Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tweets of the Day

Bud Norris
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Jordan Lyles
Grandpa needs a little rest before our signing at Academy. ����  
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Birthday - 1/25

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Vern Ruhle (died January 20, 2007 at 55)
A 17th round pick by the Tigers in 1972, Ruhle signed with Houston as a free agent in March 1978. In 186 games (93 starts) for the Astros from 1978 to 1984, he had a record of 39-46 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP. His best season with Houston was 1980 when he was 12-4 with a 2.37 ERA and a 1.111 WHIP in 28 games (22 starts).

2B Ernie Fazio (71)
Signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1962, Fazio played in 114 games for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1963, hitting .179/.270/.271.

LHP Philip Barzilla (34)
Drafted by the Astros in the fourth round in 2001, Barzilla faced two batters in one-third of an inning on June 11, 2006 and gave up a hit, leading to his major league career 0.00 ERA and 3.000 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

John Hinson
Heard birds chirping for the first time in a while this morning. This can only mean one thing.. Baseball is just around the corner!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - RH Relievers Pt. 2

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Because of the sheer number of pitchers in the organization, I needed to break them down into groups. Today, we look at the right-handed relief pitchers who had the best seasons pitching at either A level or in the rookie league for the organization.

The embedded chart shows the pitchers ranged from low to high in terms of WHIP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played. I limited inclusion on the list to those who pitched a minimum of 25 innings.



As I noted before, Chia-Jen Lo will likely start the season at AA and move up quickly if he continues to show that his comeback from TJ surgery is complete. In addition, Carlos Quevedo, who started the season at Lexington, and Andrew Robinson, who dominated most of the season after a mostly dreadful April, are both good candidates for promotion.

Cameron Lamb is new to the organization after being selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft from the Giants organization. He has the lowest strikeout rate of the group, but one of the highest groundball out rates.

Mike Hauschild has Lamb beat, though, in terms of his groundball rate with an incredible 5.20 GO/AO ratio to go with a very impressive 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Jordan Jankowski's 14.8 strikeouts per nine is the best among right-handed relievers in the Astros minor league system. Hauschild, Jankowski, Travis Ballew, Michael Dimock and Erick Gonzalez (community college) were all drafted in 2012 out of college and were expected to do well at the lower levels. They will now need to prove that they can do so at the higher levels.

Murilo Gouvea was a workhouse for Lexington, making 50 appearances out of the bullpen. Gouvea also played for Team Brazil in the WBC Qualifiers in November and was instrumental in Brazil's upset of the host Panamanian team.

I had to draw the line somewhere on this list, but there are a few other pitchers I will be keeping my eye on in 2013. John Neely had a somewhat uneven season, but finished very strongly. Another pitcher who intrigues me is Christian Garcia due to reports that his fastball sits in the low 90's and tops out in the mid-90's. He was frequently used in longer relief outings with mixed results. Both Neely and Garcia were lower round draft picks in 2012 and will need to set themselves apart in Spring Training. Jamaine Cotton was outstanding early in his season at Tri-City, but faltered down the stretch.

The most noteworthy candidate to follow, though, will be Jack Armstrong, the Astros 2011 third round pick, as he comes back from TJ surgery.

The fact of life in the minor leagues is that a right-handed relief pitcher, particularly at the lower levels, is at the bottom of the food chain. They have the toughest time of all in establishing themselves and are given the slimmest chance to re-establish themselves if they struggle. Each and every one of them will have to continue to prove themselves time after time after time, level after level after level. This post really just reflects a moment in time as we look at the relief corps because predicting the road ahead for any of these pitchers would be difficult at best.

Monday: Starting RHP for Full Season Clubs
Tuesday: Starting RHP for Short Season Clubs
Wednesday: RH Relievers at AA and AAA

Tweets of the Day

The South Texas Winter Baseball Banquet was held in Corpus Christi last evening and three of our Astros were honored. RHP Daniel Minor, who was drafted by the Astros in the 9th round of the 2012 draft and had a terrific first season at Greeneville, was named the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Player of the Year. 2B Jose Martinez was name the Player of the Year for the Corpus Christi Hooks while RHP Jason Stoffel drew Pitcher of the Year honors for the Hooks team. In addition, Milo Hamilton was given a lifetime achievement award. Softball pitcher extraordinaire (and now coach) Cat Osterman was the featured speaker.

