Monday, February 28, 2005

Just bought 4 tickets to the Wilco show @ the Orpheum (old concert hall in Flagstaff) on April 27. I'm pumped. Hopefully I'll know some cute girls by then...

Astros news....there's a new (subscriber) article up at Baseball Prospectus, where their main everyday writer, Joe Sheehan, picks his "Up" and "Down" teams over the offseason. His Up team? The Cleveland Indians, led by Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, and an underrated bullpen and some solid prospects. His Down team? The Houston Astros. Sheehan's main reasons why:

On February 28, though, it's hard to see how the Astros can repeat last year's success. They are going to lose a ton of runs from even last year's average attack--seventh in the NL in EqA. Carlos Beltran is gone. Jeff Kent is gone. Their best hitter, Lance Berkman, is going to miss at least a few weeks rehabbing a knee injury. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are a year older. Even in the best-case scenario, where Chris Burke and Jason Lane are allowed to win jobs and both hit to expectations, that just makes up for the losses of Beltran and Kent. At their best, the Astros are carrying Adam Everett, Brad Ausmus and a pitcher. If you have even one more low-OBP hitter in the lineup, it becomes almost impossible to sustain an offense.

The Astros aren't going to make it up on the pitching side. Keeping
Roger Clemens around just kept them running in place. They still have the same depth issues as they did a year ago, with a host of injury cases and suspects vying to fill out the rotation behind Clemens and Roy Oswalt and the bullpen in front of Brad Lidge. A healthy Andy Pettitte makes up some of that, but there's still the question of whether two starters can be found from among Brandon Backe, Carlos Hernandez, Tim Redding, or even a longshot like Ezequiel Astacio.

Last year's playoff run happened because the front end of the Astros' roster included some very dominant players. They're down two stars this year, and the likelihood that Clemens and Lidge can match '04's work is slim. They don't have the depth to make up for that kind of slippage. Not only are the Astros unlikely to return to the postseason, I doubt they can stay in contention.

Ouch. I agree with most of what Sheehan writes; our offense can't reasonably be expected to be even equal to last year's, and barring Pettitte being awesome all year, Backe pitching like he did in Sept / Oct., and Ezequiel Astacio becoming the next Oswalt, I don't see our pitching being that great either. I guess it's time to take an objective look at the Astros; you might not like what you see.

I'll still watch damn near every game, though, and root like hell.

Friday, February 25, 2005

TGIF. Don't have too many plans for the weekend; it's supposed to get all the way up to 41 degrees on Sunday, so I might go hiking or something.

Mike Lamb brought 5 gloves with him to spring training: 3B, 2B, 1B, C, and OF. I find this amusing. Talk about a Renaissance man. Can you imagine if Lamb could be a not-horrible defensive catcher? Awwwwww yeah.

Craig Biggio has said he'd like to move back to 2nd, but I honestly think that he would be pretty bad defensively there. I don't care if he played 2nd for 10 years, he's 39, and he didn't have good defensive numbers 3 years ago. So Burke damn well better win that job. Hey, maybe Biggio wants to move back to catcher?

JT says the Tigers don't really need a 3B or a 2B, since they've got Brandon Inge and Omar Infante. I think he's right, and I also think Dave Dombrowski is a moron, so we might just be able to give them Tim Redding and some barbeque and call it even.

We're getting a co-ed softball league together in the next few weeks, and I mentioned it to my class and the hottest girl in the class wants to play. Maybe I can set her up with one of my friends - it's the right thing to do.

One more class to go, then I'm done for the week. By the way, thanks for the MLB.TV info, Chen, I think I'm going to do the All Access Option pretty soon.
I like it, Andres. The Mets want Urbina, and the Tigers need either a 3B or a 2B. I'll stick with your Lamb-and-Redding proposal for now, with the possibility of throwing in Brooks Conrad or Brandon Duckworth or whoever. Getting Cameron without giving up Burke would be a steal. Alternatively, if you decide to give up Burke, hopefully you could trade for Polanco.

Biggest bargains of the offseason:

Nomar: 1/8
Woody Williams: 1/4 (I think)
Chris Hammond: 1/750K
Johan Santana: 4/48
Wade Miller: 1/3.5
Richard Hidalgo: 1/5

Notice a trend? Most of those 'best deals' are short deals for players likely to bounce back. And any deal where you pay Johan Santana less than Troy Glaus or Richie Sexson or Magglio Ordonez has to go on there.
Per, The Mets are interested in Ugueth Urbina, and are willing to ship away Mike Cameron for him. Have we found our third team in Detroit?

The Tigers already have Fernando Vina at second, and their outfield of Magglio, Alex Sanchez, Rondell White, Bobby Higginson and Craig Monroe is already crowded. They seem to be in a win-now mentality, so they probably don't want too many prospects in exchange for losing their premiere closer. Unless the plan on using Carlos Guillen at third, they'll a three-bagger. And they always need pitching. This won't work, but how about Lamb and Redding? Maybe throw in a Luke Scott as well.

Quick poll: What's been the best bargain of the offseason so far, for any team? I might say Nomar for $8 million with incentives. That was damn good.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

According to the Houston Chronicle, Lance Berkman has rejected 3 / 36 and 4 / 48 offers and instead has basically demanded 5 / 15-17 per year. Well, that's too bad, as 3/36 and 4 / 48 are almost exactly what I had hoped we would offer. But then Magglio Ordonez just had to go sign that crazy contract with Detroit, and now Berkman (correctly) wants as much as him. With so much deferred money going to Pettitte, Bagwell, and Oswalt next year, it might be a little tricky to give Lance 5 / 75 or thereabouts. In addition, we HAVE to see how he bounces back from his knee injury before we go throwing gobs of money at him.

