Posts Tagged ‘Houston Astros’

Astros Show Signs of Improvenent in August

September 3, 2013

Bill Gilbert Astro2

Astros Show Some Signs of Improvement in August


Bill Gilbert


            Before finishing the month of August with a disappointing five game losing streak, the Astros had shown some signs of being competitive.  Though the team’s record in the month was only 8-21, the Astros led in 22 of their 29 games.  That they only won 7 of these games pinpoints the team’s most glaring of their many weaknesses, the bullpen.

The numbers below illustrate just how bad the Astros have been this season:


Category                        Astros   MLB Avg.            Astros Rank

Runs/Game                    3.87             4.19                 23rd of 30

Batting Avg.                   .239              .254                 T 27th

On-Base Pct.                  .299              .318                    29th

Slugging Avg.                 .382             .398                  T 23rd

OB + SLG                         .681              .716                 29th

Strikeouts                       1273                                     30th


Runs /G                           5.28          4.19                    30th

ERA                                  4.86         3.88                     30th

Starters ERA                    4.62         4.02                    28th

Relievers ERA                5.28         3.59                     30th

                  The Astros are clearly well below the major league average in important hitting and pitching categories with the biggest deficiency being in relief pitching.  Former GM, Gerry Hunsicker once said that the bullpen is the easiest part of a club to build.  If that is true, GM Jeff Luhnow should have a rebuilt bullpen in place for 2014.  Hunsicker also once said that he expected Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane to achieve the same level of success in the major leagues as Lance Berkman.  We know how that turned out.

Despite the poor overall performance in August there were some bright spots.  Jason Castro continued his breakout year in August, batting .338 with 5 home runs and an OPS of 1.067, and won his second AL Player of the Week award this year.  Three young starting pitchers, acquired in trades by former GM, Ed Wade, joined the starting rotation and performed well.  Brett Oberholtzer was 2-1 with an ERA of 3.24, Jared Cosart was 0-1 with an ERA of 2.10 in 5 starts, and Paul Clemens was 0-0 with an ERA of 1.50 in his only start.

The Houston minor league teams continued to play well.  All four full-season clubs at the AAA, AA and Class A levels are in the playoffs starting after Labor Day.  Two of the short-season clubs are in first place headed for the playoffs.

On a personal note, we made a weekend trip to Houston in August and I saw my first two major league games this season.  Surprisingly, the Astros scored two decisive wins over Toronto, 12-5 and 6-2 in the games I saw.  What are the odds of going 2-0 with a home record of 21-47?  It was the 49th straight year that I have seen major league games in Houston.

John Royal’s Memo to Reid Ryan

May 21, 2013
The Infamous MMP Signs: John Royal of the Houston Press joins The Pecan Park Eagle in Also Saying, "Take 'Em Down!"

The Infamous MMP Signs: ~ John Royal of the Houston Press joins The Pecan Park Eagle in also saying, “Take ‘Em Down!” Put them somewhere they don’t destroy the field view.

John Royal of The Houston Press is a no-nonsense, cut to the chase kind of writer on issues facing Houstonians who has now turned his attentions to the doleful Houston Astros and their bright and shiny new president, Reid Ryan. Royal has come up with five things he believes strongly that the Astros should do immediately to start turning around their descent from public consciousness and caring – while there’s still time for effort to matter in the short-term.

Pick up the current edition of The Houston Press – or check out John Royal’s article at this link:

The Pecan Park Eagle stands behind John Royal and the The Houston Press 100% on this one – especially on that number one suggestion for removing the uglification of those view-destroying, putrid gray signs hanging in left field.

Here are the titles for Royal’s Top Five things that President Ryan and the Astros should and could do now, but please read John’s article for the full expression of his viewpoint:

5) No More Dynamic Pricing

4) Get a Deal with CSN Houston Already

3) Celebrate Real Fans

2) Chop Food Prices

1) Get Rid of the Damn Sign(s)

Have a nice Tuesday, Everybody. And please keep your prayers, positive thoughts, and donations heading north to our friends and neighbors in Oklahoma. Ugly views at the ballpark pale measurably in comparison to the real life horror aftermath the tornado victims are facing this morning.

