Saturday, December 22, 2012

Roster Moves

The Astros announced on Friday that they had finalized the long-rumored deal to sign Free Agent Jose Veras. The right-handed relief pitcher has a major league career 4.01 ERA and 1.358 WHIP in 327 relief appearances scattered over seven seasons. He was first signed by Tampa Bay out of the Dominican Republic in 1998 and has played in the majors for the Yankees, Cleveland, Florida, Pittsburgh and, most recently, the Brewers.

The press release accompanying the announcement noted that Veras was tied for second in the majors in appearances over the last two seasons and that his strikeout rate and opponent batting average were in the top ten in the National League over the last three seasons. What they failed to note, however, was a high walk rate -- 4.9 walks per nine innings for his career and 5.4 walks per nine in 2012.

In order to make room for Veras on the 40-man roster, 3B/1B Brandon Laird was outrighted to Oklahoma City. OF Che-Hsuan Lin was also outrighted to Oklahoma City in order to make room for RHP John Ely who was picked up in a trade earlier this week. According to Brian Smith of the Chronicle, both Laird and Lin made it through waivers without being claimed.

I have updated the ongoing Off-Season Transaction list to reflect these moves.

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caracas over Magallanes 10-4
It was a rough night for 2B Jose Altuve who hit three flyball outs to right field before switching things up in his last at-bat and grounding into a force out for Magallanes.

Zulia over Aragua 5-0
2B Jose Martinez went hitless for Aragua with one strikeout.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Toros over Estrellas 4-3
*RHP Jose Trinidad, in his only appearance of the winter for the LIDOM, walked the only batter he faced for Estrellas. Regular season play ended last night for Estrellas.

Aguilas over Gigantes 6-4
SS Jonathan Villar went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Aguilas.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Perth over Adelaide 10-2
Perth has already played two games today (I feel like such a slacker) and RHP Cameron Lamb pitched an inning in a non-save situation and allowed no hits, no runs and one walk for Perth.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/22

Happy Birthday to ~

Charley Taylor, one of the 2012 GCL Astros coaching staff, turns 65 today.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RF Glenn Wilson (54)
Originally drafted in the first round in 1980 by the Tigers, Wilson came to Houston in an August 1980 trade that sent Billy Hatcher to Pittsburgh. In 146 games for the Astros in 1989 and 1990, he hit .238/.284/.357. His best season was his All-Star season for the Phillies in 1985 when he hit 39 doubles and drove in 102 runs.

RHP Michael Jackson (48)
A second round pick by the Phillies in 1984, Jackson signed with the Astros as a free agent in December 2000. In 67 games for Houston in 2001, he had a 4.70 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP. In 1998, he saved 40 games for Cleveland with a 1.55 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP.

OF Jason Lane (36)
Drafted by the Astros in the sixth round in 1999, Lane played in 494 games for Houston from 2002 to 2007, hitting .241/.315/.458. He re-invented himself in 2011 as a left-handed pitcher with a little help from the Diamondbacks organization. After his release in May 2012 by Arizona, Lane pitched for the Independent Sugar Land Skeeters. In 18 games (17 starts), he was 9-5 with a 3.17 ERA and a 1.057 WHIP. He signed as a free agent with the Twins last month.

Tweet of the Day

Asher Wojciechowski
Had a great 24th birthday! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caracas over Magallanes 10-5
2B Jose Altuve was hitless in four at-bats, but did draw a walk and score a run for Magallanes.

Lara over Aragua 4-3
2B Jose Martinez went 2-for-4 with a double and scored a run for Aragua.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Caguas over Ponce 3-1
Roberto Pena came into the game as a pinch runner and scored a run for Caguas. He stayed in the game to catch and went 0-for-1.

Carolina over Manati 7-6
Kiké Hernandez started the game at second and moved to third in a defensive switch. He went 2-for-5 with a single and an RBI double. He also scored a run for Carolina. SS Carlos Correa came in as a defensive substitution and went hitless in two at-bats with a strikeout. C Rene Garcia went 1-for-4 and scored a run.

Happy Birthday - 12/21

Happy Birthday to ~

C Pedro Coa (20)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela, Coa spent his second season with the DSL Astros and really showed improvement over his first, hitting .256/.320/.311 in 37 games. He was one of the few offensive bright spots on the DSL team and also showed good selectivity at the plate. He only struck out five times all season and only struck out twice (to five walks) in 22 games in July and August.

