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Astronomics

Houston Astros blog by a long time fan. Go Astros.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Look Honey, Kirk Gibson is back

Baseball is a team sport, this much I know. The only statistic that truly matters is wins. Call it a cliche, because it is one, but cliches are created with some merit behind them. And looking at baseball in its ultimate form of simplicity and logic, wins vs losses is the sole statistic that counts. So tonight the Astros scored more runs than the opposition and that is a win. The final score was either 7 to 5 or 7 to 6, depending on whether or not Livan Hernandez has finished running the bases after his cheap homerun.

This was one of the weirdest games I have ever seen. Old Wandy didn't have his control, but he is still too cool to get angry with. And he did meander hiw way through 5 innings to his credit. Despite allowing a plethora of hits, walks, and homeruns, Old Wandy got the win. That is what he does. He meanders. I really do love watching Wandy pitch. He just has these antics of his- putting his hands on his knees after throwing pitches, taking his cap off every few seconds. He is fun to watch. Livan Hernandez had an interesting night. He pitched pretty poorly, by his standards. He hit pretty well, by any standards. He was a triple short of the cycle. He minus well have needed ten, because as Bill Brown put it, it is going to take a collision in the outfield for Livan Hernandez to triple. One thing he did manage to do was break a homerun record. In the 4th inning, Livan Hernandez hit a homerun into the Crawford Boxes. He now holds the unofficial record for the slowest homerun trot in the history of the game. Normally, I wouldn't be making remarks like this, but in my opinion, Livan looked at that ball a bit too long and ran a bit too slow for me to be nice. Put your head down and run the bases, you aren't Kirk Gibson. In my opinion he intentionally ran the bases a bit slower than he could have, kept his head up a bit longer than he should have and is therefore going to be inserted into a "I can't beat Don Zimmer in a foot race" joke. He can't beat Don Zimmer in a footrace. Still though, the beginning of this game seemed to be P Livan hernandez vs H Livan Hernandez. Would he drive in more than he gave up? Well, no, he wouldn't.

Mike Lamb has looked pretty bad these last few games. He had a terrible game in the opener. He went 0-5 with two foulouts and hit into two double plays, one to end the game. If you think he played better today, we are in strong disagreement. His RBI single in the first was the result of getting jammed on a pitch headed for his neck. He hit into another duble play. In the 7th inning one of the dumbest things I have ever seen happened. Directly following Morgan Ensberg's ground rule double, with men on second and third, Mike Lamb ran the count full. Hernandez threw the pitch. The umpire calls it a ball and nothing happens... Mike stands there. The umpire stands there. Garner doesn't move. The fans are confused. Livan gets the ball back,
smirking away, and on the following pitch, induces a flyout to short. That is inexcusable, someone needs to get their head in the game. What is Cecil Cooper on the staff for, anyway? Other Astros who didn't contribute much to this win include Brad Lidge and Lance Berkman. However, throughout the course of the season, all players are expected to have bad games. The good ones have fewer bad games, and those 2 rarely have them. When you can win a game where 2 of your key players didn't play well and your starting pitcher doesn't have his stuff, it is in fact what makes this game a team sport...

I think of it like a machine. The machine the Astros were using early in the season was broken. Sometimes it worked well enough to pull out a win. Sometimes though, certain parts didn't work and the result was a loss. Now it seems that every part of the machine is working, Yet, when that certain part isn't working- whether it be the offense, pitching, or defense- the rest of the machine works well enough to pull out a win more often than a loss.

Time to give some credit to Willy Taveras who is marching towards 200 hits and added another 3 tonight. I really hope he makes it that far because it might lock in his ROY status. Craig Biggio added 4 hits tonight and passed up Luke Appling for 46th on the all time hits list. 3000 Hits Club coming up sooner or later.

Pujols and Lee are having better seasons, but Morgan Ensberg is the best player in the game as far as value goes. His numbers are competitive with the best of them and he is being paid a fraction of his competitiors' salaries.

Adding on to the list of players I would love to see on this team next season. Or anytime soon... Carl Crawford, the Houston native. the guy just turned 24 and look at a couple of things he has acheived at the age of 24: 565 hits, 46 triples, and 157 steals. Active players with more hits than Crawford at age 24: Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, , Adrian Beltre, Ruben
Sierra, Albert Pujols, and Ivan Rodriguez.

By the way that list currently stands at:

Carlos Silva
Carl Crawford

You give me a Carl, I'll give you a contract.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Luck Doesn't Exist

The Astros are off tonight so I've decided to surf around to see if anyone else was on tonight. The cubs are on WGN and they are getting killed by Cincinnati, 9-0. ESPN has Milwaukee vs Chicago. The score is tied at 4, Victor Santos vs Matt Morris. I'm not sure who I want to win this game. Part of me says you have to root against st. Louis. But the other part of me is the part that is scared to death of the Brewers. You have been hearing about all these young guys for three years and now you look at the roster and they are all playing in the big leagues. You look in the league leaders and see names like Carlos Lee and Brady Clark. You look at the standings and see this big fat bucket of league leaders and young phenoms are only 4.5 games behind the Astros for a wildcard spot and it is pretty scary. Whatever though, someone has to lose. Also I see the Marlins lost the first half of a doubleheader to Colorado and are losing the second half. The Marlins have also suffered injuries to Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca so thy have a real opportunity to fall out of the race. Unfortunately, they are at a soft patch in their schedule, hosting the NL West's Diamondbacks and Giants in Florida.

