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Friday, June 09, 2006

MLB's Best Rotation, "When Healthy," Takes Another Hit

As we reported on Wednesday, the Cubbies' Kerry Wood was already reporting shoulder stiffness after only his fourth start following his return from the disabled list. We predicted then:
Oh, and get this: Wood's already suffering from stiffness in his surgically-"repaired" shoulder.

It says here that Wood is not making it through the season without another lengthy stop-off on the DL, although one need not be Nostradamus to make such an obvious prediction. He's now listed as Day-to-Day.
Well, it's now official:

Cubs Place Wood on DL, Recall Guzman

In other "news," (1) the sun rose today, (2) Earth is not the center of the universe, and (3) the food-chain order remains dog-cat-mouse.

In all seriousness, have some news thrown in your FACE!

  • Following Jason Grimsley's revelation that he had used steroids, HGH, and amphetamines in his career that magically transformed him from a crappy pitcher into a slightly-less-crappy pitcher, Jim Leyritz has now 'fessed up to using amphetamines. Shouldn't this mean that the Astros actually won the 1998 NLDS against the Padres, during which series Leyritz homered three times in only ten at-bats (including one game-winner, I seem to recall)? Combined with the late Caminit's steroids revelations, I remain certain that the Padres will be shipping their NL Champion rings to the Astros any day now.

  • The local boys are to be the subject of this Saturday's This Week in Baseball, on Fox at 11:30 CST. Set thy VCR/TiVo.

I'm Old... or not

Okay... this was going to be a post about our softball game last night; but Blogger apparently had other things in mind. Just as I'm trying to format my post, all of my text disappears into cyberoblivion.
Suck.

Fat Elvis Continues Astros Renaissance

Buried in third place in the All-Star first baseman voting, the ordinarily placid Lance ("Fat Elvis") Berkman opted to vent his wrath on poor John Thomson and the mediocre Atlanta Braves. (I'd say that the Braves--whose 4.64 team ERA is no better than 11th in the NL and whose 1.44 WHIP is 14th--are missing stud pitching coach Leo Mazzone, but it's not like Baltimore's faring any better.) In any event, this is again one of those occasions where we do not need the expert services of Nostradamus to predict that Atlanta's division-win streak is over this season.

Besides, Nostradamus is a bit of a pretentious a-hole, always strutting around the place, pissing us off, making odd predictions:
  • "I predict that you're going to leave that bagel in the toaster too long and end up having to throw it out."

  • "That chili-and-cheese hot dog you bought at the Astros game today will be effecting great violence upon your digestive tract tonight and all day tomorrow."

  • "Even the $5 French prostitutes will reject your advances this evening."
So if we can avoid having to call him in for a day, all the better. Anyway, even though John Thomson (now 2-7) pretty much sucks, we've sort of had this penchant for making crappy pitchers look like Cy Young contenders. Besides, notwithstanding the past two years' worth of playoff shellackings of the Bravos, we haven't exactly enjoyed incredible success against them over the past ten years or so.

Not only did John Thomson cough up two dingers to Fat Elvis--the former of which travelled an estimated 425 feet--but Berkman thwarted his bid for an RBI in the sixth inning by throwing out Jeff Francoeur, who had been attempting to score on Thomson's flyout into right field. Not to diminish FE's accomplishments last night, but the true offensive story of the night was that Special K drew a walk last night, bringing his season total to eleven. He also didn't strike out! Accordingly, he brought his strikeout-to-walk ratio under 6:1. Kudos, Kaptain K!

Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel managed to pitch effectively, if not efficiently. Although he gave up only two runs, he still threw 109 pitches and walked three batters in only six innings of work. His ERA dipped below 6.00 for the first time in awhile, although his WHIP actually went up and his BAA remained at an unhealthy .322. In fact, I compared Cletus's opponents' statistics to actual players, and discovered the following:

Cletus: .322 BAA .406 OBP .588 SLG .990 OPS
Brad Hawpe: .323 BAA .399 OBP .581 SLG .980 OPS

Essentially, then, everybody who bats against Cletus hits as well as the eighth best hitter in the National League. That would make sense given that--for at least the third game in a row--Cletus coughed up a hit to the opposing pitcher.

