You Take The Good, You Take The Bad, You Take Them Both And There You Have…

It’s important to remember, in the midst of the 2-0 shutout at the hands of Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, that the Astros just stole a series win from the hottest team in baseball coming into the series.  After losing three of four to the Reds, it was an important series for us.  We’ve got the Brewers on tap (see what I did there?), and if we can steal two of three from them, we’ll be in good shape going to Cincinnati.

There was some good news in this loss, and there was some bad news.  First, though, I have to say that for the most part, we just ran into some good pitching tonight by Billingsley.  I’m not terribly concerned.  Not terribly.

The Good


Magic Wandy
– So far this season, Wandy Rodriguez is every bit the pitcher we’d hoped he would be.  He may, in fact, be the best unknown pitcher in baseball right now.  His 1-2 record just goes to show why win-loss records don’t mean a whole heck of a lot, as he’s pitched well enough to win all four of his starts. 

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, it looks like he’ll need to throw shutouts if he wants to win, as the offense seems to take the night off when he’s on the mound

Imagine if we’d gotten a legitimate #2 starter in the offseason, and had Wandy in the three hole and Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz throwing fourth and fifth.  Not that Felipe Paulino hasn’t looked pretty good so far this season, both in Round Rock and in Houston.

Rodriguez’s next start should be in Cincinnati, where we will get another look at Road Wandy, who has thus far been a different beast entirely than Home Wandy.

Rolling Blackouts – The roof was closed today, which may be part of the reason why everyone stayed in the yard tonight.  I mentioned before that Chad Billingsley had yet to give up a home run
this season.  What I intentionally omitted was that neither had
Rodriguez.

In fact, there were only three extra-base hits all night, each off of a different pitcher. 

Brandon Back…e?

Brandon Backe, the much-maligned starting pitcher of Astros teams past, will pitch on Monday in a rehab assignment with the Round Rock Express.  Which, I guess, is great.  But you have to wonder what will happen to him once he’s available.  If Felipe Paulino continues to pitch well, there certainly won’t be a place in the big league rotation for him.

Doug Brocail and Brian Moehler will be returning from injuries, as well.  Moehler will pitch for Round Rock on Saturday, and Brocail could be back in the Astros bullpen as early as Sunday, creating a logjam.

Geoff Geary pitched fairly well in relief tonight, despite allowing a run, but after earning the loss in two consecutive games, he’s understandably a question mark for some fans.  Jose Valverde is dinged up, and just generally looks like his offseason workout routine involved sangrias and donuts.

Beyond Valverde, the team doesn’t have another legitimate closer candidate until Bud Norris is ready, assuming he doesn’t become a legitimate starter candidate, which he will if he continues to pitch well (more on that later).  Valverde’s contract expires at the end of this season, and there isn’t really anyone in the system who can fill that role right now.

Or is there?  Backe has looked exceptional at times during his career, but seems to suffer from a severe lack of focus.  It’s rare for him to make a start where he doesn’t look completely lost at some point or another.  But when he’s locked in, he can be very good.  Which is why I am starting my official Brandon Back For Closer Campaign.  My solution?  Move Brandon to Round Rock and pitch him in late relief.  He doesn’t have to be a closer right now (especially since Round Rock rarely has save situations,) but he should be entering the game in high-leverage situations.

Put him out there and see what he can do.  Jonathan Papelbon and Brandon Morrow are #5 starters who have been moved to late relief, and Backe’s game is not terribly unlike either of theirs.  It’s at least worth a shot.

Feed Me, Seymour… – Kudos to MLBlogs for finally getting RSS feeds up and running!  You can follow me at https://mlblogshouston.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/girl201-thumb-327×268-1078941.jpgatom.xml.  The best thing, as those of you who read me regularly know, is that most RSS readers only show a small portion.  When posts are as long as mine, this is a necessity.

Girl 1.JPG

(Really? This is the only screen cap I took during the game?)

The Bad

Work, Work, Work Senora – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Astros remain terribly impatient at the plate.  They shouldn’t really be expected to all turn into Brian Giles or Kevin Youkilis overnight.  But once again, our starting pitcher was knocked out of the game tonight after six innings, while the opposing pitcher worked late. 

In four plate appearances, Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada each saw ten pitches.  Ten.  That’s two and a half pitches per plate appearance.  Not good.  The team’s two youngest (and, presumably, most impatient) hitters – Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn – are the only ones working the count.

As I’ve said before, until we work our way into other teams’ bullpens, we will lose a lot of close games.

Shaky PumaLance Berkman‘s throws to second base, like his throws to home plate, do not look good.  In fact, they look very bad.  I am seriously concerned about his shoulder.

Ornithophobia – 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.  You like stats?  Here’s a stat: In the Astros’ 6 wins, they’ve gone 21-for-72 (.292) with RISP.  In their 10 losses, they’ve gone 5-for-57  (.088) with RISP.  Only once have they had at least two hits with RISP and not won the game.  They’ve never had fewer than two and won the game.

