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Daily Astros News and Notes

Boy, that was a tough weekend to get through. I had to work Friday night covering TAPPS playoff softball. It was an ugly game. Six of the first 15 batters were hit by a pitch. The second inning featured two runs scored as the first five batters were either hit by pitches or walked outright. The pitcher only threw 14 of 51 strikes, but it was STILL less painful than Saturday and Sunday's games against the Braves. Let's get to the pitching recaps.

Brett Myers - He was praised by Brian McTaggart and was the most effective Astros starter this weekend. What was he throwing?

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 90.70 92.8 -2.05 7.67 27 15 / 55.56% 1 / 3.70% 4.87 0.413
SI (Sinker) 89.84 92.3 -6.49 3.86 17 6 / 35.29% 0 / 0.00% 7.45 0.418
CH (Changeup) 84.11 85.7 -4.41 2.51 8 5 / 62.50% 1 / 12.50% 7.63 0.445
SL (Slider) 84.82 86.9 4.03 -0.74 32 23 / 71.88% 6 / 18.75% 7.63 0.441
CU (Curveball) 76.71 80 7.75 -11.36 17 10 / 58.82% 2 / 11.76% 6.48 0.496

Unlike past starts, it was Myers' slider that got the majority of his swing-throughs. He threw the slider for a strike consistently and the pitch had good horizontal break, if not a ton of vertical drop. His changeup also got a swing-through, even though he threw only eight of them all game. His change has an identical speed profile to his slider, but the change breaks in on the hands of righthanders and has a little more drop than his sinker.

Myers really had trouble locating his sinker in this game. To see him throw a pitch for a strike less than 50 percent of the time is unusual, but on Friday, he only managed to throw strikes 35 percent of the time with the two-seamer. That's incredibly low for Myers and makes me wonder if he just wasn't getting calls on the pitch.

Looking back at his percentages over the last month, there is a pretty interesting picture of how Myers has been successful.

Type Count Selection Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
CU 137 27.0% 65.7% 42.3% 10.2% 16.8% 15.3%
SL 129 25.4% 70.5% 50.4% 12.4% 17.1% 20.9%
FF 112 22.1% 65.2% 46.4% 2.7% 18.8% 25.0%
SI 107 21.1% 57.0% 45.8% 4.7% 12.1% 29.0%
CH 22 4.3% 45.5% 40.9% 27.3% 4.5% 9.1%

Myers is working off his curve and slider primarily, mixing in the two fastballs almost as an afterthought. Of course, since his whiff rate is so high for both the slider and the curve, can you blame him? His slider puts him eighth in the majors at 3.2 runs above average, according to FanGraphs. Normalizing per 100 pitches, Myers' total drops to 2.24 and 21st overall in the majors. That's still pretty good. His curve ranks 11th in the majors at 1.9 runs above average. That's five spots ahead of Roy Oswalt, for reference. When split out per 100 pitches, Myers drops way down with his curve, but is still top 30 at 1.34, just ahead of Mark Buerhle.

Inning-by-Inning Pitch Totals
Inning Pitches in Inning Strikes in Inning Strike% in Inning Cumulative Total Pitches
1 21 11 52.38 21
2 16 10 62.50 37
3 17 10 58.82 54
4 11 5 45.45 65
5 7 4 57.14 72
6 15 11 73.33 87
7 14 8 57.14 101

I like this addition to the data over at Brooks Baseball. We can now see pitch totals by innings as well as strike percentage and total pitches thrown. It doesn't mean a whole lot, but it's interesting that Myers threw his highest percentage of strikes in the second and third innings, exactly when he gave up all four runs. May just be a coincidence (until we get more data), but it does seem like Myers had more success when he was throwing less strikes. Also, as you can see, Myers was back to being a 100-pitch guy, though he fell a little short of that 120-pitch mark. There's always next start, Brett.

Wandy Rodriguez -Scratched from his scheduled start on Friday, did Wandy's performance differ much from recent weeks?

