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Astros Crawfish Boil: December 26, 2023

Welcome back. Sit down and stay awhile!

Brandon Bielak
| Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Houston Astros News

There’s a real dearth of Houston Astros news this offseason. Seems like my Everystros is the only game in town. Well, enjoy.

Houston Astros: We asked AI to predict which pitchers the Astros will sign if Framber Valdez is traded (Sportskeeda)

AL West News

A’s — The top 10 Bay Area stories of 2023 (Times Herald Online)

M’s — Reports: Mariners sign C Mitch Garver to 2-year, $24M deal | Alabama Sports (Spot on Alabama)

Halos — As the Angels Look To Replace Shohei Ohtani’s Pitching With Blake Snell, Who Will Match His Slugging? (Essentially Sports)

Mall Cops — Is Rangers’ quiet offseason helping Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw reunion? (Dodgers Way)

MLB News

Ohtani gives teammate amazing gift in exchange for No. 17

My Friend Sam Has an Interesting CBT/Bird Rights Idea (FanGraphs)

There’s a Hole in J.T. Realmuto’s Tool Box (FanGraphs)

The Largest MLB Contracts By AAV (MLBTR)

2024 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot: The players worthy of enshrinement, from first-ballot greats to longtime candidates (NBC Sports Chicago)

7 players who should get another shot at Cooperstown

Reviewing 10 predictions we got wrong this year

Best gift each team has ever received

Houston Astros Birthday

LHP Darin Downs (39)


Everystros LVI

In the 56th installment of our offseason-long Everystros Countdown, we’re looking at nine players who each totaled between negative-0.7 and negative-0.4 bWAR during their stay with the Colt .45s/Astros. Each of today’s entrants totaled between 544 and 1158 plate transactions with Houston.

306. Fernando Rodriguez Jr. (Bagwell score negative-15.19) is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher from El Paso, TX. Born on June 18, 1984, he was an 18th-round choice of the Anaheim Angels in 2003 out of El Paso Community College. It was with the Angels for whom Rodriguez made his first major league appearance. On May 2, 2009, he pitched 23 of an inning and allowed three runs (two earned) on one hit (a home run) and two walks. He would be better his next time up.

In 2011, Rodriguez opened the season with the Oklahoma City RedHawks (2-3, 1.50, 24 IP, 33 K), then made his way to the Astros for the first time on May 28. In that first appearance, an 11-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, he struck out a pair and faced the minimum over two innings. Used as a mid-to-high-leverage relief pitcher, he worked with a 1.19 aLI, and stranded 18-of-21 inherited baserunners. On September 16, he struck out five over 2 13 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and a walk but no runs in an eventual 4-3, 12-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Rodriguez pitched in 47 contests in total through the Astros’ doomed 2011 campaign, striking out 57 in 52 13 innings for a team-leading 9.8 K/9. He finished 2-3 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.547 WHIP.

Rodriguez stuck around for the 107-loss bunch in 2012, leading the team once more in K/9 with a value of 10.0. That was about the only good thing going for Rodriguez through the season in terms of his baseline statline. He was 2-10 with a 5.37 ERA and a 1.450 WHIP. He appeared in a team-second 71 contests and pitched 70 13 innings with a 1.12 aLI and stranded 42-of-56 inherited runners. On September 2, he came within two pitches of an immaculate inning, striking out the side in the ninth inning on 11 pitches, in a 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

On February 4, 2013, the Astros sent Rodriguez to the Oakland Athletics with Jed Lowrie for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi. Rodriguez would later pitch three seasons for the A’s (7-2, 3.74, 108 13 IP, 106 K). Although that was the last of his major league service time, he went on to pitch in the minors for the Cubs, the Boston Red Sox, and the San Diego Padres.

305. Orlando Palmeiro (Bagwell score negative-12.97) is a five-foot-11 left-handed pitcher from Hoboken, NJ. Born on January 19, 1969, he was a 57th-round choice of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1987 out of Miami Southridge HS, then a 43rd-round pick of the New York Yankees in 1988 out of Miami Dade College, and finally a 33rd-round selection of the California Angels out of the University of Miami in 1991.