I don’t want to read too much into tonight’s failure to get it done, because Billingsley and Broxton were really just that good.  But it’s becoming a habit.

Record-Breaking PaceIvan Rodriguez has grounded into 3 DP in 15 games, which puts him on pace to ground into 33.  His career-high is 31.

All The Small Things – One of the things bad managers tend to do a lot of is “small ball.”  Now, I’m not saying that only bad managers do it, but it’s been my experience that most managers tend to think they won’t get criticized if they play “by the book” and their guys can’t execute.

That’s the only reason I can think of why Cecil Cooper would – once again – call for the sacrifice bunt with Jason Michaels on base.  What’s particularly strange is that the call was made for Kazuo Matsui, our leadoff hitter, to once again perform the honors.  Kaz now has two sacrifice hits on the season.  He’s never had more than three in an entire year.

Particularly questionable is that Cooper was doing this while down by two runs.  It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that playing for one run when you’re down by two might not be the most effective strategy in the world.

The Other Jason – It’s easy to forget about Jason Smith, the utility infielder who earned the job solely out of Coop’s insanity.  But he’s played in 12 of the Astros’ 16 games, compiling 17 at-bats, none of which have resulted in him getting on-base.  Oddly, he has been used primarily as a pinch-runner lately, which he is not terribly well-suited for. 

A Quandary – With one out in the eighth inning, Dodgers manager Joe Torre brought in his closer, Jonathan Broxton.  The following half-inning, the pitcher spot was up ninth, but Torre did not pull a double-switch (Manny Ramirez had batted in the inning, which gave Juan Pierre  – a definite defensive upgrade – as an option; as had Russell Martin, which would have given Brad Ausmus his much-anticipated return to Minute Maid Park).  However, when the Dodgers came up to bat, Wesley Wright retired the side in order. 

My question is this: With a very good closer on the mound opposing you, who bats fourth, why not intentionally walk Casey Blake – who hit a monster homerun off of Union Station last night – to force Torre’s hand?  He’d either have to let Broxton hit or pinch-hit for him and be forced to run out a pitcher who wasn’t laying triple-digit heat at the knees on the black.

What Happened Was…

Houston Astros (MLB) – What happened was we lost, that’s what happened.

Round Rock Express (AAA) – Mark Saccomanno hit an impotent home run in the bottom of the ninth, but the Express fell to the New Orleans Zephyrs (FLA) 7-3.  Bud Norris gets mixed reviews – 7.0 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 2 ER.  Samuel Gervacio was horrible, giving up 4 runs in one inning on a three-run triple and a balk.  Very good news, though: 3B Chris Johnson was back in the lineup.  He went 0-for-3 with 2 K, but it’s nice to see him back in uniform.
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – A 6-2 lead over the Frisco Roughriders (TEX) fizzled away to a 9-6 deficit in the hands of the Hooks’ bullpen, but they rallied with 6 runs in the bottom of the eighth to pull out this barnburner, 12-9.  Three Hooks home runs: OF Collin DeLome (who was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI and a SB), OF Mitch Einertson (2-for-5, 3 RBI); and DH Andrew Locke (3-for-5 with 4 RBI).  No doubt if Richard Justice looked at the box score, he’d lament the fact that the Hooks only walked once.  (Oh, and Justin Smoak went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI, but who’s counting?)

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – The Jethawks dropped the decision to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAA) today, 8-5.  Not a lot to speak of here – Koby Clemens was 0-for-4 and Jason Castro was 0-for-5.  Clemens was behind the plate and went 1-for-2 on SB attempts.  He was also involved in a 3-2 DP.  2B Marcos Cabral was 3-for-5 with a HR and 2 RBI.

Lexington Legends (A) – Brad Dydalewicz continues to impress.  5 strikeouts in 7 shutout innings gives him 17.0 IP this season without allowing an earned run.  Opposing batters are hitting .089 against him.  Oh, and he got the win, 3-0, over the Hickory Crawdads (TEX). OF  Jay Austin continues to heat up, going 2-for-5 with a double, and 1B Phil Disher was 3-for-4 with a HR and all 3 of the Legends’ RBI.

Quote of the Day
from Greg Rajan

“You walk through our clubhouse and the atmosphere with the club
this year is a lot different than last year,” Hooks manager Luis Pujols
said. “I believe (that came from parent club Houston) sending the
message during spring training that we’re going to develop and also win.

“I’m glad they changed the philosophy because we’ve got to teach
players how to win. In all the games we’ve played this year, I don’t
recall ever seeing the guys down if we’re (trailing). I like the way
they’re going about their business.”

[RR15: What exactly was the philosophy last year?  That we had to teach them to lose and to not develop?  Actually, that would explain a lot.]

