this year and (if not hurt) will be awesome trade bait.

Speaking of pimping, I see that they are talking up Brett Wallace. So far, they haven’t been talking up Bogusevic, who just turned 27, or any other young OF, so unless something else happens, Wallace is going to start the year at first and Clank will be meandering in left, as usual.

I’m not picking up any info about which guy seems to have any grip ont he 4th/5th spot in the rotation, so we’ll have to see.

It’s early and they’re all in the besst shap of their life. So far…

Whatever Will The 2011 Astros Do For A LOOGY?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I was going to write about the battle for the 5th starter between Ryan Rowland-Smith, Nelson Figueroa, Jordan Lyles and, uh, all the guys who Ed Wade talked about as starters to scare Bud Norris into pitching well – like Fernando Abad, Wilton Lopez (oh PLEEEZE) and whoever he scrounged from other Organizations’ scrap heaps.

But we all know that Figgy has been frequently bounced between minors/starting/relieving and the probability that he will actually start 33 games is miniscule, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t start ANY. He’d be wasted as a LOOGY. And we all know that Jordan Lyles will “require” minor league AAA work no matter HOW he pitches until the super 2 deadline has passed – the guy is 20 and I promise that the Organization would prefer 1 more year of underpayment at age 26 in case Lyles turns out to be any good at getting ML hitters out. And like Figgy, lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith has bounced back and forth between minors/starting/relieving. Because he actually CAN start, has had success as a starter and was hurt last year when he uck-sayed, I would guess that if he doesn’t make the rotation as the 4th or 5th man, he’s be another long reliever/spot starter, like Figgy.

Unless he completely uck-says in ST, in which case, he will most liekly end up in AAA with Lyles and Arguello.

Hmmmmmm

Lefty.

Yeah, we gotta talk about that. As we all know, it is critical to have a lefty reliever because all rightys except closers can’t get leftys out. So, let’s see which lefty pitchers are on the Astros 40 man and NRI list: I mean, besides Wandy and Happ:

Fernando Abad, age 25, who spent winter ball as a starter – and last year, threw 19 innings over 22 games with a 2.84 ERA/1.00 WHIP – and an incredibly low 6.6 H/9 and 5.7 K/9. I promise that that hits/9 will not remain THAT low – his minor league totals are 9.3/9. And yeah, he has over 9 K/9 IP as well. His maximum number of innings pitched/year is 82, and although he IS 25, and is supposedly above the “cutoff” age, he DID pitch winter ball and I seriously doubt he is anywheres near ready to throw 200 innings this season. Which means it is far more sensible to use him as a LOOGY or long reliever. I can’t find freely/easily available minor league splits, but I would guess that he has good success against leftys – the real question is – what are his numbers vs rightys, as this is more important for deciding whether or not he should be facing RHB. I am not examining his 19 ML innings for the simple reason that the sample size is too small.

NRI – Doug Arguello, age 26. Over 09 and 10, threw 202 excellent innings at AA (by the way, he’s the guy the Organization studiously ignored in their eagerness to pimp Lyles in spite of Arguello actually pitching better, but I digress) as a starter: Last year, started 22 games over 128 IP with a 2.85 ERA/1.31 WHIP: 8.5 H/9, 7.5 K/9; 0.3 homers/9 (throughout his minor league career, he’s always been stingy with homers) and 3.3 BB/9. I don’t care if he is too old to fit into the category of “prospect” and I don’t care if he IS 26, sometimes leftys take a while to put it together and good lefty starters don’t grow on trees and I hopehopeHOPE that Ed Wade isn’t crazy enough to waste this guy on LOOGY hood. He SHOULD start at AAA (just like Lyles, but I digress…)

NRI: Gustavo Chacin, age 30. Last year, used mostly as a mopup guy in blowout games we were already losing - 38.1 IP over 44 games. Looking at just the game logs, it appears he was used as a LOOGY in 12 games, mostly in late August/September. His splits are not significant, although like pretty much every lefty, he gives up a couple more homers to righty batters. He had over a .300 BAA vs both. Even Wesley Wright is better than this.