Bad choice of words yesterday; I shouldn't have said "my dream world". What I was getting at is if you get desperate and trade for Mike Cameron by getting rid of Chris Burke, you could probably get Polanco from the Phillies. But it didn't come out quite right. And I still like saying Byung-Hyun Kim, so we should trade for him too.

Question about MLB.TV : does anyone know if it has the same properties as TiVo? That is, if I miss the game, can I come back and watch it later that night or something? Or just the Condensed Game?

Time to go toss the ol' baseball around.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

My dream world:

Astros trade Taylor Bucholz to the Phillies for Placido Polanco.
Astros trade Jason Lane to the Mets for Mike Cameron.
Astros trade Brooks Conrad and Luke Scott to the Red Sox for BH Kim.
Ezequiel Astacio starts off in a middle relief role, excels, and becomes the 5th starter when the Astros sell high on Brandon Backe by trading him to the Reds for Austin Kearns.

Look, I know our payroll could never support that, and it seems crazy to trade away all those prospects, but here it is:

Prospects are never, ever, a sure thing, and every player on the right side of those transactions has had success in the major leagues. Bucholz struggled last year; maybe the Phillies want him back. Lane might be pretty good, but he's 28 - his best years might already be behind him. In addition all of the "right hand" guys appear to be undervalued by their current teams. Polanco might be the best overall defensive infielder in baseball, and he puts up a .780 OPS. Mike Cameron slugged .479 with a wrist injury last year and has consistently been one of the best defensive CF's in baseball for the last 5 years. BH Kim is 25 and has averaged over a K / inning for his career. Austin Kearns was a top prospect, put up a .907 OPS his rookie year, and just needs to get healthy.

AND all of these players don't really have a good fit with their current teams - Polanco and Cameron want to be starters at their respective positions, Kim just needs a change of scenery and a regular starting job, and Kearns is in a crowded OF in Cincy.

I have no idea how all of that will work out - Polanco wants to start, but we have Burke / Everett, Cameron might be hurt for the first month (along with Berkman), Kim might piss all the good ol' boys off with the occasional one-finger-salute, and Kearns might be hurt all year, but that's how you win as a general manager - you see what's undervalued, and you go after it. I'm all for rebuilding, but the entire premise of statistical analysis is not OBP and OPS and UZR, it's buying high and selling low, it's looking for market inefficiencies, and that is EXACTLY what Polanco, Cameron, Kim and Kearns are. I'm sure we won't do any of those moves, but I can still dream.
Since I now live in friggin' Arizona, I can't watch any Astros games unless they're on national TV (in which case the Astros tend to suck) or Baseball Tonight (in which case I have to look at John Kruk's fat face and listen to Harold Reynolds talk about team chemistry). No thanks.

So MLB.TV, here I come. It's 'only' 79.95 for the whole year, and I'll be able to watch every Astros game (with the exception of when they play at Arizona), so I guess that's worth it. If any of you guys have ever subscribed to MLB.TV, tell me what you think.

Oh, and they have a free archive of the Astros top plays in 2004. Highlights:

Jeff Kent's Game 5 walk-off bomb in the NLCS. Goosebumps, baby. Goosebumps.
Astros turn a triple play on the Phillies and come back from 7-2 to win.
Pretty much anything invovling Carlos Beltran in the playoffs. Man, I'm gonna miss that guy.

I'm a little more down on Mike Cameron than I was yesterday. I don't like it, but starting with Biggio / Taveras / Lane and then moving to Biggio / Lane / Berkman is better than having to give up Burke, and the Mets don't seem to want to move Cameron for much less than a top prospect. So screw that.

I still like BH Kim, though. Better than Munro or Redding or some crap.

Speaking of Tim Redding, he's essentially said that he expects to get the 5th starter's spot or else he wants to be traded. I say just trade his ass now, because even in his best year, 2003, his K rate wasn't that great and he walked too many guys. Trade him to some team desperate for pitching and with an OF to spare (Rangers, Reds, Devil Rays).

Monday, February 21, 2005

A PTI-inspired rundown of recent events:

Looks like the Mike Cameron rumors aren't dead yet.

A proposed three-team deal (Astros get Cameron, A's get Chris Burke, Mets get Eric Byrnes) was nixed by the Mets. I don't know about this proposal. I understand that Burke kind of came out of nowhere to have an excellent year last year - he had slugged under .400 in Round Rock the year before. But maybe something 'clicked' last year. One of the posters at one of the Astros forums floated this trade proposal:

Astros get Cameron
Seattle gets Brooks Conrad and Tim Redding
NYM get Raul Ibanez

I like this offer more, although count me in the corner that thinks Conrad may eventually be better than Burke. One thing about Conrad, though - I think he's more likely to be coveted by saber-friendly teams. Which brings me to...

Peter Gammons reported Byung Hyun Kim is throwing better this spring than in the past, and the Red Sox are still looking to move him.

I'm all about BHK. Say what you will about his recent struggles or his 2001 World Series - here are his career numbers:

419.7 IP, 455 K's, 3.37 ERA

And he's 25 years old.

Here's the thing, though - Kim has repeatedly said he wants to start, not be a reliever. So trade Brooks Conrad and Luke Scott (another saber-friendly guy) for him, and you've got your new 5th starter.

So who, then, should we trade for Cameron? Well, Seattle still needs young pitching, and they do seem to love speed, so maybe....

Astros get Mike Cameron
Seattle gets Willy Taveras and Taylor Bucholz and Fernando Nieve
NYM get Raul Ibanez

Just a thought. I'd really like to acquire Cameron, and I'd like getting BHK almost as much, but I don't want to part with Chris Burke or Ezequiel Astacio. Too optimistic, huh?

