May 2009

Work For The Yankees

The New York Yankees are hiring a Statistical Analysis intern.  If you’re a current student or recent graduate (May 09), and have SQL experience, hop on over and apply for the position.

These jobs don’t come around all the time, so if you want to work in baseball statistics, this is your golden opportunity.

Tejada, Patton, and Sampson – Oh My!

Cecil Cooper seems mystified at a bullpen which is unable to perform, even despite the fact that they’re tired.  Worn out.  He pulled starter Russ Ortiz after just 2.1 innings – which took an admittedly-high 57 pitches – to head into the already-decimated bullpen with a 3-2 deficit.  The ‘pen, in turn, was unable to contain the Chicago Cubs, most notably Alfonso Soriano, who was 2-for-5 with 2 home runs, and Aramis Ramirez, who made yet another payment on his Minute Maid Park lease to the tune of 3-for-5 with a walk and an RBI.

Co-owners Ramirez, Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder are a combined .441/.588/.824 at Minute Maid Park this season, and that’s without Pujols having played a game there yet.

Reliever Chris Sampson took just 33 pitches to get through 3 scoreless innings in relief, to bring his season ERA down to 1.89.  He is proving to be one of the rare highlights of an enervated pitching staff.  Before the season, I lobbied for Sampson to be a part of the rotation, but the general consensus is that he works better out of the bullpen.

To me, that makes little to no baseball sense.  Your best pitchers should throw the most innings.  I would like to see Sampson used as a starter, even if only for spot starts. 

Chris Sampson vs Cubs 05-07-09.jpgOffensively, despite a 3-run bottom of the ninth which made the team’s loss look a little better at 8-5, there weren’t many highlights.  The one standout was Miguel Tejada, who went 4-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and a home run.

One of the doubles was of the ground-rule* variety, after wich Carlos Marmol simply shrugged and struck out the remainder of the side. 

Initial Thoughts

It’s still very early, but it’s also pretty clear that the Houston Astros stink this season.  Of course, this is no surprise to anyone, but the level of the mephitis is certainly surprising.  Cecil Cooper’s over-reliance on the bullpen has expedited a severe breakdown of the arms on this team, and barring some sort of miracle, it’s tough to see this team doing very well at least for the immediate future.

Even Lance Berkman, usually very dependable, has slumped so much – and for so long – that he has lowered his career batting average to .299. No longer a .300 lifetime hitter.  He was 0-for-5 in yesterday’s action with 4 strikeouts.  With 21 walks, 27 strikeouts, and 7 home runs on the season (of 19 hits), he’s rapidly becoming a Three True Outcomes guy.


Fireworks Down on the Farm

Red-hit OF Yordany Ramirez was 1-for-1 with a home run in his lone plate appearance.  When
he crossed home plate, New Orleans catcher Brett Hayes confronted him.  After
some pushing and shoving, Ramirez was thrown out of the game. Matt Kata
batted next and was promptly plunked by a pitch, leading to the
ejection of New Orleans pitcher Daniel Barone and manager Edwin Rodriguez.

3B Chad Spann replaced Ramirez, which created quite the carousel: Mark Saccomanno moved from 3B to 1B, John Gall went from 1B to LF, and Reggie Abercrombie moved from LF to RF.

Man of Troy

As long as Miguel Tejada continues to produce (and though he’s always been a hot starter, he does tend to slump as June and July come around), it will at the very least lessen the sting of the trade which brought him to Houston.

The Astros gave up five players – Matt Albers, Michael Costanzo, Dennis Sarfate, Luke Scott, and top pitching prospect Troy Patton – to acquire the services of the deteriorating middle infielder.  Patton went down to injury and didn’t pitch in 2008, but has rebounded in 2009.

Yesterday, for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, he pitched six scoreless innings, striking out 6 and giving up only a walk and two hits to earn the win.  He’s now 3-0 for Bowie, with an ERA of 0.95 and a WHIP of 0.847. 

