Sunday, December 26, 2004

I am split. I can't decide if I like Beltran or not.

The boy in me wants us to sign him at any cost. Did you see the playoffs? Did you see him hit eight homers in 12 games? Did you see him make that AMAZING diving catch against the Cardinals? Beltran is the best player the Astros have EVER seen, and we'd be the dumbest team in HISTORY not to sign him when we have the chance.

But the cynic in me is skeptical. Yeah, he had a great postseason... I'll give him that. But his numbers aren't that great. Career OBP? .353. Career slugging? .490. Just... not... the Baseball God everyone's made him out to be.

And so, the omnipresent baseball conundrum: statistics versus intangibles. The long run versus the typical day. A game played on paper versus a game played on a diamond. Moneyball versus our National Pasttime.

A part of me hates Moneyball. A part of me hates Billy Beane and the way he treats his managers and coaches and scouts and PLAYERS like dirt. Like he's the only one who knows how to win at baseball. Like they are the insignificant pawns to protect him, the almighty King.

Rememer Miguel Tejada, circa 2002? The utterly indescribable spectacle that he alone put on in the Summer of '02, winning game after game on walk-off hits? The stunning, spine-tingling stupefaction you felt when you saw him raise his hands to the sky in pure ecstasy and jump atop the mob of bobbing Athletics as they celebrated their 18th.. no, 19th... no, TWENTIETH!!!! WIN!!!! IN A ROW!!!!

Well, old Billy Beane didn't give a shit. Not about the streak. Not about Miguel Tejada. Not about how his team won games so long as they DID. Tejada he calls "Mr. Swing-at-Everything." Which he does. Billy Beane hates Tejada because he can't draw walks. Because he doesn't "fit in" to Oakland's "system." Of course, he can drive in the most RBI in the American League with Baltimore.

The point I'm getting at is this: Baseball is not a numbers game. As much as you want to think it's ALL about statistics... as much as you try to break the game down into segments of information and data... as much as you convince yourself that pitchers and batters and defenders are all just the representation of pre-ordained percentages of consequence... as much as you think you have the game all figured out to the slightest infinitesimal decimal... you are wrong.

Go to a game. Buy a hot dog. I don't care, watch it on t.v. You will see something you have never seen before. You will see something no one could have predicted or rationalized or even imagined. Most importantly, you will not see numbers running around on the field, turning an impossible double-play or picking off a man at first or narrowly avoiding a tag at home. These are something numbers cannot predict.

Playoffs, as we all know, leave statistics in the dust. Adam Kennedy CAN hit three homers in a game to win the win the ALCS. Ramon Hernandez CAN drop down a bunt to win a game (Do you think Billy Beane even watched that one?). Brandon Backe CAN pitch one-hit ball for eight innings against St. Louis. But the playoffs are just a microchosm for the regular season. These games happen ALL THE TIME. One hundred and sixty-two of them by each team. And no matter what the statistcis say, circumstance will always prevail. The Devil Rays CAN win 100 games. Impossible is nothing.

Rant over.
I like Derek Lowe too...in fact, I take partial credit for suggesting him as an option to Andy. The real key behind his signing would be the fact that we have a much-improved infield defense. In particular, if we sign Lowe, once Berkman comes back, perhaps we could always start Burke (over Biggio, if he switches back) at 2nd. It's kind of similar to what the Red Sox had planned to do last year - start Pokey Reese at 2nd rather than Bellhorn when Lowe pitches, because he is such an extreme ground ball pitcher.

Some other random thoughts: The Phillies currently have Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Placido Polanco for 2B and SS. Think we could take one of them of their hands? Bucholz for Utley?

The more I think about it, the more a Lamb-for-Cruz trade would rock. We'd be buying low and selling high; Lamb had by far his best year ever, and Cruz has a Gold Glove and a career 790 OPS or so. Maybe he'd benefit from playing by his dad. He's a local guy...I would really like this move. If we don't get Beltran, we'll need a CF, and I can't see how we can do much better than Jose Cruz. Sure, he'd probably bat .250, but he'd draw 75-100 walks, smack 30 HR's, steal 15 bases, play solid defense, a be a fine #2 hitter. We must do this trade.

I'll be watching Adam Everett closely this season. If he can't improve on a .320 OBP, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he should probably be a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner. I don't exactly know who we could get to replace him; Burke is our only really good middle infield prospect (although I like Brooks Conrad, too), so we might think about making a trade.

After Lowe, there's not much else out there in terms of free agent pitchers. I say we give Redding or Duckworth or Carlos Hernandez one last chance to prove themselves. They've all shown potential - Redding was very good in 2003, Duckworth was awesome his rookie year with the Phils, and I vividly remember Carlos Hernandez dominating in his few starts when he first came up. So pit them against each other, see who comes out on top, and cross your fingers.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Sorry, boys. Jose Lima signed with the team that witnessed his rebirth in 2003, the Royals. Oh well. Not like I really wanted him back anyway. Some folks over on AstrosDaily have been saying we'd be crazy NOT to sign him, and that's a bunch of bull. He's a fly ball pitcher and still gives up a lot of homers, so he'd clearly not be a good fit with us.

But you know who would? DEREK LOWE. I posted about him earlier, half jokingly. But if we don't sign Beltran (and by association, Clemens) we'd need to somehow acquire an above-average starting pitcher to even think about contending. Of course, we'd need a centerfielder as well, and a Lamb-for-Cruz deal would rock, regardless of Beltran's status.

Lowe would be a great fit. He's an extreme sinkerball pitcher, which would translate well with our stadium and defense. Of course we'd have to sign the right Derek Lowe. The 21-game-winner-including-a-no-hitter Derek Lowe. The win-all-three-deciding-games-of-each-playoff-series Derek Lowe. Not what came in between. Here are his stats for the past three years. Take a deep breath.

ERA/ WHIP/ BAA/ IP/ H/ BB/ K/ ER/ HR
2002: 2.58/ 0.97/ .211/ 219.2/ 166/ 48/ 127/ 63/ 12
2003: 4.47/ 1.42/ .272/ 203.1/ 216/ 72/ 110/ 101/ 17
2004: 5.42/ 1.61/ .299/ 182.2/ 224/ 71/ 105/ 110/ 15

Yes, it looks bad. Yes, it might seem stupid to spend $8 million this guy. But the past two years are not as bad as they seem. Here's some good news: He's only given up 32 homers in those two years. Jamie Moyer gave up FORTY-FOUR just last year! Milton gave up 43! Colon and Darrell May served up 38 apiece. Maddux and Morris each coughed up 35. Buerhle and Vazquez both gave up 33. And our boy Lima served up 33. In Chavez Ravine! Now that is scary. Oswalt, by the way, led the Astros with 17. Yeah.

But back to Lowe. Obviously, he sucked it up big time in '03 and '04. But some of that could be attributed to that blister problem. Remember when he kept bleeding all over his pant leg but refused to be taken out? I think that blister may have taken something off of his rotation or something. Either that, or hitters started being able to read his fastball. My boy Cranston tells me Lowe's fastball (though only 91 or 92 mph) has got the most movement on it than any other pitcher he's seen. It's true.

Remember how he came in to save Game Five of the 2003 ALDS against Oakland? And struck out lefty pinch-hitters Adam Melhuse and Terrence Long BOTH LOOKING with the bases loaded? How those fastballs started sailing right at their hips? And how both hitters turned away, thinking they might get hit? And how the fastballs tailed back right over the inside edge of the plate? And how Lowe pounded his fist on his crotch in the general vicinity of the Oakland dugout? I do.

His career numbers aren't bad. A 3.88 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. Twice as many Ks and BBs. Only 80 homers in 1090 IP. I think all he needs is a change of scenery and some blister-repellent. Sign him up.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ok ok ok. Today Drayton McLane refuted the rumor of a 6-year, $96 million offer to Beltran.

"We acknowleged that we made an offer, but in no way did we disclose [the numbers]," McLane said. "That [published] offer is a rather large offer. And it was not our offer. I don't know where that came from, but it is way beyond what our offers are."

Well this sure changes things. I still don't know how I feel about the offer, if indeed it was made. It's quite a chunk of change for one player -- $16 million would be a fifth of our estimated $80 million payroll.

But at some point we need to make a splash this offseason. Showing the door to Kent and Miller wure didn't do anything to raise fan interest. Losing out on Beltran and Clemens would doom us for sure.

So here's my final analysis of our important moves so far this offseason:

Oct. 28: Exercised option on Biggio ($3 million). I think this is fine. Can you imagine the uproar if we let him go? I heard this was a main reason why Hunsicker left. But Biggio still can be an above average lead-off man. Besides, if Varitek can get 4 years, $40 million, Biggio deserves $3 million.

Oct. 28: Declined option on Kent. Very good move. Yes, Kent was a superb player for the Astros. He obviously wasn't anything near his 2000 MVP season, but who expected him to? With Burke and Biggio as possible second-baggers, we couldn't afford Kent. He was a great player, but not worth $8 or even $7 million at this point in his career.

Nov. 2: Gerry Hunsicker resigns, Tim Pupura named GM. Hmmm. As mentioned above, I heard the Hun left in part because Biggio's option was picked up. I wonder why Gerry was so adamant against keeping Biggio? Purpura hasn't been so great so far... Just check out what he's done for us so far. Maybe there's a big ole Beltran signing on the way.

Dec. 3: Jose Vizcaino re-signed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract with $500K in incentives. Buh'oh. Jack calls it PVS: Proven Veteran Syndrome. We've already gone over this. But here are my thoughts, quite briefly: Viz is terrible. He should not be a Major Leaguer. I hate him.

Dec. 8: Orlando Palmeiro re-signed to a one-year, $800K contract. This signing isn't as bad as Vizcaino. Palmeiro isn't nearly so bad a player as Vizcaino and he's getting a lot less. Get this: his career Slugging is lower than his career OBP. Weird.

Dec. 8: Offered arbitration to Beltran and Clemens. Denied arbitration to Kent, Miceli and Oliver. These were all no-brainers except for Kent. Clemens since accepted, so he'll either play for us or play for nobody. Beltran did not accept, as everyone knew he would. The best thing the Astros have done so far this offseason is RELEASING MICELI!!! YEAH!!!!

Dec. 21: Tendered contracts to Berkman, Lamb, Duckworth, Munro, Oswalt and Redding. Did not tender contract to Miller. Sooo confusing. If MIller accepted a incentive-based contract from Boston, why didn't we offer him one? I DON'T GET IT. Miller is a GREAT pitcher. If he ain't hurt, he can dominate. He won 45 games from 2001-03. And we let him go. Hmm. I hate to say it, but I HOPE the doctors found something wrong with his shoulder. Just so that we didn't do such a stupid move.

And here we are. I hope I see Beltran's name on here soon.
The Astros made a significant offer to Beltran Wednesday. Rumors from the Chronicle have our offer at 6 years for $96 million. McLane, Purpura and Tal Smith all met with the big boy in the Astros spring training facility at Kissimmee, Fla., where we showed him a video clip of his highlights and the fans going crazy, etc. McLane also reaffirmed our commitment to winning and our integrity toward keeping our veteran players.