Palmeiro eventually spent eight seasons with the Halos starting with his major league debut in 1995 (645 games, .281/.361/.348, three home runs, 138 RBI), followed by a season with the St. Louis Cardinals (141 games, .271/.336/.347, three home runs, 33 RBI).

On January 19, 2004 the Astros signed Palmeiro through free agency. He appeared in 102 games through the season, and earned a season-high .345 WPA on August 15, when he hit a tiebreaking pinch-hit-RBI-single with two outs in the ninth in a 5-4 Astros win against the Montreal Expos. He started in 17 of those games, and played 169 innings in the outfield without an error (73 13 in left, 68 23 in right, 27 in center). At the plate, he was 32-for-133 with five doubles and three homers. He drew 18 walks against 19 strikeouts, scoring 19 runs and driving in 12. He also stole two bases in three attempts, and finished the year with a .241/.344/.346 slashline. In the postseason, he appeared as a pinch-hitter 12 times, going three-for-10 with a double.

In 2005, Palmeiro played 366 23 games in the outfield, starting 35 times and making a total of one error for a .986 fielding percentage. Advanced metrics have him pegged as a well-below-average fielder, at minus-22 DRS/1200. On August 10, he hit a single and two doubles for three RBI in a 7-6 victory against the Washington Nationals, one of 10 multiple hit efforts for Palmiero through the season. In 114 games in total he hit 58-for-204 with 17 doubles, two triples and three home runs, with 15 walks, 23 strikeouts, 22 runs scored, and 20 RBI, with three stolen bases in four attempts. He finished the season at .284/.341/.431, a career-high SLG. In the playoffs, he appeared in 10 games and was two-for-12 with three walks and three RBI.

In 2006, Palmeiro played in 103 games for Houston, starting six times in the outfield and fielding at 1.000 over 87 23 innings. On May 30, he hit a go-ahead two-run single pinch-hitting for Andy Pettitte in the seventh, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead in an eventual 6-3 win against St. Louis. On September 22, he pinch-hit for Brad Ausmus in the eighth inning, trailing the Cardinals 5-2. He hit a leadoff single and later scored on a Craig Biggio two-run single. Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Palmeiro hit a one-out RBI-double to tie the score, then crossed the plate on another Biggio single for a walkoff 6-5 victory.

Palmeiro closed the season with a .252/.294/.319 slashline, with six double and a triple. He drew six walks against 17 strikeouts, scored 12 runs and drove in 17, and also got gunned down in his only stolen base attempt.

In 2007, Palmeiro’s final with the Astros and in the majors, he appeared in 101 games and slashed a .233/.342/.262 line, going 24-for-103 with three doubles. He drew 16 walks and struck out eight times, scoring 12 times and driving in six. He also played 77 innings as an outfielder without an error. On June 19, he hit two singles and two doubles with an RBI in a 9-5 win against the Angels.

304. Jeriome Robertson (Bagwell score negative-10.14) was a six-foot-one left-handed pitcher from San Jose, CA. Born on March 30, 1977, he was a 24th-round choice in 1995 for Houston out of Exeter High School.

It took 990 23 innings of minor league pitching, but Robertson made his first major league appearance on September 2, 2002, starting against the Texas Rangers. He earned the loss, allowing two runs on six hits over the first 2 23 innings of a 7-2 loss. He made 10 more appearances through the campaign, allowing seven hits in seven innings and finishing with a 6.52 ERA and a 1.862 WHIP.

In 2003, Robertson joined the Houston rotation for 31 turns. On April 10, he pitched seven innings and gave up two hits for one run, striking out eight in a 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. On July 9, he held the Reds to one run on four hits over seven frames, striking out seven in a 12-2 Houston win.

Robertson went 15-9 with a 5.10 ERA and a 4.97 FIP, along with a 1.519 WHIP for the 2003 Astros. He struck out 99 and walked 64 in 160 23 innings, holding his opponents to a .287/.356/.470 line.

On March 31, 2004, the Astros traded Robertson to the Cleveland Indians for Luke Scott. Robertson went on to pitch in eight games for the Tribe that year (1-1, 12.21, 14 IP, six K). On May 29, 2010, Robertson lost his life in a motorcycle accident, attempting to make a turn at an estimated 70 MPH.

