Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lancaster Playoff Recap and Pitching Matchup

Friday's Game

Lancaster over Modesto 11-2 (Lancaster leads best-of-five series 2-0)
Uno Mas! That's how many games Lancaster needs to win out of the next three to be crowned California League Champions. That's the good news. The bad news is that Modesto came back from an 0-2 deficit in the previous round to get to the finals so they can't be counted out. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Blair Walters got the start and, despite some early traffic, managed to get some key outs and ultimately allowed only one run (on a passed ball) on six hits and no walks with six strikeouts in five innings of work to earn the win. He was followed by Chia-Jen Lo who showed a return to his earlier form as he provided scoreless relief in his two innings of work, striking out four. Carlos Quevedo came in for the final two and allowed one run in the bottom of the ninth. A combined two runs on nine hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts from the JetHawks pitching staff kept Lancaster in control of the game as they scored all the runs that they would need in the third inning. But they piled on scoring another four in the fifth inning due in large part to a three-run Telvin Nash home run, one in the sixth driven in by one of three Andrew Aplin doubles, and three more in the top of the ninth. After going 0-for-four on Thursday, Aplin was on fire with a four-for-five night on Friday and Nash was two-for-four with four RBI. Delino DeShields was two-for-five with a walk, RBI, stolen base and scored a run and Jonathan Meyer was one-for-three with a double, two walks and scored two runs. Jio Mier, Erik Castro, Domingo Santana and Carlos Perez each drove in a run as well. Seven of Lancaster's 12 hits were for extra bases. Great all-around  team effort from a really exciting team.

Saturday's Pitching Matchup

9:00 CST - Game 3: Modesto at Lancaster
LHP Colton Cain takes the mound for Lancaster. He has one loss in the post-season and did not face Modesto during the regular season. In his seven regular season starts for Lancaster after he was obtained in a trade with the Pirates, he was 2-2 with a 5.55 ERA and a 1.430 WHIP. LHP Jorge de la Rosa will appear for Modesto in a rehab start for the Rockies. De la Rosa has made seven rehab starts in four different leagues this season with a 6.64 ERA and a 1.771 WHIP. He made one post-season start against Bakersfield and only allowed one run on three hits in three and two-thirds innings.

Happy Birthday - 9/15

RHP Murilo Gouvea (24)
Obtained in a 2009 trade with the White Sox for future considerations, the Brazilian-born Gouvea was a workhorse out of the Lexington bullpen in 2012. In 50 appearances, he was 2-7 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP.

OF Ariel Ovando (19)
Signed by the Astros out of the Dominican Republic as a NDFA in 2010 (for a ginormous $2.6 million dollar signing bonus), Ovando spent his second season with the Greeneville Astros in the Appy League, repeating the level. Having seen him in August, I can tell you he is still very raw, but his bat certainly started getting hot this year as he compiled a .287/.350/.444 line with 13 doubles, two triples and six home runs in 59 games.

RHP Jason Stoffel (24)
Originally drafted by the Giants in the fourth Round in 2009, Stoffel was obtained (along with Henry Sosa) in the Jeff Keppinger trade in July 2011. Stoffel spent the 2012 season in Corpus Christi. In 58 appearances, he was 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA, a 0.983 WHIP and a league-leading 27 saves. In his last nine appearances during the regular season, he allowed ZERO runs (earned or unearned) with a WHIP of 0.321.

Tweet of the Day

Jiovanni Mier
Time to finish this off and win the ship!!! UNO MAS! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Astros Farm System Gets More "Elite"

Ahem, it's not every day that I get a shoutout from Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, but I'm really just linking this to show the improvement in the Astros system in terms of elite prospects. Really. (Did I convince you?)

2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifying Rounds

The 2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifying rounds start next week and we have three Astros minor leaguers participating in those rounds. (For more info on the WBC, go here.)

Team Israel will be competing in Qualifying Round 1 in Jupiter, Florida (along with France, South Africa and Spain) from September 19th to the 23rd. Brad Ausmus' Roster will include SS/2B Ben Orloff and RHP Josh Zeid. Orloff split his time this season between Lancaster and Corpus Christi and ended the season hitting a combined .290/.361/.327 with a .975 fielding percentage. Zeid spent the season working out of the Corpus Christi Hooks bullpen. In 47 appearances, Zeid was 2-0 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP with 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

The Czech Republic team will be competing in Qualifying Round 2 in Regensburg, Germany (along with Canada, Germany and Great Britain) from September 20th to September 24th. LHP Alex Sogard will be included on the roster for the Czech team. After a handful of games in Lancaster this season, Sogard was promoted to Corpus Christi. In 39 total appearances out of the bullpen between the two venues, he was 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.597 WHIP.

Former Astro farmhands Jimmy VanOstrand and Albert Cartwright will be playing for the Canadian and Great Britain teams, respectively.

Playoff Recaps and Pitching Matchup

Thursday's Games

Hudson Valley over Tri-City 8-3 (Hudson Valley wins the series 2-1)
Tri-City starter Joe Bircher had a rough start and got the early hook as he allowed three runs across while only recording one out in the first. With runners at the corners, Skipper Stubby Clapp replaced Bircher with Brady Rodgers who allowed one of his inherited runners to score before getting two strikeouts to quell the threat. The ValleyCats got one run back in the top of the second as Tyler Heineman scored from third on a wild pitch and scraped another one across in the third as Jesse Wierzbicki drove in Austin "Catfish" Elkins on a ground-rule double. In the meantime, Rodgers pitched brilliantly allowing only one hit and no walks with six strikeouts in three and two thirds innings. Lance Day was sharp in the fifth but got into trouble in the sixth, trouble that Jeremiah Meiners couldn't keep under control thanks in part to a fielding error by Neiko Johnson. Before all was said and done, Hudson Valley plated two runs to give them a 6-2 lead in the inning. The 'Cats answered with one in the 7th on a Joe Sclafani RBI single scoring Jarrod McKinney. Blake Ford came in with one out in the bottom of the seventh and was removed with one out in the bottom of the eighth after walking a batter, in favor of Travis Ballew. Ballew and Scott Zuloaga allowed another two runs across before the eighth was over, giving Hudson Valley an 8-3 lead. And that was where it ended although Tri-City did threaten in the ninth. Tri-City was held to five hits with Wierzbicki's ground rule double being the only extra base hit. Joe Sclafani was one-for-three with an RBI, two walks and a run scored. Jarrod McKinney was hitless but walked three times and scored a run. And so ends an otherwise fantastic season.

