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

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

6/15 Thread

JUNE 15, 2005 (26-38)
Baltimore-6 Houston-1
W- Rodrigo Lopez
L- Wandy Rodriguez

ORIOLES MVP- Brian Roberts
ASTROS MVP- Jason Lane

ORIOLES LVP- Eli Marrero
ASTROS LVP- Lance Berkman

What Wen't RIGHT- Jason Lane hit a solo homerun, number 10 on the season. Orlando Palmeiro hit 2 doubles.

What Wen't WRONG- Wandy gave up 4 earned and allowed a ton of baserunners. The lineup got dominated by Rodrigo Lopez, excluding Orlando Palmeiro and Jason Lane.

ANALYSIS-

Ah, 3 or 4 days ago Roy Oswalt was furiously putting the finishing touches on a sweep of the tired and beaten Toronto Blue Jays. That game marked the 5th straight victory for the Astros. Three days later, three games later, the Baltimore Orioles have cancelled out the sweep over Toronto.

I was quite pessimistic about this game because of the fact that it was Wandy Rodriguez pitching against a hot Baltimore offense that is already very strong to begin with. But Wandy wasn't the reason the Astros lost. Wandy pitched better than Backe and Pettitte, believe it or not. Sure, there was a ton of traffic. Just 4 earned runs compared to Backe's 8 and Pettitte's 6, although Wandy did pitch less innings than Pettitte and more than Backe. NO, the problem that has once again possessed the team is the lack of offense, especially on the road. Middle of the pack pitchers are shutting down the offense like hall of famers. Jason Lane is the only exception lately. Maybe soon a new player will be the exception, but the point is, one or two exceptions to a poor lineup is nothing special. Isolated production is never a good strategy, hence the frquency of solo homeruns, as opposed to homeruns with men on base. Imagine how much more competitive we would be if these homers were coming with 2 or 3 men on base. That doubles and triples the production of a solo homerun.

Chris Burke finally got benched in tonight's game, as Orlando Palmeiro started in left field. Burke simply hasn't hit at all in the majors, so Garner has every right to sit him down. The arguement is that the team in no longer a contender and that the young players should be the team's priority. I don't really agree with that. I think you can split the time up or at least platoon becasue Burke is doing very little that could be considered positive. He is hitting .170 against righthanders and .170 against lefthanders, so the platoon option against either a lefty or a righty doesn't work because Burke offers no strength against them. You know things are going badly when a .161 career hitter goes into a slump. He is 3 for his last 31... Maybe Mike Lamb can come back and play left field a little. This whole situation reminds me a little bit of how Todd Self took away a slumping Jason Lane's starting job. Well Self started slumping and Lane filled in again and he started mashing the ball and playing great defense and now he is the hottest hitter on the club. Perhaps Mike Lamb can do something like that.

How about I take your mind off of this sweep and do a minor league update. I'll go over some names that might interest you and that you might see in the big leagues later this season.

Luke Scott- He is hitting just .229 with 8 homeruns. I hope Luke can get it together because he would be a perfect fit in left field, and in the 6 slot of the lineup.

Todd Self- He is hitting .376, that leads the club. You will probably see him again.

Carlos Rivera- You might remember him from spring training. The former Pirate is building on his solid spring... Here is a look at his line: (.316, .380, .476). First base is pretty stacked in the depth department, but we'll see what happens.

Royce Huffman- Speedy prospect is hitting just .192 at Round Rock. He is probably closer to a demotion than a promotion.

Mike Coolbaugh- Solid 3rd baseman already has roughly 2 years of major league experience. At the age of 33 he has no particular use to the team, who is going in the direction of playing younger players. His line isn't bad though: (.298, .373, .571). Mike is a classic AAAA player, too good for AAA, not good enough for the big leagues.

Brooks Conrad- Progressing well but is probably a year away.

And how about all the pitchers?

Jared Gothreaux- Leads the club by far in innings pitched, but that is about it. He is 3-7 with a 4.28 ERA. That ERA is good for sixth on the club.

Ezequiel Astacio- Believe it or not he has the best ERA on the club, at 3.35, despite his 1-3 record. He is finding his control and will probably be called up again.

Tom Martin- One of 2 lefthanders in the bullpen, he has a 4.09 ERA. He is the veteran candidate if John Franco is released.

Mike Gallo- The second lefthander out of the bullpen. You might remember Mike from last season, where he was the lefthanded specialist. He has alright numbers at Round Rock. Gallo has a slightly better ERA than Martin, at 3.98, to go along with a 4-1 record. Gallo has a WHIP around 1.25. In my opinion, if you release or demote Franco, Gallo is the man you call up. He has a much higher ceiling than Tom Mratin. Martin, at this point in his career, is similar to John Franco in that he is probably too old to improve or make much of an impact.

Taylor Buchholz- He came over in the Billy Wagner trade and has kind of slowed down since then. An injury ruined his 2004 campaign, but this season he is 5-0 and making progress again.

Travis Driskill- Former Oriole and Rockie is having a decent season. He has 42 strikeouts to go along with a 4.38 ERA and a 5-2 record. He seems to have good control as he has only walked 9 but he has a track record of failing at the major league level, so the club might be holding off on him.

Carlos Hernandez- He is struggling massively. It looks like this one got away... His 7.11 ERA might be a product of the speed of his pitches. He had surgery on his arm and now his fastball is around 85. That means he has to have good control and he doesn't, he has more walks than strikeouts. There are many candidates to be called up ahead of Carlos.

Jeremy Griffiths- He made a couple of starts in the majors last season. He is in the bullpen now with a 10.17 ERA. The explanation for Jeremy's struggles? Serious control issues... 24 walks to just 8 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched.

Brandon Duckworth- Please don't make me mention this name...

Brooks Kieschnick- This guy could be pretty valuable to a contender when he is playing at his best. He is one of very few players, and probably the only current player to have such an even split between pitching and hitting. He could honestly be used as either, at the major league level. The Milwaukee Brewers did that throughout 2003 and 2004 before eventually releasing him. The Astros originally optioned him to AA Corpus Christi but he played well enough to work his way up to Round Rock. This guy is the ultimate player for the bench.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

6/14 Thread

JUNE 14, 2005 (26-37)
Baltimore-6 Houston-1
W- Bruce Chen
L- Andy Pettitte

ORIOLES MVP- Miguel Tejada
ASTROS MVP- Jason Lane

ORIOLES LVP- Jorge Julio
ASTROS LVP- Chris Burke

What Wen't RIGHT- Jason Lane and Lance Berkman were the only 2 bright spots in the game, both offensively and defensively.

What Wen't WRONG- Andy Pettitte gave up 6 runs in just under 8 innings. Chris Burke, Willy Taveras, Adam Everett, Craig Biggio, Brad Ausmus, and Eric Bruntlett went a combined 0-22.

ANALYSIS-

First I want to take a look at Andy Pettitte's performance. For the first 5 innings Andy was in control of this game. the momentum was clearly in the Astros' favor. Jim Deshaies put it well, saying that if this were a football game the Astros would lead in possession time by far. For 5 innings I was just patiently waiting for the offense to come through. I was under the misconception that the team was no longer struggling on the road, but rather playing at a level of level of mediocrity that I'll gladly settle for at this point... Because quite frankly this team has been terrible on the road this season and any escape from that would be welcome. Even if it is stealing a couple of series from Milwaukee and New York. But that wasn't the case tonight because Baltimore can hit. Mora, Tejada, and Sosa figured him out the 2nd and 3rd times through the lineup.

It was unfortunate that every time we seemed to get runners on base, Brad Ausmus and Eric Bruntlett were the candidates to drive them in. Those 2 aren't necassarily hitters. Bruntlett and Ausmus both had some good at bats. The story behind the story deals with Willy Taveras and Chris Burke. They were a pathetic 0-9 at the top of the order giving the regular RBI guys no one to drive in. Adam Everett also went 0-4 and despite running out a fielder's choice for an RBI, performed played poorly. All of the 0-3's and 0-4's throughout the lineup killed the rallies and isolated the production. Morgan had an odd night, he never put the ball in play going 0-2 with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. Jason Lane went 2-3 with a walk and he made some great plays in right field too. Same goes for Lance, he reached base twice and made a great play at first. It was kind of a flag football flashback though because Lance got up holding his knee and walking towards the dugout. That drew Garner out of the dugout and that drew Orioles' manager Lee Mazelli out of his dugout to argue the technicality that since Garner never called time, he should be charged with a visit to the mound. It took a couple of minutes and after that Pettitte wasn't the same pitcher. Mora singled in Bigbie and Miguel Tejada smoked a line drive homerun 2 pitches later.

Jorge Julio was far less effective in the 8th inning tonight. He seemed to have a little less control and for the second night in a row hit a batter. Last night's victim was Ensberg and tonight's was Craig Biggio. I could never provide you with the kind of hit by pitch coverage that this man can, so I strongly suggest you visit Plunk Biggio, it is a frequently visited site for me. It might change the way you think about Craig Biggio's at bats. For example, I was wathing the game tonight and one of Julio's pitches barely missed Biggio. I was thinking to myself, "Damn, that must have got the guys at Plunk Biggio's attention." Sure enough the next pitch hit him. Please visit this site, it is a good one. Anyway, Steve Reed bailed Jorge Julio out, giving up just one of the inherited runners.