My apologies: Earlier today. I introduced this column with a photo of the late Larry Miggins and a man I mistakenly identified as John Harris, whom I have never met. The other man in the photo was John Lomax, formerly of the Houston Press, whom I have come to fully appreciate for his written works on our Houston Babies and his soulful coverage of the tragic death of our baseball brother, the wonderful Larry Joe Miggins. My apologies to all for a very human mistake – and thank you good friend Mike Vance for catching it on one bounce. Thanks to all of  you too for your understanding. Heck, if I were perfect, I’d be writing for the Houston Chronicle, right?

Browns at Heart

May 18, 2013

Maybe it was the orange signage in the background at PNC Park that framed their comical losing play. Maybe it was the growing possibility that the Houston Astros may soon go places with season losses that even defied the creative losing capacities of the old St. Louis Browns. Maybe it’s the new orange-tinged Astros uniform scheme that reminds of the Browns. Maybe it’s the fact that both the Browns and the Astros have shown a preference for minor league talent rosters. Maybe it’s the Astros fan fear that the Astros will eventually sell off any player who gets too good to play cheap. Maybe it’s just the way the Astros keep coming up with new ways to lose games. Who knows?

Whatever it is – it’s ringing the connection bell between the Houston Astros and the old St. Louis Browns pretty good.

Are the Astros sort of mutating into something like the “Browns at Heart”?

What follows the art pictorial of last night’s dumb and dumber 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh is a parody of that ancient Frank Sinatra song, “Young at Heart”. The lyrics below will fit that tune as they also pursue the possibility that the Astros may be in motion in 2013 to now becoming the “Browns at Heart”.

With 2 outs in the 9th, Elmore & Paredes of the Astros team up on a dropped pop fly that allows the Pirates to score the winning run from 3rd. Are they "Browns at Heart"?

With 2 outs in the 9th, Elmore & Paredes of the Astros team up on a dropped pop fly that allows the Pirates to score the winning run from 3rd. Are they “Browns at Heart”?

Browns at Heart (a parody set in motion to the tune of that old song, “Young at Heart”

Fairy tales – don’t come true – it won’t  happen for you,
If they’re Browns at Heart.
For it’s hard – you will find – to see fertile of mind,
If they’re – Browns at Heart.

Astro minds – hit extremes – with impossible schemes,
Try to laugh – as your dreams – fall apart at the seams,
And life gets more frustrating – with each passing day,
But you can’t watch ’em on the TV – anyway.

Don’t you know – they’re not worth – every treasure on earth,
If they’re Browns at Heart.
For as old – as you are – it’s just bending your bar,
To see – Browns at Heart.

And if you – should survive – past their loss 105,
Look at all – they’ll deprive – out of being alive!
And here is the worst part – you had a head start,
If you paid your hard-earned bucks on – Browns at Heart.

Take Us Out To The Crane Game

April 15, 2013
Take Us Out To The Crane Game!

Take Us Out To The Crane Game!

Take us out to the west coast,

We’ll win – three games – and be done.

Wins never save us from playing late,

In the western division –  that’s just our sad fate.

We’ll still “root, root, root” for the Astros,

If they – don’t win – please explain.

If you can’t …. please ….. pass the mike over,

To James …. R …. Crane.


Postscript: In fairness to Mr. Crane, the boys “sounded” pretty solid in those three straight wins. (I couldn’t see them.) They also were only a World Class closer and Prince Albert Pujols away from making it four consecutive wins. The loss Saturday just set up the deflating defeat that followed in Anaheim on Sunday. After Albert decked ’em in the 9th the previous night, you could almost see the deflation tarp spreading over the field prior to Sunday’s game. (That is, if you are like me, a non-Comcast subscriber, you could see the sinkhole settling low in your mind’s eye.)

Right now, I don’t really expect Mr. Crane to explain anything. Right now, he’s bound to be 100% in support of “In Luhnow We Trust”. A couple of years from now, however, if things don’t ascend for the Astros as advertised, he will be the one who has to explain everything.

Let’s hope that explanations are not necessary and that the club is building a team of stars they plan to keep with competitive salary offerings. There is a difference between “playing to win” and “playing to look as though you might win” and the real difference begins with having the will to win and then having the evaluative talent in the front office that sees and signs the players we need to keep or acquire as the core basis of our winning team.

