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Daily Astros News and Notes

Happy Cinco De Mayo everyone! Last night, the wife and I got to spend an evening on the town without our little guy at a student council banquet. I advise the student group and they had a big, fancy end of the year party. I left my phone in the car accidentally and didn't get a chance to check it until after the event was done (and after the Astros game was long over). Before I can even turn on my laptop at home, Stephen's text hit about Towles and how last night's game depressed him. When I finally looked at the score, I saw why.

This team is bad. Everyone is piling on. Even Richard Justice has noticed, as he's now tweeting stats that have been bouncing around the Internet for at least three days. But, when the team is also making questionable roster decisions? It's tough being a fan right now.

We still got to see the brilliance that is Roy Oswalt returned to form. Let's see what he was throwing last night.

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Nibbleness Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 92.71 94.4 -2.09 7.67 18 14 / 77.78% 2 / 11.11% 5.02 0.411
SI (Sinker) 92.83 94.3 -5.14 5.61 35 27 / 77.14% 3 / 8.57% 4.53 0.410
CH (Changeup) 83.51 85 -5.96 1.22 15 6 / 40.00% 2 / 13.33% 6.73 0.453
SL (Slider) 84.46 86.5 2.64 1.04 23 11 / 47.83% 3 / 13.04% 6.45 0.445
CU (Curveball) 74.89 85.4 3.45 -8.76 19 11 / 57.89% 2 / 10.53% 9.33 0.509

One of the ways that we can tell if a pitch is working is the swing-throughs. That's why I mention them so often. In trying to figure out why Roy Oswalt has been more effective this season, look no further than the number of his swing-throughs in this game. Every one of his pitches got whiffs, even the change, which he had problems throwing for a strike. His four-seamer was not his go-to pitch, lacking much horizontal movement. Instead, Roy relied on his sinker and even got three whiffs on 35 pitches.

Not all the pitches were working perfectly. His curve didn't have as much vertical break as it usually does, but Oswalt spotted it enough at the bottom of the zone that he got two whiffs and a host of ground balls. His slider and his change had similar vertical movement but opposite horizontal. When both pitches were coming to the batter at the same speed, it must have been pretty difficult to pick up which was which.

Roy also stayed pretty strong late into the game. Here's his speed chart.


Consider this Exhibit B in how Oswalt is getting things done. Look at those velocity drops scattered throughout the graph. Those are his curveballs. He doesn't throw them often, but when he does, it falls off the face of the earth (velocity-wise). You can also count the number of times he followed a fastball with another fastball. Constantly changing speed helped keep hitters off-balance, which is another reason he got so many whiffs.

Of course, his two-pitch at-bat with Justin Upton proved how quickly things can go wrong. Roy threw two fastballs but Upton hit the second, a 94 MPH fastball, about 450 feet for the game's only run. It was a good pitch, up in the zone on the inner half of the plate. Upton just jumped on the pitch and hit it a LONG way.

Comment of the Day and Leaderboard: This one goes to clack, who was almost prescient during the game thread about what would happen to Towles later that night:

It’s odd that Quintero is catching Oswalt. This is the first time that Q has ever caught Oswalt throughout his career. On the pre-game show, they said Quintero was surprised that he was listed as today’s starter. Mills didn’t give out much information as to why the change was made. He tried to give the impression that it’s no big deal, that "we just wanted to change things up." When he was asked about Q’s comment that he had never caught Oswalt, Mills said, "that may be true for regular season games, but I saw him catch Oswalt in the spring."

I think there is more to it than Mills lets on. But I’m not sure what it is. Maybe the communications difficulties between Towles and Oswalt in the last game has something to do with it.

by clack on May 4, 2010 6:59 PM CDT reply actions

As for the leaderboard:

Name # of Posts
Joe in Birmingham 90
OremLK 22
clack 21
Astrofan 17
Stephen Higdon 15

Teenage Prom(otion): One of the things that will be discussed more this summer is whether Jordan Lyles should be called up to the major league roster. Some of you are against it, but some of you think he has so dominated Double-A hitters that he could make a smooth transition to the Astros.

Since Lyles is a teenager, I wondered when the last time a player in his Age 19 or Age 20 season made his debut. Unsurprisingly, the last time a teenage pitcher debuted with Houston was in 1964, when a 17-year old Larry Dierker pitched in nine innings. 1963 saw two teenagers, 17-year old Jay Dahl and 19-year old Chris Zachary, make their debuts. Zachary pitched 57 innings over 22 games and seven starts. The most innings pitched by a guy at 21 or under was 188 by Tom Griffin in 1969. Griffin was 21 that season. The last Astros pitcher under 21 to debut was Jeff Juden, who was 20 years old in 1990. Juden threw 18 innings that season.

When was the last time the Astros had a teenager on the roster, regardless of position? When a 19-year old Cesar Cedeno played in 90 games for the 1970 Astros. It's a pretty rare occurrence. The last teenager to debut in the majors was Justin Upton back in 2007. The last teenage pitcher to debut was Felix Hernandez back in 2005. The last teenage pitcher in the National League to debut was Dwight Gooden in 1984. Don't bet that Jordan Lyles breaks that streak.