Wednesday, March 31, 2004

So, who's it gonna be? Assuming the Astros go with 11 pitchers (they might go with 12, but I think we need another backup IF besides Lamb and Viz), and it seems clear that they'll go with Dotel, Lidge, and Miceli, that leaves 3 other relievers...

So, pick 3 from Ricky Stone, Brandon Duckworth, Brandon Backe, Jared Fernandez, and Mike Gallo.

Ok, first of all, Stone should absolutely be on there. I'm going to assume he makes it, so that leaves 2 spots. I say give one of them to Fernandez, because of his incredible variety. Need a spot starter? A guy who can pitch every day, or soak up innings when you're losing 16-2? Plus I just like the idea of having a knuckleballer on the staff to complement all the hard throwers. Finally, a fairly tough decision...Duckworth or Backe?

I'm going with Duckworth, but it's close. Backe is death on righties; unfortunately for him, so is most of our bullpen. Duckworth is better against lefties, but he still allows too many fly balls and he needs to really increase his strikeouts. Hopefully he does it this year. But don't expect him to become mini-Dotel overnight.

What about Gallo? Here's the thing about Gallo. Jimy has said that it's 'nice' to have at least one LHP in the bullpen. Ok, maybe it's nice, but how many left-handed batters are there that scare you in our division? Jim Edmonds. Adam Dunn. Griffey if he is healthy. I think that's about it, honestly. When you consider the whole NL, there are a few more (Bonds, Helton, Giles, Thome...damn, those guys are pretty good)...but it's not like Gallo is unstoppable against them, and...I don't know, I just don't like the idea of using a roster slot on a pitcher that is ONLY going to come in against lefties. That's just me. So my all-righty bullpen, with 2003 OPS splits against righties, then lefties:

Dotel (closer) (564 , 533 .....DAMN)
Lidge (setup) (556 , 719)
Miceli (black-belt in judo...and also setup) (710 , 736)
Stone (tough on righties, double-play specialist) (645 , 830)
Duckworth (tough on lefties, needs more strikeouts) (953 , 685 )
Fernandez (Pitching Utility Guy, aka PUG) (628, 716)

So, in summary, don't use Stone much against lefties, or Duckworth against righties. And Octavio Dotel is so good.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

It has begun.

So I'm hanging around Paris when I find this English bookstore with a TON of magazines, one of which happens to be The Sporting News. It's got Mark Prior and Curt Schilling on the cover and proudly claims that the Cubs and Red Sox will meet in the World Series. Ok, first of all, way to definitely jinx both teams. Then they talk about the NL Central, and mention a few things about the Astros that I have issues with.

First of all, they say that Pettitte AND Clemens AND Oswalt are all likely to get injured at some point during the year. Well, so far only their cover boy Prior has been hurt. But anyway, this addresses a common misconception about pitchers: Only Old Pitchers Get Hurt. Baseball Prospectus did a big study of this a few years back, and they found that once a pitchers reaches a certain age (31 or 32 or so) their chances of injury drop, because they've passes an injury threshold. Obviously, this is very general, but I think young pitchers coming off a year where they threw way more pitches than they have before including numerous 120+ pitch outings are more likely to miss time than a 41 year old pitcher who has been pitching for 20 years and has NEVER missed significant time due to injury. Furthermore, Jimy's occasional saving grace is he's gentle with his starting pitchers. Dusty Baker is not. If you ask me whether the Astros or Cubs will have the healthier staff this year, I gotta go with the Astros, old age and all.

John Lauck over at AstrosDaily has been doing awesome game summaries for every Astros Spring Training game. Major props to Mr. Lauck, and his recaps are always great. But I'm going to quote him a few times, and let you read them, and then I'll argue against them tomorrow, because I'm out of time for today.


"To put the matter plainly, Everett is now in his best spot--second--and the Astros should encourage him to do exactly what he did in this spot: bunt. Everett should be bunting like crazy, and stealing bases every chance he gets....If Everett bunts as much as he ought to, and if he steals as many bases as he can, his percentage of success might not be as high as we'd like; as high as Bagwell's steal percentage, perhaps, but the idea in having him bunt and steal is not entirely to be successful all the time." - John Lauck


"My respect for Vizcaino has grown immensely since he became an Astro. Like every good pinch-hitter, he has had--and will have--his share of failures, but there is no one else, not Bagwell, not Berkman, not Kent, that I would rather see up there at the plate when Houston needs a simple base hit for a single run. Vizcaino's experience under pressure and his deft bat control are a quality and a talent I'll bet the Yankees wish they had back right now, but New York can't have him. Vizcaino belongs to the Astros, and he fits a need on this club so deep that no one wants to contemplate what another extended absence of him during the upcoming season would mean." - John Lauck

Monday, March 29, 2004

Paris is unstoppable. Except I can't stop eating crepes with Nutella. But I now know how to make them.

Baseball season is about to start! In Japan, that is, as the Yankees get to pound on the Devil Rays. And Derek Jeter is batting leadoff for the Yanks, which means he's gonna steal some bases for my fantasy team. Sweet. Oh, and Jason Giambi is hitting in between ARod and Gary Sheffield. I mean, COME ON. He's going .300-50-150 this year, JT. And 10 stolen bases (haha.)

So tomorrow I gotta book a Chunnel trip. Yep, I'm going underground on my way back to London - apparently it is quick and cheap and much more efficient than spending all day on buses and ferries. So there ya go.

Oh, and Mark Prior is really hurting. I posted this a while ago, but even though he plays for the evil Cubs, it's too bad. Prior is incredible, and I would feel weird if the Astros win the division because Prior misses significant time. I'd get over it quickly, though.

Other baseball news...there's a Jeff Bagwell article I read the other day that is kinda sad. I mean, the guy is in agony. It sounds like he doesn't even enjoy playing anymore. But before you get all huffy, look at this. And look at his 1994 season. GOOD LORD. 368/451/750 for the 400 at-bats??? I know he's not what he once was.....but neither is ANYONE besides Bonds and Pujols. Daaaaamn. So if we do eventually trade Bagwell (but I don't think we will) or he slowly declines, just remember that he and Biggio were once our entire offense, and they did a pretty good two-man job of it for a while.

Ok, that's it.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Hey, so Peter Gammons chimes in on the NL Central. I like Gammons - even though he talks about music too much (although not in this article) and says a lot of random crap, it's at least interesting random crap. And he definitely seems to have the most connections of any baseball writer out there. Plus I always love it when him and Harold Reynolds get in arguments on Baseball Tonight, with Gammons stumbling over words and HR basically smiling and moving his hands the whole time. It's fun.