Sergio Escalona, age 26: You’ll NEVAH guess who drafted him in the first place. Oh. You guessed it was Ed Wade with the Phillies. You so smart. The Phils DFA’d him in Jan 11 and Ed Wade picked him up in trade for some A-ball second baseman (now watch that guy go on to be good). He’s very similar to Abad – has 254 minor league innings pitched with a 3.86 ERA/1.42 WHIP: 7.9 H/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9. Like Abad, he spent most of 2010 at AA. Like Abad, he has some ML experience (2009) – threw 13.2 innings over 14 IP: 4.61 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.9 H/9 and 6.6 K/9. I don’t know why he was sent to AA last year instead of AAA – yeah, he had 19 not good innings at AAA in 2009, but he still had some ML experience. He had pitched well in his 24 innings at AA in 2008. Again, I have no idea how he does vs RHP, but as Ed Wade isn’t talking him up as a sterter in waiting, I would guess that he is purely LOOGY material.

NRI: Pat Urckfitz, age 22: This is someone I never heard of – believe it or not, he’s an undrafted FA out of junior college who signed with the Astros in 2008. He was used as a reliever in his first 2 years, and spent last year at Lancaster A+ ball (their ballpark, remember, is hitteriffic beyond belief – think of Coors pre-humidor). He started 12 games and relieved in 23 over 104.2 IP. His numbers at hitters’ heaven were absolutely outstanding: ERA 4.13/1.40 WHIP with 9.9 H/9, 8.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and – get this - only 0.8 home runs/9 IP. At LANCASTER, mind you. Which has kicked the living heck out of all of the Astros hyped prospects since Lancaster became the Astros A+ ball club 3 years ago (and no, Jordan Lyles was not ever sent there – he was sent straight to AA from A-ball – wonder why….) He threw only 5 (good) innings at AA last year, but I am seriously impressed. I doubt he’d make the ML team, but putting up those numbers at LANCASTER? I’m impressed.

And you know, there have been more than a few undrafted guys (I mean from USA/Puerto Rico) who have made it to the majors and have even done very well – think Dan Wheeler.

Starting now, I’m gonna follow this guy’s numbers. You know me, always rooting for the underdogs. Hopefully, he’ll kill AA and then AAA pitching and make it to the bigs. As an Astro, I mean.

Wesley Wright: age 26 – hard to believe he’s been an Astro for 3 years. He spent most of 2010 in the minors as a starter, throwing 14 games over 69 IP (almost 5 IP/GS) – not, uh, great. He had a 3.13 ERA.274 BAA vs leftys and a 5.40 ERA/.285 BAA vs rightys. As he did in the majors, he walked a good 4 batters/9 IP (both leftys and rightys), interestingly enough, struck out rightys at a higher rate (6.5 vs 4.8) BUT gave up homers to rightys at a significantly higher rate, just as he did in the majors.

In the majors, he really hasn’t strictly been used as a LOOGY, especially last year (and really I don’t have the time to go and re-calculate all the numbers omitting last year) and here are his career ML numbers:

vs RHB: 382 PA: .512 SLGA; .874 OPSA; 50 BB: 74 K/382 PA – sorry BBref doesn’t do IP – 18 2B; 21 HR/382 PA – also a .279 BA on balls in play

vs LHB: .384 SLGA/.734 OPSA over 200 PA: 22 BB, 59 K/220 PA; 14 2B, 2 HR – .359 BA on BIP

- basically, he walks more rightys, gives up LOTS more homers to rightys (source of his real trouble), strikes out more/walks fewer leftys, but gives up more doubles but significantly fewer homers.

Looks like LOOGY to me, unless Ed Wade plans to waste Wesley’s life as an unsuccessful AAA starter.