This is all fine and dandy. But I worry that these things are not exactly what matters to Beltran. He has voiced his opinion many times that he wants to compete. Meaning that if he signs with the Astros, he doesn't want to be the only one there. Meaning that the Astros need to make mutli-year deals to Berkman and Oswalt. Of course, the Astros probably haven't spoken to those guys once this offseason because they're so worried about getting Beltran. And round and round we go.

As far as the offer goes, I think it might be a bit too much already, and I am worried that we might go even higher. I hope we don't. $16 million a year is a damn lot, and it really inhibits our felxibility for the next six years. Hell, that's a fifth of our payroll! Factor in Bagwell's and Pettitte's backloaded salaries for 2005 and 2006, and we might be stuck. Think about it. We'll have no room for nice deals for Berkman and Oswalt if three players are taking up half our payroll already.

So here's the deal. I think signing Beltran for 6 years, $96 million would be a good deal. Beltran is probably worth the money. He can do everything. The little things -- defense and baserunning in particular -- augment his ability at the plate. Equally important is the fact that he's injury-free. Plus he's coming up on the best years of his career. Plus I think the market in all likelihood will soon open up again. And big free agents will resume signing A-Rod and Manny-like deals.

Besides, after letting Kent and Miller walk (even though I do not dislike either decision), the Astros have got to do something to raise the energy back to where it was last year. Beltran will provide us with all the crowd support we need. And if we get Clemens out of it, all the better.

Maybe the Astros can sign Oswalt and Berkman to back-loaded contracts. Let them have only 3 or 4 million until Bagwell and Pettitte are done. Then give them the big bucks. We cannot give up on them for the sake of Beltran.

Sixteen days until Jan. 8.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

...and Wade Miller signs with the Red Sox for a guaranteed 1.5 million, plus up to 3 million more in incentives. This is scary for two reasons: it's a great deal for the Red Sox, and it's almost EXACTLY what Andy predicted we should do with Miller - sign him to a 1 year deal with plenty of incentives, kinda similar to what Nomar did with the Cubs. To be fair, the Astros couldn't offer Miller less in arbitration than what he made last year (3.4 million, I think), but we could have made him a similar offer after releasing him. Why didn't we? I don't know. This offseason has been pretty depressing - our two 'moves' have been to re-sign Viz and Orlando Palmeiro for a total of 1.5 million, and it seems like everything has been focused on signing Beltran. Berkman? Oswalt? Anyone else? Nope, take a back seat to Carlos Beltran, who (while being a great player), is likely to be overpaid by the Yankees, especially now that they didn't get Randy.

I say let Beltran sign with the Yankees for 8 years / 120 million, sign Berkman and Oswalt to 4 or 5 year deals for around 40 or 50 million each, get a cheap OF (Jose Cruz, Dustan Mohr) to fill in for Berkman, trade Lamb for either aforementioned OFer or relief help, and....well, that leaves our rotation. As of right now, it's Oswalt / Pettitte / Backe. Other options? I really don't know. Andy, what do you think?

Yeah. Good question. Here's the deal: if we don't sign Beltran, we gotta have a backup plan. Of course, if we do lose Beltran, we might not even compete in 2005. But if we do not sign Beltran, we will have plenty of money to spend. I hope that we put this money to good use. We don't need a huge signing like Magglio or Delgado or whatever. I hope we put that toward Berkman and Oswalt. They SOOO GOOD.

I agree with Jack that we need to sign an OF -- preferably a centerfielder -- if we don't sign the big fella. Someone like Cruz would be sweet. Burnitz would cost more and is older and slower.

Anyway, the point is, I hope the front office isn't relying on Beltran. I think the worst thing would be to wait until Jan. 7, then make a mistake by paying $17 a year to the guy. I mean as good as he appears to be, he ain't worth it all. He ain't worth signing away the future (i.e. Oswalt and Berkman)

Now as far as the rotation goes, I have no idea. Here are the ONLY free agents out there: Millwood, Nomo, Loaiza, Lima, Lowe, Odalis Perez, Steve Sparks, Shane Reynolds, Omar Daal, Pedro Astacio. That don;t look to good. So, uh.... we might see a little too much of Duckworth and Redding next year. Which is not a good thing.

Whatever. Let's go play poker.
So we non-tendered Wade Miller, meaning he will not be an Astros in 2005. The Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds are apparently interested, although I'm sure many more team sare as well.

I'm sure 90 percent of Astros fans are shocked and appalled. They're thinking to themselves, "Now we only have Roy and Andy in the rotation, we'll probably lose Beltran and Clemens, and we'll lose 100 games in 2005." Actually, those things could very well all be correct.

But letting Miler go was not so bad a move as everyone around Houston makes it out to be. Wade made $3.4 million last year, so regardless of his injury status, arbitration would have given him at least $5 million.

I maintain that the Astros doctors saw something wrong with his arm. His recent MRI and physicals probably showed that his frayed rotator cuff hadn't improved since June, when he last pitched. The Astros probably didn;t feel confident in his ability to stay healthy, and that's fine.

I hope we at least tried to negotiate a multi-year deal with incentives up the wazoo. But I guess it just didn't work out. Don;t get me wrong... I'm not hoping he gets hurt for another team. But if he pitches 200+ innings with a 3.50 ERA, we're gonna look like chumps.

OK. Jack will tell you more about this. Flagstaff is cool.

-Andy


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Miller time. Do we offer him arbitration? Do we sign him to a mutli-year deal? Do we non-tender him? So many possibilities... so little time. We have by 11 p.m. Monday to offer arbitration to Miller — along with Oswalt, Berkman, Munro, Redding, Duckworth and Lamb.

And when he's on, he can dominate like Oswalt, man. That sinker just bites and no one can even get their bat near his ball. He's a workhorse, too. He won 14 games per year from 2001-03, so he knows how to win.

But his arm has had a long history of arm problems. He's been able to pitch through them for the most part (which is not necessarily a good thing). He shut down for the season on June 15 this year due to a frayed rotator cuff, and he hasn't thrown since. He didn't undergo surgery since nothing was torn, but he won't throw until January.

According to team reports, his arm look very good. His MRIs and physical exams look "promising," according to the Chronicle. But as Jack will tell you, pitchers with injuries will continue to have injuries. Generally, those without injuries will continue to pitch pain-free.

I wonder what kind of contract he'd receive if he went to arbitration. He got $3.4 million last year, and $525,000 the year before that. So despite , he probably receive upwards of $4 million. That's no chump change.

Murphy tells us that if we sign Miller, he'll fall apart. But the minute we trad ehim or let him go, he will win 20 games for another team. So, what do you do?

I don't know. Ideally, we could work out an incentive-laden contract with him. Offer him milllions if he reaches 200 IP. But start at a base salary of only $1.5 or $2 million. That's what Miller's worth. If he pitches 200 pain-free innings, he commands $5 or $6 million. If he shuts it down in June again, he ain't worth squat. I like Miller; he's a fierce competitor and a great pitcher. I hope he wants to remain an Astro and Houston wants to keep him.

Friday, December 17, 2004

We've all heard the rumors around Randy Johnson. In the proposed three-team trade, the Yankees would get Randy, the Diamondbacks would get Shawn Green, Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban and the Dodgers would get Javier Vazquez and prospects Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan. Here's why it won't happen:

First of all, the deal is contingent on Green waiving his no-trade clause. No way he does this. Even though everyone in La La Landhates him because he can't stop sucking, the Dodgers are a better team. He won't be willing to go to the god-awful D-backs.

Secondly, the Yanks are the only team here that would benefit. Yes, the D-backs would get very good players in Penny and Green. But — oh yeah — they lose one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Dodgers would give up these very good players for a very mediocre player. Vazquez is anything but a dependable pitcher. He's clearly not an upgrade over Penny. So why would the Dodgers do this trade?

According to Jayson Stark, the Dodgers banked on resigning Beltré, which makes sense because they would lose an important power hitter in Green in this trade. Now there's no way in hell the Dodgers do this.

Unfortunately, this trade would be good for the Astros. The Yankees appear to me a tad more tightly-wound this season. I heard rumors that the Yankees (i.e. Steinbrenner) were lying about how much dough they were raking in with their t.v. contract. So they might be a little more frugal than normal. And if they did acquire Randy, they'd no doubt have to pay all of his $17 million salary. That would definitely bind their wallets, along with the signings of Pavano and Wright, and give us the edge in the Beltran sweepstakes. But that's cool.

Hey, check this out. I wanted to look at two rebuilding teams, the Diamondbacks and the Mariners. Both are coming off horrific seasons in which they half-expected to contend. Then injuries and sucking caught up to them, and they lost 210 games between them. Ouch. Now both are trying to bring back their fan base with big free-agent signings and the promise of an exciting season in 2005.

First, Jack's new hometown team, the Diamondbacks. Ah, those lovable, scrappy kids. They play the game the way it was meant to be played and give 110% heart and so on. Of course, they have to play all those kids because they gave up half their starting lineup this time last year for one bum shoulder. Yeah, that deal really panned out.

But not to worry, they just brought back the crown jewel of that trade. That's right. Craig Counsell is back. And by gummit, he's waving that bat even higher than ever. Unfortunately he's one of EIGHT infielders (Cintron, Clayton, Gil, Hairston, Hillenbrand, Kata, Tracy) who share two things in common: they have nowhere to play and they suck.

And it looks as though they replaced Sexson's bum shoulder with another in Mr. Troy Glaus. Ah, and even though they're trying as hard as they can to get rid of Randy, they won't let Russ Ortiz slip away. Ugh. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2005 Diamondbacks:

Luis Terrero? - CF
Cintron / Clayton - SS
Glaus - 3B
Gonzo - LF
Hillenbrand - 1B
Hammock - C
Josh Kroeger? - RF
Hairston / Kata / Counsell - 2B

Doof. Fugly. Pug Fugly. Wait a second... what's that I hear? A Diamondbacks executive in the distance? I can... I can barely make it out... I think he's saying the Diamondbacks are close to acquiring a power-hitting outfielder. Unless it's Manny or Sosa, I don't think a Kevin Mench or a Craig Wilson is gonna put them over the top. That lineup... well, it's just not a good lineup.

Their rotation doesn't get much better:
Randy (probably gone)
Russ Ortiz (probably sucks)
Brandon Webb (might not suck)
Edgar Gonzalez (definitely sucks)
Casey Fossum (A&M alum! But he sucks left-handed)
If / when Randy leaves, bring in Gracie!

The 2005 Diamonbacks might very well be worse than the 2004 Diamondbacks. And they'll have the overrated, underacheiving Glaus and Ortiz for years to come. Good thing I don't live in Arizona.

