Website Counter
Web Site Counter

Astronomics

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

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...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

7/5 Thread

JULY 5, 2005 (40-42)
San Diego-2 Houston-6
W- Brandon Backe
L- Dennys Reyes

BACKEOMETER- BC

BURKE STREAK- 10

PADRES MVP- Brian Giles
ASTROS MVP- Jason Lane

PADRES LVP- Brian Falkenborg
ASTROS LVP- Raul Chavez

What Wen't RIGHT- Brandon Backe and Jason Lane bounced back from some subpar performances. Craig Biggio hit hi second homer in 2 nights. Chris Burke extended his hitting streak to 10 games, a career high. Brad Lidge is back and he pitched a perfect inning.

What Wen't WRONG- Gallo gave up a triple and a single in 1/3 of an inning. Backe balked. When you have to go as far as a balk to describe what went wrong.

ANALYSIS-

Today's wen't about as well as possible. The hitters exposed Padres' pitcher Dennys Reyes' weaknesses. But the thing that pleased me the most about today's game was the performances of Brandon Backe and Jason Lane. Jason Lane has been slumping lately. Brandon was in the middle of the equivalent to a slump as a pitcher... Love that bat in the lineup though. Anyway, with those two struggling coming into tonight's game they played exceptionally well. Backe threw about just under 6 innings of 4 hit, 1 run baseball. Jason Lane wen't 2-4 with a 3 run homer. They both gave total redemption for any complaints you might have made about their performance lately.

Craig Biggio hit another homerun today and passed Roberto Alomar on the all time hits list. He quietly swung the bat well on the road trip and is loudly swinging the bat in this series. Brownie and Dierker were saying that you could make an arguement that Craig Biggio is being snubbed out of a spot on the all star roster. He is probably more deserving than an all star or 2 but Morgan Ensberg and Washington's Jose Guillen are the ones getting snubbed.

The bullpen really did a good job tonight. Chad Harville came in and got an important out, one that really helped Backe out. Larry Dierker is obsessed with talking about how good Harville's stuff is and that he could really be an important pitcher on this staff. That is fine but the majority of the time he pitches he struggles with his control. His 7.36 BB/9 is just too high but his 7.77 K/9 is a better number. Lidge averages nearly twice that and Russ Springer's 10.08 K/9 3.58 BB/9 might make him the better option. It seems like Garner is going to Harville more often though... Brad Lidge pitched the 7th inning coming back from a minor injury. He struck out Dave Roberts. and didn't allow a hit. Gallo kind of got roughed up but Chad Qualls came in and sort of shut down San Diego. Hopefully Gallo can get it together because as far as lefties go the system is running a little low. Now that John Franco has been released and Tom Martin opted for free agency the Astros are left with Will Cunnane as the lefthanded option at Round Rock.

Fans are doing their part and voting for Roy Oswalt for the final spot on the National League all star team. One of Roy's opponents, Josh Beckett suffered an injury today and was replaced on the ballot by Brett Myers. I think it was Myers. Also Derrek Lee aggravated his shoulder today and left the game against Atlanta in the third inning. He withdrew from the Homerun Derby. The Cubs are a much worse team without Lee and as of today share our 40-42 record.

Pettitte vs Peavy tommorrow... among the active pitchers who's names start with a P, these two are pretty far up there. Some of the hitters have hit him well... Among the hitters with a few at bats against Peavy here are the three lowest and higest batting averages.

HIGHEST

Vizcaino- .500
Biggio- .400
Ensberg- .400

LOWEST

Everett- .000
Berkman- .077
Ausmus- .100

Vizcaino is 6 for 12 against Peavy so maybe Adam will get the day off tommorrow. Also Orlando Palmeiro is 1 for 1 against Jake. Woody Williams will battle Old Wandy on Thursday. If they manage to pick off just one of these games the Astros will win another series, this one against a first place club, not the Rockies or Reds.

And finally, as is customary at Astronomics, any 10 game hitting streak is recognized and followed up top. Burke extended his to 10 tonight so good luck to him. Jeff Kent set the record at 25 last season. He is hitting .361 during his streak. the lowest batting average for a Houston hitting streak of 15 games or more is .309, during Dickie Thon's 21 game hitting streak in 1982.

7/4 Thread

JULY 4, 2005 (39-42)
San Diego-1 Houston-4
W- Roy Oswalt
L- Brian Lawrence

PADRES MVP- Geoff Blum
ASTROS MVP- Roy Oswalt

PADRES LVP- Brian Lawrence
ASTROS LVP- Jason Lane

What Wen't RIGHT- Roy had another dominant performance, allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 6. Craig Biggio hit a clutch 2 out 3 run homerun that proved to be the difference in the game.