But moving on, read that article. And then let me tell you what I think:

.....

Well, he doesn't really say anything new. The lineup should indeed have some thunder, although the Power 5 (Biggio can't really be said to have that much thunder anymore) are kind of offset by the Weak 3. And the pitching staff should be solid, and has been damn good this spring. And yeah, we do have a surplus of starting pitching. But that might be a good thing, actually, because I think the odds of Oswalt and Clemens staying completely healthy the whole year might be rather slim. Don't get me wrong, I hope they do, but if they don't, it'll be nice to have Saarloos or Carlos Hernandez or Duckworth to fall back on.

JT's got a great idea - he read that the Indians and Mets are both interested in Jeriome Robertson, so he suggests we trade him to the Indians for one of their many OF prospects (Alex Escobar, Ryan Ludwick, Coco Crisp, and the probably untouchable Grady Sizemore). I say....DO IT.

I'm in Paris for a few days, and so far it's pretty awesome. Sidewalk cafes, tons of laaaaadies, crazy drivers, and big public parks. Two thumbs up.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

So I'm just checking out my baseball leagues, when all of a sudden I come across a message from one Mr. Jason Barstool. And it was good.

Flying shark....a deadly aerial killing machine!

Flying crocodile...an EQUALLY deadly aerial killing machine!

They will battle in a battle where there can be no winner! WHO WILL WIN?!?!

Questions will be asked...AND DESTROYED BY ANSWERS!!!


Ah, I love The Discovery Channel. And also Jaaaaaaaaason.

Speaking of which, I gotta go watch rugby at an Irish pub.
Did I mention how much I hate Jimy Williams? I read somewhere the other day about how he doesn't really care for Ensberg. The reason obviously escapes me....I just can't figure it out. But this is apparently the reason he's been dropped to the #7 spot in the lineup. So the Lamb deal...I like it, on one condition. He gives us a lefty of the bench and a backup infielder that allows us to NOT keep Valentin or Brunlett...I think he'll be a better backup to Ensberg at 3rd. However, if Jimy starts pulling this platoon type shit that he pulled last year w/ Ensberg and Blum, then I'm going to have to hunt him down and knock some sense into him.
New Astros blog added to links at bottom! Go Astros blogs, GO!

And the Cubs traded Juan Cruz. Sweet.

Possible side effect of acquiring Mike Lamb: Jimy gives him way too many ABs and starts up a semi-platoon with Morgan Ensberg. .............Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Friday, March 26, 2004

I'm in Cote d'Azur (home of Derek's greatest Gran Turismo triumph, and don't worry Derek - it's still saved!) in Southern France, home of blue oceans (but no sand) and plenty o' tourists. I booked a trip to Paris on Sunday, where I'll be for 2/3 days and then London and then hooooome.

Vandy got beat down by UConn, 73-53. They got up early, we made a run, and they said NO. Matt Freije, hero of the NC State game, never got going, finishing 3-of-18. UConn's been dominant so far in the tournament; they might go all the way. It was a great run, 'Dores.

Gerry Hunsicker once again proves it's not all about the big signings. The Astros traded for Mike Lamb yesterday, getting a decent backup 3B, 1B, OF, and another LH bat off the bench. It might not seem like much, but I like this move ok- I was having nightmares about Ensberg getting hurt and being replaced by my nemesis, Jose Vizcaino. That's about the best thing you can say about Lamb, though...he's better than Vizcaino. Lamb's got a career line of 282/336/385, and he is a damn bad fielder. Whole lotta errors, and not much range. So don't jump for joy - but it still takes a bit of a load off my mind.

Well, that's it, really. I'm almost home, where I'll jump back into everything right away, after catching up on some sleep. See you all soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The biggest Vandy fan I know (sorry, Drew), gives his recap of the last minutes of The Comeback:

Part B: I hope you've been able to see some March Madness scores over there. By the time you get home, I hope to have a DVD of Vandy's amazing comeback from 11 down in the last 3 minutes to upset NC State, 75-73. It was the grittiest, most amazing comeback I've seen in many many years. We scored 21 points on our last 7 (really just 6) possessions over the last 3 minutes!--Frieje fouled twice on treys, making all 6 FT's, nailing a long covered trey, a 5-point play (intentional foul, 2 Smith FT's followed by an impossible Moore trey), a long Freije 2-ptr for the lead & finally Moore hitting Smith with a perfect backdoor pass for the layup & FT to recapture the lead for good with 21 seconds left. Frieje simply refused to let the team give up: he was all over his teammates at every timeout, & finished with 31.

So we're in the Sweet Sixteen, 'cause in the earlier first round we had beaten a talented Western Michigan team 72-59.

Now we go on to face UConn on Thursday (6pm Central time: should be midnight or 1am Friday in Europe) to try to move on to Vandy's first Elite Eight appearance since 1965! Alabama upset Stanford: they're the only other SEC team left, as KY & Miss State were upset by UAB & Xavier, respectively.
- Dad


You better get the DVD, Dad, although JT and Nicole did give me a damn good play-by-play on IM.

I just had my 2nd fantasy baseball draft the other day. It's a league with JT and Todd and Brandon and some other fools (10 teams total).

I had the 2nd pick, then 19th, 22nd, etc.

My first 5 picks:

Alfonso Soriano
Magglio Ordonez
Lance Berkman
Tim Hudson
Jason Giambi

Not bad, right? But how about these first 5, starting with the 7th pick, then 14th, etc.

Carlos Beltran
Pedro Martinez
Bobby Abreu
Roy Oswalt
Jeff Kent
(just for fun) Derek Jeter

That would be JT's team. Damn.

Oh, and the players I have in both leagues:

Lance Berkman
Josh Phelps
Octavio Dotel
Miguel Batista
Francisco Cordero
Aquilino Lopez

Basically I have the same RPs in both leagues. So if Dotel, Cordero, or Lopez suck it...I'm done.

Oh, and I'm having this argument over at AstrosDaily about batting Adam Everett 2nd, which it looks like Jimy is going to do. I was going to ask JT if there is anything that Jimy has done wrong this spring, because I didn't think there was...now, I stand corrected. Batting AE 2nd would be a huge mistake.

What are the 'reasons' why AE might make a good 2 hitter?

1. He can bunt guys over, hit and run, and make 'productive outs'.
2. He's fast
3. It breaks up the crappy 7-8-9 of Everett/Ausmus/P from last year.

