Tag: Houston

MLB: Selecting the AL West’s Quarter-Pole All-Star Team

As the 2013 Major League Baseball season race reaches the quarter pole, it becomes time to take stock of where teams and players are in terms of production. 

In the American League West, the Texas Rangers have taken their customary position of being the front runner, largely due to tremendous pitching and consistent power in the lineup. The A’s and Mariners have both been largely inconsistent, with the A’s scuffling back to .500 since starting the year 12-4. 

However, the biggest story has been the lack of success in Anaheim as the Los Angeles Angels are not fighting for an expected spot at the top, but trying to keep clear of division newcomers the Houston Astros. In the basement.

There have been solid performances from individuals on all five teams. But sometimes, overlapping positions keep deserving players from receiving deserved accolades. This will likely be no exception. 

So instead of lamenting who is not, we shall spotlight who is. Starting with catcher and ending a pitching rotation (relievers included), here is the AL West’s Quarter-Pole All-Star Team.

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2013 Houston Astros: Bo Knows, Porter Has Astros on the Right Track

The old adage tells us that the 162-game baseball season is a marathon not a sprint. One out into the first game of the season and Astros manager Bo Porter was sprinting out to argue about a botched call on a steal attempt by his second baseman, Jose Altuve. His complaints fell on deaf ears, but Porter showed his pregame excitement and enthusiasm wasn’t just for show.

The Astros would go on to drill the I-45 rivals 8-2, but the message they sent was even clearer: The Houston Astros will not lie down.

For the first time in recent history, the Astros have sole possession of the best record in baseball and for the first time since April 20, 2007, the Astros are the undisputed leaders in the division. Sure it’s only Opening Day and they will be tied at some point Monday, but the Astros delivered their message over nine innings after their manager got the ball rolling.

Porter set the tone for the game, the season and the new era in Astros baseball.

The Astros were smart and aggressive at the plate and on base, something the Rangers have become known for under manager Ron Washington. These are qualities that are a direct reflection on what Porter has been preaching all spring. Per MLB.com:

“I think it starts with Bo — the tone he sets every day,” said first baseman Brett Wallace. “He’s got that energy and an aggressiveness about him. He’s really instilled that in us. Every day, whether we had drills or we had a game, we were attacking it and being aggressive. I think you can already see it in Game 1 today.”

Houston’s aggressive approach and base running forced mistakes by the Rangers defense and caused Matt Harrison to allow three walks—all of which scored.


“Bo’s aggressive by nature. He’s high energy. He’s passionate. If you spend time around Bo, he’ll make you more passionate about the game,” said Rick Ankiel, who pinch hit in the seventh and smashed a 3-2 pitch over the right field fence that sent three more runs across the plate.  

Bo kept the pedal down and the Astros would score one more run before the rout was over.

Bo changed the team and the atmosphere in one spring and they played his style of baseball to give him his first win, the franchise’s 4,000th. His team responded to the changes and the fans responded to his team.

“It was an electric atmosphere, and you take your hat off to the fans in Houston,” Porter said. “They came out tonight in great numbers and gave us a lot of support. We really thank them.”

The Astros are looking to bring an exciting brand of baseball back to Houston and, with Porter at the helm, it may be sooner than anyone outside the organization expected.

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Lance Berkman and Houston Astros May Explore a Possible Reunion

ESPN.com is reporting free agent Lance Berkman visited the Houston Astros and discussed possibly signing with his former team to finish his illustrious career. Although he is near the end, a reunion between the Puma and the Astros would be a fitting conclusion to his career and could also possibly benefit the team.

Berkman is about to turn 37 and only played a total of 32 games in 2012. However, he was still effective when he played, posting a .826 OPS. A performance anywhere near that level in 2013 would be extremely valuable to the Astros.

Berkman spent the first 1,592 games and 11-plus seasons of his MLB career with the Astros, hitting .296 with 326 home runs and 1,090 RBI, while making five All-Star teams. He is the franchise’s greatest all-time hitter of outside of Jeff Bagwell

The Astros offense needs to fundamentally change because of their 2013 shift to the American League. They were already the lowest scoring team in the majors in 2012, making it even more difficult to fill an additional spot in their lineup that was previously held by the pitcher.

If Berkman does come to terms with Houston, he would be used mainly as DH, although he could also fill in at first base on occasion. Adding a hitter of Berkman’s pedigree would simply be a major potential upgrade at any position.

