Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Don't know why, but we're having terrible road woes for the second straight year. And it starts with the big boys. Mo and Lance both have OPS 200 points higher at home! What's the deal?
Speaking of which, it's time to evaluate some of our players and see what we can do to spark more offense.
Preston Wilson: Started very hot, hitting opposite-field homers like it was the name of his game. Then he struck out in 8 straight plate appearances and went on a month-long slump. He's been better of late, getting timely hits. His OPS is approaching .700, so we should ride him now.
Jason Lane: Jack's encouragement ("The hits will come, Jason") has not come true. He still looks lost sometimes, and appears to have made up mind to swing before he even sees a pitch. His routine? Watch strike one down the middle. Swing at strike two in the dirt. Strike out fanning at high heat. It's troublesome. But then he hits a 500-foot bomb. I'm hoping he'll repeat last year's second half. I can't exactly fault Garner for benching a sub-.200 hitter, but everyone knows Lane's a good player.
Willy T: His .650 OPS is about what was expected. He can do better, but if you want him to slug .400, you're dreaming.
Adam Everett: Enough about his defense. His .261 OBP is killing us. Mo and Lance are both slugging higher (.597 & .585) than Adam's OPS. He had a huge three-run double against the Nationals, but is it actually possible to do worse than he did at the plate last year?
Chris Burke: Mired in a 4-for-35 slump, but still showing promise with an OPS hovering over .800. With Everett's decline, we should check him out as an option at shortstop.
10-18 in May. Glad to see June is upon us. Cincinnati, Chicago and Atlanta at home, coming right up. And Interleague play to follow. Oh, and we picked up a kid named Clemens. Maybe he can help us out.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Roy Oswalt (5-3, 3.36 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (6-4, 5.12)
Andy Pettitte (3-6, 5.76) vs. Chris Carpenter (4-2, 2.63)
Taylor Bucholz (3-4, 5.57) vs. Jeff Suppan (5-4, 5.12)
Brad Ausmus on the 4-run ninth-inning rally yesterday:
"It has the potential to be the fulcrum of the season."
Berkman has great numbers against Marquis; hopefully he's back in the starting lineup, although Mike Lamb has done great things (.383, 3 HR in May) lately.
Start us off strong, Roy O.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Preston Wilson looks BAD. I've been watching the Astros-Nationals series, and maybe I should have noticed this before, but Wilson takes absolutely HUGE swings at everything, and whiffs most of the time. Maybe he's just in a slump, but would it kill him to shorten his swing just a touch?
Morgan Ensberg is crushing anything on the inner half.
Brad Lidge got a little unlucky yesterday. First of all, he was called in with a runner on 3rd and 1 out. He walked Matthew Lecroy after getting ahead of him 1-2. He got Daryle Ward to hit a hard ground ball to 1st that somehow got by Berkman. Then Soriano blooped one in, Clayton hit a grounder through the left side, etc. He didn't pitch that badly.
How about a quick league at some of the Astros minor league stars?
Round Rock (AAA):
Brooks Conrad, 2B: .263 / .314 / .497, 23 extra-base hits in 180 AB. Those aren't really impressive numbers in a hitter's park like Round Rock, but I'm still a Conrad fan, just because any middle infielder who can slug .450 in the major leagues is pretty decent.
Humberto Quintero, C: .270 / .298 / .438. He doesn't walk. I'm more excited about our catcher in AA.
Jason Hirsh, RHP: 4-2, 2.88 ERA, 22/45 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 59.1 IP. After a semi-slow start, Big Hirsh has gotten it going lately, and will probably get called up sometime later this year and will likely be in the rotation next year.
Corpus Christi (AA):
J.R. House, C: .337 / .396 / .503. Wow. I was cautiously optimistic about our signing of House earlier this offseason - he was a top catching prospect for the Pirates a few years back, blew out his shoulder, and was out for a while. But look at him now! I think there's a great chance that House takes over for Ausmus after '07.
Ben Zobrist, SS: .315 / .418 / .461 - I haven't mentioned this guy before, but he's quietly put up great OBP's as a shortstop. Adam Everett is a wizard with the glove and he's still cheap, but if he ever gets expensive Zobrist is a better offensive player than Everett right now.