2015 is my sight-date for the start of judgments and verdicts. 2015 is beyond the DH-novelty and ALW move. It will be time to start winning – or start explaining – and, hopefully, correcting, if need be.

Have a nice tax payment day, everybody.

2013 Astros Needs: A Shot In the Dark Guess

September 4, 2012

Hope this isn’t the scene on Opening Day 2013.

Ready or not, here they come. The 2012 Houston Astros ae about to limp away with a second straight 100 game plus losing season on their way to the American League West in 2013 with even slimmer hope of near term success against even tougher in-house competition. Next year the “Stros will be the fifth club in a five team division that already contains three clubs with winning records and one that’s light years closer than our local heroes.

Assuming we stay on path with the generally agreed upon course of returning to contention in three to five seasons, 2013 represents Year II of that effort and one with little prospect of a surprise early return to the playoffs ahead of schedule.

Bill Gilbert’s August 2012 report noted yesterday that the Astros are last in team batting and pitching, a finding that should surprise no one since our roster most probably uses more AA and AAA level players than most at the major league level. Some of thee players may progress on their own sufficiently to improve on the team’s record next season, but I seriously doubt they will, given the fact the team is headed for a tougher division in a new league and one with slightly different lineup rules and requirements due to the DH condition.

So, what do the Astros do? (1) Find a DH and just grin and bear it until home-bred stars blossom in the ascribed 3-5 season timeline; or (2) try to acquire some low-middle level help that is affordable through minor trades or free agency to  help fill in the gaps while we wait for this big performance egg on the farm to properly hatch. – Since it’s kind of hard to ask people to come see another 81-game home stand in 2013 with little more hope than we saw at MMP in July or August of this year, I’m betting on the latter option as our best bet and short-term hope.

My shot in the dark guess is that we will fall short of getting anywhere close to significantly improving the club on the cheap, we might have to settle for this much: 3 starting pitchers with ERA’s around 4.00 for five innings of work; 3 relievers who are capable of holding a lead over two innings of wrk: and 1 closer who cn get the job done in the few opportunities he is presented.

Next I’d like to see a shortstop who can complement Altuve  as a fielder and hitter.  Is anyone in the farm pipeline even close to being ready? If not, leave Tyler Greene at SS and find a 3rd baseman who does a better job of filling the bill.

Of course, a DH – one who hits for power would be great.

And 2 more hitters who can hit for power and better averages.

Is this too much to ask for by 2013? – Probably.

“When Will It End?”

September 3, 2012

By Bill Gilbert, Guest Columnist, Pecan Park Eagle, Labor Day, 2012.

Bill Gilbert, SABR
Roger Hornsby Chapter

I was in Houston to take in the Astros last two games in August against the division leading Giants and Reds.  The games were a good representation of the way things have gone this season and illustrated where the Astros stand in comparison with the league’s elite teams, losing the games 6-2 and 9-4 to finish the month with a 6 game losing streak.  The Giants game drew a crowd of 12,835 (paid), the lowest ever at Minute Maid Park which prompted a comment from a TV sportscaster that it was so quiet, you could hear babies cry.

The Astros completed the month of August with a record of 5-22, a modest but disappointing improvement over the July record of 3-24.  The two-month record of 8-46 has to be one of the worst in baseball’s long history.

Normally when a team struggles, the chief fault can usually be placed on either the pitching or hitting.  In the Astros case, it is both.  The Astros rank near the bottom of the major leagues in virtually every important pitching and hitting category.  Among National League teams, only the Rockies (5.22) have a higher ERA than the Astros (4.76).  On the offensive side, the Astros rank last in the National League in runs per game (3.49), batting average (.238) and on base percentage + slugging average (OPS) (.675).  August was even worse with 2.78 runs per game, a batting average of .224 and an OPS of .629.

When the rebuilding effort reached full steam in July with the trade of several veteran players, it was expected that the remaining team would have difficulty competing.  However, it was not expected to be this bad.  The highlight of the month was an improbable two game winning streak against the Brewers on August 10-11with two walk-off wins, their first of the season.  One of the wins was in extra innings, the first time that the team had scored a run in 12 extra-inning games.

