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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

5/31 Thread

MAY 31, 2005 (19-32)
Cincinnati-4 Houston-3
W- Brandon Backe
L- Matt Belisle
S- Brad Lidge


REDS MVP- Ken Griffey Jr. (2-3, 2B,HR,2 RBI)
ASTROS MVP- Brandon Backe

REDS LVP- Jason Romano- Pinch runner and potential tying run picked off at 2nd base...
ASTROS LVP- John Franco

What Wen't RIGHT- Brandon Backe managed his 4th win of the season. He tied Roger for most hits by a pitcher this season at six, and later scored a run. Lance Berkman and Todd Self came up with clutch RBI hits. Adam Everett hit a solo homerun. Brad Lidge earned the save and struck out three.

What Wen't WRONG- Backe gave up a lead swapping two run homer to Ken Griffey Jr. John Franco, the "lefthanded specialist", gave up a double and allowed an inherited runner to score from first. Craig Biggio failed to reach base for the second straight game.


What can I say, Brandon Backe is spoiling me. This start today was not the complete game shutout over San Francisco on Sunday Night Baseball. It was not the solid Wrigley Field performance from last week. It was typical Brandon Backe. As far as I'm concerned, every start, he does one of four things, thus the BACKEOMETER is created:

1)The BC start- He pitches the way he did tonight. He misses some spots, and gives up runs, but he battles, and he challenges, and he chimes in with the bat. In this game, for example, an impressive situation comes to mind. The Reds load the bases with two outs, and Ryan Freel steps up to the plate. Ryan Freel is 1 for 17 in his career with the bases loaded. On a 1-1 count, Backe throws a missle into the strikezone and Freel pops it up. He battles and challenges with what he has.

2)The SUOTR start- He gives up a run or two on the road. He has good stuff. He pitches a solid game. The Wrigley Field game last week is the best example of the "Step up on the road" start.

3)The NLCS start- These are the games when the man is just untouchable, hence the National League Championship Series gem in which this classification is named after. He pitches a supreme game, gives up a run or less, and carries the team to victory. The bat is probably active.

4)The AB start- The "Anti-Backe" start. The rare night when Backe is just off and the opponents get to him. Most of these starts are on the road as Brandon is a much better pitcher at home. The bat is probably dead.


So I am yet to say a single word about the Cincinnati Reds. I guess I could talk about a couple of things on this team. Felipe Lopez has extended his hitting streak over the last two games from 11 to 13. Lopez has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games. He's hitting .296, more than .50 points higher than any other season total. His eight homers match his career high. He's on pace to play 124 games but it seems a little low considering D'Angelo Jiminez is out of the picture and Rich Aurilia is playing badly. On the 124 game projection Lopez steals 13 bases, but a number of things drives that statistic up... Playing time is on the rise for Lopez and that could force the projection to be calculated over a 144 game season, pushing his total to 15. On top of all that Lopez is an above average defender. It wouldn't surprise me if he turned this hitting streak into a Luis Castillo type 30 gamer, and Felipe gets himself some attention.And all it took to get him was the Jim Bowden salry dump move that sent Elmer Dessens and his 3 million dollar contract off to Oakland.


Wily Mo Pena, the Reds' fourth outfielder, is a starter in most outfields in the majors. This Cincinnati Reds team has a glaring weakness in it's pitching staff. So why do you hang on to Wily Mo Pena? Because Ken Griffey Jr. gets hurt every season and they have to keep a fourth outfielder around as insurance. Griffinsurance. By now the Reds know they wont contend this year. So start working out a place to trade this guy, or make a commitment to him and try to deal Kearns. One of them has to go. Wily Mo Pena or Austin Kearns for Oakland's Octavio Dotel seems fitting. Oakland is shopping him too. So let Ryan Freel take over when Griffey gets hurt, and try to put a club together for 2006.

Roy Oswalt vs Ramon Ortiz tommorrow. Roy Oswalt's 13-0 career record against Cincinnati at stake...