Hunter Pence, LF: .310 / .357 / .630, 13 HR. Definitely the best offensive prospect in the organization. He's still working his way up, but the kid is slugging .630. I would think the Astros would move him to AAA pretty soon, and I'd like to see him get a good look at the LF job in '07, since our chances of re-signing Preston Wilson aren't looking too good. Pence has a ton of power and a 'weird swing', according to most scouts.
Matt Albers, LHP: 5-1, 2.20 ERA, 57.1 IP, 19/40 BB/K - Nice year so far for Albers - a few more strikeouts would be sweet, and he doesn't have as high a ceiling as the next guy on this list, but so far, so good.
Troy Patton, LHP: 1-5, 4.20 ERA, 45.0 IP, 18 BB, 53 K - Forget about the record and the ERA - Patton's WHIP has been good, he's only allowed 2 HR, and his strikeout rate is still excellent. In my opinion Patton is the best pitching prospect in the organization, although it will take him a while to reach The Show.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Yankees reportedly have signed Richard Hidalgo to a deal. I don't particularly like the Yankees and have no strong ties to Hidalgo, but it's always nice to see a former Astro get a chance with another team. Doggy sports a .269 / .345 / .490 career line with 171 homers and 560 RBI in 987 games (including a .314/44/122 monster year in 2000). I think he'll either be a huge force or a huge bust with the Yanks. Either way, it'll be interesting to see how he fills in for Hideki.
By the way, I just bought the new album by EELS, and it's really good. It's called Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. Check it out.
Lamb has been swinging a hot bat lately. He filled in for Berkman, who missed the entire Giants series with a tight hammy, and did pretty well. Garner's been shaking up the lineup, keeping Lamb at first, moving Berkman to RF and benching Lane. He also put Willy T in the leadoff spot for a couple games and moved Ausmus up to 6th and then 2nd. Lane is underperforming, yes, and a few days off might get his head straight, but he is better than Lamb, so I hope this doesn't become a platoon just yet.
Oh, and Burke's off the DL; Super Joe is back at Round Rock. We now head to Capitol City to face the Nats. Their lineup is like ours: if you can get around their big bombers, they probably won't score any runs. If you don't let Soriano and Johnson hurt you, the rest of the lineup will take care of itself. Here are the pitching matchups:
Monday: Wandy vs. Day
Tuesday: Nieve vs. Ortiz
Wednesday: Oswalt vs. O'Connor
Thursday: Pettitte vs. Armas Jr.
Is three out of four too much to ask? I think not. Our last road trip was a disaster, but in our defense, the Rockies, Giants and Dodgers are all contenders for that NL West crown. Everyone knows the Nationals aren't going anywhere, so it's important we start this thing off right and take care of businiess. I'm really hoping Oswalt and Pettitte can find their grooves.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Interesting note: Willy T has had exactly one XBH since April 29. He's slugging .329, compared to Biggio's .479. They're both getting on-base around 33 percent of the time.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
"Ensberg took Rockies starter Jason Jennings to a full count with the scored tied 1-1 and the crowd on its feet and cheering wildly. He then homered to left field to drive in Biggio and Lance Berkman.
"During my at-bat you couldn't hear a thing," Ensberg said. "That stuff helps. I mean you can't hear at all. And I just think when it's difficult for you to concentrate because you're not used to it, it helps us because we are used to it."
Man, that's good stuff. I wonder if Ensberg immediately knew it was a home run and did one of his bat-flip things.
Trever Miller was activated from the DL and we sent Zeke Astacio down to AAA. I still have high hopes for Astacio, but he needs to keep starting, and he can do that at AAA. Hopefully Miller does better soon - I still like him more than Gallo, and it's a shame that they are both on the roster.
