A Whole Lotta Nothin’ Goin’ On

There’s not much to report.  The Astros lost to the Cardinals, 4-3, with Brian Moehler on the mound. 

Moehler pitched well, but once again it was the oft-used bullpen earning the loss – this time, Alberto Arias was on the mound when the Cardinals finally got their acts together to push ahead and stay there.  There was to be no magic against Ryan Franklin this time around.

Is it just me, or does it suddenly feel like the Astros have just rolled over on the season?  The only good news is that Albert Pujols was held hitless, reaching base only on an intentional walk.  But these are not your father’s Cards: They actually have a cleanup hitter now.  His name is Matt Holliday, and he was 4-for-4 with a double and two RBI.

Tonight, we should see a nice pitchers’ duel between Wandy Rodriguez and Chris Carpenter, both of whom were solid in July.  And since Julio Lugo is now a Cardinal, it gives me an opportunity to post a completely-unrelated picture that I’ve been dying to post since I first saw it:

Michael Bourn and Julio Lugo.jpgYes, that’s Michael Bourn running from Lugo like they were married.

Non-Waiver Non-Trade Deadline

Last night was the deadline to make trades, and the Astros weren’t having any of it.  It’s actually encouraging to see GM Ed Wade stand pat, refusing to leverage what little future the Astros have for a run at another division title.  It might have been nice to see a deal involving Miguel Tejada or Jose Valverde for some prospects, but it was not to be. 

I Waited Too Long

Ever since I heard that former Astros 20-game-winner and mental case Jose Lima was pitching for the Long Beach Armada, I’ve been trying to find a time to go to a game.  Unfortunately, the Golden League doesn’t seem to play much on weekends, and it’s been hard to find a time to get down to Long Beach to see Lima Time.

Jose and Mrs Lima.JPGWell, it turns out I waited too long, as Lima has now been traded to the Edmonton CrackerCats Capitals for former White Sox first-round pick Kris Honel.  Honel’s minor league career was an interesting one.  He pitched very well for a few years, then not as well.  He was rarely downright bad, but fell into the injury bug in 2004 and never fully recovered.  In 2008, he pitched just 3 innings for the Texas League’s Springfield Cardinals (STL).

Even then, though, he recorded 6 strikeouts and just 2 walks. He ended up winning 30 minor league games in his career before signing into the independent Golden League.  Lima won 21 major league games in a single season.  Plus, he leads the league in crazy and has a hot wife (see above).  The man was designed to sell tickets.

With no games scheduled for the remainder of the season between Long Beach and Edmonton, it looks like I missed my chance.

Prospects On The Move

Since we, as Astros fans, have grown unaccustomed to hearing the word, I turned to Dictionary.com to define what exactly a “prospect” is:

pros⋅pect

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1. Usually, prospects.

a. an apparent probability of advancement, success, profit, etc.
b. the outlook for the future: good business prospects.

So, basically, in baseball terms, a prospect is a player with a good probability of enhancing a Major League team in the future.  And in Baseball America’s most recent Prospect Hot Sheet, a surprising number of Astros farmhands’ names were mentioned.

Simon Castro.  Oops, Castro isn’t an Astros prospect.  I’m not quite sure why what looks to be Jordan Lyles is pictured in Castro’s entry, but I’ll take it for now.

Polin Trinidad.  Unfortunately, Trinidad is listed in the “Not-So-Hot Sheet.”  Trinidad pitched in the Futures Game in 2008, spent some time on the Spring Training roster, and generally felt like he might become an overpowering arm sometime pretty soon.  But this time around, he got cited for this amazing gem:

It’s nearly impossible for a
team to win when the starting pitcher gives up six home runs. Tim
Wakefield gave up six home runs for the Red Sox on Aug. 8, 2004 in an
11-9 victory over the Tigers, but that’s the only time in the last 50
years that a major league pitcher has given up six home runs or more
and still been on the winning team. In Tuesday’s start for Triple-A
Round Rock, Trinidad surrendered six home runs in five innings,
allowing nine runs total. Unfortunately Trinidad, 24, wasn’t quite as
lucky as Wakefield, as Memphis crushed the Express 14-5.

Now, to be completely fair, Trinidad has looked pretty darned good for most of his Texas League appearances this year, but hasn’t fared quite as well in just five games with Round Rock. In Corpus Christi, though, he’s thrown 82.2 innings this year, striking out 53, walking 10, and accumulating a 7-5 record with a save, a 2.91 ERA, and a 1.17 WHIP. 

A Tale of Woe

It’s hard to imagine, but I actually feel bad for Mark Prior.  Prior was a stud coming out of high school, and was drafted in the first round by the New York Yankees.  He opted to go to USC, though, and it paid off.  He made an immediate impact as the #2 overall draft choice for the Chicago Cubs in 2001.  Two years later, he made 30 starts and earned a win in 18 of them.  With 245 strikeouts at the tender age of 22, the future was bright for Prior, but he ran into major injury issues.