Let's move north, where it looks like the Mariners might actually contend next season. I initially thought their free-agent singings were as bad as the D-backs. Beltre and Sexson are obviously a better pair than Glaus and Ortiz. But Sexson's shoulder might blow out on him at any time, and Beltre just might not produce. I can see him getting frustrated within a month because his homerun totals are down. Then he starts pressing, like he did for six years with the Dodgers. It could get ugly. Or he could dominate. You just never know. Check out their lineup:

Ichiro RF
Winn CF
Sexson 1B
Beltre 3B
Boone 2B
Ibañez LF
Reed / Jacobsen DH
Olivo / Wilson C
Jose Lopez SS

That's pretty solid. Boone is capable of big things (see 2001), and both Ibañez and Winn can put up OBPs near .350. I know baseball stat lovers like to dismiss Ichiro as an overrated player. Sure, he doesn't take as many walks as your prototypical leadoff hitter. But as my buddy Ryan says, who needs to take walks when you hit .370?

Mariners Rotation:
Moyer
Piñeiro
Meche
Franklin
Some other guy

Yikes. Didn't these guys all win 10 games before the All-Star break two years ago? Now it just looks BAD. But if Moyer pitches like he did when he was 45, he can be solid. Lucky for the Mariners, the A's have started their decline. Tim Hudson's departure marks in my mind the end of an era in Oakland. Sure they have Mulder, Zito, Harden and my boy Kirk Saarloos. But I don't see them staying atop the baseball world without Hudson. He's just sooo good. The Angels will still take the West, but the Mariners will be with them til the end. One more pitcher (a Matt Clement or Derek Lowe type) and they might just take it.

Ok. Til next time. Ta ta.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Clemens won't sign unless Beltran signs. Beltran won't sign unless Berkman and Oswalt signs. And Ausmus ain't going anywhere. One thing's for certain: the next month will be critical for the next few years of the franchise.

Is it too early to start discussing long-term deals with Oswalt and Berkman? Berkman said in the paper recently that he's a little pissed that management hasn't contacted him at all this offseason. That's understandable.

I still think that Berkman and Oswalt are the key to the Astros' succes in the next few years. Oswalt is amazing, and no longer an injury concern. And no offense to Beltran, but Berkman is the better slugger. Their career stats:

Berkman: 2683 AB, .303, .416, .563 (.980!), 156 HR, 535 RBI
Beltran: 3467 AB, .284, .353, .490 (.844), 146 HR, 569 RBI

Notice I didn't say Berkman is the better baseball player. Beltran can win games with his defense and his baserunning abilities. Berkman eats jelly donuts.

But the fact of the matter is this: If we focus on Beltran too much, we may piss the heck out of Berkman regardless of whether or not we land Beltran. I don't know. I just want them to be together... forever...

Enough reality. Let's dream for a second. DISCLAIMER: None of these players will be an Astro in 2005. I'm not saying we could or even should sign these players. Just think. Open your mind. There is no spoon.

Derek Lowe. If Rocket doesn't sign, our pitching staff is going to be a wee bit shaky in 2005. We'll have Oswalt and Backe for sure (and don't try to tell me Backe has to fight to earn his spot... eight innings of one-hit ball against THE CARDINALS is proof enough for me). Then we got Pettitte and Miller, but those guys are anything but dependable. The last line of defense is the old Redding/Hernandez/Duckworth quagmire, and I don't want to touch any of those guys. Lowe is a sinkerball pitcher, and our infield (i.e. Everett) will help him out. If he does sign, let's hope it's the 2002, 21-win, no-hitter Derek Lowe. Or the 2004 win-all-three-deciding-games-in-the-playoffs Derek Lowe. Not what happened in-between. Downside: two words. Scott Boras.

Moises Alou. Yeah!!! Why not? And don't tell me, "Because he's 38 and wants a two-year deal and he can barely bend his knees in that weird stance anymore and if he ever tries to catch a fly ball, his body will shatter into a million pieces like that cup in The Usual Suspects." Just don't. You'd be wasting your breath. I already know. Oh yeah, he pisses on his hands. I've tried this. No luck.

A.J. Pierzynski. Career averages: .294, .336, .438. Ausmus' last four years average in Houston: .240, .305, .330. Not much to say here. Actually, Pierzynski isn't the greatest. Apparently he had more HBPs than unintentional walks last year. For the second year in a row. Wowee wow wow. Then again, anything looks good next to the horror that is Brad Ausmus. It's like putting some small, innocent puppy next to Barstool. That puppy... well, it just doesn't make the cut. Not against Barstool.

Jose Cruz Junior. The Cruzes are reunited! Cruz would fill Berkman's void for the first month or so. And once everyone sees his .350 OBP, we might have a Lane-Cruz platoon going when the fat man returns. I've heard speculation that we're offering Lamb for Cruz. I'd be in favor of this. Enough babying for Ensberg. Someone needs to slap him upside his nerdy little face and say, "No more pussy-footin' around, little boy! Time to do the nasty!" Well, you get my jist. Get ridda Lamb while he's got some value. Make the D-Rays pick up a million of Cruz's $4 million paycheck, and we got ourselves a deal. May we never see Orlando Palmeiro again.

Jeremy Burnitz. An alternative should Steiny wake up one day and find like $200 million in his jeans pocket. But in case you forgot where he played last year, allow me to remind you: the moon. His home and away stats:

Moon: .322, .386, .670 (1.057)
Not Moon: .244, .327, .488 (.775)

You know who's better than that? Mr. Twenty-eight-year-old-on-Dec.-22 Jason Lane. Happy b-day slash Christmas buddy. I wonder what was on his wish list this year. Maybe, 400 ABs??? Anyone???

Brad Fullmer. He creamed the ball in Anaheim (.888 OPS in 2002 and 2003), but always gets hurt. I say he'd be a perfect fit for us! By the time his knee falls off, Berkman will be ready to go! Yay!

Orlando Hernandez. Do it. Let's continue our rotation of old Yankee pitchers. While we're at it, let's nab David Cone.

Steve Kline. I'm serious about this one. He'd probably command a two-year deal, but he'd be worth it. Besides, what was our one weakness this October? Dan Miceli. Oh man. Still gives me nightmares. But now that he's off folding orgami, we got room for this guy. Bring him over.

Jim Mecir. I hear his hand is deformed. Cool. I've always wanted a screwball pitcher on my team.

Jeff Nelson. Again, bullpen help. Plus, he looks EXACTLY like Jeff Kent. Just tell him to say things like, "Well, sir, I'm thinkin' ma truck needs a scrub," and you'll never know the difference.

Oh yeah, and there's also Delgado, Clement, Drew, Millwood, Nomo, Magglio and JOSE LIMA! We must! Casa Ole! Fresh Today!

Friday, December 10, 2004

A lot of important stuff indeed. First, a few reaction to some of your summaries, Andy...

I agree with you about Jeff Kent - he's a good player, but probably not worth 17 million over the next two years. The key here is that we have options - either Lane or Burke is now almost guaranteed plenty of playing time. The Astros are in a unique situation in that we're in between rebuilding and contending. Part of me wants to go for it all while we still have Biggio and Bagwell, and if you do that, you might keep Kent. But at the same time, you have to look towards the future at some point.

The only thing that concerns me is that Beltran has reportedly requested that the Astros re-sigm Berkman, Oswalt, Everett (?), and Kent if they want him to sign. But then again, not signing Kent allows us to offer more money to Beltran. I've read that we've offered him 6/81, which I think is absolutely reasonable, but I think it'll take more. Maybe 7/100?

Taking Pettitte and Clemens at once: Pettitte is not an elite pitcher, but we absolutely need him healthy. We really don't have any great minor league options and the free agent market is pretty awful. Best case: Oswalt Pettitte Miller Clemens Backe. More likely: Oswalt Pettitte Miller Backe Hernandez/Duckworth/Redding. I think Clemens is done, and I don't think he 'owes' anyone another year.


On to your free-agent signings:

Troy Glaus to the D-Backs, 4 years, 45 million. Ridiculously bad. The D-Backs have Hillenbrand and Tracy at 1st and 3rd, respectively, and both are decent, so why risk 45 million on an oft-injured player that can only play 1st or 3rd. He might be worth it if he's healthy, but this is not what the D-Backs need.

Brad Radke to the Twins (two years, $18 million). Third best pitcher in the AL right here. Schilling, Pedro, Santana, Hudson. Which two of those guys is Radke better than? I could probably throw in Mulder and Halladay for guys I'd rather have next year. Not to say that Radke is bad, (he's constantly underrated), but I don't know about 9 mil / year.

Check out baseballprimer.com sometime to see ZIPS (basically a formula that predicts performance based on age, comparables, etc.) predictions for Astros next year.

Of particular note:

Offense:

Chris Burke: 284 / 352 / 401, 10 HR, 52 BB, 25 SB. I like. If he does this well (or even fairly close to this) I'll be really happy we let Kent go.

Morgan Ensberg: 279 / 356 / 437, 14 HR, 48 BB. Apparently ZIPS thinks 2003 wasn't a total fluke for Ensberg. This includes Lamb getting plenty of AB's also. I've come around to thinking we should still go for a semi-platoon of Ensberg and Lamb, with the odd one out getting plenty of PH AB's.

Mike Lamb: 277 / 355 / 446, 11 HR, 37 BB. Good thing they can't predict defense - Lamb is still pretty bad defensively. I wouldn't want him playing 3rd when Pettitte, a lefty ground-ball pitcher, is going. But he can still rake, especially against fastball pitchers. You can't throw a fastball past this guy.

Lance Berkman, 306 / 436 / 551, 31 HR, 124 BB. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Get well soon.

Craig Biggio, 245 / 310 / 384, 14 HR, 40 BB. Yikes!! Is that prediction is anywhere close to what Biggio does, we should probably let him be Super Utility Man and let Burke and Lane play.

Jason Lane, 280 / 345 / 470, 12 HR, 32 BB. Let him play. He has a weird looking swing, bats righty despite throwing lefty...I don't care. Let him play.

Oh, quick note: Mike Coolbaugh, my 3rd baseman of the future? He's 33. Oops. Still had a big year, though.

Carlos Beltran (if signed): 278 / 373 / 527, 34 HR, 89 BB, 38 SB. An even 900 OPS, good power, good defense, the best stolen base percentage ever, and (maybe most importantly) no injury concerns at all.

Pitching next time. Long story short:
They don't think Brandon Backe is as good as he looked.
They like Ezequiel Astacio (25 year old prospect.)
Oh Lidge. Oh behbeh.
They like Munro????

More to come later.



Lots of important stuff Thursday. Let's get right to it.

JEFF KENT signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Dodgers. I can't really tell you how I feel about this deal. Tell you the truth, I can't really tell you how I feel about Jeff Kent right now. I mean, the guy has hit the most homers of any second baseman ever. And the three-run, game-winning, walk-off blast he hit off Isringhausen in Game Five in the NLCS was quite possibly the greatest experience of my life as an Astro fan.

But he's 37. Which means he will decline, probably very rapidly. And even though his numbers with us (roughly .295 / .350 / .520) were very very good, I don't think we should have signed him. Chris Burke looks a decent enough player, but I'm hoping that we move Bidge back to second. I'm sure his defense would be adequate, and that way Lane finally gets his chance.