Friday, February 18, 2005

I'm back. Just read a Richard Justice article (link at AstrosDaily), and I had a few comments:

Purpura would consider trading for a veteran center fielder, but it has to be someone who makes the Astros better in 2005 and beyond. If the Mets make Mike Cameron available, Purpura is interested.

I've read numerous times that Cameron is available. He doesn't like playing RF, particularly since he's been the best defensive CF in baseball on average during the last 4-5 years.

Predictions mean nothing. Predictions don't take into account that Lane and Burke might both be impact players offensively. They don't take into account that Taveras has blazing speed.

You can't steal first base.

This spring is about reassembling the puzzle, about hoping that Taveras, Lane and Burke can play, about hoping Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have another productive season in them, about Ensberg regaining his power and Everett continuing down the road to being the National League's best shortstop.

Lane and Burke can play; Taveras, most likely, cannot. I hope Bagwell and Biggio get it going for one more year, and I want to see Ensberg slug .500 again, but I do NOT see Adam Everett ever being the NL's best shortstop as long as Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Rollins, Khalil Greene, and Jose Reyes are alive.
Woke up at 6:30 am this morning to go have breakfast with a friend (a laaaaaaaaady) and caught a few minutes of SportsCenter, which included Peter Gammons saying:

The Astros are closely following the recovery of Mike Cameron from wrist surgery. They need to involve a 3rd team in the trade, because the Mets are demanding a corner outfielder in return.

I like it. I'm assuming we're looking to trade Tim Redding / Brandon Duckworth / Mike Burns to some team with a glut of outfielders (Rangers, Reds, Devil Rays), who in turn trade one of their guys to the Mets, and we get Cameron in return. Obviously this wouldn't work well for us if we had to give up Jason Lane, but if we can manage it, an OF of Biggio / Cameron / Lane to start and then Lane / Cameron / Berkman with Biggio / Palmeiro as 4th and 5th OF's would be excellent. I've decided that I'm very anti-2nd-base-Biggio; his defensive numbers there have been poor since his knee surgery a few years back, and Chris Burke is a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate there.

That's all I have. Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday - I'm mostly interested in seeing how Andy Pettitte looks and seeing if anyone stands out as a 5th starter (darkhorse: Ezequiel Astacio).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I haven't written in a while, but that's more because there hasn't been much to write about. I'm still holding out hope that we trade for Randy Winn or Mike Cameron, but it's starting to look like we'll give Taveras a long look in Spring Training, and then probably go with Biggio / Lane / Berkman for much of the season. Remember, the Astros have previously gone with both Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio in center, so Lane is certainly an option.

Many of the 'projected lineups' for the Astros have something along the lines of

Ensberg / Lamb

I'll be the first to admit that batting order isn't that important; at most (batting your worst hitters first and your best hitters last) it might make a difference of up to around 5%. Over the course of the year, if you're the Boston Red Sox, that might make a difference of (900)(.05) = 45 runs. That's actually pretty significant - 45 runs / 162 games = 0.29 runs / game. So it doesn't hurt to try and 'maximize' your lineup. So that's what I'll try to do:

Biggio (his OBP is dropping and his SLG is rising, so I think it would make more sense to bat him 5th, 6th or 7th, but I'm pretty sure he'll stay at leadoff, and he probably should, initially)
Ensberg (he had his one great year batting 2nd in front of Berkman / Bagwell; maybe he just needs to see good pitches to dominate. Good OBP, too)
Berkman (our best hitter, by far)
Bagwell (hope he bounces back against lefties; still a good OBP)
Burke (he's a better hitter than Everett already)
Everett (might be able to steal to avoid the Ausmus GIDP)

If Burke puts up solid numbers for the first month or two of the season, I'd like giving him a look at leadoff and dropping Biggio to 6th. My main changes are batting Ensberg 2nd, since he should still maintain a good OBP even if he doesn't regain his '03 power, and batting Everett 7th or 8th, because he's simply not a good enough hitter yet to take advantage of his baserunning skills. A .320 OBP just doesn't cut it for a #2 hitter. If he puts up a .350 OBP, then fine.

The Twins signed former Astro Johan Santana to a 4 year, 40 million dollar deal. That's damn good, Twins, especially when Eric Milton and Kris Benson are getting big $$. Now Santana won't be a Yankee until 2009.

Spring training is coming soon. I can't wait.
I haven't written in a while, but that's more because there hasn't been much to write about. I'm still holding out hope that we trade for Randy Winn or Mike Cameron, but it's starting to look like we'll give Taveras a long look in Spring Training, and then probably go with Biggio / Lane / Berkman for much of the season. Remember, the Astros have previously gone with both Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio in center, so Lane is certainly an option.

Many of the 'projected lineups' for the Astros have something along the lines of

Ensberg / Lamb

I'll be the first to admit that batting order isn't that important; at most (batting your worst hitters first and your best hitters last) it might make a difference of up to around 5%. Over the course of the year, if you're the Boston Red Sox, that might make a difference of (900)(.05) = 18 runs. So we're not reinventing the wheel here. Still, I'd like to see a lineup of:

Biggio (his OBP is dropping and his SLG is rising, so I think it would make more sense to bat him 5th, 6th or 7th, but I'm pretty sure he'll stay at leadoff)
Ensberg (he had his one great year batting 2nd in front of Berkman / Bagwell; maybe he just needs to see good pitches to dominate. Good OBP, too)
Berkman (our best hitter, by far)
Bagwell (hope he bounces back against lefties; still a good OBP)
Burke (he's a better hitter than Everett already)
Everett (might be able to steal to avoid the Ausmus GIDP)

If Burke puts up solid numbers for the first month or two of the season, I'd like giving him a look at leadoff and dropping Biggio to 6th. My main changes are batting Ensberg 2nd, since he should still maintain a good OBP even if he doesn't regain his '03 power, and batting Everett 7th or 8th, because he's simply not a good enough hitter yet to take advantage of his baserunning skills. A .320 OBP just doesn't cut it for a #2 hitter. If he puts up a .350 OBP, then fine.