I am seriously fearing a sweep tommorrow. Wandy Rodriguez has seemed to struggle with location, confidence, and pitch selection in his previous starts. Wandy's numbers are supposedly much worse than his stuff, but he is yet to prove that. Rodrigo Lopez hasn't been beaten since May 19th. I'm just not particularly optimistic about his one, especially after being quite optimistic about the last 2 games, and watching the pitching fail in game 1 and then the offense fail in game 2. And then the pitching again in game 2. Wandy recently got into a lot of trouble against a struggling Blue Jays' offense. The Orioles' offense is much better than the Blue Jays and is filled with professional hitters and veterans. The Jays were fairly young while the O's lineup includes 500 homerun club members Sosa and Palmeiro, veteran all stars Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada, and a streaking Brian Roberts. Wandy's ERA is at 8.41 and that makes Lopez's mediocre ERA of 4.52 look worthy of a Cy Young award. But!! With all that said if Wandy could somehow figure out a way to meander his way through the 5 walks and 5 hits he is bound to give up. And the Astros' offense resurrects itself, (Chris Burke on the bench), than maybe we can win this game. If Wandy could step up and pitch a good game, saving us from the sweep, it would do a lot for the team and his confidence.

And if we do get swept tommorrow, don't throw in the towel just yet. We have a series coming up with the last place Kansas City Royals and a series with the last place Colorado Rockies after that. And by the way Chris Burke is the LVP until he reaches base on a legitimate hit, no errors, no walks. The guy is getting extensive playing time beacause he is a hitter and it is time for him to prove it. Good luck Wandy!

6/13 Thread

JUNE 13, 2005 (26-36)
Baltimore-8 Houston-5
W- Hayden Penn
L- Brandon Backe

BACKEOMETER- AB

ORIOLES MVP- Larry Bigbie
ASTROS MVP- Jason Lane

ORIOLES LVP- Sal Fasano
ASTROS LVP- Brandon Backe

What Wen't RIGHT- Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg are staying hot, each hitting 2 run homers. The bullpen did another solid job, giving up one run in 4 plus innings. Mike Lamb had 3 hits. Adam Everett added an RBI double.

What Wen't WRONG- Brandon Backe gave up 7 runs in less than 4 innings. Chris Burke wen't 0-5. Jay Gibbons and Larry Bigbie hit back to back homeruns for Baltimore.

ANALYSIS-

Ahh, this one stung a little bit, Brandon didn't have a very good game and the Orioles hit him pretty hard. He was off on his location because Quintero was setting up on one side and Brandon was putting it on the other. Backe had given up less than 1 earned run in 5 of his last 7 innings. Tonight he just got hit hard. I suppose he will have a better start next time, against Colorado. I excuse him against Baltimore but I expect him to pitch better games against mediocre and poor offenses.

This reminded me of that game against St. Louis a while back, the one where Wandy Rodriguez pitched terribly and had like a 6 run inning, but nearly every other player on the team played well. Take a look at the inning from hell:

Jay Gibbons homered to right, Rafael Palmeiro scored. Larry Bigbie homered to left. Melvin Mora doubled to deep right, Brian Roberts scored. Sammy Sosa doubled to deep left, Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada scored.

Gross. But take out the second inning and this is a much closer game. I still think Chris Burke is in over his head at the major league level. Another 0-5 night, another double play. Perhaps a 3 hit night for Mike Lamb will give him another shot at the left field job.

Hayden Penn didn't pitch his best game but Backe pitched poorly enough to provide him with his first win at the major league level. Everyone seemed to be impressed with Penn's changeup and his walk ratio, which was uncharacteristicly low. All you can really do is go back out tommorrow and hope you do a better job of stifling this Balitmore offense...

Monday, June 13, 2005

Orioles vs Astros Series Preview

SERIES PREVIEW

The Astros are taking thier 5 game winning streak to Camden Yards for three games... Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati just won a series against them so maybe they are vulnerable. Adding to that vulnerablitlity is the O's injury problems...

Brandon Backe (6-3, 4.31 ERA) vs Hayden Penn (0-0, 3.52 ERA)
Andy Pettitte (3-6, 3.43 ERA) vs Bruce Chen (5-4, 3.61 ERA)
Wandy Rodriguez (2-2. 8.41 ERA) vs Rodrigo Lopez (5-2, 4.52 ERA)

The Orioles happen to miss our 2 best starters, which is unfortunate because the Orioles are a very good team offensively. As for the pitching matchups we will see...

Hayden Penn will make the 4th start of his career tonight. Hayden Penn is the youngest player in the major leagues, at 20, and despite posting a fairly low ERA he is averaging only 5 innings per start. They must have him on a short leash over there because he is yet to receive a decision and he has yet to pitch 6 innings. Penn has been pulled in the middle of an inning in every one of his starts this season. His last 2 starts he has averaged just 78 pitches. He has only given up 1 homer in 15 plus innings, but he walks a lot ot of hitters, about 6 per 9 innings, and has only struck out 7. His WHIP is 1.43. Backe's is 1.39 though. Penn's opponent's on base percentage is .328. Backe's is .333. So it easy to think that these two are somewhat even, but keep this in mind. Penn has only thrown 3 starts. His ERA is deflated because he only gave up 1 run
against Detroit and just 2 against Pittsburgh. In his start against Boston he put up a 5.06 ERA. Boston is the only team with a good offense there. In my opinion this is the game you can steal from Baltimore and use to get the leg up on them.

Pettitte vs Chen on Tuesday night. Bruce Chen has had his moments in the majors but is so inconsistent he gets tossed around a lot. You might remember he pitched for the Astros in 2003 for a little while. This season he posted a 3.62 ERA in April and a 3.35 ERA in May. June has treated Chen a little more roughly. He is 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA. Pettitte is 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA.
Also, Chen is another Orioles pitcher who doesn't seem to strike out many hitters. Chen's WHIP is 1.19 and Pettitte's is 1.17. When a WHIP is so close like that, you might look to another statistic to see who has the edge. Pettitte's opponent's slugging percentage is .397 and Chen's is .396. So this is a tough matchup to predict and we'll see how it goes.

This third matchup could be a disasterous one. Wandy Rodriguez usually allows a lot of baserunners. The variable is whether or not he can work his way out of situatuions with men on base and get double plays. The alternative is not getting outs with men on base and losing badly. It doesn't make much of a difference to me who Wandy's opponent is until the 4th or 5th inning
of that game. By then I will know if good Wandy or bad Wandy is pitching.

As far as the offense goes, the Orioles can flat out rake. Here is a look at a lineup for Game 1. Games 2 and 3 should be similar to this:

2B B. Roberts
3B M. Mora
SS M. Tejada
RF S. Sosa
1B R. Palmeiro
DH J. Gibbons
LF L. Bigbie
C S. Fasano
CF D. Newhan

You have probably heard about Brian Roberts' phenomenal season. He is hitting .361, good for 2nd in the majors, with 136 total bases. He has hit 11 homeruns and has already collected 79 hits. Melvin Mora is another tough hitter, batting just behind him and then you have last season's RBI king, Miguel Tejada, to deal with. (Batting Avg, On Base Pct, Slugging Pct):

Roberts- (.361, .440, .621)
Mora- (.304, .356, .518)
Tejada- (.325, .369, .639)

That is very dangerous. It is a statistical improbability that a pitcher retires these three consecutively. If Sosa and Palmeiro were in their prime in the middle of this lineup, I probably would have passed out. Sosa is hitting .251 and Palmeiro is hitting .255. Each men are in the 500 homerun club but both are on the downhill side of Hall of Fame careers. They have 8 homers apiece. Larry Bigbie is coming off of the DL and Jay Gibbons is having a solid season. Sal Fasano is currently overacheiving, but he is a threat for occasional extra bases... Well, doubles and homers, he has never hit a triple in his career. David Newhan is having an ugly season... (.190, .241, .310).

The bench has lost some serious depth because of all the injuries to this club. The regular catcher, Javy Lopez is hurt and Luis Matos is on a minor league rehab assignment. Sammy Sosa was hurt earlier this season. The pitching has taken a hit too. Erik Bedard is hurt, that is why Hayden Penn is starting tonight. Kurt Ainsworth and Jason Grimsley are on the 60 Day DL. The bench is capable, but shouldn't be much to worry about. Geronimo Gil is playing terribly, Chris Gomez isn't getting much playing time, and Rmaon Nivar is up from the minors and also playing badly. Eli Marrero just came over from the Royals after being designated for assignement. He resembles BJ Surhoff- An eligible catcher who is listed as an outfielder and on the team for his bat.

