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Saturday, July 08, 2006

*ignites the Blame Thrower*

Let's see, after the Mole blew a two-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning, where shall we begin to apportion responsibility where due?

Let's start chronologically. Phil Gar[d]ner, your lineup once again blew all sorts of chunks, not to mention farm animals. That's right: your lineup orally copulated farm animals. Goats and the like. Morgan "The Vortex" Ensberg has no freaking clue what he's doing at the plate, and yet you continue to trot him out to bat in the third spot in the lineup.

If this is about having a "gut feeling" that he's due to break out of his two-and-a-half-month-long slump to end all slumps, pull your head out. He's not going to work through his problems--whether they be injury-related, not seeing the ball well, or blown confidence--at the major league level, much less for a playoff contending team. If batting him third is about thinking that he'd just pull out of it if he saw better pitches, and he's going to see more hittable pitches in front of Berkman, once again: pull your head out. He's been getting hittable pitches. He isn't doing anything with them, other than watching them come right down the pipe or, at best, fouling them off. Ideal Solution: Ensberg goes down to AAA to work out his problems. Lamb starts at third; Taveras to center; Burke in right. Since we all know that isn't going to happen because we just can't bear the thought of hurting one of our professional athlete's feelings... bat him 7th or later in the lineup. I'd even rather see Never-Hit in front of him, the way the two are hitting.

Sorry to pick on you twice in a row, Vortex, but you're the next one up, chronologically. (I'm giving Lambo a pass on his first-inning error because, hey, we don't expect him to be a Gold Glover at first. He digs the throws he needs to--several of yours included--and he's in the lineup for his bat, to make up for your sorry-ass performances. And he's getting the job done, there.) Today wasn't your best game at the plate: three punchouts in a row (hey, a hat trick!), an awful not-out-of-the-infield popout with bases juiced in the seventh and, when we actually could have USED your walking skills in the 10th... you flied out. You're now hitting worse than Ausmus and Never-Hit. Ideal Solution: Vortex, if you're hurt, tell Gar[d]ner or Purpura. You're NOT getting the job done and, at the moment, you're hurting the team. Rest up, and get healed. If you're NOT hurt, you need to talk to Gaetti and Gar[d]ner about heading out 290 to Round Rock, to get your swing--and confidence--worked on. You're got enormous potential, but we've absolutely GOT to get performance out of you.

Skullcap, not a good game for you. Oh-for-five with two double plays and a strikeout. Eh... your recent production excuses you from further insult.

Kudos to all of the following for great games: The Beege, Lambo, Fat Elvis, Burke, Qualls, and Wheeler. Studly.

The Mole: You freaking blew chunks tonight. You recorded two relatively quick outs, and then locked up. Given eight chances to get guys out with two strikes on them... you screwed every opportunity. This is 100% mental; you've got the stuff to get people out (although I can't--for the life of me--figure out why you haven't bothered to pick up a changeup to set up your fastball), but your psyche is apparently more fragile than we'd assumed. I have serious reservations about whether you have the mental makeup to be our 9th inning guy. Some guys have electric stuff, but can't cut it in pressure situations (Dotel). Other guys seemingly have more than enough moxie to make up for what had been VERY hittable stuff in other roles (Gagne). Solution: Get your s[tuff] together, or plan to be pumping gas somewhere. Maybe a trip to Round Rock is in order so that you can get your competitive juices flowing by blowing past has-beens and never-will-bes at the AAA level. Work on these three items, specifically:
  1. Get your fastball down.

  2. Start throwing your slider for strikes. The book's out on you that you can't throw your slider for strikes. You're falling behind, and guys are sitting on your fastball which--while good--you're keeping too high in the strikezone. If you can throw your slider for a strike--but not hang it, like you've been doing--they can't sit fastball.

  3. Learn a changeup, for crying out loud. Keep batters guessing on speeds, not just location.
And so we're back where we started: Gar[d]ner. Why, oh why, did you bring in Roy-O in relief, with at least three guys I can think of who would have been available? Borkowski's capable of giving you several innings (if your concern is that the game will drag on), and--if Roy needs work--you have the means with which to get him into the game on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

It almost seems like you're trying to get L's tacked onto him. Your lineups have completely sucked (i.e., Vortex hitting third and killing our rallies) every time he's pitched. He's now been stuck with two straight complete game losses. Today, you throw him into an awful situation: your "closer" has just blown a two-run lead, your team's morale is down, and Roy gets to face Pooholes right off the bat, on two days of rest? Tsk, tsk. Poor Roy.