But back to Kent: I heard from Rotoworld.com that negotiations broke down when we refused to offer him a no-trade clause. Apparently we were offering a one-year, $7 million deal with an option for a second year at the same price. That seems quite reasonable. The Dodgers' $17 million for two is risky and steep. But they're getting a quality player. I'll miss him.

ANDY PETTITTE threw Thursday for the first time since his surgery in August to repair a tear in his flexor tendon. "I feel good," he said. "Right now, it's just like baby steps. [There was] no pain. More than anything I feel like my shoulder is just a little cranky because I haven't thrown in so long. It's encouraging. I've had problems with my elbow the last nine years off and on. I'm just excited that I'm feeling good."

We all knew Pettitte was a risky sign last year. But with Williams, Wright, Ortiz and Morris all signed and Clemens far from a sure thing, quality free-agent pitchers are becoming a scarcity. Pettitte's elbow must be 100 percent in 2005 for the Astros to compete.

ROGER CLEMENS said Thursday: "If I had to decide today, I'd say I'm not playing. But I'm not saying that. My wife and family want me to wait until after I take a vacation before I make a decision. I'm not ready to say yes or not about my future. I know which way I'm leaning, but I want to get away on vacation a while and see how I feel after that."

I personally feel like Rocket owes us another year. He had the ball in his hand for Game Seven of the NLCS, but blew it on back-to-back pitches: an rbi-double by Pujols and a two-run homer by Rolen. Ouch. I'm surprised he didn't come out and take the blame (a la Kerry Wood after the 2003 NLCS). But then again, he did have a phenonemal year, and yet another Cy Young. Anything, not much new here. But my money's on Rocket starting Game One 2005.

Now then, there have been about a gazillion free-agent signings already, and the Winter Meetings haven't even started yet! That's a great part of baseball: it's exciting even in the off-season. I went and ranked some of the bigger signings thus far. Here's the skinny:

The GOOD (signings):

Troy Glaus to the D-Backs (four years, $45 million). He'll be worth it if he stays healthy.

Jermaine Dye to the White Sox (two years, $10 million). I like it. Dye really fell off in the second half last year, but if he can produce like he did in 2001 with the Royals, Kenny Williams will be a genius.

Brad Radke to the Twins (two years, $18 million). Third best pitcher in the AL right here.

Nomar to the Cubs (one year, $8 million). The contract is heavily-incentive based and has an option for another year. Cubs will be damn good again next year.

Todd Walker to the Cubs (one year, $2.5 million). Walker is a good player, defense be damned. Cubs are going to be real good again next year. That infield!

Woody Williams to the Padres (one year, $3.5 million). I was hoping we'd sign him for about this much money, but we got beat to the punch. Woody is 38, but has shown that he can still play. Plus, the contract is very incentive-based.

Julio Franco to the Braves (one year, $1 million). These are the types of players who deserve $1 million. NOT Jose Vizcaino.

Matt Morris to the Cardinals (one year, $2.5 million). That's damn good! Remember 2001, when Morris won 22 games? He's still got it in him; he's only 30. Bengie Molina and Bob Wickman are making more next year.

Cal Eldred to the Cardinals (one year, $600K). I only mention this one because it illustates how great the Cardinals are about not overpaying for quality talent. Eldred took a pay cut after posting a 3.76 ERA last year. Damn good!

John Mabry (one year, $725K). See above. Damn the Cardinals are good.

Matt Mantei (one year, $750K). BoSox can do it too. Good signing here. Mantei has potential to beast like he did a few years ago.

The BAD

Armando Benitez to the Giants (three years, $21.5 million). I guess this guy is okay. He had a pretty good year last year. I'm just not high on overpaying for top-notch relievers. I am super-pumped for three more years of BRAD LIDGE!!!!

Troy Percival to the Tigers (two years, $12 million). See above. Again, Percy is probably going to help the Tigers, but they could have spend equal money on somebody (Kent?) that would help them much more. Apparently the Tigers want to contend this year.

Jaret Wright to the Yankees (three years, $21 million). I don't know if he can get it done without Mazzone. Wright has a history of being a headcase. He might wig out in New York.

Al Leiter to the Marlins (one year, $8 million). He's 39. Sure, he had a decent year last year, but old, lefty control specialists seem to get lit up toward the end of their careers (Glavine, Moyer)

Jon Leiber to the Phillies (three years, $21 million). Leiber was solid last year, but I don't know about $7 million. That might be too much. We'll see though.

Damian Miller (three years, $8.5 million). Miller's a decent catch, but for for $3 million a year. And certainly not for three years!

The UGLY

Tony Womack (two years, $4 million). Um..... what? The Yankees may not have noticed, but Miguel Cairo was not half bad last year. Womack is bad and will get worse.

Henry Blanco to the Cubs (two years, $2.7 million). This rivals our Brad Ausmus deal, because Blanco rivals Ausmus' ineptitude at the plate. What were they thinking?

Vinny Castilla to the Nationals (two years, $6.2 million). He's 37. And he posted a sub-.300 OBP away from Coors Field last year. Watch out.

Christian Guzman to the Nationals (four years, $16.8 million). Ugh. Washington will get tired of this guy after four months. They got him for four years. He can't steal anymore, and his numbers have been in a steady decline the past few years. Why?!?

Omar Vizquel to the Giants (three years, $12.25 million). Sure, he's a great fielder, and amazingly has revitalized his hitting. But c'mon. He's 37. The Giants will be in pain from this signing. And soon.

Paul Wilson to the Reds (two years, $8.2 million). The Reds are in trouble if that's the best they can do.

Rheal Cormier to the Phillies (two years, $5.25 million). What?!? Who gives more than $1 million to a set-up man? Nonsense right here.

Dustin Hermanson to the White Sox (two years, $5.5 million). WHAT?!? This guy is worse than Cormier! Did anyone actually see his stats last year? Pathetic.

OK, That's it for tonight. Hope you had a good time. I know I did. Tomorrow: What I Absolutely Hate About Billy Beane

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Yes, yes we did. I think one reason Vizcaino inspires adoration in so many Astros fans is the fact that he doesn't seem to make many glaring errors. He doesn't strike out much, instead preferring to hit weak ground balls to 2nd on the first pitch. He doesn't make many mistakes in the field when he can get to the ball, although he's not fast and has little range. And, of course, he'll never lose the luster from the Game 1 winning hit in the Subway Series a few years back.

And I think people don't like change. Why sign a younger, better player or give Chris Burke a chance when you can wallow in the filth that is Vizcaino? At least you know what you're getting. You don't risk disappointment.

Ok, enough. The bright side is that we let Jeff Kent go, apparently, clearing the way for either Chris Burke or (I think) Biggio slides back to 2nd (hey, Bidge, time to change positions again!) and Jason Lane finally gets a shot at a major league job. Burke becomes heir apparent to Bidge.

I don't mind the Orlando Palmeiro signing too much. He's still good defensively, puts up a decent OBP, and of course has no power to speak of. There are plenty of guys I'd rather have (Grieve, Hollandsworth, etc.) as a 4th OF, but you could do worse. I think.

In other news, Twins sign Radke (18 mil / 2 yrs, too much I think) Yankees sign Wright and Womack (HAHAHA) and Nomar and Todd Walker sign with the Cubs (8 mil + possible incentives and 2.5 mil). Great signs by the Cubs. I've gotta tip my cap to Jim Hendry - he's made some great moves the last few years. Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Michael Barrett, Matt Clement...well done, sir. If Nomar has a late 90's kinda year he'll be worth every penny and then some, and the Cubs will probably win the division.

I'm still curious to see what we do with the bullpen and if we don't win the Beltran sweepstakes. Guess I'll wait and see.
The All-Free Agent Team:

C: Varitek
1B: Delgado
2B: Kent
3B: Beltre
SS: Renteria
OF: Beltran, Magglio, Drew
Bench: Sexson, Finley, Hidalgo, Alou, Glaus
P: Pedro, Clemens, Pavano, Clement, Wright
Pen: Lowe, Morris, Ortiz, Williams, Millwood, Ugey
Closer: JOSE LIMA!

(I wanted to use Percival and Nomar, but they’ve already signed. Hidalgo can be the backup utility infielder, right?)

P.S. If the Cards can sign John "No-gloves-but-still-cranks-the-hell-out-of-the-ball" Mabry to a $750,000 deal, WHY ARE WE SIGNING VIZCAINO AND PALMEIRO TO THESE CRAZY DEALS???? And why does everyone on AstrosDaily love Vizcaino? I'll admit he's cute and snuggly like a teddy bear, but he plays like one too! He is rubbish. We basically just took a million dollars, wiped our ass with it, lit it on fire, flushed it down the toilet and then punched ourselves in the nuts. Gah.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Well, we came within one win of the World Series. If that was indeed Jeff Kent's last home AB in front of the crowds that began going Astro crazy in the 2nd half of the year, it was a mighty good one.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I get as excited (maybe even more so) about the offseason than the actual baseball season. With that in mind, here's my Astro Offseason Overview:

2004-2005 Free Agents
Catchers:

Astros have: Brad Ausmus, 248/306/325, 5 HR, 20 XBH, 33 BB in 403 AB.

Considered Free Agents:
Jason Varitek, 296/390/482, 18 HR, 49 XBH, 62 BB in 463 AB.
Doug Mirabelli, 281/368/525, 9 HR, 21 XBH, 19 BB in 160 AB.
Damian Miller, 272/339/403, 9 HR, 34 XBH, 39 BB in 397 AB.

Varitek will re-sign with Boston, and probably Mirabelli also. I’d really like to see us at least try to sign Miller, simply because Ausmus is now beyond terrible and should be relegated to backup catcher duty for the rest of his natural life. Miller has had patience beaten into him since he played for the A’s, and he’s capable defensively. Sign him up!

First Base/DH:

Jeff Bagwell, 266/377/465, 27 HR, 58 XBH, 96 BB in 572 AB. The end nears. He’s not there yet, and he can still be a valuable player, but he’s no longer worth what he makes.

Olmedo Saenz, 279/352/504, 8 HR, 9 XBH, 12 BB in 111 AB. Might make a nice pickup - anytime you're running Everett/Ausmus/P in the bottom 3rd of the lineup, it doesn't hurt to have good pinch hitters in close games.

Second Base:

Jeff Kent, 289/348/531, 27 HR, 69 XBH, 49 BB in 540 AB. The Astros declined his option, and I think he's probably done. He's definitely on the downside of his career, and he wasn't truly spectacular for us, and he's crap in the field, but he had some big hits, and I'll never forget the look on his face as he flipped his helmet off in Game 5 of the NLCS in 2004.

Chris Burke (see waaaay below, Astros minor league stars)

Craig Biggio? (see below, under Astros OFs) Jason Lane deserves a major league job even more than Chris Burke does (Lane is 28!), so I think it's a likelihood that Biggio moves back to 2B and Lane takes over in LF.

Third Base:

Morgan Ensberg, 275/330/411, 10 HR, 33 XBH in 411 ABB. What happened? If you believe in conspiracy theories, the final insult in Jimy Williams' time as Astros manager may have been convincing Ensberg to play more small ball, advance the runner, hit the ball the other way, and bunt more often, instead or crushing 25 HR and drawing 48 BB in 385 AB like he did last year. Or maybe those back spasms were more serious than he let on. Either way, it was a lost year for Ensberg.