Last season nobody on the Astros hit more than 18 home runs or drove in more than 55 runs, which represented the lowest number of RBI to lead an MLB team in a single season since catcher Tom Haller led the 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers with 53.

There would be no guarantees that Berkman could stay healthy or continue being a productive hitter, but it’s a gamble worth making. It was only 2011 when he hit .301 with 31 home runs and 94 RBI while appearing in 145 games for the St. Louis Cardinals.


The switch-hitting Berkman represents good hitting fundamentals, given his career .409 OBP. His presence in the Houston lineup could only help positively influence the team’s other young and unproven hitters.

Signing Berkman won’t break the bank for the Astros. With his injury problems and advancing age, he is not likely to have a large number of suitors. A team like Houston that can offer him familiarity and a chance to DH may be the optimal environment for him to finish out his career.

Berkman indicated that he will make up his mind whether or not to play in the coming months. A lot will hinge on his heath and the type of interest he garners from teams.

It will be a nice story Berkman and the Astros agree that they are a good match for each other. It’s always nice when a star can finish his career in the same city where he started. If Berkman can prove he still has something left in the tank he will not only provide a happy ending but also help the Astros with their transition to the American League.


Statistics via BaseballReference

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Imperfect: How a Blown Call has Defined Our Generation

Just five games into his 2012 return to the major leagues, Armando Galarraga has been designated for assignment by the struggling Houston Astros and faces an uncertain future. For Galarraga, it is the most recent in a series of setbacks that have brought on the realization that his job as a professional athlete is in jeopardy.

In a career that has been defined by spectacular ups and downs – Galarraga was once a promising young arm set to emerge as a solid starter behind superstar Justin Verlander in Detroit – he looked to add another winning chapter when he toed the rubber for the Astros on July 28, 2012. After toiling in the high minors for more than a year, he reveled in the sights and sounds of a big league ballpark, seeing it with a fresh set of eyes belonging to a more seasoned, mature and smarter pitcher than we’d seen in the past.

Of course, there’s nothing like witnessing the birth of your first child less than 24-hours earlier to provide a new perspective on life, but after driving to Houston from his home in Austin, Texas, Galarraga gave up three runs on five hits as the Astros lost to the Pirates. Unfortunately, a lack of success and inability to command his once-devastating sinker has left Galarraga in an all too familiar situation – fighting to get back into the major leagues.

Even at such an obvious and imposing juncture, it is unlikely that anything Armando Galarraga does during his playing days, good or bad, will eclipse his infamously imperfect moment on June 2, 2010. He had already been optioned to the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo in March and, back with the Tigers in late May, aimed to prove he belonged with the best players in the world. Still, no one could have expected the kind of dominating performance he would deliver against the Cleveland Indians that day.

Perfection, in life and sports, is fleeting. In baseball it is defined as twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down. No hits, no walks, no errors—nothing but two men and a glorified game of catch while mystified batters shake their heads as they return to a silent dugout. As fate would have it, Armando Galarraga would, on that day, retire all twenty-seven men he faced, but because of a blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce, would have to face a twenty-eighth.

In a moment that is sealed in the annals of baseball lore, Galarraga stared in towards the Tigers dugout, knowing full well that his one brush with sports immortality had been whisked away by the fickle baseball gods. The look on his face as he pondered his flirtation with perfection was an impressive mix of the incredulous and the dignified, but he, as professionals always do, composed himself, settled in and recorded the final out.

As a reflection of society, baseball is fraught with cheaters, liars, criminals and those wise enough to know how to use the rules to their advantage. The mind reels at the thought of lesser men who have been elevated to baseball super-stardom and with what degree of class they might have responded in that same situation. An incredible, nearly unfathomable amount of self-discipline and character was no doubt required for Galarraga to maintain that, despite the historic circumstances and despite everything he’d been through to get on the mound that day, the twenty-eighth batter was just another out.

There was a time, not very long ago, when perfection was considered an honorable goal. Unrelenting focus and dedication were considered the trademarks of this country and the immovable force propelling it into the twentieth century. But anti-heroes and everyday people have replaced Superman in the national conscience over the course of several generations as they settled into an uncomfortable reality: true, sustained perfection is impossible. Instead, the one constant, unwavering trait that supersedes all else in the hearts and minds of sports fans is the lust for justice.

It is entirely possible that Armando Galarraga’s imperfect game will be viewed by future generations as a harbinger of instant replay, a pivotal moment when baseball decided to abandon the human element and rely on systematic automation to dictate its game. Since the underlying goal is to satisfy baseball’s authenticity — to always get the call right — it would seem to be adequate evidence to support this paradigm shift.