Lancaster over Modesto 7-4 (Lancaster leads the best-of-five series 1-0)
David Martinez got the start and pitched a mostly effective six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts and was rewarded with his second win of the post-season. The bullpens could very well be the key to this series and Lancaster has a leg up in that regard having had a day off between series to rest and getting six innings from Martinez while Modesto had no time off and had to go to the 'pen in the third last night. The Nuts struck first with a run scored on a sac fly in the bottom of the second, but the lead was short-lived as Lancaster came back with a vengeance in the top of the third, scoring four on a two-run Jio Mier double and RBI singles from Domingo Santana and Jonathan Meyer. But the Heart Attack Hawks were back as the Nuts got two back in the bottom of the frame on a two-run triple before a fly out double play with a missile to home from Santana in right field ended the threat. Lancaster added on a pair in the fifth with a double off the very hot bat of Jonathan Meyer and the Nuts answered with one in the sixth to keep it close. Jose Trinidad entered in the seventh and got three quick outs and one more in the eighth before giving way to Kenny Long who gave up a single before retiring the next two. After Delino DeShields scored on an error in the top of the ninth for an insurance run, Andrew Robinson made quick work in getting the final three outs. There were several nice offensive performances:

Delino DeShields - 2x4 BB 2R
Jio Mier - 3x5 2B 2RBI R
Domingo Santana - 3x4 RBI 2R
Jonathan Meyer - 2x3 2B 3RBI BB
Rafy Valenzuela - 1x2 2B 2BB R

Friday's Pitching Matchup

9:05 CST - Game 2 of the LCS: Lancaster at Modesto
LHP Blair Walters goes to the mound for Lancaster. Walters was 3-3 with a 7.62 ERA and a 1.641 WHIP in 8 starts after coming into the Astros organization and did not face Modesto during the regular season. The JetHawks won Walters' one post-season appearance but he didn't get a decision in that game. RHP Juan Gonzalez gets the start for Modesto. In 27 games (26 starts) during the regular season, he was 6-13 with a 6.03 ERA and a 1.727 WHIP. He was 1-1 in starts against Lancaster during the season. His only post-season appearance thus far resulted in a loss.


Happy Birthday - 9/14

C Jon Carnahan (23)
Born in Nederland, Texas and a product of Delta State (MS), Carnahan signed with the Astros as a non-drafted free agent in 2012. In 13 games for the Gulf Coast League Astros, he hit .250/.289/.306, made no errors and had a 33% caught stealing rate.

One former Astro with a birthday today:

LHP Frank Carpin (74)
After pitching for Pittsburgh in 1965 (3-1, 4 saves and a 3.18 ERA), Carpin was picked up by the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. He only appeared in 10 games for the Astros in 1966, compiling a 7.50 ERA and a 2.500 WHIP, and he played his last major league game on September 3, 1966.

Tweet of the Day

Drew Muren

Not a place he can't sleep  
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kenny long

 gotta to get my pre game nap no matter where it is!




Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Interview with RHP Jordan Jankowski

I met Jordan Jankowski (also called J.J. by some) late last month in Greeneville. I didn't have time to interview him while I was there, but I made arrangements to talk to him later for a couple of reasons. First of all, anyone who's been paying the slightest bit of attention to the Astros farm system is probably aware of Jankowski's extraordinary strikeout rate. In 23 appearances for the Greeneville Astros, he compiled 53 strikeouts in 32 and a third innings, an incredible strikeout rate of 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings. On top of that, he only walked 10 batters for a 5.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

But my reasons for wanting to get to know Jordan better went beyond his stats, one reason shallow and one not. I'll admit I'm a huge fan of players wearing high socks and when Jordan came out of the bullpen that first night sporting the look, he earned all kinds of brownie points with me. But it was his work ethic that really impressed me. As I was hanging around during the pre-game workouts getting a few pictures and just generally observing, I noticed that Jankowski and Mike Hauschild were the first players out on the field both days, getting in their work. They were also among the last to leave, and they were working hard. High socks, hard work and a sexy strikeout-to-walk ratio are, after all, the keys to my heart.

But before I get to the meat of the interview, there is a story involving Jankowski that needs to be cleared up. In preparing for the interview with Jordan, I had Googled him so I could ask a couple of semi-intelligent questions to go with the goofy ones I normally ask and up popped an article that I'd totally forgotten about. I'm not going to link to the article because, frankly, I didn't find it very fair, particularly after talking to Jordan, and I don't really want to give the author any more clicks on it.

The gist of the story was that Jordan was scheduled to pitch in the regionals for Catawba College (NC), but he was instead leaving to participate in a major league pre-draft workout so he was asked to leave the team as a "team decision," with his coach proclaiming, "You're with us or you're not with us. You've got to be all in."

The problem with the story is that, according to Jordan, there were a lot of details left out. And I have to go by what Jordan tells me because the author of the article didn't bother to get Jordan's side of it at the time.

It turns out that Jordan was prepared to pitch as many pitches as needed in the first game of the regionals before leaving for the Astros pre-draft workout and he was prepared to pitch again after returning, but his coach wanted him there to cheer on his teammates in the interim. The plans to attend the workout were made before Catawba even made the regionals and, as a senior, it was Jordan's last chance to pursue his dream.