The bullpen is pretty strong at the end, but fairly weak in the middle. Steve Kline and Jorge Julio set up for lefty closer BJ Ryan. Julio has already proven himself as a successful closer and is doing a pretty good job setting up. Kline isn't pitching well though. This is each pitchers ERA and K/BB:

S. Kline- 6.23, 1.06
J. Julio- 3.06, 3.38
B. Ryan- 1.99, 5.67

So what is the plan to win this series? Try to get a hold of Penn in game 1. He probably won't stick around too long, he is yet to pitch 6 innings in a game. The time to get the Orioles would be after Penn leaves and before Julio and Ryan find their way into the game. Similar plans for games 2 and 3... Since the Orioles are so strong defensively, you have to try and score some runs against the starters, Chen and Lopez. It is not a good idea to try to start a comeback in the 8th inning. This should be a fun one to watch...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

6/12 Thread

JUNE 12, 2005 (26-35)
Toronto-0 Houston-3
W- Roy Oswalt
L- Josh Towers

BLUE JAYS MVP- Alex Rios
ASTROS MVP- Roy Oswalt

BLUE JAYS LVP- Orlando Hudson
ASTROS LVP- Chris Burke

What went RIGHT- Roy Oswalt tossed a gem, a 2 hit, complete game shutout. Jason Lane hit a solo homerun, his 8th of the season. He was a triple short of the cycle. Willy Taveras drove in 2 runs while outrunning a groundball to second. Lance Berkman made 3 or 4 fine plays at 1st base, surely saving hits.

What went WRONG- Chris Burke went 0-4.

ANALYSIS-

A few days ago, I wrote about a stunning Pedro Martinez pitching performance. The Astros were the unfortunate victims of his dominance that day. Since that day though, the team has been slightly different. It could have been a number of things that sparked this 5 game winning streak... But in my opinion it is actually quite simple. Three reasons the Astros are charging towards .500, in order of importance:

1) Quality starting pitching performances- Over the last 5 games all 5 starters have handed out quality starts. Oswalt, Clemens, Pettitte, and Backe make up arguably the best 4/5 of a rotation in the league. Wandy has had his moments too.

2) Clutch hitting- Over the 5 game winning streak the Astros are averaging 4.6 runs per game. This sounds low but the Astros averaged 4.5 runs per game in 2004. The offense has been more efficient lately. But more than anything else, Morgan Ensberg has been clutch. He is the man behind the game winning double at Shea, he is the man behind the walk off homer Saturday night, and he is the man behind this little streak. For a team constructed the way the Stros are, it is key to hit in the clutch. The Astros produce less baserunners and therefore the only way to keep the runs total competitive is to hit frequently on the rare occasion a runner is in scoring position. Homeruns are also decent source of runs. Take game 1 against Toronto for example. The Astros had runners on base in every single inning they played. Yet 3 of the innings, that runner was simply a solo homerun. Only once in the other 5 innings did a run cross the plate.

3) A solid effort from the bullpen- A mediocre bullpen has been flourishing over the last few weeks. Sure, Dan Wheeler is overacheiving and Brad Lidge is underacheiving. Qualls is trying to find his place and pitching well. A solid week by John Franco and Russ Springer didn't hurt either.

As for the game this afternoon... No runs on 2 hits. The game was 2 hours long. What did Roy Oswalt have to say about his performance?

"They just kept attacking and I just tried to keep the ball down and today it worked. When you come into the league and they haven't seen you, you can do things they haven't seen before. I threw a lot of strikes. It's never easy. The best thing is it was a short game."- Roy Oswalt

That was the story of the game. Once again an Astros pitcher overmatched a Blue Jays pitcher. That was the tone of this series. The clutch hitting was merely a detail to win the game. Over these last 5 games it looks as if the pitchers are just patiently waiting for the hitters to score some runs so they can finish up the game. The funny thing is the Blue Jays starters didn't pitch poorly. Lilly, Chacin, and Towers all pitched solid games. The real problem for the Blue Jays in this series was the lack of offense. It would be hard to say the starters didn't do their jobs. As far as the bullpen goes, Scott Schoeneweis and Miguel Batista looked lost on Saturday, blowing a freshly tied ballgame un less than 10 minutes.

Chris Burke wen't 0-4 and hit into another double play today. Burke did score the winning run in Saturday's game, but for the season he has been a disappointment. I don't know how he hits into so many double plays. Willy Taveras seems to have cemented the job in center. Jason Lane is once again claiming his rightful spot in the outfield. It can be agreed that left field is currently a weakness for the Astros. Perhaps Orlando Palmeiro should be considered as an option in left field.

Colorado Rockies rookie outfielder Clint Barmes will be out for a few months with a broken clavicle, pushing his probability to win Rookie of the Year from probable to doubtful. And that is taking an optimistic approach to the Barmes' situation. So who does that open the door for? The Roadrunner, Willy Taveras. Taveras is getting himself together offensively, stealing bases and hustling for an extra base here and there. He plays great defense in centerfield. You might get away with top 5 in the majors... Jim Edmonds, Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, and Willy Taveras, in no particular order. I would really like to see him beat out the other candidates and win the ROY. He deserves it.

Baltimore vs Houston coming up. Looking forward to doing the preview, and especially to watching this series.

Wildcard Standings


We tied up the San Francisco Giants last night. Rockies, Reds, Giants... Bring on the Brewers!

6/11 Thread

JUNE 11, 2005 (25-35)
Toronto-3 Houston-6
W- Brad Lidge
L- Scott Schoeneweis

BLUE JAYS MVP- Alex Rios
ASTROS MVP- Roger Clemens

BLUE JAYS LVP- Greg Zaun
ASTROS LVP- Brad Lidge

What Wen't RIGHT- Roger Clemens handed out another stellar performance, allowing 1 run on just 3 hits. Russ Springer and John Franco's ERA are gradually decreasing, to a more rational 6.00... Morgan Ensberg wen't 1-5, with a walk off homerun. Willy Taveras and Adam Everett had three hits apiece and every starter reached base.

What Wen't WRONG- Roger Clemens didn't get the win.Brad Lidge got the win but blew the save. Jason Lane didn't do much at the plate. Mike Lamb slipped below .200 again today.

ANALYSIS-

Who would have thought, a 4 game winning streak.Houston Chronicle puts a tombstone on the cover on June 1st. We have won 4 of our last 5 series. What are they thinking about? This team isn't dead yet, they are climbing back to that .500 winning percentage. 10 games under. Better than 15. By winning today we caught the San Francisco Giants, who are 25-35 as well. With that said, lets talk about the game. Tonight's game is a classic 2005 Astros' game. Roger Clemens is pitching. He is diving all over the place at 41 years of ahge for a team that is 10 games under .500. He is giving up 3 hits and 1 run in 7 innings. He is working the count with the bases loaded, trying to add to a 1 for 1 day, before flying out deep to left-center. What can you say, the man is unbelievable. Clemens contributed more to this win than any other player by far, no matter what statistic says otherwise.

But he wasn't the only one who contributed to the win. Willy T led off the game with a triple. Chris Burke drove him in on a sacrifice fly, and instantly Clemens has a hint of run support and a little cushion. Later, Adam Everett doubled in a run and Lance Berkman singled in a run, both with 2 outs.

That gets you to the 9th inning. 2 run lead in the 9th inning. Brad Lidge is pitching and this one looks just about over. But the story takes a turn because the Blue Jays have Lidge all figured out. Shea Hillenbrand hit a double and Eric Hinske singled off the wall... Yes, off the wall. So Lidge didn't have his stuff tonight and by the end of the 9th the game was tied at 3, thanks to an Alex Rios RBI single. This officially marks another no decision for Roger Clemens, one less win on the Hall of Fame plaque.

So the bottom of the 9th rolled around and Taveras was quickly retired. That putout din't seem to set the tone for the inning though. Chris Burke singled and stole 2nd base, with one out. Next up is Craig Biggio, he walked. 1 out and the 3 biggest power threats on the team are due up, Berkman, Ensberg, and Lane. You could see it coming. The way Lance Berkman smacked the ball deep to center against Miguel Batista. The way that for three pitches in a row Miguel Batista failed to find the plate. And then it happened. Morgan Ensberg hit a 3 run walk off homerun, on a 3-0 count. Of Morgan's 14 homers, this one was the most celebrated and the most welcome. Picking up a worn out bullpen with a great pitching performance and a walk off homerun. That will help out with a team's morale, not to mention their record.

And now we have a chance to sweep Toronto. Roy Oswalt goes against Josh towers tommorrow and based on the matchup and the way this series has played out so far, the game should be relatively easy to win. For each inning that Roy Oswalt pitches, the easier this game is to win for Houston, because this bullpen looks too tired to take over in the 5th. We shall see.

Friday, June 10, 2005

6/10 Thread

JUNE 10, 2005 (24-35)
Toronto-2 Houston-4
W- Wandy Rodriguez
L- Ted Lilly
S- Brad Lidge

BLUE JAYS MVP- Pete Walker
ASTROS MVP- Wandy Rodriguez

BLUE JAYS LVP- Reed Johnson
ASTROS LVP- Humberto Quintero

What Wen't RIGHT- Willy Taveras, Morgan Ensberg, and Jason Lane hit solo homeruns. Wandy managed his way through 6 reckless innings. Harville and Springer tossed scoreless innings. Lidge got the save. Wandy Rodriguez drove in his first run of the season.

What Wen't WRONG- Not much... Wandy was a little wild and walked 6.

ANALYSIS-

Another game, another solid starting pitching performance. Wandy was a little wild but the little guy got through it and allowed only 2 runs in six innings. 4 hits and 6 walks in 6 innings isn't the recipe for success but double plays and strikeouts are, and Wandy used both to help the Astros to a 3rd straight victory. A little luck doesn't hurt either.

