Saturday, September 28, 2013

Happy Birthday - 9/28

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Javier Saucedo (20)
Saucedo was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Panama in 2010 and spent his third season in the organization with the DSL Astros where he put up a solid season out of the bullpen. In 14 appearances (one start), he was 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.217 WHIP. He struck out 26 and walked nine in 23 innings.

RHP Michael Feliz (20)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2010, Feliz spent his 2013 season with Tri-City where he compiled a 4-2 record with a 1.96 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP in 14 games (10 starts). He walked 13 batters and struck out 78 in 69 innings and held hitters to a .209 batting average.

Five former Astros with birthdays today ~

1B Dick Gernert (85)
Drafted from the Reds in the 1961 expansion draft, Gernert played for the Colt 45's in 1962 at the end of his major league career. In 10 games for Houston, he hit .208/.345/.208.

PH Gene Ratliff (68)
Ratliff had our at-bats in four games for the Colt 45's in 1965 and that one hit in the majors eluded him.

RHP Charlie Kerfeld (50)
A first round pick by Houston in 1982, Kerfeld pitched for Houston from 1985 to 1987 and again in 1990. In 98 appearances (six starts), he was 15-8 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.474 WHIP. His best season was by far the 1986 season when he was 11-2 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.206 WHIP in 61 appearances out of the bullpen. Kerfeld, along with Larry Andersen and Dave Smith, was one of the Astros coneheads back in the day.

C Ronn Reynolds (55)
A fifth round pick by the Mets in 1980, Reynolds came to Houston in an April 1987 trade with the Phillies. In 38 games, he hit .167/.189/.235. Reynolds was also a catcher for the fictional Sidd Finch.

C/PH Hector Gimenez (31)
Gimenez played in two games for Houston in 2006 and didn't get a hit in his two at-bats. Five years later, he would get his first major league hit for the Dodgers. He played in the minors for the White Sox organization in 2013.

Tweet of the Day


I attended an astro game tonight. Only person who recognized me was a 11 year old kid, all he really wanted was a high five. Made my night.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Astros Players Participating in Fall and Winter League Baseball

As you know, Fall Instructional League is already underway and I posted that roster here. One addition to that roster was RHP Tyler Brunnemann who was sent to participate after the roster was published. The Arizona Fall League and the Caribbean and Australian Winter Leagues will be ramping up soon. I will update this ongoing roster of players as more information becomes available, but here is what I know now.

ARIZONA FALL LEGAUE - PLAY STARTS 10/8

Peoria Javelinas
RHP Jonas Dufek
RHP Matt Heidenreich
RHP Andrew Robinson
LHP Alex Sogard
1B Japhet Amador
SS Nolan Fontana
3B Jonathan Meyer
*OF Delino DeShields

*DeShields is being converted from 2B to OF.

CARIBBEAN WINTER LEAGUE
Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional starts 10/10
Liga Mexicano del Pacifico starts 10/11
Liga de Beisbol Domincano starts 10/18
Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico) - usually starts in early November

Liga Paralela (Venezuelan Minor League)
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP Jamaine Cotton
OF Marc Wik
RHP Michael Dimock
LHP Blair Walters

I have heard rumors of other Astros players who will be participating in the Liga Paralela, but I won't post those names until I have either seen confirmation from the Astros front office, from the players themselves or when their names show up on a published roster.

RHP Gonzalo Sanudo told me that he would be playing in Mexico this winter, but that was back in early August so we will see whether or not that is still the case.

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE - PLAY STARTS 10/31

Happy Birthday - 9/27

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Jamaine Cotton (23)
Originally from the Virgin Islands, Cotton was drafted in the 15th round in 2010 out of Western Oklahoma State University. I'm going to cheat and use what I wrote about him in my Quad Cities Season in Review from earlier this week:
Cotton appeared in 26 games (five starts) with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.507 WHIP. He fared much better when used exclusively as a reliever, particularly long relief. In August and September, he had a 0.78 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP in nine relief appearances (23 innings). In the postseason, he made two long relief appearances and put up a 0.00 ERA and 0.158 WHIP with 10 strikeouts in six and a third innings.
According to a tweet from earlier this week, Cotton will be headed to Venezuela to pitch in winter ball.

Two former Astros have birthdays today ~

2B Gary Sutherland (69)
Sutherland spent time with the Philadelphia and Montreal organizations before coming to Houston in 1972. He only played in 21 games for the Astros in 1972 and 1973, hitting .242/.277/.323, before moving on to have his most productive years with Detroit in the mid 70's.

RHP Doug Konieczny (62)
A first round pick by Houston in 1971, Konieczny played for the Astros in 1973 to 1975 and in 1977. In 44 games (38 starts), he was 7-18 with a 4.93 ERA and a 1.588 WHIP. Methinks he would have been right at home pitching alongside Asher Wojciechowski and Mike Foltynewicz.

Tweet of the Day


I will rid my body of these baseball tan lines

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Oklahoma City RedHawks Season in Review

Oklahoma City had the best record in the American Southern Division and in the Pacific Coast League, but they fell to Omaha in three straight games in the Conference Finals and did not advance to the League Finals. Here is how the RedHawks 2012 and 2013 seasons compared.