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9 comments

  1. juliasrants

    The quote is strange. Maybe you don’t want to see them “down” when they are behind, but wouldn’t you want to see a fire to win lite inside of them? On RSS feeds – I use Mozilla Thunderbird for all my RSS feeds and I’ve been able to subscribe to all the feeds that I’ve wanted to since I’ve joined. Maybe the issue was what service you subscribe to feeds with.

    Julia
    http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

  2. renaudtn

    Totally agree with you on the Matsui bunt!! It didn’t make sense whatsoever…our leadoff hitter! Berkman made two bad throw and just stunk at the plate, Tejada was shaky defensively, Pudge had some reminiscence of his Yankees tenure (219avg…), Lee was still in the rancher mode (actual comment heard on MLB Network…I guess it’s a professional baseball commentators way to say he went 0 for 4 with 2Ks at the plate). At the end Wandy got an L for an excellent outing! It’s got to leave a really bad taste in his mouth. I really like him; he’s definitely underrated big time! It kinda upset me when our friends ‘anomenters’ (anonymous + commenter) say things like we have no starters beside Oswalt. Anyway, like you said the Dodgers pitched well, so although our offense stunk, credits must be given where it belongs: Good job Billingsley/Broxton (a West coast/pitching version of the killer Bs??) 😉

  3. redstatebluestate

    My god, what a BEAUTIFUL screen capture. Whew. I gotta get to Houston more often. Wow. Moving on… nothing wrong with “sangrias and donuts”… I just think Valverde doused them with a bit of crazy before he ingested them. That dude is a laugh riot to watch on the mound. Love it.
    –Jeff
    http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

  4. hooksfan

    As a season ticket holder for the Corpus Christi Hooks you can tell a big difference between how the team played between 2008 and 2009. The first noticeable area is pitching. This year if a pitcher is struggling Pujols has no problem with pulling him. In the last home game against Northwest Arkansas Naturals Erick Abreu came in relief of Sergio Perez and walked the first two batters he faced, Pujols pulled him at the point. Here is his quote from the Caller Times ““I don’t have patience for walks and all the pitchers know that,” Pujols huffed. …If they want to take (Abreu’s removal) as a message, that’s fine, because I don’t have any patience for walks. Period.”
    Another area is the aggressiveness. Last year Pujols was pretty conservative with the Hooks players on baserunning. This year he has no problem with letting the players be more aggressive with their baserunning.

    http://thehooks.mlblogs.com/

  5. Cockroach

    Interesting thoughts on Backe. I have to admit that I have a hard time imagining him as a closer, but then I also have NO idea what we’re going to do with him (or with Moehler) once they’re healthy again. Unless Paulino implodes tonight, but I sincerely hope not. My understanding is that Backe would have to clear waivers before he could be sent to Round Rock, but it seems there’s “no room at the inn” in Houston… I don’t know.
    http://ledzeb99.mlblogs.com/

  6. roundrock15

    I don’t know about Backe and waivers, to be quite honest, but I welcome sending him through waivers to see if anyone else wants to try their hand with him. I doubt anyone would claim him, but even if that did, that’s a solution to a problem, the way I see it.

    I just think that, because he can be dominating at times, but loses focus frequently, it makes a lot of sense. I don’t think he’s ever going to be an effective starter at the major league level.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  7. roundrock15

    Julia — I don’t know, I’ve been trying to figure it out for forever on Google Reader. I never knew the Atom feeds existed until last night, and it won’t read the front page.

    RenaudTN — Cooper is out of his league right now. Sometimes I have to just laugh at the anonymenters (nice!)… their wild mood swings, their cynical attitude. Heck, I *WANT* us to fail this year, and yet I can’t help but root for these Astros. Bring on Tim Bogar!

    Jeff — What angered me is that I had a better screen capture that I guess that one overwrote because I’d never pasted it anywhere. There were these two *probably* cute girls sitting in the 4th row behind home plate, in a sea of sausage. I was going to illustrate the empty seats I felt the Astros marketing team should have re-located them to so I’d have something nice to look at, since they were blocked by FSH’s score box. And yes, Valverde is a hoot.

    Dan — I don’t doubt the Hooks have a different attitude this year. As someone who just looks at the box score every morning, it shows. Last year, they NEVER would have rallied like they did last night. I just think it’s strange that they’re saying the organizational philosophy changed to “develop and win.” WTH was it before?

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  8. hooksfan

    roundrock, the biggest area that it shows is in the pitching. Last year if a pitcher was struggling he would be left in and have to work his way out of the jam 90% of the time. The first game which Tip Fairchild pitched was extremely ugly. The other area is in running. When this group of players hits the ball they take off like rockets. All you would have to do is look at Rob Crosby and Ole Sheldon running after they got a hit in the infield and they would take a leisurely stroll to first and get thrown out. Many of these new players have beaten the throw.

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