Mike Lamb, 288/356/511, 14 HR, 31 XBH in 278 AB. This Gerry Hunsicker trade right before the year started didn't get much press, but it worked out great. Lamb had a fine year, and seemed to come through in the clutch more often than not. Pretty much terrible in the field, but he makes a great platoon partner or bat off the bunch. Nice signing, and I hope to see him back in '05.

Mike Coolbaugh (see Astros Minor League Stars)


Shortstop:

Adam Everett, 273/317/385, 8 HR, 25 XBH, 17 BB, 13 SB, 2 CS in 384 AB. NEED. MORE. WALKS. Someone needs to tell AE that he’s a little guy, and he needs to stop swinging for the fences and start drawing more walks. He’s a great baserunner, and does damage when he gets aboard, but a 317 OBP ain’t cutting it.

Jose Vizcaino, 274/311/374, 3 HR, 25 XBH, 20 BB in 358 AB. SET HIM FREEEEEEEEEEEE. Please, no more Viz. He actually didn't do terribly, but he's overpaid, old, subpar offensively, defensively, and is basically the symbol for everything that I think is wrong sometimes with baseball teams preferring old, 'proven', more expensive veterans to young, cheap players with potential (Alfaro, Conrad!, Chris Burke if Biggio plays 2b!) Please let the 2005 'Stros be Viz-free.

*Note - I'm tired, so that's all for now. I'll finish up the OF next time.*

Outfield:

Craig Biggio. He'll be back - the Astros picked up his 3 million option.

Carlos Beltran

Lance Berkman

Jason Lane

Orlando Palmeiro

Ben Grieve, 260/361/424, 8 HR, 25 XBH, 39 BB in 250 AB. The patience from the A’s organization hasn’t completely worn off, and he’s not a disaster in the field. A 785 OPS from a LH bat off the bench wouldn’t hurt.


Pitchers:

Roy Oswalt, SP

Andy Pettitte, SP

Wade Miller, SP

Brandon Backe, SP

SP:

Brad Radke


Bullpen:

Brad Lidge, CL
Chad Qualls, RP
Dan Wheeler, RP
Mike Burns, RP
Pete Munro, RP
Ezequiel Astacio / D.J. Houlton, RP


RHRP:
Steve Reed (option declined)
Ramiro Mendoza
Scott Williamson
Jim Mecir
Antonio Osuna

2005 Astros Minor League Stars

AAA New Orleans
Batters

Chris Burke, 2B, , 315/396/507, 16 HR, 55 XBH, 55 BB, 37 SB, 14 CS in 483 AB.
He’s ready. Postseason heroics aside, we should ignore sentimentality and let Jeff Kent ride his motorcycle off into the sunset. Burke put up a 903 OPS in a pitcher’s park, showed good patience and surprising power, and didn’t embarrass himself in the field (11 errors, compared to Kent’s ). Meet the newest Killer B.

Royce Huffman, 1B, 309/393/450, 10 HR, 52 XBH, 71 BB in 531 AB. Not too much pop for a 1B, although he showed good patience. However, we’ve got Bagwell entrenched, and by the time he’s done, hopefully Todd Self will be ready or Berkman will shift over.

Mike Coolbaugh, 3B, 295/368/592, 30 HR, 60 XBH, 47 BB in 404 AB. Check out that slugging percentage! 60 extra bases hits in 404 at-bats is damn good. This guy’s got some serious pop, although he’s probably not very fast, based on his 2 stolen bases and 0 triples. Had 11 errors, compared with Ensberg’s . I like this guy, and I’d love to see him get a long look in spring training. If nothing else, it makes either Ensberg or Lamb a little more expendable.

Jason Alfaro, UTIL, 325/363/477, 13 HR, 45 XBH, 26 BB in 465 AB. Not very patient, and most of his OBP is tied up in batting average. That said, he’s probably better than Jose Vizcaino as a utility guy (he played SS, 2B, 3B, and OF) and 750,000 cheaper.

Pitchers

Chris Enochs, SP, 112.2 IP, 114 H, 35 BB, 92 K, 11 HR allowed, 4.15 ERA. The best of a pretty thin lot at AAA. Not ready for The Show just yet.


AA Round Rock
Batters

Brooks Conrad, 2B, 290/365/475, 13 HR, 57 XBH, 63 BB in 480 AB. Showed good pop and excellent patience for a 2B; also is a switch hitter. I said Jason Alfaro could replace Viz, but I’d rather see this guy do it. A lot of potential here – just needs at-bats against major league pitching.

Todd Self, 1B, 315/420/460, 11 HR, 56 XBH, 89 BB in 476 AB. Not a lot of power for a young 1B in a hitter’s park, but check out the OBP! That’s damn good, AND he’s left-handed. Think along the lines of John Olerud or Lyle Overbay, although he’s not that good. Still, a definite prospect.

Willy Taveras, OF, 335/402/386, 2 HR, 16 XBH, 38 BB, 55 SB, 11 CS in 409 AB. Has mastered the art of having a higher OBP than SLG. That said, probably the most overrated Astros prospect. Yeah, he hit .335, but he didn’t walk and didn’t hit for power. Would be fine as a 5th OF/late-inning defensive (Biggio) replacement, pinch-runner. Does not deserve a starting job in the major leagues.

Luke Scott, OF. 298/401/654(!!), 19 HR, 36 XBH, 33 BB in 208 AB. He LED the team in HR…in only 208 AB!!!! Think that Jeriome Robertson trade worked out all right? His numbers may have been a bit flukey, but this guy has major-league power, bats lefty, and walked a lot. Deserves a long look in ST.

Tommy Whiteman, SS. 336/381/473, 8 HR, 22 XBH, 20 BB in 277 AB. Good batting average, but in a hitter’s park, and made 14 errors in only 68 games. Pass.

Pitchers

Ezequiel Astacio, SP. 176 IP, 155 H, 56 BB, 185 K, 12 HR, 3.89 ERA. Taylor Bucholz struggled, but this guy (the other big catch in the Wagner trade) sure didn’t. Over a strikeout per inning, and a WHIP just over 1, and only 12 HR allowed! Looking good. Should be ready soon.

Mike Burns, RP. 80.2 IP, 63 H, 15 BB, 94 K, 1 HR, 1.67 ERA. Those are Lidge numbers, people. This guy was lights out all year.

D.J. Houlton, SP. 159 IP, 141 H, 47 BB, 159 K, 14 HR, 2.94 ERA. Another surprisingly good season from a pitching prospect at AA. Good K/BB ratio, 3 CG. A stud.

Santiago Ramirez, RP. 78.2 IP, 71 H, 38 BB, 83 K, 2 HR, 2.63 ERA. A lot of walks, a lot strikeouts. Pass for now.



Conclusion:

Chris Burke is ready for a starting major league job.
Mike Coolbaugh is our new 3B prospect.
Brooks Conrad would be great as a backup middle infielder.
Todd Self is a LH OBP machine at 1B. Test at AAA.
Luke Scott has the most power of any minor league Astro. Test at AAA.
Mike Burns should be in the 2005 Astros bullpen.
Ezequiel Astacio and D.J. Houlton are getting close. Test at AAA.

Jack’s 2005 Astros

C- Damian Miller (2/4?)
1B – Jeff Bagwell
2B – Chris Burke / Craig Biggio
SS – Adam Everett
3B – Morgan Ensberg / Mike Lamb / Mike Coolbaugh
LF – Craig Biggio / Jason Lane
CF – Carlos Beltran / Jason Lane (please, Beltran….6/80?)
RF – Lance Berkman (4/42….5/50?)

MI – Brooks Conrad
OF – Jason Lane (3/6?)
OF – Ben Grieve
C – Brad Ausmus
CI – Mike Coolbaugh

SP – Roy Oswalt (4/40)
SP – Andy Pettitte
SP – Wade Miller (1/5)
SP – Brandon Backe

RP – Brad Lidge
RP – Chad Qualls
RP – Dan Wheeler
RP – Mike Burns
RP – Steve Reed
RP – Any 2 of Pete Munro / Tim Redding / Brandon Duckworth / Ezequiel Astacio / D.J. Houlton

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Wow. Wowee-freakin'-Wow.

So since my last post, the Astros:

a) completed a six-game home winning streak to win the wild card, extending their home winning streak to 18 games.
b) Took Game 1 from the Braves, lost a tough Game 2, dominated Game 3, lost an EXCRUCIATING Game 4, and....
c) Just won Game 5, 12-3, thanks to Carlos Beltran, to advance to the NLCS to play the Cardinals.

It's been an amazing ride, and words can't really do it justice. It just seems like this team doesn't want to lose yet. The offense is peaking at the right time again, Oswalt and Clemens are warriors, Brandon Backe has come up big, and we just keep on winning. Can we keep it going against the 'best' (re: most wins (105), largest run differential, etc.) team in baseball.

Well, anything can happen in a 7-game series, so of course we CAN, but will we?

It's definitely possible.

The Astros lead the Cards in the season series, 10-8. I'll have a more complete preview soon (really!), but what I'd like to talk about now is our ideal rotation.

Option A

Munro
Backe
Clemens (full rest)
Oswalt (full rest)
Backe
Clemens
Oswalt

Option B

Backe (3 days rest)
Clemens (3 days rest)
Oswalt
Munro
Backe
Clemens
Oswalt

In my opinion, much as I dislike having Pete Munro as our Game 1 starter, I think we have to go with Option A. Clemens complained about his legs feeling 'dead' after 4 innings in his last start on short rest. Oswalt didn't look too sharp in Game 5 on short rest, though he battled through. I really think we need both those guys on full rest in Games 3,4,6, and 7, and just throw Munro and Backe out there in Games 1,2, and 5. One idea that has been suggested is to just devote 1 game to a 'bullpen' game. Throw the kitchen sink out there - Hernandez, Redding, Harville, Qualls, Gallo...anyone and everyone. It's not a terrible idea.

Anyway, I don't think throwing Clemens and Oswalt out there on short rest again is a good idea. They need the rest. Time for our offense to keep stepping up.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Back by popular demand...

As I'm writing this the Cubs are down 7-3 to the Reds in the 7th and the Astros lead the Cards 2-1. If both scores hold up we'll be withing A HALF-GAME!! How the heck have we done it?

Well, we've been a little lucky. We've been absolutely dominant in close games for the past month or so. It seems like when we lose we get smacked around, but we're pulling out tons of 1-0 and 4-3 victories, and that's what we need.

Our starting pitching has been The Big Two, Brandon Backe, and Munro 'n Hernandez. But we've found ways to win, and whatever we're doing, I'm liking it. Best of all, if we can pull out a victory for the Rocket tomorrow, we finish our season against the Rockies at home while the Cubs play the Braves and the Giants play the Dodgers. Lovely. I'm actually starting to believe this could be done. And if it does happen, against all odds, a front two of Oswalt and Clemens, with Qualls (who has been tough latey) and Miceli (a little nervous there) getting it to Lidge, who has quietly set the record for most strikeouts by a reliever IN HISTORY, we might have a fighting chance.