If you watched the game on FSN though, you might wonder if luck does hurt the way Larry Deirker was describing the game. He must have said how lucky Wandy and the Astros were about 10 different times. So what if you are lucky, I'll be lucky and win than be unlucky and lose. Of course when we were unlucky, like when the At'em Theory evolved a few weeks ago, Larry complained too. For those of you who don't know about the great At'em Theory, its a little theory the Astros' broadcasters came up with, where they think all the balls we hit hard are hit right to a fielder of the opposition. Good job guys, that must be the problem.

As for tonight, the offense was kind of isolated, yet productive. Taveras led off with a homer. Wandy drove in a run in the 2nd. Jason Lane hit his 7th homerun of the season in the 4th, another solo shot, and Ensberg tacked one in the 6th. 3 solo homers and an RBI single by the pitcher. Ted Lilly must be confused as to how we scored 4 runs. He threw mistakes to Taveras and Ensberg and they hammered them. He probably got careless against Wandy Rodriguez. But Jason Lane hit a homerun on a pitch that was up and out of the zone. Lane contributed to this game.

Meanwhile Chris Burke is hitting .205 and Mike Lamb is hitting .200. These two have consistently struggled to stay over the Mendoza Line all season. I hope to see Lane's name in the lineup every night... he may not be playing to his capabilities, but niether are Lamb or Burke. It is Jason Lane's turn to play. And still the mediocre season Jason Lane is posting beats out the season that Lamb is having. Burke might have as high of a ceiling as Lane, but he isn't catching on at the major league level. Rocket goes tommorrow, against Gustavo Chacin.

6/9 Thread

JUNE 9, 2005 (23-35)
New York-3 Houston-6
W- Russ Springer
L- Heath Bell
S- Brad Lidge
METS MVP- David Wright
ASTROS MVP- Lance Berkman

METS LVP- Heath Bell
ASTROS LVP- Chris Burke

What Wen't RIGHT- Andy Pettitte gave up 2 runs in 6 innings, striking out 5. Chad Qualls threw a scoreless inning. Russ Springer got the win and Brad Lidge got the save. Lance Berkman had an RBI single in the first and scored a run in the 11th. Morgan Ensberg wen't 1-5 with a game winning ground rule double. Adam Everett drove in 2 runs. Brad Ausmus had an RBI single.

What Wen't WRONG- Dan Wheeler hit a batter that eventually scored on an infield hit, tying the game in the 8th inning. Chris Burke wen't 1-6 and was caught stealing.

ANALYSIS-

Tonight the Astros took advantage of the greatest weakness in New York... Pedro Martinez can't pitch every single game. So the Astros go out to New York and steal the series from the Mets. We have now won 3 of our last 4 series.Pettitte took care of business, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings before handing it off to the bullpen. 68% of his pitches were thrown for strikes and he had all of his pitches working. He didn't quite shut them down but he took care of business. Having the lead through 7 innings, I felt pretty confident we could wrap this one up pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the Mets manufactured the cheapest run of the season against Dan Wheeler. Matsui was hit by a pitch and 2 outs later he managed to score on a Mike Cameron
infield single.

But it didn't make a difference. Wheeler came out and pitched a scoreless 9th and Russ Springer tossed a scoreless 10th. By the time Berkman had singled off of Heath Bell, you got the feeling Brad Lidge should start warming up in the bullpen. Morgan launched a ground rule double, Viz scored, and thus put an end to what should have been finished in 9 innings. Adam Everett provided some substantial cushion, driving in Berkman and Ensberg to increase the lead from 1 to 3.

Sorry for the short thread.. The next two may run a little short as well, as I am and will be quite busy for the next 2 days.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

6/8 Thread

JUNE 8, 2005 (22-35)
New York-1 Houston-4
W- Brandon Backe
L- Victor Zambrano
S- Brad Lidge

BACKEOMETER- SUOTR

METS MVP- Mike Cameron
ASTROS MVP- Jason Lane

METS LVP- Carlos Beltran
ASTROS LVP- Chris Burke

What Wen't RIGHT- Brandon Backe allowed the Mets only one run in 6 innings and got the win. Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler each pitched a scoreless inning. Brad Lidge pitched a perfect 9th inning and got the save. Jason Lane and Craig Biggio hit RBI doubles and Orlando Palmeiro hit a pinch homer, providing a crucial insurance run. Todd Self scored 2 runs. Jason Lane made a great diving play to save 2 runs from scoring.

What Wen't WRONG- Chris Burke, Humberto Quintero, and Lance Berkman wen't a combined 0-12. Brandon Backe set a career high for walks with 6, his second appearance in a row to do so.

ANALYSIS-

Well it is good to see this team starting to win more often on the road, (4 of our last 6). Backe pitched a nice game, despite giving up 6 walks, a career high. Either way the only statistic that makes a difference in the W-L column is runs, and Backe only allowed 1 of those, on a Ramon Castro double in the 1st inning. Zambrano's night interested me though. He gave up a WHIP of just 1.33 tonight, his average this season is 1.65... In other words he allowed 3 less runners than his average start would allow. Zambrano had lowered his ERA five starts in a row, from 5.81 to 4.24. Tonight however he posted an ERA of 6.00. Less baserunners, more runs... That is a sign of clutch hitting. When I think of the 2004 Astros, I think of clutch hitting and solid starting pitching performances. So this game is more important than you might think, assuming it is a sign of things to come.

Chris Burke is still struggling at the major league level. He hit his first major league homerun last night but I still don't see why he gets to start before Jason Lane. Lane had a pretty good day... He drove in a run on a long double and made a diving catch to save a run or 2 in the 1st inning. Quintero and Backe didn't produce, but I still like those two over Ausmus and any other pitcher on the planet. Orlando Palmeiro hit a pinch homerun tonight his first bomb of the season. This was the Astros' second pinch homerun of the season, Todd Self hit the first against Arizona at home. Biggio had a 2 hit game, with an RBI. Adam Everett has been playing great lately. He wen't 2-4 today with a steal. I didn't realize he was that good of a base stealer but he is 28 for 35, an 80% clip for his career. Adam is posting a line of .375, .389, .438 for the month of June. The bullpen did another great job in tonight's game. Chad Qualls is driving down that ERA with each scoreless inning pitched. It is currently hovering around 5.00. Dan Wheeler's ERA is hovering around 2.00. I can't get over the season he is having. He looked like he didn't have his control tonight and he still managed a scoreless inning. I want to show you just how great of a season Wheeler is having. I'll compare him to three pitchers. I want to compare him to a couple of great closers, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Also I want to compare him to another set up man, so I tried to think of a set up man who was having a great season. I heard Scot Shields, who sets up for Francisco Rodriguez in Anaheim, was having a great season. So here is the comparison:



Here is how the chart works: Each player is ranked in each category and is a ssigned a number- 1 for being the best, 2 for being the 2nd best, 3 for being the third, and 4 for being the worst for that particular statistic. All the numbers are added to find the player's cumulative score. The lower the cumulative score the better. As you can see, Dan Wheeler has the lowest cumulative score of the four. He leads the 4 in WHIP. Comapared to each of the pitchers one on one, Wheeler either matches their cumulative score, or has a lower cumulative score. Looking at these statistics, Wheeler is having the best season of the four. Of course, Hoffman and Rivera are saving games for contenders, so pressure is surely a factor in their numbers. Shields is also setting up for a contender and was forced to save some games earlier this season. But still Wheeler has the better numbers.

Tommorrow the Astros will have a chance to win 3 of their last 4 series... The current goal for this team, in my opinion is to try to get to a single digit number of games under .500. And by the All-star break, try to get as close to .500 as possible. Maybe that kind of run will get Drayton to open up his wallet and add another professional hitter to the club.

Quintero & Backe

Now I read in the paper that Humberto Quintero is going to catch Brandon Backe tonight in New York. I don't know what is going on here with the pairings, but according to Phil Garner, Quintero was supposed to catch Roy Oswalt and of course, Wandy Rodriguez. Well Roy didn't like that idea so he switched back to Ausmus. Now the team is searching for a way to get Quintero more playing time, and since the team's traditional theory of "Put him in the outfield and hope for the best.", doesn't apply to catchers, Quintero is going to start catching for Backe. Backe said he would sit down and talk to him about what he has learned, plus Backe's appearance in the 11-9 loss to St. Louis on Saturday included 2 innings with Quintero behind the plate. I doubt the bullpen will be doing that and if Wheeler and Lidge come in to close out the game, I hope they have it together. Whatever... Either way I do know that the offense will be significantly better tonight. Quintero is an upgrade over Ausmus offensively and Brandon Backe is by far the best hitting pitcher on the club. No easy outs for Victor Zambrano at the bottom of the lineup tonight. Also, I doubt Taveras will be in the lineup tongight, as his left hamstring is still tight. He doesn't know when he will return to the lineup. Perhaps there will be a Jason Lane sighting...