The Twins signed former Astro Johan Santana to a 4 year, 40 million dollar deal. That's damn good, Twins, especially when Eric Milton and Kris Benson are getting big $$. Now Santana won't be a Yankee until 2009.

Spring training is coming soon. I can't wait.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Well, at least Astros management is saying the right things. Phil Garner and Tim Purpura both talked about the importance of giving young players a chance to develop, rather than seeing Chris Burke bat .200 in 50 AB's and yanking him down to AAA. Our team, both this year and several years into the future, will depend heavily on Lane / Ensberg / Everett / Burke / maybe Taveras? so we need to give them a solid chance. Roy Oswalt also appears to be happy, saying that he was impressed we gave him a multi year deal even though he's 3 years from free agency, and he said he wants to spend his entire career with the Astros. AND, most importantly, he says he's healthy. With an improved infield defense, a healthy Oswalt could win 20 games with a sub 3.00 ERA. That'd be nice.

Friday, February 11, 2005

All right! Finally, the Astros get this guy signed. I am referring of course, to the illustrious Trenidad Hubbard.

Nah, just kidding. Roy Oswalt gets 2 years / 16.9 million, with a 5.9 mil / 11 mil breakdown. My first impressions were "Only two years? Why not longer?" and it's still my first impression. Oswalt is under club control through 2007, so a 3-year deal would have made much more sense. In addition, because we LOVE deferred contracts (Pettitte, Oswalt, Bagwell) we are now on the hook for at least 42 million already in '06 (16 - Bagwell, 15 - Pettitte, 11- Oswalt). Not good, considering there will be a decent crop of OF's and SP's available through free agency in '06.

But you know what? Sometimes you have to be happy with what you get. And we've got Oswalt for two more years. Not the worst thing in the world.

I know I said I had UZR data, but unfortunately it turns out it was UZR data from 2000-2003; I couldn't find the new data. My bad. I'll keep looking.

Baseball Prospectus has discussed the Astros a few times in the last couple of days:

First, the Clemens contract. They talked about how although Clemens is 42, he's essentially a freak of nature and can't really be compared to anyone else, so he should remain productive. They also said 18 million is a heckuva lot, but for an Astros team with a "rapidly dwindling window to compete", it's probably worth it.

Then they talked about Chris Burke. They said he has a broad range of skills - average, defense, and speed - but that his walk rate is a little low (still above 1BB / 10AB's though) and at 25 he's not really young for a prospect. They project him as a solid regular, not an All Star, for a few years.

I agree with both points. We needed to bring Clemens back and Burke, while unlikely to be a star, should be cheap and good for the next 3/4/5 years. Might as well see what he can do now.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ok, I see why there wasn't a rush to claim Robby Hammock. He'll miss most of the season after having shoulder surgery. I still think he's worth a minor-league deal and stashing on the DL.

One of the posters at an Astros message board recommends we do a "3-way platoon" with Lane, Lamb and Ensberg - when we're facing a lefty, Lane and Ensberg start, and when we're facing a righty one of Lane or Ensberg sits while Lamb plays 3rd or LF. I actually like this idea - we need to get Lamb his AB's, and I don't want him playing a more important defensive position like 2B. The way our OF looks right now (Biggio, Lane, Palmeiro, Taveras, ???), I'd be surprised if we don't give Lamb a look in Spring Training. I'm not entirely sure how he'd do, but it's worth finding out. I'd rather see him for a month at the beginning of the season than Palmeiro.

The longer we wait to sign Roy Oswalt, the smaller the chance of signing him to a long-term deal. I stand by my belief that signing Oswalt to a 3 or 4 or 5 year deal is the best move the team can make this offseason. We need this.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Lidge? With a split finger change??? Two words: WHY BOTHER. He's dominant enough as it is, reminds me of Dotel trying his new curveball on Opening Day last year and blowing the game.

On to SP and RP free agents in '06, with their handedness, age, 2004 IP, ERA, and GB/FB ratio (career GB / FB ratio in parentheses).


Tim Wakefield, RHP, 38, 188.3, 116, 4.87, 1.23 (0.98)
Kevin Millwood, RHP, 31, 141.0, 125, 4.85, 1.10 (0.97)
Jason Johnson, RHP, 32, 196.2, 125, 5.13, 1.68 (1.15)
Tim Hudson, RHP, 30, 188.2, 103, 3.53, 2.53!! (2.21)
John Thomson, RHP, 32, 198.1, 133, 3.72, 1.36 (1.27)
A.J. Burnett, RHP, 28, 120.0, 113, 3.68, 1.49 (1.23)
Jeff Weaver, RHP, 29, 220.0, 153, 4.01, 1.06 (1.22)
Vicente Padilla, RHP, 28, 115.1, 82, 4.53, 1.25 (1.61)
Matt Morris, RHP, 31, 202.0, 131, 4.72, 1.59 (1.69)
Brett Tomko, RHP, 32, 194.0, 108, 4.04, 1.08 (1.10)
Esteban Loaiza, RHP, 34, 183.0, 117, 5.71, 0.98 (1.36)

There's a big reason I included GB / FB ratio - although I'm hoping we sign one or two FA outfielders for 2006, there's always a possibility we retain Biggio and sign Berkman to huge contract, so we have terrible OF defense again. However an infield of Ensberg / Everett / Burke / Bagwell is still likely to be excellent defensively, so all other things being equal, a high GB / FB ratio is a plus.