Congratulations to Daniel, Jose and Jason!

Daniel  Minor
As if I don't feel short enough already, cat osterman makes it that much worse 
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Daniel  Minor
The one and only milo Hamilton, listened to him growing up, never imagined I'd meet him in person 
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Happy Birthday - 1/24

Happy Birthday to ~

CF Javaris Reynolds (20)
Drafted by the Astros out of high school in 2011 in the seventh round, Reynolds played in only 11 games for the GCL Astros in 2012, hitting .214/.333/.214. He last played on July 13th but was never placed on the DL.

2B Jose Martinez (27)
Signed as a minor league free agent in 2012, Martinez split his time between Corpus Christi (.304/.362/.464 with 21 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 107 games) and Oklahoma City (.205/.272/.260 with two doubles and a triple in 23 games). He played in Venezuela this winter, hitting .287/.358/.401 in 46 games.

D'Andre Toney (21)
Toney was the PTBNL in the trade that sent Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois to the Royals. Originally drafted by Kansas City in the 14th round in 2011, Toney played in 59 games for the Greeneville Astros, hitting .252/.351/.326.

RHP Juan Hernandez (20)
Signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2012, Hernandez spent his first professional season with the DSL Astros. In 13 games (11 starts), he was 0-4 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today

LF Sandy Valdespino (74)
Valdespino came to Houston in a December 1968 trade with Atlanta and played in 41 games for the Astros in 1969, hitting .244/.326/.277.

LHP Ross Powell (45)
Originally drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1989, Powell came to Houston from Pittsburgh in July 1995. In 27 games for Houston in 1994 and 1995, he had a 6.61 ERA and a 2.327 WHIP.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Checking In With Delino DeShields

Delino DeShields was the Astros minor league Player of the Year for 2012 and Mike Foltynewicz was the Pitcher of the Year. They have both agreed to participate in a series of mini-interviews as we track their progress throughout the 2013 season. There won't be a set schedule, but I'll do my best to check in with them from time to time.

First up, DeShields talks about his 2012 season and what he's been doing in the off-season.

WTH: You had a whirlwind season with the 101 stolen bases, the promotion to Lancaster, being named MVP of the JetHawks Championship series and Minor League Player of the Year. What memories of the season will you take with you?

DD: I have a lot of memories that I will carry on with me. It was a big year. Was I surprised? No, I just needed to be more calm and study the game. But I did a lot of good things this year. I broke the stolen base record in Lexington and for the whole organization. I think I have the all time hits record in Lexington also. And then being named minor league Player of the Year for our organization was huge for me after having the year that I had before, even though it wasn't all about the numbers in 2011. And then winning a championship and getting MVP of the championship series, and getting to share that with my coaches, teammates, and fans was something very special to me. I haven't won anything like that in my entire life so those memories I know I will carry on with me forever.

WTH: What have you been doing in the off-season to prepare yourself for the 2013 season?

DD: Preparing myself for a bigger challenge. Get stronger, faster, trying to perfect my craft and what I love to do. We all know that no one is perfect but people should strive to be, I believe. Some other things [that I am working on] are my quickness defensively, on the bases, and becoming a better student at the game.

WTH: What have you been doing for fun in the off-season?

DD: Some things I have been doing for fun during the off-season is I have been trying to learn how to play the guitar. Been traveling a bit and really just enjoying my family and friends before I leave again.

WTH: What is your goal for Spring Training? How special is it to be invited to the major league camp again this year?

DD: It's real special to be invited to big league camp for the second year in a row. It's just a blessing to get another opportunity like this to make a mark and to establish myself as a ballplayer and as Delino DeShields. A goal of mine throughout spring training is to just stay healthy. I think that's the number one goal for me because I don't want to miss any opportunities. I don't want things being handed to me. I want to earn everything that I do.