RHP Asher Wojciechowski (24)
A first round pick by Toronto in 2010, Wojciechowski came to the Astros in the July 2012 10-player trade with the Blue Jays and made himself right at home. In eight starts with Corpus Christi after the trade, he was 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA and a 1.008WHIP. For the season, he was 9-5 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.146 WHIP.

LHP David Rollins (23)
Drafted by Toronto in the 24th round in 2011, Rollins also came to Houston in the big July 2012 trade. Following the trade, Rollins was 1-3 in six starts in Lexington with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. For the season, he was 7-4 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.252 WHIP.

SS Austin "Catfish" Elkins (22)
A 19th round pick out of Dallas Baptist by Houston in the 2012 draft, Elkins spent his first professional season with Tri-City. In 66 games, he hit .272/.360/.398 with 13 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 18 stolen bases. A switch-hitter, Elkins had almost identical numbers from both sides of the plate.

RHP Phillip Humber (30)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the first round in 2004, Humber was claimed by the Astros off waivers from the White Sox at the end of November. In the last two seasons with the White Sox, Humber compiled a 14-14 record with a 4.79 ERA and a 1.317 WHIP in 54 appearances (42 starts). On April 21, 2012, he threw a perfect game against the Mariners in his second start of the season.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Howie Reed (died December 7, 1984 at 47)
Reed came to Houston in an October 1966 trade with the Angels. In four games (two starts) for the Astros in 1967, he was 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.145 WHIP. His best season was 1965 when he played for the World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

RHP Joaquin Andujar (60)
Andujar first came to Houston in an October 1975 trade with the Reds and pitched for the Astros from 1976 to 1981 and again in 1988.  In 202 games with the Astros, he had a 3.67 ERA and a 1.377 WHIP.  He was an All-Star with Houston in 1977 and 1979. Andujar made two additional All-Star appearances and won a Gold Glove with the Cardinals, and he earned his one World Series ring with them  in 1982.

RHP LaTroy Hawkins (40)
Originally drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round in 1991, Hawkins came to Houston in a July 2008 trade with the Yankees. In 89 appearances for Houston in 2008 and 2009, he was 3-4 with a 1.71 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. He has currently pitched 18 seasons for nine different teams with the latest being the Angels in 2012. He is currently a free agent.

Tweet of the Day

kenny long
What do I watch on tv after tonight? Always Sunny, The League, Duck Dynasty, and Ink Master are done! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Astros Minor League Style

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - ASTROS MINOR LEAGUE STYLE

'Twas the night before Christmas, when out on the field
Not a creature was stirring, all the entries were sealed.
The stockings were hung in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes that St. Luhnow soon would be there.

St. Luhnow - photo circa 2011
(before uniform color change from brick red to orange/blue)
Courtesy of our very own Andy aka Houston Sports Counterplot

The players were nestled all snug in their beds,
Dreams of major league call-ups danced in their heads.
As Rodney and Tony D. called it a night,
Bodie and Omar turned out the lights.

When out in the park there arose such a clatter,
The clubby arose to see what was the matter.
Away to the windows the Managers sped,
And looked out to find what had roused them from bed.

The moon hit the crest of the newly raked mound,
Amid glittering dewdrops which shone all around.
When, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a rocket-ship sleigh, and eight strapping reindeer.

Once spying this wonderous carriage on high,
They knew in a moment St. Jeff was nearby.
More rapid than fastballs his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Springer! now, Cosart! McCullers and Rio!
On, Houser! On, Carlos! On Folty and Lino!
Over the top deck and over the eye!
All my young rookies are learning to fly!"

Just as quickly as Singleton hits the ball out,
When a fastball meanders along the wrong route,
So up to the nose-bleeds the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of Prospects, and St. Luhnow too.

Then I heard high above o'er the upper deck seats
The clicking and clacking of copious cleats.
The Managers stood in awe and dismay
As St. Luhnow slowly arose from his sleigh.

He wore orange and blue and a bright shining star,
And his clothing was smudged with field dirt and pine tar.
Myriad scouting reports bulged from his pack,
With advanced analytics, stack after stack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his smile pearly white!
An affable nod told you all would be right!
His hair was all peppered with silver and gray.
An impression of confidence, he did convey.

