Great Astro Ball Park

Wandy 04-28-09.jpgPerhaps the most talked-about part of Wandy Rodriguez‘s career splits has been how much better he’s pitched at home, compared to on the road. 

Astros fans know the numbers, but for those of you not as intimately familiar, here’s the difference between Road Wandy and Home Wandy:

Home: 23-19, 3.94 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 1.308 WHIP, 2.15 K/BB

Road: 15-23, 5.59 ERA, 7.2 K.9, 1.513 WHIP, 2.06 K/BB

Now, it’s not terribly odd that a pitcher would pitch so much better at home than on the road, unless that pitcher’s home park happened to be hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park.  And though the strikeout rate is identical, every other peripheral favors his home numbers. 

If Wandy can put up numbers on the road anything near what he puts up at home, he could be a legitimate Cy Young candidate.  And that’s no joke.  Today, he did just that, going 7.0 innings against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks and striking out 5.

Astros Win Eleventh Straight

Sure, the Boston Red Sox had a streak of eleven straight wins coming into today’s action against the Cleveland Indians, but the Astros’ win today was their eleventh straight, also.

As in their eleventh straight win in Great American Ball Park – the longest active winning streak by any team in any other team’s home stadium.  The last time the Astros lost a game in the city of Cincinnati was May 10, 2007, when Matt Albers took the loss for the Astros in a 9-5 decision.

That had interrupted a streak of six straight wins in Cincinnati, on August 22, 2006, when rookie Jason Hirsh took the loss in just the third start of his career.

Thievery

Kazuo Matsui and Michael Bourn each stole two bases in today’s game.  It marked the first time that a team stole four or more bases against the Reds in a single game since July 25, 2008, when the Rockies stole five bases against Edinson Volquez and Paul Bako.  Willy Taveras, now with the Reds, stole three of them.

Home Sweet Home

It’s sometimes hard for me to watch games in Cincinnati, because it does give me a strong feeling of homesickness.  Of course, then I remember the scene from the last game I attended at GABP, and all is forgotten:

2007_07040050.jpgOf course, that’s not to say that I couldn’t go for a nice Skyline Chili coney right about now:

2007_07040047.jpg(I’m actually more of a Gold Star Chili guy, but I’m not going to be picky.)

Height Differential

Susan at Astros Fan in Exile asked me today how the Astros’ pitching staff stacked up against the other 29 pitching staffs in terms of…

…height.

Well, okay.  It doesn’t mean much, but I took a look at the heights of the pitchers on the active rosters of all thirty MLB teams.  What did I find?  Well, when looking at median height, 29 teams wind up with one of three results: 74″, 74.5″, or 75″.  The Astros are the one outlier – at 72.5″

When looking at mean, here is the breakdown:

Height.JPG

The penultimate bar – the one that stands like a wilting lily, far beneath all the other lines, is the average height of the Houston Astros’ pitching staff.  Doug Brocail, Jeff Fulchino, and LaTroy Hawkins are the tallest, at 6’5″; but Wesley Wright, Tim Byrdak, and Wandy Rodriguez are 5’11”, and Mike Hampton is 5’10” to bring down the average.

What that means, essentially, is that all of the left-handers on the Astros pitching staff are midgets. 

What does all of this mean?  Absolutely nothing.

And in the Twitterverse…

Richard Justice, who I’m pretty sure must pay absolutely no actual attention to the Houston Astros baseball team, Tweeted this earlier today:
Richard Justice Tweet.JPGJust so we’re clear, Richard Justice is wondering if an 8-6 streak is a sign that the “ship has been righted.” 

It’s not.  It’s not a sign of that, Richard.  It’s not.  Granted, if a team wins 8 out of every 14 games it plays, that team will go 92-70.  But if a team wins 9 out of ever 20 games?  Well that’s 73-89.  So which one is accurate?  The truth lies somewhere in the middle, Dickie J.

J-Valve Broke

Jose Valverde has been officially moved to the 15-day Disabled List.  Clearly, the last person to notice that Jose was injured was Cecil Cooper, who is reckless and irresponsible.  Any time someone asks you why Cecil Cooper doesn’t have the respect of the veteran players on this team, this one’s another arrow to have in your quiver. 