Ok, one by one:

1. You do not want to make 'productive outs' with the Big 5 coming up. The Astros do not exactly have the look of a small ball team anyway. We're basically old, slow, right-handed, and crush the ball. The Astros should not be playing for the one-run-at-a-time strategy. With the power hitters on our team, we should ALWAYS be going for the 3-run HR.

Just for the heck of it, if you still believe in bunting runners over:

2003 Runs Scored, then Rank in Home Runs, Walks, and Sacrifices.

1. Boston 2nd 3rd 27th
2. Atlanta 3rd 13th 10th
3. Toronto 10th 12th 30th
4. Yankees 4th 1st 26th

Which of those columns is not like the other? No small ball, Jimy. No small ball.

2nd. Yeah, he is fast. But do you really want to even risk an out stealing a base? If he is so fast bat him 7th or 8th so Ausmus or the pitcher can bunt him over easily.

3rd. Who cares? Get your best hitters the most at-bats.

I realize if you are reading this you probably know this stuff already, but it makes me feel better to write it. Anyway, it doesn't matter, it looks like AE is gonna bat 2nd all year, making the odds of our 3rd hitter coming up with 0 outs even less likely, since if Biggio gets on, Everett is gonna bunt him over some of the time. Oh well.

Oh, I just found out that I got in to Northern Arizona University for grad school! Woohoo!

It's been a good 48 hours.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Vandy. Vandy. Oh. Hell. Yeah.

According to BPrimer, several teams (Red Sox, Blue Jays, A's) are interested in Kirk Saarloos. I'm about his biggest fan, but honestly, we might as well trade him. He's had incredible minor league numbers but he has struggled a bit in the majors, and we need young position prospects a LOT more than we need young pitchers. The Blue Jays, especially, are chock full of good OF prospects, so we should get one. Yeah.

Oh, and I just saw the Sistine Chapel. Awesome.

Bye!

Saturday, March 20, 2004

I'm in Siena, Italy for a few days, trying to work out the crick in my neck from staring up at the buildings too much. It's pretty cool, but I gotta admit, I am starting to get ready to be back home. Tennis, rafting, friends, and family...plus I have a big list of new stuff to try when I get back, like learning how to play a musical instrument, taking more Spanish classes, and hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Mark - Quick, name a 'proven' player from the 2002 World Champion Anaheim Angels. Name one from the 2003 Florida Marlins besides Pudge Rodriguez. I know where you are coming from, but I don't agree. What defines a 'proven' player? One big hit? The fact that they are on the right team? You argue that the Yankees and Braves have consistently made the playoffs because of proven players...but both those teams have made the playoffs basically every year for the last ten years or so WITH COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLAYERS from year to year. No more Glavine on the Braves? No prob. No more David Cone or Paul O'Neill or Tino Martinez for the Yankees? Don't worry. It's not about proven players, it is about good players. And I think that getting to the playoffs is huge - once you are in, anything can happen. Beltran is not one of the best players in baseball, yet. But he should get better, and he is pretty good already, so I think he might be worth it.

Andy - You're right, Beltran is not the 2nd coming of ARod. His career high in OPS (911) is lower than Berkman's career OPS (970!!!) And yeah, stolen bases are overrated. But when you take into account his excellent defense and his youth and the fact that the Astros have NO good OF prospects, I think that he would be worth 5/65. Unfortunately, Beltran is represented by Scott Boras...so I think he will get more than that. Let's see how he does this year, though...just 3 years ago I had Beltran on my fantasy team and he sucked it up. So let's see how he does with Big Expectations.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Enough about Beltran....

It would appear that having a college degree is over-rated. Apparently the only people who think Carlos Beltran is great are the ones with degrees. Interestingly enough, no one on any baseball show is talking about him. Andy makes some great points...and I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who noticed that Berkman played center. Also...has anyone noticed that Beltran didn't finish in the top 20 in any major offensive catagory. He is seriously unproven...teams make the playoffs and world series with proven players. That is why the Yankees and Braves have been so consistent, the Astros have made the playoffs with proven players, but didn't surround them with enough proven players, that is the reason that they actually have a chance to advance this year...with depth and experience...(Pettite and Clemens).
Bringing in a young unproven player will not help them.

Mark
Jack,

Next draft is Sunday at 2pm Central. You better make it. Check your email, I sent you one a few days ago. Email me back. Later.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

We're gonna take a break from filling out our brackets and talk about how Carlos Beltran is NOT that good. Let's look at his numbers, shall we?

Avg. OBP SLG OPS HR RBI R SB
2001 .306 .362 .514 .876 24 101 106 31
2002 .273 .346 .501 .847 29 105 114 35
2003 .307 .389 .522 .911 26 100 102 41

Those numbers are pretty good. But he's not the best player in baseball by any means. Probably not even top 10. OBP being the most important statistic, Beltran's 3-year average of about .370 is darn good but not spectacular. Hell, Biggio had a .350 OBP last year. Berkman shattered that with a .412 OBP... in an off year. Beltran's .515 SLG% is also decent, but not too far ahead of the pack. The Big Five all had comparable percentages last year. His homerun numbers are not too impressive, and he has yet to crack 30 in a season.

Stolen bases, as Jack will attest, are by far the least important baseball statistic. Statistically speaking, you're only helping your team if you can steal bases around 75% of the time. Beltran has stolen 150 bases and has gotten thrown out 20 times in his career, which is unheard of. Still, stolen bases are overrated.

Keep in mind that Beltran has been playing in the weakest division in baseball over the past 3-4 years. He's been teeing off on the kids from Detroit and Cleveland, and the rotations from Chicago and Minnesota don't scare anyone.

Also, Beltran plays a fairly deep position. Your average outfielder can give you a .750 or .800 OPS. Yes, centerfield is a much more defense-oriented position, but if Berkman can play there, anyone can.

The major thing he's got going for him is that he's turning 27 this April. So there's room for improvement.

So, in conclusion: Beltran is good. Ok, Beltran is even great, but he's not AMAZING. Like A-Rod amazing or Bonds amazing. Or Wade amazing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I'm taking a 20 hour ferry to Italy in a few hours, so I gotta run.

JT, you need to email me and remind me when our next draft is, fool.

Andres, are you back in Chicago? How was the rest of Anderson?

Oh yeah, baseball. Check out all-baseball.com for an NL Central preview. It's generally a Cubs lovefest, but they say some good things about the Astros. One thing that struck me is that they are not huge fans of Pettitte and Clemens, saying that they won't be that much of an upgrade over Villone and Roberston. %@@@$????????????????/

Are you kidding me?

But yeah, read it...if that's the wrong email address, check out The Cub Reporter at the bottom of the page and link from there.