What Happened Was…

Round Rock Express (AAA) – The Express took a page from the big leaguers’ playbook, giving up three runs in the bottom of the first inning to create a gap that they could never clear, losing to the New Orleans Zephyrs (FLA) 6-5.  Jeremy Johnson allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk over 4.0 innings, striking out four in the process. 

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – It was payback time in Corpus Christi.  After the Hooks had beaten the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) in two of their previous three meetings by a combined score of 22-11, Midland came into this one fired up.  They scored 2 runs in the top of the first inning and never let off the gas pedal, pulling away with a 14-2 victory.  Even reliever T.J. Burton, who’d only allowed a single run in 10 innings of work this season, gave up a run in his two-thirds pitched.  OF Collin DeLome hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to provide one of the few highlights for the Hooks.

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – The Jethawks started the day with the good news that San Jose Giants pitcher and Giants uberprospect Madison Bumgarner had graduated to the Double-A Connecticut Thunder and would no longer be pestering them, but that was pretty much the only good news they got all day as the Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP) thumped them, 14-5.  Starter Jose Duran allowed three runs in the bottom of the first, but the Jethawks fought back, putting up 4 in the top of the second.  The bottom of the third, however, spelled disaster as the Storm put up 2 more runs to gain a lead they’d never relinquish – especially after a 7-run 6th inning.  If you’re looking for highlights, there aren’t many.  Jason Castro was 0-for-4 at the plate; but 3B David Flores was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, and OF Jonathan Gaston continued to work his way up my leaderboard with a 3-for-3 performance, including a double of his own.

Lexington Legends (A) – Jordan Lyles pitched another beauty of a game: 7.0 IP, 8 K, 7 H, 0 BB, and a lone hit – a home run to Gerardo Rodriguez.  But that would prove to be enough as the Rome Braves (ATL) beat the Legends 1-0.  2B Andrew Simunic was the offensive “standout,” for lack of a better term, going 1-for-3 with a double and a stolen base.  With one out in the first inning, the Legends threatened – Ronald Ramirez singled and advanced to third on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt.  After a Brandon Barnes strikeout, Kody Hinze walked to put runners on the corners, who were promptly stranded by Federico Hernandez.  All told, the Legends were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Sweep

Five teams from five cities.  Lexington, KY.  Lancaster, CA.  Corpus Christi, TX.  Round Rock, TX. Houston, TX.  All within one organization.  All losing.

Believe it or not, this is the first day this season that the Astros organization was swept, and it coincided with the Houston Astros getting swept by the Chicago Cubs.

A combined score of 43-17.

What a day.

Manny Suspended for Positive Test

The Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez tested positive for use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs, and will begin serving a fifty-game suspension today.

Xavier Paul was called up from Albuquerque, and Juan Pierre no doubt becomes the de facto left fielder in Los Angeles, which among other things makes the NL West a race again.

Initial reports from sources such as Peter Gammons are that it wasn’t a steroid.  It seems, at first glance, that this is more J.C. Romero than Alex Rodriguez.  Romero, you may remember, took a “tainted supplement” called 6-OXO Extreme, which had androstenedione present in it.  He filed suit against the makers of the supplement, Ergopharm Inc.

Ramirez’s situation appears at the moment to be similar.  He took a prescribed medication which had banned substances in it. 

This is not to excuse Manny.  A banned substance is a banned substance is a banned substance.  But it’s not exactly injecting himself with Juice.  Even his old employers in Boston “don’t believe for a second” that Ramirez intentionally took PEDs. 

Within seconds of the announcement, Twitter exploded.  This is the downside to a site like Twitter – the news gets out fast, but without vetting.  Fact-checking.  There’s a rush to judgement that ultimately isn’t very helpful.

One of the first Tweets I saw was  “I guess this ends Manny’s honeymoon with LA.”  Probably not.  In fact, in this town, it seems more likely to increase the love affair.  We love our stars to be flawed.  Sex, drugs, bad decisions – these are the virtues on which successful Hollywood careers are based.  Granted, we prefer our sports stars to be flawed and productive, which a fifty-game suspension immediately hurts, but don’t be surprised if Manny is welcomed back in fifty games with wide open arms.

I just wonder if they’re still going to be selling tickets to the newly-named “Mannywood.”

