Jeff Keppinger, Welcome To Houston

Jeff Keppinger2.jpgWhen the Astros traded the Reds for utilityman Jeff Keppinger, not everyone was as enthused as I am.  But tonight, he introduced himself to Houston in his very first at-bat as an Astro.  In the bottom of the tenth inning with men on the corners, the Cubs decided to ask their new closer, Kevin Gregg, to walk Miguel Tejada to get to Keppinger. 

Then, with the bases loaded, Gregg fell behind 2-1.  With the bases loaded and the count in his favor, Kepp knew he could sit on a fastball, and that’s exactly what he did.  He got the fastball and knocked it through the infield, breaking his bat in the process, but scoring Ivan Rodriguez to win the game 3-2, evening the series with Chicago.

A great finish to a good game that featured bad calls on both sides (Reed Johnson beat out an acrobatic play by Tejada, but was called out at first anyway to end an inning; Geoff Blum reached third on a Michael Bourn slap bunt that left Cubs shortstop Aaron Miles off the bag, but Blum was called out.)  LaTroy Hawkins proved that he is not invincible when he dons the Astros uniform, blowing a save in the eighth by giving up a monster home run to Alfonso Soriano.

I was happy to see the Astros working the count, something they didn’t do terribly well last year.  They pushed Cubs starter Ryan Dempster up to 95 pitches before he departed after 6.0 innings.  Cubs reliever Aaron Heilman threw 30 pitches.  If baseball is a war of attrition, the Astros are making early work of the Cubs’ arms.

I ran the numbers during the game, and the Astros hit .316 against Dempster during plate appearances that lasted 4 pitches or less.  They went 0-4 with 3 walks (.429 OBP) on at-bats that lasted 5 pitches or more.

Against the bullpen, they went 0-for-3 during at-bats that lasted less than 4 pitches; 4-for-10 with 3 walks (.538 OBP) on at-bats going 4 pitches or more.

That’s not a coincidence.  They worked the count early against Dempster, despite limited results, which allowed them to get to the weaker arms in the bullpen, who they then took advantage of.  Now, it’s no surprise that they hit .200 during one-pitch at-bats.  A 1.600 SLG on two-pitch at-bats is a bit surprising, though.

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6 comments

  1. astrosfaninexile

    Well, that was tons of fun! Nothing like an extra-innings walk-off RBI for the new guy to become the hero of the day. Hey – I posed a question for you, RoundRock, on my AFIX blog: Was Kepp’s inability to remember ever having done that before because he actually hadn’t – or because of brain damage from the ritual head thumping that is performed after feats such as that? Answer in my blog – I don’t get as many guests as you do. 🙂

    Have a very happy Passover! I’ll be off the air from tomorrow night through Saturday night, celebrating holidays.

  2. stonebutch99

    I guess I am one of the “not so enthused” fans on Keppinger. I was really hoping for Baker, but I knew that was unlikely considering our lack of trade bait and funds. Although, I was going to hold judgment on Keppinger until I saw him play for a couple of weeks.
    It was great to get a win down the hatch, and it was too bad Wandy didn’t come away with one. He seems to be growing up as a pitcher, getting himself out of jams here and there. Good job. Most importantly, I would like to see him do this on the road, that is where he can show us all he is turning a corner.

    -Austin
    http://stonebutch99.mlblogs.com/

  3. roundrock15

    One of the things that puzzles me about Wandy’s splits last year is that, home field or not home field, it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone can pitch that much better in MMP than they would anywhere else. It is every bit a hitter’s park.

    If the Astros are going to make any noise this season, they need Rodriguez to continue to develop. He’s getting into his early thirties, and is probably a little behind where he should be, but he’s shown real signs of progress, improving every year. Because he relies on his breaking ball so much (29.9% of his pitches last season were curveballs), and keeps his fastball down in the zone, he gets a lot of groundballs.

    That helps explain why MMP has been friendlier to him than to others, and I don’t have the numbers from last night, but it seems he’s throwing his changeup more. If he can continue to do that – and to throw it for strikes – he’s going to do very well. He doesn’t throw his cutter or his slider anymore, and needs something between the curve and the fastball to keep hitters off-balance. Otherwise, they’ll just look fastball and adjust to the curve. So I’m very happy to see him raising the number of changeups he throws, and that he’s putting them in the zone so that if a batter’s baffled by it, it matters.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  4. roundrock15

    One of the things that puzzles me about Wandy’s splits last year is that, home field or not home field, it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone can pitch that much better in MMP than they would anywhere else. It is every bit a hitter’s park.

    If the Astros are going to make any noise this season, they need Rodriguez to continue to develop. He’s getting into his early thirties, and is probably a little behind where he should be, but he’s shown real signs of progress, improving every year. Because he relies on his breaking ball so much (29.9% of his pitches last season were curveballs), and keeps his fastball down in the zone, he gets a lot of groundballs.

    That helps explain why MMP has been friendlier to him than to others, and I don’t have the numbers from last night, but it seems he’s throwing his changeup more. If he can continue to do that – and to throw it for strikes – he’s going to do very well. He doesn’t throw his cutter or his slider anymore, and needs something between the curve and the fastball to keep hitters off-balance. Otherwise, they’ll just look fastball and adjust to the curve. So I’m very happy to see him raising the number of changeups he throws, and that he’s putting them in the zone so that if a batter’s baffled by it, it matters.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  5. roundrock15

    One of the things that puzzles me about Wandy’s splits last year is that, home field or not home field, it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone can pitch that much better in MMP than they would anywhere else. It is every bit a hitter’s park.

    If the Astros are going to make any noise this season, they need Rodriguez to continue to develop. He’s getting into his early thirties, and is probably a little behind where he should be, but he’s shown real signs of progress, improving every year. Because he relies on his breaking ball so much (29.9% of his pitches last season were curveballs), and keeps his fastball down in the zone, he gets a lot of groundballs.

    That helps explain why MMP has been friendlier to him than to others, and I don’t have the numbers from last night, but it seems he’s throwing his changeup more. If he can continue to do that – and to throw it for strikes – he’s going to do very well. He doesn’t throw his cutter or his slider anymore, and needs something between the curve and the fastball to keep hitters off-balance. Otherwise, they’ll just look fastball and adjust to the curve. So I’m very happy to see him raising the number of changeups he throws, and that he’s putting them in the zone so that if a batter’s baffled by it, it matters.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

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