Astros Minor League Depth - RH Relievers Pt. 1

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Because of the sheer number of pitchers in the organization, I really needed to break them down into groups. Today, we're doing something a little different because I was a bit shocked when I realized this and I wanted to share.

The embedded chart shows ALL of the right-handed relief pitchers in the organization who finished their seasons at AA or AAA who remain in the Astros organization. ALL OF THEM PLUS TWO. Chuckie Fick (who apparently now goes by C.J.) and Jose Valdez actually ended their seasons in Houston, but neither is on the 40-man roster currently so I'm including them on this list.  Hector Ambriz was also used in relief at AAA in 2012, but remains on the 40-man roster after finishing his season in Houston so I'm not including him.



Where did everyone go, you ask? Arcenio Leon and Brian Sanches were lost to free agency and five others who pitched in relief at those levels in 2012 are unsigned free agents - Erick Abreu, Henry Villar, Adalberto Flores, Sergio Perez and Enerio Del Rosario.

I suppose that bodes well for Carlos Quevedo and Andrew Robinson from Lancaster. And Chia-Jen Lo will probably start the season at AA with the intent of moving him quickly, but it's still pretty slim on available, experienced arms.

Which brings me back to something I noted earlier this week about how crowded AA and AAA are likely to get in the way of starting pitchers. I really think that we will see some of our starters converted to the bullpen.  I can see David Martinez and Jose Cisnero converted to relievers (although I know of no plans to do so) and the possibility of Jarred Cosart as a closer has been bandied about for the last couple of years. And you'll note that I included Jake Buchanan as a relief pitcher as he was used out of the bullpen in the latter part of the season, despite being used exclusively in a starting role previously.

With that said, who exactly are the few, the proud, the brave? Jason Stoffel had a terrific season and led the Astros organization in saves with 27, and he managed to maintain a sub-1.00 WHIP over his 55 appearances. Jose Valdez numbers are inflated by the struggles he encountered mid-season before being placed on the DL. He was second in saves in 2012. [Note on Valdez: Mike at Farmstros astutely observed that Valdez is no longer shown as a non-roster invitee and has an option in his contract that may land him in Japan. If that happens, the depth of experienced relievers at AA and AAA dwindles even further.]

Josh Zeid has good stuff, but in my opinion he lacks confidence. He had a Jekyll and Hyde season and it was often difficult to know which Zeid would be showing up. His last few regular season appearances in August and September were excellent, though. Zeid is another pitcher who I think will benefit from working with Roger Clemens on his mental approach.

Mark Hamburger started the season with the Rangers, then was claimed off waivers by the Padres and then finally claimed by Houston. He struggled with the Rangers and Padres, but pitched closer to his 2011 AAA form in his 17 appearances at Oklahoma City.

Monday: Starting RHP for Full Season Clubs
Tuesday: Starting RHP for Short Season Clubs
Coming Thursday: RH Relievers - A and below

Happy Birthday - 1/23

No future Astros, but a few former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Don Nottebart (died October 4, 2007 at 71)
Nottebart came to Houston in a December 1962 trade with the Milwaukee Braves and pitched in 88 games (76 starts) for the Colt 45's and Astros from 1963 to 1965 with an ERA of 3.86 and a WHIP of 1.244. Nottebart pitched Houston's first no-hitter on May 17, 1963 against the Phillies.

2B Joey Amalfitano (79)
Amalfitano was drafted by Houston from the Giants in the 1961 expansion draft and played in 117 games for the Colt .45's in 1962, hitting .237/.317/.303.

1B/OF Benny Distefano (51)
A second round pick by the Pirates in 1982, Distefano signed with Houston as a free agent in January 1992. In 52 games for the Astros that season, he hit .233/.303/.300.

RHP Brandon Duckworth (37)
Duckworth came to Houston as a part of the Billy Wagner trade with the Phillies in November 2003. In 26 games (eight starts) for the Astros in 2004 and 2005, he was 1-3 with an 8.08 ERA and a 1.778 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Nick Tropeano
Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not. No worries.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Starting RHP Pt. 2

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Because of the sheer number of pitchers in the organization, I really needed to break them down into groups. Today, we look at the right-handed starting pitchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012 playing on short season clubs.