Anyway, the real reason I started writing out a post was because of something I heard on ESPN. Jeff Brantley and Politically Correct Dude are announcing it and I heard something that I couldn't help but laugh at. Here is a dramatization of the conversation:

PCD: Everyone is a great player.
JB: Listen, the reason some pitchers don't get run support is because hitters only play their best for certain pitchers.

PCD: Really, are you sure?
JB: Look, as a former pitcher I know exactly how hitters think. A pitcher who deosn't complain and is positive on the mound will get more run support than a pitcher who complains about his offense.

(THIS IS AN ACTUAL QUOTE, NOT A DRAMATIZATION)

PCD: Really? Are you sure it has nothing to do with luck?
JB: I don't believe in luck. Luck doesn't exist. Take Roger Clemens for example. In the begining of the season he was one of the biggest tough luck pitchers around. But he didn't complain and eventually his offense came around. Now his run support has changed dramatically for the better.
PCD: Interesting little theory you got there.

OK boneheads. Ever hear about a thing called offense? Perhaps that has something to do with run support. Looking at the Top 10 in run support lets see who's theory is correct.

Politically Correct Dude thinks it is luck.

Jeff Brantley thinks it is dependent on who the pitcher is, how much he complains, and his attitude on the mound.

My theory is the most shocking of all. Run support is dependent of offense. I know, I know, it is the most insane theory ever created, but bare with me.

TOP 10 RUN SUPPORT

1) Boomer Wells- 8.25
2) Matt Clement- 7.65
3) Chris Young- 7.54
4) Matt Morris- 7.36
5) Gustavo Chacin- 7.25
6) Jeff Francis- 7.07
7) Chan Ho Park- 6.87
8) Kenny Rogers- 6.82
9) Danny Haren- 6.50
10) Jon Garland- 6.47

OK so take a look at that list. Now lets see how it correlates with our three theories.

Politically Correct Dude thinks its luck. Well, yes it is lucky to be on the Cardinals, Red Sox, and Rangers because they have the best offenses. The Rockies have been known to score some runs too, so Francis is covered. the lucky pitcher is Jon Garland because he is on a team that doesn't score many runs. Another aspect to the luck theory is who a certain pitcher is going up against. If a pitcher is going up against strong pitchers over and over he is less likely to have high run support. That is luck, but as you can see most of the pitchers on this list play for offense oriented teams.

Jeff Brantley thinks it is dependent on who the pitcher is, how much he complains, and his attitude on the mound. Ha! I'm sure hitters love playing behind loudmouth Boomer Wells. I'm sure they like to hit for criminals like Kenny Rogers. I'm sure Chan Ho Park is doing a lot of bitching in moaning, in Korean that is. This list looks about as motivating as wheat bread and C-Span. Four rookies, a loudmouth, a criminal, and a guy who doesn't know a word of English, (although he probably knows the words ball, walk, control issues, overpaid, and demotion). The only thing the other three have in common is a goatee. In fact, 7 of these 10 pitchers sport goatees, so statistically, "Pitchers who sport goatees get more run support than pitchers who don't is a more valid theory than Jeff Brantley's. And if you think I'm about to do a Scott Elarton Goatee search, think again, this theory is being retired before it's birth.

And finally there is my crazy theory. You know the one about the offense. Notice that most of these players are on offense oriented teams, such as Texas, Boston, and Colorado. St. Louis might not be offense oriented but has the best offense in the National League. Actually, Politically Correct Dude and myself are both right. 5 pitchers are placed on a team with an offense. And it is up to luck to decide which pitcher will receive the most run support from that offense. Generally though the difference between the greatest and least run support is quite minimal. Usually the pitchers with the low run support have a bad offense and vice versa. That is logic at its best, no matter what Jeff Brantley says.

How about a couple of non-confrontational statical tidbits:

TOP 5 QUALITY STARTS

1) Chris Carpenter- 21
1) Roger Clemens- 21
3) Roy Oswalt- 20
4) Livan Hernandez- 19
5) Andy Pettitte- 18

TOP 5 BALKS

1) Brett Myers- 4
2) Steve Kline- 3
2) Mark Redman- 3
2) Chris Capuano- 3
2) Wandy Rodriguez- 3

Someone probably needs to talk to old Wandy about that rule. The pitcher I would most like to see in an Astros uniform next season- Carlos Silva. He is relatively cheap and he throws strikes. He averages just 11.8 pitches per inning, lowest in the majors, so if he is getting outs you can really get a lot out of him. He hardly ever walks anyone. Has Tim Purpura acquired a single player yet?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hello San Francisco

The Astros are headed to San Francisco, home of the most ineffective home field advantage in the game. They are ten games under .500 at home. How about a look at what has gone well and what has gone wrong for the Giants this season.

Positives

1. Omar Vizquel- If the Giants were a successful ball club this season you would be hearing a lot more about Omar Vizquel. You have probably heard him described as the best defensive shortstop to ever play the game. Well he is the best that I have seen. He leads all shortstops in career fielding percentage. His fundamentals are unmatched. His footwork is instinctive. His throws are as accurate as they come. His arm is still pretty strong. The only complaint about Omar is that he is a little below average at the plate. This season though, he is hitting .294 with 111 hits and 50 runs, which is much better than his average season at this point. And luckily for the Giants, they had the guts to sign this old guy to a three year deal. Smart move. By the way, one of ym favorite things about this game is watching Omar Vizquel barehand routine groundballs, rather than use his glove. He calls it a bad habit. Thats how good he is.