The Mole pitched a perfect ninth, bringing his ERA under 5.00. It's probably too early to say that he's back to form, though, anymore than we should be assuming that Cletus isn't going to turn around and suck in his next outing. (Remember that, in his last start, Cletus gave up seven runs in six innings. At best, one could describe Cletus's performance this year as "inconsistent.")

All in all, though, I just can't complain about our third win in a row. The Astros Renaissance continues.

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That...

Having drawn the proverbial black bean, and being forced to leave my office at noon and sit four rows behind the visitor's dugout, I thought I'd toss along a couple thoughts that might not be readily apparent from the news reports and box score from Chris Sampson's sterling performance in yesterday's 1-0 dismantling of the Cubbies.

As has been my unfortunate custom all year, I arrived at the game just in time to see the bottom of the first inning. As I settled into my seat, I saw that Chris Burke was getting ready to bat. I was horrified, however, to look up at the Jumbotron and see that it was displaying a picture of Burke's face wearing a freaking sailor suit and cap! The very first thought that crossed my mind--unfortunately--was... "Ahoy, Faggot!"

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you... I guess it's just that the "sailor" look isn't the most menacing one, when looking to intimidate the other team. Would the Cubs even look at the Jumbotron? Well, probably not, although it only takes one of them to see "Captain" Burke up there (or the variety of other nautical Astros, some in Hawaiian shirts, some wearing ridiculous aviation sunglasses and straw hats) before the entire team is laughing at us. Is that really what we want? We've played laughably bad baseball over the past month; we don't need to find more reasons to entertain the opposing teams.

I'd attempt to Photoshop something to give you an idea of how stupid-looking it was, but my Photoshop skills... well, they're just not here right now.

Clearly, the reason Chris Sampson pitched as well as he did was because they didn't have a current photo that they could butcher in time to have it up on the Jumbotron. The rest of the team, howeve, were so mortally embarrassed and humiliated that they could muster only one run (and not a ton of hits, either) against Corky look-alike Sean Marshall:

 

The local boys' sole run came from a bizzomb off the bat of Brad Ausmus, his first of the season. Jason Lanedoza almost followed suit a few innings later, but his was called back after the umpires convened to declare it a foul ball. (Having not seen where it landed, I just can't offer any opinion as to whether it was fair or foul.)

The complete dearth of offense on both teams' part gave me plenty of opportunities to listen to the teenage guy (~17ish) who was sitting right behind me who, I would come to learn, was at his very first baseball game ever. He celebrated the occasion by disagreeing with every umpires' call that went against the Astros, pointing out the very, very obvious (e.g., After Special K chose to dive away from a pitch headed for his kneecap; Captain Obvious declared: "Woah! That was a close pitch!"), and so forth. Every strike was applauded as "Woah, good pitch!", every putout as "Woah, good catch!", etc. Woah.

You laugh, because it was against one of the worst teams in baseball, but the Astros Renaissance has begun, sluts.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Jason Grimsley Adds Another Chapter to Storied Career

Apparently, Diamondbacks reliever Jason Grimsley owned up to having used performance-enhancing drugs (specifically, human growth hormone), prompting federal agents to ransack his home for six hours. This is, at best, my second-favorite story about Jason Grimsley.

The very best Grimsley anecdote, of course, occurred on July 15, 1994. During a heated division game, the White Sox were tipped off that Cleveland slugger Albert Belle had been using a corked bat. Sox manager Gene Lamont complained, and Belle's bat was confiscated and taken to the umpires' dressing room.

Well, of course, Belle's bat WAS corked. The Indians could not afford to lose Belle to suspension in what was a tight division race with the White Sox. Therefore, Jason Grimsley (only 180 pounds at the time) volunteered to crawl through the air conditioning ductwork into the umpires' room, replaced the bat with a different one, and crawl back into the Indians' clubhouse.

