Tag Archive | "Contender"

Breaking Bad: Houston Astros

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Breaking Bad: Houston Astros

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Baby, you can drive my…..train?

This year marks the 51st year of play for the Houston Astros as a franchise.  In those 51 years, the Astros have lost more than 74 games in a season 35 times.  The team’s current record stands at 36-76 after the first 112 games of the season.  As losses accumulate, the Astros move incrementally closer to the franchise’s worst year ever which consisted of a 56-106 mark set in 2011.  Then again, it might be too much to ask them to go 20-30 down the stretch.  For a team winning at just a .321 clip, the idea of winning at a .400 pace  represents a jump.

Obviously, Jeff Luhnow chose to raze the team and start from scratch.  With new ownership, new management, and a new league (next year), I find it difficult to imagine that the team will be a real contender for several years.  Need a potential nightmare scenario for the Astros?  Just imagine a team that has drawn just 1,167,069 in 54 home games this year losing even more fan support over the next few years.  Going south of the current pace of 21,612 per home game seems likely this year, and the freefall could easily continue below the 15,000 mark eventually.

Maybe they have a plan for reigniting interest and expediting the rise from well below mediocrity, but that plan must require a  considerable amount of time, a significant financial commitment to free agents, or both.  Without packing Minute Maid Park beyond 50% capacity, the possibility that nobody will witness the baseball revolution in Houston without a ticket looks like a very large possibility.  Here are a few suggestions for getting people to pack the stands.

  • Have a “Landscaper’s Night Out” game and guarantee that the roof will be closed.  After living in Houston, I can honestly say that no city has more hard working men and women in the landscaping business than Houston.  These folks can go 12-14 hours per day with just a few short breaks, and they simply never complain.  Offer them a cool place, some cold beverages, and a baseball game in the shade, and you will have a guaranteed contingent of workers falling asleep in the bleachers.
  • Partner with the geek team from NASA and offer a “Pilot the Mars Rover” night where lucky winners selected via a lottery between each inning gets 15 minutes to steer the rover.  This promotion would be even better with some “I’m With Geek Boy” t-shirts for sale as well.  PI * 7 rounded to the nearest whole number would be a great price for this t-shirts.
  • Sponsor a “Mix Tape Night”, and give a discount to any of the 25,000 DJ’s in H-town who have a mix tape they want to tell everyone about.  Selected pieces get played over the PA, and the crowd noise meter reaction helps choose the winner.
  • Beg MLB and mostly Bud Selig to schedule as many games against the Cardinals and Cubs as possible.  There may be no easier way to pack the Juice Box than to bring the Rebirds or Cubbies to town.
  • Go with a “Drive the Train” day at the ballpark.  All fans with a paid admission get an opportunity to buy into a drawing, and the winner gets to drive the train at Minute Maid.  The money goes to charity, and the winner gets to play conductor for 1 day.
  • Convince former owner Drayton McLane to return to the park for a “Drayton McLane Dunking Booth”.  $5 for 3 chances to hit the target with a baseball.  $10 gets you the opportunity to just bean McLane directly.

You can keep your t-shirt launchers, mascots, and racing condiments.  Houston needs to go big and get creative, and nothing says “creative” quite like allowing fans to pilot a NASA asset millions of miles away.

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The Roy Oswalt Watch

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The Roy Oswalt Watch

Posted on 24 May 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Oswalt Watch

Roy Oswalt hath descended from the mountaintops to declare himself available to pitch for the right team and presumably, the right price.  Thank goodness, because I was just sitting in a bean bag chair wondering exactly what baseball would do without Ol’ Roy.  Honestly, the kind of impact this guy could have might be measured in World Series championships.  He practically dwarfs the comeback of Michael Jordan to baseball with the manner in which he could affect a team, nay a whole division or even all of baseball.  He might just be that important.  Or not.