Lance McCullers - August 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The embedded chart shows the pitchers ranged from low to high in terms of WHIP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played.



2012 college draft picks Aaron West, Daniel Minor and Brady Rodgers had simply outstanding first seasons in the organization, as did NDFA Lance Day.

Astros supplemental first rounder, Lance McCullers, was kept on a strict pitch count, but was nonetheless impressive in his limited time. The Blue Jays supplemental first rounder from 2011, Kevin Comer, came to the organization very late in the season as the PTBNL in the 10-player July trade. Adrian Houser, the Astros second rounder from 2011 showed definite improvement over his freshman season.

Samil de los Santos in his second season and Elieser Hernandez in his first both had good seasons for the DSL Astros. Agapito Barrios and Edison Frias both made the transition from the DSL in their first season to the GCL in their second quite nicely, although Barrios needs to work on his control (8 hit batters and 11 wild pitches for the short season).

Both Raul Rivera and Vincent Velasquez missed the 2011 season completely due to injury which makes their 2012 results that much more impressive.

Michael Feliz' ERA and WHIP for the GCL Astros was practically microscopic before his promotion to Greeneville. Feliz, who only turned 19 in September, will likely start the season back at Greeneville.

Juri Perez had fantastic numbers at Tri-City, and made five appearances (three starts) for Lexington. I look for him to start the season with Quad Cities.

There are two other pitchers that I will be keeping an eye on in 2013 that were with the Greeneville squad in 2012. Francis Ramirez had a fairly average season, but his strikeout rate was worthy of notice. Unfortunately, his walk rate caught my notice too, but not the good kind of notice. The other is Joe Musgrove, another 2011 first round supplemental pick by the Blue Jays who came to the Astros organization in the July trade. Musgrove was limited to only 17 innings coming off an injury in 2012. I assume that Musgrove will still be groomed to be a starter, at least for now, but that isn't necessarily a given.

I'm not making many predictions as to where these players will be playing in 2013, but most of those who played at Tri-City will probably go to full season A at Quad Cities. Most of the others will likely play at some level of short season ball after spending time in extended spring training.

Monday: Starting RHP in Full Season Clubs
Coming on Wednesday: Right-Handed Relief Pitchers at AA and AAA

Astros Sign Free Agent LHP Erik Bedard

It was announced by the Astros on Monday that they had signed LHP Erik Bedard to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite. Bedard, who will turn 34 in March, pitched for the Pirates in 2012 and compiled a 7-14 record with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.472 WHIP before being released in August.

I believe that Bedard was signed as insurance in case lefties Dallas Keuchel, Brett Oberholtzer and Rudy Owens don't show GM Jeff Luhnow what he needs to see in Spring Training. Bedard could serve as a back of the rotation starter and a veteran presence on the young staff and he brings knowledge of American League hitters with him, having pitched 8 of his 9 seasons with American League teams. He could serve as a place-holder until the young pitchers are ready for prime time. With that said, if I were Keuchel, Oberholtzer or Owens, I would be going to Spring Training with a chip on my shoulder ready to take the job away from Bedard. I think that's what Luhnow wants too.

In other news, C Landon Powell, a free agent who played for Oklahoma City in 2012, signed with the Mets and will be going to Spring Training with them as a non-roster invitee. Also, it was rumored that IF Matt Downs is going to sign with the Marlins, but I haven't seen confirmation of that yet. I have updated the Off-Season Transaction list to reflect these changes.

Happy Birthday - 1/22

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Mike Hauschild (23)
A 33rd round pick out of the University of Dayton in 2012, Hauschild had a very good debut season at Greeneville. In 19 appearances, he was 2-2 with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.022 WHIP. Hauschild struck out 39 in 30 and a third innings while walking only nine. He is an extreme ground ball pitcher with a 5.25 GO/AO for 2012.