Monday, May 30, 2005

5/30 Thread

MAY 30, 2005 (18-32)
Houston-0 Cincinnati-9
W- Aaron Harang
L- Roger Clemens

REDS MVP- Aaron Harang
ASTROS MVP- Roger Clemens

REDS LVP- Austin Kearns... 0-3, BB,K,R
ASTROS LVP- John Franco

What Wen't RIGHT- Willy Taveras wen't 2-4 with his 13th stolen base of the season. Ensberg reached base twice. Ausmus actually got a clutch hit to load the bases. Roger Clemens threw eight innings and gave up two runs. No errors.

What Wen't WRONG- Only one runner reached third base. We suffered through our ninth shutout of the season. Joe Randa hit a homerun, his first in 39 games. Randa has hit 40% of his homeruns off Clemens and 60% off Astros pitching. The top of the ninth inning was a disaster, Franco gave up three earned without retiring a hitter. Russ Springer, who only managed one out, gave up four earned runs, including a three run homerun to Ryan Freel. Qualls mopped up and retired the last two hitters. Take a look at these ERA's:

Franco- 7.36
Springer- 8.62
Qualls- 5.55

Now at the ERA's for the last 30 days:

Franco- 10.39
Springer- 17.06
Qualls- 9.58

And finally over the last 15 days:

Franco- 22.50
Springer- 26.97
Qualls- 7.77


So what does that mean? Does it mean that perhaps the pitcher who has performed the strongest this season should be coming into the game with a two run deficit rather than a nine. Absolutely. I understand that Franco is the "lefthanded specialist". But the guy is not doing his job. I would let Qualls pitch to an entire lefthanded lineup before I let Franco warm up. I understand that this guy is a proven closer and that he is finishing up a solid career. But if he can't close games or retire lefties what do we need him for? I understand that the Astros aren't scoring two or three runs in the bottom of the ninth. So whats the difference between a 2-0 loss and a 9-0 loss? Well besides all that "disheartens the club, and fire up a spark under the team" bullshit, it doesn't. So here is why you leave John Franco out of this game. Take a look at Chad Qualls. His ERA is slowly improving. Garner decided it was low enough earlier this week and put him in some games. He got hammered. ERA's over the last week:

Franco- 81.82
Springer- 27.07
Qualls- 10.81
Chad Qualls is a young pitcher. Sometimes with young pitchers it is a matter of trust or confidence. Franco used to be a great pitcher. He closed games in New York, which in my opinion is one of the toughest jobs in the game. Adding the New York pressure to the pressure every closer feels, to not let down the team, is not an easy job. Franco blew saves in New York. He wasn't perfect. John Franco blew saves in New York and bounced back and with a solid season, every season for a long time. I don't know if confidence or trust had anything to do with it. I don't know if it was pure ability. They loved this guy in New York. So you have to wonder, when the Mets, a team with a horrendous bullpen of their own, release their team captain and former closer, they surely have a damn good reason. They knew he wasn't going to be successful. I don't know why he is struggling, but I know that he doesnt have the quality of pitches that he used to and that he is 44 years old. His stuff has suffered as he has aged. I know he was injured much of last season, and he was ineffective when he was healthy. Plus any hitter who has been in the National League for a few years has seen enough of him to know what is coming.In other words, John Franco can be the most confident pitcher in baseball, but he still isn't going to be very effective at this level. Chad Qualls could use a little bit of confidence. He could use the innings, and in a season that is rapidly approaching irrelevance, I give the innings to the guy who can help me in the future, when it counts. Springer is well on his way to Franco status. To bring him in with a 4 run deficit seems fitting. Its a good chance to get him back on track, but it backfired. He has actually been less effective than Franco as far as ERA goes. But a lefty is more important than whatever role Springer serves. Well, consider this to be Part 1 of the Bullpen Analysis Series.

Backe vs Belisle tommorrow, hope its a good one.