When a competitor like Jose Valverde admits he’s in some pain, you listen to him.  If given the option, he’ll go out and pitch.  He wants you to eliminate that option from him.

Speaking of Coop, MLB will be reviewing his post-ejection behavior.  He didn’t do anything wrong, as far as I can tell, but I’m still not-so-secretly hoping that MLB will recommend firing him and replacing him with Tim Bogar.  What?  It could happen, right?

Cecil Cooper.jpg

Cecil, point at whose fault it is.

Disappearance of Clay

Clay Round Rock.jpgThe Astros organization released Clay Hensley today, a day after he’d backed into his first win of the season.  They signed Brendan Donnelly in his place.  Clay went 1-0 for the Round Rock Express this season, striking out 5 and walking 7 in 10.0 IP.  He had a 7.20 ERA, and opposing hitters were batting .324 against
him.

Donnelly was an All-Star for the Angels in 2003, and last pitched for the Cleveland Indians in 2008, throwing just 13.2 innings, striking out 8 with an 8.56 ERA and a 2.195 WHIP.  He hasn’t thrown 21 innings or more since his last season with the Angels, 2006.

I’ll admit to being disappointed that things didn’t work out with Hensley, who I thought was poised to become the starter everyone had predicted him to be when he came up with the San Diego Padres.

Echo… Echo… Echo…

If you watched today’s game on television and wondered where all the people were, you weren’t alone.  The Reds and Astros drew just 9,878 to Great American Ball Park.  Down the road, the Louisville Bats – the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate – had drawn 7,834 earlier in the day.

What Happened Was…

Round Rock Express (AAA) – Bud Norris struck out seven Memphis Redbirds (STL) in as many innings, but walked 6 and gave up 5 hits and 2 ER to take the loss in today’s 3-1 decision.  Brendan “New Guy” Donnelly wasted no time getting his first playing time in, as he pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing just a hit and striking out 2.  Only three Express batters – the top three in the order (Brian Bogusevic, Matt Kata, and John Gall) managed hits, but Bogusevic’s was an RBI double, and he earned the only walk by a Round Rock hitter, giving him the edge as the offensive leader. The sole run was actually scored by Norris.

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – The Midland Rockhounds (OAK) got up on the Hooks early and continued to pile on, scoring in six of the eight innings they batted in before exerting their dominance over Corpus Christi once again with a 10-2 win.  No Hooks pitcher looked good in this one, but starter Casey Hudspeth looked particularly bad, giving up six hits and seven runs (six earned) in 4.0 IP.  He also walked four and struck out just three to earn the loss.  2B Drew Meyer was 3-for-5 with a double, salvaging some shred of dignity for the offense.

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – I did a write-up not too long ago on the San Jose Giants (SFG) starter, Madison Bumgarner, who has been downright dominant so far in his professional career.  So it would have been understandable if the Jethawks had gotten rolled in this one.  And they did, losing 17-7, but not because of Bumgarner.  In fact, six of the seven runs Lancaster scored were against Bumgarner, though just two were earned, raising his season ERA to 1.40.  Seriously.  San Jose had two five-run innings, and though only two of the seven runs they put on David Duncan were earned, they knocked around every Jethawk pitcher unlucky enough to face them.  Your first-round pick, Jason Castro, was 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly before being pulled in the second inning.  2B Christopher Minaker, filling in at first base today, was 3-for-5.  He led the team in hits (3) and errors (2). 

Lexington Legends (A) – Ross Seaton was in command today.  He pitched 7.0 shutout innings, scattering 4 hits and earning the win in the 4-2 victory over the Rome Braves (ATL).  He improves on the season to 2-1 with a 1.14 ERA.  Daniel Meszaros pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his seventh save of the season.  Two was the lucky number: 2B Albert Cartwright was an offensive force, going 2-for-2 with a homer, 2 RBI, and 2 SB (did I mention he hit second in the order?)