I’ll admit, I like Manny Ramirez, so maybe my lack of willingness to write him off as another enhancer isn’t justified, but I’d rather we all sit back and wait this one out.  There’s a lot of information out there, and quite frankly, none of us knows yet what it is.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the Manny Ramirez Show.

Finally

It took 106 games, but we did it.  We finally did it.  The Houston Astros organization finally got a complete game from someone above their lowest rung of professional baseball.  It wasn’t a shutout – one thing at a time – but Douglas Arguello of the Corpus Christi Hooks threw nine innings.

Douglas Arguello 05-06-09.jpg
Twenty-seven outs.  Six of them strikeouts.  No walks, seven hits, one earned run.  Even better?  It was against those pesky Midland Rockhounds. 

The 6’3″ lefty showed nice stuff, and the victory put the Hooks one game above .500… speaking of which:

Wade In The Minors

Ed Wade’s #1 job as General Manager of the Houston Astros, believe it or not, is not to assemble a playoff contender.  It isn’t even to assemble a competitive team, as can be evidenced by an offseason which gave us Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Hampton, and Aaron Boone.  His #1 job as General Manager of the Houston Astros is to fix the farm system.

It’s not done.  It’s not even almost done.  But it is happening.

Round Rock Express: 12-15, 1st/4 PCL American South
Corpus Christi Hooks: 13-12, 2nd/4 Texas South
Lancaster Jethawks: 9-19, 4th/4 California South
Lexington Legends: 17-10, 1st/8 SAL Southern

The “Big Three” in Lexington – Brad Dydalewicz (2-0, 17 IP, 0.00 ERA, .089 BAA), Ross Seaton (4-1, 29.2 IP, 0.91 ERA, .184 BAA), and Jordan Lyles (1-2, 23.2 IP, 27 K, 6 BB) – are all 2008 draftees.  So are Jack Shuck, Jonathan Gaston, Jay Austin, Phil Disher, Ashton Mowdy, Shane Wolf, and Daniel Meszaros – all guys getting their names on this blog regularly.  And, yes, so is Jason Castro

Seaton Ignores Dewey.jpg

Seaton already just like an Astros pitcher – ignoring Dewey Robinson

Of course, so was David Duncan, but I’m being charitable here.

We’ve been hearing that it was a great draft on paper.  So far this season, it’s proving to be true.  And if it takes a year or two more of this terrible major league baseball to get traction, I hope all Astros fans are ready.  Because it will be worth it.  Heck and Wade are really doing very well.

Not A Fan Of Ed Wade’s…

Shawn Chacon is less a fan of Ed Wade than I am.  Astute readers may remember that Chacon was removed from the team in 2008 for – among other reasons – pushing Wade to the ground in an altercation.

After that incident, no major league team would touch Chacon.  And rightfully so.  But the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League did sign him this week, adding him to a roster that includes (or in some cases, included) Pete Rose, Jr., Tim Raines, Jr., Armando Benitez, Jose Herrera, Alberto Castillo, Abraham Nunez, Jay Gibbons, Keith Foulke, and former Astros Carl Everett, Daryle Ward, and Charlton Jimerson.

Carl Everett and Shawn Chacon on the same team.  Could only be better if the team was in Newark, New Jer…. oh.

The Bears will lose play their first game on Thursday, May 7, at 11:05 AM Eastern Time.

Not To Beat A Dead Horse, But…

…I’m going to.  A few days ago, I mentioned that Pitch f/x data wasn’t yet available for the Felipe Paulino/Ryan Zimmerman at-bat in which two fairly clear strike threes were called balls, walking in a run and extending an awful inning. 

Well, the data is in.  I offer it without commentary:

Paulino-Zimmerman At-Bat.JPG

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

As predicted, the Astros made a move today to bring an arm up from Triple-A Round Rock.  The arm was attached to the torso of Alberto Arias, and was pressed into early service today.  To make room for Arias, Jason Smith was (predictably) Designated For Assignment.  Or, as the kids like to say, DFA’d.

Paul Estrada was the odd choice to replace Arias at Round Rock. 

