Blog Entry

Pre Spring Training Notebook: Part 1

Posted on: February 1, 2010 6:47 pm
The Astros report--pitchers and catchers at least--to Kissimmee in eighteen days. This, along with some uninstigated optimism has my heart pounding for baseball season. My beloved Syracuse Orange[men] are up to #3 in the AP, they have only one loss, I have tickets to the 'Nova game and yet I cannot hold back my anticipation for spring training. That's right, not the actual baseball season, but SPRING TRAINING. Any of you baseball nuts, like me, will understand where I'm coming from. At the start of every season their is every reason to believe your team has a shot--I apologize for fans of: the Nationals, the Pirates, the Royals and the Blue Jays, for whom this is not true. I fully believe, despite a myriad of doubt coming from fans, experts and most everyone--other than the usually off-his-rocker Richard Justice (of the Houston Chronicle)--that the Astros will buck the consenus and prove to be a better than expected team. Essentially, my fellow Astros fans, there is reason to watch and follow along for the next seven+ months. It also occurs to me that I am still, undeservably so, in possession of the "writer's badge" for Astros coverage. So, I might as well begin chronicling the Astros' 2010 season, beginning on February 1st--one day before the LOST premiere.

I will begin with my "Pre Spring Training Notebook." This will be a quick sum up of the offseason and the names we can expect to see come actual Spring Training--which is again, EIGHTEEN days away. This will be done in four parts: The Subtractions, The Additions, The Prospects, The Holdovers. Today I bring you...

The Subtractions

Miguel Tejada SS - Perhaps the biggest loss for the Astros--certainly at the plate and in the clubhouse, at least--Tejada was not even offered a contract. We could debate whether Ed Wade should have made an attempt to sign Tejada back at a discounted price, but I think any conversation would be pointless. The fact remains, he was not resigned--an added bonus, he did not sign with Cardinals. The question I pose to you, the one I think matters, is: How much offense did we lose when we failed to even attempt to resign him. I would argue not much. In two seasons with the 'Stros Tejada averaged a .326 OBP and .435 SLG%. In comparison: Marlon Byrd OF (formerly of the Rangers) recorded a .329 OBP and .479 SLG% last year, Mark Teahen 3B (formerly of the Royals) recorded a .325 OBP and .408 SLG%, Cody Ross OF (Marlins) hit a .321 OBP and .469 SLG% and Melky Cabrera OF (formerly of the Yankees) hit for a .336 OBP and .416 SLG%. My point? Tejada put up solid numbers, NOT EXCEPTIONAL ONES. Not the kind of numbers you expect from one of your team's top offensive contributers. His numbers were merely good enough for average role players. Every team, of course, needs these players. However, they should be replaceable. Add to this fact his poor defensive ability--especially since he's being replaced by a good defensive reputation, Tommy Manzella--and we [the Astros illustrious fan base] don't have too much to worry about. How's that for optimism?

Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins RP - I've decided to pair these two for two reasons 1. To save myself some time (I always get excited to start writing, then twenty minutes later, yawn...) 2. These two served the same role in 2009, co-closer. Both Valverde and Hawkins are big loses. My ideal plan heading into the offseason would have been to offer both arbitration. Allow Valverde to sign elsewhere and collect the draft picks and either keep Hawkins via arb. or collect a draft pick for him as well. Half of that came to fruition. However, seeing Hawkins sign with the Brewers hurt--not only because they are a division rival too. If the Astros are going to spend 15 million on Brandon Lyon, why couldn't they have spent half that on resigning Hawkins, who proved that he could be a more than effective closer in 2009. In my opinion, letting Hawkins walk was the biggest mistake of the offseason, however, he is old and his track record isn't great, so I could be wrong here. Ultimately thhough, the production of this pair will be very difficult to make up this season--eighth and ninth innings=DANGER!