A multi-function calculator held tight in his grip,
And a smart phone holstered alongside his hip.
He had a nice face and was fit as a fiddle,
After time in the gym (I'd say more than a little). 

He was calm and collected, in total control,
And all were encouraged, inspired by his goal! 
In the blink of an eye, to the clubhouse he sprang.
He drew towards the lockers where stockings did hang.

Stuffing them quickly with promise and dreams,
Success in the future and victorious teams.
St. Luhnow then suddenly bade us goodbye
As the home run spectacular flashed 'cross the sky.

He leapt in his sleigh, "Oye¡ Vamos! Let's go!"
And away they did fly o'er the field far below. 
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Seven weeks 'til Spring Training! Oh, what a delight!"

>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<

I'd like to wish all my readers a Very Happy Holiday Season,
and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Magallanes over La Guaira 13-4
2B Jose Altuve padded his batting average to .356 with a 2-for-4 night for Magallanes, including a double, two RBI and two runs scored.

Lara over Aragua 7-6
2B Jose Martinez went 1-for-4 with a walk in Aragua's loss.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Licey over Gigantes 5-4
For the Gigantes, *RHP Erick Abreu came in to the game in the fourth inning with bases loaded and one out and quickly induced a double play. In the fifth inning he allowed one single while striking out two batters, but was charged with an earned run when he was lifted for RHP Rhiner Cruz who promptly hit two batters, and issued a single and a walk without recording an out. Cruz was charged with one run as well.

Toros over Aguilas 6-5
SS Jonathan Villar got a rare start last night and responded with a two-run triple in a 1-for-3 performance for Aguilas. He struck out once.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Manati over Caguas 4-1 in 7 innings (Game 2 of a double header)
C Roberto Peña went 1-for-3 for Caguas.

Santurce over Carolina 6-3
For Carolina, 2B Kiké Hernandez was 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a walk. C Carlos Corporan was hitless, but scored a run after reaching on a hit by pitch.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hermosillo over Guasave 5-4
RHP Edgar Gonzalez got a no decision despite pitching six strong scoreless innings for Hermosillo. He allowed one single and one walk while striking out four.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/20

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

1B/3B/OF Aubrey Huff (36)
A fifth round pick by Tampa, Huff came to Houston in a July 2006 trade for Mitch Talbot and Ben Zobrist. In 68 games for the Astros in 2006, he hit .250/.341/.478. He went on to play for Baltimore where he earned a Silver Slugger, Detroit and San Francisco where he earned World Series rings in 2010 and 2012.

LF Keith Lampard (67)
Drafted by Houston in the second round in 1965, Lampard played in 62 games for the Astros in 1969 and 1970, hitting .238/.289/.393. In nine seasons in the minor leagues, he hit .289/.316/.470.

RHP Marc Valdes (41)
Originally drafted by the Marlins in the first round in 1993, Valdes came to Houston in a May 2000 trade with Tampa. In 53 appearances for the Astros in 2000, he was 5-5 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.659 WHIP. After playing, he became a coach in the Mets organization. In 2012, he was the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League.

MGR Cecil Cooper (63)
As manager of the Houston Astros for parts of 2007 and 2009 and all of 2008, he compiled a 170-170 record. Of all the things I could remember Cooper for, I actually most remember him for his freakishly large hands.

Tweet of the Day

Tballew18's avatar
If you wanna be best, you got to take out the best

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roster Moves

The Astros announced today that they had acquired RHP John Ely from the Dodgers in exchange for LHP Rob Rasmussen. I didn't post about this move earlier partly because I wasn't sure how I felt about it and also because of that whole pesky day job thing getting in the way.

From what I had seen and read about Rasmussen since he came to the Astros in the Carlos Lee trade in July of this year, I liked him. A lot of it boils down to his pitching performance for the Hooks in a playoff game back in September against Frisco. I watched the game on the computer and there was a moment when he stepped off the mound, took a deep breath, cleared his head and then calmly extricated himself from a difficult situation. He showed great focus and maturity. That moment, along with the things that I had heard and read about him, made me want to see more of Rasmussen in 2013.

And what I saw about Ely didn't really wow me, other than his 2012 minor league stats which were quite good by any measure. But seeing as his limited time in the majors hadn't translated into much success yet and seeing as he is three years older than Rasmussen, I confess to being a little conflicted.