Astros' Draft



Above is a recap of the first day of the draft. Brian Bogusevic, a lefty out of Tulane, was the 24th overall pick, and the first round pick for the Astros this year. In case you noticed I don't know much about the draft. I do know Koby Clemens, Roger Clemens son, was drafted in the 8th round by Houston. I don't know if he would have been picked as high if his father was not a first ballot hall of famer playing for the team that mysteriously drafted him. I had also heard Koby Clemens had signed a letter of intent with the University of Texas. Koby is the one who will be fun to watch, I'm intrigued to learn how he turns out. Ten out of college and six out of high school. Personally, I think the scouting department is obsessed with this Killer B's thing. Chris Burke was last year's first round pick. Maybe Brandon Barnes is a future Killer B.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

6/7 Thread

Mets vs Astros Win Percentage, 6/7 Posted by Hello


JUNE 7, 2005 (21-35)
New York-3 Houston-1
W- Pedro Martinez
L- Roy Oswalt

METS MVP- Pedro Martinez
ASTROS MVP- Chris Burke

METS LVP- David Wright
ASTROS LVP- Morgan Ensberg

What Wen't RIGHT- Er... Chris Burke hit his first major league homerun. It broke up a Pedro Martinez no-hit bid in the 7th inning. Roy only gave up 3 runs and struck out 7 in 6.2 innings. Chad Qualls came in with the bases loaded and struck out David Wright in three pitches. He struck out 3 of the 4 hitters he faced

What Wen't WRONG- Well we almost got no-hit. We managed just 2 hits and a walk, although one hit was a homer, hence the run. Roy gave up a career high 12 hits. Pedro Martinez struck out every hitter who stepped up to the plate, at least once, except for Adam Everett.

ANALYSIS-

Wow, Pedro was lights out tonight. Through six innings I was bracing myself for the no no. But Chris Burke saved the day with one out in the 7th inning. Pedro hung a pitch that, according to Baseball Tonight's John Kruk, "any man who ever picked up a bat could have hit out of the park". That is an idiotic remark. Saying that about a guy's first major league homerun... Chris Burke is probably feeling pretty good about himself, leave him alone. Plus, the pitcher probably won't like that statement either. Later in the 7th inning Lance Berkman managed a single to right field, putting to rest the Astro's offense for the night.

This was by far Pedro's best start of the season and one of the best of his career. He threw 110 pitches and 80 strikes. He struck out 12 hitters. If you take out Pedro's 7th inning the Astros wouldn't have managed a single hit. Martinez just dominated tonight... Tonight's game is best described as a night where Pedro had his best stuff against a team with the lowest batting average in the majors. Martinez said he didn't know he had a no-hitter going. Idiot. I saw the way he spun around when Burke hit the ball, he wanted Floyd to get it bad. Didn't he notice the crazed state of the New York fans or the nonexistent Houston baserunners? Even Jim Deshaies said "no matter what happens tonight, if you think the pitcher doesn't know what is going on, you're wrong. He knows what is going on."

Still though you can pick out the bright spots. Chris Burke hit his first career homerun tonight. Maybe he will start to heat up, even though he has a talent to hit into the double play. Still, I excuse him for anything in this game, he broke up a no-hit bid. Chad Qualls has a great outing. The ceiling is so high for Chad, but he is just so inconsistent. Garner pulled him from his setup job because he was tired of having to bring Brad Lidge in to clean up Qualls' mess in the 8th inning. That gets a closer out of his rhthym. So Dan Wheeler took over and hasn't looked back. Now is probably the time to trade Dan Wheeler and let Qualls try his luck setting up. If that is the direction you want to go in and I don't. This game was very easy to understand. Pedro dominated the Astros' hitters and Oswalt got hit for 3 runs. Now we get to try Zambrano and Glavine, which is a much easier task, so hope Martinez didn't suck out what little confidence our hitters had. And please start Jason Lane.

THE ABC THEORY

I don't know if this team can contend this year. I want 15 or 20 games to see how these young players do. The people in this organiztion probably don't need 15 or 20 games. They know, despite all the optimism, this team team probably won't contend this season. Meanwhile, a lot of teams who are contending are giving away good, young players to get a leg up in a pennant race. Take the San Francisco Giants, for example... David Aardsma and Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins? Hawkins isn't even having a good season, plus the Cubs hated Hawkins. Imagine what they would give up for Dan Wheeler. I have absolutely nothing against Dan Wheeler. He has been a bright spot in a mostly dismal season, but I think his current value is as high is it has ever been and will ever be. I have a theory that a number of players are a acquired thfough trades with the sole intention to develop and trade them for someone better. In other words you have three players: Player A, the one you traded, Player B, the one you acquired and plan to trade for Player C, the product of Player B's trade. So the idea is to trade player A in hopes of acquiring someone significantly better, (Player C), but by going through a middle man, Player B. In this case the Astros traded minor league outfielder Adam Seuss, Player A, for Dan Wheeler, player B. Now I seriously doubt the Astros had this little theory in mind, considering wheeler was picked up to help with a struggling bullpen. But now you could easily appy the theory. Would you accept the trade Dan Wheeler for Adam Seuss at this point? Nope. Now it is time to go out and find a player C. Its time to see what Adam Seuss will turn into.

And by the way there is no mathematical formula to that little win percentage graph at the top. It is more of a chronicle of the turning points in the game, with a run carrying the most weight.

Mets vs Astros Series Preview

SERIES PREVIEW

It seems like we were just playing in Shea Stadium a few games ago...

Roy Oswalt (6-6, 3.06 ERA) vs Pedro Martinez (6-1, 2.62 ERA)
Brandon Backe (5-3, 4.54 ERA) vs Victor Zambrano (3-5, 4.24 ERA)
Andy Pettitte (3-6, 3.47 ERA) vs Tom Glavine (4-5, 4.63 ERA)

I like our starting pitchers in this series. Roy has struggled a little bit on the road, with a 1-5 record, (despite posting a 3.57 ERA), and he is up against the strongest Mets' starting pitcher, by far, in Pedro Martinez. Game 2 is the one we can win easily if Backe gives any type of effort at all... hopefully. And game 3 brings Andy Pettite versus a vulnerable and struggling Tom Glavine.

So here is how we win the series... Game 1 will obviously be a tough game to take, Pedro "Asshole" Martinez is going for the Mets and he has been very good this season. His 2.62 ERA might be tought to crack for our less than perfect offense. On the Astros' first trip to Shea this season we missed Martinez. Obviously I would love to take this game from Pedro. I can't stand the guy. I heard another story the other day to add to the Pedro Martinez, World class Asshole Chronicles: Lenny Harris is a big guy who has made a living as a pinch hitter. He plays for the Marlins and is a hell of a professional and one of the most underrated clutch hitters in the game. Keep in mind Lenny is a pretty big guy, and here is where asshole somes in. In a recent Mets, Marlins series, Lenny came up to bat, and in his words, "heard yelling from the dugout; 'Watch for the bunt, watch the triple', they were yelling at me from the dugout, I felt like I was in little league again." That was of course Pedro Asshole Martinez and Sandy Alomar yelling from the dugout. Lenny didn't do anything to those two assholes. Maybe Pedro can come up with another super-intelligent remark, such as, "call Lenny Harris my daddy", to defend himself on this one. Sorry for the rant.

Back to the the first trip to Shea this season. I think the strategy then was to work the starters and get into that terrible Mets' bullpen. Well, I don't know about that this time. With game 1, that is definitely what we want to do. Work counts and drive up Pedro's pitch count. Anybody in the bullpen would be easier to score some runs against than Martinez. But for games 2 and 3 you have to go after Zambrano and Glavine. The state of the bullpen has changed a little since the first trip. Firstly, Aaron Heilman has moved from the starting rotation and has become an effective setup man, along with Roberto Hernandez, to closer Braden Looper. Looper blew his first save opportunity of the season and has saved 12/13 since. Manny Aybar has eaten up some innings and Mike DeJean is having a mediocre season as well:

Hernandez- 2-2, 2.63 ERA
Looper- 1-1, 3.72 ERA, 12/14 Saves
Heilman- 3-3, 3.83 ERA
Aybar- 0-0, 4.44 ERA
DeJean- 3-1, 4.50 ERA

What makes things worse is most of those numbers improve when the Mets are at home. And they have been a lot better lately. The Mets think Aaron Heilman struggles when he has to face lineups 3 or 4 times. They even go as far to compare him and his changeup to Eric Gagne and Trevor Hoffman. I don't know what to think of that, so the plan remains to get to the bullpen as soon as possible with Martinez pitching, and maximize the damage against Zambrano and Glavine before getting to the bullpen in games 2 and 3. Victor Zambrano allows a lot of baserunners because he can't control his pitches. He leads the Mets staff in walks by far, and in far less innings pitched than most people below him. He and Glavine have ugly WHIP numbers.
The Mets' lineup is decent this season. They have Beltran and David Wright has been exactly what they wanted this season. This probably won't be the lineup you see in all 3 if any of the 3 games because they like to switch it up a lot over there. Miguel Cairo, Chris Woodward, and Victor Diaz find quite a few starts, especially Diaz, who made a good impression on the Mets as the everyday rightfielder during Mike Cameron's absence. Ramon Castro is getting occasional starts in Piazza's place too. Here is the lineup, as determined by taking the top player from each position on the depth chart:

SS Reyes
RF Cameron
CF Beltran
C Piazza
LF Floyd
3B Wright
1B Mientkiewicz
2B Matsui
P Martinez

Pretty tough, but nobody jumps out at you, except Beltran of course, but he is having a relatively weak season. Cliff Floyd is heating up again, so he is the one to watch. Reyes, Matsui, and Mientkiewicz are nothing special, but David Wright can rake (.307, .399, .529). Piazza is just too old but every once in a while he connects with a pitch and launches it 500 feet and Mike Cameron has had his moments, (one of the many tied for the record for most homeruns in a game, with 4), but overall he is an average hitter and a supreme outfielder defensively.

