Saturday, October 5, 2013

Happy Birthday - 10/5

Happy Birthday to ~

LF Marc Krauss (26)
Krauss came to the Astros organization (along with Bobby Borchering) in a July 2012 trade with the Diamondbacks for 3B Chris Johnson. He split his season between Oklahoma City and Houston, making his major league debut in June. In 78 games at AAA, he hit .281/.401/.478 with 16 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs. In 52 games with the Astros, he hit .209/2.67/.366 with nine doubles and four home runs.

Former Astros with birthdays today:

RHP Felipe Paulino (30)
First signed by the Astros as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Paulino was never quite able to put it together for Houston.  In 34 starts over 47 appearances for the Astros in 2007, 2009 and 2010, Paulino went 6-21 with a 5.83 ERA and 1.598 WHIP.  Traded to the Rockies for Clint Barmes in November of 2010, Paulino only spent a short time with the Rockies before being dealt to the Kansas City Royals.

CF Al Heist (died October 2, 2006 at 78)
Drafted from the Cubs in the 1961 expansion draft, Heist played in 27 games for the Colt 45's in 1962, hitting .222/.263/.236. He played for three more seasons for Houston in the minor leagues, but never made it back to the majors.

OF Alex Diaz (45)
Diaz signed as a free agent with Houston in January 1999. He played in 30 games for the Astros that season, hitting .220/.264/.320.

RHP Brandon Puffer (38)
Originally drafted by the Twins in the 27th round in 1994, Puffer first came to the Houston organization in 2000 after pitching in the Atlantic League. In 68 games for the Astros in 2002 and 2003, he was 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA and a 1.611 WHIP.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy Birthday - 10/4

Several former Astros celebrating birthdays today:

OF Billy Hatcher (53)
Billy Hatcher came to Houston via a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Jerry Mumphrey.  He played for the Astros from 1986 to 1988 and part of 1989, hitting .266 during that time.  His best year offensively for the Astros was 1987 when he hit .296 for the season.  Billy is best remembered by Houston fans for postponing the inevitable.  In Game 6 of the NLCS in 1986, he hit a homerun in the 14th inning against the Mets to re-tie the game which the Astros eventually lost in the 16th inning to lose the series.  In 1989, he was traded to Pittsburgh for Glen Wilson and later played for the Reds, the Red Sox, the Phillies and the Rangers.  He is currently the First Base Coach for the Reds.

RHP Don Bradey (79)
Bradey's entire major league career consisted of two and a third innings pitched in three games for the Colt 45's in 1964 with a 19.29 ERA and a 3.857 WHIP. Ouch. In 15 minor league seasons, he was 127-118 with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.410 WHIP.

RHP Joe Boever (53)
Boever came to Houston as a free agent in January of 1992. In 81 games in relief for the Astros that season, he was 2-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 1.329 WHIP and led the league in appearances.

2B Mark McLemore (49)
Originally drafted by the Angels in the ninth round in 1982, McLemore signed as a free agent with the Astros in March 1991. In 21 games for the Astros, he hit .148/.221/.164. Of 19 seasons spent in the major leagues, McLemore spent 18 of them in the American League hitting .260/.351/.343.

OF Chris James (51)
James signed as a free agent with Houston in January of 1993 and appeared in 65 games for the Astros before being traded to the Rangers in September of that year. He hit .256/.333/.488 during his time as an Astro.

MGR Jimy Williams (70)
Williams managed the Astros in 2002, 2003 and part of 2004 and compiled a 215-197 record with Houston. He was preceded by Larry Dierker and followed by Phil Garner.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy Birthday - 10/3

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B/C Eric Munson (36)
Originally drafted by the Tigers in the first round in 1999, Munson signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2005. In 103 games for Houston in 2006 and 2007, he hit .216/.291/.352.

RHP Jack Lamabe (died December 21, 2007 at 71)
Lamabe came to Houston from the Red Sox in a September 1965 trade and left less then three months later in a trade to the White Sox. In between, he pitched in three games (two starts) for the Astros, going 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.579 WHIP. Lamabe got his World Series ring pitching for St. Louis in 1967.

RHP Bert Roberge (59)
A 17th round draft pick for Houston in 1976, Roberge pitched for the Astros in 1979, 1980 and 1982, compiling a 6-2 record, 3.73 ERA and 1.293 WHIP in 62 appearances out of the bullpen.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Home Run, Strikeout and Walk Rates in the Astros System

Astros fans are currently licking their wounds after a very disappointing 2013 season. One of the most disappointing factors to the season was the strikeout rate. Not only did the team set a single season record for most strikeouts, 1B/LF/DH Chris Carter struck out a whopping 212 times and became the third all-time single season leader in the category.