So I reached out to John Manuel of Baseball America to see what he thought of the deal. I wanted to get an outsider's impression on it. According to Manuel, "I like Rasmussen probably more than most. But Ely won the pitching triple crown in the PCL; that's pretty tough. I think he's a good place-holder, and Rasmussen is probably just a reliever on a championship team, or a back-of-the-rotation starter. I like Rasmussen; I had him 19 on my list for the Handbook. But Ely is a nice sleeper pickup, for me." He also pointed me to this Baseball America article from this past summer.

So there you have it. I'm feeling a bit more comfortable about the trade and Rasmussen is over the moon happy to be playing for the team he grew up watching.

Since Rasmussen wasn't on the 40-man roster, a corresponding move was necessary in order to make room for Ely. OF Che-Hsuan Lin who had been picked up off waivers from the White Sox earlier this off-season was designated for assignment. In other news, RHP Mickey Storey was again claimed off waivers from Houston, this time by the Blue Jays. In addition, although it has been widely rumored that the Astros are signing the free agent righty Jose Veras, the deal has not been finalized. Once it is (presuming it is), another 40-man roster move will need to be made.

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Magallanes over Aragua 3-0
2B Jose Altuve went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout. He is hitting .351 for the Magallanes team, .405 over the last 10 games. *RHP Sergio Perez (W, 8-4) got the start for Magallanes, pitching seven strong scoreless innings allowing six hits and two walks with two strikeouts for the win.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Gigantes over Estrellas 4-3
*RHP Enerio del Rosario was charged with a blown save for the Gigantes when he came in with one out and the bases loaded and gave up a two-run double to former Astro farm hand Brad Snyder. The Gigantes came back to win the game in the ninth.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Santurce over Caguas 5-4
LHP Xavier Cedeno earned the win for Santurce in relief as he pitched the eighth inning, allowing one hit with two strikeouts.

Carolina over Manati 1-0
2B Kiké Hernandez took matters into his own hands with a solo home run in the top of the ninth to give Carolina the lead and ultimately the win. Hernandez drew the only walk and one of only five hits allowed to the Carolina team in the pitcher's duel. C Rene Garcia and SS Carlos Correa went hitless in the game, as did pinch hitter Jobduan Morales, with each of those three striking out once.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/19

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Brandon Meredith (23)
Drafted out of San Diego State in the sixth round in 2011, Meredith spent his second professional season at Lexington in 2012. After being hampered somewhat by injuries in 2011, he showed what he can do when healthy this season as he hit .278/.377/.506 with 19 doubles, four triples, 15 home runs. 48 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 86 games.

Tom Lawless (56)
Lawless started the season as a roving coach for the Astros and ended it by managing the Oklahoma City Redhawks when Tony DeFrancesco took over as interim manager of the Astros in 2012.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Walt "No Neck" Williams (69)
Where have all the good nicknames gone? No Neck signed with Houston as an amateur free agent prior to the 1963 season. In 10 games for the Colt .45's in 1964, Williams went hitless in nine at-bats. He went on to play several more seasons with the White Sox, Indians and Yankees with a .270/.310/.365 career batting line.

RHP Joe Slusarski (46)
Originally drafted by Oakland in the second round in 1988, Slusarski came to Houston as a free agent in May 1998. In 65 games pitched for the Astros in 1999, 2000 and 2001, he had a 4.57 ERA and a 1.379 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Nick Tropeano
I really wish I could teleport.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Interview with Astros Analyst Mike Fast

To call this an interview might be a bit misleading. My past interviews mostly consist of my asking questions and then shutting up and listening to the interviewee. When I talked to Mike Fast, former writer for Baseball Prospectus and Hardball Times, and current member of the Astros Decision Sciences brain trust, I'll admit it was more of a discussion than an interview as I interjected my thoughts and ideas into the conversation ... often.

I was granted this interview on the condition that I wouldn't try to ferret out any Super Secret Decision Science Proprietary Juju™, but frankly I think it would take the team from Leverage to penetrate Sig's inner sanctum.

But that wasn't my goal, anyway. What I wanted to hear about was using stats to judge minor league talent and the possibilities and pitfalls of so doing. I wanted to talk about exceptions to the "rules" that guide us in looking at minor league players.

What emerged was a very random discussion as we bounced from one topic to the next, but nevertheless a constant theme emerged. The following excerpts from our discussion were edited for brevity and clarity.

