So here we are, in mid-September, an inch away from elimination and now in fourth place in the division. Hindsight is 20/20, and this post is not about pointing fingers. But the fact remains that the Astros could win every remaining game and still finish the season as a mediocrity, many games back even from the wild card, let alone the division title. So now it's time to look forward to next year. Changes clearly need to be made, to the roster and to the management; this article is about the former. This is my first FanPost here; I hope you like it.
The Houston Astros are rumored to have $90 million to work with next season, give or take. This is a substantial drop even from this year. It's not a bad payroll, qualifying the Astros as a mid-market team, but past management decisions have taken their toll, and a troubling $50 million or so of that is tied up in a few core players whose performance this year has not matched their price. So unless Drayton McLane suddenly decides in the offseason that his first priority is winning, we are effectively a small market team that must pinch pennies to have any hope of success.
The problem? Our farm sucks. This means that several key roster spots must be filled with marginal-to-decent prospects who have as much chance of burning out and turning into AAA lifers as they do of succeeding at the big league level.
Otherwise, we are going to have to shop for bargains and take some risks on the free agent market. No top free agents; no John Lackey or Chone Figgins. We will have to look for a couple of guys who are not in as high of demand, and fill our other positions with unseasoned rookies.
So without further ado, here is my suggested 2010 Houston Astros roster.
2. Catcher. Top Pick: Jason Castro. Backups: Chris Coste, J.R. Towles. Ideally, this position will be filled by the Astros' 2009 top prospect, Castro. This does, however, depend on his performance in spring training. Chris Coste batted .263 last year with the Phillies; although he is already fairly old, he may bounce back from this year to some extent, and he seems like a good clubhouse presence. If Castro must go to AAA, Coste should be our primary catcher, with J.R. Towles serving as his backup. Humberto Quintero should be traded to somebody in need of a big league-ready backup catcher, ideally for a class A infield prospect (or two) with some upside--obviously not anywhere near a top prospect, but a player who might develop.
4. Second Base: Two-Way Tie: Kazuo Matsui and Edwin Maysonet. The contrast between Maysonet's big league and minor league numbers is so stark as to make me doubt that he can come anywhere close to sustaining this year's performance. Nonetheless, he has earned himself a chance to compete for the job. Matsui's contract continues through 2010, and we are unlikely to find any takers for him on the trade market, so we're stuck with him. His defense has been competent and he has shown late signs of improving at the plate; allow him and Maysonet to compete for the job, with the loser backing up the starts of whoever performs better.
5. Third Base: Top Pick: Adam Kennedy. Backup/Platoon mate: Jeff Keppinger. Adam Kennedy has had a good year both offensively and defensively with the Athletics; he would be a significant upgrade over Geoff Blum, and I would argue that he would even be better than Miguel Tejada. He batted .285 with a .347 on-base percentage this year. At the age of 33, he is younger than Tejada, and his performance is not likely to significantly decline. He doesn't offer the slugging that a third baseman should provide, but then, neither do any of our other options. He hits much better against righties than lefties, making him the ideal platoon mate for Keppinger. Why not Chris Johnson, you ask? It's not that I want to rule him out for the future, it's just that his AAA numbers were not good enough for third base even if he matched them at the big league level. He needs more development time on the farm, not a year of failure on the Astros roster.
6. Shortstop: Top Pick: Tommy Manzella. Backup: Wladimir Sutil (40-man roster only). Manzella deserves a shot at the big leagues. A full year, and even if he fails, spring training of the next. Look what happened with Michael Bourn. His defense would be a subtle but worthwhile upgrade to the performance of our pitching staff, and his .289 batting average this season at AAA suggests that he might be able to hold his own at the plate as well. As long as he cracks the Mendoza Line, let him play (and even if he doesn't crack it at first; everyone slumps sometimes).
7. Left Fielder: Top Pick: Carlos Lee. Backup: Reggie Abercrombie. We're stuck with El Caballo, and barring a trip to the DL, he will play for us every game in LF. Abercrombie should join the Astros on the bench as a pinch hitter and backup outfielder. He will be 28 years old and is not a starting prospect of any kind going forward, which is an intentional choice on my part. We don't want to damage the development of somebody like Brian Bogusevic or Drew Locke by sitting them on the bench all year. Perhaps Abercrombie will bat .200 or so as a third or fourth pinch hitter--regardless, he is the kind of low-cost option we will need to settle for next season, while letting go of more expensive veterans like Darin Erstad and Jason Michaels. Unless Drayton opens up the payroll a little more to allow the purchase of a better backup, that's the situation as it stands.
