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Astronomics

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Look Honey, Kirk Gibson is back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the way that list currently stands at:

Carlos Silva
Carl Crawford

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

Monday, August 08, 2005

Luck Doesn't Exist

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

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

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

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

(THIS IS AN ACTUAL QUOTE, NOT A DRAMATIZATION)

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

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

Politically Correct Dude thinks it is luck.

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

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

TOP 10 RUN SUPPORT

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

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

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

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

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

How about a couple of non-confrontational statical tidbits:

TOP 5 QUALITY STARTS

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

TOP 5 BALKS

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

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

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Hello San Francisco

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

Positives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Negatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is Viagra A Steroid?

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

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