Ok, that's a lot of data. First off, let's eliminate Esteban Loaiza and Jason Johnson due to crappy years, and Tim Wakefield due to age (though it might not affect a knuckler, but it makes my life easier). Brett Tomko came out of nowhere to have a good year, but his peripherals were bad in a pitcher's park, so he gone. Matt Morris will probably be overpaid because he used to be great, but his shoulder's shot, so NO MAS.

That leaves Millwood, Hudson, Thomson, Burnett, Weaver, Padilla.

First off, Hudson is incredible. Absolutely incredible. He has NEVER posted a GB / FB ratio under 2.00, and he's durable and young. But he's going to be very expensive, and his K rate has declined significantly the past 3 years. He'll be awesome, but expensive, and he might have peaked already. Pass.

I'll hold off on Millwood - a lot depends on how he does with the Indians this year, but he's declined for a few years now, and his GB / FB ratio isn't a great fit with our strengths.

I'll also hold off on A.J. Burnett because he's such an injury risk - if he has a great 2005, I'll talk about him them.

That leaves my top 3: Thomson, Weaver, Padilla.

Thomson had his "Atlanta year" last year, much like John Burkett and Jaret Wright have, so he might not be as good ever again. However, he was solid for Texas for a number of years, he has a decent K rate and a solid GB / FB ratio, and he's 'only' 32.

Weaver finally got out of NY and immediately became good again. He pitched a lot of innings, so he might have a slightly down year this year, and he's more of a flyball pitcher, so I don't like him quite as much as Thomson or Padilla. Dodger Stadium also helps him out.

Padilla is my sleeper pick; I'm a big fan. His career GB / FB ratio is an excellent 1.61; if he can approach that this year, his ERA should drop back down. His numbers might also be somewhat skewed by that crazy new Philly park. His K rate is still good, also. He's only 28, so I would definitely give him a 4 year / 20 million dollar contract or something along those lines.

Whew, need a break. Relievers next.

1. Vicente Padilla (4/20)
2. John Thomson (3/12)
3. Jeff Weaver (3/10)
I heard LIdge was on 610 this morning. Apparently he said he's been learning a split finger change up. Don't know what that is, but he seriously said that he was learning it from DAN MICELI. Everybody now: "Season's Over!"
I was checking out Baseball Primer's article links and they had one to the 2005-06 potential free agents. If I had to guess I would say we lose Biggio, Berkman, Ausmus, and Clemens (of the starters, at least), so we'll be looking for OF's, a C, and SP's and RP's. Here are some of the possibilities:


Berkman is the big catch, obviously, and I think we blew our chance at a long-term deal. After the Magglio signing of 5/75 (how good does Vladi's 5/70 contract look to the Angels right now?) I think Berkman is likely to get something in the 5/80 - 7/100 range, which may well be too much for us. I hope we let Biggio walk, so we'll really only have Lane as a sure thing (maybe Taveras or Scott or....someone.) Who might we go after? Here's a list with age (in the winter of '05), position, career OPS+, and 2004 OPS+

Randy Winn, 31, CF, 99, 107
Johnny Damon, 32, CF, 101, 117
Carl Everett, 34, RF, 112, 85
Mark Kotsay, 30, CF, 103, 114
Jose Cruz Jr., 31, RF, 103, 101
Richard Hidalgo, 30, RF, 114, 90
Preston Wilson, 31, CF, 107, 69
Kenny Lofton, 38, CF (ugh), 108, 97
Reggie Sanders, 37, RF, 117, 105
Brian Giles, 34, LF, 146, 126

First of all I don't think Willy Taveras will be a major league starter, so we'll need a CF. From that list, Lofton is too old, Wilson is overrated and hurt, Damon will probably be expensive after his playoff heroics....that leaves Randy Winn and Mark Kotsay. I'm a huge Kotsay fan; he's excellent defensively and underrated offensively. He has more injury concerns (his back, specifically) than Winn, so that evens them out a bit. One of the keys here is the sheer number of possible CF's that will be available - though I like Kotsay and Winn the most, we shouldn't overpay, because there are a few out there. All things equal, I'd give Kotsay 3 /10 or Winn 2/6.

1. Mark Kotsay (3/9?)
2. Randy Winn (3/7?)

The rest of the bunch is highlighted by an aging (but still great) Brian Giles, probably-too-old Reggie Sanders, the former Astro Carl Everett, and Jose Cruz Jr. I think Cruz is likely to be the best value on the list, though a lot depends on how he does in AZ. Again, their are options, though, so we need to not overpay for anyone.

1. Jose Cruz Jr. (2/5?)
2. Brian Giles (3/30?)


We're really going to need one, and while I hope we claim Robby Hammock off waivers, I won't hold my breath. Who we might go after:

Bengie Molina, 30 years old, 79, 86
Henry Blanco, 33 years old, 62, 60
Jason LaRue, 31 years old, 89, 103
Todd Pratt, 38 years old, 100, 86
Benito Santiago, 40 years old, 92, 96
Ramon Hernandez, 28 years old, 95, 116

I would say Hernandez is the big prize here, though the top 3 are excellent defensively (and we love defense at catcher, don't we?). See why I like Hammock? He'd be a good, cheap fit, and there aren't many obviously better options in the FA market. We'll need a starting catcher most likely (please no Raul Chavez), so that eliminates Todd Pratt and Benito Santiago (age). Henry Blanco is awful, so that leaves Bengie Molina, Jason LaRue, and Ramon Hernandez. I love Hernandez; he's put up two big years in a row in pitcher's parks, and LaRue has a solid OBP thanks to tons of HBP's, so they're my top two.