Jordan was not present for the team vote and had no opportunity to defend himself or explain his side of the story as he was in the training room getting his arm iced down at the time. But according to a friend of Jordan's who was there, the team was led to believe that Jordan was not willing to pitch at all, and even then, only three of his teammates wanted him off the team.

Jordan was somewhat reluctant to even talk about the situation, but once he opened up to me and explained it, he seemed to feel a sense of relief in getting his side of the story out there. When he was drafted, he read a couple of blog comments that questioned his character and that stung.

As Jordan put it, "I was never really able to defend myself about what happened exactly. It made me look like I was a bad teammate. Yeah, I went to the workout, but I was still willing to pitch for them. I would have thrown 140 pitches for them and then gone to the workout on one day's rest. I don't want people to think I'm not a team guy because the wrong story's out there."


Now that that's out of the way, let's go on to the rest of the interview (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

On his draft experience: "I was actually drafted in '08 and [again] this year in the 34th round both years. In '08 I was drafted as a catcher. [Why didn't he sign in 2008?] I don't think I was ready. I thought at least I could get some of my education done and mature a bit. I actually went to school at Miami Ohio first and then I transferred because ... I wasn't really developing how I thought I should develop. I left to find a place where I thought I could develop a little better."

On his transition from catcher to pitcher: "I really just started pitching fully when I transferred because at Miami Ohio I was a closer and I [only became a starter after the transfer to Catawba]. I might have pitched 20 innings total in high school and in my first year [of college] I threw about 30 and then I threw maybe 40 the next year. Then I threw 100 my junior year and 90 this year so really I had no [significant] pitching experience until the last two years."

On his workout routine: "We have to be there about 2:00 or 3:00. I normally get there at 12:00 every day. I do some extra running. I lift three days. Try to get in better shape. I really hadn't had that much training as a pitcher so I've been trying to build myself up to be more of a pitcher."

On his pitch selection: "Mainly fastball, slider, curveball, but I throw in a changeup here and there. [Pitching Coach] Hector Mercado really helped me a lot with that. Coming in to the season, I didn't even throw a changeup so he actually helped me a lot. Fastball [is] mainly high 80's to low 90's."

On his high strikeout rate: "Yeah, I get a lot of swing and misses, but I really started striking out a lot of guys when I transferred my junior year. I definitely favor my slider a little bit, but I like to mix it up. I get most of my strikeouts on my slider, but I think it's the way I set it up is the reason that it works that way, or how the catcher sets up mainly."

What has he accomplished in the short season?: "Mainly I feel like I established myself. I feel like I've opened a few eyes that I can maybe be that guy that can get a quick inning later on in the game. I'm not your [typical] closer. I don't throw upper 90's. But I can still strike guys out even though I don't throw that upper level."

What does he need to work on?: "I need to work on a changeup and just repeat my motion. My changeup is coming along. I'm starting to throw it a little more, and I think that's going to help me a lot more with keeping people more off-balance. The other thing I need to work on is maybe mixing my pitches a little bit better, just trust in everything I have. I know that sometimes I rely on one or two pitches, but Hector Mercado was telling me the more I mix everything together [the harder it will be] for them to make solid contact off me because he says that's just one more thing they've got to think about. So I guess maybe just work on trusting everything I have and throw all my pitches."

On sporting the high socks look: "I refuse to wear my pants down. I've always worn high socks since I was little. I think that's what a baseball player should look like. It's what they looked like in the old days. I just like the look. I like the colored socks and how it looks with the uniform."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: Everyone's funny in the bullpen. We actually had bullpen awards and the funniest guy that we came up with was Tanner Bushue. He always kept everyone laughing in the bullpen. He and Zach Dando were the funny guys."

Which teammate has a pitch he'd like to steal?: "I'd have to say definitely Mike Hauschild's fastball. His fastball moves like two feet. If I could steal that off him, that would be unreal. He can throw that to lefties, righties. That's one of the best pitches you could possibly have that moves that much and he just gets so many groundballs, it's just unreal to watch him pitch."

Which teammate would he least like to face on the mound?:  "I'd honestly probably say either Terrell Joyce or [Rio] Ruiz. I said Joyce because if you make a mistake, he can hit it a long way. Leaving a fastball up, he can hit it. And Ruiz, ever since he got there, showed that he's such a patient hitter. I felt like he had a good approach at the plate."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I really want to do something in sports, something sports-related. I really don't want to think of something outside baseball. I'd probably try something [related to] baseball, maybe work at a baseball school, somehow impact someone's life so they could get to experience what we experienced this year and give them the chance to experience living the dream."

On something most people don't know about him: "In high school, I used to be 260 and I lost all kind of weight. I was 260 my senior year and I dropped down to like 195 when I went to college. Then when I left college last year I was 240 and this year I weighed in with the Astros at 189. I lost a lot of weight to get where I'm at. [Another thing would be] the one game I remember pitching in little league. We were 12 years old and it was a championship game. At the bottom of the seventh, we were winning by one run and there was a guy on first base and I gave up a walk-off home run to a girl. It was the championship game in a little league tournament so I didn't pitch the next couple of tournaments, you can put it that way."

Any final words for Astros fans?: "The future's bright. We have good players. Everyone's going to work hard to put a quality product on the field for you."

14.8 strikeouts per nine innings and Jankowski's just now really learning how to pitch? The future looks bright, indeed. It also looks a little classier each time he steps on the field in those high socks.

