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Daily Astros News and Notes

Hmm, Stephen said to put who in the three-spot? Where's my computer?
Hmm, Stephen said to put who in the three-spot? Where's my computer?

Well, it was an eventful weekend in Astrosland. We laughed, we cried, we saw loss after loss. But,there had to be some silver linings, right? Let's take a quick tour around the starting pitchers to see what kind of stuff they had.

Bud Norris - Not much going on for Budly, since he lasted not even three innings. He did throw a ton of pitches in that time, however. Let's see what he had working.

FF (FourSeam Fastball) 93.32 95.5 -5.53 11.58 45 19 / 42.22% 0 / 0.00% 7.60 0.411
CH (Changeup) 87.58 88.7 -2.91 5.79 5 3 / 60.00% 0 / 0.00% 7.23 0.434
SL (Slider) 87.33 89.8 2.18 4.06 30 21 / 70.00% 4 / 13.33% 5.85 0.434

It's hard to get major league hitters out (especially the Phillies) when you're working off two pitches and can't throw one of them for strikes. His fastball had good movement on hit and his velocity looked solid. However, he only found the strike zone with 19 of his 45 fastballs. That is unacceptable.

On the plus side, Norris' slider was a good pitch for him. Four whiffs in 30 pitches is a pretty good percentage for a slider. Couple that with a strike percentage of 70 for the slider and it's easy to see that Norris just needs to refine his command on the fastball. I call do-over Budly. Bring on the Cardinals.

Felipe Paulino - What a start by Paulino. He had a rough third inning that could have been avoided if Manzella had relayed that double play ball cleanly. No guarantee he would have gotten Rollins, but it would have been close.

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 96.45 98.9 -6.18 11.30 56 33 / 58.93% 3 / 5.36% 6.80 0.398
CH (Changeup) 87.93 89.1 -4.97 0.95 4 3 / 75.00% 1 / 25.00% 12.93 0.438
SL (Slider) 87.46 89.6 -0.69 0.38 28 14 / 50.00% 3 / 10.71% 7.54 0.434
CU (Curveball) 76.85 79.6 1.26 -3.92 18 7 / 38.89% 0 / 0.00% 10.27 0.496

Paulino works everything off his fastball. That's why he threw it 53 percent of the time in this game. His curveball was practically Oswalt-ian in its speed differential, but didn't have a lot of break on it. I wonder if he had the same feel for it since he missed time this spring. He also had a tight slider that didn't have a ton of break on it but was enough of an offspeed pitch compared to his fastball and broke differently than the four-seamer that Paulino got three whiffs on 28 pitches. It helps that he was running the slider up there as fast as Wandy's four-seamer too.

Look at that horizontal movement on his four-seamer. That pitch was really diving away from all those left-handed batters and in on the hands of the righties. His change had almost the same horizontal movement, but fell off a table compared to the fastball. No wonder he got one swing-through in the four times he threw it. I wonder if he'll work this pitch in more or if it's truly just a show-me pitch.

Paulino didn't worry about nibbling at the plate too much. Those are some of the highest values I've seen so far for 'nibbleness,' but could also be a product of Paulino's control problems. He didn't throw one of his pitches for a strike more than 60 percent of the time. He has got to do better than that in his next start if he wants to be more than a fifth starter.

Roy Oswalt - Roy pitched a brilliant game on Sunday, but met an even tougher pitcher in Roy Halladay (more on that later). Roy struck out eight in six innings in a real throwback performance for him. Why was he so good?

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 93.45 95.6 -3.46 11.92 47 29 / 61.70% 5 / 10.64% 5.48 0.414
SI (Sinker) 93.44 96.1 -7.71 10.61 19 15 / 78.95% 0 / 0.00% 4.46 0.412
CH (Changeup) 83.24 86.2 -6.84 8.01 9 6 / 66.67% 0 / 0.00% 6.69 0.465
SL (Slider) 85.11 88.6 3.33 6.68 14 9 / 64.29% 1 / 7.14% 4.61 0.450
CU (Curveball) 73.34 81.5 3.66 -5.54 20 14 / 70.00% 2 / 10.00% 6.16 0.526

The first thing that jumps out here is his four-seamer. His velocity was up a notch from his opening day numbers, but the big difference was his vertical movement. These are the kinds of things that even out over the course of a season, but his four-seamer was good enough to get five swing-throughs. That's nine in 74 pitches for the ole' rise ball.

Oswalt also got one more total swing-through than he did against the Giants. He threw a ton of strikes and used all five of his pitches effectively. This is the second straight start where Roy showed he was better than his balky back showed last season. If only we could score him some runs in support.