First we talked about relying too heavily on stats in general in judging minor league prospects without taking context into consideration. According to Fast, "Definitely there are pitfalls at all levels but more so in the minor leagues. Even in the major leagues, you have to look at parks. For example, Coors Field is sort of the one that everyone knows about. And that can be [a factor] in the minor leagues [as well], like our Lancaster park. I think most of our Astros prospect [followers] are aware that Lancaster’s a big hitter's park and so you have to give the pitchers the benefit of a doubt there and sort of take the hitter’s stats with a grain of salt.  The Tri-City park can be a little bit that way. And then even at the league level – the Pacific Coast league is more of a hitter’s league than the International league at the AAA level so there are all sorts of league and park contexts that you have to get an idea for."

Fast went on to other considerations that have to be factored in when looking at stats, "And the difficulty of the league itself. The age or experience of a player relative to the league. So if you’ve got a college player coming in to the Gulf Coast League or the Appy League, he’s more advanced than most of the players that he’s going to be playing against so he ought to do really, really well. He ought to be a man amongst boys really if he’s going to be at those levels. The New York-Penn league is more typically where college players come in after the draft. Nolan Fontana … he went to (LoA) Lexington. The fact that he was sort of able to hold his own there is a good sign. He’s playing against more advanced hitters who are in their second or third season of pro ball. That’s a level higher than what players typically go to out of the draft. And then the same thing, of course, applies generally in terms of looking at the age of a player relative to the level they’re in or if they’re repeating a level. If they’re old for a level or if they’re repeating a level, you sort of expect them to do well. Foltynewicz repeated this year at Lexington and he did really, really well and that’s a good sign. Same thing with DeShields. He came out and was sort of in a league where he was competing against tougher competition than he was used to and then when he repeated the level, he really stepped it up and that’s what you want to see. But if you have a player who is repeating and he did OK, he did better than last year but nothing special, that’s not a very good sign."

Always looking for the exceptions to the rule, I asked Mike about a particular starting pitcher who actually fit that description, one who had repeated a level and had a fairly pedestrian season, but was still young enough to merit more time to improve, at least in my opinion. He agreed that this pitcher was still a somewhat interesting prospect and went on to talk about starters vs. relievers as prospects, "One other thing that’s important to take into context with pitchers is that relievers will usually have better numbers than starters. If you take a guy from a starting role and put him into relief, he’s only going through the lineup once, he can throw maybe a mile or two per hour harder and you sort of expect their strikeout numbers to go up when they go into relief. I think it’s easy to look at [certain relievers] in our system, guys that we think are good prospects, but as a group, when you think of future major league value, the guys on the starting side who may be in that same class of prospects just in terms of perception are going to end up providing more major league value. The group of starters is much more likely to create major league value even though they’re not putting up the sexy numbers."

I specifically wanted to know whether or not there were any advanced metrics that he would recommend as something the average minor league follower could use to look at pitching talent. "One thing that I would be careful with, with those advanced pitching metrics … just looking at batted ball outcomes and whether it fell in for a hit or not is sort of a poor way to get an idea over the course of a season of a pitcher’s talent. That’s pretty true at the major league level. It’s less true in the minor leagues. The ability to prevent hits is a pretty good indicator of talent in the minor leagues. The farther you get away from the major leagues the more important that is. One way to think of it is that, at the major league level, pitchers who get there have sort of been screened for their ability to prevent good contact so if you’ve got a guy who gets hit hard, he’s never going to make the majors.  The guys who come to the majors are all at least pretty good at that. And there may be some differences between them but they’re all pretty good at preventing good contact because their stuff moves or they throw hard or they mix their pitches well, know how to locate, whatever. They’ve got some skills in that. And that’s less true particularly in the lower minors. If you have a pitcher in the low minors that just gave up a ton of hits, I don’t know that I’d be so quick to ascribe that 'Oh, he’s got bad luck or he had bad fielders behind him.' That might be true, but it’s also quite likely that the batters are just saying this guy’s stuff is not that hard to deal with."

What statistics would Fast encourage a casual fan to zero in on when looking at a minor league pitcher then? "I think strikeout rate and WHIP would probably be two sort of quick easy ones to look at. Strikeout rate – that’s showing that you’re fooling the batters and that’s hopefully something that would translate to a higher level. There might be reasons why it wouldn’t but, all things being equal, that’s a very good thing. And then  WHIP would be [the pitcher is] keeping base runners off the base paths, whether it’s by not permitting hits or by not walking guys. Those are pretty important."