Grimsley succeeded in the task, although the umpires immediately suspected foul play when they returned to their dressing room after the game. After all, the replacement bat read "Paul Sorrento" on it. Grimsley's excuse for replacing Belle's bat with a Sorrento bat? He had no choice: all of Albert's bats were corked!

Grimsley is now listed at 205 pounds. I guess we now know from whence that added bulk stemmed. It's nice to see that HGH was helping Grimsley overpower hitters: his ERA is now at 4.88 (4.77 career), and opponents are hitting .280 off of him.

There are some guys who--no matter their career accomplishments--will always be remembered for something besides their on-the-field accomplishments. Por ejemplo: What's the first thing that comes to mind when the name Robin Ventura is mentioned? That he was a solid, decent-hitting third baseman with a long career? Hell no--you remember this:


Welcome to the club, Jason.

Canadian "Hide-and-Seek Team" Gets Over on Reporter

From Deadspin.com:

Check this out. At a Tulane football game a few years back, three guys--who had been given Canadian Winter Olympics jackets to wear--convinced the television sideline reporter that they were members of the Canadian Hide-and-Seek team, supposedly a "demonstration" Olympic sport. Classic:


In unrelated news, you may have seen that the MLB draft began yesterday, with the Royals' opting for right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar, who had been selected 40th in last year's draft but, owing to his being represented by jerkass Scott Boras, Hochevar "failed to reach a deal" with the Dodgers. Hochevar's explanation? "The Dodgers felt I was not worthy to be paid with the top pitchers from last year's draft."

Well, Luke, you weren't drafted with the "top pitchers" from last year's draft. You were selected FORTIETH, not good enough for the first round (unless one considers a "sandwich" pick to be in the first round; I do not). So Scott Boras and the penny-pinching Royals ought to be a great match. See you in next year's draft, Hochevar. (Incidentally, how did Hochevar's stock rise from 40th last year to first overall this year, given that he pitched in an independent league the past year? Aren't independent leagues for washed-up has-beens like Rickey Henderson and Jose Lima?)

The Astros took high-school catcher Max Sapp out of Florida. Supposedly, Sapp has a pretty solid bat, but is only an average catcher, defensively. He is not expected to remain a catcher for long. The Astros also nabbed Rice second-bagger Greg Buchanan (whom Phat-C hates from the NCAA baseball video game) with their pick in the ninth round. Rice landed five players in the first eleven rounds, the highest being shortstop Josh Rodriguez (whom Phat-C also hates), who went to the Indians in the second round. My hope, of course, is that the vast majority of these players go back to Rice for another year (and, hopefully, another run at the national championship).

Finally, it is noted that Drew Stubbs was drafted eighth overall by the Reds. Stubbs should have been drafted by the Astros out of high school, but for the interference of Bud Selig. The Astros had reached a pre-draft deal with Stubbs for a $900,000 signing bonus. Selig, however, refused to bless the deal given Stubbs' likely place in the draft. (Apparently, players' draft position places them into a given pay "slot.") The Astros were forced to go back to Stubbs and renege on their earlier deal. The scorned Stubbs then opted for the University of Texas, where he raised his stock and was drafted before the Astros had a chance at him. Thanks a ton, Bud.

Blogger's Crappiness Parallels Kerry Wood's

I swear by all that is holy that I'm this close to moving to another blogging service. Blogger's lengthy delays, repeated error messages, failure to save posts, and failure to re-publish are just infuriating. I've been forced to pre-write all blog entries in Notepad because I have absolutely no confidence that, when I click the "Publish" button, my hard work won't be forever and irretrievably lost in cyberspace. WordPress remains a possible alternative.