Anyway, count me back on the bandwagon. Go 'Stros!

One thing I would like them to at least consider would me playing Chris Burke more at SS or (I like this one) moving Ensberg to SS and playing Lamb at 3rd. Vizcaino, after a hot stretch, has been pretty damn bad lately.

Other than that, though, life is good. More to come soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ok, so it's been a little while. Say...a couple of months or so? Well, moving to Arizona, river rafting, learning how to teach, and starting grad school all combined to pretty much dominate my life for a while there.

Speaking of 'dominating', the Astros were getting dominated for most of my absence, only to turn it around and win 20 of their last 25. Who knew? Now we're up 7-1 in Game 1 of a huge series against St. Louis.

For a while there I had pretty much given up on the Astros. The good news? This allowed me to appreciate baseball 'in general', rather than obsessing over one team. And it reinforced my desire to work in the baseball industry. So that's what I'm going to do. Baseball internship this summer, low-level job after my Master's in Stats, and work my way up to GM. Yup: that's the plan.

I really love my new hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. It's got a (slightly deserved) reputation of a 'liberal mountain hippie town', but it's aaaaaall right anyway. About 50,000 people (half of those are involved with Northern Arizona University in some way), lots of bars, cool restaurants, bike trails (I've driven in my car about five times in the past month...you can bike everywhere), disc golf courses...it's paradise.

But the real reason why I love this place is:

REPRESENTING NAU MATH!

The guys (and girl...just 1) that represent the new class of GTA's (Graduate Teaching Assistants) are insane. And, the best. No, seriously, they are hilarious, outgoing, athletic...here's an example. The GTA coordinator (this tough Nebraskan named Jeff Rushall who's had all the GTA's over to his house for dinner twice) mentions the math department always does a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike in October or November. So now I'm hiking every weekend with two other guys (Frank from NY, Mike from Nashville! the college connection!) just to prepare for the big hike.

Or there's a department picnic, and afterwards all the new GTA's play a round of disc golf (after I begged them to..haha). And of course I win (shot 4-over, not that good but good enough) but some guys are naturals and are talking about playing again soon.

Or there's knotball, a great game we invented that involves a rope tied to a tennis ball that you then have to swing from a knot about halfway up the rope and throw the ball into a trash can. Not the best description, but it's AWESOME. I'm currently 4th out of 9....I'll move up yet.

It's just an amazing group. Think "Scrubs" but with teaching math instead of...saving lives. Not quite as dramatic, maybe, but just about as funny.

Check back more often, if there's even anyone still reading.

And go 'Stros!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Jack, you ignorant slut. Time to start posting again. We're a half-game back of the Cubs for the Wild Card!

We won our ELEVENTH straight game Tuesday night, as Oswalt (who just became a father earlier in the day) pitched into the eighth inning to pick up his ninth win in his last eleven starts. Carlos Beltran and Mike Lamb once again led the offensive attack. Mike Lamb!?!? Where did this guy come from? (That's right, the New York Yankees) He's 8-for-13 with 10 RBI in his last three games! Morgan who?

Clemens goes against Jose Acevedo to wrap up our season series against Cincy. Such a shame, too... I was getting used to walloping those guys. Rocket hasn't thrown well his past three outings or so, but he's managed to keep winning thanks to the Astros' new found bats. Let's make it an even dozen in a row. Then it's off to Pittsburgh, where we'll play five games in four days. We gotta take advantage there and at least win the series. With our slated starters (Hernandez, Munro, Redding, Backe) it doesn't look good. But who knows? I'm glad to see Timmy back. And the way Backe has been pitching lately, we really could take this thing.
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A note about Oswalt: He is in the Cy Young race. Like his team, he has to leapfrog a few guys. But he's definitely in the mix. Consider the other contenders:

Schmidt: It's his award to lose, although he's been trying his best to do just that. He's allowed six earned runs in each of his last three starts, including a thumping in Denver last night. His numbers have taken a hit (3.19 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 215 Ks). Post-All Star ERA: 4.43

Unit: He's good (2.80, 0.89, with 249). His team's not (He's 12-13).

Sheets: Call him Unit, Jr. Check out his numbers (2.93, 1.00, 217). Too bad he also has a losing record (10-11).

Pavano: Who? Exactly. No one knows about this guy, but his numbers speak for themselves (3.09, 1.18 and 16 wins). He strikes out nobody, but if the Marlins pass us for the Wild Card, give this guy all the credit. Beckett and Burnett have better stuff and Dontrelle is more popular, but Pavano has been the ace for the Marlins and the reason why they're hanging around this year.

Rocket: Oh yeah, this guy. Great story, only really really good numbers (3.27, 1.21, 177 Ks). Like Schmidt, he's really fallen off in the second half (4.48 ERA).

Oswalt, meanwhile, has won 9 of his last 11 starts, and has 17 on the year (thanks to that win in relief). His ERA (3.59) stands a half point higher than his career average, and none of his stats can match Schmidt or Johnson or Sheets. More importantly, he's been on a tear down the stretch. Without him, we'd be below the Brewers. If he keeps this up (and maybe if he's the NL's only 20-game winner), he stands a chance.
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Random thought: last year, with our season on the line, we sent Jeriome Robertson to the hill, who got precisely one out. We got trounced by the Brewers. This year, if our rotation stays as is, Our last three pitchers will be Hernandez, Munro and Backe. This is not good.
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Another random thought: Napoleon Dynamite is the best movie ever. I'm being serious.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Jack, you ignorant slut. Time to start posting again. Don't you realize that the Astros are now... let's see... ONE-HALF GAME OUT OF THE WILD-CARD? Crazy. Just crazy. Eleven in a row for the second best win streak in franchise history. Tied with San Fran at a half-game behind Chicago.

Oswalt pitched well enough for the win and the offensive attack was once again led by Beltran and MIKE LAMB! Where did this guy come from? Oh yeah, New York. He's hitting homers daily and has gone 8-for-13 with 2 homers and TEN RBI in 3 games!

Clemens goes tomorrow against Jose Acevedo to complete our season series with Cincinnatti. Too bad, we absolutely OWN the Reds. Oh well, we got five games in four days against the Pirates next. Keep it rolling...

Meanwhile, Brandon Duckworth and Tim Redding just got called up to join Chris Burke and Willy Taveras as our September call-ups. Taveras has been used just as he should be: as a pinch runner. Burke has been a pinch-hitter without a hit to his name. But he's getting some time at second base, spelling Kent. Timmy will pitch in Thursday's doubleheader at Pittsburgh. Here's hoping Timmy does well. I understand that unless another Astro gets hurt, Timmy will be ineligible for the postseason roster. Just as well. He hasn't pitched well all season, including AAA ball.

A note about Clemens and Oswalt: these guys are definitely in the Cy Young race. Think about the other contenders. Johnson and Sheets must be twins. You can't tell their numbers apart: one has a 2.94 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 213 Ks; the other has 2.80 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 249 Ks. They are also a combined 22-24. Yikes. (P.S. They also both absolutely own the Braves.) Pavano strikes no one out, but has 16 wins! His lack of Ks and the fact that nobody know who the hell he is will keep him out of contention. Schmidt, meanwhile, is falling apart. He's allowed 6 earned runs in each of his last 3 starts. Clemens, likewise, hasn't had a consistent second half. His ERA is now over 3.00 for the first time all season (By the way, that is still INCREDIBLE).

That leaves Oswalt. His numbers are not great. Nowhere near Randy's or Sheets' or Schmidt's or even Pavano's. His 3.59 ERA is a half-point higher than his career average. But he's got wins. Seventeen of them, to be exact. Most importantly, he's been a steam roller down the stretch. He's won eight of his last 10 starts, and picked up a win in relief. Haha.

It's still Schmidt's award to lose. But if the trends continue (Schmidt bad, Oswalt very good), he might stand a chance. Oh yeah, and he's a daddy now. Congrats Roy!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Players signed through 2005: Pettitte, Ausmus, Bagwell. Players eligible for arbitration: Lidge, Everett, Ensberg, Lane, Bruntlett, Backe, Gallo, Harville, Hernandez, Qualls. Players for whom we hold an option : Kent, Biggio. I'm not sure what the situation with Clemens is, but I'm assuming his 10-year personal services contract negates his ability to sign with some other team. Whether or not he'll sign with us (I've heard that he's seriously leaning that way) is yet to be determined. He sure likes to wait it out though.

The big question is, which All-Star do they sign between Berkman, Beltran and Oswalt. I think Oswalt should be our first priority. Sure, his groin gave out last year, but this year he's avoided the injury bug and can now be relied upon as a quality ace. A nice, juicy 3-year, $30 million contract would fit nicely.

So: Berkman or Beltran? Their career stats:

Berkman .301 .416 .561 .977
Beltran .285 .353 .492 .845 (182/209 SB)

Berkman is 28; Beltran 27. Both are switch-hitters. Beltran plays tra-mendous defense in center; Berkman looks foolish in left or right. Still, Berkman gets on base at a higher clip, and absolutely smacks the HELL out of the ball. And while his career OPS is more than 100 points lower than Berkman's, Beltran is the talk of the town. Everyone's talking about him getting $12 million per year. No one seems to be talking about Berkman.

I say we retain Oswalt and Berkman. I bet we can get both for around $10 million per year. We all know they'd be worth that price. Despite what Beltran has done for us this year, I just don't see how we can afford him. We could move Biggio back to center (shudder), or call up Willy Taveras next year. Burke and Lane would get a chance to play full time, as we bid farewell to Kent. Next year's projected lineup and rotation:

Biggio CF $3 million
Everett SS cheap
Bagwell 1B $17 million
Berkman LF $10 million
Lane RF cheap
Ensberg 3B cheap
Burke 2B cheap
Ausmus C $3 million

Oswalt $10 million
Pettitte $7.5 million
Hernandez cheap
Redding / Backe / Duckworth / Munro / Buchholz / Qualls cheap

Jack keeps telling me we're screwed for year to come. I don't think this looks so bad.
We are now 2.5 games back of the Cubs and the Giants for the wild card, thanks to a 3-game sweep of the Reds. This afternoon, Kent and Berkman led the offensive onslaught that has somehow ben missing all year. Kent hit a grand slam and Berkman went 3-3 with a solo homer. Both have hit six homers in the last eight games. In the series, the Stros hit 10 homers and outscored Cincinnatti 28-6. We've won 14 out of 17 since August 15.

But let's not get too excited. Like Larry Dierker reminds us in his article for the Houston Chronicle (http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/sports/bb/2771727), we still have a ways to go — and four teams to leapfrog. Still, we have a relatively easy schedule for the remainder of the season. Our next 10 games come against Pittsburgh and Cincinnatti, and we only have three series against playoff contenders (St. Louis 2, San Fran). The Cubs also have an easy schedule; their only difficult series come against Florida (twice) and Atlanta. The Giants, Padres and Dodgers each share two series against one another, so they will hopefully beat up on each other. Florida might have the toughest road — they face Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia twice each.