2012 Win Percentage - .545
2013 Win Percentage - .569

2012 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 764 - 758 = 6
2013 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 677 - 645 = 32

2012 Team ERA & WHIP - 4.89 & 1.508
2013 Team ERA & WHIP - 4.21 & 1.395

2012 Team Batting Line - .282/.349/.434
2013 Team Batting Line - .271/.347/.403

The pitching was definitely an improvement over last season, primarily because there were a few actual prospects pitching there, not just filler and players who had struggled in Houston (although, naturally, there were a few of those as well). Out of 16 teams in the league, the Oklahoma City crew were sixth in ERA, fifth in WHIP, fifth in walks allowed and 14th in strikeouts.

It's hard to make any sweeping generalizations, though, when a whopping 35 pitchers appeared on the RedHawks roster at some point during the season and only a couple pitched more than 100 innings there. I've already talked about some of the pitchers who were promoted to Oklahoma City and, presumably, you're familiar enough with those who were promoted to Houston that I don't need to dwell on those so let's keep this short.

I only briefly mentioned RHP Asher Wojciechowski in my Corpus recap, discussing how he fared at the AA level. In 22 games (21 starts) for AAA Oklahoma City, he went 9-7 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.194 WHIP. He was seventh in ERA, third in WHIP and in the top 20 in strikeouts in the Pacific Coast League. He finished the season with a combined 11-8 record, 3.32 ERA and 1.150 WHIP.

LHP Eric Berger (27) appeared in 44 games (three starts) and had a 6-3 record with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.288 WHIP. RHP Jason Stoffel, who turned 25 last week, pitched in 44 games with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.267 WHIP.

The offense was first in the league in one category -- stolen bases. They were in the middle of the pack in batting average, on-base percentage, triples and walks and were toward the bottom in slugging, doubles and home runs. Only two teams struck out fewer times than the RedHawks, though.

Similar to the pitching, there are only a few position players that I haven't already talked about who haven't made their major league debuts already. Again, let's keep this short.

CF George Springer, who turned 24 last week, split his season between Corpus Christi (73 games) and Oklahoma City (62 games). Despite only playing in 62 games with the RedHawks, Springer was tied for eighth in home runs and ninth in stolen bases. He hit .311/.425/.626 with seven doubles, four triples, 18 home runs, 53 RBI, and 22 stolen bases in those 62 games and ended his season with a combined .303/.411/.600 batting line, 27 doubles, four triples, 37 home runs, 108 RBI and 45 stolen bases. Strikeouts have been an issue for Springer. He struck out in 29.7% of his plate appearances in Corpus Christi and in 24.4% of his plate appearances in Oklahoma City.

2B Jose Martinez (27) hit .282/.316/.410 with 19 doubles, one triple, six home runs and 42 RBI in 81 games at Oklahoma City. C Carlos Perez (22) hit. 269/.328/.345 in 75 games and threw out 47% of all would-be base stealers.

1B Jonathan Singleton hit .220/.340/.347 with 13 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBI in his 73 games with the RedHawks. He walked 46 times and struck out 89 times in 294 plate appearances. He was starting to heat up toward the end of the season, but overall, it was still somewhat of a disappointing season for him.

Again, it is hard to make any sweeping generalizations about the team since the roster has been a bit of a revolving door. By my count, I believe that there were 28 players who played for both the RedHawks and the Astros this year. As the prospects in the system make their way up through the ranks, the makeup of the AAA roster will continue to evolve. There should be more legitimate prospects coming through the level over the next few years and while there will always be a continuous shuttle of players between Houston and Oklahoma City (or wherever the AAA affiliate will be), I am hoping that, with the addition of a couple of consistent bullpen arms over the offseason (please, please, please Mr. Luhnow), there will be fewer frequent flyer miles awarded next season.

Seasons in Review for Other Astros Minor League Teams
DSL Season in Review
GCL Season in Review
Greeneville Season in Review
Tri-City ValleyCats Season in Review
Quad Cities River Bandits Season in Review
Lancaster JetHawks Season in Review
Corpus Christi Hooks Season in Review

Happy Birthday - 9/26

Two former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Bobby Shantz (88)
In 16 seasons pitched between 1949 and 1964, Shantz went full circle, starting his career with the Philadelphia Athletics and ending it with the Philadelphia Phillies.  In between, he pitched for the Kansas City Athletics, the Yankees, the Pirates, the Colt 45's, the Cardinals and the Cubs.  In 1935 and two-thirds innings pitched, he was 119-99 over 171 starts with a lifetime ERA of 3.38 and WHIP of 1.260.  He had 78 complete games, 15 shut-outs and 48 saves.  Obtained from the Pirates as the 21st pick in the 1961 expansion draft, Shantz was only with the Colt 45's for 3 starts in 1962, in which he went 1-1 with a 1.31 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP, before being traded to the Cardinals.  In addition to appearing in three All-Star games, he also won eight Gold Gloves and the 1952 AL MVP.

C Rich Gedman (54)
After spending the majority of his career with Boston, Gedman only played one season with the Astros (1990) and was used primarily as a back-up catcher to Craig Biggio.  He had a lifetime .252 batting average, .202 with the Astros.

More on Gedman from Wikipedia:

"1986 saw three of the highlights of Gedman's career. On April 29, he set the American League record for putouts by a catcher with 20, as Roger Clemens set the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game against the Seattle Mariners. On April 30, he had 16 putouts for a total of 36 in two days, which is the most for a catcher in two consecutive games. Gedman was also selected to the All-Star Game that year, to go with his appearance in the 1985 game. But the peak of his career coincided with one of its lows in the 1986 World Series. In the bottom of the tenth inning of Game 6, with the Sox leading by one run with two outs, Kevin Mitchell on third and Mookie Wilson at bat, reliever Bob Stanley threw a pitch that Gedman failed to handle. It was scored as a wild pitch, but many considered it a Gedman passed ball. Mitchell came in to score, tying the game. Then, Wilson hit a ball that went through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs to win the game for the Mets. The Sox went on to lose the deciding game, and the series."

