Tag Archive | "Houston Astros"

I am now in second to last place.  Cue the choir of angels!

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I am now in second to last place. Cue the choir of angels!

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

I am now in second to last place. Cue the choir of angels! “Beat with a Dan Uggla Stick” has a reason to play the fantasy music in their fantasy locker room a little bit louder this week.

sstrasburg

Maybe I’m not the Houston Astros of the Fantasy Baseball world. I’m probably more of the New York Mets.

Pitching has been my weakness. Strasburg has lost the plate. Vogelsong has been a flop and did I mention that Fernando Rodney is in my bullpen? Nonetheless, Mike Minor has been one of my few saving graces.

Thank goodness for Free Agent pickups.

Today, Minor was no different as he got himself back into the win column. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings this afternoon, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 7 to 2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The only run scored off the southpaw came in the third inning. It was a Zack Cozart‘s home run. Minor yet again helped to improv the Atlanta Braves’ record, currently the best in the National League East.

Minor is 4 and 2 as of today. He also tied a season-high strikeout count with seven. This was also his first win in three starts. It was the first time in four starts that Minor allowed less than three runs, as he lowered his ERA from 3.26 to 2.96.

I will take what I can get!

Even when Mike Minor needs to “right the ship”, he is still ten times better than anything I currently have.

He’s the Matt Harvey of “Beat with a Dan Uggla Stick”.

In his start on May 3rd, Minor surrendered two home runs in the first two innings. The second came with none out in the second inning, a rocky start for sure. Nevertheless, after the home run in the second inning, Minor retired the next 18 batters he faced.

Calling Roger Clemens!

Minor was ultimately saddled with a no-decision for this performance against the New York Mets. Still, Minor allowed just three hits. He walked none and struck out four against the Mets before being pulled after seven innings.

If Minor is available in your league, grab him at all costs. He’s got a Harvey vibe without the buzz. You can probably get him for nothing. If he can stay away from the long ball, you are going to be in great shape.

CBSSports.com rates him as the 42nd best pitcher in the league. That’s up from number 60 just last week!

According to the metrics of CBSSports.com, Mike Minor has only failed to come through once with less than 20 points once in the first five weeks of the season. Based on how this week has started, that pattern should continue. Minor is expected to make his next start Monday at Arizona. Minor won his only start against Arizona last season. He allowed one earned run in eight innings and struck out nine.

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I’m in dead last place – Help me Wilin Rosario….

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I’m in dead last place – Help me Wilin Rosario….

Posted on 06 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

… you’re my only hope.

Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario (20) celebrates with teammates after hitting a two run homer against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the inning of a baseball game Friday, June 1, 2012 in Denver, Colo.. The Rockies won 13-3. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

I’m buried so far in the cellar of my fantasy baseball league there is no hope for resurrecting any semblance of a normal season.

Call me the Houston Astros of the fantasy world.

I do though refuse to back up the truck. I have a few diamonds in the rough that I’m sure members of my league would be dying to get their hands on. One of which is Wilin Rosario.

Using CBSSports.com as a metric, Rosario has averaged me about 16 points a week. In 80 at bats, he’s given me 7 home runs, has a .350 batting average and 19 RBIs. In comparison, Josh Hamilton has given me 2 home runs, has a .202 batting average and 9 RBIs in 104 at bats. Matt Wieters, who I was totally expecting to be my “starting catcher”, has give me 4 home runs, has a .214 batting average and 13 RBIs.

Rosario has shown some speed, for a catcher. On the 10th, he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. He also stole his first two bases against the Giants. “I can run a little bit, and I take advantage,” Rosario told MLB.com. “Sometimes they get a little comfortable on the mound, and I get the advantage.” Rosario stole just four bases in 117 games last season. CBSSports.com reports that Rosario sees himself surpassing that number this year. “I don’t know, because the year, it’s just starting right now,” Rosario said. “Maybe 10. Maybe nine.” He might be joking; nonetheless, it cannot be denied that Rosario has gotten a pretty good start to the season this year.

His defense has improved as well. It was on display against the Padres on the 14th. He hit his 4th home run of the season that saturday, culminating in a 4-for-5 day. He drove in three runs and scored one himself. He threw out the only base runner trying to steal against him in a 9-5 win. The day before, Rosario threw out two runners. By the 14th, Rosario caught five of the first seven base runners attempting to steal a base against him this season. “That’s one of the best experiences I can have,” Rosario told MLB.com prior to that game. “I want to be a winner. Not every time are you going to hit. The only thing you can control is your glove — catching everything, blocking balls, stopping runners.”