More in a few days.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

After taking too many pictures at the Acropolis and Lycavitos Hill yesterday, I'll be trying to go for quality over quantity for a few days. I only have one of my original disposable cameras left.

The Astros lost 6-1 to the Marlins, yada yada yada, HOW ABOUT MY ALMA MATER!!
Good ol' Vanderbilt has been playing some serious basketball lately. The women's team, after a slow start to the year, just went out and won the SEC tournament for an automatic NCAA bid, and the men's team, after a hot start and slow middle, just beat #5 Mississippi State on their way to the SEC semifinals. They then lost to Florida, but we are all but guaranteed of a decent seed in the NCAAs. Of course, I was saying the same thing freshman year, when we had at least 4 or 5 wins against top 25 teams....but this year they can't keep us out. We're too good.

Oh, and you may have heard about the Madrid bombings. They are a huge deal over here - all of Europe is pretty close, both geographically and emotionally (especially since the introduction of the EU), so any tragedy like this is tough to take. Approximately 200 dead and 1400 wounded from bombs on the rail system - the same rail system that I've used several times while going around Europe. Over one million mourners turned out in Spain, and there are been moments of silence and flags at half-mast throughout Europe. It's a sad time.

Well, it's beautiful outside, and we're heading out for the day, so I have to run. More baseball next time.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm flying to Athens for my Greek Week of the trip. Hopefully less snow than Vienna...

Roy Oswalt pitched great again yesterday as the Astros won 1-0, but the most encouraging sign was probably the bullpen, as Mike Gallo, Dan Miceli, Taylor Bucholz, and Ricky Stone all threw scoreless innings. Sweet.

There has been a big argument over at AstrosDaily about Craig Biggio. Some argue that his defense is terrible; some say it is average. Some say his offense is unacceptable; some say it is average. The truth?

Craig Biggio's defense last year, from several advanced metrics:

Rate2 -10
UZR -23
Pinto -3

So I don't think you can argue Biggio is league average defensively. He is below average, does not have a good arm, and has little speed.

Craig Biggio's offense

OBP .350
SLG .412
OPS .762
GPA .261
EQA .262

None of those are particularly good for a center fielder, although they aren't terrible. But they are not likely to get better; Biggio is simply too old to expect an improvement.

In short, Biggio is significantly below average defensively and slightly below average defensively.

Sorry, but it's true. Jason Lane in 2005!

Oh, and there is more good stuff over at the Cub Reporter about how the Cubs offense should be better than the Astros this year, which is simply wrong.

Several of their observations include the fact that Lee will hit 40 HR's, Alou 30, Ramirez 35, Sosa 50, and Patterson 25.

They don't mention the OBPs of those players from last year:

Lee .379, Sosa .358, Alou .357, Patterson .329, Ramirez .314

Compared with the 5 best Astros hitters OBPs:

Berkman .412, Hidalgo .385, Ensberg .377, Bagwell .373, Kent .351

That is a huge difference. The Astros offense should continue to be better than the Cubs.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I'm adding two new blogs to the links at the bottom:

The Cub Reporter

and

Redbird Nation

Both these blogs are great, well-written, and I hate them, but only because they talk about the Cubs and Cardinals. But they are worth reading, because you should "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." (The Godfather).

Oh, and Andy, one more thing about lineup construction:

Probably the most important strategy is to bunch your best hitters together. In other words, you want to go for the big inning. If you were to draw each players OPS as a line (the higher the OPS, the longer the line), you want as much overlapping as possible. So as long as we run Bagwell/Kent/Berkman/Hidalgo/Ensberg in any order at teams, I think we'll be ok.
Hanging out at Cafe Central in Vienna, where exiled Lenin and Trotsky used to play chess.

Andy - Of course you're right on about having your high on-base guys at the top of the lineup. And Ausmus is crap. But, in the long run, it's not that important. I am kinda worried that Jimy will bat Everett 2nd, which would mean 2 of the 4 worst hitters in our lineup (outside of Ausmus and P) will get the most at-bats. This also probably means we will run more, when we really shouldn't be risking any outs with Bagwell, Kent, Berkman, Hidalgo, Ensberg coming up. So...bat Everett lower.

And remember, Spring Training doesn't mean a thing....but it's still nice to win 14-2.

I think the Astros are pretty much set...Veres has done well this spring and Saarloos has not, so the bullpen might look like Dotel Lidge Duckworth Stone Veres Miceli Gallo, with Saarloos Hernandez and Robertson all at AAA. But who knows? The one thing I still fear is an injury to either Ensberg or Kent, which would result in Viz getting way too many ABs. Other than that, I think we are ready to roll.

Andy, I saw Requiem for a Dream the other day. Powerful stuff, even though the tape was so scratchy at the end I couldn't hear anything. Oh, and have you read 'Howl', a poem by Allan Ginsberg? Check it out.

Barstool, Mark - Did you guys play each other in the 1st round yet? Barstool, did Mark make you switch to the 6.1? Is it working?

JT - Poker updates? Playing any tennis?

Oh, and Baseball Prospectus has a free article up at their site about the Astros (it is a PTP article...you'll see it.) They talk about the bullpen, mostly, predicting a decline...their forecasting system is almost always cautious, though.

Finally, I just want to nominate the Billy Wagner-to-the-Phillies trade as one of the best moves of the offseason. We traded 80 incredible innings for 3 good pitching prospects, and saved money which allowed us to sign 350-400 above-average innings in Pettitte and Clemens. Well done, Mr. Hunsicker.

Best moves of the 2004 offseason

1. Mike Cameron to the Mets.
2. Vladi to the Angels.
3. ARod to the Yankees.
4. Billy Wagner trade.
5. Kazuo Matsui to the Mets.
6. Roger Clemens signing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

To me, what matters most in a lineup is having your top on-base guys bat first. If we'd had Berkman in the two-spot all year (and not Blumberg), Bagwell, Kent and Hidalgo would have had more runs to knock in. But instead we had him bat fifth, I think because Jimy wanted to break up our all-righthanded team.

Everett slugs 100 points higher than Ausmus. And if we keep our top two on-base guys batting 5th and 6th, that will matter a whole lot in the long run. The Astros need to realize what a terrible hitter Ausmus is, and do whatever they possibly can to minimize the damage he'll do to our offensive output. Put him in the eight-spot and give the other team 2 free outs. Rally next inning. At least it's better than sandwiching Everett between outs. He'll never have a chance to drive in runs, and when he does get on base, it's worthless. Everett's a young player and has nowhere to go but up. I think he'll exceed last year's stats. He won't dominate, but I think he'll hit .250 again, and maybe post a .750 OPS (.350, .400?). Hell, let Ausmus sacrifice for him.