Darin Erstad 1B/OF - I know, I know, we shouldn't even have to mention him. However, is there a better guy in sports? It's sad to see the former Nebraska punter go. He was a good bench player in 2008--even if regulated to morale booster last season--and that production off the bench will have to come from somewhere. I do not like Houston's bench as it stands. His departure will open the door for Cory Sullivan or one of the prospects to become Houston's fifth outfielder.

Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz - Can you say addition by subtraction?

At first glance you may say that Houston lost too much between the trio of Tejada, Valverde and Hawkins. I will admit, all of those loses hurt, although some more than others. However, with their departures, the composition of this team will change. The team is getting younger, the team is getting better on defense. It will ultimately be tough to say which team ('09 or '10) seems better. However, I would make a case for the 2010 team's new look. Especially when you take into consideration all of the addition by subtraction--and I'm not talking about Hampton and Moehler...

Cecil Cooper - COME ON, it wouldn't be an Astros offseason post if I didn't mention the cancer that was Cecil Cooper (I am sure "Coop" is a lovely man if I ever had the pleasure to meet him). The players hated him and he was a terrible tactitian. His departure can only mean good things for the Astros in 2010, right?

Discuss these former 'Stros or anything else in the comments section.

Due Up: Additions


Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: February 6, 2010 8:16 pm

Pre Spring Training Notebook: Part 1

It looks like we didn't really lose THAT much.  The problem is that not only did we lose players, we don't have set replacements for them.

Manzella replacing Tejada could be disastrous offensively.  I agree with Nashmeister completely on Manzella.

I think at this point I'd rather have Hawkins than Brandon Lyon.  But I'm willing to take a wait-and-see approach on this one, because Lyon could be better now that he's back in the NL.  I'm not sure about his stats in AZ, but he was not very good in Detroit.

One thing we can agree on I'm sure is that Ed Wade overpaid for Lyon.  That's the part that bothers me the most.  He's still obsessed with the bullpen, and he still overpays for marginal players (and Lyon is marginal until he proves otherwise).

I'm glad Hampton and Ortiz are gone.  Two more bad signings by Wade expunged.  As far as Erstad goes, losing bench production isn't a good thing, but it's not like he was still a great player.  He did well with us, but I think he can be replaced.  I don't think Cory Sullivan is the answer, and I'm concerned about the bench mostly because I have no idea who's there at this point.

And what can I say about Cecil Cooper that hasn't been said by about 150,000 other people?  He was a terrible manager, and I'm glad to see Brad Mills here (for the moment, at least...I'll give him a good couple of months before I start judging his performance).

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: February 2, 2010 3:13 pm

Pre Spring Training Notebook: Part 1

Agreed on Tejada. Despite his high batting average and surprising 2009 season, he really didn't bring much to the table as far as power, OBP, and clutch-hitting go. And while I didn't find his defense to be terrible (aside from the rain-delay continuation game that he lost for us about two minutes in), Manzella should help out our pitchers a great deal. That said, I've got a feeling that Manzella is going to make us nostalgic for Adam Everett's .240 batting average.

I've got some faith in Lyons and Lindstrom, too. While Hawkins and Valverde were good, we were still one of the worst teams in baseball in terms of blown saves last year. I think the bullpen will be much improved this year, especially with a healthy Sampson and Arias having a year under his belt.

The bench is definitely worrisome though... Tie-game in the eighth, runner in scoring position, pitcher spot up. Who do you turn to now? Gone are the days of Loretta, Lamb, Erstad, etc. It's going to be up to one of our 3rd-basemen; can Blum or Keppinger get it done? I foresee a lot of 3-2 losses in the 11th this year.

I agree that there's some hope for this team (something I didn't feel last year at all). Oswalt, Wandy, Myers, Norris is respectable (although it's going to be up to those first two guys to pick up 15+ wins each). But with the lack of offense we're dealing with, I have a feeling it's also going to be a frustrating season. I think we'll see a lot of small-ball and conservative managing. Here's to hoping our big bats wake up this year and show us some power.

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