Welcome to the end of the week. Baseball season is over.
Now, we’ve got a long offseason’s worth of Hot Stove talk, what if’s, what could be’s, and whatever. I’ll be keeping you company throughout the offseason with an everyday series I’ve entitled the “Everystros Countdown.” I hope you’re enjoying catching up with these guys as much as I’ve enjoyed researching them.
Hope, Recovery Luncheon to host Astros legend Jeff bagwell (The Victoria Advocate)
Tri-City ValleyCats settle suit with MLB, Houston Astros (Times Union)
AL West News
Houston Astros Birthdays
LHP Travis Blackley (41) came into 42 games in relief through the first part of the 2013 season. He pitched 35 innings and struck out 29 with a 1.429 WHIP and a 6.91 FIP.
RHP Ezequiel Astacio (44) pitched in 28 games for Houston in 2005 and 2006, going 5-6 with a 6.02 ERA, 72 strikeouts in 86 2⁄3 innings, and a 1.592 WHIP.
OF Ryan Thompson (56) appeared in 12 games for Houston in 1999, going four-for-20 with a double, a homer, and five RBI.
C Mark Bailey (62) hit .223/.340/.340 in 322 games for Houston from 1984 through 1988.
RHP Craig McMurtry (64) see number 839, below
LHP Bryan King (27) was claimed off waivers after the end of the 2022 season by the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. He’s spent the entire season on the 60-day injured list for the Corpus Christi Hooks.
OF Tom Wiedenbauer (65) went four-for-six with a double and two RBI in four games for the 1979 Astros.
Everystros Countdown: Chapter X
Today we move from 15 players per day down to 14. As we continue moving up the ranks in quality, I’ll periodically drop the quantity per day. We’re still in the third tier: players between 21 and 100 PA/BF while with the franchise. Today’s group sits between negative-0.0091 and negative-0.0073 bWAR per BF/PA. For your information, we’re still a week away from the replacement level folks, starting with our number 739 player.
840. Ryan Thompson, a native of Chestertown, MD, was a 13th-round choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1987 draft out of Kent County HS. He eventually left Canada as a throw-in to the Jeff Kent-for-David Cone deal with the New York Mets.
In 1992, outfielder Thompson got his first major league exposure with the Mets, and played the bulk of his career with the Amazin’s. In 283 games he hit .239/.300/.417 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI. Granted free agency following 1996, Thompson signed with the Kansas City Royals, then soon after was released and signed with the Cleveland Indians. After just eight major league games with the Tribe, they traded him back full-circle to Toronto for Jeff Manto.
Despite rejoining the Jays, Thompson didn’t get to the majors with him. In 1999, he signed on with the Astros through free agency and spent most of the season ensconcsed at the Triple-A level with the New Orleans Zephyrs, slashing .309/.369/.495 with 16 jacks in 112 games. Near the end of August, he re-emerged in the majors with Houston.
Thompson got into a dozen games for the Astros through the balance of the campaign, going four-for-20 with a double, a home run, five RBI and two runs scored. He drew two walks against seven strikeouts. Thompson hit his home run on September 7 in a pinch-hit opportunity, leading off the sixth inning of a 5-5 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros eventually won, 8-6.
839. Craig McMurtry is a right-handed pitcher from Temple, TX. In 1980, he was a first-round choice of the Atlanta Braves, with the fourth overall pick off the board. He eventually reached the majors with them, joining the rotation in 1983 and slowly but permanently making his way to the bullpen by the end of his time there in 1986. He went 25-35 with a 4.06 ERA over 532 2⁄3 innings, with 282 strikeouts and a 1.476 WHIP.
McMurtry later latched on with the Texas Rangers, pitching in 74 games with them between 1988 and 1990. As a Mall Cop, he struck out 63 in 124 2⁄3 innings, with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.
After McMurtry’s time with the Rangers, he found himself in a long slog to get back to the show, and spent the next five seasons in minor-league limbo. He played in the systems with the San Francisco Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and finally the Houston Astros in 1994.