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 90.04 91.7 3.74 10.30 15 12 / 80.00% 0 / 0.00% 4.44 0.418
CH (Changeup) 84.89 86.2 7.24 4.72 16 12 / 75.00% 3 / 18.75% 4.54 0.441
CU (Curveball) 75.57 77.6 -3.61 -8.47 25 16 / 64.00% 6 / 24.00% 7.76 0.504
FT (TwoSeam Fastball) 89.38 91.6 7.60 8.61 29 13 / 44.83% 0 / 0.00% 7.17 0.421

This is the first time we've seen Wandy's curveball flash as dominant as it was last season. Six times in 24 pitches, he got the batter to swing over the top of the big bender. Rodriguez also got a good percentage of whiffs on his changeup. I don't want to spend too much time comparing his curve to different starts, because it was in front of new Pitch F/X cameras. It is nice to note that the pitch didn't have the same drop or the same horizontal movement as normal and yet was still effective.

The other interesting think we can note is possibly a reason why his change was so effective. The pitch only had about a five MPH differential between the two-seamer and the change. However, both pitches had very similar horizontal movement, making them look very similar to a hitter. That is, until the change broke about four inches more than the two-seamer.

Wandy's biggest problem in this start was that he couldn't throw his two-seamer for a strike. Since that was the pitch he threw most often, it proved problematic. Of course, you couldn't even blame this on a tight strike zone, since his Nibbleness score was as high as his curveball, meaning he was missing big when he missed or getting a good chunk of the strike zone.

How did this break down by innings?

Inning-by-Inning Pitch Totals
Inning Pitches in Inning Strikes in Inning Strike% in Inning Cumulative Total Pitches
1 11 6 54.55 11
2 20 13 65.00 31
3 17 13 76.47 48
4 18 9 50.00 66
5 19 12 63.16 85

The first time Wandy got hit hard was in the third inning, when he threw his highest percentage of strikes. In the fifth, when he was finally run from the mound, Wandy threw another big strike inning, but still gave up three runs. In many cases, Wandy was getting the ground balls he wanted, but they snuck through the defense.

Bud Norris - Ugh, I almost don't feel like delving into this. Poor Budly struggled quite a bit in getting torched for seven runs. What was he throwing that was so hittable?

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 93.03 95.3 -4.07 6.60 56 31 / 55.36% 4 / 7.14% 6.26 0.403
CH (Changeup) 85.29 86.9 -6.50 0.69 8 4 / 50.00% 0 / 0.00% 5.84 0.440
SL (Slider) 87.13 90.6 2.83 1.34 31 18 / 58.06% 7 / 22.58% 8.52 0.427

Turns out, it was his fastball. Norris always borders on being an extreme two-pitch starter, but in this game, he regressed into throwing almost all fastballs. Yes, he did get some whiffs on the pitch and yes, it had good velocity and a little sink to it. As a whole? Not his most successful option.

His slider, on the other hand, proved very valuable, getting 22 percent swing-throughs on 31 pitches. The pitch had more vertical break than usual, though my caveat about new ballpark cameras still stands. What's disappointing to see here is that Bud's numbers look good. He threw strikes pretty consistently (for him), his velocities were solid and in line with where he's been in the past. He just got hit and hit hard. We're not seeing the dominant Bud Norris this season. Maybe it's because pitchers have developed a 'book' on him. Maybe it's because he's too 'confident' in his abilities and needs to be knocked down a peg. Whatever it is, it's not pretty in the short term. Starts like this aren't about learning how to be a big-leaguer. Starts like this get you sent to the bullpen.

Inning-by-Inning Pitch Totals
Inning Pitches in Inning Strikes in Inning Strike% in Inning Cumulative Total Pitches
1 10 9 90.00 10
2 27 13 48.15 37
3 15 9 60.00 52
4 19 9 47.37 71
5 24 13 54.17 95

There it is. It's not often that we can so concretely show why a guy lost a game. But, in the third inning, when Bud turned a 1-0 Braves lead into a 4-0 one, he threw 47percent strikes. While the next three runs came in an inning when he was pretty good control-wise, you can see that he suffered from a lack of control. Reading a thread on THE BOOK earlier today, I was struck by how this quote applies to the Astros' young pitchers:

the more individual confrontations that makes up an event, the less random chance plays a role. It’s obvious, isn’t it? If an NBA game lasted 12 minutes, how many games would the Cavs win? If an MLB game ended after 5 innings, how many games would the Royals win? The longer you play, the less chance affects the final outcome.