Again, looking for the exception to the rule, I wondered if a high strikeout rate is crucial in a prospect's ability to succeed. According to Fast, "It’s really tough to make it in the big leagues without striking guys out. If he has other ways to succeed, if he’s not walking guys, he’s keeping the ball on the ground, I think there’s definitely a path to the majors for guys like that. They’re not going to end up being Justin Verlander, but there are definitely guys with that profile that end up with major league value. Jake Buchanan is kind of a guy along those lines. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys but he doesn’t walk very many and he gets a ton of ground balls."

Does he think that Game Score can tell us anything beyond a quick look at the pitcher's effectiveness in a specific game? "The reason that Game Score is meaningful is because it’s incorporating hits and walks and strikeouts. It’s incorporating those other things that are important so if you add it up over a season, yeah, it’s going to reflect if you have a good pitcher or a bad pitcher, but I don’t know that it’s adding anything on top of that. It’s subject to the same league, level, park context. There’s nothing magic about Game Score. It’s just reflecting those other statistics. It’s a nice number for one game where you can easily see if the guy pitched a good game or not."

After Fast told me that a good strikeout to walk rate for a hitter is something that a casual fan can look at to gauge a hitter's talents, we got into a discussion about high strikeout rates for power hitters. Fast told me, "The higher the level you get, the more you feel they’re demonstrating power and the strikeouts are sort of the price of that. At the lower levels, it’s kind of a concern if pitchers are finding a hole in their swing. I think that’s true at the higher levels too, but if they’re still demonstrating the power you feel like, the pitcher may have found some holes but they can’t get them out all the time. But at the lower level, you worry that they’re sort of jumping on mistakes that they’re not going to see in the big leagues and if they’re striking out a ton, that’s worrisome."

The conventional wisdom is to ignore a pitcher's win-loss record when judging his abilities. Again, I wanted to know if there was anything that we could take away from a good win record. According to Fast, "As an analyst, I don’t really care about it. When we’re trying to pick one pitcher over another, that’s not something that we’re really paying attention to. You’d love to have the bulldog, the competitor, the guy who sort of figures out how to out think the opposition or pace himself or whatever to get the win. I think that that aspect is important but I think that’s tough to measure by looking at a win-loss record because there’s so many other things that go into that, [but] we’re definitely getting input from the coaches and the player development staff about their personal aspects – their work ethic, their gamesmanship and all that."

One basic theme had emerged by this point. It is something that I have come to understand clearly over time as I have studied the Astros minor league system and I articulated that idea at this point, "To me, you have to understand the whole player." Fast responded, "Yeah, definitely. This is true in the minor leagues but it’s true in the major leagues too. I keep coming back to the term work ethic but it comprises something bigger than that. Players, when players first get drafted or they first get signed in the Dominican, they are nowhere close to good enough to make it in the major leagues. And so that whole process of improvement – their personal character and their effort and all of that plays a big part in getting to the majors and also the teamwork aspect of that, coachability or however you want to say that. Being able to interact well with others and gain insight from coaches and from other teammates, being able to share what you learned with other teammates – that [plays] a big part in getting guys from where they’re entering the system to where they’re ready to be in the majors. And I think even once they’re in the majors, getting from the rookies … to really being an accomplished player, there are aspects of that which don’t show up in the stats but they’re still incredibly important."

You heard him right. For those of you who were worried that stats would become the sole guiding factor in looking at prospects under Sig Mejdal's esoterically named Decision Sciences group, Fast's statement should  serve to reassure you. He went on to tell me, "It’s been eye-opening for me being on the inside – the human piece of the business. Like when we’re making decisions on trades or promotions or releasing guys, whatever. This is somebody’s life and somebody’s career that we’re dealing with. And you get around some of these guys and they’re neat people and you cheer for them, you want them to succeed."