The Astros were left with a team composed primarily of young players with limited experience.  The starting pitchers were very inconsistent, winning only 3 games in August (two by staff ace Lucas Harrell) and the team was left without a pitcher with closing experience after the trades of Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon.  The Astros converted only 2 of 5 save opportunities in August, both by Wilton Lopez.

On the offensive side, there were few bright spots in August.  Brett Wallace and Tyler Greene led the club with 4 home runs and Jason Castro batted .305.  Jose Altuve continues to lead the team in hitting (.294) and batted .285 in August.  Third baseman, Matt Dominguez, obtained in the Carlos Lee trade, came on strong after being promoted late in the month with a triple, double and single in his first game and a home run in his second game.

Manager Brad Mills was replaced in August by Tony DeFrancesco on an interim basis. The month of September should see the debut of some of the prospects obtained in trades and some serious playing time for players from the minor leagues as Astro management continues to assess the readiness of the younger players to compete in the major leagues in 2013.

Bill Gilbert


A 2012 AL West “What If” Standings Update

August 29, 2012
2012 AL West (Fiction) W L PCT GB
Texas Rangers 77 52 .597
Oakland Athletics 71 57 .555  5,5
Los Angeles Angels 66 62 .516 10.5
Seattle Mariners 63 67 .485 14.5
Houston Astros 40 89 .310 37.0

The “What If” standings of the 2012 American League West, of course, are really nothing more than the inclusion of the Houston Astros as though they were already there as members of their 2013 destination spot in big league baseball, but that small playfulness doesn’t make the picture any prettier.

On this morning of August 29th, the real plight of the 2012 Astros in the NL Central finds them in 6th, or last place, a full 38 games behind the first place Cincinnati Reds and 9.5 games behind the fifth place Chicago Cubs. In the fictional AL West, the fifth and last place Astros are “only” 37 games behind the first place Texas Rangers, but they are a gaping 22.5 games back of the fourth place Seattle Mariners, a full 14 deficit games worse than their real 20112 downside plight with the Cubs.

Worse view: Whereas, two of the clubs ahead of Houston in the 2012 NL Central are playing sub-.500 ball only Seattle is below the .500 ledger in the actual AL West. Texas, Oakland, and the LA Angels all are on the top side of .500 ball with clubs that should be strongly competitive for years if their core rosters hold.

So where does this broad ban look at the next few years in the AL West leave the Astros? Of course, it leaves them right where they are in reality – down in the valley of the performance curve on the long trek back to winning with a farm system that keeps new talent pumping into major league readiness as they go. And, as they improve, it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that the Astros are moving into the company of some other clubs who shall also be doing their best to keep improving and stay competitive – and in a DH version of baseball that is a little more familiar territory to them than it will be to the new “American League Astros of 2013.”

Whatever. Whenever. However. And with whomever. It will be nice to see the Astros get back to a time in the future in which winning is again an expectation – and not an aberration.

Skeeters Buzzing. Think Big. Why Not?

April 26, 2012

The Sugar Land Skeeters open their inaugural season in the independent Atlantic League tonight, 7:05 PM, April 26, 2012, at Constellation Field against the York (PA) Revolution. It could be the start of something much bigger down the line for Houston Baseball.

Let’s think big. Really big.

The start of independent league baseball in Sugar Land is certainly reason enough for area fans to rejoice. The game will bring a brand of ball to one Houston suburb that will mostly compliment and generate interest in the major league game going on downtown with the Astros. There may be a few lost Astros fans as a result of the closer-to-home, cheaper tickets, freshly branded product of family focused baseball in Sugar Land, but I think we all know that any big downturn at the Astros turnstiles this season will not be the fault of the Skeeters’ new hatch in the former rice and sugar cane fields south of town. The real reason? The big league Astros are  a losing, while rebuilding, young club and not a serious choice to compete in the World Series any time soon. Attendance there will improve as the club’s performance and chances for winning improve, even as they move to the American League next year that is so dreaded by so many National League fans. Even the American League move will not stop the fans for supporting a winner. It’s how the mass of Houston sports fans are. Build a winner and they will come.

So, what about building a winning business plan on multiply tiered levels? Here’s what I mean:

One of the big expenses in professional baseball is maintaining a layered performance level graded farm team system that works to prepare new players for the big league team in a way that also makes players reasonably available for call up to the big team by moves that are quick, efficient, and economical.