RHP Jose Montero (20)
Signed by the Astros as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Montero did not pitch in 2011. In 2012, he pitched only 19 and two-thirds innings for the GCL Astros. In 13 appearances, he had a 5.03 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP.

RHP Jose Valdez (30)
Originally signed as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees in 2000, Valdez came to Houston via free agency in 2009. Valdez had a terrific season at Oklahoma City in 2012 until injuries derailed him. In April, May, July and August, he had a 2.84 ERA and a 1.237 WHIP. In June, when he went down with injuries, he had a 19.06 ERA and a 3.176 WHIP. With Houston, he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.667 WHIP in 12 appearances. He recently re-signed with the Astros but is no longer on the 40-man roster.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Leon Roberts (62)
A tenth round draft pick for Detroit in 1972, Roberts came to Houston in a December 1975 trade with the Tigers and played for the Astros the following two seasons. In 106 games for the Astros, he hit .267/.324/.405. In 2012, he was the hitting coach for Oklahoma City, a role he is slated to reprise in 2013.

OF Javier Ortiz (50)
Originally drafted by the Rangers in the first round in 1983, Ortiz came to Houston in a July 1989 trade with the Dodgers. In 77 games for the Astros in 1990 and 1991, he hit .275/.374/.394.

Tweets of the Day

Rafael Valenzuela

Workout dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King J.R.

Nick Tropeano

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. 

Mike Martinez

"The measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge" ~ Dr Martin Luther King

Monday, January 21, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Starting RHP Pt. 1

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Because of the sheer number of pitchers in the organization, I really needed to break them down into groups. Today, we look at the right-handed starting pitchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012 and played on full season clubs.

Ross Seaton - June 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The embedded chart shows the pitchers ranged from low to high in terms of WHIP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played. I am including Edgar Gonzalez as he was taken off of the 40-man roster and will likely start the season with AAA. His stats are a combination of his minor league and Mexican League numbers.


Asher Wojciechowski, obtained in the Blue Jays 10-player trade in July, and Matt Heidenreich, obtained in the Brett Myers trade, both started their seasons with the Hi-A affiliate of their respective organizations. Heidenreich had already been promoted to AA at the time of his trade, but Wojo was only promoted when he came into the Houston organization. Their stats on the above chart include their time at the lower level, but they both had great success in their somewhat limited time at AA Corpus Christi. Look for both to start the season at AA.

Ross Seaton had the break-through season that I had been waiting for, and he generally got stronger as the season progressed. Seeing him pitch the first week of June and again during the first week of September was like seeing two different pitchers. I would like to see him start the season at AAA and, frankly, I believe that will be the case.

Bobby Doran started the season at Hi-A Lancaster, but pitched 10 starts at AA Corpus where he definitely held his own. He is an innings-eater who pitches to contact. He should start the season at AA where he can refine his command and build on his 2012 success.

Jarred Cosart and Jose Cisnero both had great seasons at Corpus leading to their September promotions to AAA. Cosart adapted better than Cisnero to the level, but I think that both need more time at AAA before making their major league debuts. Although he came a long way in 2012, Cosart still needs to fine-tune his command and his mental approach to the game. I think working with Roger Clemens will help him with both immensely. Cisnero's walk rate ticked up and his strikeout rate ticked down at AAA, but I think that will correct itself given more time and experience at the level.

At the lower levels, you have David Martinez, whose numbers may not look all that impressive until you consider that he is the only one on this list who pitched the entire season in the very tough environs of the California League. Nick Tropeano started the season at Lexington, but spent his second half at Lancaster as well. His ERA and WHIP were slightly higher at the Hangar, but he more than held his own after the promotion. I believe Tropeano will start the season at AA. It will be difficult for Martinez to get a promotion to start the season, though, simply because the upper levels are starting to get crowded with talent. However, I can see him being one of the first to be promoted if someone struggles or is injured. Alternatively, he may be moved to the bullpen.