What Wen't WRONG- Lane wen't 0-4 with 2 K's and a GIDP. He was the only player who didnt reach base today.

ANALYSIS-

Roy took care of business again today. He had a similar start to one a couple of weeks ago against Toronto when he whipped through the game in less than 2 hours. This one took 2 hours and 10 minutes, plus he allowed a run, 5 hits, and 2 walks. The offense gave him 4 runs and that was enough. Jason Lane is slumping I guess. Of course Morgan Ensberg is still swinging the bat well. He was 2-4 with an RBI double today. Willy T has been hot these last few games, he had a base hit and a double and he stole 2 bases and scored 2 runs. That is exactly what you ask from him. If he did that consistently this offense would really benefit.

Brian Lawrence was throwing an 85 MPH fastball... Brown said he averaged the slowest fastball in the majors. I'm surprised he has been as successful as he is. All he does is throw fastballs and sliders and when he leaves one out over the plate it gets hammered.

It amazes me how similar Richard Hidalgo and Jason Lane play... They both have high slugging percentages, they strike out a lot, they swing and miss a lot, they don't draw many walks, they both hit for power, not average. Hidalgo was one of the streakiest players I've ever seen and Lane is the same way. I guess the big difference is Hidalgo's 2000 season where he was actually a great player and his track record. He may be slump a lot but he has been slumping a lot for years. And of course Jason Lane is a little worse fielder and he has about half the arm Hidalgo did.

So now we are only 3 games under .500. I think we were 18 games under .500 at one point. It would really be something impressive if this club had a winning record at the break... Backe takes on Dennys Reyes tommorrow in what seems like an easy one. We'll see...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Padres vs Astros Series Preview

SERIES PREVIEW

Fresh off the domination of a couple of last place teams, lets see if it converts to some wins against a first place team. This San Diego club is streaky and deceptive so there is much to say to put this series in perspective.

Roy Oswalt (10-7, 2.54 ERA) vs Brian Lawrence (5-6, 4.28 ERA)
Brandon Backe (6-6, 5.29 ERA) vs Dennys Reyes (3-1, 3.93 ERA)
Andy Pettitte (5-7, 3.15 ERA) vs Jake Peavy (7-2, 2.89 ERA)
Wandy Rodriguez (4-3, 6.55 ERA) vs Woody Williams (3-5, 4.24 ERA)

This series reminds me of the most recent Texas Rangers series in that the Rangers were so vulnerable. They were reeling from a bunch of losses. Sure, the Padres are a first place club but keep in mind, the NL West is a very weak division. They wen't just 10-17 in the month of June, in which they played only clubs outside of their division and the Dodgers. Still, thanks to the weak division and a hot start, the Padres are a fisrt place team.

It would be fair to say that injuries have forced the Padres to scramble and have led them to struggle. It would also be fair to say that the current roster isn't a first place roster. The offense has taken a pretty big hit. Their catcher, Ramon Hernandez and their first baseman Phil Nevin are on the 15 day disabled list. Speedy outfielder Dave Roberts has been hurt all season, recently missing 7 games because he strained a tendon in his left knee, but he is healthy at the moment. Another speedy outfielder, Freddy Guzman is out for the season. Guzman came into the season as a rookie who you could perhaps compare to Willy Taveras, but his wrist has sidelined him. Former Astro Mark Loretta is on the 60 day DL with a bad hand. When Loretta was in Houston, I don't remember him being anything special. He sort of just took up the Jose Vizcaino role for a few weeks. But looking at his statistics from his 2002 stint, his numbers were impressive. He hit .424 with a .576 slugging percentage, in 66 at bats, plus he was a versatile defender. You won't see him in the lineup during this series though, so don't worry about him. So who will we see in the lineup during this series?

CF Dave Roberts
3B Sean Burroughs
LF Ryan Klesko
RF Brian Giles
1B Mark Sweeney
C Robert Fick
SS Khalil Greene
2B Damian Jackson

But don't expect to see this lineup in every game or even once. The Padres are mixing up their lineup on a daily basis and shuffling players in from the bench almost every game. Roberts is the leadoff guy and he has a lot of speed in that spot. 14 for 20 in steals over attempts is just 70 percent but he often will run doubles into triples and chase down a lot of balls in centerfield.
Geoff Blum is trying to steal time from Sean Burroughs:

Burroughs: (.260, .333, .303)
Blum: (.245, .316, .356)