So, in conclusion, I would guess that Abad has the best chance of being the Designated LOOGY, with the other lefty reliever spot a tossup between Escalona and Wesley Wright, depending on how they do at ST.

Spring Has Sprung!!! Astros Pitchers And Catchers Report 2/14/2011

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Well, even if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, it would be a great present. There’s been waaaay too much north type weather here in Houston this year. And yeah, I know I should be grateful I don’t live in Dallas. Or even Conroe.

But somehow, this has been like the dullest offseason EVAH. Hasn’t it? I mean, not just for Astros fans, but for baseball in general. Trouble is, I think, that between someone tweeting every time some player changes his socks and the fact that there really aren’t any STARS!!! these days, there just isn’t anything exciting. Well, I supposed that if I were a Cards fan, I’d be all excited over the Albert Pujols saga of how much longer is the ownership gonna drag out signing him and of course he’s gonna get 25 – 30 mill a year – he’s been underpaid forever and then the Cards fans get to scream at him in 7 or 8 years about how he can’t hit worth 30 mill no mo and he should be dumped on the Yankees.

But I digress.

Anyway, Pitchers and Catchers officially report, although plenty of guys have been working out already and more will go to Kissimmee early – except for Clank, of course.

So I’ll start with the Catchers – not much news there:

on the 40 man roster – Jason Castro, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles. I was very surprised Towles was even tendered a contract, but I suppose they have to have SOMEone who can actually like catch the ball in case either Castro or Q is hurt. Q is most positively going to be the backup catcher because there is one pitcher who wants him personally and that guy is beloved by Fast Eddie and will get what he wants. Castro is going to be the starting catcher no matter what. Towles had better pray he gets traded – there was a lot of interest in him last year in ST. Unfortunately for him, he spent the whole year injured, after being sent down to AA, so unless he tears the cover off theball, he probably won’t get much interest from other Organizations.

The only free projections are Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS – and they aren’t pretty – well, they never are, to be honest…

He’s projecting Castro to have an 83 OPS+ or a .679 OPS with a BA of ,246 and 8 HR; Towles projects for an 84 OPS+ because he hits for more power; Quintero for a 65 OPS+ in spite of a .240 BA – where on EARTH did he get a .240 BA from? I’ll never understand projections. Anyway, Brad Ausmus looks like Piazza next to these guys.

NRI catchers:

Carlos Corporan, age 27, who spent 7 years in the Brewers Organization, then last year at Reno for the Diamondbacks, and has a minor league line of .251/.306/.377/.683 over 1948 AB. He did post a career high .870 OPS, but that was at Reno (you know, the desert, high averages, etc…)

Brian Esposito, age 32, career minor leaguer who has logged a .583 OPS over 2286 ABs.

Rene Garcia, age 21. This one I don’t get. He was picked in the 35th round of the 08 draft by the Astros and had a .621 OPS at A-ball (Lexington) last year. He’s not on any prospect lists, so I’m kind of stumped, but hey, maybe it was a lottery, youneverknow.

Astros haven’t developed a catcher who could hit since John Buck – and he was traded back in 04 for Carlos the Jackal Beltran. Well, at least JR Towles hit at AAA, which is more than the rest of them have done.

Next up, starting pitchers.

Astros, Women, Baseball And Stats

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

How’s THAT for a covering just about anything entry title???!!!

Sorry I haven’t written a new entry for a week or 2, but between work, kids being sick, Dog being sick, bad weather and lack of new Astros news, well, these things happen.

Richard Justice says that Ed Wade is not going to sign anyone else, which means that there may be a few NRIs to ST, or perhaps trades during ST which don’t cost the Astros any money, but basically, what you see is what you get. Merry Sunn-Shynne is still on vacation, so her cheery guest entry about how great the Astros will be is still pending.