A draw back to Rosario’s offense is his horrific strikeout ratio. On the 18th, Rosario went 1 for 5 in his team’s 11-3 win over the Mets. He drove in two runs and scored one. He also struck out twice, giving him 15 strikeouts in 46 at-bats at that point. Wilin Rosario leads all NL catchers in strikeouts. If Rosario can keep his strikeouts to a minimum and if his defense can keep him in the starting lineup, he will be a diamond in a rough for your fantasy league. If he tires out early, I’m just going to go bury my laptop in the backyard.

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Theology

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Theology

Posted on 15 February 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

A little bit about me. I am 28, born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago.  Growing up in Chicago, I have had the privilege of having two professional baseball teams right in my backyard to follow all season long. To set the record straight, I am a big supporter of the Chicago Cubs. (The finger pointing and laughing can begin.) Coming from a Cub family, they are the team I grew up with, and they are the team on my credit card. As a side note, it is so much fun using that thing at the South Side park for the in game hot dogs and drinks.

Cubs Wrigley Facelift Baseball

Obviously, I have never seen a Chicago Cubs World Series Championship. Putting it gently, it has been a really long time since they have won one. Instead of looking at 100 plus years without a title, Cub fans need to look at it like celebrating birthdays. We all reach that age where we just do not want to count the numbers anymore. But it will happen eventually, honest. The reason being quite simply is summed up by the word Theology.

I have a t-shirt that reads Theology: The field of study and analysis to build a world championship baseball team at Clark and Addison. It is in honor of the current Team President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. Mr. Epstein is entering his second season on the North Side. Season number one was not always the prettiest on the surface, but the way Theo works, you always have to look deeper. I have followed Theo since his early days in Boston. In the end, he brought the Red Sox two championships, and before he vanishes, he will raise a banner at the Friendly Confines as well, and that is not just crazy talk. Theo is a baseball Jedi ninja.

The 2012 Cub’s season was not the best. They flirted with setting the record for most losses in a season by a Cubs team, and if it were not for the Houston Astros, things could have been a lot worse. Sadly, the Astros are gone now. But the true season was never about wins and losses; it was about building a plan and foundation for the next few years. It was the start of a culture makeover. That type of talk is foreign around these parts. The Cubs have never really had a great farm system. Theo and his crew are changing that. They are using words like develop and growing talent. Jed Hoyer is a good General Manager. Dale Sveum is a good baseball guy, and on down the line the culture is changing.

While the Cubs the last two seasons have not signed the big time Free Agent, like an Albert Pujols, or Josh Hamilton they have made some ninja moves that are helping the process along. Last season they made a trade for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo will be a star, and has a great chance at starting the All-Star game this July. This year, they nearly had Anibal Sanchez, but instead signed starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Having a pitching background myself, Jackson has a make up about him that is solid. Yes, he will have a few stinkers but he will also have games that will make him look awesome. Jackson will be a phenomenal compliment to pitchers Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija.

In addition, Ninja Theo made a great draft pick in outfielder Albert Almora and signed another young outfielder out of Cuba Jorge Soler. The two kids crushed the ball in their first year in the organization. The next division championship the Wrigley faithful will celebrate will have the starting outfield of Soler, Almora, and Brett Jackson which is very promising.

All of a sudden, the Cubs have actual young talent. The prospect list looks very good, and this will all compliment the arguable face of the team, shortstop Starlin Castro. Castro is a young Derek Jeter just scratching the surface of his prime. I just ask that he is in that Cubbie blue for the next decade or more.

I was at the 2012 Cubs Convention when Theo was first introduced. I got goose bumps hearing the overcrowded room chant Theo, Theo. While, Epstein has a history of making head scratching trades and signings, he also gives a city and Cub faithful a bounce in their step and belief. While the product on the field ultimately will decide wins and losses, changes are being made to the ballpark and surroundings as well. Wrigleyville has proposed renovations that will make it seem like the park is actually in the 21st century.

By no means will the Cubs be confused with the 1961 Yankees or even the 2004 Red Sox but they will be better. If healthy, they will be in the hunt for one of the 2013 wild card spots. On the horizon, if the plan continues on course they will be contending for much more. The future is promising on the North Side of Chicago. Theo Epstein is changing a culture one calculated move at a time. It is a very difficult thing to have, but Cub Nation needs to have a few more summers of patients and let Theo work his ninja magic.

Patience is a virtue, and it will pay off soon for the Friendly Confines. Spread the word, within the next few summers, Cub fans will have one heck of a birthday bash!

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A Tour Around the Grapefruit League

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A Tour Around the Grapefruit League

Posted on 14 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

With Spring Training officially in high gear, Dan Wohl of MLB.com schools us on the winter homes of our beloved “Boys of Summer”. Today, he gave us 13 factoids on the cities of the Grapefruit League.