303. Dan Larson (Bagwell score negative-9.34) is a six-foot right-handed pitcher from Los Angeles, CA. Born on July 4, 1954, he was a first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972, with the 21st overall choice out of Alhambra High School.

In 1976, Larson reached the major leagues with Houston, and took 13 turns through the rotation starting no July 18 and lasting through the rest of the season. Nine of those 13 starts were Quality, and five of them were complete games. In his first game, he gave up one run on five hits and two walks, striking out nine in a 14-1 win against the Montreal Expos. On August 30, he again went the distance and surrendered one run on five hits, striking out two in a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Larson went 5-8 with a 3.02 ERA, earning a decision in every appearance. He struck out 42 in 92 13 innings, walking 28 and giving up 40 runs (31 earned). He had a 1.181 WHIP and a 3.09 FIP, along with a 106 ERA+. As a hitter, he went nine-for-31 with a double and a triple with six RBI, hitting .290/.313/.387.

In 1977, Larson appeared in 32 games, starting 10 times and relieving 22 times. He walked 45 and struck out 44 in 97 23 innings. He was 1-7 with a 5.81 ERA, a 5.01 FIP, and a 1.567 WHIP. On July 23, Larsen started and lasted 10 innings, giving up three hits and no walks for two runs in an eventual 4-3 11-inning loss to the Cardinals.

On September 2, 1978, Larson was traded from Houston to the Phillies for Dan Warthen. After four seasons with the Phils (4-6, 3.75, 93 23 IP, 43 K), he played the 1982 season with the Chicago Cubs (0-4, 5.67, 39 23 IP, 22 K).

302. Chris Johnson (Bagwell score negative-6.12) is a six-foot-three right-handed corner infielder from Naples, FL. Born on October 1, 1984, he was a 37th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2003 out of high school. In 2006, Houston took him in the fourth round out of Stetson University. He made his way to the Astros proper by 2009, and went two-for-22 with one RBI in 11 appearances.

In 2010, Johnson started 89 times for the Astros at third base, and totaled 790 innings in the field He made 18 errors for a .908 fielding percentage, which was minus-24 runs below the “average” DRS/1200. He had 31 multiple hit games through the season, including nine instances where he collected three or more. On June 25, he hit three singles and a double with three RBI in a 7-4 win against the Texas Rangers. On July 19, he hit a single, a triple, and a home run with three RBI in an 11-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs. On July 30, he hit a double and a home run with three RBI in a 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Overall, Johnson slashed out a .308/.337/.481 line with 11 home runs and 52 RBI. He drew 15 walks versus 91 K’s, with 40 runs and 52 RBI to his credit. His team-leading 121 OPS+ would endure as the second-best mark of his career, behind a 124 for the 2013 Atlanta Braves.

In 2011, Johnson appeared in 107 games for the Astros, starting 98 times at third base and fielding at a .937 clip over 841 13 defensive innings. His DRS/1200 was measurably less terrible, but still less-than-adequate at minus-16. Although he never collected more than two hits in a game through the season, he did have 26 multiple-hit games to his credit. On May 20, he hit a second-inning single, took first on a HPB and stole second in the fifth, then hit a two-run go-ahead homer in the ninth as the Astros topped the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-2. On July 17, he hit a game-tying two-out RBI-double in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, although Houston eventually lost, 7-5.

Johnson slashed .251/.291/.378 through the 2011 season, with 21 doubles, three triples, and seven home runs. He drew 16 walks against 97 strikeouts, with 32 runs scored, a team-third 42 driven in, and a two-for-four success rate in stealing bases.

In 2012, Johnson appeared in 92 of Houston’s first 102 games of the season, slashing .279/.329/.428 with 21 doubles, three triples and eight home runs. He drew 23 walks and struck out 92 times, scoring 36 runs and driving in 41. He was also four-for-five in stolen base attempts and had 28 instances of multiple hits through the season. On May 2, Johnson hit two singles and two home runs for six RBI in an 8-1 win against the New York Mets. Just three days later, he hit a first-inning grand slam for the eventual game winner in an 8-2 win against the St. Louis Cardinals. On July 27, Johnson fell a single short of the cycle in a 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Two days after that near-cycle, the Astros sent Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss. Johnson played for Arizona (44 games, .286/.321/.503, seven home runs, 35 RBI), the Braves (351 games, .283/.317/.396, 24 jacks, 137 RBI), the Cleveland Indians (27 games, .289/.312/.367, one home run, seven RBI), and the Miami Marlins (113 games, .222/.281/.329, five home runs, 24 RBI).

