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Astros Crawfish Boil: January 10, 2024

The Humpday Boil features Chapter 68 of Everystros

JP France
| Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Houston Astros News

MLB Network ranks Top 10 starting pitchers right now

We are winning, obviously winning legally (SK)

New Faces and Departures for the Houston Astros in 2024 (LWoS)

When is the MLB Arbitration deadline? Astros players who are eligible & more (CTH)

Houston Astros Top 50 Prospects (2024) (P1500)

AL West News

A’s — Paul Blackburn, Seth Brown headline list of Athletics players eligible for arbitration A’s Nation)

M’s — New Mariners Slugger Luke Raley Found Out He Was Traded During His Honeymoon (SI)

Major League Baseball rejects Amazon’s $150M bid to bail out bankrupt Diamond Sports (NY Post)

Mall Cops — Rangers’ lack of spending is gifting the Astros a window to capitalize this offseason (CTH)

MLB News

Cubs near deal with Japanese southpaw Imanaga

Hader’s market still in flux

Marlins hire trailblazer Balkovec as director of player development

‘I got out of the pool ... and I had already been traded’

Houston Astros Birthdays

RHP Sammy Gervacio (39)

OF/1B Jim Lindeman (62)

RHP Larry Hardy (76)

RHP Kasey Ford (26)

Everystros LXVIII

Today’s chapter features seven players between 1.4 and 1.6 bWAR during their time with the Astros. The Bagwell score is a bWAR-rate metric that is replacement level at zero and Jeff Bagwell at 100. To get above 100, you have to be really good. There are four in the countdown above 500 plate transactions. I’ve given this small bit of trivia before, but can you name the four guys who were/are “Better Than Bagwell?”

210. Nellie Fox (Bagwell score 30.38) was a five-foot-10 left-handed batting Hall of Fame second baseman from St. Thomas, PA. Born on September 25, 1927, he reached the major leagues for the first time in 1947 with the Philadelphia Athletics (98 games, .247/.347/.285, 21 RBI). He followed that with 14 years for the Chicago White Sox (2115 games, .291/.349/.367, 35 home runs, 740 RBI, 12 All-Star appearances, three-time Gold Glove winner, 1959 AL MVP). On December 10, 1963, the Pale Hose traded Fox to the Houston Colt .45s for Jim Golden (204), Danny Murphy, and cash.

Fox played in 133 games for the 1964 Colt .45s, starting 114 games at second base (962 innings, .977). Going by advanced metrics not available at the time, Fox was an above average fielder for most of his career, worth 106 runs better than “average” between 1953 and 1963, but he was five-runs below average in his only full year with the Colts. He slashed .265/.320/.319, going 117-for-442 with 12 doubles, six triples, and no stolen bases in two attempts. He drew 27 walks against only 13 strikeouts, scoring 45 times and driving in 28.

Fox collected 30 multiple-hit games for Houston, including seven three-hitters. On April 20, Fox hit a sacrifice bunt in the first, a two-run single in the third, and a two-run triple in the fourth, later scoring in a 7-1 win against the St. Louis Cardinals. On May 23, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets, Fox singled and scored in the first, singled in the fifth, singled and scored the tying run in the seventh, and drove in Bob Aspromonte in the eighth with a go-ahead sacrifice bunt (no RBI, error) in an 8-4 win over New York. On June 26, he hit a first-inning double, a fifth-inning triple, and a ninth-inning RBI-single, later in the inning scoring the go-ahead run in an eventual 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs.

On July 9, singled in the fourth, singled in the eighth, and hit a come-from-behind two-out two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in walk-off in fashion, 6-5. Three days later, he singled and scored in the first against the Giants, hit a game-tying RBI-single in the seventh, and finished the game off with a walk-off RBI-single to score Eddie Kasko in a 5-4 win over San Francisco. On August 19, Fox hit a first-inning RBI-single and later came across the plate to tie the game at 2, then hit a fifth-inning single and scored, adding a seventh-inning sacrifice bunt, and topping it off with another walkoff base-hit, with an RBI-single in the bottom of the 10th to drive in Al Spangler for an 8-7 win over the Cardinals. On September 19, Fox entered with two outs and a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, and walked off the Mets with an RBI-single, scoring Walt Bond for a 2-1 victory.

