Archive for the ‘Houston Astros’ Category

Texas Rangers v Houston AstrosHey, did you hear that the 2013 Astros are striking out a bunch? No, really it’s true.

Earlier this week, Jayson Stark compiled a list of comparables to get a sense of how often Houston was striking out. Among them: they were on pace to collectively strikeout out 1,900 times, they struck out almost as many times in their first seven games of 2013 as Tony Gwynn did in one five-year stretch of his career, through their first seven games they were collectively striking out at a higher rate than Mark Reynolds did last year (they have since come down a bit), and so on.

To summarize: a whole lot of strikeouts.

Obviously, you don’t come to this blog just to read a bunch of regurgitated facts that aren’t even true anymore. Lost in the midst of all the hoopla surrounding the Astros being bad this year is an interesting question: What about strikeouts? Wasn’t one of the many lessons of the first wave of sabermetrics that strikeouts were not significantly worse than other outs?

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smiling yu

It was 26 up and 26 down for Yu Darvish tonight against the Houston Astros. Sure, they’re the Astros but Yu Darvish has something special goingt. He repeatedly threw his filthy slider in full counts (the rare time he ran a three-ball count, mind you) and had his way with the lowly American League neophytes. Good team or bad, nobody was touching Darvish tonight.

26 batters up, 26 batters down. 14 strikeouts, a boatload of swinging strikes – TWENTY-SEVEN, to be exact. After battling through the 8th inning, murmurs began to surface on twitter about Darvish’s pitch count. Dare Ron Washington pull his starter if his pitch count rose too high in the first outing of the year> Two very quick outs started Darvish’s ninth inning, quieting those concerns. So close, now…

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Texas Rangers v Houston Astros

The Astros shocked the world with their 8-2 opening day defeat of the Rangers on Opening Night. Of course, we really shouldn’t be surprised — the Astros were an MLB team playing at home, and even the historically inept 1962 Mets won at home 27.5 percent of the time. And this year’s Astros are better than the 1962 Mets.

Still, Houston’s 2-0 lead entering the fifth inning felt tenuous at best. The idea of Bud Norris and the Astros’ bullpen shutting down the Rangers’ lineup completely was far-fetched; they were going to need more.

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Texas Rangers v Houston Astros

It might not end up being the Houston Astros year but March 31st was certainly the Houston Astros’ night. Everything went the way of the scrappy club predicted to lose more games than any team in baseball. The Stros made their American League debut in style, showing off their flashy new uniforms and blasting their cross-state — and new division — rivals the Texas Rangers 8-2.

Everything that could go the Astros way did. The play featured in the image above, wherein Justin Maxwell picks a ball off the grass after making a valiant diving effort, was ruled a catch. Pinch hitter and fourth outfielder extraordinaire Rick Ankiel hit a key three-run homer off reliever Derek Lowe.

The Astros brought in their fifth starter, reclamation project Erik Bedard, to pitch in relief and he ended up throwing three and one-third sparkling innings, allowing just a broken bat single in the ninth for the highly unusual save.

From the look of things, “highly unusual” is going to be uttered in the same breath as “the Houston Astros” quite a few times this season.

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Colorado Rockies v Houston Astros

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is smart man. In his own words, he “didn’t make $100 million by making a lot of dumb mistakes”. Crane put $100 million of his own money into the Astros back in 2011 when he led an ownership group that purchased the club for $615 million. The Astros were a 56-win team in 2011, featuring a roster comprised of veterans on their way out and a lacklustre farm system.

Flash forward to 2013: the Astros are locked in to a rebuilding plan that is ostensibly writing off the present in favour of the future. With a payroll that’s set to check in at around $25 million, the lowest in Major League Baseball, Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow are sticking to their plan regardless of what fans and/or pundits believe is the best direction for the club.

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At least one thing to be excited about for the Houston Astros migration to the American League West is the opportunity to play everyday that Chris Carter may receive. Carter hit .239/.350/.514 with 16 home runs and a 15% BB% in 260 plate appearances with the Oakland Athletics in 2012. It’s just March 1st, but a bomb like the one above off of Jason Motte is a pretty good look.

If there’s a negative here, it’s that Carter was playing left field today and that’s not a pretty sight.

Milwaukee Brewers v Houston Astros

Home and away splits are weird. Far too often, they are used as a weapon in an attempt to tear down players thought to be creations of their home environment.

In a fantasy perspective, they can be instructive when players change teams but, more often than not, they’re just noise. Matt Cain is held up as the poster boy for park factors, as his home/road results are often at odds.

Does it really matter to the Giants that Matt Cain is better at home than on the road? They signed him for what, seven years? He gets to call AT&T Park home for a long, long time, why wouldn’t they want him to pitch better there?

When looking at some splits for 2012, I came across the name of Bud Norris. As a pitcher for the Astros who already reached arbitration, Bud Norris is the subject of much trade speculation. Bud Norris, for whatever reason, sported the worst road numbers of any starter in baseball last year. His numbers were really bad. Shockingly bad. To wit:

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