Johnson’s time with the Marlins was his last in the majors. He went on to play in the minors for the next two years between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. Prior to the 2021 season, he was hired as the hitting coach with the Charlotte Knights, then after the 2022 season, he was named as the White Sox’ assistant hitting coach.

301. Matt Albers (Bagwell score negative-9.34) is a six-foot-one lefty-batting and righty-throwing pitcher from Houston. Born on January 20, 1983, he was a 23rd-round pick of the Astros in 2001 out of William P. Clements High School.

Albers reached the majors for a spell in 2006, appearing twice in relief in July and starting a pair of games later in the season. On July 27, he struck out four over five shutout innings of relief, giving up two hits and three walks in an 8-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out 11 over 15 innings in total, with seven walks issued and 10 runs surrendered on 17 hits. That translated to a 1.600 WHIP and a 6.00 ERA in a small sample size.

Albers made 18 starts in 2007, also pitching 13 times in relief through the season. On May 5, he held the Cardinals to three hits and a walk over 7 13 shutout innings, striking out a pair in a 13-0 win against St. Louis. Used as a reliever with a 0.95 aLI, Albers inherited no runners through the season. On July 7, he pitched the 13th and 14th innings without allowing a baserunner and striking out three in an eventual 5-3, 17-inning loss to the New York Mets. On August 30, he went seven innings against the Cardinals, holding them to one run on four walks and three hits, striking out three and earning the 2-1 victory.

Even with the sample size increased by a factor of seven, Albers finished up with a WHIP that was just a hair from identical to his previous years’, at 1.599. In 110 23 innings, he allowed 77 runs (72 earned) on 127 hits and 50 walks. He struck out 71 and went 4-11 with a 5.86 ERA, a 5.62 FIP, and an opposing slashline of .291/.367/.492. Of academic note, Albers had zero split, with an .858 OPS against right-handed hitters and an .859 OPS against left-handed hitters.

Albers went two-for-33 with 20 strikeouts and three sacrifice hits at the plate, and fielded at .966 over 125 23 innings at pitcher, making 28 plays against one error. On December 12, the Astros sent Albers with Dennis Sarfate, Luke Scott, Troy Patton, and Mike Costanzo to the Baltimore Orioles for Miguel Tejada.

After leaving the Astros, Albers pitched for the O’s (11-12, 4.60, 191 23 IP, 124 K), the Boston Red Sox (6-4, 3.81, 104 IP, 93 K), the Arizona Diamondbacks (1-1, 2.57, 21 IP, 19 K), and the Cleveland Indians (3-1, 3.14, 63 IP, 35 K). After the 2013 season, the Astros signed Albers through free agency.

Albers appeared in eight of Houston’s first 20 games in 2014, striking out eight, walking three, and giving up one run on 10 hits. On April 2, he struck out four over 1 13 scoreless innings, giving up one hit in an eventual 3-1 win against the New York Yankees. He was placed on the DL on April 25, and moved to the 60-day list in July. After the season, he was not extended an offer.

Albers later pitched for the Chicago White Sox (4-6, 4.16, 88 23 IP, 58 K), the Washington Nationals (7-2, 1.62, 61 IP, 63 K), and the Milwaukee Brewers (11-9, 5.94, 94 IP, 89 K).

300. Brandon Bielak (Bagwell score negative-7.64) is a six-foot-two right-handed pitcher from Edison, NJ. Born on April 2, 1996, he was Houston’s 11th-round choice in 2017 out of the University of Notre Dame.

Bielak made his major league debut with the Astros in 2020, and started in half of his 12 appearances. He struck out 26 over 32 innings, surrendering 26 runs (24 earned) on 39 hits and 17 walks for a 3-3 record, a 6.75 ERA, and a 1.750 WHIP. On August 17, he struck out four and allowed only one hit, a solo home run over six innings in a 2-1 win against the Colorado Rockies.