2. Jason Ellison- The ROY candidate has apparently developed a little quicker than they thought he would. He is turning in a good rookie season and can play the entire outfield but Jason has slumped recently. Willy Taveras gets the edge for ROY in my book.

3. Tyler Walker- Walker has managed to rack up 19 saves this season. He is performing about as well as a third string closer can perform converting 19 saves and blowing just 5 on a fairly weak ballclub. When Benitez went down Brett Tomko got an audition and then they plugged Walker in. It didn't take long for the giants to trade for Latroy Hawkins who of course has a no close clause in his contract. After Felipe Aloe got fed up with Hawkins he demoted him and repromoted Walker.

4. Moises Alou- I can do Alou in ten words. Good player. Great season. Bad team. Sometimes injured. Damn Bartman.

5. Pedro Feliz- Apart from Alou, Feliz has been their best offensive player. He started the season on a tear and cooled off for a while. Everything I hear about Feliz is along the lines of this: Pedro can play a lot of positions but he is below average or average at all of them. His bat wroks him into the games. He is at his best offensively when he is patient, but he is a classic free swinger who hits for a low average and strikes out a lot. Like many free swingers, he hits for power and drives in runs.

6. Mike Matheny- Like Vizquel, Matheny was brought into San Francisco because they are among the best defensively at their position. Also like Vizquel, Matheny is having a career year offensively.

Negatives

1. Barry Bonds- The legend has a bad leg. He is by far the most valuable player on the Giants and probably in the game when he is healthy. But he is worthless at the moment. This is the principle reason the Giants are struggling. When you have so much money invested in one player, if he doesn't play

2. Armando Benitez- He tore his hamstring in the beginning of the season. He is in his first year of a three year contract and is expected to return this season... Expected to return to a team that is 15 games under .500 and have nearly fallen out of the race.

3. Marquis Grissom- They released him upon requiring Randy Winn last week. All you can really say is that he didn't perform. I like Marquis and I don't want to say anything about him other than that he is having a poor season and that I hopes he gets picked up, hopefully by the Astros.

4. Kirk Reuter- Kirk has seen been the giants' third starter for a long time now. He has seen better starting pitchers and worse starting pitchers come and go. He has been somewhat of an anchor to that rotation. From 1997 to 2003 he posted winning records. During that span his ERA was above 5.00 only once. In 2004 he went 9-12. That year has proven to be a transition from a solid second or third starter to a 2-7, 6.00 ERA starting pitcher.

5. Latroy Hawkins- It is very hard to think that the Giants were willing to give up Jerome Williams and David Aardsma for Latroy Hawkins. Hawkins is limited to a setup role, not because of his stuff, but probably a combination of inconsistent location and something mental. He has never had prolonged success as a starter or a closer. San Francisco's hopes for him to fill up a low profile closer role on a barely contending club blew up in smoke, as Hawkins quickly demoted himself with some bad outings. He is 1-5 with a 4.28 ERA on the season.

6. Noah Lowry- He is 6-11 with a 4.59 ERA. But the potential is there in 113 strikeouts, just 4 behind Roy Oswalt. He is young enough to be excused of a rough season with a couple of good outings.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is Viagra A Steroid?

Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for ten days for using steroids. That is how the rule goes. If you use steroids, you have broken the rule. If you don't study for a test you will fail it. It doesn't matter if you forget about the test or if you blow it off completely. You will still fail the test. Even if you study the wrong material, "unknowingly", you will fail the test. You can have an excuse. But that doesn't change your grade. So to Rafael Palmeiro- you might have an excuse, but don't think it changes your grade. The fact is that you played the game with the aid of an illegal substance. You failed the test and no one cares how you got there. No one cares if you forgot you had it or if you unkowingly studied the wrong material. No one cares. Because your legacy has been permanently tainted. Suppose you really are telling the truth... someone slipped Tubernepherine or whatever you took into your daily vitamins. You had no idea. You accidentally ingested the steroid, but you are an innocent guy. But your statistics aren't innocent. Your statistics were illegally enhanced. Accident or not, that statement is completely accurate. Your statistics were illegally enhanced, through a banned substance. And as for your Hall of Fame arguement... Rafael, quite frankly, as a player who has finished in the top 5 in MVP balloting only once, and has been known to do commercials for Viagra... It is safe to say that statistics are about the only thing you have going for you. And after this little scandal, not only has your image taken another hit and your "legacy" been tainted, but your precious statistics- your alleged ticket to the Hall of Fame- have been proven to be impure. This is my final example as to how wrong I believe Rafael Palmeiro to be. Suppose a little four year old kid picks up a crayon and writes all over the wall. The mommy comes in and puts him in timeout for ten minutes. The kid is thinking, "what the hell, I didn't even know I was doing something wrong". It is likely that this little kid failed to grasp the concept and weigh the consequences. But what he did was still wrong. Rafael Palmeiro is, AT BEST, a kid who didn't know what he was doing and wrote all over the wall just as he writes all over his coloring book. But he took his steroids, unknowingly, just as he takes all of his vitamins. And then there is the little kid who knows damn well what he is doing...