8. Center Fielder: Top Pick: Michael Bourn. Backup: Reggie Abercrombie. Bourn is, again, a given. I again have little confidence in Abercrombie, but hopefully we won't have to see him as more than the occasional pinch hitter.
9. Right Fielder: Top Pick: Hunter Pence. Backup: Reggie Abercrombie. Let's all cross our fingers and hope this is Hunter's big year. He's due for breakout year sometime soon, the way things usually pan out for young players.
Total Estimated Cost: $55.5 million
#1. Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy's breakout year qualifies him for opening day in 2010. Unfortunately, it also qualifies him for a lot more money in arbitration, but you can't get performance without paying for it.
#2. Roy Oswalt. Roy's back condition is troublesome, and his resulting numbers this season were worse than any previous year. But we're stuck with him and his high-priced contract through next season, and we're going to have to hope he can pull it together and give us legitimate #2 performance.
#3. Choose one: Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Rich Harden, Joel Pineiro, etc. The decision for a #3 free agent starter is probably the most complex and risky of any of these choices. I won't weigh in specifically--this is something that Ed Wade's scouts and penny-pinchers are going to have to figure out--but I will say this: Get somebody relatively young who might still have a career year left in him--early thirties at the oldest. And take a risk, because that's the only way we're going to afford somebody who is capable of putting up ace numbers. Don't settle for a Doug Davis or a Jon Garland type; if we wanted reliable mediocrity, we could exercise Brian Moehler's option and get a better value. Bet big and roll the dice, but only for one year--it's going to take a lot of luck to compete in 2010 regardless, so you might as well play it for all it's worth.
#4. Bud Norris. He has the stuff. He has the composure. If he can find the refinement and consistency, he could be a very important part of our rotation, and exceed the expectations of his #4 slot. Or, being a rookie, he could bomb as often as he succeeds. Even if that happens, he's demonstrated that he's ready for the big leagues, and this is the only place he's going to be able to grow. Give him the full season as a starting pitcher.
#5. Felipe Paulino. He has the stuff, perhaps even moreso than Bud Norris, but he doesn't necessarily have the composure, and he sure as heck doesn't have the refinement or consistency. Still, his stuff is lightning, and the other things just might come with experience. Don't leave him in doubt, like this year: Give him, too, one more chance--a real one, an entire season, and let him grow.
Backup starters: Wesley Wright, Polin Trinidad, Yorman Bazardo. There's been a lot of talk that Wesley Wright will be groomed for a starting job in winter ball and spring training; that should be enough to back up the rotation. In the event that disaster strikes, Bazardo and Trinidad should also be available, at the least to be called up for a start or three.
Closer: Jeff Fulchino. He has excelled this year, with a hard fastball, a good slider, and a split finger pitch that has shown a lot of development. His stuff still can't match Jose Valverde's, but it--and his performance--should be enough to hold his own as a closer, blowing as few saves as he did innings this year. Sure, LaTroy Hawkins is also a viable option as closer, but why spend as much as he will demand when Fulchino is almost as good, while also being cheaper and younger?
Bullpen: Tim Byrdak, Chris Sampson, Alberto Arias, Sammy Gervacio, Wesley Wright, Yorman Bazardo, Wilton Lopez. Half of the bullpen should be strong next year, while the other half will be more of a question mark.
Total Estimated Cost: $35 million
Can the Houston Astros succeed next year with this kind of lineup? There are so many unknown variables. Does Roy Oswalt's back hold up? Does Wandy maintain this year's performance, or was it an aberration? Will the #3 starter we sign pitch well and stay off the disabled list? How about Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, and the young, rookie-filled bullpen?
Will Lance Berkman and Kazuo Matsui bounce back from bad years? Will Jason Castro live up his billing as the Astros' top prospect, or will he need more time on the farm? Was Tommy Manzella's decent offensive season at AAA a fluke, or will he be another J.R. Towles at the big league level?
It would take an alignment of the stars for most or all of these questions to have good answers, answers that result in success for the 2010 team. But I know one thing: It would be a much younger, much more interesting team to watch.
How about you? What are your thoughts? What changes would you make to the lineup?
This was "ball four" to Nick Green, allowing the tying run to score with two out in the bottom of the ninth:
And it's not just the MLB gamecast.... Here's how Brooks Baseball had the pitch. It's the one marked "9". This terrible call came after the first one. That came in the same at-bat on an 0-2 pitch. As I mentioned in the game thread below, Green tried to check his swing, but even he knew he went. Is this the face of someone who didn't swing?
To me that looks like someone who realizes they just struck out to end the game, but that's just me.