Mike Foltynewicz, of course, dominated the Sally League in many categories and won the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. Personally, I would like to see him skip Lancaster and go straight to Corpus Christi, but the Astros are going to have to do some juggling to find room for all of the pitchers that need to see action at AA and AAA. Finally, Chris Devenski didn't see as much time as a starter as these other pitchers, having pitched out of the bullpen for a substantial part of the season before he came over in the Myers trade. That is the only reason I can see him starting the season at Quad Cities instead of Lancaster, but I think he will be promoted quickly if he can sustain the success he showed after the trade. Much may depend on his Spring Training performance.

There are many more pitchers to keep an eye on in 2013, including Kyle Weiland and Paul Clemens. Weiland is still rehabbing and trying to get his strength back from his surgery last spring. Clemens struggled at AAA most of the season, but was successful in his final seven starts back at AA Corpus. He was too highly regarded a prospect coming in to the 2012 season to simply give up on him. He is another pitcher who I think would benefit from working with Clemens.

Another couple of pitchers that I will be watching closely are Tyson Perez and R.J. Alaniz. Perez got promoted in 2012 from extended Spring Training directly to Lancaster after making only 13 starts in rookie league Greeneville in his first season in 2011. His season numbers weren't great, but he got stronger as the season progressed and he was extremely good in the post-season. And R.J. Alaniz was having a solid season before his year ended early due to injury. I believe that both will repeat at Lancaster.

Coming Tuesday: Right-handed starters in short season leagues

Winter League Recaps

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Lara over Caracas 7-4
RHP Rhiner Cruz pitched a perfect ninth inning for Caracas, facing three batters and striking out two, but there was no comeback in the bottom of the frame and Caracas fell to 7-8 in the round robin playoffs.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Escogido over Aguilas 9-0
Jonathan Villar reached base after being hit by a pitch in his pinch-hit appearance for Aguilas. He was erased on a force out on the next play. Aguilas trails Escogido 3-0 in the nine-game series.

Happy Birthday - 1/21

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Dave Smith (died December 17, 2008 at 53)
An eighth round pick by the Astros in 1976, Smith pitched in 563 games for Houston from 1980 to 1990 with an ERA of 2.53, a WHIP of 1.189, and 199 saves. He was an All-Star for the Astros in 1986 and 1990.

SS Jose Uribe (died December 8, 2006 at 47)
Uribe came to Houston as a free agent in January 1993 and played in 45 games for the Astros that season with a .245/.355/.264 batting line. His best season was 1987 when he hit .291 for the Giants in 95 games.

RHP Jeff McCurry (43)
Originally drafted by the Pirates in the 14th round in 1990, McCurry came to Houston as a free agent in January 1999. The Houston native only pitched in 5 games for the Astros that year with forgettable results.

Tweet of the Day

Austin Wates
Are you mad bro? 
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Some Thoughts on the CSN Houston Deal

Let me preface this by giving my belated stamp of approval to the Astros front office for hiring Alan Ashby to replace Jim Deshaies on the Astros TV broadcasts. No one can truly replace JD, but having someone with vast experience in broadcasting who also has a history with the team will at least alleviate some of the heartache. The news that Geoff Blum will be in the mix too as Bill Brown scales back his schedule is, in my opinion, gravy. Blummer's sense of humor will be a welcome addition.

With that said, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take the Astros' business office to the proverbial woodshed ... again. It really seems that for every positive move the business side has made, they have taken two giant leaps backward in other ways.

Today, Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle tweeted out a link to this piece from David Barron, also of the Chronicle. I'm well aware that the new Astros/Rockets regional sports network, CSN Houston, is not available to 60% of Houston viewing households since I am a DirecTV subscriber. What galls me about the article is the characterization by CSN President Matt Hutchings and Astros President George Postolos that DirecTV (and by implication, Dish Network and U-Verse) is being unreasonable and that CSN Houston only wants what is fair.