Which brings up another point: Let's pinch-hit for Ausmus every game, every time a starter exits (which will hopefully be in the 7th and 8th innings this year). Think of what this could mean:

1) It will give Lane an pinch-hit at-bat every game he doesn't start

2) It will eliminate nearly a fourth of Ausmus' at-bats.

3) For the most part, our relievers don't really need a catcher's defense. The relievers already know how to throw (fast). And aside from Lidge's curve, I can't think of a single pitch that might need a require a great glove to stop.

Sure, a catcher's defense is probably most important during the final innings of a close game. But Chavez isn't terrible behind the plate.

Anything we can do to minimize the Ausmus effect. Just think: only two years ago, he led off. Wow.
I finally escaped Cesky Krumlov - now I'm in Vienna, Austria, where Mozart meets Wienerschnitzel. It's snowing like crazy - my hostel is packed with ski bums. I'll be here for until Friday, when I fly to Athens to hang with a friend (free couch!!)

Andy, about figuring out the 'best' lineup order....it's interesting, but doesn't really matter much. Obviously it's best to give more AB's to your best (Berkman, Hidalgo) hitters, but mathematically speaking, it ends up not mattering very much even over 162 games. I've read about 5-10 runs, max. But it's still interesting to talk about. I agree with your lineup, but I think batting Everett 8th might not be too bad since he's much, much faster than Ausmus, so he's less likely to be thrown out at 2nd after Roger Clemens lays down a bunt. Speaking of which, that should be fun to watch.

I've only got 5 minutes left, so I can't do too much fantasy baseball draft analysis, but here's my thoughts on my team:

Jeremy @%@#$ Burnitz.

I thought I had a pretty good draft besides that; like usual, I'm relying heavily on 'sleepers' like D'Angelo Jimenez, Jason Bay, Miguel Batista, and Aquilino Lopez. I'm lacking a bit in power (only Sexson had more than 30 HRs last year), but I've got a ton of speed (Beltran, Crawford, Jeter, Byrd, Lugo), probably over-compensating for past years when I have none. I have a pretty good staff, especially if Rich Harden and Jerome Williams step up. My closers are pretty bad, especially if Dotel gets hurt. But all in all, not too bad.

And if Jeremy Burnitz goes .260/50/110, HA.
This from Ken Rosenthal:

The Dodgers are informing clubs of their willingness to trade RHP Edwin Jackson or LHP Greg Miller for the right hitter, but their options are limited. The team pursued Astros RF Richard Hidalgo before Paul DePodesta replaced Dan Evans as GM, trying to offset Hidalgo's $14 million salary by offering RHP Paul Shuey and C Todd Hundley, who will be paid a combined $10.9 million. The Astros would consider trading a pitcher for a lefthanded bat, but no longer are interested in moving Hidalgo, in part because Jason Lane has not proved he can hit major-league pitching. . . .

Apparently this is old news... maybe pre-Pettitte. I like that he says we're no longer interested in trading Hidalgo. But most of all, I understand better why Los Angeles has had such problems with ownership: Stupid trade offers like this.

A couple things I didn't like: Lane not being ready. There was a lot of argument about this on Astrosdaily. Basically the consensus reached was that Lane's 96 ABs mean nothing, and agree with that. Too bad we haven't really given him a chance. I think he'd be decent, but nowhere near Hidalgo.

And I don't think we're looking for a lefty bat anymore. In fact, I think the only situation to monitor is the bullpen. And maybe the order of the 2-3-4-5-6 hitters. Seems Jimy and everyone else in baseball is assuming we'll stay with last year's lineup of Biggio-Ensberg-Bagwell-Kent-Berkman-Hidalgo.

First of all, Hidalgo was our best hitter last year with a .957 OPS. He did this while hitting in the six spot, right before the black hole that is Brad Ausmus. Think what he coulda done if we moved him up to #3. Hm. Contract year. Hm. Also, Berkman was outstanding at getting on base, with a .412 OBP. He was in the five spot. HM.

Last year's OBP and SLG:

Ensberg: .377, .530
Bagwell: .373, .524
Kent: .351, .509
Berkman: .412, .515
Hidalgo: .385, .572

Seems to me the best order would be Biggio-Berkman-Hidalgo-Bagwell-Kent-Ensberg-Everett-Ausmus.

I'm not sold on Biggio leading off, but we'll leave that alone. And why bat Ausmus ahead of Everett? Why? Everett hit .256/.320/.380. Ausmus hit .229/.303/.292. How Ausmus drove in 47 runs is beyond me. He probably hit a 30 or 40 weak RBI groundouts to second base with Bagwell, Berkman and Hidalgo all on base.

Now then, back to sleeping on the couch while it snows all night. Oh, the parents locked me out of my own apartment tonight. I get home from work and this is what I have to put up with? Sheesh.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Observation: if you are playing ping pong and reading Calvin and Hobbes books within five minutes of arrival into a new town, you're in the right place.

Such is Cesky Krumlov, a small town in the Czech Republic and haven from BigTownInsanity. Today will be my first full day here, and I'm already set to do very little - they've got a great book collection at my hostel, and you can hear the river from my dorm room. Ah, sweet laziness...

I can basically stay here for up to a week, too - I'm flying out of Vienna on Fri Mar 12. Plus they have free internet at my place, so I can dominate the baseball draft tomorrow.

Well, I have to go do nothing, so I better get to it. Later.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Quick note about Beltran before I get back to studying for my test in an hour.

Kent and Hidalgo are scheduled to make $20.5 million combined this year. Their options for 2005 are $9 million and $15 million, respectively. My point...McLane just needs to bone up and spend some more money this next offseason.

So here's my ideal offseason. You sign Berkman and Oswalt to 4 year deals...maybe backload them just a little bit...you know, for when Bagwell's contract is finally off the books. You could probably get each for $10 million/year each. Berkman's already making $6.5 million this year, so that jump don't represent a lot more. Oswalt's not making shit this year, so that would be a big jump. But say that's like $13 million / year increase for the two combined. Who's to say they can't be had for a little cheaper?? Then you just pony up and sign Beltran. I don't care how...JUST DO IT! Otherwise, our offense is gonna suck in a few years. If you pay Beltran $15 million / year, then you've increased payroll about $28 million for these 3 players. But you got then after dropping over $20 million in payroll in Kent and Hidalgo (who's options for the year would've cost $24 million).

So who would you rather have:

Kent and Hidalgo for one more year at $24 million, or
Oswalt, Berkman, and Beltran locked up to long-term deals for an increase of $28 million to payroll.