This gives the Astros 13 pitchers and 12 position players, which for right now is just fine, as Jeff Keppinger and Darin Erstad are the only bench players Cecil Cooper has deemed old worthy enough to play with any regularity.  Arias provides at least a theoretical stopgap until the bullpen can “get right.”

At some point, though, a roster move is going to need to be made, because a major league ballclub needs itself a utility infielder or two.  Though Geoff Blum and Keppinger can fill that role, Miguel Tejada‘s mythical “rest” is out there somewhere, and Kazuo Matsui is still a fragile little flower. 

When the time comes, it seems likely that Edwin Maysonet will be the one to get the call.  He plays multiple positions, and unlike a Drew Sutton or a Chris Johnson, he isn’t someone who absolutely needs to be playing everyday (not that Johnson has been playing at all since taking a pitch to the hand, seemingly 8 months ago). 

Maysonet is hitting .306/.414/.408 at Round Rock, and has experience all ’round the infield.

Today’s Game

Ivan Rodriguez was 0-for-4, hit into a Double Play, and had two passed balls; Geoff Blum had a remarkable error; Lance Berkman hit a home run; Mike Hampton gave up four runs in the first inning and failed to become the first Astros starter to go at least a full six innings since April 28th; and the Astros lost to the Cubs 6-3.

That summary work for you?

Bill James Gets Animated

Most faithful readers of mine should know who Bill James is.  If you don’t, you really really really should.  Promise. 

Steven Soderbergh, who is directing the Moneyball movie starring Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, mentioned that his original plan for James – who is a solid presence all through the book without ever actually appearing in person – is to animate him

Seriously.

“We have this sort of oracle character that appears throughout and
declaims various issues and he’s essentially supposed to be Bill
James,” Soderberg said. “He’s your host in a way…. The background will
be real but the person who is supposed to be him will be animated.”

I trust Soderbergh with most things, and I already expect to be confused by this movie, so I’m not going to make a huge deal out of this.  It could be sort of like a Harvey Pekar creation out of American Splendor, right?

Right?

What Happened Was…

Round Rock Express (AAA) – Jose Capellan continues to make those of us who were on his bandwagon in Spring Training become bigger and bigger Russ Ortiz fans.  He allowed four runs on eight hits in just 5.0 innings, falling to 1-5 on the season with a 10.15 ERA as the Express lost 7-3 to the New Orleans Zephyrs (FLA).  Lou Santangelo was 2-for-4 with 2 doubles in the contest.  Eli Iorg, one of my favorite prospects, continues a cold streak by going 0-for-4, his average dropping to .162 for the season.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – As mentioned, Douglas Arguello went the distance, striking out 6 and allowing a single run in 9.0 IP – and just 116 pitches.  Home runs by OF/DH Andrew Locke (solo) and C Jonathan Fixler (three-run) were all the Hooks would need as they won, 4-1, over the Midland Rockhounds (OAK).  3B Jhon Florentino continued to rake, going 2-for-3 to raise his line to .321/.398/.440 on the season.

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – It’s true that the Jethawks are not very good, but that didn’t prevent them from absolutely exploding on the Lake Eslinore Storm (SDP), 17-4.  They put together – count ‘em – twenty-five hits.  It’s almost impossible to find a batter who wasn’t productive tonight, but the aforementioned Ed Wade pick OF Jonathan Gaston has to get special merit for having hit three home runs, and going 5-for-5 with 7 RBI.  Wow.  Chia-Jen Lo pitched three scoreless innings of relief in this one.

Lexington Legends (A) – Kyle Greenwalt isn’t pitching as well as Brad Dydalewicz, Ross Seaton, or Jordan Lyles, but he hasn’t exactly been much of a slouch, either.  Unfortunately, he got a hard-luck loss today as the Legends dropped one to the Rome Braves (ATL), 4-2.  In six full innings, he struck out six and gave up six hits, one walk, and two wild pitches.  He also allowed four runs, all earned, and hit two batsmen.  I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t at his absolute sharpest.  Still, he’s 2-2 on the season with a 1.86 ERA.  Not a ton of offense in this one, but OF Brandon Barnes was 2-for-4 with a triple. 