In 1995, McMurtry joined the Astros proper in mid-August, and tossed two perfect innings in his debut, five seasons after last pitching in the majors. He struck out one, but the Astros lost, 3-2 to the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, the rest of McMurtry’s hitch in Houston wasn’t quite as nice. In 10 1⁄3 innings over 11 appearances, he allowed nine runs on 15 hits and nine walks. He did strike out four, but didn’t earn a return engagement to the majors with Houston or anyone else following the season.
838. Jim Dickson, out of Portland, OR, is a right-handed pitcher who batted left-handed. Born on April 20, 1938, he initially joined the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system in 1958, then came over to join Houston’s farm in 1962. He was 5-10 with the Oklahoma City 89ers that year, with a 4.61 ERA and 80 K’s in 121 innings. The following year, he started out by going 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA for the 89ers, with 47 strikeouts in 52 innings.
That line was good enough for the second-year Colt .45s to give Dickson a look. In his third appearance, he put up his best effort of the campaign, going by WPA. He struck out one and collected the final four outs of a 4-2 Astros win over the Milwaukee Braves, earning a save. His next appearance was identical, but the Astros lost that one, 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickson’s last appearance of the season would see him pitch two scoreless and face the minimum while he collected his second save in a 13-4 win against the New York Mets.
But out of Dickson’s 13 appearances, the Colts were 2-11. I’m sure there’s no causation there, but when they dropped Dickson in with a chance, he came through. He finished the year 0-1 with a 6.14 ERA, giving up 10 runs on 22 hits and two walks, with six strikeouts in 14 2⁄3 innings. In contrast to his ERA, Dickson’s FIP was only 2.07.
In January 1964, the Colts traded Dickson along with Wally Wolf and cash to the Cincinnati Reds for Eddie Kasko. Dickson played two more seasons in the majors after appearing in four games for the Reds that season, joining the Kansas City Athletics for 92 relief outings between 1965 and 1966.
837. Cory Sullivan is a left-handed centerfielder from Tulsa, OK. Born on August 20, 1979, the Colorado Rockies selected him in the seventh round of the 2001 draft out of Wake Forest. Four years later, he emerged on the big stage with the Rockies as their starter at center. He played for Colorado in the big leagues for four seasons, hitting .279/.330/.391 and providing slightly below-average fielding in center field.
Granted free agency after the season, Sullivan joined the New York Mets and hit .250 in 64 games at the top level. Another free agent signing a year later brought Sullivan to the Astros.
Sullivan started his 2010 season with Houston proper, and appeared in 57 of their first 70 games. His seven best WPA marks of the season were all in pinch-hitting appearances, topped by a tie-breaking RBI-single in the bottom of the eighth in an eventual 7-3 Houston win over the Rockies. He only started in seven games, playing either right or left field. In 70 innings he made zero errors and took 14 chances cleanly. In fact, Sullivan made three errors in his rookie season, one in his second year, then none through his final four seasons in the majors, bringing his fielding to slightly above-average by the end of his time in the majors.
836. RHP Josh Banks is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher from Baltimore, MD. In 2000, he was drafted in the 34th round by his hometown Orioles out of high school, but he instead attended FIU. It paid off in the form of a second-round pick three years later, by the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the Jays for whom Banks eventually made his major league debut in 2007, tossing 7 1⁄3 innings in three appearances. In 2008, Banks joined the San Diego Padres organization for two seaosns, posting a 4-7 record with a 5.25 ERA over 108 innings of work.
In 2010, Banks again tried his luck in free agency, finding a taker in the Houston Astros. He spent the lion’s share of the campaign with the Round Rock Express, where he threw 171 2⁄3 innings and posted a 9-12 record with a 4.04 ERA. On June 26, he made his first and only appearance for Houston, and also the final of his career. He got the start on June 26 against the Texas Rangers, and lasted four innings. He struck out one and allowed six earned runs on eight hits and four walks for a 13.50 ERA and a 3.000 WHIP. Presumably, that was enough impetus for Houston to send him back to Round Rock.