Let's see what's on deck for tomorrow... *flips open his Treo* Cletus against... Chris Carpenter. Aw hell, I better start writing tomorrow's post-mortem tonight.

Mario Williams Interview Astros Game Not Enjoyed by All

Again demonstrating the well-known fact that the Astros really don't know how to handle success (well, relative success--they were still THIRD in the division), the local boys gift-wrapped and handed last night's game back to the Cardinals.

I knew it was over during the pregame show when they tacked up the Astros lineup, and--lo and behold--the Vortex was slotted to bat third in the lineup again. To his credit, Morgan's performance last night wasn't completely worthless. However, because he's ... well, the Vortex... his vortex-likeness meant that the guys hitting ahead of him had absolutely no chance to get on base for him to strand drive in, having been sucked into the complete suckiness that has been Morgan Ensberg's sucky May, June, and (so far) July.

If that last paragraph was difficult to slog through, it's because I lost my thesaurus. Sorry, Uncle Kent.

Although the boxscore this morning will list Morgan as being 2-for-3 with a home run (which was well-deserved, well-hit, and pretty much useless with nobody else on base ahead of him), let's not forget that his first "hit" was a real screamer of a 60 foot, 6 inch bouncer that Jason Marquis was unable to come up with. Uh, "hit." Even the announcers later acknowledged that Morgan's 6th inning shot may have resulted, at least in part, by the fact that he was relaxed after having already collected an earlier "baseknock."

I guess that means that Morgan is due for good, quality at-bats only if he's lucked into a "hit" earlier in the game. That doesn't bode well for us, and provides yet another reason why he should NOT be hitting third.

Magic Audrey added another game's worth of anecdotal evidence as to why she--and not the Magnet (Taylor Buchholz) should be the one to cough up a rotation spot if/when Backe returns from injury. Four earned runs in only five innings; once again we were forced to ask the bullpen to throw four innings. That's twice in a row that Audrey has failed to make it out of the 6th inning. (Last night, he didn't even get there.) He hasn't pitched seven innings in over a month now. Yet he's still our club leader with nine wins, virtually guaranteeing him of remaining in the rotation despite a 5+ ERA.

Wins are One of the Most Useless Stats
for Judging Pitching Performance.

As Phat-C observed the other day, Audrey is this year's version of Jerry-o-me Robertson, who somehow won 15 (with incredible run support) despite incompetence.

Speaking of incompetence, I would probably be more critical of Audrey's performance in the fourth inning had I been able to ... you know, actually see what was going on. Instead, the camera crew focused most of its attention making sure that we could all see Mario Williams's face during his on-air interview with the broadcasters. Because, you know, we really need to be able to see Mario to be able to comprehend what he's saying, because it's not like he's miked up or anything.

When they actually focused the cameras on the on-the-field action, they inexplicably showed everything from the behind-home-plate camera. It was therefore virtually impossible to see what was going on, since that's pretty much the very worst angle with which to watch a ballgame on television. Biggio's error/inability to field a grounder up the middle? Had to see that on replay. In fact, pretty much the entire inning had to be watched when they switched to another camera for replay.

So that's pretty much about it. Skullcap had another nice game last night, as did Berkman. Too bad both efforts were wasted by an otherwise across-the-board pisspot of a game. We face rookie Reyes today; I'm sure that will turn out just fine given that we have absolutely no trouble with guys we haven't faced before.

Friday, July 07, 2006


This weekend I was flipping channels and ran across a showing of National Lampoon's European Vacation. I used to love that movie. Many many years later, I still think it's above-average, especially when compared to that piece of crap Vegas Vacation, which I actually skipped a law school class to go see.

The only redeeming quality to Vegas Vacation is that it featured the by-far hottest of the usually forgettable Audrey Griswolds: Marisol Nichols:


Gawkman may disagree, having found Juliette Lewis to be Pluhbabe-worthy. Erm, no.

What was odd about seeing European Vacation was that it was being televised on the "ABC Family" channel. Those who saw this movie when it first came out remember that the only resemblance this movie has to a family movie is that...