Home run hitters by their very nature tend to be more prone to the strikeout. I was curious about the rate of strikeouts in the major leagues vs. the minor leagues in the Astros system, particularly for those who have the ability to hit the long ball. I looked at every player in the system who had a minimum of 10 home runs for the season and looked at the percentage of their plate appearances that resulted in a home run, a strikeout or a walk. If a player split their time between the major leagues and minor leagues, I included those separately (except for Max Stassi who only had 8 PA at the MLB level). These are the results, sorted from low to high by strikeout rates.

*The majority of the stats for Japhet Amador and Leonardo Heras are from their time in the Mexican League this season.

As you can see from the chart, there are several players with modest power in the Astros minor league system whose strikeout rates are manageable -- M.P. Cokinos, Tyler Heineman, Kike Hernandez, Leo Heras and Rio Ruiz among them. Among these, Ruiz is arguably the most likely to develop more power. In light of this, his good walk rate and manageable strikeout rate are very encouraging.

Then you have a group with more significant power and strikeout rates under 20% -- Japhet Amador, Preston Tucker, Matt Duffy and Brandon Meredith. Meredith boasts a phenomenal walk rate as well.

Following them is a group with varying amounts of power and strikeout rates between 20% and 25% -- Jonathan Meyer, Max Stassi, Erik Castro, Mike Martinez, Teoscar Hernandez and Chris Epps. Castro and Epps, in particular, balance out their strikeouts with good walk rates.

Finally, let's look at three of those with higher strikeout rates in 2013. Jon Singleton's season was not reflective of what he's done in the past. I have included a chart below that shows lifetime stats for all of the players in question. Singleton struck out at a far greater clip than his 22% lifetime rate and I feel certain that he will adjust in 2014. George Springer's strikeout rate in Oklahoma City for the last 62 games of the regular season was 24.4% as compared to a 29.7% rate in the first 73 games of the season. He will likely continue to strike out at around a 25% rate, but if he can give you 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI a year while also drawing walks 12 to 13% of the time, you'll probably take that. Domingo Santana only turned 21 in August so it is not inconceivable that he will improve on his strikeout rate, but with over 2000 career plate appearances under his belt, what you see may be what you get.

You can draw your own conclusions from these charts, but I think that there are several players in the minor league system today who will prove to be capable of providing home run power without being at risk of setting a single season strikeout record.

Happy Birthday - 10/2

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Lance McCullers (20)
A first round supplemental pick by Houston in 2012, McCullers spent his second professional season with the Quad Cities team. In 25 games (19 starts), he went 6-5 with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.347 WHIP. He struck out 117 batters while walking 49 in 104+ innings pitched.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B Oswaldo Navarro (29)
Originally signed as a NDFA out of Venezuela by the Mariners in 2001, Navarro came to the Astros organization as a free agent in 2009.  He appeared in 14 games with the Astros in 2010 and had one hit and five walks in 20 at-bats.

SS/3B Ernie Riles (53)
A third round draft pick by Milwaukee in 1981, Riles came to Houston as a free agent in January 1992. In 39 games for the Astros, he hit .262/.281/.328.

Manager Leo "the Lip" Durocher (died October 7, 1991 at 86)
Durocher managed the Astros for the final 31 games in 1972 and went on to manage Houston in 1973 at the end of his career. He compiled a 98-95 record with the Astros during those two seasons. During 24 years of managing, he went 2008-1709 with two pennants and one World Series title. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 posthumously. Baseball-Reference has more on the very colorful Durocher here.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Birthday - 10/1

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Junior Garcia (18)
Signed as an NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Garcia spent his first professional season with the DSL Astros. In 14 games (one start), he was 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.069 WHIP. He walked 12 batters while striking out 30 in 33+ innings, all at the ripe old age of 17.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

3B Chris Johnson (29)
Drafted by Houston in the fourth round in 2006, Johnson played for the Astros starting in 2009 and ending with his trade to the Diamondbacks in July of 2012. In 304 games, he had a .274/.314/.421 batting line with 64 doubles, eight triples and 26 home runs, 8 of which were in the 2012 season prior to the trade. In January 2013, he was traded to the Braves where he was second in the National League in batting average, hitting .321/.358/.457.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

It's a Big Old Goofy World* - Thoughts on the Astros 2013 Season

Baseball may be as American as apple pie, but the Astros season was as ugly as sin at times. Thankfully, the 2013 campaign is dead as a doornail. We knew it wouldn't be as pretty as a picture, but with wins as scarce as hens teeth, it was as tough as old boots to watch at times.