Despite a WPA through the season of 1.819, the Colts released Fox following the season. On May 12, 1965, Houston brought Fox back for 21 games. He started four games at third base (45 innings), once at first base (eight innings) and once at second base (six innings) without making an error. As a hitter, he was 11-for-41, slashing .268/.286/.317 with two doubles. Hd struck out twice, scored thrice, and knocked one run in. He only had one multiple hit game through the season, with a pair of singles on July 18 against the Giants in a 5-2 victory. On July 31, the Astros released Fox once more.

During the season, even while he was playing, Fox was serving as an assistant coach with Houston, and would continue in that role through 1967. He later served in the same position for five seasons with the Washington Senators, remaining with the team for a year after their transition to the Texas Rangers. On December 1, 1975, Fox passed away due to skin cancer complications. In 1997, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. SABR Bio

209. Jason Lane (Bagwell score 13.01) is a six-foot-two right-handed batting lefty-throwing rightfielder from Santa Rosa, CA. Born on December 22, 1976, he was a sixth-round choice of the Astros in 1999 out of the University of Southern California.

Lane made his first major league appearances in 2002, playing in 44 games for the Astros but not playing enough to lose his rookie status. He started 16 games in right field (149 23 innings, .976, once in left (22 13 innings, 1.000) and once in center (12 innings, 1.000). As a hitter, he slashed .290/.375/.536, going 20-for-69 with three doubles, a triple, four home runs and one stolen base in two attempts. He drew 10 walks and struck out 12 times, scoring 12 times and driving in 10 more. On September 9, he hit a single and a homer with three RBI in a 6-5, 10-inning win over the Colorado Rockies.

In 2003, Lane started three games in the outfield, totaling 43 innings without an error, with 23 innings in center, 14 in left, and six in right. He was eight-for-27 from the plate, with a .296/.296/.815 slashline, thanks to two doubles and four home runs. He struck out twice and scored five times with 10 RBI. Collectively, he still hadn’t played enough to qualify as a rookie. On September 23, he hit two home runs for three RBI in a 10-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Lane finally spent his rookie status in 2004, hitting .272/.348/.463 over 107 games. He was 37-for-136 with 10 doubles, two triples, and four homers, with one stolen base in one attempt. He drew 16 walks and struck out 33 times, with 21 runs scored and 19 driven in. Defensively, he started 13 times in right field (140 23 innings, 1.000), six times in left field (101 23 innings, .963), three times in center field (49 innings, 1.000), and once at first base (13 innings, .933). Lane had multiple hits five times, including his first career three-hit game on September 26, when he hit two singles and a triple in an 11-7 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 2005, Lane reached career-highs in all his counting stat categories. He played in 145 games, slashing .267/.316/.499 by going 138-for-517 with 34 doubles, four triples, and 26 home runs. He drew 32 walks and struck out 105 times, scoring 65 runs and driving in 78. He stole six bases in eight attempts. Defensively, he started 126 times in right (1115 23 innings, .974), four times in center (37 innings, 1.000), and three times in left (24 innings, 1.000).

Lane totaled 40 multi-hit games that season, including eight three-hit games and his first four-hit game. On April 15, Lane hit a single and two home runs to total five RBI in an 11-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Two days later, he hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the fourth against the Reds, then led off the ninth with a double, trailing Cincinnati 6-5. He was replaced for a pinch-runner, who was later stranded in the eventual Reds victory.