Well, it's about a family.

After all, the only Internet entry I can find about the actress who played "Claudia" is that she had a short but "memorable" role in the movie. Let's just say that--no surprise--the "memorable" part of her role in the movie was omitted in the ABC Family version.

As I was watching the movie, however, I kept getting stuck on the actress who then played Audrey Griswold. Her name was Dana Hill, and I read somewhere that she passed away in 1996 or so following a diabetes-related stroke. That's too bad; while I hadn't thought her to be the most attractive of the Audreys, she gets my vote for the funniest of them.

But I kept thinking, "Damn, she really looks like somebody I know."

Then, as I pulled up today and saw the prospective pitching matchup, I figured out who Audrey Griswold looks like:

Wandy Rodriguez.

Just to be safe, the Astros ought to consider keeping Wandy away from any post-game buffets, for fear that he'll pull an Audrey and balloon up to 266 250 pounds like Fat Sidney Ponson.

Beating King Hippo = Palliative

Let us first offer thanks for the young stud that is The Magnet. Although I'm curious at what led Gar[d]ner to lift him after only 86 pitches, Buchholz stymied the vaunted Cardinals lineup by allowing only three hits, one walk, and two runs. I'm even tempted to give him a bye on the two-run dinger he coughed up to Lassie Edmonds, if only because I was astonished that Buchholz threw him a fastball. Let's all repeat after me:

Don't throw hittable fastballs to Lassie.

Got that? Good. For the life of me, I can't fathom why anybody throws a hittable fastball to Lassie, just as I am by the curious question of why anybody would ever throw anything but breaking pitches to Craig Biggio. Lassie is ALWAYS guessing fastball and, sure enough, The Magnet threw him one that was deposited in the upper deck.

Let us also offer thanks to Gar[d]ner for--if not demoting The Vortex--at least dropping him to seventh in the lineup. As we've been insisting for some time (on our marathon break-down-each-play telephone conversations), that the Vortex is taking walks isn't necessarily bad; we certainly don't want him to swing at bad pitches. But the Chronicle finally acknowledged what we've been saying for some time:
Although Ensberg has drawn enough walks to have a decent on-base percentage, his job description is to drive in runs and not settle for an 0-for-2 and two walks on a regular basis.
The next step, of course, will be to demote him to AAA if his struggles continue. As poorly as Ausmus has hit in the past few weeks, Ensberg is now hitting WORSE. He's also hitting worse than Adam Everett who, until June began, was waging a mighty struggle against a slick-hitting pornstached shortstop from the 70s. (BTW, I just saw that, as of May 30th, we had anonymous visitors! Content is king, baby.)

So it's a win, and another game closer to the Satanic Red Fowl, and so I'll therefore take it. The problem with wins, though, is that they can--as here--mask BIG problems. In that sense, then, last night's win only offered palliative relief against the aching pain that is our (lack of) offense.

The Red Fowl limped into last night's game; their entire team's ERA in June was something like 5.59. Among their rotation, only Carpenter has been consistently putting up good numbers. That they resorted to "bolstering" their rotation with piss-poor Jeff Weaver speaks VOLUMES as to their desperation. Last night's starter, then, was King Hippo Fat Sidney Ponson:

ESPN now lists him as 6'1", 250 pounds. He used to be listed as 6'1", 266. Whatever the number... that's farking FAT.

In fact, Sir Ponson is such a fat ass that when he walks down the street, people say, "DAMMIT, that is a BIG FAT ASS!"

After giving up six earned runs in only 2.2 innings to the Royales with Cheese, Fat Sid was sporting a FAT 5.60 ERA. Enter the Astros, who "battered" him with all of FOUR hits in six innings. But for Aaron Miles's gaffe, we would have needed P-Dawg's 8th inning RBI just to tie the game at 2. (BTW, kudos to the Vortex's clutch GIDP with bases loaded and nobody out last night. *slow clap*)

Tonight features Jason Marquis versus "Magic" Wandy Rodriguez, who has to be thanking the gods--given the Magnet's recent dominance--that he is still considered to remain "a lock" for the rotation when Backe returns from injury. Last night was the Magnet's fifth consecutive strong outing; he hasn't struggled since being battered by the Cubs a month ago during Carlos Zambrano's near no-no.