Well the point is, we gotta win. The past three seasons, it seems like we've had major problems 1) beating the teams we're supposed to beat and 2) ending the season with a bang. But it's been a long time since we've been the underdog. I suppose it might be easier — or at least more exciting — to be playing catch-up instead of looking back over your shoulder all the time.

More importantly, though, I'm 21 now. And it's great.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Guess it's been a while, but both Jack and I have been pretty busy the past, oh, month or so. We've been on the Colorado River most of that time, away from the Rim World and the deplorable Astros. Really, though, there's not much to talk about. Miller and Pettitte are done for the season, and Everett's out for another month or so. After hovering under or around .500 for a large portion of the second half (losing 4 of 6 games to the Expos!), the Stros finally put togheter a good streak, winning 4 straight and 6 of 8. As soon as I start believing that maybe, somehow, 5-and-a-half games isn't too hard to climb, they go and fall again, losing 2 of 3 from the Cubs, just one of the 5 teams they'll have to leapfrog in order to take the wildcard. At this point, We'll have to win at least 30 of our last 40 games, and that's only to get to 90 wins. It won't happen. Maybe if I stop believeing, they'll start winning again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Surprise, surprise...the Astros lost again tonight.  I didn't even bother to look up how far back we are...I know it's a damn lot.  We start a quick two game series at Arizona, followed by a 3 game series at home versus the Brewers.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if we don't win 4 of these 5 games, then our season is done.  At which point you can probably expect Beltran to be shipped off somewhere, as well as me spending no more money to see our crappy team (besides maybe one more trip to see the Rocket).

Sunday, July 11, 2004

UGH.

Adam Everett just hit his fourth homer of the season, a two-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. That would have won the game for us: we were down by one run after seven innings. Unfortunately, we lost the game 7-4, thanks to Paul Lo Duca's grand slam off Dave Weathers in the bottom of the eighth. This time the Stros smacked a grand total of seven hits against the outstanding Mr. Jose LIma. Not like we know his stuff or anything. Beltran had the only other significant hit, a two-run homer in the sixth. He also made two outfield assists. Does anyone else on the team even want to win?

.500 at the All-Star Break. Wow.

How long til the Texans take the field?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Three hits. One run. Against Wilson Alvarez. Another decent Clemens start wasted. Another close game lost.

Nevertheless, I feel a run coming on. Along with most every Astro fan on the planet, I am begging for the firing of Jimy as soon as the retractable roof closes on the 2004 All Star Game. But then comes the good part: the run.

Here's how it's gonna happen: we hire a decent manager. Anyone. Bob Brenly. Bobby Valentine. Jerry Manuel. I don't care. Anyone. The important thing is, we gotta shift things up around the dugout. Send everyone in the organization a wake-up call, that we gotta start lollygagging and get our act together.

Shake up the lineup while we're at it. Bat Beltran second, for God's sake. Then Berkman, Kent, Bagwell, Ensberg, Everett, Ausmus. I hope our new manager hates sac bunts as much as Jimy loves them. I hope he never uses Vizcaino or Palmeiro ever again and gives every possible pinch hit opportunity to Lane.

Our schedule right out of the gate from the break is relatively easy. Eighteen of our first 23 games after the break are at home, including series against the terrible Expos, the surprising Brewers, the injury-plagued Diamondbacks and the reeling Braves. Our five away games are at Cincinnatti, where we always seem to hit well (especially Lance) and at lowly Arizona. Immediately after that, we have away series at New York and Montreal, two very beatable teams. That's a stretch of 29 games in which we could easily go 23-6 or thereabouts.

Of course, the way we're playing right now, we could easily go 6-23. But we gotta stay positive.

By the way, Ensberg played shortstop for a couple of innings today, with Lamb at third.

Monday, July 05, 2004

It's amazing how a disappointing month of the season can change my expections for the Astros this year.

Now all I really hope for are two things:

1. That Jimy Williams, our crappy manager, and Harry Spilman, our apparently even crappier hitting coach, get fired soon. I imagine they're gonna wait until after the All-star game, but I sure hope it's really soon after that.

2. That Bagwell retires after this year. He's owed a minimum of $39 million over the next 2 years---$15 million in 2005, $17 million in 2006, and either $18 million in 2007 or a $7 million buyout. Bagwell's been great for this team and for this city, but his shoulder is obviously destroying his game. He can barely throw now and he now looks terrible at the plate. I don't know why a pitcher would throw anything but low and away to him because he looks utterly incapable of hitting those pitches.

This team needs a shake-up and they need it soon. We're completely incapable of winning close games. Case in point...Clemens had another stellar outing tonight....his third straight start of 7 innings with only 1 run given up. His record in those 3 games now, 1-0 with two no decisions. It's sad that we can rarely count on this offense to put up more than one or two runs. Just sad!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Well I just spent 3 hours sorting through stats and players to comprise my full All-star rosters. I have the projected starters, along with 12 pitchers and 12 reserves for both squads. It was quite the lengthy process. Come check it out!
I didn't even see the Yankees - Red Sox game last night, but from everything I've read this morning it sounds like one of the most dramatic baseball games ever played. Check it out.

Carlos Beltran continues to try to carry the Astros but comes up a little short, as Houston loses 5-4 off a Sosa walk-off HR. Any reason why Lidge was pitching after throwing about 40 pitches the game before?

There was a funny quote on TV the other day during the Astros - Cubs day game 2 days ago:

"All of the Astros told me they couldn't believe how good Carlos Beltran is."

This just brings up a ton of funny images for me:

Craig Biggio's mouth dropping open when he sees how much ground Beltran can cover.

Jeff Bagwell rubbing his eyes when he sees Beltran throw from CF.

Pretty much the entire team dumbstruck as Beltran crushes 4 HR's in a 3-game series with the Cubs, only to have the rest of the offense (except Biggio) do very little.

Seriously, it seems like we have to do so much to get a win these days, like Roy Oswalt pitching a shutout, or Craig Biggio hitting 2 HR's. Events like that aren't going to happen every day. We need some 'normal' wins.

Morgan Ensberg, where hast thou power gone? You're slugging .355, or thereabouts. The announcers also mentioned that the Astros are 'happy' with the way Ensberg is hitting this year. WHAT??!!?? The strange this is, I can picture Jimy relentlessly encouraging Ensberg to go the other way, to steal bases, to drop down a bunt, because THAT'S WHAT REAL BALLPLAYERS DO. I, of course, just want to him to crush home runs and draw walks, which is what GOOD offensive players do.

I'm in Flagstaff all week, doing...stuff. Probably trying to meet the NAU tennis coach, getting my AZ drivers license...maybe buying some new clothes, too. Give me a call (on Andy's cell phone).

Oh:

Jack Wade
1607 N. Sunset Dr.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Hey! It's been a while, but I got a house, and furniture, and the Astros got Carlos Beltran!

So it's been a good week. Andy and I got in to the warehouse on Tuesday night I think and there was (of course) a party going on, so we just wandered up and jumped in. No one knew exactly when we were working but they were more than happy to give us food and beer, so it was ok.

We slept in the back of the big trailer that night, and hightailed it to Flagstaff before they could make us do clean-up work around the warehouse.

We got in, called up some friends, and got to house-hunting. We went to a few apartments which were ok but kinda small, and then just happened to be driving by Hospital Hill (a quiet neighborhood about 10 mins. north of NAU and 5 mins. north of Historic Downtown Flagstaff) when we spotted a For Rent sign and a guy (Will Loomis) in the yard. He was a really friendly guy, showed us all around the house (which is awesome...I don't want to describe it too much because you're all gonna come visit), and we really liked it. So we dropped off the application that night, signed it in the morning, and moved in that night! Then we realized we needed a few things. Bed. Futon. Table. Food. Beer.

So we've pretty much been filling in the blanks the past few days. It's been exhausting, lots of driving and shopping and garage sales....but yesterday was the big day, as we bought a great coffee table for 20, a futon (with frame) for 25, and a 3 piece living room set and recliner for 505.

Now we're basically completely moved in, and we found out our schedule for July:

Andy has trips on the 1st and 13th.
Jack has trips on the 8th and 25th.

There are a few more swampers this year, so trips are a little harder to come by. This also means that I'll probably only be doing those two trips all summer, since the folks drive up on the 5th and then JT/Jason fly in sometime in early August, and then Orientation starts on the 23rd. Hopefully I can give Andy all the trips that I would have gotten in August.

So that's my life. As for the Astros: YEAH, BELTRAN.

We're in win-now mode, like it or not. Dotel's great, and I'm sorry to see him go, and Buck might be the catcher of the future, but Beltran is one of the top 20 or so players in the game and brings great defense, speed, and youth to a team that does not have any of those.

Of course we've lost 2 straight games to the Rangers since acquiring Beltran, but Pettitte's coming back and Jimy moved Everett down in the lineup today (with Bagwell hitting 2nd!)

I like our chances, long term, although the bullpen scares me. Lidge should be solid, but he tired last year and has thrown a lot of innings this year, and Dan Miceli and David Weathers are ok but not that great. Gallo, Bullinger, Munro....yikes.

But we got Beltran, and for now, that's all that matters.

Keep in touch, everyone, although my cell phone gets crappy service out here. I'll probably switch to Spring or Verizon pretty soon.

Friday, June 25, 2004

This is a copy of the latest post from my blog, where I discuss all kinds of topics including the Astros.

OH BEHBEH! The Astros got Beltran!!!!

Our part of the deal was Dotel and minor-league catcher, John Buck to KC for Beltran. The Royals then sent Dotel to the A's for some prospects.

I love this trade. It's clear that the team we had wasn't going to get it done this year. The offense has been bad as of late, with a ridiculous inability to get timely hits and score runs. Beltran should provide an obvious spark to the lineup. No telling where Jimy will put him in the lineup, but I would guess that he'll move into either the 2 slot (shifting Everett/Ensberg to the bottom of the lineup) or he'll hit 3rd and push Berkman/Kent/Bagwell each down a spot. I hope Beltran bats 2nd for the simple fact that Jimy cannot possibly have him sac bunt every time that Biggio gets on base. (Well, I won't put anything past Jimy at this point.)

The other obvious advantage Beltran brings is that we no longer have to bear the horrid defense of Biggio in CF. I cringe every time a ball is hit near Tal's Hill, for fear that Biggio's going to eat face again. I'm not sure how I want the defense to be rearranged now that Biggio has been supplanted from CF. In no way can he move to RF...baserunners will move 1st to 3rd on every single to RF with his weak arm. So our options are to move him to LF, back to 2B, or bench him. From what I've read, it appears that moving him to LF is the most likely option. This would force Berkman to RF and send Lane back to the bench. If he were to move back to 2B, Kent would shift to 3rd and Ensberg/Lamb would see the bench. The best option defensively would be simply bench Biggio and keep everyone else the same, but that's not going to happen.