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11 comments

  1. juliasrants

    Midgets at 5’10”..sigh..so my being 5’5″ makes me?? lol! Only 9,800+ people at a game? How very sad is that! The PawSox (the Red Sox Triple A team) even sells out most of their games each night! Fans – get out and support your team!!

    Julia
    http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

  2. renaudtn

    I have a question: Fulchino is called back up. Norris is mentioned nowhere. What would it take to put him on the 40 men roster? Any ideas why his name is not brought up when an Astros goes on the DL?

  3. roundrock15

    Julia, I looked around and there were about 5 Triple-A teams that were above 7,000 yesterday. Unfathomable that only 9,000 would show up to see a divisional matchup including their home team, who had entered the game a game over .500. Bah.

    RenaudTN — Basically, your 40-man roster is the group of guys signed to major league contracts. It’s a big deal adding someone to that list, because that means you have to take someone off of it, and have to negotiate two new contracts (the guy going on, and the guy coming off.)

    There was some tap-dancing done by management in the offseason that ended up with Tyler Lumsden on the 40-man roster, and we recently (04/10) claimed Wilton Lopez off waivers from the Padres. Right now, those are the two 40-man roster spots that Bud Norris would fit into (and one of the ones that he actually had.)

    I think that, because of the veterans we have, and because Fulchino and Paulino are farther along in their development, they’re going to get the calls most of the time when someone gets called up.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  4. cubfan_joe

    I had skyline chili a few years ago in cincinnatti, actually in 2007 the day after the Cubs clinced over there. It was absoultely horrible. When they asked me if I wanted extra cheese and I said sure I didn’t know there would be more cheese than chili. But the ballpark was beautiful! Food stunk.
    http://pessimisticcubfan.mlblogs.com/

  5. metsgeekette

    Great post! So much to comment on. First of all, it looked like that phone had some cheese on it.. and all I could think was.. mmm, delicious.

    That height chart is fascinating! I know you said it’s not a big deal, but I think it’s really interesting that the Houston Astros have the smallest pitchers in MLB. I mean, height for pitchers is certainly beneficial but not the end-all-be-all factor in their performance. Just funny how that worked out. I see the Mets are not really soaring over anybody either.

    And ryc: LOL! πŸ˜‰

  6. roundrock15

    Height can be an advantage, but isn’t necessarily, of course. A lot of people have speculated that Randy Johnson, for instance, has benefited by being so much closer to the plate at his release point. But it is interesting, both that we have the shortest staff by such a wide margin, and because we think of people 5’10” and 5’11” as being short. πŸ™‚

    That phone belongs to a friend of mine. That was July 4, 199-something, and the Reds were playing the Giants. My friend is a big Giants fan, lives in Columbus, and had never been to a game in Cincinnati (he’s a west coast expatriate). So we went… and there was a massive rain delay, with wind and nastiness.

    Anyway, that was his first coney (that’s his lap they’re sitting on), and he thought he’d “dress” the shot a little bit by draping cheese on his phone.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  7. astrosfaninexile

    Thanks for doing the numbers, Round Rock. It backs up what I suspected when I saw the Astros pitchers at Spring Training. We DO actually have more “short” (under 6′) pitchers. As for what it means, hard to say. All things equal, a tall pitcher has a bit of an advantage (angle, release point) – but in real baseball, all things are never equal.

  8. roundrock15

    That’s what they tell us, anyway. When watching Randy Johnson in his prime, we were all told that he had a distinct advantage by being so much closer to the plate when he released the ball. Without looking at numbers, it intuitively makes sense.

    But of the 19 pitchers who were in the National League’s top 10 in either Wins, K/9, WHIP, or ERA in 2008, only 8 are taller than 6’1″. Two – Johnny Cueto and Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum – are under 6’0″ (Lincecum is a generous 5’11”, Cueto 5’10”).

    It would be an interesting study to do. My hunch is that size helps a pitcher over the long run – of the 20 300-game winners that B-Ref has height information for, only 4 (Pud Galvin, John Clarkson, Charley Radbourn, and Mickey Welch) were under 6’0″.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  9. renaudtn

    Are you alright RR15?? you haven’t posted anything in a few days and I’m wondering what’s going on; I hope everything’s fine in ‘sunny Southern California’

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