Apparently, he is versatile too because the Mets shopped him all spring when he was hurt. Beltran was occupying Cameron's natural position in centerfield when he recovered and and the only way Mike could play was to move to right field. Well he did it and he is playing excellent defense in right field. The Mets' defense is really an intriguing concept. Beltran, Cameron, Matsui, and Mientkiewicz are strong gold glove candidates every season. Then you have Reyes, Floyd, Piazza, and Wright... Piazza and Reyes are liabilities defensively. Wright doesn't have a very good reputatuion, but his bat probably excuses any defensive shortcomings. Floyd is kind of average in left field. I haven't seen him do anything flashy like what Cameron and Beltran do on almost a nightly basis.

So to win this series we have to really gun hard for games 2 and 3. If this offense got to Pedro Martinez that would really boost their confidence for games 2 and 3, and I would push for the sweep if we won game 1. Also Willy Taveras is day to day with a tweaked left hamstring, so Orlando Palmeiro might be leading off tommorrow. Good luck Roy.

Monday, June 06, 2005

6/5 Thread

JUNE 5, 2005 (21-34)
St. Louis-4 Houston-6
W- Roger Clemens
L- Mark Mulder
S- Brad Lidge

CARDINALS MVP- Jim Edmonds
ASTROS MVP- Morgan Ensberg

CARDINALS LVP- Mark Mulder
ASTROS LVP- Brad Ausmus

What Wen't RIGHT- Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane hit back to back homeruns in the 1st inning, a five run first inning. Burke, Bruntlett, and Ensberg hit doubles. Willy Taveras wen't 4-4 with a run. Russ Springer threw a solid inning, Wheeler threw 2, and Lidge got the save.

What Wen't WRONG- Clemens gave up 4 runs in the 1st inning. Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett both wen't hitless. Willy Taveras is day to day with a pulled left hamstring. Chris Burke had an error in left field.

ANALYSIS-


This game didn't follow the form chart. Everyone predicted a low scoring pitching duel, a rematch of a 1-0 April game in St. Louis. But in the 2004 All-star Game rematch, Mulder and Clemens gave up a combined eight runs in the first inning yesterday. Nobody was predicting that, and after Clemens gave up three runs in the top of the 1st... I was kind of worried. But then I remembered, this team is hitting the ball much better right now. My boy Jason Lane is in the starting lineup. Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett are hot. Chris Burke is due to start producing some and Willy Taveras is on a 5 game hitting streak... Let's just wait and see what happens. And then it happened, the Astros' bats wen't lit up. Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane hit back to back homeruns in part of a 5 run 1st inning against all-star Mark Mulder.

Clemens gave up another run after Yadier Molina tripled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly before settling down and holding the Cardinals. In fact, Molina was the last Cardinal to touch the plate, as Clemens and the bullpen shut out St. Louis for the final 7 innings.

Atypical bullpen performance in this game too. First of all, Russ Springer is doing one hell of a job at making me eat my words. Two solid outings in a row, brings his ERA down to the 7.00 range. Dan Wheeler threw 2 solid innings and allowed just one hit. If Wheeler can keep this up for another month we might be looking at a couple of trade offers for the guy. The Mets probably wouldn't mind grabbing him, and the Giants would probably give up Bonds to get a hold of a solid reliever. Honestly though, Luke Scott and Dan Wheeler for Cliff Floyd sounds pretty good right about now.

Willy Taveras is day to day and said he hopes he can play on Tuesday. I hope he can play too, the man did exactly what you ask from the leadoff hitter on Sunday, going 4-4 with a run. He took advantage of poor David Eckstein and that weak arm of his, outrunning groundouts.

Jason Lane looks like he is starting to take off again. I still don't understand why Chris Burke is playing instead of Lane. Lane had 2 RBI on a homer and a single, with a walk yesterday. Start Lane!!! Series coming up with the Mets at Shea. I'll look at what our chances to win this series are in the preview later.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

6/4 Thread

JUNE 4, 2005 (20-34)
St. Louis-11 Houston-9
W- Jason Marquis
L- Wandy Rodriguez
S- Jason Isringhausen

CARDINALS MVP- Reggie Sanders
ASTROS MVP- Lance Berkman

CARDINALS LVP- Yadier Molina
ASTROS LVP- Wandy Rodriguez

What Wen't RIGHT- The Astros scored 9 runs. Ensberg wen't 3-4 with a homer, 2 runs and an RBI. Berkman wen't 2-4 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. Adam Everett stayed hot, he wen't 2-3 with 2 RBI. The bullpen was decent, getting 19 outs and giving up just two runs and 5 hits. Huberto Quintero got his first hit and RBI as an Astro in his Astros debut yesterday. Russ Springer and John Franco pitched perfect innings!

What Wen't WRONG- Wandy Rodriguez did what he could, but received the loss, giving up 9 hits, 9 runs, and 2 walks in less than 3 innings. I can't find anything bad to say about the offense.

ANALYSIS-

I can do the inning by inning thing to show you just how well the Astros hit throughout this game.

Astros 2nd- Ensberg solo homerun. 1 run, 1 hit.

Astros 4th- Burke doubled, Biggio reached on an error. Berkman infield singled, Burke scored. Ensberg singled, Lane hit into a double play, Biggio scored. Everett singled to left, Berkman scored. 3 runs, 4 hits.

Astros 5th- Taveras bunted on. On Marquis error, Taveras to second. Burked doubled, Taveras scored. 1 run, 2 hits.

Astros 6th- Ensberg singled, Everett singled. Quintero singled, Ensberg scored. 1 run, 3 hits.

Astros 7th- Burke got hit by a pitch, Biggio grounded into fielders choice, Burke out. Berkman homered, Biggio scored. 2 runs, 1 hit.

Astros 8th- Lane tripled. Lane scored on an Everett sacrifice fly.

So we scored a grand total of nine runs on twelve hits. That is huge. Who cares if we lost this game. This was actually one of the most promising performances of the season. You might say, this sucks we finally score a lot of runs and the pitching falls through. No, you can't complain, this team exploded yesterday. Only one player messed up, and it was the one you didn't expect to do much, Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy wasn't going to shut down the Cardinals' offense. But the Astros' lineup wasn't going to get to Jason Marquis and look what happened. Every inning we played add on and ended up losing this game by just two runs.

Reggie Sanders wen't 4-4 with three doubles, a walk, a grand slam, 5 RBI, and 2 runs. He is without question the difference in this game. Sanders had a really nice game today.. He just hit the hell out of the ball and that was that.He has 9 hitsand 7 runs, plus 3 homers and 9 RBI against Houston this season, in just 20 at bats. In his career at Minute Maid Park, he is a .318 hitter with 27 hits, 21 RBI, 7 homers, 5 stolen bases, 15 runs, and 16 doubles. Those are some stunning numbers for someone who strikes out as much as Sanders does. In fact, Sanders is coming close to having his strikeouts outnumber his hits for his career. This season he is on pace to hit 32 homers and rack up 121 hits, but he is also projected to strike out 127 times. Sanders is hitting .348 against lefties and just .225 against righthanders. Reggie has great batspeed and some serious holes in his swing, especially fastballs up and in.

Now if we want to salvage one from this series we have to beat Mark Mulder (7-2, 3.62 ERA). But on the other hand if the Cardinals want to sweep us they have to beat Roger Clemens (3-3, 1.30 ERA). Everyone thinks this will be a low scoring game but the way our hitters have been swinging these last few games... Mulder just might go down. Wouldn't it be nice for Clemens to get some run support. Rematch of the 1-0 10 inning defeat earlier this season. Hopefully we take it.

6/3 Thread

JUNE 3, 2005 (20-33)
St. Louis-2 Houston-0
W- Chris Carpenter
L- Andy Pettitte
S- Julian Tavarez

CARDINALS MVP- Chris Carpenter
ASTROS MVP- Andy Pettitte

CARDINALS LVP- Ray King
ASTROS LVP- Chris Burke

What Wen't RIGHT- Andy Pettitte gave up just one run in seven innings. Qualls pitched a scoreless eighth. Adam Everett wen't 3-3 with a double and Willy Taveras wen't 2-4. Albert Pujols struck out twice against Andy Pettitte.

What Wen't WRONG- Jim Edmonds had an RBI double, Albert Pujols hit a solo homer in the ninth, off Russ Springer. Willy Taveras missed a sign I guess and stranded Everett in between third and home, in what looked like a botched squeeze play. Mansolino was nowhere to be found with Pettitte running from second to third and Pettitte was tagged out at home, out by at least twenty feet.

ANALYSIS-
This was one of the most frustrating games I've watched all season. No this is tied for the most frustrating game, with that game against the Diamondbacks when we were working on a comeback in the bottom of the ninth, and Adam Everett hits a sharp line drive to Troy Glaus' glove. That was a different game though. That was a game where you could say, damn, nice catch Troy, because that is the principle reason we lost the game. Yesterday though? Much different story.