On to the Astros, who have swept the Phillies, beat up on the Mets, and are having their way with Arizona. If Ezequiel Astacio pitches the way he did tonight for the entirety of his stint filling in for Brandon Backe, I have a feeling Mike Burns is going to get optioned to Round Rock and Zeqe will stay up with the big club. Apart from Astacio's shutout perfromance the Astros shelled out 8 runs, including a monster homerun from Morgan Ensberg. Read ESPN.com if you missed the game, I don't have much to say about it. Hopefully we manage a sweep over Arizona tommorrow and carry that momentum to San Francisco. Obviously, any NL West team is easier to beat up on than the majority of the other NL clubs. Currently, all of them are under .500. Plus, Noah Lowry and Brett Tomko are not the scariest names to see. Jason schmidt is having a relatively poor season. And besides are pitching can hang with the best of them... The only question is if this offense can score runs on the road. Taking a look at this entire season, the offense hasn't really struggled at home. The pitching hasn't really struggled at all. So the poor road record is naturally a result of the team's greatest weakness- a struggling offense away from Minute Maid Park, where the offense has seemed to be good enough. Two ways to fix the problem is to ask the hitting to improve, or to ask the pitching to become even better. That is probably the reason you see a player like Jamie Moyer being chased by Tim Purpura. You might say, what the hell, the rotation is fine, what about the offense? Well it is simple if you take a logical approach... Think of it like a scale. Everyday game, one team gets on one side of the scale and their opponent gets on the other. The weight is made up of each part of the team. The offense, defense, pitching, and bench. The heavier team weighs more and wins more. They outweigh their opponents more often than not. When a club is improved, the club weighs more. But it doesn't necessarily matter where the is being put, as long as it is on your scale. The obvious exception to this logic is the need for a team to be balanced within oneself. If 95% of the money is in pitching and the entire lineup is well below replacement level, there will be a problem. A balanced team could weigh as much as a team with a Cy Young quality pitching staff and a Double A lineup. That is a clear exception and just doesn't occur at the major league level though.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Back to Back Bruntlett Posts, Homers

Bruntlett is Back... (To Back)(To Back)

Yesterday I posted a piece on Eric Bruntlett. I noted that I liked the way he took so many pitches and upon receiving my internet again tonight, I did a little research to back up my hypothesis that Eric took more pitches than anyone on the bench. Well look at what I found.

TOP 5 PITCHES PER AT BAT (NON-QUALIFIED)
1) Kevin Youkilis- 4.52
2) Jayson Werth- 4.50
3) Eric Bruntlett- 4.47
4) Bobby Abreu- 4.42
5) Jose Valentin- 4.41

TOP 10PITCHES PER AT BAT (QUALIFIED)

1) Bobby Abreu- 4.42
2) Jim Edmonds- 4.32
3) Casey Blake- 4.28
4) David Dellucci- 4.26
5) Brad Wilkerson- 4.25
6) Adam Dunn- 4.24
7) Mark Bellhorn- 4.23
8) Nick Johnson- 4.20
9) Travis Hafner- 4.16
10) Pat Burrell- 4.13

OK. Lets talk about that top list first. Those are the top 5 players, excluding pitchers and hitter who have very few plate appearances, but including players who have as few as 60. Actually Eric has the lowest amount among the players on both lists with just 64 plate appearances. Actually looking at all of the names on both lists it looks as though nearly every single player fits the exact same mold. They are power hitters, or at least players who have some power who tend to strike out a lot.

STRIKEOUTS

1) Mark Bellhorn- 109
2) Adam Dunn- 104
3) Brad Wilkerson- 104
4) Pat Burrell- 100
5) Jim Edmonds- 89
6) David Dellucci- 78
7) Bobby Abreu- 71
8) Casey Blake- 67
9) Travis Hafner- 63
10) Nick Johnson- 52

In case you were curious, Bellhorn, Dunn, Wilkerson, Burrell, and Edmonds are in the top 10 in strikeouts. Dellucci isn't far behind. The next 4 players have decent strikeout numbers, especially Hafner and Johnson. So I suppose that just because you see a lot of pitches it doesn't make you a great hitter. It is very hard to group these players at all besides the fact that they see a lot of pitches. They are powerful for the most part. I guess the easiest way to decide who is getting the most out of seeing so many pitches is creating a quick formula. I'll use BB/K, OBP, and BB/PA. I'll add up all the numbers and in the end we'll get an index score and we will see who is in the best shape. This formula is largely influenced by Eric Bruntlett and is therefore only represented through percentages. Keep in mind that BB/PA carries a slight weight above BB/K and that OBP carries a smaller percentage than both. This formula is kind of deep so I'll draw it out some other time.