Tweet of the Day


First year of college- that class looks interesting, I will take it. Senior year- that class starts way to early better not pick it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Corpus Christi Hooks Season in Review

Corpus Christi won both the first and second halves of the season and compiled the best record in the Texas League and the best record in the Astros system. They lost the Division series to San Antonio in five games. Here is how the Hooks 2012 and 2013 seasons compared.

2012 Win Percentage - .579
2013 Win Percentage - .593

2012 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 736 - 628 = 108
2013 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 657 - 603 = 54

2012 Team ERA & WHIP - 4.06 & 1.332
2013 Team ERA & WHIP - 3.84 & 1.295

2012 Team Batting Line - .268/.342/.410
2013 Team Batting Line - .255/.331/.417

The offense on this team ranked in the top three in the Texas League (out of eight teams) in most major categories. They were first in home runs and slugging percentage, second in batting average and doubles, and third in on-base percentage and walks. Unfortunately, they were also first in a category that they probably would prefer not to be first in -- strikeouts. Speed was not a big factor on the team as they ranked seventh in triples and eighth in stolen bases. Let's look at a few of the offensive standouts on the team.

1B Erik Castro (25) started off the year slowly, but ended it hitting .280/.368/.480 with 28 doubles, 18 home runs and 65 RBI in 117 games. He ranked sixth in on-base percentage and slugging in the league; eighth in batting average, doubles and walks; and tenth in home runs (tied) and RBI. He was also in the top 20 in hits and runs scored.

3B Jonathan Meyer (22) hit .260/.318/.403 with 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 68 RBI in 129 games. He ranked in the top 10 in hits and RBI, and in the top 20 in doubles, home runs and batting average. He will be representing the Astros in the Arizona Fall League.

RF Domingo Santana (21) hit .252/.345/.498 with 23 doubles, two triples, 25 home runs, 64 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 112 games. He ranked third in slugging and home runs, sixth in runs scored, 11th in RBI, 13th in on-base percentage and was in the top 20 in doubles and walks.

Other players who ranked in the top 20 in the League were 23-year old SS Jiovanni Mier (walks) and 24-year old Drew Muren (triples). CF George Springer, who just turned 24 last week, was still fifth in stolen bases, tied for eighth in home runs and in the top 20 in RBI despite playing in only 73 games in the Texas League before his promotion. He hit .297/.399/.579 with 20 doubles, 19 home runs, 55 RBI and 23 stolen bases in a Hooks uniform. Likewise, C Max Stassi was 15th in RBI and tied for 13th in home runs in the league despite only playing in 76 games for the Hooks. He hit .277/.333/.529 with 20 doubles, one triple, 17 home runs and 60 RBI.

C Rene Garcia (23) hit .304/.348/.419 in his 73 games at Corpus Christi before his call up to Oklahoma City. He ended the season hitting .293/.336/.394 with 20 doubles, one triple and five home runs in 91 games. His caught stealing percentage for the season was 46%.

OF Preston Tucker (23) was a little slow to acclimate to the Texas League, but ended up with a .262/.347/.456 batting line, 14 doubles, one triple and 10 home runs. Combined with his time at Lancaster, he ended the season hitting .297/.368/.505 with 32 doubles, two triples, 25 home runs and 103 RBI. 3B Matt Duffy (24) came along a little later in the season, playing only his final 24 games with the Hooks. He hit .247/.295/.461 with four doubles and five home runs for the Hooks and ended the season hitting .309/.378/.535 with 24 doubles, four triples and 24 home runs.

In looking at the pitching, I was actually surprised to find that the Hooks ERA and WHIP ranked fifth out of eight teams in the Texas League until I noticed how closely bunched many of the teams in the league were in the rankings. The Hooks were next to last in allowing walks, but were dead last in strikeouts. There were a number of standout performances on the team.

RHP David Martinez (26) led the league in wins (14), ERA (2.02) and WHIP (0.997) and was promoted first to Oklahoma City and then to Houston. He ended the season (in the minors) with a 14-4 record, a 2.57 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP.

RHP Jake Buchanan, who turned 24 yesterday, did not pitch enough innings in the Texas League to qualify as a league leader due to his promotion to OKC, but his 2.09 ERA and 0.927 WHIP would have been good enough to split the top two spots in the league with Martinez if he had. Buchanan ended the season with a cumulative 12-7 record, 2.96 ERA and a 1.099 WHIP in 30 games (25 starts).

RHP Bobby Doran (24) had an 8-2 record with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.170 WHIP in 23 games (13 starts) at Corpus Christi before his promotion to Oklahoma City. He ended the season with a combined 11-2 record, 3.51 ERA and a 1.222 WHIP in 31 games (21 starts)

RHP Asher Wojciechowski (24) only pitched in six games for the Hooks before his promotion and was 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA and an 0.923 WHIP in those games.