One more thing I forgot...I believe we only signed Clemens for a year. If I'm correct, that's another $5 million we no longer have on the books next year. My final point: the money's going to be there if McLane will just be willing to spend it. And I can't remember the last really good, YOUNG player that we've signed...I think we're due.

That is all.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

OK Jack, maybe the Italian wine has gotten to you. Maybe you've eaten one too many Belgian waffles. Or maybe it's the stinky cheese.

We are not letting go of Bagwell. I hate to put a damper on your (wet) dreams about Carlos Beltran, but Bagwell is staying here until his contract is up. If the Astros were to trade him, it would spark a collective uproar from the city of Houston, kinda like when the Oilers decided to pack it up. It would turn too many fans off, myself included. The team would lose thousands in ticket sales. Trading Bagwell would go against everything the team has done in the past decade. Clemens signed because he liked how the organization treated their players: with respect. Sure, Bagwell would probably like to play for his childhood team, but between then and now he has helped redefine another.

As much as it pains me to say it, Bagwell and his disgustingly-backloaded salary will be with us. True, we might field a better team if we traded him and signed Beltran. But the heart of Houston baseball lies in Bagwell's funky stance, shaggy beard and corkscrew swing.

I completely agree with you that we need to sign our young stars. But I would almost say that signing Berkman might be more important than signing Oswalt or Miller. Why? Our pitching is in good shape for years to come. It's weird, though... we don't have good "prospects" because ours are all major-league ready. Hell, our AAA team could contend with some of baseball's weaker teams. We could have Duckworth, Robertson, Hernandez, Fernandez, Buchholz, AND Saarloos at New Orleans next year.

We have Pettitte signed through 2006, and Redding will be an Astro at least until 2005. With all our pitchers in AAA (I rate Buchholz higher than anyone here), Our staff won't be obliterated if we lose Oswalt and/or Miller. Clearly we should sign at least one of them, and clearly Oswalt is the better of the two.

Oswalt has one more year of eligibility left. If he has a campaign similar to 2002, he'll probably win a $6 to $7 million deal through arbitration in 2005. If we offered him a longer contract this year, what kind of deal should he get? I'd be fine with a 3- or 4-year deal worth $10 million a year.

Our line-up, as Jack pointed out, will have a much different look, as Biggio, Kent and Hidalgo all exit. Burke and Lane PALE in comparison to Kent and Hidalgo offensively. We will have Berkman through 2005, but signing him to a long-term deal (4 years, $40 million?) will be well worth the price. Having him, Ensberg and Lane as the staples of the franchise will be a solid middle-of-the-lineup trio.

I read a story on astros.com that management was reluctant to sign Berkman to a long-term deal mostly because of recent disasters in that area (Hidalgo). This scares me. True, Hidalgo did let himself go after his 2000 campaign, and started to look more and more like Fatty Ward in 2001-2. Despite last year's performance, he has hurt the team financially with his burdensome contract more than his bat has helped.

Still, this shouldn't dissuade G-Hun and D-Mac to look into a long contract for Berkman. Berkman seems to be more inspired and more excited about playing. Plus he's a hometown boy, and could become the next Bagwell as the premier Astro slugger.

Back to Beltran.... who else will be in the market for him? Seems to me the Wicked Witches of the East might already have centerfielders, in Lofton, Damon and Cameron. I know Cameron just signed a 3-year deal... how long are Lofton and Damon signed for? The other team that comes to mind is L.A. They have the resources and dire need for offense. Tha A's would gladly take him if they could afford him. And I bet the White Sox will take a look at him after they get rid of Magglio.

I say, forget Beltran. Let's get PEDRO.
Note to self:

Learn how to play the violin
Learn Italian
Grow hair out
Act incredibly passionate when playing said violin
Bow incredibly low at end of playing said violin

...and get all the ladies. I mean it. All of them. It was incredible - you should have seen this guy. Chick magnet.

Oh, and more Carlos Beltran love:

The dude is 26.
He's a switch hitter who is actually good from both sides.
He's tremendous defensively (+13 Cedeno number).
He has one of the highest SB% success rates OF ALL TIME.

And yes, I was a little drunk when I made my last post, which explains why I couldn't find the apostrophe key. Now I got it. It's hidden up by the '2'.

Ciao.
Defense matters in baseball. I do not mention it very often, statheads do not seem to care about it....but we do actually, it is just hard to measure. I was surfing through baseball blogs the other day, and I found one that has combined pretty much every advanced defensive metric into one, which he calls the Cedeno Number, because he is a Mets fan and Roger Cedeno is absolutely horrible defensively. So without further ado, the 2004 Astros, except for Brad Ausmus, it does not measure catchers, and their respective Cedeno numbers, courtesy of The Raindrops blog...

1B Jeff Bagwell -3
2B Jeff Kent 0
SS Adam Everett +12
3B Morgan Ensberg +12
LF Lance Berkman +4
CF Craig Biggio -7
RF Richard Hidalgo +15

Total +33

Conclusions? The main thing that jumps out at me is how good Morgan Ensberg was defensively. Everyone knows how good Adam Everett is, and Hidalgo has an absolute cannon for an arm, but look at Ensberg!

Ok, pardon me while I get on my soapbox....

I CANNOT BELIEVE WE WAITED THIS LONG TO GIVE MORGAN ENSBERG THE FULL TIME THIRD BASE JOB.

Quick, name the last three Astros to get the majority of at bats at third base.

2000 Chris Truby 772 OPS
2001 Vinny Castilla 812 OPS
2002 Geoff Blum 807 OPS

Morgan Ensberg is already 27, and he just put up a 900 OPS and excellent defensive season. I am absolutely positive that he could have done as well, if not better, than all of these guys in the last three years. At a reduced price, too.

So here is my point - you gotta play your prospects. Sometimes you want them to take their time, but when you do not have much else at that position, and they are not getting any younger....DO IT! Let them play. They need the experience. It is the rare Pujols that can just come in to the majors and dominate. Most young guys need some at bats. It seems like the Astros are much more willing to bring up young pitchers, Oswalt Miller Redding Hernandez, than hitters....Ensberg is already 27, Everett is 27, Buck is already 25...I think the organization is a little over cautions when it comes to position prospects. Some times, you just gotta let them play instead of getting a more expensive veteran. I hope we let Ensberg, Everett, Burke and Buck all start next year, even if they struggle a bit...we can spend the money elsewhere....resign Berkman, Oswalt, and go after Beltran. The approach of bringing up young players has certainly worked with the pitchers that I mentioned...I do not see why the same should not hold true for position prospects.

