Ornithophobia: The fear of ducks.

Ducks on the Pond: Runners on base.

I am becoming certain that the Houston Astros suffer from a clubhouse-wide case of ornithophobia.  When there are “ducks on the pond,” they can no longer hit.  They become overly sensitive to sliders out of the zone, changeups in the dirt, and pop-ups.

We can talk all we’d like about how the umpires botched calls, and they did.  Cowboy Joe West, who remains convinced that Josh Becket meant no harm when he walked to the plate after nearly beaning Bobby Abreu, thinks that this was a tag:

Not A Tag.JPGHe also thinks that the strike zone is approximately the size of a nickel.  But this game wasn’t won or lost by the umpires.  The rebuilt, 2009 version of Felipe Paulino pitched well.  Well enough to earn the win, certainly.  He went 6.0 innings, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6.  He didn’t allow a single run.

He left that up to Geoff Geary, who allowed 2 of the Reds’ 4 runs in the Astros’ 4-2 loss.  I would give him the benefit of the doubt and say that only one of those runs was earned, but that was because of his own throwing error, so I’m not feeling particularly generous.

But even with the bullpen’s spotty performance, the Astros should have won this handily.  Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez certainly gave them plenty of opportunities, but the Astros hitters went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners total.

Thirteen runners stranded.

The only two runs came when Michael Bourn scored from first on a Miguel Tejada single (that was actually a double, but in typical Astros fashion, Tejada had to stop at first because he missed the base); and when Bourn scored again from third base on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Lee with one out in the ninth.

The Astros are now hitting .248/.333/.355 with runners on.  When those runners are in scoring position, it drops to .238/.313/.345.  When that includes any combination of runners with at least one man standing on third base – 90 feet from scoring – it plummets to .233/.325/.333.

0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.  I think it might be time to call a doctor.  One who specializes in duck phobias.


  1. renaudtn

    Hello RR15,
    I’ve been reading your comments and blog entries, and one thing for sure: you sound really frustrated right now (like all of us probably). Are you afraid that your pre-season predictions are turning into reality? I’m frustrated like everyone else, but not overly concerned overall. It is very typical for the Astros to pitch well when no one expects them to pitch, and bat poorly when their line-up screams power. They have an obvious problem at getting it all together. With Lee and Berkman in a slump, it diminishes our chances. I think criticisms toward Pence are somewhat unfair. Sure he K-ed with the bases loaded yesterday but he’s hitting over 300 so far which is something like the 2nd or 3rd best avg in the team.
    Anyhow, you and I discussed before about the worse thing that could happen to this team: finish the season just out of the playoff. If they can’t figure out a way to score then your ST prediction will be true and we’ll get us a sweet 2010 draft…something that we need even more now that Drew’s gone. By the way, who would you like the Astros to pick this coming draft? (I’m talking about a potential 21st pick candidate…not Strasburg).

  2. roundrock15

    Well, it’s frustrating to watch, but I expected a bad season, so I’m not concerned. There are some things I really don’t like – the big one is getting rid of Drew Sutton. I have absolutely no idea what the Astros plan to do at second base now once Matsui is gone.

    Mostly, though, I’m just having fun with the ineptitude, as much as I can. I’m hunkered down for a bad 3-4 years, so I’m not going to freak out 12 games into the first season.

    As for the draft, though I think we do need position players, and though I try not to buy into the hype of high school pitchers, I have to admit that I really like Chris Jenkins. 6’7″, 225 pounds with a filthy slider and a 97mph fastball. His athleticism has been questioned, but a kid that big in high school probably just hasn’t learned his own body yet.


  3. renaudtn

    Chris Jenkins…I saw his name beside the Astros on a mock draft website. The High school pitcher we got last year as our supplemental pick seems to be doing well. I’m not opposed to High school pitchers…they just need more refinement.
    I understand your concern at 2B…maybe they’re fixin’ to sign Keppinger on a long term deal and solve the problem. I was pretty enthusiastic when they kept Smith on the roster out of ST, but looking at his 0 for 17 makes me wonder now…I’ve never been a big Newhan fan, but I guess having him wasn’t that bad after all. It appears that Towles is having another good year at RR…how can you explain that a player goes from a 350-400 avg in AAA to a sub 200 in MLB?

  4. roundrock15

    High school pitchers actually have the lowest success rate at the major league level, and it’s not even close. But from everything I’ve read, I think he’d be worth it at #21. If not, Robbie Shields and Matt Davidson are solid players, too.

    As for Towles, all I can say is that some guys have a little trouble making the adjustment at first to the big leagues, but far fewer dominate at AAA and can’t play at the MLB level than most people think. 215 plate appearances is not a minute sample size, but it’s not a great one, either. And it was compiled when he was 23 and 24 years old. He’s now 25, when a lot of catchers break out. I think he was maybe pushed into service early, given a little too much hype, and when he underperformed, he pressed too much to make up for it. It happens even to some of the best hitters.

    He’s going to be a good Major League catcher somewhere. I’d just love for it to be in Houston. I hope they don’t let him wither on the vine like they have with so many other guys.


  5. renaudtn

    I understand your position about Towles. Given his numbers at RR, he obviously deserves another chance to breakthrough in MLB. However, by looking at how few game/at bats Quintero has had so far this season, it’s clear the Astros are using Pudge 95% of the time and their back up every now and then. I don’t know if it would be beneficial for Towles to play every 5 or 6 days, although having Pudge as a mentor could be beneficial. I’m like most Astros fans I guess: I was very disappointed last year when he struggled so much at the plate; but I’m not ready to give up on him. His AAA numbers show real potential, and Castro is nowhere near ready. I hope Towles gets a call up this season and replace Quintero who has much less upside than him and has been given many more chances to prove himself (which he didn’t).
    I know high school pitchers are much more of a gamble than college pitchers, but I’m guessing they’re cheaper too.
    On a different mock draft website, they had Kendal Volz as our pick. I don’t know much about him, but he doesn’t seem to be an overpowering pitcher. What do you think?

  6. roundrock15

    I think that Towles is better off playing every day, and I think that Santangelo is better off playing as much as possible. Now that Pudge is on board, and there’s no undoing that, I don’t know what the answer is. Mostly, I’m just b***hing because I thought J.R. should be given the chance to be the big league catcher, but then we went and signed Rodriguez.


  7. roundrock15

    Let’s see… what do you need to know about Kendal Volz… Truthfully, I’m not blown away by the guy. I know he’s the sixth-highest rated college prospect by Baseball America, and was on the 2008 national team, and was a pre-season All-American, but I just don’t see it.

    He’s struck out 52 guys in 59 innings so far at Baylor, but he’s also walked 27. Opposing hitters are .253 against him, he’s plunked eight guys, and he’s got an ERA of 3.66 and a WHIP of 1.39. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they’re hardly dominant.


  8. greg1969

    Yes, RoundRock, Okie is Okajima. He was SO good for us in clutch situations in 07, not as good in 08. I liked the 07 version! 😉
    I’ll take the ducks off the pond. I cook a mean duck! 🙂

  9. greg1969

    I think so, RoundRock. Oki made a habit of “unloading the bases the hard way”–i.e., giving up HRs or XBH with runners on, and THEN shutting them down (this happened throughout 08, in contrast to 07). He has done better with that SO FAR in 09, when he has inherited runners. We can hope!…

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