In 2021, Bielak appeared in a career-best 28 games for Houston, pitching 50 innings. He gave up 29 runs, 25 earned, on 21 walks and 48 hits, striking out 46 with a 3-4 record and a. 4.50 ERA. He closed the campaign with a 1.380 WHIP and an opposing line of .254/.333/.381. Bielak was used in lower-level situations, at 0.71 aLI and stranded eight of his 12 inherited runners. On April 4, Bielak started his season right by earning a win, pitching 4 23 perfect innings and striking out four Athletics in relief as Houston defeated Oakland, 9-2.

Bielak’s playing time in 2022 was limited to only five games as Houston charged to their second World Series Championship. He struck out 12 and walked four in 12 13 innings, with a 3.65 ERA and a career-best 1.216 WHIP.

In 2023, Bielak was forced into Houston’s rotation when both Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia missed significant time early in the year. He relieved in his first and his last appearances, going four or more innings each time. Between those two games, he made 13 starts between May 7 and July 30. On July 4, he pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just two hits and four walks with four strikeouts in a 4-1 win against the Rockies. On July 19, he pitched 5 23 shutout one-hit innings, striking out four and walking three in another 4-1 win over Colorado.

Bielak pitched a career-high 80 innings through the 2023 campaign, and went 5-6 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.525 WHIP. He struck out 62 and walked 36, holding his opponents to a .277/.361/.460 line.

299. Chris Zachary (Bagwell score negative-7.62) was a six-foot-two right-handed throwing left-handed hitting pitcher from Knoxville, TN. Born on February 19, 1944, Zachary reached the majors for the first time with the Houston Colt .45s in 1963, and over five seasons with the organization, mostly in the minors, he totaled 46 pitching appearances, including 25 starts. He went 6-16 overall, with a 4.64 ERA. He walked 73 and struck out 103 in 163 frames.

On September 15, 1963, Zachary held the Mets scoreless on three hits and two walks over six innings, leading the Colts to a 5-0 win over New York. On September 19, 1966, Zachary pitched 9 23 innings against the Mets, holding them scoreless on three hits and a walk, along with four strikeouts. Relieved with two outs in a scoreless tie in the 10th by Carroll Sembera, inherited runner Jim Hickman immediately crossed the plate on a wild pitch, handing Zachary the very definition of a tough-luck loss. Zachary’s 82 GameScore was topped only by opposing pitcher Bob Shaw’s 83.

A bit player in each of his five seasons with the Astros, Zachary never pitched more than 57 innings with the team, reaching that in his rookie season. He finished his time with the Colts/Astros with a 1.466 WHIP. On October 21, 1968, the Kansas City Royals purchased his contract from Houston. Zachary went on to pitch for Kansas City (0-1, 7.85, 18 13 IP, six K), the St. Louis Cardinals 3-10, 5.32, 89 23 IP, 48 K), the Detroit Tigers (1-1, 1.41, 38 13 IP, 21 K) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (0-1, 3.00, 12 IP, six K).

Zachary retired after the 1974 season, and passed away in 2003 to bone marrow cancer.

298. Julio Solano (Bagwell score-7.48) is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Agua Blanca, DR. Born on January 8, 1960, he reached the big leagues in 1983 with Houston, and pitched in 82 games over five seasons with the team.

Solano went 6-8 overall, making 81 trips out of the bullpen versus only one start. In pitched to a 4.55 ERA and a 4.79 FIP, with a 1.402 WHIP. He struck out 86 batters in 142 13 innings, walking 66. On July 15, 1984, he pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a 15th-inning leadoff single but erasing him on a double play in an eventual 16-inning 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. On September 18, he struck out four over three shutout innings, giving up one hit and one walk in an eventual 5-4 win against the San Francisco Giants.

Like Zachary, Solano pitched his first five major league seasons with Houston, and didn’t pitch more than 50 23 innings (1984). On September 30, 1987, the Astros traded Solano to the Seattle Mariners for Doug Givler. Solano played two seasons with the M’s (0-0, 24 games, 4.55, 31 23 IP, 16 K).

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