WRIN (WALK RATIO INDEX NUMBER)

1) Bobby Abreu- 318.9
2) David Dellucci- 296.0
3) Nick Johnson- 284.4
4) Adam Dunn- 284.3
5) Jim Edmonds- 264.6
6) Travis Hafner- 259.6
7) Mark Bellhorn- 223.8
8) Brad Wilkerson- 218.2
9) Pat Burrell- 208.5
10) Casey Blake- 149.6

NOTABLE WRIN

Eric Bruntlett- 163.6
Willy Taveras- 95.9
Morgan Ensberg- 210.8
Albert Pujols- 288.2
Derrek Lee- 239.3
Kevin Youkilis- 205.4
Jayson Werth- 184.0
JD Drew- 307.2
Luis Castillo- 396.1
Chipper Jones- 333.8
Gary Sheffield- 291.2
Brian Giles- 403.1
Matt Lawton- 319.6

BARRY BONDS WRIN

Barry Bonds (1986)- 232.0
Barry Bonds (1988)- 241.8
Barry Bonds (1993)- 392.8
Barry Bonds (1997)- 421.6
Barry Bonds (2001)- 408.5
Barry Bonds (2002)- 807.2
Barry Bonds (2003)- 576.9
Barry Bonds (2004)- 1002.9

I'll call it walk ratio index number or WRIN. Basically the way to get a high score is to walk often, strike out rarely and hit well. It is the ultimate "good eye" statistic. Bonds actually managed to crack 1000 in 2004 which is pretty insane. It doesn't mean it was the best season ever. But it does mean it was the best season ever if the criteria is on base percentage and strikeout to walk ratios. In other words Bonds' 2004 season was the best season a player could have as far as walking often and striking out rarely. No one is even close to cracking 1000. I can't stress enough how impressive Bonds' numbers are, even in the early stages of his career... A record that will truly never be broken is Bonds' WRIN stretch from 2001 to 2004 in which he amassed a grand total of 2795.5. Call him an asshole all you want, but he will go down in history as having one of the best eyes in the game.

By the way, the only practical use for this statistic is to determine which player you need if you are looking for a player who rarely strikes out, or walks more than enough to strike out, while maintaining a high batting average. Or if you are like me and wonder if Eric Bruntlett really has the best eye on the Astros' bench.

Also... Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman hit back to back homeruns back to back in today's game against Philadelphia. That means they did it twice. Andy Pettitte got the win and as Larry Deirker said, this game proved a lot because the Phillies are 3rd in the league in scoring and are playing very well lately. Pettitte, Mike Burns, and Chad Harville allowed just one run on a cheap Jimmy Rollins solo homer. Five games over .500 folks.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Eric Bruntlett

Eric Bruntlett seems to be perfectly happy sitting on the bench, chiming in with a defensive replacement and occasional pinch situation. Most casual fans will pick up their newspapers tommorrow and wonder who we traded to get Eric Bruntlett. But he is not the product of a trade. He is the product of the Astros' farm system. He seems to be a damn fine product of the Astros' farm system.

Here is what I know about Eric Bruntlett without cheating and pulling up ESPN.com or any, other statistics. Why would I do this? Before I get to Bruntlett let me tell you about my internet service provider.

Sprint is the lucky candidate that recieves my thirty dollar check every month. In return they provide me with a handy, reliable internet service. At the end of every month we get together and have a happy barbecue. Then they refund my check because they like me so much. They always give me super great rebates and discounts, even when I don't ask for them. My connection has been of high quality and has never gone out for 5 or 6 days. My connection certainly isn't out right now. Everyone at Sprint is well educated and mannerly, and when I call them Rosa doesn't hang up on me. Rosa sure is swell... Everyone at Sprint does their jobs very well. I have never seen a single Sprint employee drive the Sprint van into the curb
and swerve to the other lane. Really, I never have. Let's see... After the barbecue we usually hunt for buried treasure or invite Bigfoot over for billiards and badminton. Back to Bruntlett. Wait first say "billiards and badminton, back to Bruntlett" 3 times fast (can't be done).


-Anyway, here is my non-internet assisted Bruntlett knowledge-

Eric graduated from Stanford, so he isn't some jock we have sitting on the bench. There is some reason behind his rhyme.

He was called up sometime during the 2003 season. Not only does Eric's name come to mind but also Dave Matranga's name sparks. I don't remember him playing much in 2003. He was a big leaguer in 2004 as well but I can't seem to remember when. But I know he didn't play often and that he didn't play in key situations.

He has been far less publicized compared to players like Jason Lane and Chris Burke. And again, this season, less publicized than guys like Luke Scott and Willy Taveras. It is a solid probability that he didn't deserve any.

As far as Eric's role this season, he was the option over an extra pitcher coming out of spring training. It makes sense because Eric is a versatile defender and there is a lot of defensive anxiety on this club... Certain players are playing in positions other than their natural position. Others are simply below average defensively. Others are inexperienced and costing us games against the Washington Nationals by misplaying a ball and allowing three runs to score on an easy out. Sorry Willy!

When the first few demotions and promotions were being made this season, I expected Bruntlett to be headed back to Round Rock because he wasn't playing much. But the club has taken a different approach with Eric, by allowing him to stay with the big club rather than demote him and give him some playing time. That tells me that he is on the roster because the Astros think he is a major leaguer.

Yet Eric was perhaps- or most likely- added to this club because it was thought that he can offer more depth filling in for weak defenders in late inning situations, than an extra pitcher could offer. Especially considering that the pitchers occupying the 26th spot on the roster are among replacement level... (Tom Martin, Brandon Duckworth, Mike Gallo).

As far as Bruntlett's talent, Eric is above average defensively in middle infield positions. He can also play on the corners of the infield and apparently he can play in the outfield as well. This season Eric has been at the bottom of the depth chart, yet at the bottom of every position. The only action he has seen is extra inning work, defensive replacements, pinch running, and pinch at bats after Palmeiro, Lamb and Vizcaino have already failed. Among the games he has started he was involved in The Adventures of Wandy and Ezequiel, starting only doubleheaders.