Let's look at a few facts. First of all, this Reuters article gives us an idea of what some of the monthly subscriber fees are which are currently being charged by various regional sports networks. Keep in mind that CSN Houston is asking for $3.40 per month per subscriber and is requiring that the network be placed on the basic level tier. It was reported that the previous fee charged by FSN Houston was estimated at $2.50 per subscriber per month.
  • YES Network (Yankees and Nets) - $2.99 per month
  • Time Warner Sportsnet (Lakers and Galaxy) - $3.95 per month for some subscribers/reportedly $3.40 for DirecTV
  • Fox Sports North (Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, Wild, Gophers and Lynx) - $3.68 per month (the most expensive of all the Fox regional sports networks) 
Granted, the YES Network rates have been in place for quite some time and are slated to go up soon, but this is where they currently stand. I saw reports that most subscription fees fell in the range of $2.00 to $3.00, but was unable to find anything definitive.

Next, let's look at ratings information.
  • The Yes Network, currently $2.99 per month for subscribers, has been the most watched RSN for 10 straight years.
  • Time Warner Sportsnet, currently reported to be $3.40 per month for DirecTV subscribers, features the top TV draw in the NBA as the Laker's ratings from last year show.
  • Fox Sports North has the highest subscription rate of all, but includes football, hockey, the WNBA and college sports in addition to baseball and basketball. I wasn't able to find specific ratings information, but the above link shows that the Timberwolves had one of the fastest growing viewerships last season.
The Astros and the Rockets, however, have had a precipitous drop in viewership since 2007 with this article from Sport Business Daily showing a 35% drop in Astros viewership during the 2012 season alone. And lest we forget, Barron reported that a low of 1092 average households viewed the September 9, 2012 Astros game on FSN Houston.

It is unfortunate for Jim Crane that he purchased the Astros at a time when the team (and its viewership) has reached such a low point. In a better year, he would have much more leverage in these negotiations. In any event, I really cannot see how DirecTV is being unreasonable unless they are making other demands of which I am unaware. DirecTV most likely fails to see the value in charging ALL of its subscribers almost a dollar a month more than it did for FSN Houston so that 1092 average households can watch a Sunday game in September. I simply do not see how $3.40 per month, which would be one of the highest fees charged for an RSN, constitutes fair market value, and apparently DirecTV agrees with me.

Crane is responsible to his ownership group to get the best offer he can get with the holdouts. I understand that and I can respect that. But he cannot allow the situation to continue into the season. It is difficult enough to be an Astros fan right now. The Astros front office is threatening to make it more difficult. In addition to the threat of no televised games to 60% of Houston households, there is still no radio team in place with only 34 days to go until the first Spring Training game.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, will it make a sound? If a game is broadcast to no one, will there be anyone left to hear it when it is finally broadcast to someone?

Winter League Recap

VENEZUELAN WINTER LEAGUE

Lara over Magallanes 6-3
*RHP Sergio Perez (L, 1-1) went four and two-thirds innings in his start for Magallanes, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Two of the runs scored via back-to-back home runs in the second inning. Magallanes and Lara are both 9-6 and tied for the lead in the round robin playoffs.

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE

Escogido over Aguilas 8-5
*RHP Enerio del Rosario pitched to two batters in the eighth inning, allowing a hit and striking out one in Aguilas loss. Escogido now leads Aguilas 2-0 in the best of nine Championship Series.

*Free Agent

Happy Birthday - 1/20

No future Astros and only one former Astro with a birthday today ~

RHP Matt Albers (30)
A draft-and-follow pick in the 23rd round by the Astros in 2001, Albers pitched in 35 games (20 starts) for Houston in 2006 and 2007 with a 4-13 record, a 5.87 ERA and a 1.599 WHIP before being traded to Baltimore in December 2007 as a part of the Miguel Tejada trade. After spending time with Baltimore and Boston, he was traded to the Diamondbacks in July 2012. The Diamondbacks subsequently traded him to Cleveland in this dizzying transaction (per Baseball-Reference):
December 11, 2012: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Arizona Diamondbacks with Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw to the Cleveland Indians. The Cincinnati Reds sent Didi Gregorius to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cincinnati Reds sent Drew Stubbsto the Cleveland Indians. The Cleveland Indians sent Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cleveland Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald and cash to the Cincinnati Reds.

Tweet of the Day

Jake Elmore
Watching Cinderella, because I can.