As for what we gave up...well I'm happy we didn't part with both Buck and Chris Burke. The loss of Dotel obviously weakens our bullpen, but I think Lidge can more than adequately move into the closer position. This more clearly defines why we acquired Weathers....he's take over the 7th inning duties from Miceli, who shifts to Lidge's primary setup man. I think we're going to have to acquire another bullpen arm....a quality setup guy (unless they choose to acquire a closer and shift Lidge back to setup man). A good lefty would also help.

We also gave up John Buck, a 23 year old catcher, who's tearing up AAA this year. However he has been inconsistent throughout the minors, having weak years in both 2002 and 2003. He's not especially strong defensively, as he has trouble throwing runners out on the basepaths, but he's got good offensive potential. The problem is...well we still have Ausmus for at least another year, so Buck wouldn't be the starter until at least 2006....and you know what, no telling how strong he'll be in the majors.

That's all I got for tonight. I'm getting tired and having trouble putting together good thoughts. From what I heard tonight, Beltran is expected in Arlington for Friday night's game, so we should see the future outlook of our lineup then.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

HOLY CRAP. WE GOT BELTRAN!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Panic button: ENGAGE.

Astros get:

David Weathers
Jeremy Griffiths

Mets get:

Richard Hidalgo
4 million

Ignoring the fact that we get to plug in Jason Lane, which of the above would you rather have?

Hidalgo's incredibly streaky, but he's a superb defensive player and put up a 950 OPS last year. He may not be worth 12 million, but he's not bad, and we dumped him at his lowest value possible, instead of this offseason or after his HUGE April. David Weathers is a slightly above average reliever and Griffiths is a non-prospect.

Mets win this one.


What I really don't like about this trade is how truly bad it makes our outfield defense. Biggio has been god-awful in center, with numerous acrobatic collapses on Tal's Hill, Lane has a below-average arm, and Lance can't run (although he always seems to make the play).

In other news, Oswalt is probably injured, Pettitte isn't completely ready, Clemens is starting to show his age, and we traded for Pete Munro. And Jose Vizcaino is our starting SS as Everett has a minor injury. Oh, and we basically released Ricky Stone, while retaining Kirk Bullinger, Eric Bruntlett....damn.

Sometimes I love this team so much that I hate them.

Two more days and I'm off.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Ready for this one?

"Astros SS Adam Everett recorded his 19th sacrifice bunt in the first inning, the most in a single season in the majors since Neifi Perez had 22 for Colorado in 1997."

It's not even the All-Star Break and Adam Everett already has more sacrifice bunts than ANYONE in the majors in 6 years.

Man, I miss Morgan Ensberg hitting 2nd.
It's a quiet Saturday; JT is driving to Baton Rouge to cheer on his beloved Aggies in the College World Series, Mark's driving (!!) to the Pacific Coast of Mexico for some fun in the sun, Jason is recovering from a long week of hard labor, and that leaves yours truly thinking about where I'll be a few months from now.

My brother's back from college tomorrow, and we're going to try and score some Astros tix for the upcoming Cubs series. Game 1: Clemens vs. Prior!! We must do it.

He's back for all of a week, and then we're off for some rafting.

CD of the weekend: "OK Computer", Radiohead. If you don't like it at first, listen again. It grows on you.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Time for my 2004 NL All-Star ballot:

1B - Albert Pujols. Sorry, Sean Casey, but YOU'RE NOT THAT GOOD. Pujols is drawing more walks this year and he's insanely, painfully good (I once dropped him in a fantasy league!)

2B - Jeff Kent. You were thinking Tony Womack? Kent's got a 24-game hitting streak as of Friday, and a cool 905 OPS. Not bad for a 36-year old second baseman.

SS - Jack Wilson. THERE IS NO ONE ELSE. You think I wanted to vote for Jack Freakin' Wilson???? But my god...Renteria and Orlando Cabrera are sucking, Adam Everett is terrible offensively....I have to do it.

3B - Scott Rolen. He's got 63 RBI's. I don't care if you do have Pujols and Edmonds in front of you, that's a lot. Sorry, Mike Lowell - you're good too.

C - Mike Piazza. He got off to a slow start, but the best catcher of all time now has 13 HR's, 30 RBI, is hitting .305, and...is the best catcher of all time. Tough luck, Johnny Estrada.

OF - Bobby Abreu, Lance Berkman, Barry Bonds. I hate to keep Adam Dunn off the team, but Abreu has been damn good, Berkman's got an 1100 OPS and has carried the Astros (along with Kent) for a month and Barry Bonds is still alive.

SP - Roger Clemens. He just barely beats out Randy Johnson and Ben Sheets. Clemens is 9-0, tons of K's...and he's 41. And he was supposed to RETIRE!!

Closer - Armando Benitez. Sorry, Gagne, but you BLEW IT in last year's All Star Game, so take a seat, and let Mr. 40-straight-batters-retired-in-a-row take over (and a 0.54 ERA, too). Oh, and Brad Lidge can set-up...he's got 55 K's!!!

Well, that's my team. Bring it, JT.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Well, the Astros scored 4 runs in a 3-game series - AND WON 2 OF THEM!! That's pretty good, but not as good as back-to-back shutouts off starts by Clemens and Miller. Our pitching is looking solid, especially our 'best 6' or so that teams would see if we make it to the playoffs: Oswalt, Pettitte (or Miller), Clemens, Miceli, Lidge, Dotel. That's tough.

Jason Lane finally got a start last night and did nothing with it, unfortunately. He just needs to play more, but I wish he'd get some hits so Jimy would have to notice.

We had a great small party last night, with beer pong and Michelle's crazy dance music leading the way. Then it got a little too wild as Michelle wandered off and we looked for her and...well...things just got a little weird from then on. But it's all good, and I can't wait to do it again, especially since Mark is quite good at beer pong - at least, someone to challenge me! Mark - ARE YOU ASKING FOR A CHALLENGE?????

Monday, June 07, 2004

Jack's 2004 AL All Star Team

C - Jorge Posada, Yankees. Victor Martinez (and Pudge Rodriguez, actually)are close, but Posada doubles Martinez in walks (36 to 18) despite playing in 3 fewer games and has a 78-point OPS advantage over the 2003 World Series Hero.

1B - Ken Harvey, Royals. What happened to all the AL first basemen? I thought about taking Jason Giambi, but he just came off the DL and might be hurt. No one else has really stood out, and I thought about going with Rafael Palmeiro since he's almost done and is having a solid year, but Harvey has been quite good (.375 / .412 / .543) So I'm going with the Big Fella. Although he did just put his own pitcher on the DL yesterday by running into him.

2B - Juan Uribe, White Sox. Ugh!!! But I have to; he's the best right now. Believe me, I want to pick Alfonso Soriano, but 1) he's not as good as everyone thinks he is and 2) he's not as good as even someone like ME thinks he is. Soriano is at .284 / .326 / .431 with 19 extra-base hits; Uribe is at .309 / .368 / .508 with 21 XBH!! Send him in.

SS - Carlos Guillen, Tigers. I wonder if Seattle regrets trading Guillen (who's got a 961 OPS and 28 XBH) so they could sign Rich Aurilia (633 OPS, 12 XBH). Oops. Sorry Tejada - you gotta swing HARRRRRDAAAAA.

3B - Alex Rodriguez. I'm not looking Melvin Mora in the eye when I make this pick, but ARod is unstoppable, and is finally dominating after a slow start. If an All-Star Game in the next 10 years does not include ARod, I will be ill.

OF - Manny Ramirez, Carlos Beltran, Vladimir Guerrero. Ok, no more crazy picks like Harvey, Uribe, and Guillen. I mean....come on. Look at that outfield, and tremble in fear.

DH - Frank Thomas. He'll always be underappreciated. Arguably the best non-Bonds hitter of the last 20 years. 51 walks so far this year, and a 1053 OPS.

SPs - Curt Schilling, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, C.C. Sabathia, Freddy Garcia. Schilling deserves to start, Hudson and Mulder are the only ones with sub-3.00 ERAs, and Sabathia and Garcia are close.

RPs - Mariano Rivera, Keith Foulke, Franciso Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez. Saves leader, Foulke Foulke!, Cordero's been tough, and K-Rod is going NUTS.

So that's my team. Check out JT's at his blog.

Coming soon: NL!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I finally gave my boss my two weeks' notice on Friday, so I'm officially heading off to The Big Ditch with Andy on June 21. We'll be rafting the Colorado River for a couple of months, and then I start school Aug. 16, but I think he's planning on rafting a few more trips (he doesn't start his senior year at NU until late September). So it's kind of the end of an era here in The Woodlands, and I'd like to say I want to do all the things I never did...but I've done a lot, and I'm still doing my favorite things, like tennis, Mario Tennis, bridge, frisbee golf, and watching Jason eat cheese fries. So here's to a good last few weeks.

I admit that I've been following the Astros a little less (though I still watch every game I can and keep updated on everything possible) and baseball in general a little more. Guess I'm just a fan of the game as a whole. Actually JT and I have had a little argument going about who should be voted to the All Star Game - 'proven' superstars that everyone wants to see regardless of their statistics (a.k.a. Nomar Garciaparra is leading the AL for shortstops, despite not playing a game yet), or guys that kind of came out of nowhere to dominate so far this year (Sean Casey, Victor Martinez, Joe Kennedy). Well, in my next post, I'm going to unveil my 2004 AL All Star Ballot, and I challenge JT to do the same, and we'll compare. Oh, and stop by his blog, too. It's good stuff.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I had a GREAT weekend up in Chicago, where I learned a few things:

1. I will never be as good as my little brother at Caps.
2. The Northwestern Campus is a lot nicer during the spring and summer than the winter

and most importantly

3. Girls still have an (apparently infinite) capacity to surprise me.

So I got in around 4pm Saturday (which happened to be Dillo Day, a joyous day when all the Northwestern students join hands and sing campfire songs while drinking poisonous amounts of alcohol. I arrive to fanfare as most of Andy's frisbee buddies and Dano the Man-O are all there and we immediately start playing Caps, grilling some burgers and dogs, and talking about life. Then we decide to go listen to the Wailers, Bob Marley's old band! They started off slow but then peaked with "I Shot the Sherrif" and "No Woman No Cry" with fireworks going off in the background.

The next day we went and visited Toni, my Mom's Mom, who's doing great, and was pleased to hear that Andy's new gal Katie is an Alpha Phi just like she used to be! Small world. Then we went and saw Shrek 2 with Uncle Marty and his lady, which was pretty good - a little cheesy, but Antonio Banderas steals the show.

So then FINALLY my good buddy Jess gets in about 10:30 pm to Union Station...she took a train from East Lansing and it got stopped because of tornadoes! But eventually she made it, fresh from camping that morning, and we went and chilled at Andy's friend's place for a while and caught up on stuff.

Then: The Day With Everything.

Running, home run derby, frisbee, Al's Deli, iced butter cookies, Cubs game, sports bar, dancing on tables (Katie and Jess....not me....sigh), Caps, hockey game (Flames lose....NOO), and deep dish pizza. It was an amazing day.

Then I don't really remember this morning very well but I'm typing this from Houston, so I must have made it back all right. And now I gotta go to work, so I'll leave you with that.

Andy, Katie, Dano, and especially Jess, great to see you guys.