In 2006, Lane struggled to a .201/.318/.392 slash line in 112 games for the Astros, going 58-for-288 as a hitter. He hit 10 doubles and 15 home runs, with one stolen base in three attempts. He drew 49 walks and struck out 75 times, with 44 runs and 45 RBI. Defensively, he played mostly in right field again (73 starts, 679 13 innings), but also appeared in left (one start, 23 innings), center (one start, 17 innings), and at first base (no starts, one inning) without committing an error at any position.

On April 17, Lane hit a single and scored in the second then added a three-run go-ahead homer in the seventh, in an 8-7 triumph over the Brewers. On June 11, he hit a single, a double, and a homer with five RBI in a 14-4 win against the Atlanta Braves. On June 21, Lane drew a walk and scored in the seventh, then hit a go-ahead RBI-single in the eighth, later scoring an insurance run in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Lane appeared in 68 games for the 2007 Astros, starting 27 times in center (260 23 innings), 15 times in right (127 23 innings) and zero times in left (six innings) without an error. On August 2, he hit a third-inning three-run home run, crossed the plate in the eighth inning on a game-tying Mike Lamb grand slam, and drove in Carlos Lee with a 12th-inning sacrifice fly for a 10-9 lead, and scored another go-ahead run in the 14th inning on a Jason Jennings single in a 12-11 win against Atlanta.

Lane hit .178/.257/.349, going 30-for-169 with five doubles and eight home runs for Houston. He drew 16 walks and struck out 30 times, scoring 18 runs and driving in 27 while stealing one base in two attempts. On September 24, the San Diego Padres purchased Lane’s contract.

Lane appeared in three games for the Padres, going 0-for-2 to close out the season. What followed for Lane was a seven-season odyssey through many minor league affiliates for many different teams. During his exodus, Lane gradually made a transition to pitcher, culminating in another two-game cup of coffee with the Padres in 2014. He pitched 10 13 innings during his stay, and allowed one run on seven hits with zero walk while striking out six. It was his last time in the majors.

Lane went into coaching after retiring as a player, and has since spent eight seasons on the staff for Milwaukee. He’s currently employed as their third base coach.

208. Ricky Stone (Bagwell score 21.67) is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Hamilton, OH. Born on February 28, 1975, he was a fourth-round choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994 out of Hamilton High School. After being granted free agency without having gotten to the majors after the 2000 season, the Astros signed him through free agency.

Stone reached the bigs with the Astros in 2001, making his debut by pitching six times in relief between September 21 through the end of the season. In his debut, he struck out a batter in a perfect ninth against the Chicago Cubs, in a 12-4 loss. Overall, he struck out four and walked two over 7 23 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits, with a 2.35 ERA, a 1.304 WHIP, and a .258/.303/.419 opposing slashline.

In 2002, Stone pitched in a career-high and Astros-second 78 games, trailing Octavio Dotel’s 83 appearances. Stone was 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA, a 1.448 WHIP, and a .266/.342/.399 opposing slashline. He held opponents to 36 runs (31 earned) on 78 hits and 34 walks, with 63 strikeouts over 77 13 innings. He was 0-for-4 at the plate with one sacrifice hit and was perfect in the field, with 11 assists and two putouts.

Stone was used as a mid-level reliever, with a 1.08 aLI and stranded 41-of-56 inherited runners. On April 7, Stone struck out three over two scoreless, hitless, and walkless (but not perfect) innings, in a 7-6, 12-inning win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On April 23, Stone inherited one runner in the 10th with nobody out, then stranded him and finished the game with two scoreless innings in an eventual 4-3 walkoff-loss to the Florida Marlins.

In 2003, Stone pitched a career-high 83 innings over 65 trips out of the pen. He was 6-3 with a 3.69 ERA, a 1.289 WHIP, and a .247/.327/.396 opposing slash. He gave up 36 runs (34 earned), on 31 walks and 76 hits, striking out 47. On July 10, Stone struck out four over three perfect innings for a nine-out save in an 11-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds. He was 0-for-3 as a hitter, and was perfect in 17 chances in the field.