I asked Mike if he had any final words for my readers about what the Astros analytics group is all about. He answered, "I think most of your readers are probably aware, obviously we’re pulling scouting reports and player development reports together with the stats when we’re making decisions. Hopefully they recognize that. That’s something I think the broader baseball community isn't always aware [of]. They sort of think of the guys in their mother’s basement with their spreadsheets, picking out some guy with good numbers and sort of ignoring all the rest of it. It’s definitely an integrated operation where we’re constantly talking to our player development guys and our scouts and they’re talking to us. We’re sharing information and working together."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are many "rules" in evaluating prospects, but there are always exceptions to those rules. I suppose it's partly my tendency to root for the underdog that keeps me looking for those exceptions, but it's also based on looking at the total player – his stats, his trends, his personality, his work ethic and his interaction with other players – that keep me interested in the potential of players who may not be considered top prospects.

Interestingly enough, I often come to the same conclusions about a player as those who are privy to the Super Secret Decision Science Proprietary Juju™. Perhaps that is because, thankfully, they are also interested in looking at the entirety of a player. That is a good thing and very, very nice to know.

Thank you, Mike, for your time and thank you for always being happy to answer even the silliest of my questions along the way.

Off-Season Transactions

According to twitter sources and subsequently verified by Baseball America this morning, Free Agent RHP Aneury Rodriguez has been signed by the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization. Rodriguez struggled with the AAA Oklahoma City Redhawks in 2012 and became a free agent after the season. He started 8 games for the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League during the off-season with a 3-1 record, a 3.38 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP. He walked 8 while striking out 29.

According to my records, the following 2012 Astros minor leaguers remain unsigned free agents at this time:

RHP Erick Abreu
RHP Jorge de Leon
RHP Enerio del Rosario
RHP Dayan Diaz
C Jair Fernandez
RHP Adalberto Flores
OF Drew Locke
RHP Sergio Perez
C Landon Powell
RHP Jose Trinidad
RHP Henry Villar

I have updated the Off-Season Transaction list to include this signing.

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Magallanes over Margarita 3-2
2B Jose Altuve went 2-for-4 and scored a run in Magallanes' win over Margarita.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Licey over Gigantes 7-3
Jimmy Paredes was still missing from the Gigantes lineup and since the Dominican Winter League ends on Friday, I wouldn't be surprised if he's been shut down for the season. RHP Jose Cisnero got the start for the Gigantes and only lasted a third of an inning against four batters and was charged with two unearned runs on one hit and a hit batsman. Also for the Gigantes, RHP Rhiner Cruz pitched one hitless inning of relief and allowed one walk with one strikeout and *RHP Enerio del Rosario pitched two-thirds of an inning with one strikeout.

All of the rest of the Astros Winter Leaguers had the day off.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/18

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Rudy Owens (25)
Originally drafted by the Pirates in the 28th round in 2006, Owens came to Houston in the 2012 trade that sent Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh. In 27 starts this season (between the two organizations), Owens was 10-8 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.190 WHIP.

RHP Edison Frias (22)
Frias was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic and spent his first professional season with the DSL team in 2011. He made a good transition to the States with his 10 appearances (5 starts) for the GCL Astros in 2012. Frias was 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA and a 1.273 WHIP in 46 and a third innings.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Mike White (74)
Originally drafted from the Angels in the minor league draft in 1961, White played in 100 games for the 1963 and 1964 Colt .45's and the 1965 Astros, hitting .264/.311/.321.

RHP Jim Clancy (57)
A fourth round pick by the Rangers in 1974, Clancy signed with Houston as a free agent in December 1988. In 96 games (36 starts) for Houston from 1989 to 1991, he had a 9-25 record with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.478 WHIP. His best years were for the Toronto Blue Jays for whom he pitched for 12 seasons and won his one All-Star nod in 1982.

RHP Willie Blair (47)
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 11th round in 1986, Blair came to Houston in a December 1991 trade with the Indians. In 29 games (eight starts) pitched for the Astros in 1992, he was 5-7 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.258 WHIP. Most recently, he was a pitching coach in the San Diego Padres minor leagues in 2012.

Tweets of the Day

Jiovanni Mier
Tweeting only cause I havent tweeted in 3 days. 


Nick Tropeano
 tweeting at you cause I miss you. Is that fair?