Wandy? Not quite as strong over the same period.

Given our apparent embarrassment of riches in the starting pitching department (don't forget that Chris Sampson and Jason Hirsch are pwning opponents 150 miles away in Round Rock), it's now time to do something about the just-plain embarrassment that is our "offense."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Today's Stupid Trade Suggestion

I hate listening to sports talk radio or Astros post-game shows when callers propose trades. I have NEVER heard of one that (a) would be good for the Astros, (b) would actually entice the other team to give up their star player, and (c) makes financial sense. By contrast, I've heard TONS of "why don't we trade our 3 underperforming players for Albert Pujols" suggestions. STUPID! Would you trade away your best player for 3 average ones?

So I'm reading Richard Justice's blog from a few days ago, and he was realistically pointing out that--to acquire a bat--the Astros are going to have to give up something that HURTS. Chris Burke, Jason Hirsch, Hunter Pence sort of HURT.

So here was the suggestion from one idiot who chose to respond:
A quick comment about the astros... what if we gave up Lane, Taveras, Everett for Miguel Tejada?

Do you think that will be enough. We need a bat to protect berkman. Imagine this lineup

Biggo 2B
Burke CF
Berkman RF
Lamb 1B
Tejada SS
Wilson LF
Ensberg 3B
Ausmus/Munson C

Who would you pitch around? Do you think we will lose much defense with Tejada?
Let's just take a look at this proposal, shall we? First, what we would get:

Miguel Tejada .311 .361 .504

So here's all that we would have to give up:
Willy Taveras .260 .315 .317
Jason Lane .207 .336 .399
Adam Everett .240 .290 .327


*sigh* This proposal would have us shipping out a weak-hitting "defensive specialist" shortstop and two guys who can't crack one of the NL's worst lineups for a former MVP who--although he's past his roid best statistical years--continues to put up big numbers. By the way, although he wasn't doing too much for the Cubs, the Orioles have a serviceable center fielder--with better stats than Willy T.--already.

Another commenter suggested that the very best GMs can pry away star talent without giving up anything in return, citing Beltran as an example. Well, even if Dotel and a catching prospect who could supposedly hit counts as "nothing in return," keep in mind that the Royals were ready to let Beltran go because he was about to become a free agent, he had told them not to try to re-sign him because he was going to test the market, he was represented by Scott Boras, and they are in perpetual rebuilding mode.

The Orioles and Tejada don't fit that mold. Tejada isn't in a walk year; he just doesn't enjoy living and playing in the STD Capital of the World. He wants to take their ridiculous money, earn the same money, but play somewhere nicer. Kind of like A-Rod.

And the O's would want good young pitching. Such as Jason Hirsch who--at the moment--is 10-2 with a 2.28 ERA and better than a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio at AAA Round Rock.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to trade for Tejada. I just freaking hate seeing stupid trade proposals. Expect to give up something BIG if you want something BIG in return. (I'm not even going to comment on the "trade Ensberg, Lane, Qualls, Wilson, and Taveras for Android Jones" proposal. YOU CAN'T FREAKING STACK THESE GUY'S BATTING AVERAGES TOGETHER, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. NOBODY WANTS THESE GUYS!)

Oswalt Throws Chair at Teammates; Clemens Points and Declares, "Ha, Ha."

HOUSTON- After becoming the first pitcher in four years to toss two straight complete-game losses, frustrated Roy Oswalt vented his wrath by picking up chairs in the clubhouse and forcibly hurling them at his teammates.

PUNCHLINE: Although Oswalt's aim was good, and the chairs were perfectly placed, the Astros managed to miss hitting the chairs anyway. Thanks, you've been great. Enjoy the shrimp cocktails; I'll be here all week.

True to form, Oswalt demurred when asked about his team's complete lack of offensive support that caused him to suffer a 1-0 loss: "You can do all you can do, and hopefully it will turn around sometime."

