Category:MLB
Posted on: July 26, 2009 6:18 pm
 

A Three-Run First is the Precursor to Failure

The Astros scored three runs in the first inning today, and lost 8-3.  Once again, the pitching let the team down.

There's really not much to say about it.  Unless the Astros either get better performances from their starters, or get better starters, they're going to have trouble like this for the rest of the season.  At the moment, Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez are the only consistent (and good) starters in the rotation.  The rest are pretty much bad filler until Bud Norris and Yorman Bazardo are ready.  I doubt that'll be this season, aside from a call-up in September when they'll likely get put into the bullpen.

In other news, the Red Sox lost 6-2 to Baltimore.  Another bad performance from John Smoltz, who strikes out a lot of batters, but allows far too many hits and earned runs, even for a fifth starter.  Again, I have my doubts as to whether Francona (or Theo Epstein) will move Smoltz out of the rotation yet.  He looks done, but he has such a tremendous history of success that it's difficult to pronounce him done.  And due to the depth of the rotation, they've been loathe to start Clay Buchholz on a regular basis.  I'm not sure he'd be much worse than Smoltz at this point.  But, again, this is why I blog; Tito and Theo are great at what they do.  And I'm sure they'll figure this stuff out and get the team on a good playoff run again.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 25, 2009 11:56 pm
 

Astros Win Streak Ends, and Not in a Good Way

Well, Russ Ortiz went out and pitched his heart out, I guess.  It didn't do the Astros much good though, since he staked the Mets to a 3-0 lead in the 1st inning.  Tim Byrdak wasn't much better as he gave up a three-run homer to Jeff Francoeur.

The offense was pathetic tonight against rookie Jonathan Niese.  Four hits, all singles, and only one run.  Hunter Pence his a two-run shot in the 9th, but the damage had long been done.  I figured the Astros weren't going to run the table, but I didn't think they'd go out like this to the Mets, a team that has been struggling for the past month or longer.

If we hear anything from Russ Ortiz other than "I sucked tonight and it was mostly my fault we lost", it'll be far too much.  His whining after the start against the Nationals recently was tiresome.  Personally, I hope I don't hear any more whining from him.  But after this game, I'd be shocked if he didn't have something to say.

In other news, the Red Sox played a strong all-around game tonight, beating the Orioles 7-2.  Adam LaRoche homered in his first game with the team, and Big Papi hit a three-run shot.  Jon Lester pitched well, giving up two earned in 7.1 innings.  He's 9-7 on the season; not exactly what was expected, I'm sure, especially with Beckett and Wakefield outperforming him.
Posted on: July 25, 2009 12:19 am
 

Hampton Homers, Astros Defeat Santana

After successfully sweeping the Cardinals, the Astros got a night off before facing the New York Mets starting tonight at Minute Maid.

Johan Santana started for the Mets and looked a bit off from the beginning.  Mike Hampton wasn't exactly at his best, but got the win thanks to some help from the bullpen and Hunter Pence's timely outfield assist.

Chris Coste had the big hit, a 2-run double that scored Pence and Pudge Rodriguez.

In other news, the Red Sox finally broke their losing streak, beating Baltimore 3-1.  Brad Penny got the win, and is now 7-4.  How much longer he's with the team is anybody's guess.  Personally, I wouldn't get rid of pitching depth.  But that's just me.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:13 pm
 

Miguel Tejada One-Ups El Caballo

Not content to hit a grand slam or drive in a bunch of runs, Miguel Tejada went one better and won the game tonight for the Astros.  He knocked in Jeff Keppinger from second on a single to left field.

Another solid game for the Astros, though Chris Carpenter out-dueled our ace Roy Oswalt.  Oswalt gave up three earned in seven innings, Carpenter gave up two earned in eight.

In other news, the Red Sox were busy today, trading Julio Lugo for Chris Duncan, and acquiring Adam LaRoche from Pittsburgh for a couple prospects.  I can see why they wanted to get rid of Lugo (though they'll probably be paying his salary regardless), but I'm not quite sure why they wanted LaRoche.  Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis are both playing fairly well; Youkilis was an All-Star, while Lowell has been solid, if not quite spectacular following hip surgery.

Could more rest for Lowell be a factor?  Considering that he missed some time before the Break, maybe so.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 22, 2009 12:52 am
 

Wandy, Lee, Arias Spoil the Cardinals Day

Earlier tonight, Wandy Rodriguez threw seven solid innings for the Astros in an 11-6 win that was more dramatic than it should have been.

Carlos Lee came up big again, hitting a grand slam to provide timely offensive assistance on an already stellar evening.  Geoff Blum then followed on the next pitch with a home run to right.

Chad Paronto got his first (and maybe last) appearance with the major-league club tonight.  If he wasn't rusty, he was just bad. I'm not sure how he could be rusty, since he was playing well at Round Rock.  But hey, any excuse to defray the stench that now covers him is worthwhile.  I don't see how Cooper can justify using him again, though I'm sure he'll do it somehow.