Tonight: Roy Oswalt vs. Aaron Cook. Cook shut us down the last time we played, so hopefully we'll remind him that we play a lot better at home for some reason.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
It's a shame Roy and Pettitte got rocked this week. After getting swept in Colorado, I expected at least one of them to throw a quality start. Roy, I think, just suffered a mental lapse in the bottom of the fifth in San Fran. Check out this play-by-play:
Winn tripled to deep right center
Vizquel lined out to center
Finley reached on fielder's choice, Winn scored (Berkman tried to come home on a grounder to first, but was late)
Greene singled to left
Sweeney tripled to deep center, Greene scored
Niekro singled to shallow center, Sweeney scored
After the Berkman error, he was visibly shaken and acted like he didn't even want to be out there. He tried hammering fastballs down the middle and they were crushed.
Pettitte, meanwhile, has been torched. His six-earned-in-five outing on Tuesday was his third outing allowing six or more runs. Of course, all his other five starts have been quality. I'm sure he can turn it around... I just hope his elbow feels fine.
I guess we can always use this as a selling point to Roger. Say to him, "Look at our starting pitching the last six games... We might be able to use a guy like you." A few weeks ago, I heard people saying, "Who needs Roger?" Well, we do.
0-for-the Road Trip. Wandy vs. Derek Lowe. Right now.
Monday, May 08, 2006
I'm referring, of course, to Burke's shoulder injury on Saturday. I'm hearing it's a subluxed left shoulder: a partial dislocation. Alyson Footer says he won't have surgery, just rehab. Why, I wonder, did Garner start him in RF anyway?
Getting swept by the Rockies doesn't upset me too much. Not that it doesn't suck, but everyone's going to get swept at some point, and I'd rather it be now than during the playoff hunt. Besides, all three were relatively close games, for Coors field anyway. It is a shame to not take advantage of the rarefied air — Jason Lane's homer was the only Astros bomb during the series.
What bothers me more is our hitters' tendency to fall flat against mediocre right-handed pitching. I'll give Jason Jennings and Aaron Cook some credit, but our lineup cannot simply roll over like this — it remind me so much of last year. It felt like those games were over in the sixth inning.
Ensberg's slumping again: he's only 3-for-22 in May, but he just looks bad at the plate. He's watching strike three sail right over the plate, and he's swinging at balls that he knows he shouldn't. He's tried altering his stance again: He's tried standing more upright and closing his stance a little. His swing is funny... it's either picture-perfect for a homer or a double, or he looks like garbage. Here's hoping he finds his stroke in California.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
A few notes, courtesy of Astros Daily:
Astros make an offer to Clemens
Apparently it's a pro-rated version of the 1 year /18 million deal Clemens had last season, which would make it worth around 12 million.
Adam Everett is the best fielding shorstop in the Majors:
According to the book The Fielding Bible, by John Dewan and Baseball Info Solutions, Everett is "quite simply the best shortstop in the Major Leagues." The book, released in February, attempts to quantify the value of defense for each player at the big league level.
According to Garner, the statistical analysis within the book concluded that Everett saves his team 25 runs per year due to his defensive capabilities.
Wow, that's pretty sweet. I know Everett is great defensively - I didn't know he was that great. Now just keep hitting .270 with some walks and a little power, and I'll be thrilled.
Roy Oswalt vs. Jason Marquis tonight, as we start a 2-game series with the Cardinals.
Astros vs. Marquis:
Brad Ausmus: 3-for-16 - 375 OPS
Lance Berkman: 9-16, 7 BB - 1633 OPS
Craig Biggio: 9-26 - 947 OPS
Morgan Ensberg: 8-19, 2 HR - 1158 OPS
Adam Everett: 6-22 - 577 OPS
Jason Lane: 6-15 - 904 OPS
Willy Taveras: 3-17 - 353 OPS
Preston Wilson: 3-16, 4 BB - 600 OPS
Lance Berkman and Ensberg have rocked against Marquis; Ausmus and Taveras have not. Let's go Roy O!
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Against Ben Sheets. Look for lots of Ks. And for the Brewers to test Lamb at third. Let's hope Nieve can quiet the Crew's bats... they've been going nuts. Hopefully he can go 6 innings for once.
Andy, did you watch the game? What did you think? Or anyone else, for that matter.
Monday, May 01, 2006
I have to run, more soon.