Of those who pitched for the Hooks all season, two rank in the top 20 in the league. RHP Nick Tropeano (23) ranked 12th in the league in ERA (4.11), 11th in WHIP (1.339) and first in strikeouts (130). RHP R.J. Alaniz' ERA (4.53) also ranked in the top 20.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz, who will turn 22 next month, started his season in Lancaster but spent the bulk of 2013 with Corpus Christi. In 23 games (16 starts) for the Hooks, he had a 5-3 record with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.229 WHIP. He was in the top 20 in the league in strikeouts. Other starters promoted from Lancaster included lefties David Rollins and Luis Cruz and were included in the Lancaster season review.

As to the bullpen, RHP Andrew Robinson (25) was the one constant in the bullpen as there were a lot of comings and goings in the Hooks 'pen. Robinson didn't get much action to start the season with the tandem rotation in place and was a little rusty in the early going. Once he got regular work, he flourished as he had a 1.69 ERA and a 0.991 WHIP in 26 outings over the final three months of the season. He finished the season with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.236 WHIP in 38 appearances.

LHP Pat Urckfitz (25) and RHP Jorge de Leon (26) spent the bulk of their seasons with the Hooks before promotions to Oklahoma City (and to Houston in de Leon's case). In 50 appearances between the two venues, Urckfitz had a 2.94 ERA and a 1.381 WHIP. In 41 minor league appearances, de Leon had a 3.46 ERA and a 0.990 WHIP.

After an early season promotion from Lancaster, RHP Carlos Quevedo (23) pitched 81+ innings for the Hooks with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.212 WHIP. He was used early in the season in a tandem rotation (five starts), but he fared much better as a reliever (3.09 ERA & 1.094 WHIP). Quevedo has been at his best over the last two seasons when used in long relief.

I covered several other relievers who spent parts of their seasons with Corpus in yesterday's recap of Lancaster (including Kenny Long, T.J. Geith and Cameron Lamb), but I would like to include a final note about RHP Jonas Dufek (25) who I also covered yesterday. As discussed, Dufek struggled initially but performed very well as the season progressed. What I didn't note was just how well he did with the Hooks in his limited time with the team. In 14 appearances, he was 7-0 with an 0.47 ERA and an 0.776 WHIP. He will be participating in the Arizona Fall League along with LHP Alex Sogard (2.88 ERA and 1.440 WHIP in 16 appearances at Corpus), RHP Matt Heidenreich (8.23 ERA and 1.811 WHIP in 25 games, seven of them starts) and Andrew Robinson.

Seasons in Review for Other Astros Minor League Teams
DSL Season in Review
GCL Season in Review
Greeneville Season in Review
Tri-City ValleyCats Season in Review
Quad Cities River Bandits Season in Review
Lancaster JetHawks Season in Review

Happy Birthday - 9/25

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Geronimo Franzua (20)
Yes, it is one of the cooler names in the Astros minor league system. Franzua, an NDFA from the Dominican Republic was with the DSL Astros for his third season. In 14 games (nine starts), he was 1-3 with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. Franzua made a great deal of progress over his 2012 season. In 2012, he walked 31 batters in 13+ innings. In 2013, he still walked 31 batters, but did so over 38+ innings. Baby steps.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

SS/3B Ray Busse (65)
Originally signed by Houston as a NDFA in 1967, Busse played in a total of 44 games for the Astros in 1971, 1973 and 1974, hitting .153/.209/.200.

RHP Mike Stanton (61)
Drafted by Houston in the first round in 1973, Stanton pitched in only seven games for the Astros in 1975 with a 7.27 ERA and a 2.308 WHIP. He went on to pitch for Cleveland, Seattle and the White Sox with a career 4.61 ERA and 1.509 WHIP.

RHP Ron Mathis (55)
Originally drafted by Detroit in the 30th round in 1980, Mathis came to Houston as a free agent in May of 1982. In 31 games for the Astros in 1985 and 1987, he was 3-6 with a 5.93 ERA and a 1.598 WHIP.

RHP David Weathers (44)
A third round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 1988, Weathers came to Houston as a part of the June 2004 trade with the Mets for Richard Hidalgo. He pitched in 26 games that season with a 1-4 record, a 4.78 ERA and a 1.375 WHIP. In all, Weathers spent 19 seasons in the major leagues playing for nine different teams. He won a World Series with the Yankees in 1996.

Tweet of the Day


Who's Luke? And who died and made him the standard for all things at moderate temperature?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Lancaster JetHawks Season in Review

Lancaster dominated the South Division for most of the season. Although the JetHawks could be streaky at times, they ended the season with the only winning record in the South Division and with just one win less than the league-leading San Jose team. In 2012, they squeaked into the playoffs and went all the way. This year, it was another team (the Inland Empire 66ers) who squeaked in, beat Lancaster in five games and went on to win the California League Championship. Here is how the JetHawks 2012 and 2013 seasons compared.

2012 Win Percentage - .529
2013 Win Percentage - .586

2012 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 843 - 786 = 57
2013 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 976 - 792 = 184

2012 Team ERA & WHIP - 5.00 & 1.458
2013 Team ERA & WHIP - 5.09 & 1.447

2012 Team Batting Line - .283/.353/.448
2013 Team Batting Line - .289/.384/.469

The offense on this team scored 299 more runs than the next Astros affiliate. And that wasn't just because The Hangar is a hitter-friendly ballpark. On-base percentage was the one area that improved the most over 2012 and that showed as more baserunners naturally translated into more runs scored. The JetHawks were ranked first (out of 10 teams) in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles and walks. They were third in home runs, fourth in triples, fifth in stolen bases and they had the fewest number of strikeouts in the league. The list of individuals from the team that ranked in the top 20 in the league in offensive categories is nothing short of astounding.