Playoff Recap and Pitching Matchups

Wednesday's Game

Hudson Valley over Tri-City 5-2 (Series tied 1-1 in best-of-three)
Despite a brilliant start by Aaron West, Hudson Valley came back and forced a rubber game for the New York-Penn League Championship. West was perfect through his first five innings, allowed his first baserunner in the sixth on a Joe Sclafani error, and allowed his first hit (a single) one out later. West ultimately gave up two runs (both unearned) in the frame to tie the game 2-2. He was followed by Jamaine Cotton who pitched his way out of trouble in the seventh, but ran into it again in the eighth as Hudson Valley connected for a three-run home run that put them up by three. On the offensive side, Tri-City scored one in the first as Preston Tucker doubled in Austin "Catfish" Elkins and one in the fifth on a Joe Sclafani sac fly driving in Ryan Dineen who had doubled earlier in the inning. Other than that, the bats were mostly quiet as the ValleyCats only collected five hits in the game.

Lancaster - Off Day as North Division winner was determined

Thursday's Pitching Matchups

5:05 CST - Game 3: Tri-City at Hudson Valley
This is it as the teams meet for one final game to decide who will be crowned the New York-Penn League Champions. LHP Joe Bircher is scheduled to start for the 'Cats. This will be Bircher's first appearance in the post-season. He was 3-4 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.477 WHIP during the regular season. His only start against Hudson Valley was a loss on the last day of the season. LHP Matthew Spann will come to the mound for Hudson Valley. Spann was 5-5 with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.362 WHIP during the season. He was the winning pitcher in that final game of the season between the two teams. It is also Spann's first appearance in the post-season.

9:05 CST - Game 1 of LCS: Lancaster at Modesto
RHP David Martinez is slated to start for Lancaster. He was 9-5 with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP during the regular season. In one start against Modesto in the regular season, Martinez was the winner. He is 1-0 in one start in the post-season thus far. RHP Kennil Gomez takes the hill for Modesto. In 14 regular season starts for Modesto, he was 4-5 with a 5.97 ERA and a 1.704 WHIP. In two appearances against Lancaster during the regular season, Gomez was 1-0 with a no-decision. He did not get a decision in his one start in the post-season. Lancaster won the season series against Modesto 5-4.

Happy Birthday - 9/13

2B John Hinson (24)
Born in North Carolina and drafted out of Clemson in the 13th round in 2011, Hinson quickly made his mark in his first season at Tri-City. In 2011, the lefty hit .284/.348/.389 in 48 games for the ValleyCats before being sidelined by an injury in early August that put him on the DL for the rest of the season. In the 2012 season, Hinson hit .339/.350/.508 in 15 games for Lexington before once again being sidelined for the season.

Several former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Wade Miller (36)
Drafted by Houston in the 20th round in 1996, Miller pitched for the Astros from 1999 to 2004 with a record of 58-39, a 3.87 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP over 127 games (123 starts). Miller pitched in one game of the 2001 NLDS with a 2.57 ERA and 1.000 WHIP and earned a no-decision. He became a free agent in December 2004 and subsequently pitched for the Red Sox and the Cubs. In 2009, he played for the Blue Jays' AAA affiliate but was never able to mount a comeback after his final major league game in April 2007.

SS/2B Mike Fischlin (57)
Originally drafted by the Yankees in the seventh round in 1975, Fischlin came to Houston in a June 1977 trade with New York. In 57 games for the Astros in 1977, 1978 and 1980, he hit a rather inauspicious .127/.168/.137. He was eventually sent packing to Cleveland in April of 1981.

1B Jim Obradovich (died March 3, 2012 at age 62)
Drafted by the Twins in 1967, Obradovich signed as a free agent with Houston in 1977 and eventually played in just 10 games for the Astros in 1978, hitting .176/.222/.294. According to Baseball-Reference, one of the highlights of his brief major league career was hitting a triple and driving in a run off of future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

RHP Billy Smith (58)
A 14th round pick for the Astros in 1977, Smith pitched in 10 games for the Astros in 1981 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.113 WHIP.

RHP Nelson Cruz (40) - (No, not THAT Nelson Cruz)
Cruz came to Houston in a December 2000 trade with the Tigers and subsequently pitched in 109 games for the Astros in 2001 and 2002. He had a 5-9 record with a 4.31 ERA and a 1.338 WHIP. He was traded to the Rockies in December 2002.

Tweet of the Day

LinoDeShields

We don't got no electricity but that's cool cuz we going to the ship! Lol

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Playoff Recaps and Pitching Matchups

Tuesday's Games

Tri-City over Hudson Valley 5-4 in 10 innings (Tri-City leads best of three series 1-0)
Hudson Valley scored three runs (two earned) off starter Juri Perez in the first, but the Tri-City pitching staff then held them scoreless until the top of the ninth. With a two-run home run from Dan Gulbransen in the second and a two-run home run from Austin "Catfish" Elkins in the third, the ValleyCats took the slimmest of leads and held on by a fingernail until the ninth. With one out in the ninth inning, Vincent Velasquez in a relief role, gave up a solo home run to tie things up. Velasquez had pitched three very effective innings in relief of Perez at that point. He was then replaced by John Neely who ended the threat, got the 'Cats into extras and ultimately got the win. Fast forward to the bottom of the tenth. The 'Cats put up three singles on one out before Preston Tucker drove in the game winning run with a sac fly. Elkins ended the night two-for-five; Ryan Dineen was two-for-four with a double and a run scored; and Joe Sclafani was one-for-three with two walks and a stolen base.

Lancaster over High Desert 9-6 (Lancaster wins series 3-1 and advances to the League Finals)
The Heart Attack 'Hawks just keep on getting it done. Starter Nick Tropeano (6IP 9H 4R/3ER 1BB 6SO) got behind the eight-ball early as High Desert put up a three spot in the first inning, but the JetHawks chipped away at the High Desert lead and took a 5-4 lead in the sixth to give Tropeano a chance for the win. But the bullpen, in the form of Carlos Quevedo and Pat Urckfitz, couldn't hold the slim lead and Lancaster fell behind 6-5 in the top of the seventh. Then the wheels came off the bus for High Desert in the bottom of the eighth as the 'Hawks scored four runs with two outs to take a 9-6 lead and earned the chance to play in the California League Finals. Erik Castro, Rafy Valenzuela and Delino DeShields were in the middle of all the action. Castro started the big four-run rally and ended the night going two-for-three with a double, a walk, a stolen base and he scored three times. Valenzuela was three-for-four with a double, two RBI and scored a run. And Delino DeShields was two-for-four with a walk and scored three times, including scoring from first base on a two-run single by Jio Mier in the eighth.