He struggled on until 2006, when he went 1-6 in 9 starts, with a 7.21 ERA.  Then he was out of baseball.  Before the 2008 season, his hometown San Diego Padres signed him to a contract worth just $1m, and again before this season, they signed him to contracts that would have been worth another $1m had he made it to the big leagues.  But he hasn’t pitched with April, and all indications now are that he will be released soon.

Prior serves as something of a cautionary tale.  A dominating pitcher who was unable to overcome flawed mechanics, and found himself out of baseball before the age of 30.  Names like Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum may well be compared to Mark Prior for years to come.

Speaking of Strasburg

The #1-overall draft pick remains unsigned by the Washington Nationals.  The Nats, despite being on pace to finish with 100 losses or more, held firm at the trade deadline.  Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Austin Kearns could have made attractive trade bait, but the Nationals – even in the post-Jim Bowden era – don’t seem to have any sort of organizational plan.

Signing Strasburg would likely provide an immediate boon at the Major League level.  They’re hurting for pitching in Washington, and if they could get Strasburg and a solid #2 guy, they might be able to win some games next year.  Failing to sign him in the next two weeks is not really an option.

Of course, there’s one guy who knows all of this: Scott Boras.

Peavy to Chicago

The rumor mill had Jake Peavy going to Chicago all through Spring Training.  Cubs fans were extolling the virtues of the golden-armed righty, and rightfully so.  Despite home-road splits that weren’t exceptional, Peavy would still have made an excellent ace for the Cubs, and would likely have virtually assured that they would run away with the NL Central.

PeavyDrinks.jpg

Even rumors of a trade to the Cubs will make you start drinking.
Heavily.

Well, it happened.  Peavy went to Chicago.  But not to the Cubs.  Instead, he was traded to the White Sox for Dexter Carter, Aaron
Poreda, Clayton Richard and Adam Russell… and the White Sox will absorb the majority of Peavy’s remaining salary.

Now, for those of you who don’t follow prospects that much, let me break it down:

Aaron Poreda.  #63 in Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 prospects list, Poreda is a Major League-ready left-hander, and the second-rated pick in the White Sox organization, which is a loaded one.  He stands 6’6″, with a plus fastball, and has pitched most of the season with the Southern League’s Birmingham Barons – where he struck out 69 batters in 64.1 innings, with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP.

Clayton Richard.  Richard, another lefty, was the third-ranked prospect in the White Sox organization, behind Poreda.  Casual fans might remember the 6’5″ pitcher best from the 2008 playoffs, when as a rookie, he pitched in 2 games against the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 6 in 6.1 innings, with a 1.263 WHIP and a 1.42 ERA.  This season, he’s progressed nicely in the majors: 4-3, with 66 strikeouts to just 37 walks in 89 innings.  A 4.65 ERA and a 1.472 WHIP.

Dexter Carter.  A 6’6″ righty, Carter has already pitched 118 innings for the Kannapolis Intimidators of the South Atlantic League, where he has struck out an impressive 143 batters and walked just 32.  He’s 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA and a 1.144 WHIP.  In the month of July, he was 3-0 with 37 strikeouts and 6 walks in 36 innings, a 1.75 ERA, and a 0.861 WHIP.

Adam Russell.  And you thought the other guys were tall.  Russell is 6’8″, 255 pounds out of North Olmsted, Ohio.  In 56.1 innings for the Charlotte Knights of the Triple-A International League, he’s struck out 51 batters and issued just 18 walks.  He’s 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.012 WHIP. 

This should make it clear to those few Astros fans who thought the team should have made a move for Peavy that we simply didn’t have the arsenal to compete in these kinds of trade talks.

The Padres clearly won this trade, but the White Sox do end up with a Cy Young-caliber arm for the remainder of the season, once he recovers from the torn tendon in his ankle.  And, more importantly, the Cubs lose out to the South Siders.  And that’s always nice.

What Happened Was…

Round Rock Express (AAA) – A breezy seven-inning affair against the Memphis Redbirds (STL) may have ended in a 5-2 loss for both the Express and for Yorman Bazardo (who allowed 5 earned runs in 6 innings), but it did provide a rare baseball moment: Neither team made a single substitution in the entire game.  The eighteen players who began the game also finished the game, including the starting pitchers.  The Express mustered just 4 hits off of Memphis starter P.J. Walters, who struck out thirteen batters in seven innings of work.  OF Reggie Abercrombie reached twice, once on a single and another on a walk, and stole two bases.  Minor victories.  3B Chris Johnson fell victim to the K three times, which is very impressive in a seven-inning game.