Now think local.

What if the Astros eventually hooked up with the Sugar Land Skeeters and made them their AAA farm team by some kind of working agreement with their ownership? Astros fans could then grab extensive looks at parts of the big club’s future by traveling to Skeeters games as fewer do now to AA Hooks games in Corpus Christi and once did to AAA Round Rock near Austin. I doubt that many Houston area Astros fans are going to AAA Oklahoma City games now that the Red Hawks are the Astros club. It’s just too far.

In my opinion, putting the AAA farm club in Sugar Land eventually could expand, not contract, attendance in both venues and make call ups no more than a local cab or personal car, 30-minute drive away. The call ups could also result in a fan call up of those who followed these players to see how they performed at the big league level.

The key is getting the baseball decision makers on both clubs to see that their connectivity is the key to successful potentiated growth.

Now let’s push the envelope about as far as it may shove on this plane.

Let’s say the Astros and Skeeters eventually get together and run both their cups over through an important big league-aaa club working agreement. Why not then go north of Houston to those suburbs and look into starting a similar lower level AA minor league operation in someplace like The Woodlands, Kingwood, or Montgomery County?

If that works, a good prospect could work his way through the top two levels of minor league play to the Astros and do it all in the Houston Metro Area as he drag-lined a collection of new fans that already had seen him play in person by the time he broke in with the Astros, bringing his new personal fan base with him.

We need to see how the Skeeters operation goes first, of course. I’m not talking about “putting the cart before the horse here.” I am saying, about as strongly I know how, that how we see the launching of the new baseball operation is key to there being future options. If both the Astros and Skeeters stay open to the future mining of opportunity, it could help the kind of growth possibility that is best for both clubs through something better than we have now. That is, a larger plan for baseball in the Greater Houston area.

One other thing. On some other subtle level, this may be the most important point I hope to make.

If you are on the Internet (and you really need to be these days to see where marketing and merchandising is going) you know that high-tech sales over Amazon have practically been the single cause for driving Best Buy out of business. Consumers today would rather buy a digital camera online at 2:43 AM than wait until the stores open and drive to Best Buy for it.

The lesson? Immediacy is taking over as a driver in consumer purchases because of the Internet. Having a major league club and its top two minor league farm teams located in the same geographic area could make baseball immediately available somewhere just about any day in the baseball season. Fans following three clubs personally in real-time would be the equivalent of the Internet user having three windows open at the same time on the same subject. Instead of having Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference, and Retrosheet open on the computer to study the career of Craig Biggio, Houston fans could be “bricks and mortar” open to the Houston Astros, the Sugar Land Skeeters, and the Woodlands Woodies in their ignited fan support of Houston baseball.

Think big. It only hurts for a little while. Then your head bursts and you find yourself awakening in a brave new world. – Hold onto your ticket stub when you get there too. It’s proof you paid your way to the dance. You did it by having the courage to think big.

One of My Relatives is Relatively Aged

April 20, 2012

A lot of hope, as in, just about all of it. is invested in the youth and potential talent blossom of the current and ever-changing to younger 40-man Astros player roster. A brief look at the current relativity of certain things is fun to do.

On Opening Day 2012, the home program for the Houston Astros detailed thirty-eight (38) men that were then currently the players listed on the 40-man major league player roster. I’m sure it’s probably filled out and even changed in some way from even that recent publication, but probably not enough to destroy the trends that were in place in that time demographically.

First of all, take a look at the raw data on birthplaces for the 38 men from the original list:

Alabama 2

California 3

Dominican Republic: 10

Florida 3

Illinois 2

Indiana 1

Missouri 1

New Jersey 1

New Mexico 1

Nicaragua 1

Ohio 1

Oregon 1

Panama 1

South Carolina 2

Texas 2

Utah 1

Venezuela 4

West Virginia 1

Based on birth sites alone, 42.1% (16/38) of our current Astros were born in Caribbean, Central, and South American countries, and principally in the Dominican Republic. Only 4 come from Venezuela, the country that has housed the club’s past baseball academy program and there is no one on the roster from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. WOnder what happened there?

26.3% (10/38) of our current Astros were born in the Dominican Republic.

13.2″ (5/38) of our current Astros were age 21 or older on the morning of the horrendous 9/11 attack in 2001. Most were still kids living at home back then and even wetter behind the ears than they are today.