Wednesday's Pitching Matchups

5:05 CST - Game 2: Tri-City at Hudson Valley
Tri-City's starter hasn't been announced yet. Hudson Valley's probable starter is RHP Jesse Hahn. Hahn was 2-2 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP during the regular season. He has had one start in the post-season against Brooklyn and took the loss. Tri-City and Hudson Valley split the regular season 3-3.

Lancaster - Off Day

Bonus Tweet of the Day

Lino DeShields

We going to ship what!!! Leh goooo. 2 week hawks baby. Let's ride
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Tweet of the Day

Jeff Luhnow

Tri-Cities team after tonight's extra innings win!
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Happy Birthday - 9/12

RHP Kyle Weiland (26)
Drafted by Boston in the third round in 2008, Weiland came to Houston in a December 2011 trade along with Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon. Weiland only pitched in three games for Houston at the beginning of the season before having surgery on his right shoulder, reportedly to clean out an infection. In his three starts, he was 0-3 with a 6.62 ERA and a 1.755 WHIP.

One former Astro with a birthday today:

SS Pat Listach (45)
Originally drafted by the Brewers in the fifth round in 1988, Listach spent five seasons with Milwaukee, where he won Rookie of the Year in 1992, before signing with the Astros as a free agent in 1997. He played 52 games with the Astros that season, putting up a .182 BA and .247 OBP, before being released July 1, 1997. He did not play another major league game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Corpus Christi Hooks Season Recap

So far we have looked at the seasons for the DSL Astros, the GCL Astros, the Greeneville Astros, the Lexington Legends, and the Oklahoma City Redhawks. Now let's take a look at the AA Corpus Christi Hooks. Here's a quick look at how the 2011 and 2012 teams compare.

2011 Wins-Losses/Win Percentage: 50-90/.357
2012 Wins-Losses/Win Percentage: 81-59/.579

2011 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential: 605 - 761 = (156)
2012 Runs Scored - Runs Allowed = Run Differential: 736 - 628 = 108

2011 Team ERA & WHIP: 5.01 & 1.460
2012 Team ERA & WHIP: 4.07 & 1.332

2011 Team Batting Line: .258/.320/.388
2012 Team Batting Line: .268/.342/.410

This team not only won 31 more games than last season, they also had a 264-run swing in their run differential and made their first post-season appearance since 2006. I knew they would be a better team than last season, but Wow! In the Texas League, Corpus ranked first (out of eight teams) in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, doubles and RBI.

Let's look at just a few of the outstanding position players for the Corpus team.

1B Jon Singleton finished the regular season hitting .284/.396/.497 with 27 doubles, four triples and 21 home runs. He was second in the league in walks and runs, and in the top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles, home runs and RBI.

The triumverate of 2B Jose Martinez, OF Austin Wates and OF Jake Goebbert tied for fourth in the league in batting average. Martinez' .304/.362/.464 was good enough to land him in the top 10 in the league in SLG and OPS, and although he was at Oklahoma City for the final 23 games of the season, he was still in the top 10 in runs and RBI. Wates was tenth in the league in OBP with a batting line of .304/.375/.429. Goebbert quietly went about hitting fourth in the league in OBP, sixth in OPS and eighth in SLG as he hit .304/.399/.473 with 23 doubles, six triples and nine home runs. 3B Andy Simunic (.297/.349/.345) also ranked in the top 10 in batting average.

I will look at CF George Springer and 2B Kike Hernandez when I look at the Lancaster team since they played the majority of the season there, and we'll see how their stats stacked up in the California League.

Other players of note include SS Ben Orloff who only played in 39 games for the Hooks after playing the bulk of the season in Lancaster. He hit .295/.360/.352 at Corpus and .288/.362/.316 at Lancaster. And OF Drew Locke, playing in 68 games for the Hooks after a June pick-up, hit .295/.347/.456 and, it should be noted, provided the fans with a little extra excitement as he hit grand slams in back-to-back games.

As far as pitchers go, there were several very good pitchers for Corpus Christi who were promoted to Oklahoma City (Jarred Cosart, Jose Cisnero and Brett Oberholtzer) and I looked at their seasons in conjunction with the Oklahoma City season recap. However, one other starter at Corpus who came into his own this season was RHP Ross Seaton. Seaton was young for the Texas League last season. It showed at times and he repeated the level. In 25 starts for the Hooks this season, he was 8-8 with a 4.07 ERA (11th in the league among qualified pitchers) and a 1.274 WHIP (tied for 6th) and was also 7th in strikeouts. He dipped a toe in with four starts at Oklahoma City and was 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.329 WHIP in those starts.

The relief corps was dominated by the one-two punch of LHP Kevin Chapman and RHP Jason Stoffel who pitched many an eighth and ninth innings for the Hooks with great results. Chapman was 6-3 with a 2.64 ERA and a 1.397 WHIP in 49 appearances while Stoffel was 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA, a 0.982 WHIP and a league-leading 27 saves in 56 appearances.

In limited time for the Hooks, newcomers RHP Asher Wojciechowski and RHP Matt Heidenreich had good results. Wojciechowski was 2-2 in eight starts with a 2.06 ERA and a 1.008 WHIP while Heidenreich was 3-1 with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.340 WHIP in eight games (seven starts). RHP Paul Clemens also fared well in his return to Corpus, after struggling in Oklahoma City this season, as he went 3-2 with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.248 WHIP in seven starts to end the season. I will look at RHP Bobby Doran in conjunction with the Lancaster recap.