Anyway... last night, Renaissance Man "Magic" Wandy Rodriguez showed Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel how to pitch on short rest, tossing seven innings of shutout ball. Alas, the Mole ruined the shutout in the ninth inning, having coughed up a run-scoring double to the mighty John Mabry. (I bet that's the first time that "mighty" and "John Mabry" have appeared in the same sentence.) Mabry's "offensive" statistics now measure at .194/.280/.254; last night's double was only his second extra-base hit in forty games (67 AB's) this year so far.

The Astros' new whipping boy served up seven hits and four runs in only 3 2/3 innings which, according to ESPN, was his "shortest start of the season." That's not that impressive of a comment given that this was only his fourth start. Oh, and get this: Wood's already suffering from stiffness in his surgically-"repaired" shoulder.

It says here that Wood is not making it through the season without another lengthy stop-off on the DL, although one need not be Nostradamus to make such an obvious prediction. He's now listed as Day-to-Day. As to whether Wood was rushed back too soon, Lance Berkman--who homered last night, while managing not to pass gas on Shafty and Phat-C, offered the following:
"I'm not sure if Kerry was pitching 100 percent," Berkman said. "I think he was in pain. I'm used to seeing him pitching around 96 or 97 [mph] and tonight he was around 90-91."
As Phat-C already noted, Roy Oswalt is now on the DL with back spasms. Taking his place is former Rice starter, lefty Phillip Barzilla. Not considered to be a big-time prospect, Barzilla converted from starter to reliever a few years back. At the time of his call-up to the bigs, Barzilla was 2-3 with a 4.13 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in AAA. He's exhibited some wildness, having walked 25 batters in only 48 innings. Strikeout-to-walk ratio is roughly 1.5:1. Perhaps Barzilla will be our latest attempt at having a "left-handed specialist," although he's probably viewed more as just a stopgap solution until Roy-O or Clemens are ready to go.

Speaking of Clemens, nearly everybody's seen or heard that some A kid got ahold of one of his split-finger fastballs and drove it into the seats in the first inning. Kudos to Johnny Drennen, who is only one of 13 hitters (including Manny Ramirez) to homer off Clemens in their first meeting, for putting his head down and sprinting around the bases after going yard. Perhaps Drennen had heard the story of what happened to the last snot-nosed kid who took Clemens deep?

I'm off to Game 3 today, and will report later on Chris Sampson's efforts to bring the local boys a rare series win.