When baseball fans last got a glimpse of Oswalt throwing off of a real pitcher’s mound in a real game, he was not exactly about to run off with a trophy named after Cy Young.  Oswalt finished his version of 2011 with a career high in ERA (3.69), WHIP (1.338), H/9 (9.9) and a career low in SO/9 (6.0).  Pitching effectiveness aside, Oswalt’s health was the biggest issue in 2011, and it should also be on the minds of anybody interested in signing RO.

Oswalt has thrown for the Phillies and Red Sox, and he has already declared his intention to be a starter and not a reliever.  He potentially makes sense for a number of teams, and the 2 teams that met in the last World Series are among them.  Is he worth the risk?  If so, what is he actually worth to a potential contender?

If the various sports outlets were abuzz with “Oswalt can no longer pitch” rumors, then this article would not be worth the 11 minutes taken to author it.  However, no such news abounds, and Oswalt probably looked about normal for someone who would likely require a month or more to be prepared to throw a pitch that really counts in a game.  That said, he almost has to be worth the risk to some team desperate for another arm just to eat up some innings.  Despite the fact that he basically pitched just 2/3 of a season in 2011, he still managed 2.0 WAR for the Phillies.  If he can manage anything close to his “bad” numbers from last season for about half a season in 2012, he conservatively could provide a team with 1.0-1.2 WAR.  A reasonable guesstimate puts his payroll number at around $4-5M for a few months of renting the little “O”.

Then again, there exists no law, bylaw, or principle that dictates MLB teams or even players have to be “reasonable”.  Just think in terms of all the teams within 5 games of the wild card lead and the corresponding payrolls for each of them.  For some it might be reasonable to take on Oswalt and the associated salary bump in order to try to catch lightning in a bottle.  For others, the risk might be deemed too great or the price too high.  Which is which, though?

The AL

  • Angels (5 games back) – $151.7M
  • Mariners (4.5 games back) – $79.5M
  • Tigers (3 games back) – $132.5M
  • White Sox (2.5 games back) – $95.9M
  • Red Sox (2.5 games back) – $173.1M
  • A’s (2 games back) – $54.5M
  • Yankees (1.5 games back) – $207.2M
  • Blue Jays (2nd in AL WC) – $82.1M
  • Rays (leading AL WC) – $63.2M

The NL

  • Astros (4 games back) – $59.0M
  • Pirates (4 games back) – $50.9M
  • Phillies (3.5 games back) – $173.1M
  • Mets (1 game back) – $91.6M
  • Giants (1 game back) – $129.4M
  • Reds (.5 games back) – $81.3M
  • Marlins (2nd in NL WC) – $99.7M
  • Braves (leading NL WC) – $92.7M

Granted, Oswalt has expressed a variety of preferences since last season.  At different times, he has specifically gone on record as favoring a contending team, a team relatively close to home, an NL team, a team that allows sock puppets in the club house, and a team that will pretty much guarantee him a starting role.  Just go ahead and toss out those preferences for a moment.  Does anybody really think that Oswalt would turn down a huge payday to go to an AL team, located far from home as long as that team is contending?  After all, we’re really only talking about 3 months plus the playoffs at most.  That said, here is my top 5 list in descending order of handicapped chances.