Although the playoffs were disappointing, LHP Rob Rasmussen's performance was outstanding as he pitched seven shutout innings with a 1.143 WHIP.

I will look at the final two teams, Lancaster and Tri-City, when they finish post-season play.

Playoff Recaps and Pitching Matchups

Monday's Games

Tri-City over Auburn 16-7 (Tri-City wins series 2-1 and advances to LCS)
16-7 may sound like a blowout, and it is, but it didn't start out that way. This game was close with numerous lead changes until Tri-City scored 11 runs in the seventh and eighth innings to put an exclamation point on the evening. Starter Brian Holmes allowed three runs on six hits over four innings and was followed by Travis Ballew (two runs on three hits) and Jeremiah Meiners (two runs/one earned on five hits) before John Neely shut the door in the final one and a third, allowing only one hit and getting a key bases loaded strikeout against Auburn's hottest hitter. The ValleyCats hitters collected 15 hits, seven of them in the final two innings, and a ridiculous 14 walks. Auburn gave the 'Cats a huge present as Tri-City scored four of their runs on bases loaded walks. There were many great offensive performances, but probably none so big as Jesse Wierzbicki's two-out three-run double in the seventh inning as the 'Cats had left the bases loaded in three prior innings. That clutch hit helped Tri-City to break things open. Here's a look at how some of the players fared:

Joe Sclafani - 2x5 2RBI R
Catfish Elkins - 2x4 RBI 3BB 4R
Jesse Wierzbicki - 1x5 2B 3RBI BB 2R
M.P. Cokinos - 1x5 2B 2RBI BB
Tyler Heineman - 3x5 3RBI BB R
Preston Tucker - 2x3 RBI 3BB 2R
Neiko Johnson - 2x3 3RBI BB R

Lancaster over High Desert 10-5 (Lancaster leads South Division Series 2-1 in a best of five)
Starter Tyson Perez was sharp as he allowed two runs on eight hits and only one walk while striking out four in six innings of work and was rewarded with the win. He was followed by a very rough outing from Chia-Jen Lo in which he allowed two runs on three hits while recording only one out. Enter Kenny Long to the rescue, allowing one run on two hits over two and two-thirds innings and getting the save. High Desert led this one until the bottom of the fifth when Lancaster put up a four-spot as a two-run triple from Chris Epps was immediately followed by RBI doubles from Carlos Perez and Delino DeShields. High Desert came back in the seventh to make it a one-run game and Lancaster yet again put up four runs in the bottom of the frame thanks in large part to a three-run double from Erik Castro. Epps added the cherry on top of the sundae in the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run as he ended the night three-for-four with a double, triple, home run, three RBI and three runs scored. DeShields was two-for-four with two doubles and an RBI; Erik Castro was two-for-four with a double, three RBI and scored a run; and Carlos Perez was two-for-four with a double, and two runs scored.

Tuesday's Pitching Matchups

5:30 CST - Game 1 of the League Championship Series: Hudson Valley at Tri-City
Pitching Matchups not available at this time. I'll update later if possible.

9:00 CST - Game 4 of the South Division Championship Series: High Desert at Lancaster
RHP Nick Tropeano goes to the mound for Lancaster with a 1-0 record and two no-decisions in three starts against High Desert (2.41 ERA and 1.125 ERA). He is 6-3 in 12 starts with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.316 WHIP since his promotion to Lancaster. RHP Brett Shankin gets the start for High Desert. In two starts against Lancaster, he is 0-1 with a no-decision, an 8.10 ERA and a 1.300 WHIP. Since his promotion to High Desert, he is 7-3 with a 6.28 ERA and a 1.655 WHIP in 14 games (13 starts).


Happy Birthday - 9/11

1B/3B Brandon Laird (25)
Drafted by the Yankees in the 27th round in 2007, Laird was selected off waivers from the Yankees on September 1st. In 130 games for the Yankees AAA affiliate in 2012, Laird hit .254/.307/.414 with 31 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, and 77 RBI. In two games with the Astros, he is hitting .400 in five at-bats.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

LHP Dave Roberts (died January 9, 2009 at age 64)
An absolute workhorse in the four seasons that he pitched for Houston (1972 to 1975), Roberts pitched 843.2 innings for the Astros. He was 47-44 with 34 complete games, 11 shutouts, four saves, a 3.69 ERA and a 1.358 WHIP. In 13 seasons in the majors (from 1969 to 1981), he also played for San Diego, Detroit, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle and the New York Mets.

Tweets of the Day

kenny long

Didn't have my best stuff out there tonight but all that matter is that we got the Win. Let's close it out tomorrow 



And Tri-City pulled off the victory and are heading to the championship series. Astros minor league teams making some noise




Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall Instructional League Roster

Fall Instructional League Roster

PITCHERS

RHP Ruben Alaniz
LHP Colton Cain
RHP Kevin Comer
RHP Chris Devenski
RHP Dayan Diaz
RHP Michael Feliz
RHP Zach Grimmett
RHP Adrian Houser
LHP Christopher Lee
RHP Lance McCullers
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP Francis Ramirez
RHP Raul Rivera
LHP David Rollins
LHP Blair Walters

CATCHERS

Tyler Heineman
Jobduan Morales
Roberto Pena
Carlos Perez

INFIELDERS

2B Delino DeShields
IF Austin Elkins
SS Jose Fernandez
SS Nolan Fontana
SS Carlos Correa
3B Angel Ibanez
3B Jonathan Meyer
1B Telvin Nash
3B Rio Ruiz

OUTFIELDERS

OF Andrew Aplin
OF Teoscar Hernandez
OF Terrell Joyce
RF Brandon Meredith
OF Drew Muren
RF Ariel Ovando
OF Domingo Santana
OF Preston Tucker

Players will report September 18th with the first workout the next day. The first game will be September 24th and the final game will be October 10th. Players in bold were added per Zachary Levine 9/19.