Help! I Need Somebody…

Doug Brocail.
Jose Valverde.
Brandon Backe.

The Category: Astros pitchers on the Disabled List.

But that doesn’t exactly tell the entire story. 

Roy Oswalt.

The Category: Astros starters with an ambiguous health status.

Geoff Geary.
Brian Moehler.
Wandy Rodriguez.
Mike Hampton.
Tim Byrdak.
Jeff Fulchino.
LaTroy Hawkins.
Chris Sampson.
Felipe Paulino.

The Category: Astros pitchers who do not appear on either of the above lists, but who have thrown at least 2 innings in the past 5 days.  Wesley Wright barely avoids the list, only having thrown 1.7.

Geary, Fulchino, Wright, and Hawkins have thrown at least three times in the past five games.  So that leaves tomorrow’s probable starter, Russ Ortiz, as the only starter who should be considered anywhere close to 100%.

We need help.  Where to get it?

Assume that the Astros make some sort of roster move – and it makes sense, as they come home tomorrow.  Triple-A Round Rock is less than a three-hour drive away.  Double-A Corpus Christi a little farther – call it three and a half.

The problem, however, lies in the available arms.  The pitchers currently on our 40-Man Roster:

Alberto Arias.  Arias is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA at Round Rock this season.  He’s struck out 15 in 16.1 IP, but has walked 10.  And he pitched 6.0 innings on May 2.

Samuel Gervacio.  Gervacio is 0-1 with a 11.81 ERA at Round Rock.  In 10.2 IP, he’s managed to give up 13 hits and 8 walks, while striking out 12.  Opposing hitters are .310 against him.  Oh – and on May 3, he allowed 3 runs on 4 hits without recording a single out.

Brad James.  James is 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA at Corpus Christi.  In 21.1 IP, he’s been able to strike out just 8, walking almost double that with 15.  On May 1, he pitched 5.1 innings.

Wilton Lopez.  Wilton is new to the organization, having thrown just 7.0 innings at Corpus Christi.  He struck out 5 and walked none in that time, but also allowed 7 earned runs, for an ERA of 9.00.  He’s fresh, not having thrown since two innings on April 30.

Tyler Lumsden. Lumsden would be a rarity – a LHP who stands 6’4″ tall.  He’s thrown just 7.1 innings, and is currently on the Reserve List at Round Rock and hasn’t pitched since April 15.  He made the most of his limited experience, as his 6.14 ERA will attest.

Polin Trinidad.  My favorite of the candidates, but also the least-polished.  Another tall lefty (6’3″), Trinidad is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 21.0 IP.  Amazingly, he’s walked just one in that same stretch.  For good measure, he also has a save.  He did pitch 4 innings on May 3, as well. 

All in all, not exactly an ideal group to pull from. 

What Happened Was…

Houston Astros (MLB) – A suspended game in the bottom of the 11th ensured that the Astros would end their road trip at 4-3.  The Reds were the only division opponents (doesn’t that series seem such a long time ago?), and we beat them 2 games to 1.  Now it’s home to face the Cubs (2 games) and Padres (3 games).  The good news about the beaten-up state of our roster is that the Cubs are hurting right now, too.  I’m still calling a series split and a 2-1 loss to the Padres.

Round Rock Express (AAA) – Three runs in the top of the ninth were the difference as the Express pushed past the New Orleans Zephyrs (FLA) 8-5.  The oft-beleaguered Chad Paronto pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 7th save and lower his ERA to 1.00 for the season.  But the story, obviously, was the offense.  Outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Yordany Ramirez each had a home run, and Ramirez added a double in his 4-for-5 performance.  He’s now hitting .366/.384/.573 for the season.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – The Hooks proved that they actually can beat the Midland Rockhounds (OAK), and did so in big fashion with a 10-3 drubbing.  Casey Hudspeth earned the win, pitching 7.0 innings and allowing just two earned runs.  Old Man Andy Van Hekken threw two scoreless innings in relief.  Collin DeLome hit a home run, and Drew Meyer worked his way even farther up my Favorites List by going 3-for-5 with a walk and a double.  Even Koby Clemens looked nice at the plate, making the most of his time in Double-A by going 1-for-3 with a walk and a Sacrifice Fly.  But the hero of the game has to be 1B Mark Ori, who was 3-for-4 with 3 RBI, 3 runs scored, and a walk.