My two cents.
I had a little chat with JT last night, and we both came to the following conclusion...

ASTROS SIGN BELTRAN!

If you read my article from yesterday, you will see that I decided we did not have enough money to spend on Beltran. And that is partially true. But there might be a way to do it...by trading Jeff Bagwell to the Boston Red Sox.

Why does this work?

1. Bagwell is from the Boston area. He grew up cheering for the Red Sox. He has said that he dreams about playing in Fenway Park. He wants to do it.

2. Bagwell can DH in the AL, and he can still dominate at the plate. His main fault now is his fielding, where he can not throw the ball from first to home. He can still put up a 900 OPS in his sleep.

Bagwell is set to absolutely rake in the dough the next few years, so I am sure we will have to take on some of his salary, or take on an expensive Red Sox player, but most of their players are up for free agency next year anyway. So maybe we keep paying Bagwell 7 million a year, find some cheap 1B or shift Berkman to 1B and find some cheap LF, either position is easy to find a cheap decent hitter, and then we have at least 15 million a year to spend EVEN AFTER signing Berkman and Oswalt....so we call up Scott Boras and offer Beltran a 5 year 75 million dollar contract....CMON BELTRAN, MORE THAN VLADI!!!! He has to do it. He must do it. This must happen...am I dreaming? Oh sweet Beltran....come to me...

2005 Astros

CF Carlos Beltran
3B Morgan Ensberg
LF Lance Berkman
RF Jason Lane
1B Travis Lee, Jeremy Giambi, Jay Gibbons, Brad Wilkerson, Adam Dunn, Xavier Nady, Matt Stairs
C John Buck
2B Chris Burke
SS Adam Everett

Cmon, JT, you gotta admit, that would be beast. I am bringing it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Ok, ok, I know this is looking ahead a bit, but after Roy Oswalt, outduels Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2004 World Series, bringing home our first World Series to Houston....what do we do in 2005? The Astros have positioned themselves to go down the crapper in the next few years, for a few reasons:

1. Not many prospects.

2. Deferred money in Bagwell, Kent, Pettitte contracts.

Whatever happens, the 2005 offseason will be a defining year for the franchise. We'll have the opportunity to let a lot of players go. Here's a rough draft of what could happen, position by position:

C - John Buck / Brad Ausmus (Ausmus is making 3 million in 2005.......UGH)
1B - Jeff Bagwell (13 million)
2B - probably Chris Burke (14 million option for Jeff Kent....he'll be 38....I don't think so)
SS - Adam Everett
3B - Morgan Ensberg (gotta love that cheap left side of the infield)
LF - Lance Berkman (I really, really hope we sign Lance to something like a 4 year, 40 millon dollar deal....he's not the type of player to age really well, but he'll only be 28, and he should put up 900+ OPS seasons for the next 3/4 years)
CF - ?
RF - Jason Lane (Lane has said he can play CF too....hopefully we'll find out this year)

SP - Roy Oswalt (like Lance, I hope we re-sign him....in a way, it's important that the Astros have an identity after losing Biggio and eventually Bagwell...I think that Berkman and Oswalt are the two best players to represent our franchise for the next few years....his best comparable is Tim Hudson, who isn't getting any worse...maybe a 4 year 36 million dollar deal?)

SP - Andy Pettitte (about 9 million I think)
SP - Tim Redding
SP - Carlos Hernandez
SP - Brandon Duckworth / Kirk Saarloos / Taylor Bucholz /

Bullpen

Brad Lidge
Ricky Stone
Mike Gallo
some other cheap guys.

So the most obvious place to upgrade, I think would be OF or bullpen. We should have a pretty decent staff as long as we re-sign either Oswalt or Miller (please Oswalt!) In my opinion it's not worth spending much money on your bullpen - whoever isn't the 5th starter can jump in there or we can bring up some guys....whatever.

So assuming we re-sign Berkman for 10 mil (no deferred money!) and Oswalt for 9 mil (no deferred money, dammit!), that brings us to 44 mil...everyone else combined costs about....um...10/15 mil.....so that puts us at 55/60 mil. Which, finally, brings me to this: Can we make a run for Carlos Beltran?

Ultimately, I don't think so. He'll be too hotly pursued by other teams, and he's a bit overrated in real-life, compared to fantasy. Don't get me wrong, he's 26 and damn good and he'd be a perfect fit, but someone's gonna give him a Vladi-type contract and I don't think he's worth that.

So let's see we've got 10 mil to spend on improving the OF.

What do we do? Who are the OF free agents in 2005? Glad you asked:

The other 'big name' OFers availabe besides Beltran are

Garret Anderson. Consistent. Overrated. Consistently overrated. He's a good fantasy player, but his .300 average hides his unwillingness to take a walk and his 100 RBI's are a product of the fact that he never misses a game.

Magglio Ordonez. I didn't realize he was 30 already. Hasn't improved in the last 3 or 4 years. Pass.

In my opinion, we should go after younger, cheaper guys. Here a few suggestions:

Jay Gibbons
Brad Wilkerson
Adam Dunn
Jason Michaels
Michael Cuddyer
Termell Sledge (what a name! The SledgeHammer!)
Mark Prior is hurt.

Well, he's only out 5-10 days with an inflamed Achilles, but he said in an interview it has been bothering him since late last year, when (you might recall) he threw approximately 25674.29 pitches a game in the last few weeks of the season.

I want to be kind of happy about this; I'm an Astros fan, first and foremost. But Prior is the kind of player you really don't want to get injured (especially if I have the 4th pick in fantasy baseball this year.)

No, seriously, I hope Mark Prior is ok. He's probably the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he's 23 years old. He's got a chance to be one of the best ever, and you don't want to see someone with that much potential get hurt.

By an anonymous poster at BPrimer:

"Well, does it hurt?" he asked.
The young matador/hurler gazed at the hills made of white elephants.
"Some," he said.
He poured whiskey on his cornflakes, and ate, ignoring the pain.
An hour passed.
Agitated, Dusty asked him again about his sore leg.
Silence. Then,
"I don't suppose it'll stop me from fishing. I know you like to fish."
"Yes, but this isn't ordinary fishing. We're going after Marlin. Not easy to take down."
A dull wind listlessly whispered, and the young hurler thought back to the previous fall.
"I might need 10 days, to rest up. It's a big challenge."
The old man read the pain in the young hurler's eyes. He thought of the sea.
"It'll go fast."
Silence.