Banks bounced around for a couple more seasons in the minors between the Giants and the Orioles, but didn’t get back to the majors. He’s now the lead guitarist in Coldplay*.
835. Brian Fisher is a right-handed pitcher from Honolulu, HI. Born on March 18, 1962, Fisher was a second round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1980 out of William C. Hinkley HS, in Aurora, CO. Before getting to the majors, Atlanta dealt Fisher to the New York Yankees for Rick Cerone. In a pair of seasons out of the Bombers pen, Fisher struck out 152 in 195 frames, going 13-9 with a 3.65 ERA.
After the 1986 season, the Bombers sent Fisher to the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with Doug Drabek and Logan Easley for Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante, and Rick Rhoden. Fisher got his crack working out of the rotation as a pseudo-swingman while with the Bucs. He started in 51 of 79 appearances overall, striking out 191 in 348 2⁄3 innings, going 19-22 with a 4.72 ERA and a 1.451 WHIP.
After the 1989 season, the Astros signed Fisher to a deal. He played most of his season at Triple-A with the Tucson Toros, going 8-8 with a 6.80 ERA. I’m not sure how bad that really was in the PCL during that era, but it’s a hitters league right now, so maybe not that bad.
...or maybe he really was that bad. Called up to fill a slot with the Astros bullpen in August, Fisher got into trouble in three of his four outings with the team. He ended up allowing five runs in five innings (four earned) on nine hits and zero walks. He struck out one and allowed one home run. On August 14, he had the only positive WPA outing of his time with the Astros, getting the final two outs of a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
FIsher pitched out of the Milwaukee Brewers farm system in 1991 before splitting his time between the farms of Cincinnati and Seattle in 1992. He also got back to the majors with the Mariners that season, going 4-3 with a 4.53 ERA. He issued 47 walks in 91 1⁄3 innings, while striking out only 26. After a season with the Giant’s Triple-A club, Fisher hung it up.
834. José Cruz (not that one) is a switch-hitter from Arroyo, PR. Born on April 19, 1974, Cruz was a 15th-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1992 out of high school, then a first-round pick three years later by the Seattle Mariners out of Rice University, third overall.
Cruz, the second player by that name to play for Houston, enjoyed an 11-season major league career before his time with Houston. He played for the Mariners (49 games, .268/.315/.541), the Toronto Blue Jays (698 games, .250/.331/.462), the San Francisco Giants (158 games, .250/.366/.414), the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (153 games, .242/.333/.433), the Arizona Diamondbacks (64 games, .213/.347/.436), the Boston Red Sox (four games, .250/.308/.333), the Los Angeles Dodgers (133 games, .261/.368/.443), and the San Diego Padres (91 games, .234/.316/.375).
The Astros thought that maybe this second José Cruz might have some magic left in his bat, so they signed him to a deal for the veteran’s minimum. He opened the season with the Astros and played in 38 of their first 61 contests. On May 12, he was two-for-three with a walk, a run, and an RBI in a 7-3 win over the Giants, but overall not so good. He went six-for-49 with 11 walks and nine strikeouts, one double, and six runs scored. That resulted in a weird-looking .122/.283/.143 slashline, but weird isn’t always good. It was Cruz’ last time in the majors.
833. Joe Biagini is a six-foot-four right-handed pitcher from Menlo Park, CA. Born on May 29, 1990, Biagini was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 26th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of California. Before he made his way to the show, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Biagini in the 2015 rule 5 draft.
In three-and-a-half seasons with Toronto, Biagini was used mostly as a reliever and a few times as a starter, starting in 22 of his 182 appearances through the regular seasons. He was 14-24 overall with a 4.74 ERA and 262 K’s in 309 1⁄3 innings. In the 2016 postseason, he pitched 7 1⁄3 shutout innings, striking out six and allowing three hits.