Alberto Arias came back from a terrible outing in LA with a solid one tonight.  He had all the pitches working again, and fortunately did not need to make a play in the field.

Lance Berkman didn't even play tonight.  That's how good the Astros were.

In other news, Josh Beckett threw a complete game for the Red Sox...and lost 4-2.
Category: MLB
Tags: Astros, Red Sox, Wandy
 
Posted on: July 20, 2009 11:57 pm
 

El Caballo Strikes Again!

Carlos Lee hit a three-run HR to win the game tonight against St. Louis.

All I have to say is: this is what Astros fans expected from him.  Lee has been consistently good, approaching great at times.  Whether or not that justifies his enormous contract is still up for debate, unfortunately.

In other news, John Smoltz stinks.  He lost the game tonight for the Red Sox.

For whatever reason, I don't think Theo will get rid of him.  At least, not yet.  I'm not sure how many more chances he deserves...but that's why I write the blog and don't operate the team.  And I'm just fine with that.
Category: MLB
Tags: Astros, Red Sox
 
Posted on: July 20, 2009 1:17 pm
 

Houston Astros 2010 Payroll Projection

(note: all figures are taken from the excellent Cot's Baseball Contracts Blog )

Current Payroll: $104,785,000

2010 Payroll: $54.250 (includes buyout for D. Brocail’s 2010 team option)

Free Agents: M. Tejada, J. Valverde, L. Hawkins, M. Hampton, D. Erstad, I. Rodriguez, G. Blum, A. Boone, J. Michaels

Arbitration-eligible Players: W. Rodriguez (Arb. 2), G. Geary (Arb. 3), T. Byrdak (Arb. 3), H. Quintero (Arb. 2), C. Sampson (Arb. 1), H. Pence (Arb. 1), M. Bourn (Arb. 1), J. Keppinger (Arb. 1)

Other: B. Moehler (mutual option for 2010), R. Ortiz (unknown)

Breakdown of 2010 Payroll:

Carlos Lee: $18.5 million

Lance Berkman: $14.5 million

Roy Oswalt: $15 million

Kazuo Matsui: $5 million

Doug Brocail: $250,000 (buyout for team option)


Lee’s contract has two years remaining (2011, 2012) @ $18.5 million per.

Berkman’s contract has a team option for 2011 with a buyout of $2 million

Oswalt’s contract has one year remaining (2011), with a team option for 2012 that has a $2 million buyout

With at least $54 million already committed to 2010, it is apparent that the team will be in “payroll-cutting” mode again.  I do not think it is likely that the team will add more payroll via free agency; any additions will be made from the farm system.  The farm does have a couple prospects worth adding, but there’s not much there that is major-league ready NOW.  So any additions would be small, but notable.

The only thing that cannot be readily predicted is the one contract in the “Other” pile: Brian Moehler’s mutual option.  I think the club would be interested in keeping him, but with Bud Norris and Yorman Bazardo looking fairly sharp at Round Rock, one of them might get tabbed to replace him.  And I’m not sure what Moehler thinks of the team (I do know that it’s unlikely he’d be starting for any other team that’s even remotely better than us, though).

The team also holds a 2010 option on Doug Brocail.  Unless he pitches like Hawkins did last season, he should not be coming back.  It does seem egregious to give him a quarter-million to go away, but that’d be preferable to giving him another $2.75-3 million to pitch in 2010.

Now, to the Free Agents for 2010.  I don’t think there’s too much out there that would be an upgrade to what we have.  That said, I’m not certain that the team will re-sign all of the free agents.  The most important would probably be Tejada and Blum.  They fill key positions in the infield and have performed well so far in 2009.  I think Blum would take a deal roughly similar to the one he signed before 2008.  Tejada, on the other hand, will likely want “fair market value”, which he’ll believe to be at least eight million per year.  If that is the case, I might balk, especially because the team has Maysonet ready to replace him (or replace Matsui in 2011).  I don’t think Maysonet will be an offensive juggernaut, but he’ll be adequate.  I also think Pudge Rodriguez should get a second year starting at catcher.  I highly doubt that Jason Castro will be ready, though I am high on him to start in 2011.  I think Castro could ably fill the back-up catcher’s role in 2010.  With Pudge mentoring him, Castro can only get better (and he’s already very good for his level).

The free agents I would not sign include Valverde, Hawkins, Hampton, Erstad, Boone, and Michaels.  Almost all of these have to do with performance ahead of anything else.

  • Valverde has not been healthy for most of the season.  Since returning from injury, he’s performed fairly well, but his asking price will be too much for a team that doesn’t really need his services.
  • Hawkins, Hampton, Erstad, and Michaels have all under-performed or just flat out stunk.
  • Boone, unfortunately, came down with a heart ailment in the offseason and is likely questionable at-best for 2010.  I feel bad for the guy, but I don’t think that’s a good reason to re-sign him.

Of the arbitration-eligible players, the ones I would retain are Wandy Rodriguez, Byrdak, Sampson, Pence, Bourn, and Keppinger.  I would non-tender Geary and Quintero.  Geary has not been healthy for most, if not all, of the season.  He also stunk practically every time he pitched.  Quintero has a long history of stinking, and his value as a back-up catcher is practically nil now that Castro is approaching readiness.  Good riddance to them both.