3B Matt Duffy (24), despite spending his final 24 games in Corpus Christi, still was ranked second in batting average, sixth in OBP, third in slugging, 10th in RBI and was tied for 14th in home runs as he hit .323/.397/.553 with 20 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs and 84 RBI in 100 games at Lancaster. OF Preston Tucker (23) was also still ranked 20th in RBI in the league after having only spent 75 games there before his promotion to Corpus Christi. Tucker hit .326/.384/.544 with 18 doubles, one triple, 15 home runs and 74 RBI in his time with the 'Hawks.

OF Andrew Aplin (22) was all over the league top 20. He was first in RBI, second in walks, second in runs scored, seventh in doubles, tied for 11th in stolen bases, 15th in hits, tied for 15th in triples and 16th in on-base percentage. He finished the season with a .278/.376/.424 batting line with 32 doubles, seven triples, nine home runs, 107 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

2B Delino DeShields (21) ranked third in batting average and second in on-base percentage with his .317/.405/.468 line. He was also second in triples (14), second in stolen bases (51), third in runs scored and 11th in both hits and walks.

1B/DH/C M.P. Cokinos (23) ranked third in batting average, eighth in on-base percentage and 17th in slugging (.313/.395/.475), fourth in RBI (94) and 20th in hits.

IF Joe Sclafani (23) ranked seventh in batting average (.303), seventh in on-base percentage (.396) and 18th in slugging (.474). He was also 13th in runs scored and 17th in walks.

OF Brandon Meredith (23) was fifth in the league in walks and on-base percentage, ninth in slugging, 12th in runs scored and was just outside the top 20 in home runs. He finished the season hitting .279/.399/.507 with 25 doubles, five triples, 16 home runs and 68 RBI. In the post season, he hit .368 with four doubles, four RBI and a stolen base.

Others in the top 20 included OF Chris Epps (24), C Tyler Heineman (22) and SS Nolan Fontana (22). Epps was third in walks, ninth in doubles, 12th in slugging (.503), 13th in on-base percentage (.381), and in the top 20 in runs scored and RBI. Heineman was in the top 20 in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And Nolan Fontana was first in on-base percentage (.415) and walks (102 in 104 games), ninth in runs scored and in the top 20 in triples. Fontana hit .381 with a double, triple, four walks, three RBI and three runs scored in the postseason.

Yes, the JetHawks had four of the top 10 in batting average, six of the top 10 in on-base percentage, two of the top 10 in slugging percentage, three of the top 10 in runs scored, three of the top 10 in RBI, and four of the top five in walks.

On the other side of the coin, the team ERA ranked 9th out of 10 which is frankly not surprising. The only team with a worse ERA was High Desert which, not coincidentally, has the only ballpark in the California League that is more hitter-friendly than The Hangar. The team WHIP and strikeouts, on the other hand, were in the middle of the pack for the league and the team issued the fewest walks of all 10 teams.

LHP Luis Cruz, who recently turned 23, spent the majority of the season with Lancaster and was seventh in the league in strikeouts, ninth in WHIP (1.332), and 16th in ERA (5.16). His 150 strikeouts for the season led all Astros minor league pitchers for the season. He also pitched the final four innings of a no-hitter started by fellow lefty Kyle Hallock (25) back in May. Cruz went on to pitch his final four games (two starts) for Corpus Christi where he compiled a 2-0 record with an 0.53 ERA and an 0.529 WHIP. One of those starts was a complete game shutout in which he struck out 14 batters.

RHP Brady Rodgers, who turned 23 last week, also ranked in the top 20 in the league in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Rodgers had a masterful postseason appearance in which he allowed one run on four hits and no walks while striking out 11 in seven and a third innings. RHP Aaron West was in the top 20 in strikeouts and would have ranked in the top 20 in ERA and WHIP had he pitched just a few more innings. West had the best strikeout to walk ratio (6.59) in the Astros system for anyone on a full season team. Travis Ballew was second in the California League in saves with 21.

LHP David Rollins (23) put up an 8-5 record with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP in 23 games (14 starts) before being called up to Corpus Christi for his final six starts of the season. His fellow lefty Tommy Shirley (24) largely flew under the radar as he managed a 3.35 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP in 27 games (nine starts). He was even better later in the season as he put up a 2.67 ERA and a 1.056 WHIP in 16 appearances (six starts) in June, July and August. He had a 1.69 ERA and a 0.938 WHIP in his only postseason appearance.

There were a lot of comings and goings on the staff, and I've already discussed Colton Cain, Mike Hauschild, Jordan Jankowski and Vincent Velasquez in my Quad Cities season review. Likewise, I will discuss Mike Foltynewicz and Carlos Quevedo in my Corpus review.

But there were a few bullpen pitchers who spent a good chunk of their seasons with Lancaster that merit a mention here. RHP Jonas Dufek (25) had a tough start to his season, but ended up with a very nice 1.80 ERA and a 1.044 WHIP over his last 30 appearances (45 innings) between Lancaster and Corpus Christi. For the season, he had a 3.19 ERA, a 1.241 WHIP and had 74 strikeouts to 20 walks in 67+ innings. LHP T.J. Geith (24) had a 2.86 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP in 31 appearances before his promotion to Corpus Christi. RHP Michael Dimock (23) had a bit of an up and down season with Lancaster after his early season promotion from Quad Cities, but ended the season with a combined ERA of 3.88 and a 1.162 WHIP. LHP Kenny Long (24) struggled with Corpus Christi to start the season, but put up a 2.83 ERA and a 1.012 WHIP in his final 23 outings back with the JetHawks.