At the 2019 trade deadline, the Jays sent Biagini, Aaron Sanchez and Cal Stevenson to the Astros for Derek Fisher. From August 3 through the end of the season, Biagini struck out 10 in 14 2⁄3 innings, but he also walked nine and surrendered 13 runs (12 earned) on 21 hits (including six home runs). He posted a 1.118 opposing OPS and a 9.01 FIP, but it was way better than his 2020 with the team.
Biagini appeared in four games during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, and gave up 10 runs on 10 hits and four walks in 4 1⁄3 innings. He struck out four and finished with a 20.77 ERA. The Astros released him to free agency, and he spent the 2021 season in the Chicago Cubs’ system.
832. Ernie Camacho is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Salinas, CA. Born on February 1, 1955, Camacho was the 12th-round pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1975, the fourth-round pick of the California Angels in the 1976 January draft, and the first-round pick of the Oakland A’s in June, 1976, 17th overall.
Camacho made his first major league appearance with the A’s in 1980, then got to the majors again in 1981 with the Pirates. In 1983, he joined the Cleveland Indians as a mainstay of the bullpen, pitching in 141 games over five seasons and going 7-16, with a 3.66 ERA. Granted free agency following the season, he signed with the Astros on March 10, 1988.
Camacho started the 1988 season with the Astros proper, appearing in 10 games between the beginning of the year and May 10. His best appearance, by far, was on April 21, when he pitched three scoreless innings, facing one over the minimum and earning the save in an 8-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. Overall he walked 10 and struck out 11 in 13 2⁄3 innings, but gave up 12 runs on 18 hits for a 7.90 ERA.
Camacho spent a big part of 1988 with the Tucson Toros at Triple-A, where he appeared in 36 games and walked 27 while striking out 26 in 42 1⁄3 innings. In July, he rejoined the Astros for three games, and gave up another three runs in four innings on seven hits and two walks.
Although Camacho seemed pretty much done for in Houston, he followed with a productive season for the San Francisco Giants in 1989, then split his final year, 1990, between the Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.
831. RHP Mike Nagy, born on March 25, 1948, is a six-foot-three native of New York CIty. In 1966, the Boston Red Sox chose him in the sixth round out of St. Helena HS. When he arrived in the majors in 1969, he pitched well enough to finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year Award vote. He was 12-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 28 starts and five relief appearances, with a 1.469 WHIP and a 4.10 FIP. He spent the next three seasons with the Red Sox as well, but a lot of that time was in the minors.
Prior to 1973 Spring Training, the Red Sox traded Nagy to the St. Louis Cardinals for Lance Clemons. After pitching to a 4.20 ERA over nine games, covering 40 2⁄3 innings, St. Louis traded Nagy to the Texas Rangers along with Charlie Hudson for a PTBNL. Nagy didn’t appear in the majors for the Mall Cops, and they shortly traded him back to St. Louis with John Wockenfuss for Jim Bibby.
Nagy’s fourth trade in less than a calendar year came during the Winter Meetings, when the Cardinals sent him to Houston for Jay Schlueter. Nagy appeared in nine of Houston’s first 42 games as a reliever, totaling 12 2⁄3 innings. He struck out five and walked five, allowing 13 runs on 17 hits for an 8.53 ERA. That was his last time in the majors.
830. Ben Francisco is a six-foot-one outfielder from Santa Ana, CA. Born on October 23, 1981, he was a 32nd round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1999, then was again drafted by them three years later in the fifth round.
Francisco played in parts of three seasons at the major league level for the Indians starting in 2007 (235 games, .261/.332/.437), then joined the Philadelphia Phillies for three seasons (225 games, .259/.332/.420) and the Toronto Blue Jays (27 games, .240/.296/.380). In July 2012 the Jays sent Francisco to the Astros as part of a 10-player deal.
In 31 games for Houston, Francisco had four multi-hit games and went 21-for-85 with four doubles and a pair of home runs with five RBI. He also drew five walks and struck out 23 times. On August 23, he led Houston’s offense with three hits, including a double and a run scored in a 13-5 loss to St. Louis. At the end of August, Houston flipped Francisco to the Tampa Bay Rays for Theron Geith.