Wandy Rodriguez - Oof. Wandy marked the third pitcher in four days who didn't make it past the fifth inning. What's was up with that?

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 87.94 89.8 2.67 14.92 27 13 / 48.15% 0 / 0.00% 6.56 0.432
CH (Changeup) 85.18 87 5.92 12.75 5 3 / 60.00% 0 / 0.00% 7.01 0.445
CU (Curveball) 74.40 75.9 -6.48 -2.03 24 19 / 79.17% 0 / 0.00% 5.33 0.514
FT (TwoSeam Fastball) 87.80 88.4 8.36 10.21 4 2 / 50.00% 0 / 0.00% 4.14 0.428

Both his two-seam and four-seam fastballs lost about two miles per hour in velocity. I think that's in the statistical realm of margin of error and we can probably chalk this up to a slow gun in St. Louis. After Wednesday, we'll look at Myers numbers to see how they match up with his MMP start.

The other foreboding thing about this start for Wandy is he got no swing-throughs all game. He threw his curve about half as many times as his first start, when he got five whiffs with the pitch. He also was having trouble locating his fastball, which was part of his problem in the game.His curve also didn't have as much vertical break as it did against the Giants. Analyzing movement on a start-by-start basis isn't best practice, but it gives us a jumping off point for analysis. From these numbers, it looks like Wandy isn't necessarily hiding an injury, he just didn't have a feel for his curve against the Cardinals and got hit around as a result.

Mills Watch, Weekend Edition: Lots to talk about this weekend from a managerial standpoint. Three things stand out in my mind. First, Mills pulled Bud Norris in the third inning on Friday. Norris had thrown 80 pitches in his 2 2/3 innings of work and was struggling with his command. Mills' trip to the bullpen this early is a good sign to me. Norris was obviously struggling, probably had some nerves with his family in town to see the game and didn't ever look comfortable. One of the comments in the game thread said it looked like he might have a blister on his hand. Instead of letting him gut out a three or four inning performance, Mills pulled him to hopefully keep more stress off his arm. Since we're already concerned about injuries and Norris, I thought it was the right move.

Second, Mills left Felipe Paulino in the game in the top of the fifth, even though he was up to 96 pitches. This was pretty shocking to me at the time, especially since he had been ready to pinch-hit for Paulino in the bottom of the fourth. Why not take him out with a double-switch if you're that worried about him leading off the next inning? What this tells me is that Mills isn't beholden to pitch counts. Even though Paulino was slowed by a back injury late in camp and wasn't on a regular starting schedule late in spring training, he was still willing to throw him out there for 100+ pitches.

Lastly, Mills plugged Cory Sullivan into Hunter Pence's lineup spot on Sunday, without a thought to the fact that Sullivan is not fit to hit in the seventh spot, much less the meat of the order. Apparently, he didn't catch Stephen's article on how to optimize the lineup in time. Instead, Sullivan comes to bat with the bases loaded and no outs and promptly grounds into an easy double play. It was the only time the Astros had a real threat against Halladay and because of Mills' lineup, the Astros got only one run out of it. Would Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee or Pedro Feliz have done better? Maybe not, but they definitely have a better chance than the banjo-hitting fifth outfielder.

Comment of the Weekend and Leaderboard: I went ahead and tallied everything up for the weekend's games. The second leaderboard is for Monday's game. I could only choose one quote, though, despite a plethora of good options. It's actually a back and forth between JinB and clack that just cracked me up. Especially because I love the idea that Philadelphia fans are out of their minds.

Name # of Posts
Joe in Birmingham 25
clack 19
Danteslion 16
OremLK 14
Astrofan 12

Name # of Posts
Joe in Birmingham 172
timmy_ 139
clack 137
OremLK 124
Z-Dub 77

Are the Phillies fans nice?

Astros fan for life

by Joe in Birmingham on Apr 11, 2010 1:59 PM CDT up reply actions 0 recs

oh, super nice. like cuddly kittens.

by clack on Apr 11, 2010 1:59 PM CDT up reply actions 0 recs

The Schilling Effect: Clack's article earlier this week about pitching, defense and big offenses got me thinking about how this year's Astros team is pitching. Not in the sense of the breakdowns above, but in throwing more strikes. After all, the theory that guys like Roy Oswalt have put forth is that when a team is more confident in their defense, they throw more strikes.

We don't have a ton of data for this season, but we do know that the Astros pitchers threw 62.86 percent of their pitches for strikes. The starting pitchers in 2009 threw strikes 63.63 percent of the time. How did that compare to this season?