Without getting into the details of yet another poor offensive outing by the local boys, I'll hit on a few of the most cogent observations:
  • Brad Ausmus snapped an 0-for-40 hitless streak when E-Ramis committed an error on his fourth-inning grounder the scorer took pity on him he singled in the fourth inning. Congrats, Brad. I could take all the blame by pointing out that it was my fault for jinxing him in the Galleria video arcade when I informed him--while he was trouncing his daughters in a driving game--that, at the time, I would have been batting him fifth in the lineup. At the time, that statement was true. Unbeknownst to either of us, however, that comment caused poor Brad to spiral into a ridiculous club-record (for a non-pitcher) 40 at-bats without a hit.

    But I'm not going to take the blame, because (a) the statement was correct at the time, and (b) Ausmus is a career .255 hitter who was due to go through at least some slumping. I'm not going to go so far as to name Ausmus to the dubious No-Star Team, which I think is a particularly tasteless and unnecessary exercise, but we all knew he was not going to end the season with a batting average higher than .270 or so.

  • Gar[d]ner resorted to more of his "play the percentages" bullcrap last night when he started Eric Bruntlett in place of Adam Everett who--by the way--has been hitting well since the beginning of June:
    Eric Bruntlett started at shortstop Wednesday in place of Adam Everett, whom manager Phil Garner said might be getting more days off against lefthanders.

    Lefty Sean Marshall started for the Cubs.

    Everett entered Wednesday hitting .188 (9-for-48) against lefthanders; Bruntlett was hitting .455 (10-for-22).

    Garner also moved third baseman Morgan Ensberg back to the third spot in the lineup after a couple of days in the No. 6 hole.
    So here's our diablog on the subject:
    Phat-C: This is why I hate stat-driven decisions in baseball; When you're on a win streak, you DON'T MESS WITH THE LINEUP!!!!

    Shafty: Statistics can be very helpful in baseball, but making lineup decisions based solely on situational statistics is asinine. For example, I subscribe to the theory that you typically--only a general rule as there are exceptions--put your four best OBP guys as the top four hitters in the lineup. Best overall hitter is #3. High BA as #2. Slugging percentage (along with BA) drive #4, #5, and #6 spots. Typically a crapshoot for #7 and #8, although better of the two (or, in our case, less unproductive) hits #7.

    Those are for the season, however. Situational statistics should be used rather sparingly. You don't decide, "Hey, Ausmus has hit lefthanders well so, even though I'd ordinarily slot him 8th, today he goes 3rd." Nor can you place too much emphasis on "this particular hitter has hit this particular pitcher well in the past." You know what that means, since baseball is a game of averages? It means he's probably DUE to slide back to the norm against that pitcher. It's rare to find a hitter who can duplicate success--above that of his success against other pitchers or other hitters' success against that pitcher--against a given pitcher over a LONG term. In those cases, you're probably better off going with the better long-term guy because you can pretty much assume that the better short-term guy's success is going to average out; in short, he's statistically MORE likely to get out than somebody with long-term success. In that case, long-term statistics actually REJECT the manager's idea.

    So I'd agree with you, to some extent. I don't hate stat-driven decisions, if they're well-reasoned, have a LARGE body of work in support of them (such as a season's worth of at-bats), and are not just outright flukish. Situational-statistics-based decisions, however, I do not support.

    Everett/Bruntlett is a perfect example of that. Right now, Everett has been among the league leading hitters since June. Yes, he's going to slide back to norm, except that his CAREER batting average is higher than what he's sporting right now. That would seem to suggest that he's better off staying in the lineup now, because he's hot and his average should creep back up to his career average--which means he's due for some more baseknocks.

    Bruntlett, by contrast, has only 22 at-bats against lefties. That's not statistically significant enough to draw conclusions such as, "Bruntlett hits lefties better than Everett."

    Case in point: Bruntlett cannot be said to have had any decent at-bats last night.

    1. Struck out looking on 4 pitches.
    2. Reached on a fielder's choice because hit a weak grounder to the pitcher, and Lane--who had stroked a nice double--was consequently killed in a rundown.
    3. Fouled out to the catcher.
    4. Grounded out to second.

    I know it's not fair to use hindsight alone to make decisions but, hey, Gar[d]ner's rationale was iffy at best to begin with.
So, anyway, we're back in the mix with four at home against the Satanic Red Fowl, who just obtained "disappointing" malcontent and pretty much just all-aroound jerkwad Jeff Weaver from the Angels. That means two things:
  • He'll fit right in in the StL clubhouse.
  • He'll probably pitch in this series, AND beat the hell out of us.