A Day Late, $10.75 Short

I've been out of commission for a day, largely because I was so scarred by Monday night's horror show and the noxious fumes I ingested from "Berkman" (not Bagwell, Shafty... everybody knows that Berkman has worse gas), who was holding his kid to boot.
Thus, I figured I'd go ahead and let out what has probably been one of the most frustrating observations I've had for some time over our beloved Astros. They are numbered for your reading pleasure. Oh, and the $10.75 refers to how much "nachos" (chips with spicy cheese on them) and a Coke cost me at the ballpark.
Monday's Abominations
1. Serving a steady diet of 94-96 mph fastballs and 85-88 mph sliders, Crazy Carlos Zambrano manages to baffle our hitters. Here's a hint, "hitters": widen your stance, get off the nob, and take a two-strike approach (since you know you're going to have two strikes anyway)!
2. Down 1-0 with one out and runners at 2nd and 3rd in the 2nd Inning, Gar[d]ner pulls the infield in. Nice confidence there, Gar[d].
3. After successfully executing the drawn-in, out-at-the-plate play, The Magnet (b/c his ball seems to uncannily drift over the heart of the plate) manages to get two strikes on Crazy Carlos. CC then fouls off several pitches before launching a ball into the Astros bullpen. HATE.
4. With less than two out and a runner at first, a routine double-play ball is hit to Biggio. He comes up close to the basepath to field it. Instead of flipping to Bruntlett at 2nd and on to 1st for the "twin killing," The Bidge decides to try to tag the runner... and fails. At this point he opts to forego the preferred option of getting the lead runner out, and throws to 1st. Lamb alertly fires to 2nd, but not in time to nab Walker, who would later score on a single.
5. Morgan Ensberg, who currently appears to prefer walking to hitting.
6. The newly dubbed "E-10" (since 10 isn't a position on the field), referring to the horrendous blunder by the Astros' stadium announcer, who announced, "Now batting, Number Seventeen, Lance BERKman..." as Mike Lamb stepped to the plate. Berkman had gotten out in the previous inning.
7. The fact that we almost got no-hit (and ended up getting 1-hit) by Crazy Carlos and the Cubs.
8. Although it was a heroic moment, the fact that Special K/P-Dub/Master K/K Money/K Dawg got our only hit... and that on an inside-out mistake of a HUGE swing. I haven't cheered that hard since Bonds struck out looking, or since Potato Chips drilled him after 5 pitches.
9. There were far too many Cubs fans at Minute Maid Park. And note to you punks: If I go to Bubble Gum Field and the Astros are playing your team, I'll cheer for mine; but I won't make an a$$ of myself by screaming and jeering in someone else's ballpark. You punks probably cheered for the White Sux last year, too. I bet you have posters of A.Gay Peerpunksy on your walls. You probably dream about Scott Roidsednik, too. Neat.
10. The fact that the team lost the game in the second inning.
Don't get me wrong, Berkman looked great at the plate last night, and I'm glad we won; but for crying out loud... on the teams' home page, the top three stories are, in this order:
1) Chris Sampson will make his first ML start.
2) The Astros see potential in some red-faced baby boy named Sapp.
3) Roger owned his opponents in the Single-A game. Wait... should we be surprised by this? For crying out loud, the guy's a freaking future HOF, living legend! I do think it'd be cool to be the adolescent who hit the bomb off him, though. I'd freaking frame that ball.
Then, and only then, is there made mention of last night's win. Ridiculous. Priorities, guys... c'mon!
Oh, and The Mole just couldn't stand not giving up at least one run. He pisses me off.
Have a great day, everybody!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Today's Obsession

I just found out that Peeping Tom's debut album has just been released. PT is the latest project from former Faith No More frontman (and "noise rock renaissance man") Mike Patton. I was--and am--an enormous FNM/Patton fan and, with the exception of his "experimental music" band Fantomas, have enjoyed just about all of his post-FNM forays (including Tomahawk, which has been one of my favorite bands since its inception).

Ipecac Recordings seems to be taking a seemingly more traditional route to marketing PT than it had with other artists, including the preparation of one of those fancy multi-million dollar music videos that features Danny DeVito, among others.

Peeping Tom was on Conan O'Brien's show about two weeks ago, playing their first single, "Mojo." You can check their performance out:


"Mojo" is also streaming from PT's MySpace page. I've found this song to be extremely catchy today. If you like Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, or any of Patton's other projects, or Norah Jones (who shows up on this album), you might want to at least check it out.

Finding of the Day

Flashes of Jose Canseco, courtesy of YouTube and an unnamed Phillies center fielder:


Not quite sure who this is; Aaron Rowand is #33; #22 is currently held by reliever Arthur Rhodes. Amusing nonetheless.

Nostradamus Works Here

Yesterday I opined as follows:
The Astros' starter for Game Three is still listed as TBA vs. the Cubbies' Sean Marshall. I'm supposing that Garner is still holding out hope that Oswalt will be ready to go on Wednesday. It says here, though, that we'll have to get a spot start out of Chris Sampson or a AAA call-up.
Sure enough, Oswalt will miss his next start. Chris Sampson is now listed as the probable Wednesday starter.

I hate being right all the time; it's a rather difficult burden to shoulder.

Astros Renaissance Delayed One More Day

Houston city officials have warned residents to stay indoors today because of unusually heavy smog brought on by an intense release of methane gas in downtown Houston last night beginning on or about 7:05 P.M. Phat-C and I--having been in the affected area at the time last night--had assumed that the noxious odor was entirely coming from the fat guy wearing the Bagwell jersey walking in front of me:
Phat-C: *wrinkles nose* Did you rip?
Shafty: Nope. *points* I think Bagwell did.
Poor Bagwell. His career is pretty much over, and his name is still being associated with crappy stuff that he didn't do. Such as having to reside on the 40-man roster of what is--right now--a team playing the worst baseball in the National League.