Meanwhile, even when the Angels win, twice, they still can't win in Fenway.
[Editor's Note: Dave Baldwin is a former MLB pitcher. He pitched for the Washington Senators (1966-1969), Milwaukee Brewers (1970), and Chicago White Sox (1973). His best season was 1967 when he posted an ERA of 1.70 with 12 saves. Dave has been a[...]
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Josh Hamilton has a gluteus strain that could conceivably keep him out of the Rangers' lineup for the balance of the season.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have his thoracic outlet syndrome treated surgically on Monday. The recovery time for this is 10-12 weeks so his season is over after being reactivated on September 2.
Similarly Michael Young is hopeful he can be reactivated on Friday for the weekend series in Arlington against the Angels.
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Not that anyone especially cared, but the White Sox took the trouble of releasing ex-Angel Bartolo Colon yesterday. He had been on the DL with elbow inflammation since July 28.
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2009-09-16: Salt Lake did not play2009-09-16: Arkansas did not play2009-09-16: Rancho Cucamonga 6, High Desert 11 # Romine, An: 2-5, 1 K
Brossman: 2-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Fuller, C: 3-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI
Phillips, P: 1-4, 1 2B
Flores, M: (L, 0-1), 5.0 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 2 HR, 3.00 ERA
Fish: 1.0 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 H, 2 K, 0 BB, 1 HR, 10.80 ERA
In a winner-take-all game five, Rancho went home empty-handed, ending their season. The Quakes had a brief 2-0 lead after the top of the second after a couple RBI singles by Jay Brossman and Clay Fuller, but didn't score again until the seventh, when Brossman and Hector Estrella hit back-to-back homers to start the frame. Meantime, the Mavs pounced on Manuel Flores and the bullpen generally; Rancho mounted a late-innings rally in the ninth, but P.J. Phillips hit into a double play with nobody out and Andrew Romine flied out to end the game, and the Quakes' season.2009-09-16: Cedar Rapids did not play2009-09-16: Missoula 7, Orem 6 # Ramos, K: 2-3, 1 3B, 1 RBI
Baird: 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Wing: 3-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
Bass: 2-3, 2 2B
Alliman: 0-2, 1 K
Corbin, P: 5.1 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 K, 2 BB, 1.69 ERA
Martinez Mesa, F: 1.2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 H, 3 K, 3 BB, 4.91 ERA
Carpenter: (BS, 1)(L, 0-1) (in relief), 1.2 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 K, 0 BB, 1 HR, 9.82 ERA
Bobby Stone's two-out, three-run homer in the top of the ninth off David Carpenter did in the Owlz, who led most of the way. Game two will be played Friday night at 7:05 at Ogram Park in Missoula.2009-09-16: AZL Angels did not play2009-09-16: Albuquerque did not play2009-09-16: Chattanooga did not play2009-09-16: Inland Empire did not play2009-09-16: Great Lakes did not play2009-09-16: Ogden did not play2009-09-16: AZL Dodgers did not play
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Georgia Tech and Miami get the college football week rolling with a key early season ACC clash on Thursday night. That?s followed by a solid Friday night duel in the WAC between Boise State and Fresno State, and then it?s on to another huge Saturday slate.
Here?s a rundown on some of the key injury info pertaining to teams in action this week.