Yet it is even more likely that Armando Galarraga is perhaps more widely known for his distinguished and proud response to injustice than he ever would have been had he joined the ranks of Len Barker, Tom Browning and Dallas Braedon. A perfect game is a remarkable performance, but if Joyce made the correct call, Galarraga would be just another pitcher who pitched one exceptional game, his memory eventually lost to all but the most ardent fans.

Instead we are left with the image of a professional athlete who understood the unusual gift he was given. With the eyes of the sporting world fixed on his every move Armando Galarraga gave sports fans something even more spectacular: he reacted like a champion, he overcame adversity, persisted and succeeded. He provided onlookers with an all-too-rare glimpse of honor and integrity.

Whether he throws another pitch in a big league game or not, Armando Galarraga has come to represent a throwback to the baseball characters once adored by a nation. Surrounded by superstars with million-dollar contracts and only a faint concept of loyalty, Galarraga is continuing his fight, but has already won over the hearts of many with his enduring performance on that cloudy afternoon in Detroit. Despite the gravity of the misjudgment, it was a class act by a classy player that represents the kind of honest, driven effort given by millions of Americans every day who all seek the same goal.

It was an impressive pitching feat that no one saw coming. It was an even more impressive response that few could have imagined and in the days, weeks and months that have followed, it has become something even better…


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2012 National League Central Division Preview from Dugout Central

Continuing in Dugout Central’s annual pre-season ritual, I am going to present my predictions for the National League Heartland – er – Central Division in 2012. Last year saw an early-season surge by the generally hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, only to see them fall right back in the race where they’ve been for the better part of 20 seasons. July 17 saw Milwaukee Brewers pick-up Zack Greinke out-duel then-Cub Carlos Zambrano 2-0 to put the Brewers up half a game on the St. Louis Cardinals and 1.5 on Pittsburgh. The Brewers didn’t look back, going 41-17 from that game to win their first division title in 29 years. However, the last laugh was had by the Cardinals, who snuck into the wild card spot and defeated the Brewers in the NLCS en route to their NL-best 11th World Championship.


There were some major shake-ups both in the front office and on the field, ensuring that 2012 would be an exciting new year for the division.


Chicago Cubs

2011: 71-91, 5th Place, 25 GB, Scored 4.04 R/G (8th in NL), Allowed 4.67 R/G (14th in NL)

Key Losses: Aramis Ramirez (3B), Carlos Pena (1B), Carlos Zambrano (SP)

Key Additions: David Dejesus (OF), Ian Stewart (3B), Paul Maholm (SP)

Why they could win it all: The bright spot on the Chicago Cubs last year was the left side of the infield. While Aramis Ramirez packed his bags and moved up north, the Cubs feature one of the bright young stars in the game in Starlin Castro. Just 21 years old, Castro led the National League in hits last year with 207. A little more patience on both sides of the ball (he had almost as many errors as walks) will result in him being one of the players that the Cubs can build around moving forward.

Why they could fail: The Cubs completely revamped their front office by bringing in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, both of whom have been successful executives at the big league level. However, the damage from the Hendry regime has been done. Alfonso Soriano is eating a tremendous amount of payroll to play poorly (just 2.0 WAR total since 2009), as is Carlos Zambrano (to play for Miami). A 1-year turn-around just won’t be possible with the mess left-over. However, a big payroll and smart people to manage it may mean good things for the Cubs in the future as it did for the Red Sox.

What to watch: Alfonso Soriano needs to go, as he is deadweight in most aspects of his game. His .289 OBP and lackluster outfield defense have made his 136 million dollar contract one of the worst in history. Look for the Cubs to exploit a possible fast start by Soriano and turn it into a trade to an AL team, where he could potentially serve as a platoon DH. The key won’t be the player acquired, but rather the amount of salary his new team will be willing to eat.

2012 Prediction: 66-96, 5th place

Cincinnati Reds

2011: 79-83, 3rd Place, Scored 4.54 R/G (2nd in NL), Allowed 4.44 R/G (12th in NL)

Key Losses: Francisco Cordero (RP)Edgar Renteria (SS), Edinson Volquez (SP), Travis Wood (SP), Yonder Alonso (1B/OF)

Key Additions: Mat Latos (SP), Sean Marshall (RP), Ryan Madson (RP)

Why they could win it all: Remember that the Reds did win the division in 2010, posting over 90 wins before falling to Roy Halladay and the Phillies in the NLDS. The Reds did out-score their opponents on the year, and made a couple of nice pick-ups in Ryan Madson and Mat Latos. The offense is as potent as ever, with Joey Votto leading the charge as the best 1B in the division with Fielder and Pujols gone (though some may argue he had already reached that plateau).