Jeff Luhnow had a plan that was sound as a bell. He was cool as a cucumber coming in to the season, but injuries and ineffectiveness hurt like a size 6 shoe on a size 8 foot. Luhnow isn't exactly dumb as a box of rocks. He knew that a good season would be about as easy as nailing jello to a tree, but it quickly became as clear as day that all was not going according to plan.

Most of us would be sweating like a lady of the night in church, but Luhnow was still fresh as a daisy, confident that the future would prove him to be smart as a whip. He started dealing like a Riverboat hustler to ensure that the farm system would be strong as an oak.

Yet for those of us watching everything like a hawk, it was easy to get more discouraged than a Trekkie at a Victoria's Secret models convention. It is plain as the nose on one's face that it is hard as nails to watch one's hometown team struggling like a bug caught in molasses.

Things are always darkest before the dawn and, at times it was black as midnight. But I prefer to focus on the smooth-as-silk debut of a pitcher with an arm like a whip or another rookie pitcher with the heart of a lion. Or the human highlight reel taking hits away like taking candy from a baby, again and again and again and again, when he wasn't hot as blue blazes in the batter's box. Matt Dominguez was as slick as a whistle at third base and even made baubles look as right as rain. Matty D and Jason Castro also proved themselves to be strong as oxen.

Despite some of these highlights, it was about as much fun as a root canal for the fans at times, but Luhnow and company have started the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. And as sure as God made little green apples, those players who move forward will be forged as strong as steel by going through this baptism by fire, as will the fans who have slogged through the swamp of futility with the patience of Job.
And at the end of the day, the integrity of the game is as fit as a fiddle despite the best efforts of the Astros to destroy it, and the future is bright.

Mike Foltynewicz

Asher Wojciechowski

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

George Springer

Jon Singleton

There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Vincent Velasquez

Delino DeShields

Mark Appel

Yes, the future is as bright as the sun, as far as the eye can see.

Carlos Correa

Lance McCullers

Rio Ruiz

*With apologies to John Prine

Happy Birthday - 9/30

Happy Birthday to ~

IF Jack Mayfield (23)
A product of the University of Oklahoma program, Mayfield signed with Houston as a non-drafted free agent in 2013. He split his first season with the Astros between Greeneville and Tri-City. Between the two venues, he hit .238/.299/.346 with eight doubles, four home runs and 18 RBI in 55 games.

RHP Carlos Quevedo (24)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2006, Quevedo started the season in Lancaster, but was quickly promoted to Corpus Christi where he spent the bulk of his season. He was used early on as part of the tandem rotation pairings, but fared much better when used in relief. For the season, he had a 3.39 ERA and a 1.176 WHIP in 38 appearances (five starts) over 85 innings.

Four former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Robin Roberts (died May 6, 2010 at age 83)
Roberts came to Houston as a free agent in August 1965 and pitched in 23 games (22 starts) for the Astros in 1965 and 1966. Roberts compiled an 8-7 record with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.146 WHIP. His best years were those spent with the Phillies for whom he was an All-Star in seven straight seasons. An astounding statistic in this day and age is that of Roberts' 609 career starts, 305 of them were complete games. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.

3B/1B Dave Magadan (51)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the second round in 1983, Magadan signed with Houston as a free agent in April 1995. In 127 games for the Astros that season, Magadan hit a rather healthy .313/.428/.399 with 24 doubles and 71 walks.

RHP Jose "Lima Time" Lima (died May 23, 2010 at age 37)
Lima came to the Houston organization in a December 1996 trade with Detroit and pitched for the Astros from 1997 until he was traded back to Detroit in a June 2001 trade. In 167 games (111 starts) for Houston, he was 46-42 with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.328 WHIP. He had his greatest success for Houston in 1998 and his All-Star season of 1999 when he went 21-10 in his 35 starts.

LHP Yorkis Perez (46)
Perez came to Houston in a March 2000 trade with the Phillies for LHP Trever Miller and pitched in 33 games for the Astros with a 2-1 record, a 5.16 ERA and a 1.721 WHIP.

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all I've been watching the past 3 days. Lots of time invested, all for tonight. Can't wait

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy Birthday - 9/29

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

LHP Jim Crawford (63)
A 14th round draft pick by Houston in 1972, Crawford pitched in 92 games for the Astros in 1973 and 1975. In those games, he was 5-9 with 10 saves, a 4.02 ERA and a 1.474 WHIP. Crawford was traded to the Tigers in December 1975. According to Baseball-Reference, his first plate appearance came four days after his pitching debut in 1973 and resulted in a walk-off double in extra innings against the Dodgers.

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Tonight's Astros starter Paul Clemens hadn't even been born yet when Andy Pettitte was born.