No, although "Bagwell" didn't help the overall air quality last night, the worst odors emanated from the baseball "team" that took the field last night against Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs. Earlier in the day, Phil Garner sat his team down for a closed-doors meeting in which he lit into them about their crappy performance of late. The inspired Astros then went out and laid an enormous turd on the field.

The game last night was so poor from every angle that I just see no need to break its awfulness down from every angle. Instead, I'll hit a few points very quickly, and get on with the rest of my day:
  • Knowing how much we struggle to hit Carlos Zambrano, it's nice to see that Taylor Buchholz went out and kept us in the game. Good work. *slow clap*

  • The "Play of the Game" shown on the Jumbotron last night consisted of Eric Bruntlett's having fielded a grounder with the fielders in, and throwing home to get the runner. The very next batter (the Cubs' pitcher, it turns out) then hit a three-run homer. The net effect of the "Play of the Game," then, was that the Cubs scored just as many runs as they would have had the infield played back--but somebody else would have gotten the RBI instead of Carlos Zambrano. Either way, playing the infield in in only the second freaking inning displays that Garner has absolutely no confidence in his team's ability to score runs. Not an unfair belief, mind you but, if your manager doesn't believe in you, who will? I'm reminded of Phat-C's college baseball coach who, looking to motivate his team, uttered the following words of wisdom:

    "You Guys F__king Suck!"

    Thanks, Coach. Real inspiring.

  • Biggio's decision to throw to first late in the game, instead of getting lead runner Todd Walker, was a complete abomination. Walker would go on to score on a hit that would not have scored the runner on first.
So the task of beginning the Astros Renaissance now falls on Magic Wandy, against Kerry Wood and the Cubs. Good thing we've never had any trouble with Wood in the past.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Great Artists of the New Millenium


I have to agree with Deadspin--this has to be, without question, the greatest painting of a football player (Bill Romanowski, it turns out) fighting a demonic horse from Hell to save the castle, that I've ever seen.

Now this is ART!

My Lineup

In following Shafty's lead, I have to give my own personal lineup of choice for our beleaguered Astros. Here we go...

Biggio - 2B
Burke - LF
Berkman - RF
Lamb - 1B
Ensberg - 3B
Ausmus - C
Taveras - CF
Bruntlett - SS
P

My thoughts...

1) Biggio has done better in the leadoff spot consistently in his career. I think it's a mental (or maybe even stubborn) thing, but still.
2) Burke has proven he's valuable at the top of the lineup. He makes things happen and can sacrifice bunt if necessary.
3) Berkman doesn't belong anywhere but here.
4) Lamb is providing more bang for the buck right now, and he's driving in runs when given the opportunity.
5) Maybe Morgan will get some better pitches to hit with Ausmus behind him? His recent lack of RBI production drops him down right now for me.
6) Ausmus is still getting some hits, so I think he deserves it... if for no other reason than getting a breather from the lineup cellar from all these years.
7) Taveras has speed and can hit a little, but his low on-base percentage and lack of versatility drop him down in my opinion. This'll give him the chance to move some runners and get some pitches.
8) Bruntlett provides spark at the bottom of the order, and having him and Taveras both down there is like a softball lineup... you have a second leadoff combination.

Well, love it, hate it, or don't care... that's my thought. Granted, it could change in an hour.

Astros Need a "Power Outage"

"What?!? Certainly not," you say.

Allow me to explain.

Shafty and I have a little unwritten rule about sports video games. If you've ever played one, you know that they're relatively easy to dominate on the "normal" setting. In fact, they often even make you feel good about yourself by labeling the "normal" setting as "pro" or something. However, increasing the difficulty setting to "all-star" (or whatever they choose to call it) doesn't increase the challenge of the game. Instead, it increases the cheat factor of the computer (e.g., you try to hit a batter, but he hits a 500-ft. homerun instead... even though the pitch was at his head).