"Perhaps."
"Better go get some rest."
The young hurler stared at the desert horizon. He would pitch again. Maybe many, many times.
But the innocence was lost forever.

Monday, March 01, 2004

A sports writer here at work was a good buddy of Chris Burke's back at the U of Tennessee. This guy says Burke is the hardest-working athlete he'd ever met, and that his attitude and desire to play will impress. Sound familiar?

From what little I've heard / read about him, Burke seems like the second-coming of Biggio. His stats say the same: He hits well, has lots of speed but little power. Last year at Round Rock:

165/549, 3 HR, 41 RBI
57 BB, 57 K, 34/44 SB

Based on my crude calculations, he hit

.301 / .366 / .388 = .754 OPS

Yeah, he should probably bulk up to hit for more power. But that's not a bad start for a 23-year-old second baseman.
To football for a second....

I'm reading here on ESPN.com how the trade between the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins has just been completed. Denver hands over Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey and a second round pick. Apparently Portis will now become the highest paid running back EVER!

So let's have a "unresearched, off the top of my head" gander at the teams, shall we? We all remember how FRIGGIN' FANTABULOUS Portis was during the regular season and now he's in Washington with the new coach, Joe Gibbs. For now, Trung Canidate will serve as backup (where he BELONGS!!!) with another fella by the name of Cartwright coming in as the goal-line back. Wuh oh....did I say "goal-line" back? If you are involved in fantasy football then you have just said the following three words: Crappy Crap Crap!!! However, I don't think that Gibbs would take Portis out once they get inside the 10 or 20. Portis has proven himself to be solid inside the red zone (and any other point on the field) so I don't think there's anything to worry about and I'm predicting that Portis will have another solid year....notice the word "solid"? I don't see him having any five touchdown games in Washington, at least not this year. Although, we shouldn't forget that Portis also had 38 catches for 314 yards along with his 1591 yards rushing...an underrated asset for a RB that will certainly interest Joe Gibbs. But what about the Redskins' passing game? As we should all know by now, they've recently signed Mark Brunell as their starting QB...a solid pocket passer in a supposed "protect the QB" system of Joe Gibbs. They've got solid wide recievers in Laveranues Coles, Rod Gardner and Darnerian McCants so they're not really lacking there. The HUGE thing that the Redskins need to do (besides introduce Joe Gibbs back into the current day NFL) is focus on that PITIFUL OFFENSIVE LINE!!! I'm surprised Patrick Ramsey is still alive! Their defense could use some patchwork as well especially with the loss of Champ Bailey. Trading away that second pick will probably come back to bite them so they can't look to the draft to solve all of their woes. I'm not sure about their cap situation but if they have money left they would be wise to snatch any free agent linemen available this offseason.

What about the Broncos? With Clinton Portis out, I can only assume that the Broncos were damn satisfied with Quentin Griffin. I was impressed as well when I saw him play; he showed great quickness and some good field vision for a rookie RB. However, he will need to bulk up a bit since he isn't as powerful a runner as Portis. This might be a problem since their fullback, Mike Anderson, keeps getting himself suspended for doin' the doobie dance. As of right now (before the draft and the offseason is over) I'm gonna say that the Broncos' running game will be at best mediocre....nothing that would keep an opposing head coach awake at night. They've got some decent WR's in Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe and Ashley Lelie, although the only consistent one among them is Sharpe and he's gettin' up there in the age department. Sadly, he's their best reciever so don't be surprised if they take a WR early in the draft. Their defense was pretty solid last season, if I remember correctly, and the new additions (Champ Bailey) will only strengthen it. Jake, The Mistakey Shaky Snake, is finally able to be a good QB (and a half-mobile one at that!) in the Denver offense but lemme just say this....

Denver, get rid of Ed McCaffrey....he's useless and could drop dead any second.

Barstool out.
I just read a short article on yahoo.com that said blogging has yet to really take off. And, honestly, it might be for the best. Case in point: I spent the past hour or so trying to find every baseball blog that I could. And some of them were pretty good. But not that many. A lot were pretty similar, mostly focused around a single team, and a lot included statistical analysis, which is kind of boring to read about.

....Gulp.

So, long story short, there is a LOT of stuff being written about baseball out there, so I really need to stay on top of current events, but (at the same time) write about what appeals to me, because I simply can't compete with ESPN, BPro, or BPrimer.

The one thing that I also noticed is that most of these other baseball blogs mainly talked about baseball. I mean, I love baseball, and I love talking about it, and analzying it, but I need a break from it every now and then (and the season hasn't started yet!) So I'm definitely going to keep writing about life in general, and hopefully JT, Andy, and Barstool will too.

I'm off.
I'm all set to take an overnight bus trip to Prague in the Czech Republic (where I will stay in a youth hostel that is also a boat) but first: baseball.

Ok, ok, I know I keep saying this, but....Baseball Prospectus kicks major @§§. One of their new methods of analysis is Team Health Reports, which is really cool to read about, because it's yet another new way to think about improving a team: eliminate those pesky injuries! If the Astros have Roy Oswalt and Jeff Kent all last year, we win the Central. But injuries happen, you can't really prevent them, it's part of the game...NO! I mean, well, sometimes. But not all the time. Why do some teams (Oakland) never seem to have injuries? Well, Mulder last year, but other than that, Hudson Zito Chavez Tejada....none of those guys ever seemed to miss any time. It's not just luck, and it's not as simple as "throw fewer pitches." There's work to be done on injuries, and Prospectus is DOING IT.

Oh, and everyone should check out their Baseball Prospectus Basics articles, which basically got me hooked on sabermetrics. They talk about why a strikeout isn't much worse than a regular out, why closers are overrated...read it.

Most of the news that I've been reading about the Astros lately involves how Pettitte and Clemens are leading by example in Spring Training, encouraging all the other pitchers to get up early, work out more, and get in better shape. I love this. Especially from a guy like Clemens, who has been an excellent pitcher in the major leagues for nearly as long as I have been alive. And he's still damn good. If he can impart a little of what he's learned over the years, it could really benefit our young pitchers, especially Wade Miller and Tim Redding, who have the stuff, but not the consistency or attitude. And so far it seems to be working - Miller has shown up at Spring Training looking more muscular and chiseled, and Redding has vowed to do whatever Clemitte tells him too.

I kinda changed my mind about trading Jeriome Robertson for Brian Roberts. Roberts isn't really very good, Chris Burke should be ready in 2005, and there's gotta be some team willing to give us more for Robertson.

So far, Berlin's Tiergarten wins the award for best park, edging out London's Hyde Park and Regent Park, and way better than Amsterdam's Museumplein.

boo bye!