In 2004, Stone pitched in 16 games for Houston, going 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA and a 1.737 WHIP in 19 innings. He gave up 12 runs, all earned, on seven walks and 26 hits, with 16 strikeouts. On June 18, he was selected by the San Diego Padres off waivers.

Stone finished the 2004 season with the Padres (1-1, 6.89, 32 23 IP, 22 K), later pitching for the Cincinnati Reds (0-0, 7.25, 36 IP, 18 K).

207. J.P. France (Bagwell score 30.48) is a six-foot right-handed pitcher from New Orleans, LA. Born on April 4, 1995, France was Houston’s 14th-round choice in 2018 out of Mississippi State University.

At the start of the 2023 season, France was gearing up for another season in Houston’s minors, and his third with the Sugar Land Skeeters / Space Cowboys. After injuries to both José Urquidy and Luis García at the start of May, France found himself in Houston’s rotation.

Every fifth game or so through the rest of the regular season, France made a total of 24 starts. By August 12, he was sitting on a 9-3 record, and finished the season at 11-6. Although France never had a GameScore as high as 70, he did have 13 Quality Starts and posted a mark of 60 or better 10 times. On June 4, France held the Angels to one run on one walk and three hits over seven innings, striking out three in a 2-1 loss to Los Angeles. On June 29, he held the Cardinals scoreless on four hits and two walks, striking out two over seven innings in an eventual 14-0 win over St. Louis.

France held his opponents to a .263/.322/.414 slashline, with 101 strikeouts in 136 13 innings, along with a 1.357 WHIP. Still on Houston’s 40-man roster, he presumably remains in the mix for Houston’s 2024 opening-day rotation.

206. Héctor Rondón (Bagwell score 34.92) is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher from Guatire, VZ. Born on February 26, 1988, he made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2013, and spent five seasons with the North-siders (18-13, 3.22, 296 13 IP, 303 K). On December 1, 2017, the Cubs granted him free agency.

On December 15, 2017, hot on the heels of their first World Series Championship, the Astros signed Rondón through free agency. In 2018, Rondon led Houston’s pitching staff with 63 appearances. He gave up 22 runs (21 earned) on 58 hits and 20 walks, striking out 67 in 59 innings. He had a 1.322 WHIP and a 3.20 ERA with an opposing slashline of .252/.312/.383.

Rondón was a high-leverage pitcher during the season, with a 1.69 aLI. On June 10, he pitched a perfect ninth for his third save of the season. Overall, he was 2-5 with 15 saves, and stranded 10-of-15 inherited baserunners.

In 2019, Rondón was 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA, a 1.253 WHIP, and an opposing slash of .242/.313/.442, with a 3-2 record. Used at an aLI of 1.12, Rondón was used in slightly lower leveraged situations, but still higher than average. He stranded 16-of-18 inherited runners. On June 20, he struck out the side in a perfect sixth inning, in a 10-6 loss to the New York Yankees.

Rondón pitched in six games for Houston through the postseason, striking out one and allowing five hits in 2 13 innings. Houston granted his free agency on October 31, 2019. He went on to play in the majors for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020 (1-0, 7.65, 20 IP, 23 K).

205. Julio Lugo (Bagwell score 12.74) was a six-foot-one right-handed middle-infielder from Barahona, DR. Born on November 16, 1975, he was a 43rd-round choice of Houston in 1994 out of Connors State College.

Lugo made his major league debut for Houston in 2000, and appeared in 116 games, starting 53 times at shortstop (481 13 innings, .951), 40 times at second base (366 13 innings, .976), once in right field (14 innings, 1.000), once in center field (two innings), and zero times in left (3 13 innings).