24-year old RHP Gera Sanchez only pitched in a few games at Lancaster after his call up from Quad Cities, but managed a very nice 1.69 ERA and 1.219 WHIP. In the postseason, he allowed no hits and only one walk in his three appearances.

RHP Kyle Smith, who recently turned 21, pitched a two-hit complete game shutout for his one win in five starts with Lancaster after being obtained in the Justin Maxwell trade at the end of July. Let's just say that his other four starts did not go quite as well and leave it at that.

A postscript on the playoffs: As I mentioned in the intro, this team could sometimes be a little streaky and that was the case in the playoffs. Players who had been red-hot going into the playoffs didn't benefit from the four days off between the last game of the regular season and the first game of their playoffs (they had a first round bye while the wild card was decided). They were 12 for 53 with runners in scoring position and left 47 men on base in the five game series. But the pitching, for the most part, was very good as they compiled a 3.18 ERA and a 1.254 WHIP with 50 strikeouts (to only 14 walks) in 51 innings.

Seasons in Review for Other Astros Minor League Teams
DSL Season in Review
GCL Season in Review
Greeneville Season in Review
Tri-City ValleyCats Season in Review
Quad Cities River Bandits Season in Review

Happy Birthday - 9/24

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Jake Buchanan (24)
Drafted in the eighth round in 2010 out of North Carolina State, Buchanan split his 2013 season between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. He absolutely dominated for the Hooks, compiling a 7-2 record in 18 appearances (13 starts) with a 2.09 ERA and an 0.927 WHIP. He ended the season with a combined record of 12-7 with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.099 WHIP in 30 games (25 starts). He pitched 158+ innings, the second most in the Astros minor league system.

RHP Christian Garcia (22)
Drafted in the 29th round in 2012 out of Florence-Darlington Technical College in South Carolina, Garcia pitched in 18 games out of the bullpen, most of them for the Greeneville Astros, this season and compiled a 2-1 record with a 5.85 ERA and a 1.485 WHIP.

Alyson Footer (?)
Although Alyson isn't technically a part of our Astros family anymore, the scarlet-tressed MLB.com goddess will always hold a special place in our hearts. Happy Birthday, Alyson!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

The Quad Cities River Bandits Season in Review

Quad Cities didn't exactly struggle in the first half of the season as they managed a .551 win percentage, but that was only good enough for fourth place in a very strong division. In the second half, they had an excellent .623 win percentage which was good enough for second place in the second half. It also gave them a second place record for the full season. They quickly dispatched the first place team, Cedar Rapids, sweeping them in the Semi-Final Series before taking on and defeating Beloit in the Division Championship Series. In the best-of-five Midwest League Championship Series, Quad Cities defeated South Bend on the road in the first two games before completing the sweep at home. Here is how their 2013 season compared to the 2012 campaign. Note that all 2012 numbers are for the Lexington Legends, the Astros Full Season A affiliate prior to their move to Quad Cities this season.

2012 Win Percentage - .500
2013 Win Percentage - .587

2012 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 691 - 664 = 27
2013 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential - 636 - 559 = 77

2012 Team ERA & WHIP - 4.24 & 1.387
2013 Team ERA & WHIP - 3.62 & 1.316

2012 Team Batting Line - .252/.344/.380
2013 Team Batting Line - .247/.338/.362

Once again, pitching was one of the biggest strengths of the team. Out of 16 teams, the River Bandits staff ranked fourth in ERA and sixth in WHIP. They were third in strikeouts while allowing the fewest free passes in the league. Here are a few individuals who contributed to the team's success.

Because of the tandem rotation, injuries, promotions and early shutdowns, no one on the team pitched enough innings to qualify as a league leader, but the two that came closest to qualifying were RHP Vincent Velasquez (21) and RHP Lance McCullers (19). Velasquez' 3.19 ERA at Quad Cities would have put him in the top 10 in the league and his 1.118 WHIP would have landed him in the top 5. McCullers' 3.18 ERA was also top-10 worthy and his 1.347 WHIP would have put him in the top 20. The most interesting stat (to me) is that Velasquez was tied for second in strikeouts and McCullers was tied for fourth in strikeouts in the league, and the pitchers that they were tied with pitched approximately 40 more innings each than did Velasquez and McCullers.

22-year old RHP Daniel Minor was next on the squad in innings pitched and put up a solid, albeit unspectacular, 3.71 ERA and a 1.419 WHIP in his 31 appearances (12 starts), but his splits show that he was very effective in his 19 relief appearances as he compiled a 7-1 record with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.333 WHIP.

23-year old lefty Joe Bircher and 22-year old lefty Brian Holmes missed large chunks of the season due to injury, but both had good seasons. Bircher had a 4.15 ERA and a 1.292 WHIP in 14 games (10 starts) and had a very impressive 0.90 ERA and 1.100 WHIP in two postseason appearances, getting a win in one of those games. Holmes made 10 starts in 15 games with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.158 WHIP. In his final four appearances after coming back from his rehab, he had a 0.77 ERA ad a 1.071 WHIP.