1. Ramon Hernandez (4/16?)
2. Jason LaRue (3/9?)

Gotta run, be back to fill in the gaps and SP/RP analysis later. GET ROBBY HAMMOCK.
So Tim Redding gets a 1 year / 750K deal and Pete Munro gets a 1 year / 700K deal. Both are closer to what the Astros were offering than what the players wanted, so I guess that's a good sign; maybe Purpura is a good bargainer. We should find out in the next few days as he tries to sign Roy Oswalt (to a long-term deal, hopefully). I'll get the UZR data later today, but just remembering some of the scores from the past few years, our infield defense of Ensberg / Everett / Burke / Bagwell is likely to be excellent and our OF defense of Biggio / Lane / Berkman is likely to be awful. All other things equal, I'd like to see a groundball-type pitcher in the 5th starter's spot, since both Oswalt and Backe are pretty extreme flyballers, Clemens is average, and Pettitte is an extreme groundballer. Unfortunately, all other things may not be equal, since both Redding and Hernandez are flyball pitchers and they both have more upside than Murno, a groundballer. Yet another casualty of the Beltran saga - we missed out on Matt Clement and Woody Williams.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Check out a great post by Throws Like a Girl (link on left, too), including this gem:

TIM REDDING: I gave up 125 hits in 100-2/3 innings last year. Please give me $1.4 million.


The big news is that it looks like we won't be acquiring Jose Cruz Jr. from the D-Rays, since the D-Backs beat us to the D-Punch, trading Casey Fossum for Cruz 'n Cash.

Redding, 2004: bad

Fossum, 2004: worse

Unless Purpura thinks Redding is going to be good again, I don't see why the D-Rays wouldn't do Redding-for-Cruz Jr. straight up, so why couldn't we do that? Sheesh.

In my opinion this narrows down our CF options significantly, because I figured Cruz Jr. would be the most likely guy we'd trade for. I'd like to trade for Winn because 1) he's a little better than Cruz Jr. and 2) Bill Bavasi, Seattle GM, is a moron. Mike Cameron would be ok, too, I guess. But I just don't see it. It looks more and more like either Biggio / Lane / Palmeiro or Biggio / Taveras / Lane. In other news, I'm going to cry.

Robby Hammock is still out there. Trade for him already! Are we not allowed to consider catchers who slug .400?

Oh, and Roy Oswalt and his agent are getting pissed that we can't come to terms. So basically we're going to blow it with Berkman, blow it with Oswalt, and might be good sometime around 2009.

Sorry, kinda upset today. Stupid Eagles clock management. What the hell was going on in their last 2 drives? HURRY UP! Plus the commercials sucked. Well, the pilot-diving-after-the-Bud-Light and Burt Reynolds getting kicked in the groin by a bear were ok. But nothing AWESOME.

Tomorrow: I stop using baseball-reference's Range Factor for evaluating defense and instead switch to UZR. I'll explain why then. Sneak Peek: Mike Cameron is really good.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Berkman is tight-lipped about it, but the bet is that he’ll be quite wealthy in the near future.“I’d like to stay there, but I’d hate to short-change myself by not giving myself the best opportunity,” he said.While he says he doesn’t believe his knee will be an issue in the contract negotiations, Berkman says the major injury has forced him to reevaluate his body, which now reacts differently to things it used to take for granted.“It’s weird, because if you ask something of your knee or legs, like to sprint or jump, I’m used to it responding immediately,” he said. “Right now it’s just weak and it won’t respond the way I want it to. It’s just kind of a strange feeling.”

I don't think he's going to be an Astro next year. How can he think his injury won't be an issue in the contract negotiations? We have to see how he bounces back, especially if his knee feels "weird" and is a "strange feeling". Lance goes on to say he thinking the starting pitching will have to carry the team this year, because the offense won't be nearly as good. That may be true, but asking a rotation of Roy Oswalt, who needs to be completely healthy, Andy Pettitte, who might not be 100% yet, Roger Clemens, who is 42, and Brandon Backe, who doesn't have an out pitch against lefties, and a mystery 5th starter to 'carry the team' is pretty risky. I agree that we don't have much of a choice anymore.

Are the Detroit Tigers insane??? 5 years and 75 million for a 31 year old outfielder, coming off an injury, who has never posted a 1000 OPS? I can't imagine any team was offering anything close to that. I guess the Tigers needed to 'make a move', but this reeks of desperation.

I'm hosting a Super Bowl Party today for most of my math colleagues (makes me sound professional, huh?) and I gotta clean up, so I'll talk to you all later.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A: Randy Winn, Jose Cruz Jr., and Mike Cameron.

Q: Who are 3 above average, underrated CF's that the Astros would do well to trade for.

I was just checking their stats, and it's eerie how similar these guys are.

Winn Cruz Jr. Cameron
Age 30 30 32
Bats B B R
BA ('04, career) 286, 284 242, 250 231, 248
OBP ('04, career) 346, 344 333, 336 319, 340
SLG ('04, career) 427, 411 433, 455 479, 440
SB% ('04, career) 75, 68 64, 74 78, 78
OPS+ ('04, career) 107, 99 101, 103 104, 105
Range Factor as a CF ('04, career) 2.71, 2.66 3.00, 2.40 2.67, 2.74
2005 salary 3.5 mil 4 mil 2 year / 16 mil

Cameron also has the most injury concerns, although the latest reports have his wrist healing quickly and he may be ready for Opening Day.

So, going stat-by-stat, Winn has the highest BA (basically irrelevant), Winn has the highest OBP (thought it's very close, espeicially career OBP), Cameron has the highest slugging (despite playing much of his career in Seattle, an extreme pitcher's park), Cameron has the best SB%, Win had the highest OPS+ (though Cameron has the highest career OPS+), Cameron has the best career Range Factor as a CF (Winn is close, Cruz Jr. is fairly low, I shouldn't have even used 2004 stats for Cruz since he played 1 game there), and Winn has the lowest '05 salary (then Cruz, and Cameron is signed for the next two years at 2/16).