When this sort of phenomenon begins, Shafty and I tend to execute our rule, dubbed "Power Outage." What this means is that, when the computer begins to get uncontrollably cheap, we graciously bestow a "power outage" on the game, such that it restarts... "on its own." In other words, we hit the reset button. We then go in and proceed to cheap (yes, I used it as a verb) the computer to the tune of 23-0 or something. One-sided? Yes. Hypocritical? Probably, but it's a computer. Losing isn't the issue. It's getting cheaped that sucks.

So...

Have the Astros been cheaped? Yes. The computer has unsympathetically allowed us to get our hopes up by letting us go 19-9, and then dropped us in the dumps. We are now being robbed by Ryan Freel (who also had two... TWO... bombs yesterday). Ken Griffey, Jr., hasn't been injured in a while. We somehow can't hit Aaron Harang, The Page, or that AAA guy that started yesterday. For some reason Edwin is making plays. And the list goes on.

To make matters worse, our offense has--to quote Derek Bell--gone into "Operation Shutdown."

We need a "Power Outage." And we need it NOW.

Astros Look to Bolster Lineup vs. Cubs, Zambrano

Tonight the Astros look to rid themselves of their losing ways against everybody's favorite slump remedy, the Chicago Cubs. (Apparently there is a more proven slumpbuster, but remember that I described it not as the "most effective slumpbuster" but, rather, that which most ballplayers would prefer in a head-to-head competition.

The local boys are certainly in need of a boost, as they now have roughly a 1-in-25 shot of making the playoffs. Clearly, they've already given up on trying to chase the Cardinals, as I've seen more than a few quotes already in which they attempted damage control by pointing out that they're only X games out of the wild card. Way to shoot for the stars, boys.

The Astros Renaissance begins tonight against the psychotic-and-always-entertaining Carlos Zambrano who--given Dusty Baker's penchant for overworking his pitchers--should be expected to join Prior and Woods on the official "When Healthy" disabled list. Given our relative inability to hit Zambrano, the Astros should have sprung for a nice, fast laptop with a great capacity for downloading por... err, "e-mailing relatives."

Opposing Zambrano is Taylor Buchholz, who sports a muscular 3-4 record and 5.55 ERA. Game Two expected starters are Kerry Wood vs. "Magic" Wandy, who--like Cletus--is slated to start on short rest after having been bombed in his last outing. The Astros' starter for Game Three is still listed as TBA vs. the Cubbies' Sean Marshall. I'm supposing that Garner is still holding out hope that Oswalt will be ready to go on Wednesday. It says here, though, that we'll have to get a spot start out of Chris Sampson or a AAA call-up.

Perhaps we need Oswalt to pitch, if only for the expected confrontation with Michael "Marty" Barrett such as the one that propelled the 2004 Astros into a twelve-game winning streak, wild card, and a seven-game NLCS appearance. (Rumors that Barrett was voted a playoff share by the Astros were unconfirmed.)

Eric Bruntlett will start at shortstop agains tonight, as Adam "Mendoza" Everett will miss his fifth game in the row. This layoff had first been described as Everett's simply getting a day off, but has blossomed into what may be a roster battle or platoon situation:
"I have not made a decision that it was anything permanent or semi-permanent or what have you," Garner said. "If Bruntlett did get 10 hits, I would probably continue to play him on a day-by-day basis.

"But just because a guy goes into a slump, it doesn't mean he has to lose his job right away. We do need to win some ballgames, and if that coincides with us slumping as a team, then I'm going to try to find a combination to get something going."