Round Rock Express (AAA) – In the second game of the double-header, it was more of the same.  The Express got three runs on a Brian Esposito home run in the top of the 7th to make the score look a little better, 5-3, but were otherwise completely dominated by the Memphis Redbirds (STL).  Oneli Perez handled the Express batters almost as effectively as Walters had in the earlier game, striking out 7 in 6 innings.  Chad Paronto struck out two in a perfect inning of relief work. 

Corpus Christi Hooks (AA) – Old Man Andy Van Hekken is getting too old for this sh*t.  He gave up four runs over the first two innings against the Midland Rockhounds (OAK), who really just aren’t very nice to the Hooks, en route to a 4-1 loss.  Kyle Middleton, a former Hook who was sold to the Athletics a little over a week ago by the Pensacola Pelicans of the independent American Association, handled his old team, allowing a single run in 8 innings, striking out 6, walking 2, and allowing 4 hits.  His ERA in his first 15 innings back in the Texas League is 0.60.  Chia-Jen Lo continued to pitch well, allowing just a hit and striking out 2 in 2 innings of work.  Tyler Lumsden continues to improve, as well, allowing 2 hits but no runs or walks in a single relief inning.

Lancaster Jethawks (A+) – I’m not sure you even need to look at a box score to understand a 14-0 loss, and that’s exactly what the Jethawks suffered Friday night at the hands of the Inland Empire 66ers (LAD).  The offense did manage five hits, two of them off of the bat of OF Brandon Barnes.  66ers starter Mario Alvarez earned the win in the complete-game shutout.  He struck out 12 batters, including every single person who batted for the Jethawks at least once.  Leandro Cespedes didn’t fare quite as well, allowing 8 runs in just 3 innings before getting pulled, though he did find time to strike out 6 batters in that stretch (the same number he walked).

Lexington Legends (A) – Sometimes, though, the shoe is on the other foot.  The Legends’ pitching staff has been great this season, so it’s nice when the offense decides to show up.  Yesterday, the combination resulted in a 11-0 win for Lexington over the Charleston River Dogs (NYY).  Jordan Lyles struck out 8 batters in 6 innings, allowing all three River Dogs’ hits and two walks.  Henry Villar struck out 2 in a perfect 7th and 8th, and Patrick Urckfitz struck out another in a perfect ninth.  1B Brian Pellegrini hit his 18th home run of the season – the only one of the Legends’ 14 hits that went for extra bases – and he also stole a base.  SS Brandon Wikoff was 4-for-5 at the plate, but just 1-for-2 on the basepaths.  In 4 games since his callup from Tri-City, he’s now .563/.588/.563.  OF Jay Austin didn’t have as much trouble on the bases, swiping two bags to raise his team-leading season total to 22.

Tri-City ValleyCats (A-) – Another day, another postponement due to rain between the ValleyCats and the Oneonta Tigers (DET).

Greeneville Astros (R) – Angel Gonzalez is not very good.  After giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in 5 innings of work yesterday, allowing 6 hits, and walking one with 3 strikeouts, his ERA fell to 10.08.  The Astros were on the wrong end of a 10-2 score against the Kingsport Mets (NYM) yesterday, earning more errors (5) than hits (3).  Just to make his point, Gonzalez himself committed one of those errors, on a pickoff attempt.  OF Grant Hogue chimed in with two of them.  OF/DH Frank Almonte had one of the Astros’ three hits – a solo home run in the fourth inning.  He also had one of only two walks.

GCL Astros (R) – The Astros score 8 runs in the 4th inning against the GCL Marlins (FLA), but watched their lead get chipped away steadily, finally relinquishing it by allowing 3 runs in the top of the 8th.  In the bottom of the frame, though, they fought back for 3 runs of their own and held on to win, 12-11.  Once again, the story of the game for the Astros was the errors: 4 of them this time, including SS Luis Bryan‘s 9th and 10th; 2B Enrique Hernandez‘s 9th; and 3B “The Other” Pedro Feliz‘s 11th of the season.  Hernandez at least compensated at the plate, going 3-for-5 with 2 triples and 3 RBI.

DSL Astros (R) – An 8-4 loss to the mighty DSL Rangers2 (TEX).  3B Raymer Lopez, who has been terrible this season but for an ability to dr
aw some walks (.229/.365/.343), provided some highlights, going 3-for-5 with 2 doubles.  Then, to throw off the media pressure, he committed an error before anyone thought he might be any good.  Quick thinking, Raymer.  Back to the “trainer” for you.  C-1B Cristiand Hirland earned 2 of the Astros’ 3 walks.

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2 comments

  1. roundrock15

    If I know Julio Lugo (and I think I do,) it’ll just be temporary. He tends to perform well for short bursts, then gets tired and loses focus.

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