What does it all mean? I like Cameron as much as anybody, and he's a defensive magician, but 2 years / 16 for a guy for a 32 year old with some injury questions isn't too appealing. I prefer taking a one-year flier on Winn or Cruz Jr., and if I had to pick one, I like Randy Winn. Cruz Jr. might sell more tickets or have a big year playing for his dad, though. Either one would make an excellent 2005 Astros CF, and would solve a lot of problems for our team.

No news is bad news. Are we even thinking about trading for Winn or Cruz Jr. or Cameron anymore? I'm pretty disappointed in Purpura. Either he thinks we can compete with the team as currently constructed, or he's incapable of making a move. I'm scared either way.

JT got his first fantasy baseball magazine yesterday, and it had a few interesting things to say:

1. They don't recommend anybody in the Astros bullpen besides Lidge.

Normally, I wouldn't either, but check out some of these 2nd half splits:

Qualls, 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8 BB / 24 K in 33 IP
Harville, 3.03 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 16 BB / 29 K in 29.2 IP
Wheeler, 2.51 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 3 BB / 9 K in 14.1 IP as an Astro

The only thing that scares me with these 3 guys is none of them have good numbers against lefties. But if Harville can cut down on his walks, these 3 can form a league-average middle of the pen. Toss in Lidge, Franco / Gallo, and Munro / Burba, and you've got a not-horrible bullpen. Not great, either, but we sat and watched Mecir / Osuna / Hammond sign. Oops.

2. They don't like Brandon Backe at all.

I kinda agree here. What do you believe: a few late-season and postseason miracles, or a year-long 4.30 ERA / 1.52 WHIP and a 27 BB / 54 K ratio in 67.0 innings? Again, lefties eat him alive (.347 BA allowed).

I still think he should be our 4th starter; he's young, and he's a converted pitcher, so he's still learning. But expecting a sub-4.00 ERA is crazy.

If we don't trade for a CF, what's our Opening Day Lineup?


and that'll be going up against Mark Mulder of St. Louis. Ouch.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Arbitration dates are coming up for Tim Redding, Pete Munro, and Roy Oswalt. I recommend we sign all three, Oswalt in particular, and hopefully to a multi-year deal, for a few reasons:

1. It's likely to be less expensive to sign him to a 4 year deal now than arbitration this year and a 3 year deal next year. (7+3/36 or 4/40, for example).

2. Lance Berkman was on a sports show on 610 radio the other day and he essentially said he expects Beltran-type money. I just don't think we're going to re-sign Lance; I think he's probably going to at least want to test the FA market. If we can sign Roy O now, at least we'd have a reference point to dealing with Berkman and it would show him we're serious about fielding a semi-competitive team over the next few years instead of giving up and rebuilding.

I've said this before, but several of Oswalt's most comparable pitchers ( again, if you're curious) are Mike Mussina and David Cone, who remained productive into their mid 30's. Some of Berkman's comps did not (Albert Belle, Tim Salmon).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

No baseball updates, that I can find. What's that? You want to know my daily schedule?

7:00am - Alarm clock goes off. Hit snooze.
7:05am - Alarm clock goes off. Curse, mumble, and get up.
7:15am - Honey Bunches of Oats time. Man, you can't beat HBo'O.
7:30am - Leave for the NAU REC Center with Mike. Wonder (as we drive through semi-darkness) why I get up so early.
7:45 am - Read the AZ Daily Sun (Andy, they need you, their articles are pretty pitiful) while biking
8:00 am - 30 min. of cross training, strategically placed next to as many TV's with ESPN on as possible.
8:30 am - Shower, shave, leave for Adel Math Building (The Compound).
9:10 am - Teach on MWF, Lab Aide on TR.
10:20 am - Ditto
11:15 am - Lunch, if it's MWF. 2 more statistics classes to go to it it's TR.
12:40 pm - Lab Aide, if it's MWF. 1 more statisitics class if it's TR.
1:50 pm - Statistics class, if it's MWF. Freedom and lunch, it's it's TR.
2:40 pm - DONE. (unless it's Tuesday, then I have office hours from 3 - 6:30)

I usally try and update the blog somewhere in there and hopefully play a few games of Knotball or goof around in there. The other GTA's in the department are nuts, one is obsessed with Seinfeld, one with snowboarding, and the other with Invader Zim and Futurama. Yep, strange people.

Most afternoons I do homework or walk home or run errands or something. Hopefully it's warmed up to 40 degrees by then.

Wait! New article up at Astros Daily, "Handicapping the Central". Gotta analyze it.

Cubs comments -

1. Yeah, their starting pitching could be damn good, but the fact that Prior was injured and Kerry Wood always seems to be almost injured isn't just a coincidence - Dusty Baker is a slave driver when it comes to young pitchers. Expect at least one of Prior / Wood / Zambrano to go on the DL sometime this year.

2. Their bullepn isn't reliable? Well, it may well be better than ours. Hawkins is a great reliever; forget the "he can't handle the pressure" crap, he'll be fine.

3. They also lost Alou, in addition to Sosa. Their infield will be tremendous (Ramirez, Garciaparra, Walker, Lee) and their outfield will be pretty bad, especially if they don't play DuBois (Hairston, Patterson, Burnitz, UGH)

Cards comments-

1. Edmonds and Walker are both damn good but can't be said to be 'in the prime' of their careers. Edmonds was suspiciously healthy last season, Pujols still has that heel injury, Walker is old. Injuries are a concern.

2. I guarantee the Cards' pitching will regress a lot this year. Mulder has injury issues, Matt Morris has no K rate anymore, and if Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis combine for 400 innings of a sub-4.00 ERA I will eat my hat. The losses of Dan Haren, Kiko Caleron, and Edgar Renteria will hurt. A lot.