Showing once again that he's really just guessing at a lineup, and only a few losses away from simply drawing the lineup out of a hat, Gar had this to say about moving Biggio back to the leadoff spot:
"We won a bunch of games with Biggio leading off, and maybe it's time to try that back," Garner said.
How about this, Gar: batting guys where they belong in the lineup, and keeping a consistent lineup with the best-producing players, rather than moving everybody around every game? I suggest something like this:

  • CF Taveras
  • 2B Biggio
  • RF Berkman
  • 3B Ensberg
  • 1B Lamb
  • LF Burke
  • C Ausmus
  • SS Bruntlett
In this lineup, Preston Wilson rides the pine, as does Jason Lane. Speaking of Special K, he could learn a thing or two about discipline at the plate from Pan-Kun, the Monkey/Rightfielder:


I've heard that the Astros are in talks with Pan-Kun's representatives about bringing on the diminuitive right-fielder as a "special hitting instructor" to the Astros.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

This Just In: Gar[d]ner Did Something Stupid

Again.
Since Brandon Backe went down on the DL once again this season--having decided that being on the shelf most of last season was delightfully fun--the Astros' rotation has consisted of Roy Oswalt, Andy "Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel" Pettitte, Taylor Buchholz, [Magic] Wandy Rodriguez, and Fernando Nieve.
Roy-O appears to have been healing slowly from the nagging injury that caused him to leave his last start a bit early (prompting another sucky performance from the bullpen), so Phil Gar[d]ner opted not to start Oswalt Saturday (his scheduled start). I'm in agreement with this.
What frustrates me is how Gar[d]ner chose to deal with the situation, after scratching Os from his scheduled start. Ultimately, he decided to pitch Cletus on only three days' rest (having trusted Cletus's well-informed opinion--given his injury problems the past few years--that he was capable of coming back on short rest and pitching well). In doing so, Gar completely eschewed the well-based statistic that those who pitch on short rest do so at their peril, with much less effectiveness than usual.
The trouble really stems from the fact that Cletus's usual effectiveness is, well, not really there too much this year. Then you throw him on short rest, which certainly doesn't enhance the chances of Cletus's escaping this year injury-free, instead of throwing a perfectly-rested Fernando Nieve.
Phil's logic was that the off day on Thursday afforded the Astros the opportunity to skip Nieve's spot in the rotation. He was hoping (dreaming seems a more appropriate term) that Oswalt would be ready to go after one more day of rest (Sunday). Naturally, Oswalt wasn't. Obviously, it's not fair to judge somebody's decisions by hindsight. The timing of this post will suggest that this is precisely what I am doing.

Actually, though, I disagreed with the notion when it was first posited as a possibility. If Roy-O is still recovering from injury, the last thing I want to do is throw him out there too early and risk permanent (or season-ending) injury. Nor do I really want him to pitch in pain, because that just isn't going to do swell things to one's prospects of winning the game.
(BTW, I wish it were as easy for the Astros to find a win every now and then, as it is for me to spot goofy-looking people sitting right behind home plate. Where do they get this group of bozos from--the street outside the park?)
But the chances of Roy being (a) unable to pitch on Saturday, but (b) fully recovered on Sunday, are just remote. They were then, they are now. (Well, it's now documented truth, as of Sunday night.) So Gar[d]ner was likely to have to throw Nieve out there, anyway. Why not go Nieve-Cletus, both on full rest, than Cletus (on short rest)-Nieve? Stupid.

Sure enough, Nieve pitched pretty well today. Too bad our freaking anemic offense decided that two hits (or something like that--I was sort of watching the game while trying to build a treehouse with a set of instructions that labeled parts A through AR, and had a ton of different bolts and nuts, although one was naturally missing and necessitated a trip to the hardware store--I saw only bits and pieces of the game) was all they really wanted to put up in regulation today.
Cletus, of course, pitched poorly. Freaking Bronson Arroyo out-RBI'd the Astros. Totally weak.
So Nieve-Cletus would have done nobody any harm, and given Oswalt two days' extra rest. If he weren't able to go by then, you start wondering if something more sinister is in order, and bring up Jason Hirsch for a spot start. Lord knows there are some folks deserving of joining Mike Gallo in Round Rock for a few days.

So great work, Gar. 3 games under .500, after being swept by what was a slumping Reds team. Crap!