Arizona gets a key component back this week, as star TE Rob Gronkowski is slated to see his first action of the season? Army is listing freshman QB Trent Steelman as probable for Saturday. He suffered a rib injury last week, so how much he?ll be able to play may still be in question? Bowling Green will be without safety PJ Mahone this week. He has been indefinitely suspended for violating team rules. Mahone was the leading tackler for the Falcons both this season? Colorado will apparently have Cody Hawkins under center after all. The Buffaloes QB was knocked silly late last week, but despite a mild concussion, he?s listed as probable for this week?s action. Colorado also gets suspended WR Markques Simas, injured RB Rodney Stewart and LB Michael Sipili back for Saturday?s game? Colorado State might get Shelley Smith back on Saturday. The Rams best OL missed the first two games with an ankle injury but he?s now upgraded to questionable? Connecticut will start Cody Enders at QB with Zach Fraser out for at least two weeks. Enders missed some practice time this week with the flu, and there?s speculation impressive true freshman Mike Box may take some snaps. Meanwhile, the Huskies are hopeful star LB Scott Lutrus can play after missing last week?s game with a neck injury? Dominique Lindsay is now doubtful for East Carolina. Lindsay is the leading carrier for the Pirates, but they have a good backup in Brandon Jackson? The injuries along the defensive front continue to pile up for Florida Atlantic. The latest Owl to get hurt is DE Jamere Johnson. He?s the third key member of the FAU defensive front to get injured? Good news for Iowa, as they will get top OL Bryasn Bulaga back for Saturday. He missed last week?s game with an illness. The Hawkeyes also get some relief at CB with Shaun Prater?s suspension having concluded? Kent State suffered a big loss last week when Eugene Jarvis went down. He was one of the top running backs in the MAC. Jarvis is done for the season with a kidney injury? Kentucky fullback, an outstanding blocker, is good to go after sitting out the Wildcats season opener with an ankle injury? Maryland has lost CB Nolan Carroll for the season after the senior broke his leg last week?Memphis is making a QB change with soph Tyler Bass moving ahead of struggling Arkelon Hall on the depth chart? Miami gets a pair of key defenders back for this week?s action. Both DE Eric Moncur and exciting redshirt freshman SS Vaughn Telemaque have been cleared to play. But CB DeMarcus Van Dyke is out with a concussion and there?s also evidently been a flu bug that?s caused some players to miss practice time the last few days? Michigan starting guard David Moosman?s injured shoulder will keep him on the sidelines this week? Big injury for Middle Tennessee State, as top RB Phillip Tanner is down with a bad knee and will be out for some time. He?s not explosive, but Tanner?s absence will be felt in short yardage situations for the Blue Raiders? The flu issues are now behind North Carolina, but the Tar Heels will likely be minus TE Zack Pianalto, who was off his best career game. He has a foot injury? North Texas starting QB Riley Dodge will miss at least this week?s game with a shoulder injury. The Mean Green will also be without starting LT Victor Gill, and his backup, Matthew Menard, is out for the year? Oklahoma State has an easy game this week, but the Cowboys will be minus star RB Kendall Hunter? Oregon State gets QB Lyle Moevao back this week, but Sean Canfield will remain the starter for at least one more game? Penn State star LB Navorro Bowman will likely sit out one more game with a groin injury? SMU is likely down a secondary starter this week, with CB Derrius Bell nursing a neck injury? Senior DT Nathan Pepper is doubtful with an injured ankle. The Gamecocks are thin on the defensive front with DT Ladi Ajiboye still suspended? Central Florida is switching QB?s. Brett Hodges is in and Rob Calabrese is out as George O?Leary searches for more effective play from his signal callers? UCLA is off to a good start, but this has been a bad week for the Bruins. Four players, including CB Courtney Viney, have been suspended. UCLA is now thin at CB with Aaron Hester still injured. The Bruins will also be without starting QB Kevin Prince, who suffered a broken jaw last week? UNLV QB Omar Clayton?s knee injury forced him out of last week?s game, but he?s probable for this Saturday. Soph Mike Claussen filled in admirably last week in fueling a fourth quarter Rebel rally? Still no word on whether Utah RB Matt Asiata can play Saturday, as his injured shoulder has him questionable right now? Vanderbilt expects to have RB Jared Hawkins back in action this week. But the Commodores have lost star safety Ryan Hamilton for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, and OT James Williams is also finished for the year with a dislocated ankle? Wake Forest will be without talented DE Kyle Wilber for the next several games thanks to a broken fibula. The Demon Deacons have little depth at this spot, so it?s a key injury? Washington State has had a multitude of problems since before the season started. The Cougars will finally get a couple of live bodies back this week to aid the secondary. But now they?re having to juggle the offensive front with their first two left guards both sidelined.
I?ll update the list sometime on Friday after sifting through any late information.
I?ll also have my free play for the weekend in Friday?s blog.
More photos » by Ben Margot - AP
We salute you, Jorge De La Rosa, winner of 15 games.
HUGE, HUGE, HUGE. What a game! If you weren't having a heart attack during the bottom of the ninth, well, you're made than stronger stuff than most of us.
This one was all about Jorge De La Rosa. What Ubaldo Jimenez didn't do last night, De La Rosa did tonight. He stopped the bleeding. He took control of those high-pressure situations and did not meltdown. Look at the sixth inning. A walk and a single started the inning. A wild pitch placed the runners on second and third. Strikeout. Strikeout. Strikeout. DLR took care of business. He allowed only three hits in eight innings and struck out nine.
But after eight brilliant innings, DLR's time was up. Franklin Morales came in over Rafael Betancourt and proceeded to allow a run on three hits. Betancourt entered and then a Tulo-to-Barmes exchange failed and led to a second run. Nerve-racking. Another run scored. Rafael Betancourt, however, held it together and sealed the deal. The Rockies leave San Francisco with a victory.
Comment of the night:
bar none considering the pressure, the need, the setting.