Neal McCurdy

Here’s the one, of course, that really drives home the point for me about the current youthfulness of the 2012 current Astros: Of the 38 men on the extended roster Opening Day of 2012, 24 of them were younger than my 27-year old son Neal. That’s a 63.2% rate on how many of the current players are now younger than my “grown kid.”

Wow! That means, if I were the manager of the Astros, or one of Brad Mills’ coaches, I would have to show up everyday with the wisdom of a father on how to treat each one in similar or different situations. I would have to know who to pat on the back and who to kick in the butt – and get it right 95% of the time. It would also help if I were fluent in Spanish.

Good luck, Brad Mills. In the end, I hope the club gives you the credit you deserve.

Astros Need Situational Hitting

April 16, 2012

That's Chris Snyder of the Astros taking a called strike against the Braves in the recent home stand. We can't really blame Snyder for the growing club tendency to fail in the clutch. It just happened to be the only recent photo I have of an Astro taking another pitch with his bat on his shoulder.

The astute Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle beat me to the punch this morning in his coverage of the rubber game loss the Houston Astros just absorbed in the final game of the all three “5-4” score games they played over the weekend in Little Havana against the Miami Marlins. I had just been offering to former Astros batting coach and new erstwhile Sugar Land Skeeters marketing magician Deacon Jones at lunch on Saturday that I felt the current young Astros showed two major problems coming out of the gate: (1) On offense, they lacked good clutch or situational hitting – and that includes everything from the pile of LOB totals they are building to the times in late innings in close games that they start things in an inning with a one pitch out. (2) On defense (Games One and Six of the first home stand confirm), the Astros suddenly turn from good play carriage to rookie pumpkin rot and start making dumb errors of execution all over the field. In a flash, they seem to have the ability to go from very competent to guys who look as though they had never seen a baseball until this latest one was hit to them.

Deacon Jones agreed with me to the point of jumping out of his chair and giving me a great big smile with his knuckle hand follow-up contact with my own receptive fist. (I gotta tell you – I didn’t mind getting the Deacon’s approval for a baseball comment. I didn’t mind it at all.)

Then came Sunday and two more exclamation points on the offensive failure side get posted in colors that would stand out, even  in the garish splash of tropical juice sights that are splashed all over the new Marlins Park in Miami. – Jordan Schafer fanned with the bases loaded in the 6th inning to kill the Astros’ chances of expanding a 3-2 lead. Then, in the 8th, with Houston now up by 4-2, shortstop Jed Lowrie also struck out to retire the side and kill the club’s last scoring “op” of the day. The Marlins then took over the game on a tying two-run shot to deepest center field by Hanley Ramirez in the bottom of the 8th – and then won it. 5-4, on a bases-loaded, extra-long single by Jose Reyes in the bottom of the 11th.

As Levine of the Chronicle so adroitly points out, this was the 11th time in the 9 games of the 2012 season now played that the Astros have loaded the bases and failed to get a single run across as the result of their work. As Deacon Jones points out, this sort of thing doesn’t often happen to clubs like the New York Yankees because those teams invariably have a guy like Derek Jeter in the house somewhere in their lineup. And guys like Jeter don’t leave all bases loaded situations fruitless on the run production slot in the scoreboard.

For now, at least, the young Astros have shown that they can hang around until the finish. They just can;t harvest what they plant. And they don’t have a harvesting crew chief named Derek Jeter.

For the heck of it, here are the up-to-date fact and fiction standings for 2012. The fact group is simply the Astros’ actual position in the current National League Central. The fiction batch is also the Astros’ current record, but placed where they would be in 2012 had they already moved to the American League West.


2012 NL Central (Fact) W L PCT GB
St. Louis 7 3 .700
Houston 4 5 .444 2.5
Cincinnati 4 6 .400 3.0
Milwaukee 4 6 .400 3.0
Pittsburgh 3 6 .333 3.5
Chi Cubs 3 7 .300 4.0


2012 AL West (Fiction) W L PCT GB
Texas 8 2 .800
Seattle 6 5 .545 2.5
Houston 4 5 .444 3.5
Oakland 4 6 .400 4.0
LA Angels 3 6 .333 4.5