  • Wandy has continued his improvement, despite a rough stretch in late May/early June where he lost four of five starts (receiving a no-decision in the other).  His consistency and mental approach are still somewhat questionable, but since he has already won 9 games, it’s probably safe to say that this will be his breakthrough season.  He asked for $3 million before this season and received $2.6 million.  His number this year will probably be around five or six million, and my guess is that he’ll get $4-4.5 million.
  • Tim Byrdak is a capable left-hander out of the bullpen.  He may not always be the most reliable, but his usage pattern is also quite erratic.  He received $1 million this season and will likely make around $1.5-2 million in 2010.
  • Chris Sampson is probably the most reliable reliever in the bullpen, or was until his shoulder flared up on him.  I think his shoulder was the cause of his recent bad outings.  Entering his first year of arbitration, I think he’ll make around $1 million, likely with performance bonuses integrated into his contract.
  • Hunter Pence has followed up his sophomore slump quite ably.  He was voted in by the players for his first All-Star Game, and has played superb defensively.  Offensively, he’s doing better in most categories.  I think Pence gets a big raise in his first arbitration year, somewhere in the area of $3-5 million.  Pence will likely be the face of the franchise once Berkman and Oswalt retire, so whatever he gets in 2010 should be viewed as a steal.
  • Michael Bourn has showed ridiculous improvement in 2009.  His OPS has already jumped almost 200 points.  And he’s batting .286 through July 19<sup>th</sup> .  He also leads the league in triples and stolen bases, and plays good defense in a key position.  Whether or not he can repeat this season (or improve on it, for that matter) is questionable.  But there’s no doubt that Bourn has also earned a pretty substantial raise in his first year of arbitration.  I think he’ll receive around $2-4 million.  He should get less than Pence because of the All-Star nod, and Pence’s superior offensive skills.
  • Jeff Keppinger has performed quite well in a 3B platoon with Blum.  I’m not sure Keppinger is ready to start in 2010, but I think he’ll earn $1-2 million in his first arbitration year.  He and Blum should be on equal footing in that regard.

So, in addition to the contracts already in place for 2010, I would add Tejada, I. Rodriguez, and Blum from the free agents.  Byronlhsdrmr suggested a two-year deal for Tejada for $8 million, with a team option for a third year.  This seems like a sound move, so I’ll use that.  I would then sign Rodriguez and Blum to one-year deals for $2 million and $1.75 million, respectively (and hope that their agents agree).

From the arbitration-eligible players, I would re-sign Wandy Rodriguez, Byrdak, Sampson, Pence, Bourn, and Keppinger, with the respective numbers already indicated.

So here’s what that would look like, laid out:

Carlos Lee: $18.5 million

Lance Berkman: $14.5 million

Roy Oswalt: $15 million

Kazuo Matsui: $5 million

Doug Brocail: $250,000 (buyout for team option)

Miguel Tejada: $8 million

Ivan Rodriguez: $2 million

Geoff Blum: $1.75 million

Wandy Rodriguez: $4.5 million

Tim Byrdak: $1.5 million

Chris Sampson: $1 million

Hunter Pence: $5 million

Michael Bourn: $3 million

Jeff Keppinger: $1.75 million

Total: $81.75 million

That leaves enough money to sign the rest of the league minimum players, but not much else.  Frankly, since there isn’t much available on the market in 2010 anyway, I don’t think this is a bad thing.  And I’m sure if a need pops up, Drayton would probably spend money to improve upon it.  Moehler isn’t on there because I don’t know the amount of his mutual option, though I would exercise it.  I don’t think there’s enough pitching depth to lose Moehler, Hampton, and Russ Ortiz.

Here are the projected lineup and rotation for 2010:

Bourn CF

Tejada SS

Berkman 1B

Lee LF

Pence RF

Blum/Keppinger 3B

I. Rodriguez C

Matsui 2B


Oswalt SP/Ace

W. Rodriguez SP

Moehler SP

Norris SP

Bazardo SP

 

Sampson RP

Byrdak RP

Wright RP

Arias RP

Fulchino RP

Gervacio RP/CL

 

The pitching looks to be the weak point again in 2010, if my projection was realized.  Having Norris and Bazardo take spots in the rotation is probably not the best idea, but there’s a lack of solid free agent pitching, and filling a spot with Hampton or Russ Ortiz again isn’t much better.  So, start the rookies!

In the bullpen, Gervacio and Wright step in for Valverde and Brocail.  I only have 11 pitchers in there because I think that’s the amount needed.  If I was to include a 12<sup>th</sup> , I’d probably have to think about it for awhile.  Either that or I would update the projection to have the team re-sign Hampton , and then stick Norris or Bazardo into the ‘pen.  Honestly, I think it’d be better to have 11 pitchers than to have Hampton back in 2010.

Thanks for reading.  Please comment or ask questions if you have any.

Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com