Mark Ori 05-05-09.jpgLancaster Jethawks (A+) – Bad pitching ruined a perfectly-good day for OF Jack Shuck as the Jethawks dropped this one, 10-4, to the Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP).  Shuck was 3-for-4 with a triple, and the former Buckeye is now .353/.411/.431 on the season.  It was his third triple of the year, and he accentuated it with his 7th stolen base.  The Storm’s Wynn Pelzer continued to win games (4-0) despite not pitching terribly well.  He struck out 8 Jethawks in 7.0 innings, and scattered 7 hits.  Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, David Duncan dropped to 0-5 and saw his ERA rise to 10.24.

Lexington Legends (A) – Lexington continues to roll, improving to 17-9 on the strength of a 4-3 win at the Augusta Greenjackets (SFG).  DH/1B Kody Hinze was 2-for-4 with two doubles to lead the offense, and Robert Bono earned the win, allowing just a single earned run in 6.0 innings, striking out five and walking two.

Where To Begin?

There was far more bad than good in today’s game.  The Astros and Nationals played one of the sloppiest professional baseball games in recent memory.  Houston batted around in the fifth, followed by Washington batting around in the sixth.  In that sixth inning, the Nationals scored 6 times on just two hits.

The Astros managed three hits and an error in the top of the 11th, but couldn’t muster a single run.

Astros pitchers walked in three runs and hit a batsman with the bases-loaded; Miguel Tejada had a costly bases-loaded error to keep the inning alive.  The overworked bullpen were asked to throw another 5.1 innings by four pitchers, including 3.0 IP by Geoff Geary, before the rain suspended play with the score tied 11-11 in the bottom of the 11th with one runner on and one out.

Starter Roy Oswalt looked good out of the gate, and was no doubt happy when he finally received some run support for a change, but had to leave after 5.0 IP with a bone bruise on his finger. 

I’m not exactly clear on whether or not Jason Smith is actually a member of this team.  Yes, he has started his Astros career 0-for-21, but if he’s going to take up a roster spot, it seems prudent to actually play him on occasion.  Only three times has he had more than a single plate appearance in a game, and he has not actually played in the field since April 19th.  In his last seven appearances, he was used exclusivly as a pinch-runner in three of them.

Meanwhile, Miguel Tejada continues to get none of the rest that Cecil Cooper talked about all offseason.

Now, to be fair, Jason Michaels has the same number of PAs as Smith, and has been in even fewer games, but there wasn’t a whole tirade about how Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, or Michael Bourn were going to need a bunch of days off this season.

How bumpy were these 11 innings?  Take a look at the Win Probability Index from FanGraphs and see for yourself.   Keep your eyes on the horizon:

Win Probability Astros Nats 05-05.JPGIn fact, it’s remarkably difficult to come up with good news, even considering the Astros’ 14 hits, 10 runs, and ability to continually claw their way back into this game.  Jeff Keppinger continues to rake against lefties.  Tejada’s still swinging a hot bat. 

But perhaps the best news of the day was this shot, of a certain fan who shall remain nameless:

AFIX.JPG

A Great Night For Huston

Unfortunately, a great night for Huston Street (who earned his 3rd save of the season) came long after a terrible night for the Houston bullpen.

The Astros rolled into Our Nation’s Capital to face the Nationals, who are not very good at baseball.  Brian Moehler looked pretty decent in his first start after rehabbing an injury, allowing two earned runs and striking out 5 over 5.0 innings.  But those two runs had come in the fifth, and with Moehler’s pitch count at 93, Cecil Cooper predictably pulled Moehler in favor of our oft-used bullpen.

The result?  The Nationals score five runs, two of them on bases-loaded walks, as they bat around in the bottom of the sixth. 