Jiovanni Mier
 you always know the way to my heart

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roster Moves

Jeff Luhnow and first baseman Carlos Pena appeared at a joint press conference this afternoon to announce that Pena had been signed to a one-year deal with the Astros. The 34-year old journeyman first baseman was a free agent after having spent the 2012 season with the Rays organization. A first round pick by the Rangers in 1998, he has played in parts of 12 major league seasons, all but one of which were for American League teams. Pena led the American League in home runs in his All-Star year of 2009 playing for Tampa Bay. He also has a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove to his name. He is expected to play some first base, but will primarily be called upon to serve as the DH in the Astros first season in the American League. Pena had a distinct fall-off in his numbers at the plate in 2012. His major league stats can be found here. As the 40-man roster is currently full, a corresponding move will need to be made but it hasn't been announced yet. I will update my off-season transaction list when that detail is released.

UPDATE: Mickey Storey was designated for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot (for the second time this off-season) for Carlos Pena. Henceforth, Storey shall be referred to as the Rubberband Man.

Also, Baseball America posted that the Astros have signed 24-year old minor league RHP Ricky Martinez having acquired him from the Cardinals for cash considerations. According to Mike Tauser over at Farmstros, Martinez is the son of the Astros new Bullpen Coach Dennis Martinez.

Winter League Recaps and Player Stats

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Estrellas over Gigantes 5-3
*RHP Erick Abreu and RHP Rhiner Cruz each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Gigantes team. Abreu allowed one hit and one walk with two strikeouts and Cruz allowed one walk and struck out one.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Santurce over Carolina 3-1
Jobduan Morales got a start at first base for Carolina and went 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout before leaving for a pinch hitter. SS Carlos Correa was 1-for-3 with a caught stealing and a throwing error. Kiké Hernandez had one pinch hit at-bat and struck out.

Ponce over Caguas 2-1 in 15 innings
This was a tough luck loss for C Robert Peña. Not only did he drive in the only run for Caguas as he went 2-for-5 with an RBI double, he also caught all 15 innings of this marathon game.

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE - Off Day

Here are all the stats for all the Astros players that have played or are still playing on Fall or Winter League teams. Stats are through Sunday's games. I have highlighted those players who have played in the last week since some are not still active.


*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/17

No future Astros, but one former Astros with a birthday today ~

LHP Fernando Abad (27)
Abad was signed by the Astros as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2002. In 2012, he spent most of his season at Houston, but also pitched in 13 games with Oklahoma City. With the Redhawks, he was 2-0 with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.446 WHIP in 13 appearances (two starts). As a reliever at Houston, he had a 3.80 ERA and a 1.437 WHIP in 31 games. Abad was in the process of being converted to a starter late in the season and in six starts, he was 0-6 with a 6.45 ERA and a 1.881 WHIP. Abad became a free agent after the season and signed with the Washington Nationals in November.

Tweet of the Day

Christian García

Dont let anyone or anything come in between you and your dreams.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE 

Lara over Aragua 9-1

Jose Martinez made a rare start at first base and went two for four with a double for Aragua.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Gigantes over Toros 8-5
*RHP Enerio del Rosario pitched two-thirds of an inning with no hits and no runs for the Gigantes team.

Aguilas over Escogido 5-3

SS Jonathan Villar went 1-for-2 with two walks and scored three runs for Aguilas. He also stole a base.

PUERTO RICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Carolina over Ponce 11-0 in 7 innings (Game 1)
2B Kiké Hernandez was 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored a run for Carolina.

Ponce over Carolina 6-2 in 7 innings (Game 2)
*RHP Adalberto Flores got the start for Ponce and pitched an extremely effective four scoreless innings in which he gave up one hit and one walk with three strikeouts. For Carolina, 2B Kiké Hernandez went hitless while teammate C Carlos Corporan went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being lifted for pinch hitter Jobduan Morales who walked in his one plate appearance.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 12/16

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

A second round pick by the Astros in 1987, Hennis only got a cup of coffee in the major leagues, but he did it up right. He only got to pitch in three games (nine and two-thirds innings) in 1990, but he managed to keep his ERA perfect at 0.00 with a WHIP of 0.414.  Nice.

Originally drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1984, Jones came to Houston as a free agent in December 1991 and played in 54 games for the Astros in 1992, hitting .190/.271/.302.

OF Charles Gipson (40)
Drafted by Seattle in the 63rd round (no, that's not a typo) in 1991, Gipson signed with Houston as a free agent in January 2005. In 11 at-bats in 19 games, he hit .182/.250/.273. Frequently used as a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, Gipson is one of only a handful of non-pitchers with fewer career plate appearances (366) than games played (373).

Tweet of the Day

Mike Foltynewicz

Spring training right around the corner.