Niether player is having a very good season but Burroughs has just 7 extra base hits, out of 60 total hits. Another way to put Burroughs' ugly .303 slugging percentage into perspective... Only 3 percent of Burroughs' total plate appearances have resulted in extra base hits. Last season he managed an extra base hit just 6 percent of the time. Lately Blum has been stealing some playing time from Burroughs. Blum's numbers are only slightly better. It makes sense for San Diego to play Blum because he offers the ability to hit for extra bases. Burroughs is too slow to be a singles hitter. Willy Taveras hits a lot of singles but he turns many of them into doubles because he can steal second base. If Burroughs doesn't figure things out he is going to be spending a lot more time on the bench. Burroughs has scored just 18 runs this season compared to Blum's decent 24, considering Blum has had less at bats. The only reason I would like to see Blum in the lineup over Burroughs is to find out if the Blum's Blondes fanclub made an appearance. Khalil Greene is a defensive genius who was hurt earlier this season. For every error Greene makes he matches it with 2 or 3 spectacular plays. Offensively he isn't the best but he gets the job done. Here is his line this season: (.253, .297, .430). All of those numbers are down from his rookie season last year. He isn't as patient at the plate as he was last season.
Klesko and Giles are having good seasons. For all the complaining they did about Petco Park last season it appears they have figured it out. Klesko already has 13 homers this season, compared to 9 last year, and 6 of them were at home. Giles has hit 9 homers but only 2 have been at home. Klesko is a very good hitter at Minute Maid Park, he hits somewhere in the .400's. These two are the real threats in the Padres' lineup. Phil Nevin and Mark Loretta being injured has really hurt this club because it takes away an important on base guy and an important RBI guy from this lineup.

Mark Sweeney, Robert Fick, and Damian Jackson are playing because of injuries to Phil Nevin, Ramon Hernandez, and Mark Loretta. Just looking at those replacements would make any Padres fan shutter but it has me grinning. Actually, all 3 of these players have overachieved to this point. Fick is hitting .322 and he is driving the ball. Mark Sweeney is a career .259 hitter but he is hitting just under .300. This is an impressive line out of Mark Sweeney, (.298, .417, .519). That is exceptional. Damian Jackson is playing much better than Sean Burroughs through this season and he is eligible at third base... He is just doing his job and chipping in with some hits and defense.

Backup catcher Miguel Ojeda and outfielders Ben Johnson and Eric Young seem to be on the club because of all the injuries. Ojeda takes Ramon Hernandez's spot on the roster and Johnson has just 4 at bats. Eric Young has 4 hits, 4 runs and 3 RBI in just 7 at bats. Both players are hanging aroun until the real offensive players get healthy, Nevin and Loretta.

As for the pitchers...

Roy Oswalt has been on fire lately and he has a good shot to continue his successes against a beat up, vulnerable Padres' lineup. Brian Lawrence has not been as good, especially lately. He throws his fastball real slow and his only other pitch is his slider. Dennys Reyes makes his first start out of the bullpen for game 2. He has a WHIP of 1.75 and both his opponent's OBP and SLG are over .400. He is the only pitcher on the staff, or the only one with more 7 innings pitched, who has both of those numbers over .400. His BB/9 are worst on the staff at 5.65. His K/9 is a little better at 7.85. Reyes is the best pitcher to be going up against Brandon Backe, since he has struggled so much lately. Maybe he can get it together against Reyes. Jake Peavy is having another great season and game 3 is the real pitcher's duel of the series. Peavy is very tough so if we lose either of the first 2 games, this series might become a split at best. Game 4 is Woody Williams vs Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy's numbers are kind of bad but he has been better recently, especially at Coors Field.

San Diego's bullpen is scary. Former Astro Scott Linebrink and the unorthodox style of Akinori Otsuka create a strong bridge to reach Trevor Hoffman who is one of the better closers in the game.

Scott Linebrink- 3-1, 2.21 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Akinori Otsuka- 1-3, 3.03 ERA ,1.37 WHIP
Trevor Hoffman- 0-4, 3.68 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

The plan is to ride Oswalt to a win in game 1 and hope the offense can get to Reyes in case Backe is still struggling in game 2. If you can manage to win the first 2, winning the series becomes feasible. Gametime.

My Apologies...

Firstly I would like to tell you to cancel the search party, I'm alive and well... and sorry.

Unfortunately, business took me away and I missed many things, one of those being a computer, which is my sorry excuse for not updating this site. I didn't miss much and I don't feel that I have fallen behind in the world of baseball, and especially in the world of Houston baseball. I am aware that Morgan Ensberg is better off playing shortstop in the All-Star game than David Eckstein. No disrespect to David, he is having a good season, but seriously, he is below average defensively. I can just picture him mustering all of his strength on a little grounder to short to throw someone out. Since Eckstein is just a fundamental defender at best... Morgan could probably hold his own out there. Plus, Morgan is the much better offensive option. Of course this is all useless speculation, Morgan isn't on the all star team, despite being very deserving.

On to the Padres...