  1. Phillies – He has already done the dog and pony show for the Phillies, and the team stands only 3.5 games back of the WC lead.  Oswalt’s familiarity with the team, the city, and especially the primary catcher could sway him back to the City of Brotherly Love.  Also, the Phillies may have noticed that the clock is really ticking on their window of opportunity, and adding Oswalt wouldn’t be a huge addition to the opening day payroll.  The recent injury to Vance Worley might even make Oswalt more attractive than he was before the injury.
  2. Rangers – Despite looking like the best team in the AL, the Rangers have to remain concerned about the starts they have been getting from both Matt Harrison and Derek Holland.  Although they have other options, it would be a shame to move Ogando from what currently figures to be one of the top shutdown bullpens in the league.  Maybe the Rangers were just doing their “due diligence” in checking on Oswalt, but that might be another way of saying “looking to sign”.  Also, signing Oswalt keeps him from the competition, and bringing that factor into play would be a savvy move right now.
  3. Blue Jays – Despite having the best run differential in their division, the Blue Jays find themselves looking up at both the Orioles and the Rays.  Adding Oswalt to basically replace the #5 starter would cost the team a hefty amount compared to the current payroll, but this might be the year to ride Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and J.P. Arencibia all the way to the playoffs.
  4. Red Sox – The Sox have not made the playoffs since 2009, and they haven’t tasted any playoff success since 2008.  If Oswalt can provide a steadying influence in Boston, he might be worth the gamble.  After all, the Red Sox have nothing to lose, since they currently dwell in the AL East’s basement.
  5. Reds – The Reds sit at 23-19 which puts them 2 games above their projected Pythagorean record.  The team’s lack of quality starting pitching has been masked by late game comebacks, but likely regression could end that trend at any time.  It’s not that I don’t have faith in their offense, but not many teams can keep it rolling when the bullpen has almost as many wins (10) as the starting rotation (13).

Of course, nobody knows exactly what Oswalt will do, but based on all considerations, the 5 listed above seem the “best” destinations, even if they do not seem the likeliest at first inspection.

 

 

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Finding Keepers:Seattle Mariners

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Finding Keepers:Seattle Mariners

Posted on 17 April 2012 by Gary Marchese

The Seattle Mariners can’t get much worse then they were last year.  They still have a couple of marquee names in Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki.  They have some young promising players that should help them.  I don’t think they are a contender this year but maybe they can at least keep the fan interest for most of the season.  Lets take a look at some guys on their team that I would consider keepers.

RF Ichiro Suzuki had the worst season of his career last year.  I don’t expect him to be as bad as he was last year.  Is he getting older, yes he is but he is basically a singles hitter with a little bit of pop.  I don’t think he forgot how to hit and should have around 200 hits again this season.  I wouldn’t drop him just yet, give him a chance to rebound this season.

SP Felix Hernandez plays for a bad team in a market where he doesn’t get much publicity.  He is a great pitcher though, one of the best in the game if not the best.  He is still young and will continue to put up numbers.  There would be no reason at all to drop this guy, he hasn’t even been injury prone.  The only think with him is that sometimes his wins totals are low because of the team he is on.

SP Hector Noesi is a second year pitcher who came over from the Yankees in the trade that landed the Yankees Michael Pineda.  He was a long reliever for the Yankees but is a starter now.  I think he is pretty good pitcher who will do well out in Seattle.  He is a guy that I would keep, hoping he develops into something pretty good. 

DH/C Jesus Montero is the big name that the Mariners got from the Yankees in the trade with Noesi coming to Seattle also.  Montero is a promising hitter it is his defense that is in question.  I have no doubt this guy is going to hit and hit a lot.  I think he will be around a 30 homerun guy with 100 RBI potential and I think he can hit 280-290.  I would not let go of this guy too easily.

2B Dustin Ackley is a pretty good second baseman.  He is only in his second year in the majors.  He is a guy that can hit for a decent average, can have a pretty high on base and has some pop.  I wouldn’t mind keeping him on my team if he was there.  He could also be a pretty good backup to have.  He should be able to hit 275-280 with around 10 homeruns and 50+RBI.  He could also steal a few bases for you.

Closer Brandon League became a closer with Seattle last year.  He had 37 saves last season in 42 chances.  He in his career was mainly a middle relief and setup man.  He is 17-22 in his career with a 3.65 ERA.  He is a guy that has always had good stuff but needed to harness it.  It looks like he is in a good situation now in Seattle where he can grow and be a pretty good major league closer.  I would hold onto him and see if he can repeat what he did last year.  If he can he is a keeper.

I hope you enjoy my work and that of my colleagues.  As always you can comment on the articles on the website or reach me through face book or twitter.  @gmarchesej on twitter and my name on facebook.