The deeper into a game Paulino and Norris go, the bigger chance they have to get hit hard. Is there a better definition for talent? Do you cringe seeing Roy Oswalt out there in the sixth inning nearly as much as you do Norris in the fifth? When is Jordan Lyles getting here?

General's Watch: Brad Mills is going to drive us crazy at this rate. His increased tinkering with the lineup is getting old quickly, sure, but it could be a sign of a rookie manager. Seems like one of the hardest lessons to learn is that a manager can't make his player perform better by flipping the lineup around. Isn't that the exact opposite of what Geoff Blum was saying about Mills at the beginning of the season? That he would let a guy know where they were playing and stick to it?

More ominously for the Astros' pitcher is the fact that Mills insists on playing Jeff Keppinger more and more frequently, while sitting both Kazuo Matsui and Tommy Manzella. Even worse, we saw Geoff Blum, Shortstop this weekend paired with Kepp up the middle. For comparison's sake, that means two of the worst players by Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in Kepp (-3 at short, -2 at second) and Blum (-1 at short) were sharing the pivotal positions on the infield. That's as opposed to Matsui (+2 at second) and Manzella (+3 at short). Oh, and just for grins, do you know who has the lowest total for DRS on the current Houston roster? Mr. Defense himself, Pedro Feliz at -5. When you don't get on base, rarely hit for power and now can't play defense? That's not a good signing. I'll have more on this coming on Thursday.

Comment of the Weekend and Leaderboard: Because I enjoy the Braves so much, here's your comment of the weekend:

As for the leaderboards, I thought we could do a month in retrospective. Consider this the Leaderboard of all Leaderbaords...until next month.

Name Comments Times on Leaderboard
clack 710 14
Joe In Birmingham 728 13
OremLK 554 12
timmy_ 379 10
entropic soul 220 10
Astrosfan 77 5
Danteslion 54 3
ol Pete 66 3
Z-Dub 188 2
goingforthecorner 77 2
lnewcomer 49 1
Astrosws20 40 1
Jay Lopez 15 1
Subber10 25 1
EveryHoustonTeamRox! 20 1
jello44 9 1

Beyond the Box Score's 32 Prediction Contest: Sky Kalkman over at BtBS has a great new contest going, where you can go and predict 32 different things about the 2010 season. The winner will get 50 dollars in cold, hard cash. Go enter, make your best guess and try to get in on the free loot.

Rangers sale gets ugly: I mentioned this situation already, but it looks like the ongoing fiasco that has become the sale of the Texas Rangers is only getting worse. Now, reports have surfaced that MLB will forcibly take over the club, meaning the creditors of the Hicks Sports Group will not be able to affect how the club is run. It also means that MLB will probably be taken to court, that the Rangers may have a hard time paying bonuses to draft picks this June and a host of other problems.

What it doesn't mean is that we'll see a major league franchise fold up shop. This used to happen much more frequently in other sports, though baseball has never had a history of it. It's hard to believe that just 10 years ago, the word 'contraction' was being banded about regarding the Twins and L'Expos. Now, both teams have shiny new ballparks and payrolls well north of most teams. It's just striking some times how well off financially baseball teams can be. For someone like Hicks to mortgage so much of his interests to pay for his team shows more what a bad businessman he was rather than how unprofitable it can be to run a baseball team.

Be a GM For The Day: Andy Seiler continues his wonderful coverage of the MLB draft with this question: what would you do if you had the top pick? Would signability matter to you?

He breaks down the possible picks, what they might want and lets you vote on your choice. Of course, what 'we' might do is probably going to be different from what the Astros will do, since owner Drayton McLane sticks so heavily to the slotting system. Still, if a guy like Jameson Taillon slips because he's asking for too much money, will Bobby Heck bite? Can he convince McLane to spend a little more money? Ah, the fun we can have leading up to the draft!