With that said, hitting seems to be Eric's secondary objective. But watching him hit this season I have noticedsomething very intriguing. Eric seems to work the count as well as any hitter on the team. He has the best eye off the bench in my opinion and hopefully when I peek, ESPN.com will back me up on this one. He has a little bit of power. I really like the way he hits, especially the way he hit today. 2 at bats, two full counts, one jackpot...

So what happens next. Will Garner start to work this guy into more games? I'm not sure but I have an opinion. No, I have a full blown theory here. Garner has a knack for fixing things that are broken. I cite 2004's amazing wildcard run as evidence. This team was 15 games under .500 and now they are 4 games over .500. So he has the power to fix a team when it is broken. But in my opionion, according to my theory... I think he should wait for this team to break before he makes any radical changes. I think management should wait for this team to break before they make any trades for a hitter. And when they do break, if they do break... get a hitter and if Eric is still playing well off the bench play him for whoever is slumping.

That is one bonus with a player like Bruntlett. He can do everything but pitch and catch so he can fill in for a lot of injuries and a lot of slumping hitters.

As sad as this situation is, Bruntlett will probably have to continue to lurk in the dugout. He will have to continue to wait for his well deserved and non-existent shot at some extra playing time. But sooner or later we will find out if Bruntlett is a Killer B.

-And now for some unrelated venting-

Chris Burke is in left field and Criag Biggio is at second. Let's play a game. On a scale of 1 to 10 we can judge players by defensive ability at a specific postion, 1 being the worst, 5 being average, and 10 being the best. So let's assume Biggio is an average second baseman and is given a score of 5. Meanwhile Chris Burke is slightly below average in left field and receives a 4, for a net total of 9. Now suppose that Chris Burke was awarded the second base job out of spring training and Biggio stayed in left field. Biggio is a 4 in left field. Burke is above average at his natural position and is at least a 6 at second base, for a net total of 10. In other words, regardless of who plays left field, between these two, they are expected to play slightly below average. But at second base Burke is capable of playing above average defensively, while Biggio is considered average. Niether player makes many errors at either position but niether player makes many flashy plays. Burke might be able to do that at second.

Willy Taveras could be considered front runner for NL ROY. What an arguement he creates... He is quick and has a high batting average. He has a strong, accurate arm. But he is an impatient hitter, an inexperienced defender, and has the lowest RBI per AB in the league. I'm pulling for him though.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Adventures of Wandy and Ezequiel

I remember when Billy Wagner wen't to Philadelphia, how we received Brandon Duckworth, Taylor Buchholz, and Ezequiel Astacio in return. I was so optimistic about Brandon Duckworth joining the club. But he never really had much success. Buchholz was supposed to be like a year away from the majors, but injuries have delayed his arrival and at the beginning of this season he pitched terribly. Recently he has pitched better, however. Those two pitchers completely distracted me from Ezequiel Astacio. When we acquired him he was still in A ball. I figured I would pay attention to him when he actually had a chance of making it to the big leagues.

Spring Training 2005 was defined by the return of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, Luke Scott's unreal offensive outburst, and Lance Berkman's retirement from flag football. But in the middle of all that was a little pitcher named Ezequiel who basically pitched his ass off. Zeqe threw a fastball, a slider, and a splitter. And he kept everything down and he really had a very successful spring. At the end of Spring Training he was sent to Round Rock where he played well enough to earn a callup against Pittsburgh fairly early in the season. But despite only allowing 4 runs to Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Texas hammered him and forced him back to Round Rock.
Enter Wandy Rodriguez. The story goes like this... The Astros needed a fifth starter. Buchholz and Carlos Hernandez had pitched poorly most of the season. wandy had above average numbers at AAA and he fit into the puzzle. Up in the big leagues he has played, adaquetely I suppose. No single start sticks out in my mind, I can't remember him getting hit really hard and I can't remember him dominating a single team. Bargain for a fifth starter both financially and performance based.

So yesterday they started a pair of games in a doubleheader, as they did in Cincinatti. And I have to say I enjoy watching those two pitch as much as i do anyone in the game. They just seem to have these antics about them. Wandy is a very little guy who shows a lot of body language. When he misses his spot he goes into some kind of stretch. He never seems to make eye contact with anyone. In that start he had against Toronto he never made eye contact with Jim Hickey. Zeqe looks as though he just picks up the ball and throws it at the glove. He is the antithesis for "the art of pitching". He has such a raw style, the way he just throws it in there.

A lot of what I just typed was wandering, rambling bullshit. But coming into today we were a losing team. As I write this we are a winning team. And that is the difference Wandy and Ezequiel made. So if this season turns into something great and these two end up in Round Rock for the rest of the year, don't forget this day. Don't forget how we were coming off an ugly sweep in St. Louis. The attitude had changed from "maybe we can compete with these guys" to "who do they want for Randy Winn?" So on a day when a couple of rookies could have faltered and put a season defining road trip in jeapordy, remember how they stepped up...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Raul Ibanez

OK so it is a proven fact. The Astros need help offensively. Maybe you have read or heard that they are hitting much better lately, like in the last 30 games or so. Coinincidentally, the Astros have been winning many games. But to be honest, weak opponents' pitching, slumping opponents, and injuries have contributed to the winning in a big way. Of course Lance Berkman coming around and Morgan Ensberg getting hot really helped to carry this team. But Ensberg is playing the best baseball of his career and no one is immune to the laws of gravity. So, in my opinion, it is time to make a trade.