He [De La Rosa] is hitting every spot, setting these guys up with beauty. Simply a thing of beauty
Not even a full game of the Rockies made it onto ESPN tonight. Those Angels and Red Sox had to take their sweet time to finish that game, ending during the fifth inning of the Rockies-Giants contest. But, hey, WNBA on ESPN2 . . . yeah, no.
83 - 64
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My Apologies in advance for once again drawing inspiration from Joe Posnanski. Lately I've been referencing his blog as much as Stuart Scott references the urban dictionary (c'mon Stu, you're not fooling anyone. How awkward is it when he says things like "don't hate the playa, hate the game"?) It's just that I read his post entitled The Shot the other day and I felt like I had something to add to it... I just didn't know what it was. I even wrote a follow-up about the 'magician's standard', and while I felt like the Josh Hamilton part was close, it still wasn't it. Last night, it finally hit me. And it was a huge disappointment. But, because it racked my brain for an extended period of time, I'm writing it anyway. Here it goes...
I've come up with my own terminology for the 'magician's standard', and while I think it fits pretty well, it's probably way too obscure. Before I reveal it, let me refresh your memory on the phenomenon I'm talking about:
Throughout the match, Federer hit some shots that left people gasping. Here?s the most remarkable thing to me about Federer: Seems to me that the more you know about tennis, the more amazed you are by the guy. If you know nothing at all about tennis, he?s amazing. If you know a little something about tennis ? maybe you have played a few times in your life ? he?s more amazing. If you know a little more about tennis ? maybe you played in high school and once had illusions of becoming a pro ? he?s even MORE amazing. And if you were a great player ? if you are a McEnroe or a Connors or a Courier ? then Federer is preposterously amazing.
You're right, Will. I can't do that proof and you can. And when it comes to this there are only twenty people in the world that can tell the difference between you and me. But I'm one of them.Now you can see why I'm disappointed. The line fits. It takes a high level of sophistication to truly appreciate the best. But it just wasn't the knockout punch that I was hoping for. Now I can put the topic to rest. If you don't use my new term, I'll find it in my heart to forgive you.
Game One Hundred Forty-Four - Cubs 5 Brewers 9
WP - Braden Looper (13-6) LP - Rich Harden (9-9) Save - None
The end of Rich Harden's season is starting to look like the way it began, very inconsistent and ineffective. Rich Harden was hit very hard in his three innings of work and if the wind had not been blowing in the score could have been a lot worse. Harden gave up five runs, two earned, on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts on 71 pitches, 41 for strikes. Harden's three innings of work on Wednesday night was his second shortest outing in a Cubs' uniform.
Alcides Escobar finished the night 4-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and three RBI ... all three on two-out hits. Escobar drove in the first run of the game on a two-out double down the left field line. Braden Looper drove in the Brewers' second run with a bloop single to center ... it was that kind of night for Rich Harden.
The Cubs committed two more errors that led to more unearned runs. Aramis Ramirez's tenth error of the year in third led to all three runs Harden allowed to be unearned.
David Patton, instead of Tom Gorzelanny or Sean Marshall, replaced Harden and could not keep the Brewers off the scoreboard. Patton gave up four runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout in an inning and a third of work. Two of the four runs credited to Patton came on a single by Corey Hart off of Justin Berg.
The Brewers scored all nine of their runs in the first five innings against Harden, David Patton and Justin Berg.
Tom Gorzelanny finally entered the game in the sixth and threw two innings of shutout ball. Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall gave the Cubs' offense a chance with four shutout innings but the hole was too deep for the Cubs to dig out of on Wednesday night.
Kosuke Fukudome, who is in a 0-for-23 slump, drove in the Cubs' first run in the third inning on a sacrifice fly that plated Aaron Miles. Derrek Lee picked up his 102nd RBI of the year with a single to center in the third that cut the Brewers lead to 5-2.
With the Cubs down 9-2 in the fifth, Derrek Lee walked to start the inning and scored on Aramis Ramirez's 13th homer of the season. Ramirez cut the deficit to 9-4 with two more RBI. Ramirez has driven in 58 runs in an injury-shortened season.
The Cubs last run was scored on a fielder's choice ground out off the bat of Bobby Scales later in the fifth.
Braden Looper continued his domination over the Cubs and earned his 13th win of the year ... a new career-high.
Aramis Ramirez made two tremendous defensive plays in the later innings that helped keep the Brewers off the board. Jake Fox took a double away from Ryan Braun in the eighth, his first outfield assist ... and Andres Blanco was stellar in the field once again.
The Cubs lost to the Brewers for only the second time this season at Wrigley Field ...