GrapefruitLeague

Until the start of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates make their home in Bradenton, Florida. Did you know that Tropicana (of orange juice fame) was founded in Bradenton back in 1947? While its headquarters are now in Chicago (probably why they are so good in the frozen concentrate department), its juice production center still remains in Bradenton.

Until Opening Day, you’ll find the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida – Clearwater is home to the Church of Scientology’s world headquarters. I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole. I see what they did to Katie Holmes. Seriously, according to Wohl, around 12,000 Scientologists live in Clearwater. They own more than 200 businesses in the city’s downtown.

RA Dickey and the Blue Jays flew south to Dunedin, Florida — Founded by two Scots, Dunedin was named after Dun Eideann, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh. Sadly, that was all Wohl could find. A little boring, which is not unlike the team itself.

The Red Sox and Minnesota Twins can be found in Fort Myers, Florida. – In 1887, Thomas Edison built a winter home called “Seminole Lodge” in Fort Myers. Henry Ford built one called “The Mangoes” next door in 1916. Frankly, it all sounds like some place Blanche from the “Golden Girls” would hang out.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins fight it out in Jupiter, Florida — Originally the home of the Hobe Indian tribe, the Hobe was written by the Spanish as “Jobe.” A mapmaker misread it as “Jove,” which in turn was interpreted as Latin by a later mapmaker. He Anglicized the name to Jupiter. How did that get Anglicized but my big ol’ Italian name survived Ellis Island?

Kissimmee, Florida is home to the new look Houston Astros — Kissimmee is the annual host of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. That is the United States’ largest rodeo event east of the Mississippi River and the world’s largest collection of “Woody” from Toy Story look-a-likes.

Lake Buena Vista, Florida is home of the Brave(s) — Along with Bay Lake Lake Buena Vista is home to Walt Disney World and completely controlled by the Walt Disney Company. The two cities welcome 50 million tourists a year, employ 66,000 “cast members” and have a combined residential population of 57. I wonder if Chipper Jones is looking for a job.

Lakeland, Florida in a Tiger’s natural habitat. — Queen Elizabeth sent two swans to Lakeland in 1954 after a local resident wrote to her complaining about the eradication of the local swan population. All of Lakeland’s now-flourishing swan community descended from this royal pair. They’re all cousins? I though this was more of a West Virginia thing.

Melbourne, Florida has gone National — Melbourne was named in honor of its first postmaster, who was Australian. Nonetheless, it was actually founded two years after the Civil War by former slaves. Teddy Roosevelt, of Nationals’ President race fame, has been trying to move into the neighborhood. None of the front doors can accommodate their giant head.

In Port Charlotte, Florida, they are catching some Rays — Wayne Rooney of Manchester United owns a home in Port Charlotte. Americans still don’t get it.

Port St. Lucie, Florida is home of the Amazins — Port St. Lucie is also the current hometown of Robert Van Winkle, who you might know as Vanilla Ice. Somewhere there is a lawyer looking for a Bernie Madoff connection.

You can find the Orioles in Sarasota, Florida — Former home of circus magnate John Ringling, Sarasota is home to the Circus Museum and the former site of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. That was my safe school.

Tampa, Florida is home to the Yankees– Tampa is also apparently home to a yearly pirate-themed festival called “Gasparilla.” It is considered the American mecca of death metal as well. At the rate the Yankees’ spring training has started, well….that might be apropos.

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The New Sheriff in Houston: Jeff Luhnow

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The New Sheriff in Houston: Jeff Luhnow

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Jeff Luhnow

The Houston Astros have a new sheriff in town who wears a coat and tie and goes by the name  Jeff Luhnow.  If anybody previously questioned how much latitude Luhnow had to run the team his way, his letter to season ticket holders should answer all those questions.  Take a gander for yourselves (courtesy of the Astros my imagination):

Dear Houston Astros Season Ticket Holder,

I speak not only for myself, but for the players and all of my colleagues at the Astros, when I thank you for staying away from games in droves. Through this letter that few of you will read, we would like to share with you some of the sound bites that you will undoubtedly hear about our “plan”.  Believe it or not, the team has made progress during 2012.  It is our hope that you will be excited about, and you’ll mistakenly renew your season tickets with us.  As a cherished Season Ticket Holder, your loyalty to this organization could well be rewarded sometime a half decade from now.