Firstly, I feel I should apologize to everyone who read what I had to say yesterday. Jim Edmonds was back in the lineup a little earlier than expected. I said he wouldn't be, that's my mistake. But Larry Walker was absent from the Cardinals' lineup and Scott Rolen is on the DL of course. So things pretty much balanced out. Either way it is totally irrelevant because that isn't the reason we lost the game. Pettitte threw one hell of a game, exactly what he knew he had to do. He took advantage of a vulnerable Cardinal's lineup. I said yesterday that I'd be disappointed if the bottom four hitters in this lineup did anything against Pettitte. He held them to just one hit. He held the entire lineup to just one run over seven innings. Next came Chad Qualls, he pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Then, in one of the most frustrating moves oves Garner has made all season, Russ Springer took the mound in the ninth inning. Excuse me, but, what is Phil Garner thinking? I'm sick of it. I can't stand Russ Springer and his double digit ERA. He gave up one run in one inning last night and brought his ERA down. Thats absolutely pathetic. Why not put Lidge or Wheeler out there? I saw Brad Lidge pitching in a game against the Reds earlier this season where the score was like 10-1 Houston leading. Why is he pitching in those games and not a game that matters? If you are willing to put him on the mound at a time when it makes no difference what happens, why not put him on when it might have a chance at making a difference. And if he blames it on the flu one more time I'm going to snap. Everytime you ask the guy a question about the bullpen he blames it on the flu. When I saw Russ Springer on the mound I wen't insane. I don't have a problem losing games, but I don't like losing when we have a chance of winning. Hell, I've only ranted like this 5 or 6 times, out off 33, so cut me some slack. But Garner messed up here.

This seemed like a vicotry that was so attainable, and for eight innings i felt like we would win this game. Before I do that I want to throw out two more Garner complaints. The first one has to do with Chris Burke. I don't see why the guy is starting. He's 0 for his last 12, hitting .192 in limited action. He hit into two double plays last night. And another one the previous game. His defense in left field is average at best, that isn't his natural position. And now I found out Garner is moving him up, to hit second in the lineup. But Phil, do you think he's going to be able to hit into enough double plays that high in the lineup? It's stupid. Jason Lane deserves to receive Burke's "extensive playing time". I'm not saying Burke isn't any good but I'd like to see Lane get some more playing time out there. The last thing on my bash the manager list, is this obsession with the squeeze play he has developed. Conventional baseball wisdom says, man on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, top of the order, don't bother with the funny sh*t. taveras missed the sign and Everett got tagged out at home. Then Mansolino sends Pettitte with two outs and he runs into an out. Molina practically had the ball as Pettitte was rounding third and Mansolino was down by the plate... so Pettitte just ran.

Enough of that. Garner isn't playing the game and hindsight is 20/20 , and a little execution by the team is always nice. The reason that I figured the Astros had such a good chance to win this game... well, for one thing we outhit the Cardinals, 9 to 6. And we had a lot of chances in this game, to score runs. Brownie and Derk were right though, the Astros did get pretty unlucky. We're unlucky that the Cardinals are such a surprisingly solid team defensively.

So now we have to try our best to hang with them tommorrow. I doubt Wandy pitches a quality start against them tommorrow. The Cardinals are damn good offensively and Wandy is young and to win this game we will probably need 8 or 9 runs... Who knows? Until tommorrow, have a good one.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Cardinals vs Astros Series Preview

SERIES PREVIEW

So looking at the rosters for the Astros and the Cardianls about three hours before game time, I'm thinking to myself, what chance do the Astros have at winning this series. Here are the matchups:

Pettitte (3-5, 3.71) vs Carpenter (7-3, 3.79)
Rodriguez (1-1, 6.17) vs Marquis (6-3, 3.39)
Clemens (3-3, 1.30) vs Mulder (7-2, 3.62)

I think the game plan is to ride Pettitte and Clemens to wins and hope that the offense finds a way to score some runs against any of those three opponents. You can't expect Wandy Rodriguez to hold off the Cardinals' offensive attack for very long. I don't. So if you want to win game two you have to hope the offense finds a way to get to Marquis, or Wandy finds a way to shut down St. Louis. I wouldn't count on either happening. Marquis' ERA is the lowest of the three here. Wandy's is the highest of all six scheduled starters. St. Louis probably wins game two. So what? The key to success for this team is to consistently win series after series. So if we win games 1 and 3, I'll concede game 2. With that said, the Astros really need to find a way to beat the Cardinals' 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. It can be done. Tonight Pettitte and Carpenter will pitch and Pettitte must hold the Cards to nearly nothing. Scott Rolen is on the DL and won't be in the lineup. Jim Edmonds is day to day and he won't be in the lineup tonight either. This lineup you see tonight might be the weakest Cardinals' lineup you see all season. This lineup you see tonight isn't that World Series lineup from last year. This lineup is something along the lines of:

ss Eckstein
2B Grudzielanek
1B Pujols
RF Walker
LF Sanders
3B Mabry
CF Taguchi / Cedeno
C Molina
SP Carpenter

2005 World Series Lineup:

2B Womack
RF Walker
1B Pujols
3B Rolen
CF Edmonds
SS Renteria
LF Sanders
C Molina
SP Morris

See what I mean? They look weaker in every slot of the lineup, except Pujols, and Molina who sucks to begin with. Step it up Andy, this lineup is not that bad. I can think of much scarier lineups than this one. The Padres look better than this lineup. Granted Eckstein and Grudzielanek are producing pretty well this season, if you retire those two, you make the big guys hit with nobody on. If the bottom four spots in tonight's lineup do any damage, I'll be disappointed. This is a very even matchup tonight, and I think we have a great chance at winning this game.

Now game three is something different. You can expect Edmonds back in the lineup by Sunday. Although it certainly isn't guaranteed because if I'm a Cards fan, I don't want Edmonds rushing back to get in the lineup against the "no-hittable Astros" as I saw us called recently in a Cardinals fan's blog. Fine by me, leave Cedeno in the lineup, he cant catch the baseball. Or leave Taguchi in, he's a fine fielder, but it looks like he swings with the intention of fouling off every single pitch he sees. What I think is going on here is that someone in that organization is teaching So Taguchi to be Jim Edmonds, but they only teach him how to play defense. Either way Clemens is pitching and that gives us the edge. I think that today's game will be easier to win than game 3 because Mulder has pitched so well lately. Either way Clemens is a competitior and will find a way to keep us in the game, he always does. I won't be able to post the thread until late tommorrow, I'll be out of town for the night and I'll be back late tommorrow.

Trust me though I'll have a radio on, following this game pitch for pitch. And hopefully (Astros) run for run.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Humberto Quintero

HUMBERTO QUINTERO

Raul Chavez was unfortunately designated for assignment yesterday, meaning he is probably done as an Astro. The Astros have ten days to trade, release , or put Chavez through waivers, and management says they want to try to trade him. Chavez was hitting just .203, which probably isn't good enough considering he caught for Oswalt and also Wandy Rodriguez, getting 40% of the starts. I'm not going to look up the numbers, but his GIDP per AB ratio has to be pretty high on the list. So Chavez is out of Houston. Good luck to the man. Now someone gets called up that I have been looking forward to watching for a couple of months now. Huberto Quintero came over to Houston in a one for one deal with the Padres, Tim Redding for Quintero. Basically, if Quintero amounts to anything at all, the Astros get the better end of this deal. In fact, Redding never really did much to begin with but he was absolutely terrible in San Diego, as the fifth starter:

Wins- 0
Losses- 5
ERA- 8.76
WHIP- 1.87

We actually received a living player in exchange for that. But the best part is that Quintero is a solid prospect. San Diego was desperate for a fifth starter and they didn't want to rush anyone up from the minors. Quintero was hitting .299 with 7 homers and 28 RBIs at Round Rock. Those are good enough numbers to replace a struggling backup catcher. There is something I found particularly interesting here though. Garner says Quintero will likely catch for Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt. I thought the only reason Ausmus didn't catch Oswalt was because Oswalt liked Chavez so much. To my knowledge, Quintero has never caught Oswalt. Not that I'm complaining here, I would like to see a catcher who can hit get as much playing time as possible. It just made me wonder if maybe Oswalt and Ausmus aren't compatible as battery mates. The last time Ausmus caught for Oswalt was on Opening Day... Tommorrow's game brings Andy Pettitte (3-5) vs Chris Carpenter (7-3). Just thought I'd mention old Chamo's departure today in case you see Quintero tommorrow.

Lance Berkman, General Manager

LANCE BERKMAN, GENERAL MANAGER

"There's two ways to fix this team. You have to go in one of two directions, and I'm not smart enough or qualified enough to say when you pull the trigger on either one of these two plans. The first plan is that you have to go to a straight youth movement. You have to make trades and get as young as you possibly can and put together a nuclues of young guys that you think are going to be here for the next four or five or six years and let them play." -LanceBerkman

I like it when players give their thoughts on things. It sounds like Lance doesn't want to stick around for this plan. "You have to make trades and get as young as you possibly can." Well it sounds to me like Lance doesn't want to be a part of this. Who do you trade to get younger? The offense is young enough as it is and Biggio won't go anywhere. Brad Ausmus? Sned him to the Padres? I don't think so. Sounds like Lance just said that he wants to be traded if this team starts up some radical rebuilding plans.