2012 Minor League System Comparisons

Last week, after the Astros minor league regular seasons ended, I took a look at how each of the Astros minor league teams did as compared to last season. The results were stunning. The question now before us is how did the entire farm system compare to the other farm systems. The short answer is, "Quite nicely, thank you very much for asking."




As you can see, the Astros ended up ranking 4th in Win Percantage out of 30 organizations. Last year they ranked 30th out of 30. The cumulative batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage ranked 5th, 4th and 4th respectively in 2012, a vast improvement over rankings of 18th, 19th and 23rd in 2011. The one dark cloud would be the cumulative ERA and WHIP, both of which ranked 22nd out of 30 teams, but that is still a vast improvement over the 30th place ranking in each of those categories from 2011.

Not bad at all, not bad at all.

Playoff Recaps and Pitching Matchups

Sunday's Games

Auburn over Tri-City 5-2 (Game 2; Series tied 1-1 in best of three)
Brady Rodgers got the start and only lasted three innings as he allowed three runs on six hits and was charged with the loss as Tri-City couldn't keep up in the run column. Rodgers was followed by a five and two-thirds relief appearance from Lance Day who held Auburn scoreless through his first three innings of work but then allowed one run in the seventh and one in the eighth. Scott Zuloaga walked the one batter he faced and Jamaine Cotton struck out his one batter for the final out of the ninth. Joe Sclafani singled in a run in the fifth and Dan Gulbransen did the same in the sixth, but those were the only runs that Tri-City scraped across as the 'Cats were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. All but one starter had a hit with Austin "Catfish" Elkins getting two. Emilio King was one-for-four with a double and a run scored and Jesse Wierzbicki was one-for-three with two walks and a run scored. Tri-City must win Monday's game to advance to the League Championship Series.

High Desert over Lancaster 1000-1 (Game 2: Series tied 1-1 in best of five)
Okay, not really but it might as well be 1000-1 as Lancaster got off to a terrible start in this one and then rapidly went downhill from there culminating in a 16-3 loss. It all started with Colton Cain's three innings in which he allowed nine runs (seven earned) on 11 hits and a walk and then continued on with another seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and two walks in two and two-thirds innings from Brad Dydalewicz. Carlos Quevedo then came in to stop the bleeding and went on to pitch two and a third perfect innings. And did I mention the five errors? Or the 13 strikeouts? Oh, and when Lancaster finally did score the first run in the top of the sixth, it was on a ground ball double play so even that was painful. The 'Hawks added on two additional runs in the top of the eighth on a Jonathan Meyer RBI double and a Chris Epps RBI single. Andrew Aplin was three-for-five and scored a run; Jonathan Meyer was three-for-four with a double and an RBI, and Chris Epps was two-for-three with an RBI and a walk. Also of note were Domingo Santana's Golden Sombrero and Jed Lowrie as he is still 0-for-the post season. The good news is that an ugly loss still only counts as one loss and Lancaster is headed home for the next game in the series.

Monday's Pitching Matchups

5:00 CST - Auburn at Tri-City (Game 3; win or go home)
LHP Brian Holmes is scheduled to start for Tri-City. Holmes was 7-2 in 13 games (12 starts) with a 2.57 ERA and a 0.960 WHIP this year. He did not face Auburn during the regular season. LHP Nicholas Lee is slated to take the mound for Auburn. During the regular season, Lee was 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.355 WHIP in 13 games (11 starts), but did not face Tri-City.

9:00 CST - High Desert at Lancaster (Game 3)
RHP Tyson Perez is expected to start for Lancaster. Perez made four starts against High Desert during the regular season and was 1-2 with a no-decision, a 6.94 ERA and a 1.714 WHIP in those games. He has made one very good post-season appearance in which he allowed only one run over seven innings but was charged with loss. RHP Taylor Stanton is the scheduled starter for High Desert. In four starts against Lancaster this season, he was 1-1 with two no-decisions, a 5.54 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP.




Happy Birthday - 9/10

LHP Luis Cruz (22)
Drafted in the 9th round in 2008 out of high school in Puerto Rico, Cruz spent the 2012 season at Lexington where he ended the season with a 9-8 record over 28 appearances (24 starts) with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.357 WHIP.

3B Angel Ibanez (22)
Drafted in the 28th round in 2012 out of University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, Ibanez spent his first season with the organization at Greeneville. In 60 games, he hit .264/.310/.317 with a .305/.330/.389 batting line in his final 24 games in August.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Randy "Big Unit" Johnson (49)
Randy is well-remembered by Houston fans for his dominance during the 1998 playoff run. Obtained at the trade deadline, he went 10-1 in 11 starts with a 1.28 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP. He helped to get the Astros to the post season, but even with an impressive 1.93 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP, he went 0-2 and Houston lost the NLDS to San Diego 3-1. Johnson appeared in 22 major league seasons for six teams, with the vast majority of his time spent in the Mariners and Diamondbacks organizations. Among many other accomplishments, Johnson was a 10-time All-Star, MVP for the 2001 World Series and a five-time Cy Young Award Winner.

1B Craig Cacek (58)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the ninth round in 1972, Cacek came to Houston in a December 1975 trade with the Mets. His sole major league experience consisted of seven games played for Houston during the 1977 season. He did manage to get his one hit in the bigs, but that's about it.

RHP Lance Pendleton (29)
A first round pick by the Yankees in 2005, Pendleton was picked up in the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees in 2010, returned prior to the 2011 season and ultimately claimed off waivers from the Yankees in September 2011. In four appearances he had a 17.36 ERA and a 2.357 WHIP. He is currently in the Tampa Bay organization.