I have my eye on Raul Ibanez, just ahead of Juan Encarnacion. The team could most easily improve in the outfield, where Jason Lane and Chris Burke have failed to be effective up to this point. Among the players on the market, Ibanez might be the best candidate to pick up. At least Ibanez has more potential than Randy Winn or Matt Lawton. Before we get to deep though, lets get a quick look at Raul Ibanez.

Here is an ESPN scouting reoprt:

Raul Ibanez was one of the few Mariners who got off to a good start in 2004 at the plate. He was hitting .266 with a team-high 10 home runs and 27 RBI heading into June when he severely strained his right hamstring. He missed a month of action and it took all of July for him to get his swing back. Ibanez did hit .340 in August and .352 in September. He matched a club record by reaching base 11 consecutive times, including a six-hit game.

Ibanez has a compact line-drive swing, though a slight uppercut allows for him to hit for power on occasion. In the past, Ibanez typically had trouble against lefthanded pitchers. But he hit .295 against southpaws in 2004, driving the ball the other way better and showing improved patience at the plate. Some scouts think that Ibanez' short stroke is the perfect fit for gaps at Safeco Field. He was also one of Seattle's top two-strike hitters, and he didn't lose much when he had to shorten his swing. Originally drafted as a catcher, Ibanez spent most of the season playing left field. He took much better routes for flyballs than he did in the past in Kansas City. He doesn't have a plus arm. Ibanez has adequate speed, though he didn't run much after straining his hamstring in June. He moved to first base later in the season and struggled there at times.

So obviously, Raul is having a really good season. Now it comes down to what do we have to give up and who do the Mariners want in return.

Well it easier to identify what the Mariners want because they have no pitching. So they want pitching. I'm not sure if we could get Backe for Ibanez straight up. Plugging that into the ABC Theory, Geoff Blum for Brandon Backe for Raul Ibanez makes it Geoff Blum for Raul Ibanez. That would be perfectly acceptable and is considered a landslide victory in the Astros favor. Truthfully though, I'm unsure if we are giving the Mariners too much in Backe. Or way too little. The Mariners have position on us though in that we are approaching them for their player. There are some young guys you can't touch on this team. You aren't getting Willy Taveras. But if Zeqe Astacio and Jason Lane went to Seattle I don't mind that at all. I would start with that offer and if they laughed in my face I would mention Brandon Backe's name. I would only allow the following names to be discussed. Ezequiel Astacio, Brandon Backe, Chad Harville, Luke Scott, and Jason Lane. And Backe is a last resort. Obviously they are looking for pitching and Astacio might do the trick.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

7/9 Thread

JULY 9, 2005 (43-43)
Los Angeles-2 Houston-4
W- Roy Oswalt
L- Jeff Weaver
S- Brad Lidge

DODGERS MVP- Jeff Kent
ASTROS MVP- Roy Oswalt

DODGERS LVP- Jayson Werth
ASTROS LVP- Morgan Ensberg

What Wen't RIGHT- The Astros are a .500 club.

What Wen't WRONG- Who cares, the Astros are a .500 club.

ANALYSIS-

So the Astros are finally a .500 ballclub. They came a long way from being 16-31. I'd just like to talk about a couple of reasons, or even theories as to why the team has been so successful
recently.

- Give credit where its due: The starting pitching has been excellent since the Astros hit rock bottom at 15 games under .500. The returning starters haven't skipped a beat. Pettitte is still getting hurt occasionally. But when he is healthy he is good. Roy Oswalt is a longshot Cy Young type pitcher. Roger Clemens is having a better season than last year. Every fifth day there is just this stability... When Roger pitches the attitude is, "Well Clemens will win it for us or either the offense or bullpen will lose it for us."

- Old Wandy has filled in quite capably for, uh, Brandon Duckworth. He is competitive and looks pretty composed for a rookie. He reminds me of Brandon Backe... He has the stuff to pitch a great game everytime, he is a good athlete, and he chips in with the bat.

- Brad Lidge has shaken off a few blown saves from earlier in the season. He is back to normal. Dan Wheeler is the most surprising player on the team. I certainly didn't expect such a good season from him. About 20 games ago I would have loved to pick up the paper and see that Dan Wheeler and Ezequiel Astacio had been traded for Mike Cameron. Management 1, Me 0.

- As good as the pitching has been lately... Both the starting pitching and the bullpen... You have to give the offense some credit. At 16-31 the team was struggling to score just 1 or 2 runs. I'm not sure if the pitching is just making the offense look better or not. But I know that when this team collected Lance Berkman it got a nice boost. I know that Morgan Ensberg's contributions to the offense have been very important. Craig Biggio is performing above expectations. He is underpaid.

- Willy Taveras has a shot at Rookie of the Year. And if this team makes any run whatsoever at the playoffs he should win it. He fits into this club and its offensive plan perfectly. Phil Garner manufactures runs. Willy Taveras is the employee of the month, three months running. According to the Chronicle Willy has that quiet work ethic that Biggio and Bagwell have. Got to like that.