There was some good news – Lance Berkman went 2-for-4 with an RBI double, and for three solid innings, his batting average was at the Mendoza line.  Yes, friends, Lance Berkman was a .200 hitter for three glorious innings.  Kazuo Matsui reached base three times – a bunt single, a two-run double, and a walk – and for his trouble, he was plunked on the neck during a CST3.  That’s a Caught Stealing with a Throwing Error on the 1st baseman, which is a fun score, but not the best of the night.  More on that later.

The Astros managed 10 hits and 4 runs, and in general looked like an actual baseball team.  It’s hard to find a lot of fault with the offense, actually.  But the bullpen gave it away.

To be fair, it wasn’t the bullpen the Astros had imagined having coming into the season. Jeff Fulchino and Felipe Paulino gave up the lion’s share of the runs.  Wesley Wright earned the loss by giving up 3 earned.

But I don’t know if it’s entirely fair to blame the bullpen, either.  First of all, they’re overworked and Paulino is dealing with a new role.  By all rights, he earned a rotation spot and Moehler has not.  Their roles should be reversed.

But more than that, this was the first bases-loaded walk.  As you’re about to see, there were two strike threes that went uncalled, allowing the big inning to escalate. 

Zimmerman AB.JPGRyan Zimmerman was at the plate with one out, the bases loaded, and the Astros up 4-2.  With a 2-2 count, Paulino launched a slider at the corner.  Not even on the black – it actually caught more of the plate than you’d like… and got called a ball.  So he reared back and threw another slider, a little down and covering a little more of the plate than his second pitch (a foul) had gotten… and that got called a ball.

Pitch F/X data is not yet available, but those there look like two pretty good tosses to me.  Had either one been called properly, Zimmerman would not have walked in a run to make the game 4-3. 

Now, that’s not an excuse for losing, as the three subsequent batters reached base before Paulino got another out.  But it changes the entire dynamic of the inning.  Now Paulino feels he has to throw over the heart of the plate because he’s not getting calls. 

Adventures in Scoring

I keep a scorecard for every game I’ve ever been to.  I have a binder that contains the thousands of scorecards from major league, minor league, independent, college, and high school games I’ve attended over the years.  When I watch or listen to a game at home, I keep score using a program called BallScore.  I’m pretty new to the program, so I score games at home until I’m facile enough to use it “live”.

There’s one score that I love more than any other, but it’s pretty rare.  That score is SHT1, because when I was a kid, it looked like a curseword but wasn’t. 

Tonight, in the San Diego-Colorado game, it happened.  In the bottom of the third inning, with runners on first and second, Padres pitcher Kevin Correia laid down a sacrifice bunt.  Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa fielded it cleanly, but had a throwing error that allowed Correia to reach base.  A run scored and runners were put on the corners.

Now, what’s truly fantastic is that it was followed by a rundown, which is always fun when scoring games.  David Eckstein grounded into a 5263FC (3B-C-SS-1B) that nailed Luis Rodriguez at home.

A SHT1 followed by a 5263FC.  That official scorer had to be in Heaven.

Artistry

My girlfriend is incredibly talented, and she was asked recently by artist Gary Baseman to create two pieces for his most-recent show, “La Noche de la Fusion,” which is at the Corey Helford Gallery at Washington & McManus in Culver City.  If you happen to be in the Greater Los Angeles area, I highly recommend it. 

La Noche de la Fusion.pngOn Friday evening, we went to the opening.  Now, I like art, but I don’t know a whole lot about it.  I go to museums and occasionally to galleries, but I’d never been to an opening like this before.  Then again, I understand that there aren’t many openings quite like this one.

The parking lot had been cleared and turned into a full-blown Brazilian Carnaval, complete with games and free alcohol and models walking around in costumes inspired by Baseman’s creations.  I spotted David Cross there, in an ugly pony tail, as well as Andre from Project Runway, who was (curiously) running one of the Carnaval games.

Andre-Project-Runway-Winner.jpgIf you’re able to make it, look for the “altar” near the front, where dozens of handmade idols have been crafted in the image of Baseman’s god-creature, ChouChou.  There is one made of wood and moss, and another covered in thousands of jewels.  Those are the two that my girlfriend made.