We share your frustration with the results on the field so far this year. After a successful, albeit meaningless Spring Training, we played good baseball for the first two months of the year. On May 25, we beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles and we were one game under .500 and just four games out of first place. That turned out to be our high-water mark for the season, but it demonstrated that our players were capable of competing for a short period of time.  I’d like to say that we’ve underperformed expectations, but nobody really believes that besides us.  We simply lack the depth, talent, and personnel resources of a good AAA team.

We want the Houston Astros to be a winning franchise that can compete for division titles year in and year out in an alternate universe made of pudding.  We ultimately intend to bring multiple championships to the city of Houston and the hundreds of fans we have across the globe.  Our promise to you as a fan is that we’ll keep reminding you of this commitment  even as the team fails to reach the 72 win plateau year after year.

In order to compete consistently, the Astros must develop and maintain a world class scouting food service operation and farm system. Through the scouting, table service, and player development function, we will be able to produce and keep winning players. Teams that excel in these areas tend to win championships in baseball when they can afford to keep good players.

The Astros invested heavily in the future throughout 2012 and will continue to do so in 2013 and beyond. There were three primary investment areas:

1. The Draft. The Astros were in the top 10 percent of teams in resources allocated to signing players in 2012. We drafted and signed three of the top high school amateur players available in Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. In addition to these young budding stars, the Astros also signed a number of college players who have the potential to reach the Major Leagues in a few short years, headlined by Nolan Fontana and Brady Rodgers. The infusion of high quality amateur talent into the farm system is one of the primary reasons for the winning records at the short season clubs.

2. International. The Houston Astros were among the most active clubs at the beginning of the international signing season on July 2 and have continued to sign players from Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and other parts of the world. While these players are all 10 or 11 years old and therefore several years away from having an impact at the Major League level, this pipeline of talent is critical to sustaining success of the scouting and development system.

3. Trades. Several trades were made to add as many young “prospects” as possible, because we intend to point to our talent pipeline every single time someone mentions our failures on the actual baseball field.  These investments will bear fruit later this decade or even beyond this decade.  <insert cliche about building a team from scratch>.

While much of the work we are doing is proprietary and confidential, we can share with you that we are building capabilities across several areas of baseball operations that will enable us to make the best possible decisions in player evaluation, acquisition, development and retention. We believe that our nachos offerings are among the best in baseball, and the BBQ at Minute Maid is likely second to none.  Also, our recycling efforts have proven to be a great secondary revenue stream as fans tend to drink more and more in the parking lots before games.

The final piece we want to share with you is about our winning mindset. I’d now like to use the words “institutionalize” and “organic” here so that you may take these words completely out of context.  I’d also like to point out that this team was once just 4 games away from winning a World Series.  Granted, that may have been before some of your were intelligent enough to realize that it was pure lucky, but it is something.  We appreciate your support, and we hope to see you at Minute Maid Little League Park and Putt-Putt Course next year as we take on real major league baseball teams with players you might want to watch.  The future is bright.

Jeff Luhnow
General Manager
Houston Astros

Of course, Jeff left a few things unsaid, but anybody with access to the interwebz can fill in the blanks.  The opening day payroll for the Astros in 2011 was $76,969,000.  Luhnow took over the job as General Manager in December of that same year.  The Astros started 2012 with an opening day payroll of $60,799,000.  After making more than a few deals, the Astros have a current payroll of about $38M for the 2012 season with another $5.5M due in 2013 for previously incurred payroll obligations.  The bulk of that $5.5 comes in the form of $5M owed from the Wandy Rodriguez deal.

Without exact arbitration and pre-arbitration figures for 20+ players, a best guess for the 2013 opening day payroll totals about $40M, give or take a few signings at the veteran’s minimum.  Luhnow has successfully reshaped the roster, reduced payroll substantially, and left the team with zero payroll commitments for the 2014 season.  If he can do all this in less than a year, just imagine what he can potentially accomplish over the next 3-4 years with the aid of the draft and likely more payroll flexibility than any other GM in baseball.

By the time Luhnow completes the makeover, the Astros should be a really young athletic team with plenty of speed.  In other words, the team projects to be built exactly the way you would expect a team that plays half of its games in Minute Maid Park to be structured.  It might require a few years for other teams to grow accustomed to dealing with the Astros, but the Astros certainly appear to be on the right track to deal with other teams.

Here’s to the AL West champion Astros…..in 2016…..in the alternate pudding universe.

DISCLAIMER:  I’m a huge fan of Jeff Luhnow and his approach to building a team.  In all seriousness, it takes a lot of guts to write an actual letter to the fans that basically tells them the team they root, root, root for will be terrible for several years.  It’s the truth, but most teams would never admit that.  Kudos, Jeff.

Also, you may want to read the actual letter by clicking here.  Or not.

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