I wanted to link to Morgan Ensberg’s latest entry, on women. That is, women baseball fans – and he is the exact opposite of the Tiger Woods/Ben Rothlisfool/Brett Farverite type of athlete who respects only a female’s ability to remove clothes and assume the appropriate reproductive function position. Morgan is unique in my experience of chatting with all KINDS of males or every age and color since I first started posting/commenting on the internet in 2002. He says that his reason for writing his column is to teach/explain baseball to fans. He answers every single comment AND he talks to female fans the same way that he talks to male fans.

Yes, I am serious. He talks to us as human beings (who cares wbout what they look like) who like/love baseball and really WANT to learn more. There is absolutely no, and I mean NO undercurrent of patiently patronizing all the maroon females who for some reason don’t happen to know the intracacies of positioning third basemen with each pitch. Or even ask why lefties can’t play second base. Or, why doesn’t the infield fly rule apply to foul popups? Or how can a batter interfere with a catcher if he swings at a pitch and hits it? None of the usual – let’s call it – exasperation (ahem) answering what may be to him, elementary sorts of questions. And this is a guy who played major league baseball and was an All-Star.

I would say that the most important thing that Morgan has taught me is – people are like baseball – youneverknow – and you might could guess, based on “best information” what they are like, but so many times you are just flat out dead wrong.

And speaking of guesses on best information, I’ve never understood the whole fantasy baseball writing obsession. The guys (I can’t find even ONE female who writes fantasy ball formulas) who write these difficult, intricate formulas, which require an extraordinary capacity for math and computers are, well, by definition stat geeks. So why are they obsessed with a gambling game whose 5 categories are comprised by 5 statistical categories – old ones, such as ERA, Wins, Saves, RBI, BA – which they think are outmoded and insignificant? An absolutely AMAZING amount of work and time is dedicated to predicting what player X is supposed to do this year, or what he is “worth.”

Once, I asked a brilliant (well, he is) stat geek to try to explain to me how he arrived at the numbers he did. He told me it would be a waste of his time (and mine) because I am incapable of understanding even the simplest part of the formula (which is true) but made me feel even stupider than I already am. Morgan would have at least tried.

And speaking of trying,

I have no idea how close Drayton is to selling the club. Thing I worry about is that most likely, within this or next year, 2 marquee franchises, the Dodgers (the McCourts never should have been allowed to buy it in the first place because of the fact that they lacked any solid financing) and the Mets (due to the fact that it looks as if the Wilpons are up to the tips of their noses in the cesspool of Bernie Madoff’s swindles and will be unable to extricate themselves, let alone with enough money (after the lawsuits) to run the franchise) and I would guess, that unless Drayton lowers his price enough to attract mid-market type investors, that he is going to be waiting until after those two sell. Yes, I’m just guessing, based on my observation that in general, hot and glamorous gets more attention than the average.

I have also heard tell that season ticket sales are not exactly moving themselves, and I wonder how much attendance is going to drop.

In other news, Andy Pettitte retired today – for real, I mean, not just his yearly thinking about it. Made me remember the 03/04 offseason, how much excitement his signing, then the possibility of Roger signing, created. Filled the news – seriously. And during stupor bowl season, too. Remember? Seems like yesterday.

Now, basically nothing. The only “news” is waiting to see if Hunter Pence is going to beat Tal Smith at arb (and I bet he doesn’t, based on what other similar guys have been getting, and based on the fact that Tal Smith loses about as often as I get phone calls from Grady Sizemore), and betting on how fat Clank is gonna be when he finally gets around to bother to go to Spring Training.

Only a few more weeks until Pitchers and Catchers report and I am counting the seconds. It always seems like THAT is the real beginning of the year – a new hope, even when you don’t have any substantial reason to have any. There’s just something about baseball makes you feel right when you see players trotting out on that beautiful, impossibly green grass to throw and catch balls. You can never stop thinking – I could do that – or – I wish I could do that. The end of winter, drab, cold, boring stuff like football. The start of something timeless, all over again.