"Or you have to say, 'all right, we have enough here with some of the veterans we have.' You're going to have to go out and add one impact bat and another good professional hitter. Obviously a dream scenario would be like if you traded for a guy like Mike Sweeney or a guy like Todd Helton if Baggy didn't come back and then signed Brian Giles in the offseason. Then you'd have a either Sweeney of Helton and me and Giles in the middle of the order with Morgan. That would be a very good offense." - Lance Berkman

He's right, a very good offense here:

CF Taveras
2B Burke
1B Sweeney / Helton / Bagwell
RF Berkman
LF Giles
3B Ensberg
C Quintero
SS Everett
SP Oswalt

But that offense is expensive as hell, and I'm not sure that any of those guys are available? Who are we supposed to give up? You never know what the Rockies are looking for, pitching seems like a lost cause for them. I think they would have to make an offer to us. I wouldnt know where to begin. Maybe Purpura can help out with that. Sweeney seems easier to obtain than Helton because the Royals have a problem at nearly every position. Also I think Sweeney would be a less expensive and only slightly less productive option. Plus Helton still hasn't done much out of Coors. Now I don't understand the talk about Brian Giles. Giles is 2nd in walks this season and 3rd in runs. He's 8th in OBP. Why does San Diego want to get rid of him. The void created by losing him outweighs their greateset weakness, the 5th starter problem. And don't forget about Jason Lane and Todd Self and Luke Scott.

How about a lineup with players who were actually on the market and being shopped:

CF Taveras
2B Spivey
1B Bagwell
LF Berkman
RF Floyd / Lane
3B Ensberg
C Quintero
SS Everett
SP Oswalt

I really like Junior Spivey a lot. He's having a rough season, but Bill Hall is right on his ass and the guy has no margin for error. The thing with Spivey is he has never played a full season. He played 143 games in 2002 and produced some very solid numbers... The numbers below are his seasonal averages per 162 games played:

2002 Season: 103 Runs, 162 Hits, 34 2B, 6 3B, 16 HR, 78 RBI, 65 BB, 11 SB, .301 AVG
Season Avg.: 92 Runs, 152 Hits, 32 2B, 5 3B, 17 HR, 73 RBI, 62 BB, 11 SB, .273 AVG

Because let's face it... Brian Giles is not going to be an easy player to obtain. I remember how excited he was when he left Pittsburgh to go the possibly playoff bound Padres. Spivey seems like a good player for this team. Especially if you trade Chris Burke to help acquire Helton or Sweeney or Giles or whoever. Cliff Floyd is a longshot to be on the Mets by the offseason, but if they try to unload him or Mike Cameron, Houston should be on the list of possible destinations.

6/1 Thread

JUNE 1, 2005 (20-32)
Cincinnati-1 Houston-4
W- Roy Oswalt
L- Ramon Ortiz
S- Brad Lidge

REDS MVP- Felipe Lopez
ASTROS MVP- Orlando Palmeiro

REDS LVP- Kent Mercker
ASTROS LVP- Chris Burke

What Wen't RIGHT- Oswalt gave up 4 hits and 1 run in seven innings. Wheeler and Lidge pitched two scoreless innings. Lance Berkman hit his second homerun of the season and Jason Lane hit a pinch two run double. Hard to not make him the MVP. Morgan Ensberg got his 27th RBI on a sacrifice fly. Orlando Palmeiro robbed Adam Dunn of a two run homerun with two outs in the ninth inning. Two hits and two runs for Willy Taveras. Fourth win in last five games!

What Wen't WRONG- Not much. Felipe Lopez, Sean Casey, and Ken Griffey Jr. extended their hitting streaks at our expense. Chris Burke left four men on base.

ANALYSIS-
Many positive things to say about tonight's performance. We scored 4 runs. The Reds managed just 4 hits. This is the second series in a row the Astros have won. Lance Berkman crushed a homerun. Roy Oswalt tossed a gem. This is the kind of game that makes me think... Is it possible to do this every night? Not match tonight's game but do something like it. Four starters on this club are proven to be capable of posting sub 3.00 ERA's. Maybe old Wandy is too. Wheeler is having a great season. Lidge is doing his job, maybe not as well as last year, but for the most part he is doing just fine. Four or five runs is not a lot to ask each game. We already average 3.576 runs per game. Add a professional hitter to this club and maybe that number jumps to 4.5. Not a believer? How about the difference between the RPG in 2004 before and after Beltran's arrival in Houston:

Before- 4.50
After- 5.50

That tells you how much impact one player can have. So we don't get a Carlos Beltran... Maybe someone can drive the pathetic 3.576 up to 4. Willy Taveras is looking more comfortable at the plate and maybe Todd Self can make an impact. 3.576 is a number without Lance Berkman in the lineup. Surely he is favored to raise that number some. He certainly raised it tonight. The Houston Chronicle pissed me off today. We win three of four games and the chronicle comes out with a giant tombstone with an Astros logo in the middle of it. To hell with that. We've played 50 games with a bunch of rookies and without an all-star outfielder and they jump ship. Give Lance and these young players time to settle in. At least wait until the break before you put a goddamned tombstone on the front of the sports page..

BURKE UP, ASTACIO DOWN

We sent Ezequiel Astacio back to Round Rock yesterday and recalled Chris Burke. Firstly Astacio needs to be starting every five days, at AAA, for a few months. He was definitely not ready to start against major league hitting, and he struggled in the bullpen as well. Astacio wen't 0-3 with a 10.38 ERA in his time here. He never pitched like the scouting reports said he would. He supposedly keeps the ball down and throws a lot of strikes, but in the majors, every time he threw a strike someone turned it into a souvenir. So he was sent down to find the strikezone I guess. On the other hand, Chris Burke might not be ready to face major league pitching. He wen't 0-4 with a strikeout tonight and stranded 4 baserunners. He was hitting .311 in the minors with a couple of homers so they called him up again. Burke has a reputation for being strong defensively at second base. Only problem is we have to start him in left field so we can keep Craig Biggio in the lineup. And after today's game, you have to think Garner will be more eager to start Lane than Burke, but he says the reason they called Burke up was to give him extensive playing time in the outfield... Bad news for Mike Lamb, who gets pushed out of the lineup as Lance Berkman is forced to play first base, Lamb's latest position. Bad news for Jason Lane too. No one is pushing Willy Taveras out of centerfield and now it looks like Burke, along with Todd Self, are going to steal the majority of Lane's playing time. You have to think Lane is pissed off right now. When he hit that double today I saw him yelling when he was standing on second base. He wants to be in the lineup. He had a good spring. He had a mediocre start and then he started slumping. Now Self is playing everyday in rightfield. I think thats about to change. Day off tommorrow... Bullpen Analysis Part 2 if I get around to it, but I'll have something for you if I don't.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Willy Taveras and RPAP

ROADRUNNER

So looking at the stolen base leaders in the National League, and watching this Reds series, I see Willy Taveras' and Ryan Freel's name high on the list. Taveras has stolen 17 and Freel has stolen 13. Rafael Furcal leads the league with 19 and Bobby Abreu has stolen 15. So I got curious as to who the best baserunner of the four is. Willy Taveras has impressed me quite a bit on the basepaths, and I know Abreu has a reputation as an intelligent baserunner. So I judged these four under the following statisitics...

Firstly the number of stolen bases over attempts, or stolen base percentage:

Abreu- 0.933
Freel- 0.684
Furcal- 0.826
Taveras- 0.850

Next I calculated the ratio of runs scored when the player steals a base. In other words, the ratio of times in which the runner steals a base and scores a run against the number of times the runner steals a base and doesn't score a run. I know that this allows a lot of variables, but I know Willy has the "green light" and according to Sports Weekly Abreu does too. So what does this statistic have to do with anything? Judgment. It determines whether or not a player is calculating the risk of stealing a base against the likelihood of scoring a run. A percentage of 1.000 means a stolen base results in a run every time. The RPSBP (Run Per Stolen Base Percentage):

Abreu- 0.357
Freel- 0.769
Furcal- 0.473
Taveras- 0.588

The above statistic assumes that the runner is never thrown out and is used to measure judgment. The following statistic factors in caught stealing rates and shows how many times an attempted stolen base results in a run. The RPAP (Run Per Attempt Percentage):

Abreu- 0.333
Freel- 0.526
Furcal- 0.391
Taveras- 0.500

So what does all of this mean? Well it brings Ryan Freel back to earth because Freel is statistically the worst basestealer of the four. Still though, even with a poor stolen base percentage, he scores a run more than half the time he attempts a steal. But imagine if Freel had the stolen base percentage of Bobby Abreu... Freel would be somewhere in the .800 range. But since a players RPAP is the best measurement of a players judgment and ability, Freel is still the favorite. The nice thing about this statistic is it easily factors the variables. Freel steals bases knowing that a powerful lineup will likely drive him in, and his statistics show that. The impressive thing here is that Willy Taveras, second in every statistic listed, is stealing bases knowing he has a pathetic lineup behind him and that he has a poor chance of being driven in consistently. Surprisingly though, Freel and Taveras are the only two men who score a run more than half the time they attempt a stolen base. In my opinion Willy Taveras is the best base stealer of the four. Players don't steal bases to reach second base. Players steal bases to score runs. Considering the lineup Willy Taveras is stuck with, his numbers tell me he is running at the right time. Freel is caught stealing too much to be at the top. Abreu's RPSBP is far too low to pass up Willy Taveras, and Rafael Furcal, the league leader in stolen bases, and stolen base attempts, is mediocre in most categories, and his RPSBP is low for a decent Brave's lineup. Taveras gets this one.