What Happened Was…

Round Rock Express (AAA) – The Express put up two runs in the top of the ninth to take their game against the New Orleans Zephyrs (FLA) 5-3.  Brian Bogusevic went 3-for-5 and Matt Kata went 3-for-4 to pace Round Rock.  Yordany Ramirez was 2-for-5 with a home run, lifting his batting average to .338 on the season (26-for-77).  One has to wonder who would get called up if there was an opening in the outfield – Bogusevic, Reggie Abercrombie, and Ramirez have all looked pretty good so far this season.  Bud Norris allowed 2 earned runs and struck out 6 over 5.0 IP.  So while it’s good news that the Express got the win in the series, here’s something to reflect on:

It’s May 4th, and this was Round Rock’s first series win of the year.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – Sergio Perez struck out 6 batters over 6 scoreless innings, “scattering” 8 hits to earn the win in the Hooks’ much-needed 10-0 laugher against the Frisco Roughriders (TEX).  Justin Smoak, the man who should have been an Astro, went 1-for-4, his batting average “falling” to .353.&
nbsp; It was the Night Of Doubles for the Hooks – OF Collin DeLome, C Jonathan Fixler, and OF Josh Flores each had a double, and 2B Drew Meyer had two.  Meyer paced the offense, going 3-for-5 with a walk and 3 RBI.  OF Andrew Locke was 2-for-5 – he is now hitting .414/.438/.655 for the season.

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – If you like pitching duels, how about a 13-inning affair that ends on a walk-off home run?  The Jethawks did just that, falling to the Visalia Oaks Rawhide (ARI), 1-0, in a heartbreaker for Jeff Icenogle.  Icenogle went 8.2 shutout innings, only striking out two, but walking just one and scattering four hits before Bryan Hallberg came on in relief, going 3.1 scoreless before giving up the aforementioned walk-off shot to earn the loss.  With four hits over 13 innings, it’s hard to find an offensive player of the game, but 3B Marcos Flores hit a double, which was the Jethawks’ only XBH, so we’ll give it to him. Of course, he also had one of the team’s two errors, but I’m feeling generous.

Lexington Legends (A) – The Augusta Greenjackets (SFG) had four errors in this one, helping the Legends leg it out, 4-3.  3B Ebert Rosario was 3-for-4, raising his season numbers to .400/.425/.700 to come out of nowhere and establish himself as a legitimate infield prospect this season.  Daniel Meszaros didn’t allow a single hit in 1.2 relief innings to earn his 9th save of the season.

Where Have You Been?

The economy – as you may have heard – is in the toilet.  Layoff rates have hit, and perhaps exceeded, 8.7%.  It’s not something that I ever wanted to affect my blog, but in April, I joined the ranks of the unemployed.

I moved to Los Angeles in September 2007, and worked as a bookkeeper at a talent agency in Venice.  After about a year, I found a job that paid better, had benefits, and offered the stability that I just hadn’t had at the talent agency.  I left for the better position, and six months later, I was blindsided when they laid me off due to budgetary concerns.

The last month has been a whirlwind of activity.  Watching my shrinking bank account (the move to Los Angeles was a significant move for me, and I didn’t have a whole lot when I got here), watching May 1 roll ever-closer and not know how I was going to be able to make rent.

So here I sit, still unemployed and not sure where I’ll be living two weeks from now.  That has, naturally, cut into my baseball-watching, and by proxy my blogging.

Writing, be it by blog or otherwise, has always been an escape for me.  A luxury.  But right now, when I desperately need the escape, I can’t mentally justify any luxury.  Eventually, I’ll bounce back.  In the meantime, I probably won’t be writing as much, and I apologize for that.  I’m not self-important enough to think anyone relies on my blog for insight or anything like that, but I really look forward to the conversations that emerge as a result of my writing.  A sense of community that I really need right now, but feel guilty for utilizing. 

It is to be hoped that I will bounce back sooner than later.  Until that time, expect my blogging to take a massive dip. 

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