Two stalwarts of the bullpen were LHP Mitch Lambson (23) and RHP Jamaine Cotton (22). In 41 appearances, Lambson had a 3.03 ERA and a 1.206 WHIP. In four postseason appearances, he had a very stingy 0.00 ERA and 0.300 WHIP and struck out nine batters in six and two-thirds innings. Cotton appeared in 26 games (five starts) with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.507 WHIP. He fared much better when used exclusively as a reliever, particularly long relief. In August and September, he had a 0.78 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP in nine relief appearances (23 innings). In the postseason, he made two long relief appearances and put up a 0.00 ERA and 0.158 WHIP with 10 strikeouts in six and a third innings.

Several pitchers were promoted from Quad Cities to Lancaster, such as right-handed relief pitcher Michael Dimock who had a 3.09 ERA and a 0.771 WHIP in 10 outings before his promotion. I will talk about him more in my Lancaster review. Three others who had been used as part of the tandem rotation early in the season were also promoted to Lancaster -- RHP Jordan Jankowski (24), LHP Colton Cain (22) and RHP Mike Hauschild (23). Jankowski was used exclusively out of the bullpen after the promotion, but Cain and Hauschild were used as starters at the higher level. Their stats at Quad Cities and their season stats, including Lancaster, are shown below.

Jordan Jankowski
Quad Cities - 26G/12GS 2.61ERA 1.071WHIP
Season - 37G/12GS 3.05ERA 1.082WHIP

*Colton Cain
Quad Cities - 23G/14GS 4.12ERA 1.454WHIP
Season - 28G/19GS 3.88ERA 1.401WHIP

Mike Hauschild
Quad Cities - 20G/12GS 2.92ERA 1.140WHIP
Season - 28G/19GS 3.50ERA 1.209WHIP

*It is noteworthy that Cain had an absolutely terrible April at Quad Cities. If you look at only the other three months that he was a River Bandit, he had a 2.58 ERA and a 1.241 WHIP.

2013 first round draft pick RHP Mark Appel (22) spent the bulk of his very restricted time at Quad Cities where he compiled a 3-1 record with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.182 WHIP in eight starts. For the season (including two starts at Tri-City), he had a 3.79 ERA, a 1.184 WHIP, struck out 33 and walked nine in 38 innings pitched.

LHP Josh Hader (19) was obtained in the Bud Norris trade with Baltimore in July, and subsequently made five starts for Quad Cities during the regular season in which he went 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.164 WHIP. For the full season, he was 5-6 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.258 WHIP. In the postseason, he was 2-0 with an 0.64 ERA and a 0.571 WHIP in two starts.

Several relief pitchers, such as Zach Morton, Patrick Christensen, Andrew Walter and J.D. Osborne had successful ends to their seasons with Quad Cities, but they were covered in the earlier season reviews.

If you've read this far, congratulations! Now let's take a look at the offense. The team batting average ranked 12th out of 16 teams in the league and the slugging percentage was 11th (which is reflected in mid to low rankings in doubles, triples and home runs). However, the team was third in on-base percentage and first in drawing walks. They were in the middle of the pack on strikeouts and were ranked fifth in stolen bases.

It should not surprise anyone that SS Carlos Correa, who just turned 19 on Sunday, ranked highly in many, many categories. His .320/.405/.467 batting line ranked him third in batting average, second in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging. He was tied for 13th in runs scored, tied for fifth in hits, and tied for sixth in doubles. Correa was fourth in RBI and 18th in walks. He ended the season with 33 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 86 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

OF Teoscar Hernandez, who turns 21 next month, ranked first in the Midwest League in runs scored, 13th in hits, and was tied for sixth in the league in triples. He also ranked at or around 20th in the league in slugging percentage, home runs and stolen bases. He led the Quad Cities crew in runs scored, triples, home runs and was second in stolen bases. Hernandez also led all Astros minor leaguers in outfield assists with 14. He finished the season hitting .271/.328/.435 with 25 doubles, nine triples, 13 home runs, 55 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

3B Rio Ruiz (19) started out slowly, but improved every single month at the plate, culminating in a red-hot August and September, including the playoffs in which he hit .370 with three home runs and seven RBI. Ruiz was tied for sixth in the league (with teammate Correa) in doubles and was second on the team in RBI and home runs.

Other players who ranked in the top 20 in the league were OF Danry Vasquez (19), 2B Austin Elkins (22) and OF Jordan Scott who turned 22 on Sunday. Vasquez ranked ninth in hits and 14th in batting average as he split his time between Detroit's Midwest League team and Quad Cities (after coming to the Astros system in the Jose Veras trade). Elkins was ninth in walks and 12th in OBP; and Scott was tied for 16th in triples and for 17th in stolen bases. Also of note is Roberto Pena's caught stealing percentage (52%) which led all of the Astros minor leaguers with significant playing time.

Several players had success at Quad Cities as they passed through, including Ruben Sosa (16 games), Luis Alvarez (13 games), Carlos Perdomo (5 games), Jon Singleton (6 games) and Joe Sclafani who led the team in OBP in his very limited time with the club (19 games). OF Dan Gulbransen (22) spent 15 games at Tri-City, 25 at Quad Cities and his final 16 games in Lancaster. As a River Bandit, he hit .284/.394/.386; for the season, he hit .321/.385/.502 with 15 doubles, one triple and seven home runs. 1B Jesse Wierzbicki spent the bulk of his season with Quad Cities, hitting .264/.358/.394 with 21 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 54 RBI in 87 games, before his promotion to Lancaster.