In 2010, Astros pitchers have thrown 62.65 percent strikes. The starters have thrown strikes 61.46 percent of the time. I'm not sure we have enough data to draw conclusions from yet. After all, we're dealing with less than five percent of the 2009 total.

Looking at it from another angle, I took just the games that the Astros won in 2009 by more than five runs. That's what I qualified as a blow out win. 19 games fit that profile. In those games, Astros pitchers threw strikes 64 percent of the time and the starters threw strikes just under 66 percent of the time.

We do see a jump in 'pitching to the score' strikes here, but it should also be noted that the total number of strikes for pitchers in these games was just 11 percent of the total number of pitches thrown all season. That means we're dealing with a somewhat small sample size. Once we get a little more data for 2010, I might go back and look at all the Astros blow outs for the last decade, to see if we can get some useable data.

Super Situation: Here's a very informative post over at MLBTradeRumors on so-called Super Two players. The Astros already have one of those in Hunter Pence. Will Houston try to avoid this situation with Jason Castro?

It's certainly more expensive for the club and the Astros have shown no desire to lock players up before they hit their last seasons of arbitration. I'm sure this wouldn't have kept the Astros from installing Castro as the starting catcher this spring if he had won the job. However, it might keep him down in the minors for a while longer, even if Towles continues to struggle. 31 percent higher salary is pretty significant.

After all, Castro is going to be a building block piece. Keeping him under team control for another year is in the best interests of Houston's management, if not in the best financial interests of the Stanford alum.

Doc was Best Ever?: As much as yesterday sucked, it's either relieving or depressing to see this post over at Baseball Reference. Notice, Halladay doesn't have the highest Game Score on the list, but he does have the highest strike percentage.

What does that tell us about the 2010 Astros? They can't hit the damn ball. 83 strikes from Halladay? And we couldn't score more than one run? That's an awful lot of the zone to be throwing in to get no production. Brett Myers threw a ton of strikes last Wednesday and got lit up like a Christmas tree. Halladay has amazing stuff, but really? I am so ready for this funk to reverse itself.

Oh, Bernardo...: Look, I already piled on the guy pretty good with the whole Will Taveras thing, so I wanted to give new beat writer Bernardo Fallas some time to get his sea legs in the job. After all, he took enough guff from the team this spring with everyone calling him 'Rookie.' His latest blog post? Couldn't let it go.

Here's the money quote:

After having watched the Astros hit during spring training, it amazes me to see how poorly they are doing at the plate to start the season.

To Brad Mills, who is dealing with as tough a test as it gets to start his first season as major league manager, the answer is simple: The regular season is a whole new ballgame.

A baseball beat reporter doesn't have to live and breathe the game. A good reporter is a good reporter, no matter what their interests are. What I'm saying is that just because Fallas is a soccer guy doesn't mean he isn't a baseball fan or hasn't followed the game for years and years. I'm sure he does know quite a bit about baseball.

That quote makes me doubt that notion just a bit, however.

One of the fundamental rules about being a baseball fan is that spring training is meaningless. Enjoy it because baseball is back, but don't put any stock in it whatsoever. Pitchers sometimes throw 60 straight changeups to work on their feel for a pitch. Guys are on short pitch counts and sometimes don't even throw breaking balls. Does it surprise anyone else that the Astros aren't performing like they did this spring?

Being a reporter is an incredibly nuanced and sometimes difficult position. Interviews are a big reason for that. I've asked some dumb questions before, both for sports I love (baseball, football) and those I have never even thought of before the interview (long-range rifle shooting). I knew it was a dumb question when I asked Burt Hooton last week if it was a hard transition to go from being a reliever to being a starter. The answer I got proved really interesting, though. I'm not sure Fallas' question to Mills in this case did the job he wanted. I wonder if Mills chuckled a little when he had to answer that, yes, spring training and the regular season are a little different.

Newspapers and baseball: This is a good story to follow up my mini-screed against Fallas' latest post. Marc Hulet over at Fangraphs asks whether newspaper baseball coverage is dead. Which leads me to question you guys and gals. How do you get your Astros news? Do you go to The Chronicle for the stories anymore? When was the last time you read one of the features they produce?

I used to love reading the sports section cover to cover. Even the transactions section on the scoreboard page was great. Now, though, I have Google Reader as my newspaper. I still click through to a couple times a day to check on stories and blog posts, but I'm more likely to get my news from or some other source around the web. When I have to go to the team's website to find the best beat reporter for the team, there's a problem there, right?

We're all still trying to figure out how this new world will work, with newspapers changing their business model and how they cover the news and the online community growing in importance. At some point, things are going to come to a head. For instance, if given the choice between paying a subscription fee to read the Chronicle online or to read TCB for free, where are you going?