Tweet of the Day

Zach Johnson

  relax. Starting offseason training tomorrow. 207 days till opening day. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Playoff Recap and Pitching Matchups

Saturday's Games

Tri-City's Game was postponed until Sunday due to rain

Lancaster over High Desert 8-7 in 12 innings
Yes, the recap is later than usual, but that's because I hung in with Jason Schwartz on the broadcast until 1:30 a.m. CST listening to it. What an unbelievable game! Schwartz was actually speechless during the recap trying to sum up what he'd just witnessed.

Lancaster led 6-2 going into the seventh inning thanks in large part to a strong five innings of work from starter Blair Walters and a JetHawks offense that made the most of a wild pitch, a couple of passed balls and a few walks, with an exclamation point in the form of a Jonathan Meyer three-run home run in the fifth.

But with both teams stranding the bases loaded in the early innings in a hitter's park, you just knew that four run lead probably wouldn't be enough with three innings left to play. And it wasn't. In the seventh, relievers Jose Trinidad and Pat Urckfitz combined to allow two runs across to bring the score to 6-4. Then in the eighth inning, things got really dicey as Chia-Jen Lo allowed a one-out home run to bring the Lancaster lead down to one run, immediately followed by a double, a single and another run scored on a Jio Mier fielding error to tie the game before Lo was replaced by Jorge de Leon. De Leon loaded the bases with a single before inducing a double play and a heart attack by yours truly.

De Leon stayed in for the ninth and tenth innings and kept the game tied to give Lancaster the opportunity to get the go ahead run in the 11th inning by way of a walk, fielding error and Jed Lowrie ground out scoring Domingo Santana (yes, that Jed Lowrie who was getting a rehab start). But the 7-6 lead was short-lived as Andrew Robinson came in to pitch and allowed two one-out singles, followed by what should have been a game-ending double play but a Delino DeShields throwing error allowed High Desert to tie things back up instead before Robinson got the final out via a line drive with the next batter. Add some more gray hair to go with the earlier heart attack.

So we go to the 12th inning and Jason Schwartz' call is the only thing keeping me alive. Delino DeShields, wanting to make up for the error in the 11th, singled to left and then stole the most crucial base of his short career. With two outs, Domingo Santana singled and DeShields scored from second to give Lancaster a one-run lead yet again. From listening to the call, a slower runner would not have made it. So the question was, can the bullpen hold the lead? Andrew Robinson was lights out during much of the season, but could he get it done in this situation? Yes, he could. Strikeout, fly out, strikeout. Game. Set. Match. JetHawks win Game 1 of the Southern Division Championship Series. Phew!

Domingo Santana has continued to ride his hot streak and went three-for-five with two walks, a double, an RBI and scored three times. Jonathan Meyer was two-for-five with a walk and the three-run home run. Chris Epps was two-for-five with a double and a walk. Andrew Aplin did not have a good night, going 0-for-seven with three strikeouts. Jed Lowrie got two RBI via a sac fly and a ground out in his rehab appearance, but did not get a hit.

Sunday's Pitching Matchups

4:00 CST - Auburn at Tri-City (Game 2; Tri-City leads the series 1-0)

RHP Brady Rodgers is scheduled to pitch for Tri-City. Rodgers was 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.139 ERA during the regular season. One of his two losses was at the hands of the Auburn team. RHP David Fischer will be the starter for Auburn. He was 3-3 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.429 WHIP during the regular season. He did not have a start against Tri-City this season.


9:05 CST - Lancaster at High Desert (Game 2)
LHP Colton Cain takes the bump for Lancaster. In seven starts for the JetHawks, Cain has faced High Desert twice and was 1-0 with a no-decision, a 4.09 ERA and a 1.545 WHIP in those two games. RHP Trevor Miller, scheduled to start for High Desert, has faced Lancaster twice in his five starts for the Mavericks. In those two starts, he is 0-1 with a no-decision, a 2.70 ERA and a 1.300 WHIP.

Happy Birthday - 9/9

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Jerry Mumphrey (60)
Born in Tyler, Texas, Mumphrey spent several years in the Cardinals organization, as well as the Padres and Yankees, before making it to Houston in 1983. Received in a trade from the Yankees in August of 1983, the switch-hitter compiled a .291/.354/.401 batting line in 325 games over three seasons with the Astros and was named to the All-Star game in 1984. Mumphrey was traded to the Cubs in December of 1985 for Billy Hatcher.

RHP Jim Corsi (51)
After two seasons with Oakland, Corsi was signed as a free agent by Houston in 1991. In one season with the Astros, Corsi was 0-5 in 47 games with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. After being released at the end of the 1991 season, he went on to play for Oakland, Florida, Boston and Baltimore.

LHP Mike Hampton (40)
Originally drafted by the Mariners in the sixth round in 1990, Hampton pitched for the Astros from 1994 to 1999 and again in 2009, with the prior stint being decidedly more successful than the latter. In his seven seasons with the Astros, he was 76-50 with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.370 WHIP. In 1999, as an Astro, he was named to the All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger award and placed second in Cy Young voting to Randy Johnson. He went on to win four additional Silver Sluggers, another All-Star nod and a Golden Glove while playing for the Mets, the Rockies and the Braves. After a few appearances with the Diamondbacks in 2010, he officially retired in March of 2011.

RHP Dan Miceli (42)
In 97 appearances out of the bullpen for the Astros in 2003 and 2004, Dan was 7-7 with two saves, a 3.18 ERA and a 1.207 WHIP. A very well-travelled player, Dan spent 14 seasons in the majors playing for 10 teams.

Tweets of the Day

Drew Muren

That game was insane! Never seen such a crazy game with so many momentum swings in my life!!  


Grant Hogue

HEART ATTACK HAWKS!!!!!


Jiovanni Mier

WOW!!! Talk about playoff atmosphere!! Huge Win for the Hawks


Jason Schwartz


Hard to find words to sum up that  game. Never felt so tired/drained after a broadcast. So happy for the team, such a gutsy win.