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DOs And DONTs: Houston Astros

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DOs And DONTs: Houston Astros

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Daniel Aubain

This edition of DOs And DON’Ts takes a look at the lowly Houston Astros 40-man roster through the eyes of a fantasy baseball addict always looking for a good bargain with little to no risk or investment of more than a few bucks. The Astros’ roster is filled with low-risk/low-investment types who could provide your team with some value in deep, mixed league formats or those shallow NL-only ones.

Below is some advice on who to target in your drafts and who to avoid when it comes to the Astros for the 2012 season:

  • DO realize the best pitcher on this starting staff, Wandy Rodriguez, will probably be traded before the trade deadline if he puts up quality numbers in the first half. If he were to stay with the Astros for all of 2o12, you’re probably looking at no more than an 11-11 type season with an ERA around 3.50 with a 1.30 WHIP and 175 Strikeouts.
  • DON’T bother with 1B/3B Brett Wallace until he proves two things: he’ll be the starting third baseman out of the gates in April and that he lives up to the potential he showed in the minor leagues.
  • DO expect SP Bud Norris to become the ace of this staff in 2012. His 8.8 K/9 should get him close to 200 Strikeouts in 2012 and with an ERA of 3.77, FIP of 4.02 and an xFIP of 3.73, his numbers seem even more legit. Problem is he probably won’t win many games and could hurt you with his 1.41 career WHIP. Invest wisely but do invest…as late and as cheaply as you can.
  • DO know OF Jordan Schafer has 30+ stolen base potential. You may not get much else from him offensively but cheap steals are cheap steals.
  • DON’T know why SP Brett Myers is still on this team? Me neither. How can a team with an overall payroll somewhere in the $70M range commit $11M to just one player, and a mediocre one at that. I’d avoid him at all costs unless he were moved to a contender this Spring.
  • DO believe the hype  on 2B Jose Altuve. He’s hit and run at every level of the minors and even during a his first taste of the majors (.276 BA; 7 SB in 57 games). He shouldn’t be your starting second baseman but deserves a roster spot in any competitive league using additional roster spots (or NL-only ones).
  • DON’T go sniffing around in this bullpen looking for a closer unless you’re a desperate, gambling man. Juan Abreu is listed on several sites around the web as the leading candidate to close out games. If you don’t “pay for saves” and wind up fishing around in the Astros’ pen, you’d better hope he continues to bring the Strikeouts at the 16.2 K/9 rate he brought them in 6.2 innings pitched in 2012.
  • DO watch what kind of numbers and playing time J.D. Martinez and Jason Bourgeois get in Spring Training. The outfield will be crowded with unknowns (young players with varying levels of upsides) so guess carefully or avoid altogether. Be aware if Bourgeois gets additional playing time at second base.
  • DON’T forget about SS Jed Lowrie as a late-round pick. The time to shine for this “Twitter legend” is now. Put up or shut up.
  • DO expect decent power numbers from 1B/OF Carlos Lee until he is traded. Like Myers, it is UNBELIEVABLE a player with a 35 year old player with an $18.5M salary is still on this roster. His value goes up with a move the AL as a DH. Hopefully that’s not in 2013 with the Astros.

The Astros could have a decent amount of late-round roster-fillers on their roster but none are worth losing sleep over if you miss out on them come draft day. I imagine many of these names coming across many of this season’s “waiver wire” fantasy baseball articles as positional battles become clearer, veterans get traded and rookies succeed and/or fail.

You can check out all of the “DOs And DON’Ts” teams covered so far by various Full Spectrum Baseball writers by clicking this link. We’re working diligently to get all 30 teams covered before you start drafting your team(s).

Leave a comment below if there’s a particular player on this roster you’re planning on investing heavily in as a regular or your go-to sleeper this season. You can also reach me on Twitter with a follow @DJAubain, too.

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