So here we are. Tommorrow's game is actually kind of important. Tommorrow we will be a winning team. Or a losing team. But either way, the Astros can finally see the light. They can finally look down on other teams... A few weeks ago I posted the news of us moving up a spot in the wild card standing. We had passed San Francisco. I said bring on Milwaukee. Well, Pittsburgh fell first, followed by this injured Dodgers team. Then it seemed like we were just hanging around with Milwaukee for about a week, before we quickly overtook them. Arizona fell next. For the first time since this team was 8-8, you had the feeling that the teams you were ahead of were of a decent quality. One Chicago losing streak and an entire season of Mets' mediocrity later, and the Astros have merely three teams guarding the gates to the playoffs. With a little luck we can make it two tommorrow, and pass Philadelphia. The wildcard race has a lot of teams hunting for a spot in the playoffs, but only two, Atlanta and Florida, are winning teams. Two more, Philadelphia and Houston, are .500 ballclubs. Five more contenders are anywhere from one to seven games under .500. It is hard to say a team like Los Angeles or Milwaukee is no longer a contender. Look at Houston. But in all likelihood, this is a six team race in which we are currently tied for third.

Here is a look at the Wildcard Standings:

Atlanta 50 38
Florida 44 41
Philadelphia 44 44
Houston 43 43
New York 43 44
Chicago 42 44
Arizona 42 47
Milwaukee 41 46
Los Angeles 40 47
Pittsburgh 39 47
San Francisco 37 49
Cincinnati 35 52
Colorado 31 55


Sorry for ditching the thread last night and the Dodgers' Preview. I took a look at this roster and laughed out loud. But look at this roster and tell me you were looking forward to hearing about these players. DJ Houlton, Franquelis Osoria, Mike Rose, Oscar Robles, Mike Edwards, Jason Repko, Antonio Perez, Chin-Feng Chen, Cody Ross, and Jason Grabowski. Yikes. And to compliment the no names they have filling in this season they have Olmedo Saenz, Ricky Ledee, Elmer Dessens, Giovanni Carrara, and Scott Erickson. Poor Dodgers fans...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Dex & jbox

As I am browsing at 4 AM, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to direct you to this Padres blog, Gas Lamp Ball. Dex had me laughing my ass off reading his post about Lou Pineilla and how the fielders should stand next to the plate and block the ball as soccer plyers do on penalty kicks. Check it out for yourself these two are funny guys.

Also, something I forgot to mention, Roy Oswalt picked up the last spot on the National League roster for the all star game. Scott Podsednik beat out Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, and Torii Hunter for his spot in the American League... Impressive.

7/6 Thread

JULY 6, 2005 (41-42)
San Diego-4 Houston-5
W- Andy Pettitte
L- Jake Peavy
S- Dan Wheeler

BURKE STREAK- 11

PADRES MVP- Brian Giles
ASTROS MVP- Dan Wheeler

PADRES LVP- Jake Peavy
ASTROS LVP- Mike Gallo

What Wen't RIGHT- Andy Pettitte notched his sixth win. The offense was good enough, again. Willy was 3 for 5 up top, Biggio and Ensberg each drove in a run. Burke's streak is up to 11.

What Wen't WRONG- Pettitte left the game after the 5th inning because he strained his arm. Mike Gallo got roughed up for the second night in a row. Aside from Russ Springer's hold and Dan Wheeler's save, the bullpen had to scrape by and meander its way through an error to hold off the Pads.

ANALYSIS-

The Astros are one game under .500. It's hard to believe we are a half game ahead of the Cubs, 1 win away from sweeping the first place San Diego Padres, and just a win or two away from being a winning ballclub at the allstar break. But Andy Pettitte strained his arm again. That is terrible news because the reason the Stros have been so hot lately is the quality starting pitching. The offense has been adequate but the pitching; both the rotation and the bullpen have made the biggest contributions to the recent hot streak. Pettitte has been a big part of the rotation, especially lately and if this injury is anything serious... And Ezequiel Astacio has to substitute and play how many homeruns can I give up, the team might be in a little bit of trouble. Zeqe has been terrible in the majors but he is still dominant at AAA. His troubles in the majors can be traced to control issues. But is his control really that much better in the minors. Perhaps Astacio's stuff isn't good enough for major league hitters. He can afford to miss some spots against minor league hitters.

At any rate, Pettitte is hurt. The bullpen got the job done tonight. Barely. Russ Springer picked up a hold and Dan Wheeler picked up his second save of the season, in Brad Lidge's absence. In between those 2 though, Gallo, Harville, and Qualls struggled through 2 innings of work. Whatever the job was done. But it is a good thing that Wheeler did manage to end the game in 9 innings. If the Padres had tied it at 5, Wheeler would have to pitch until giving away to the only remaining pitcher available, Mike Burns.

Padre's pitcher Jake Peavy had strep throat today and obviously didnt pitch his best game. He gave up 11 hits which is the most he has allowed all season long. Haha. I'm going to say this again because this will probably be my only chance all season. The Cy Young candidate allowed 11 hits, his highest total of the season, to the Houston Astros.

Get out the brooms I smell a sweep. Wandy vs Woody. Hopefully they start Burroughs tommorrow, because he hasn't started in a while. Even though he can't hit lefthanded pitching. The only Houston pitcher he is successful against is Brad Lidge, he's 2-4 with a walk. Get a hit tommorrow Burke...