Lugo hit .283/.346/.431, going 119-for-420 with 22 doubles, five triples, and 10 home runs in 2000, with 22 stolen bases in 31 attempts. He drew 37 walks and struck out 93 times, scoring 78 runs and driving in 40 runs. On September 16, he hit a first inning-single, stole a base, and scored the game-tying run against the Pirates. After following that with four fruitless plate appearances, Lugo ended the game in the bottom of the 10th with a walk-off RBI-single to defeat Pittsburgh, 10-9.

In 2001, Lugo hit .263/.326/.372, going 135-for-513 with 20 doubles, three triples, and 10 home runs, with 12 stolen bases in 23 attempts. He drew 46 walks and struck out 116 times, with 93 runs and 37 RBI.

Lugo totaled 34 multi-hit games through the season, including a dozen three-hit efforts. On May 6, Lugo hit a first-inning single and scored, added a second-inning double, singled in the fifth, singled and scored in the sixth, and hit an eighth-inning double and scored to complete a five-hit game in a 13-7 win against the Montreal Expos. On July 3, he hit a first-inning single and scored, hit a second-inning RBI-double, a sixth-inning go-ahead home run, and an eighth-inning single in a 6-5 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In 2002, Lugo hit .261/.322/.388 in 88 games, going 84-for-322 with 15 doubles, one triple and eight home runs, with nine stolen bases in 12 attempts. He drew 28 walks and struck out 74 times, with 45 runs scored and 35 RBI. He started 81 games at shortstop (716 innings, .976), making eight errors in 334 chances. Lugo had 23 multi-hit games, with four instances of three or more. On August 9, he hit three singles and a home run for two RBI in a 6-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Lugo was 16-for-65 in 2003 for Houston, with three doubles and two stolen bases in three attempts. He slashed .246/.338/.292 with nine walks, 12 strikeouts, six runs and two RBI. He started 21 games at shortstop (173 13 innings, .966), making three errors in 88 chances. On May 9, Lugo was released by Houston, and six days later, he signed on with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

After parts of four seasons with the Rays (505 games, .287/.350/.421, 40 home runs, 212 RBI), then played with the Los Angeles Dodgers (49 games, .219/.278/.267, 10 RBI), the Boston Red Sox (266 games, .251/.319/.346, 10 home runs, 103 RBI), the St. Louis Cardinals (51 games, .277/.351/.432, two home runs, 13 RBI), the Baltimore Orioles (93 games, .249/.298/.282, 20 RBI), and the Atlanta Braves (22 games, .136/.208/.136, three RBI). A day before his 46th birthday in 2021, Lugo passed away after suffering a heart attack.

204. Jim Golden (Bagwell score 25.15) is a six-foot lefty-batting and righty-throwing pitcher from Eldon, MO. Born on March 20, 1936, he made his first major league appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1960.

Golden played parts of two seasons with the Dodgers (2-1, 5.88, 49 innings, 22 K). On October 10, 1961, the Houston Colt .45s chose Golden with the 37th pick in the expansion draft.

In Houston’s inaugural campaign, Golden served as a spot starter and long-reliever for the Colts. He gave up 84 runs (69 earned) on 163 hits and 50 walks, striking out 88 in 152 23 innings. He was 7-11 in 18 starts and 19 relief appearances, with two shutouts and one save, a 4.07 ERA, a 1.395 WHIP, and a .271/.325/.389 opposing slashline.

Golden stranded 16-of-21 inherited runners, and pitched at a 0.98 aLI. On May 21, he pitched a complete game, striking out seven in a 3-2 win over the New York Mets. Five days later, he held the Pirates to three hits and zero walks, collecting six strikeouts in a complete game 2-0 victory over Pittsburgh. On June 15, in another 2-0 shutout, Golden held the Dodgers to five hits and zero walks, striking out one batter.

Golden pitched in three games for the 1963 Colts, going 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA and a 2.211 WHIP, with a .429/.467/.429 opposing slashline. That was the last time he was in the major leagues.


Check back tomorrow as we break the seal on the top 200 Astros.

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