3. It's DAN Haren, sheesh. Mulder needs to re-find his control, and quick.

4. They'll still have the defense, but the pitching has to be a concern, and there are plenty of studies that will tell you a team that wins over 100 games one year generally drops 10 or so games in the standings the next year simply because there is a high probability that team got fairly lucky (injuries, breakout seasons, etc.) the year before.

Astros comments:

1. "The Astros will score enough runs." Typical non-fact-based excrement. What the hell does that mean? Sure, a rotation of Oswalt / Pettitte / Clemens / Backe / Mr. X looks good on paper, but a lot of things could go wrong - Oswalt has injury concerns, Is Pettitte all the way back?, Clemens is 42, Backe came out of nowhere last year, who's #5?

As for the offense, Biggio is projected to fall off a cliff one of these years, and he doesn't walk much anymore, Bagwell's shoulder isn't getting any better, will Berkman be back to full health? I think the offense will revolve more around finding out what Lane, Ensberg, Burke, and Everett can do - we know Biggio and Bagwell will decline, and Berkman can't really do too much better.

2. Yeah, talent's a little short, but we've got some kids who might be able to step up. The best bullpens are usually put together on the cheap from in-organization guys, so if a few guys step up (Qualls, Harville, Burns?, Astacio?) it could be pretty decent. I do think our OF defense as it looks right now (Biggio / Lane / Berkman) will be atrocious, subpar at each position. That's a big concern for flyball pitchers Oswalt and Backe.

3. The club didn't lose that much with Kent, as we have Burke waiting, but Beltran would have been nice. We absolutely spent too much time on Beltran; we should have decided on an earlier deadline (mid-Dec.?) so if he said no we could move on without missing out on everybody (J.D. Drew, Odalis Perez, Adrian Beltre, Matt Clement).

4. In order for Houston to win they will need Brandon Backe, a fifth starter, at least three relievers, Chris Burke, Morgan Ensberg, and a centerfielder to emerge at the same time. What are the odds?

That's actually about right. What are the odds? About the same odds of Jim Edmonds staying healthy all year, Chris Carpenter dominating, Jason Marquis dominating, Tony Womack being good again, and Kiko Calero stepping up. In other words, it happens every year to some team.

I don't feel like doing the Reds, Brewers, and Pirates yet. Maybe tomorrow. We oughta try and trade for Austin Kearns, the Reds have Griffey / Wily Mo Pena (great name) / Adam Dunn.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"According to TSN's Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs will announce the signing of Jeromy Burnitz once the Sammy Sosa deal is finalized.It'll be a one-year, $5 million contract with a mutual option for 2006 that could make the deal worth as much as $11.5 million. Burnitz shouldn't have much trouble hitting 30 homers while playing half his games in Wrigley Field, but he's not going to be a big asset for the Cubs in right field. This makes the Sammy Sosa trade a net loss for a team that already hadn't had a great winter."

Preach on, Rotoworld, preach on. From an Astros fan's perspective, I love this signing. I've talked about Burnitz a fair amount this offseason, since for a while it looked like the Astros might sign him. Here are the most important things I said:

Burnitz, road, 2004: .244 / .327 / .448 (775 OPS), 13 HR, 29 BB in 270 AB.

Cameron is also one of the best (perhaps the best) defensive CF in the game (career Range Factor of 2.74 vs. 2.36 league average) and Burnitz is...not (career CF Range Factor of 1.77 vs. league average of 2.24).

Yeah, I know Burnitz will be playing right field for the Cubs rather than center, but he's still getting older and slower. Burnitz is 35, coming off a Coors-inflated season, and is a below-average defender. The Cubs likely outfield of Hairston or Dubois or Hollandsworth / Patterson / Burnitz may not have an 800 OPS among them.

Ok, so Burnitz is off the table, Astros, so trade Tim Redding and Mike Lamb for Jose Cruz Jr. already!

Intramural basketball is right around the corner, and our team has 4 guys over 6'0''. Watch out for NAU Math Re-Representin'. And Tennis and Disc Golf Doubles is only 2 months away...
Man, I love sports.
I covered most of the Astros prospects yesterday, but I did leave one out:

Tommy Whiteman, SS.

Whiteman split time between AA, where he hit .336 / .381 / .473 but with relatively few XBH (22) and walks (20) in 277 AB's. He was then promoted to AAA, where he hit .276 / .336 / .337, and again didn't walk or hit for power. He also made a combined 17 errors in 93 games (not a terrible total for a shortstop, but not great), and he's already 25, so I'm not too high on him. I guess he'd be our best SS prospect if Everett went away (though I wouldn't mind seeing Burke shift to SS and Conrad go to 2B), but that's more an indictment of the state of our minor league system than Whiteman's excellence. Not a bad player, but little patience, little power, and an average-to-below-average glove at SS don't predict future success.

The Sosa trade looks like it's going through, and rumor has it that the Cubs are close to signing Jeromy Burnitz. This is great news for Astros fans; an OF of Hairston or DuBois / Patterson / Burnitz is pretty bad, probably worse than Biggio / Lane / Berkman assuming Berkman comes back healthy. The Tigers are also rumored to be offering Magglio Ordonez a 5 year deal (is anyone else even offering a 3 year deal??), so they'll probably get him. That leaves trade as our only real option to improving the OF. I still think Randy Winn from Seattle (they have Ibanez, Jeremy Reed, and Ichiro in the OF) and Cruz Jr. from Tampa (they've got Crawford / Baldelli / Gathwright / Danny Bautista) as the two most likely suspects. Our trade bait should be Tim Redding / Brandon Duckworth / Willy Taveras / Mike Burns / Todd Self / Mike Lamb. Surely some combination of that could bring us Winn or Cruz Jr. I just hope we don't trade Ensberg, Lane, Burke, or Astacio.