Seasons in Review for Other Astros Minor League Teams
DSL Season in Review
GCL Season in Review
Greeneville Season in Review
Tri-City ValleyCats Season in Review

Happy Birthday - 9/23

Happy Birthday to ~

C Brett Clements (23)
A graduate of Nova Southeastern, Clements signed as a non-drafted free agent this June and started his career with the GCL Astros. In 19 games, he hit .222/.340/.244. A switch-hitter, he fared much better against lefties, hitting .333/.444/.333.

2B/LF Ruben Sosa (23)
This switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic was drafted in the 23rd round in 2011 out of Oklahoma City University. Sosa split his season between Quad Cities and Oklahoma City, with the bulk of his time spent at the latter. In 62 games combined, he hit .280/.360/.366. On July 24th, he hit his first professional home run, an inside-the-parker.

Three former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Oscar Zamora (69)
Zamora signed with Houston as a free agent prior to the 1978 season and pitched in 10 games with a 7.20 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP.

C Terry McGriff (50)
Originally drafted by the Reds in the eighth round in 1981, McGriff came to Houston in an August 1990 trade and played in only four games for the Astros in which he went hitless.

RHP Pete Harnisch (47)
A first round pick by Baltimore in 1987, Harnisch came to Houston as part of the Glenn Davis trade with the Orioles (along with Steve Finley and Curt Schilling) in January of 1991. In 117 starts from 1991 through 1994, he was 45-33 with ten complete games, six shut-outs, a 3.41 ERA and a 1.205 WHIP. Harnisch was named to the All-Star team for Houston in 1991. His best season was 1993 when he compiled a 16-9 record and threw two one-hitters.

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Group shot of rookie road trip right before getting on flight. Enjoy!
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Instructional League Game with Roving Reporter Bill Morton

Bill Morton is an Astros fan and a transplanted University of Houston alumni who lives in Florida and enjoys attending Astros Spring Training games and the Gulf Coast League Astros games when he can. When he told me that he would be attending the first game of the Instructional League yesterday, I challenged him to write up a game story for me. He obliged with some terrific observations. One editor's note: I haven't worn stilettos in about 15 years.

Story by Bill Morton

Thanks to Jayne for letting me step into her stilettos Saturday in Kissimmee for the Instructional League opener between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

What started out as a pitchers' duel, turned into a learning experience for the Astros late in the game. And when all was said and done, the Nats escaped with the 2-1 victory.

First the good: Solid pitching. Jandel Gustave, Christopher Lee, Kyle Smith, Reymin Guduan and Zach Morton combined to shut down the Nats on just three hits. Gustave and Morton were exceptionally sharp.

Astros catcher Max Stassi, started behind the plate and shined for seven innings before being replaced. At the plate he went 0-3, but drew a pair of walks and scored Houston's lone run on a Tyler White single. Stassi, who is recovering from a concussion suffered on September 1st, will be back with the Astros Sunday night in Arlington.

Brett Phillips, who split time this season between Quad Cities and Greeneville, was 2/2, stole a base and made a nice running catch in the outfield. Jacob Nottingham stroked a double for Houston, while Chan Jong Moon and Tony Kemp added singles.

I'll put the bad and ugly in the same boat. There were some mental mistakes, mostly on the basepaths with three baserunners being picked off first. But hey, that's why this is called an instructional league. The coaches proved that by keeping the team on the field for a 30-minute "discussion" following the game.

The Astros will take Sunday off before taking the short drive on 192 to Disney to play the Braves on Monday. After Tuesday's camp day, the Nats and Astros will meet up in Kissimmee again on Wednesday.

Happy Birthday - 9/22

SS Carlos Correa (19)
The number one overall pick from the 2012 draft spent his first full season with the Quad Cities River Bandits. In 117 games during the regular season, he hit .320/.405/.467 (.432/.523/.550 vs. lefties) with 33 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 86 RBI. And he's just 19.

OF Jordan Scott (22)
Drafted in the 14th round in 2010 out of Riverside High School in South Carolina, Scott repeated the Low A level in 2013, spending his season with Quad Cities. In 125 regular season games, Scott hit .255/.342/.321 with 12 doubles, seven triples and 25 stolen bases.

RHP Luis Ordosgoitti (21)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2009, Ordosgoitti spent the vast majority of his season in Kissimmee rehabbing from an injury. In six late season starts, Ordosgoitti was 1-0 with a 1.05 ERA and a 0.974 WHIP.

Three former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Larry Dierker (67)
Dierker signed with the Colt .45's prior to the 1964 season and made his major league debut on his 18th birthday that same year. Dierker pitched in 345 games for the Colt .45's and Astros from 1964 to 1976 with a 137-117 record, a 3.28 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP. He was a two-time All-Star for Houston. He also managed the Astros from 1997 to 2001, compiling a 435-348 record and being named the National League Manager of the Year in 1998.

LF Jeffrey Leonard (58)
Leonard came to Houston in a September 1978 trade with Los Angeles and played in 237 games for the Astros until his trade to the Giants in April 1981. During that time, he hit .265/.329/.349. He came in second in Rookie of the Year voting to Rick Sutcliffe and made the All-Star team for both the Giants and the Mariners. Probably the most awesome thing about Leonard is that he has three nicknames listed on Baseball-Reference: HacMan, One Flap Down and Penitentiary Face.

RF Charleton Jimerson (34)
A fifth round draft pick by Houston in 2001, Jimerson played in 18 games for Houston in 2005 and 2006 hitting .333/.333/.833 in six plate appearances.

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First time I get to go to the pool all summer! Better late than never lol