Francisco finished out his career with the Rays (24 games, .228/.270/.421) and the New York Yankees (21 games, .114/.220/.182)
829. Right-handed catcher Cody Clark is a six-foot-three native of Fayetteville, AR. Initially drafted in the 48th round of the 2000 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Clark instead became a Shocker, and was later drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 11th round out of Wichita State.
Clark never got within a mile of the majors with Texas, getting released less than two years later. He then signed with the Atlanta Braves and played in their minors for a while, then spent six seasons in the minors with the Kansas City Royals. After his final season with them, he joined the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian League for 44 games, and hit .299/.344/.467. For the 2013 season, he signed with the Astros through free agency.
Clark played with the Oklahoma City RedHawks for 44 games in his year with the Astros, hitting .217. He also got up to the majors for the first time at the age of 31 in August. After going 0-for-24 through his first 10 games, Clark finally got his first base hit on September 13, a single in a 9-7 win against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I get mad every time I type that, you CAN’T claim two cities!)! Jerks.
Ok, so I’m back, sorry I kinda flew off on a tangent like that, but it’s just so.....Stupid! Anyway, on September 19, Clark had his first multihit game, with a single and a double in a 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. He ended his time with the Astros with a four-for-38 batting line, with one double, one run, and one walk, along with 15 strikeouts.
828. Mike Marshall had a 14-season MLB career playing between nine teams. A five-foot-10, 180 lb. right-handed pitcher from Adrian, MI, Marshall was born on January 15, 1943. He made his first inroads into professional baseball in 1965, when he started up with the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. The next year he was in Detroit’s and later that second season played his way up to the Tigers. In 37 games, he was 1-3 with 10 saves, with a 1.98 ERA and 41 K’s in 59 innings.
After the 1968 season, the Seattle Pilots drafted Marshall in the expansion draft, and he joined the rotation to go 3-10 with a 5.13 ERA. After the 1969 season, the Pilots became the MIlwaukee Brewers and sold Marshall’s contract to the Houston Astros.
Marshall played for Houston at their major league level in five games in June, 1970. In 5 1⁄3 innings, he allowed five runs on eight hits and four walks, with five strikeouts. Houston quickly flipped Marshall to the Montreal Expos for Don Bosch.
Marshall was pretty good for Montreal, appearing in 247 games over four years, locking down 75 saves and going 36=34 with a 2.94 ERA. After joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, he won the NL Cy Young Award by pitching in 106 games. Read that again. Yeah. Marshall appeared in 106 games, pitching 208 1⁄3 innings as a reliever. He saved 21 games and was 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA. He made the All Star Team for each of his two seasons with the Dodgers.
Marshall later played with the Atlanta Braves, the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota Twins, and the New York Mets.
827. LHP Joe Gibbon was a six-foot-four, 200 lb. left-handed pitcher from Newton, MS. Born on April 10, 1935, Gibbon joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in their farm system in 1957, debuting in the majors with them in 1960. Gibbon played eight seasons with the Bucs (39-44, 3.66), later playing four seasons for the San Francisco Giants (12-13, 3.07), two more years for the Bucs (5-2, 3.22), and two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds (5-6, 3.20).
Cincinnati released Gibbon on May 25, 1972, and the Astros signed him through free agency two months later. In his first appearance, he pitched a scoreless inning of relief in an 8-3 loss to the Reds. He also pitched a scoreless inning on June 10 in a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets, and a 1 2⁄3 inning scoreless appearance in his final game, a July 11, 9-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs. In each of his other seven appearances of at least 1⁄3 of an inning he allowed at least one run. He gave up 11 in 7 2⁄3 innings, on 16 hits and six walks. That’s a 2.455 WHIP and a 9.82 ERA. It was Gibbon’s final appearance in the majors.
(*Just kidding about that Coldplay thing...just wanted to see if you’re paying attention).
And that was Chapter 10. Tomorrow in Chapter 11, we’re reviewing the next 14 players on our way up to number one. More guys between 21 & 100 PA/BF, and still somewhat below replacement level.