Why they could fail: The Reds continue to employ Dusty Baker as their manager, so it’s hard to be shocked when they underperform their expected win-loss (not that a manager is necessarily responsible for that, but he can be). The rotation is a mess; Bronson Arroyo’s over the hill, and yet, he was the only Reds starter to make 30 starts last season, besides Mat Latos, recently acquired from the Padres. Latos has had good numbers in his first couple seasons, but he’s going from pitching half his games at the most pitcher-friendly park in the game to starting those games at one of the most hitter-friendly.

What to watch: Drew Stubbs was the leadoff hitter for most of the year. His league-worst 205 strikeouts wouldn’t be so alarming if he followed them up with actual on-base ability…which he does not (just a .321 OBP last year). Here’s a guy with some good tools, but he’s depriving Votto and Bruce of RBI opportunities by reaching so sparingly. Not saying he should be replaced on the team – his center field defense alone makes him worthwhile – but he shouldn’t lead-off.

2012 Prediction: 86-76, 3rd place

Houston Astros

2011: 56-106, 6th place, 40 GB, Scored 3.80 R/G (13th in NL), Allowed 4.91 R/G (16th in NL)

Key Losses: Jeff Keppinger (IF) Michael Bourn (OF), Hunter Pence (OF) [all mid-season last year]

Key Additions: Like, 100 prospects (including Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart).

 Why they could win it all: Wandy Rodriguez was solid yet again last year; over the past three years, he has a very nice 118 ERA+ and 1.279 WHIP. Unfortunately, he’s no Old Hoss Radbourn, and as such, can’t start every game for the Astros next year. Also, he has about as much chance of being an Astro come the trading deadline as I do.

Why they could fail: They were 56-106, added nothing at the big league level, and will now be without Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn for the entire 2012 season, as opposed to just half of it. The team that once owned this division like nobody’s business in the Killer-B years is now poised to leave it for the American League West, where, on a brighter note, they will have the luxury of facing the Mariners 18 or so times a year. I’ll be nice and give them 55 wins…and I’m thinking that’s probably optimistic.  

What to watch: Carlos Lee is in the final year of a 6-year, 100 million dollar deal that I still don’t understand. Let’s see if he plays well enough to eek out another deal before hanging up his spikes or if El Caballo is happy being a rich guy with 350 career home runs.

2012 Prediction: 55-107, Last Place.

Milwaukee Brewers

2011: 96-66, 1st Place,  Scored 4.45 R/G (5th in NL), Allowed 3.94 R/G (6th in NL)

Key Losses: Prince Fielder (1B), Casey McGehee (3B), Yuniesky Betancourt (SS), Takashi Saito (RP), LaTroy Hawkins (RP)

Key Additions: Aramis Ramirez (3B), Alex Gonzalez (SS), Jose Veras (RP), Norichika Aoki (OF)

Why they could win: The Brewers won the NL Central last season, and while they lost their superstar first baseman Prince Fielder, they patched up their two biggest holes – the left side of the infield. Despite winning 96 games last year, the Brewers featured the absolute worst third baseman and shortstop in the game. Aramis Ramirez has been a fixture in the division for the last decade with both the Pirates and Cubs, making two all-star teams. He won his first silver slugger last season, after hitting .306/.361/.510 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI for the hapless Cubs in 2011. Meanwhile Alex Gonzalez will take over at shortstop; he has roughly the same plate presence as Yuni Betancourt (horrific), but is a well-regarded fielder at the position and will certainly represent an upgrade. Finally, the Brewers have just received a major shot in the arm as their team leader and reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun has been cleared of all charges regarding a failed drug test last October.

Why they could fail: Losing Prince changes the landscape of this offense – Aramis Ramirez just isn’t going to be able to spell the same level of protection for Braun. Furthermore, there are just too many question marks. Will Mat Gamel be the hitter he was always projected to be, or will he be the hitter he has been in parts of 4 big league seasons? Will Randy Wolf continue to defy his peripherals? Will Greinke ever perform even close to the level he did in 2009? And what’s with this Aoki guy? He’s won 3 batting titles in Japan, but can we expect that to even remotely resemble what he does in the Majors? Lastly – does anyone think the Brewers will go 30-18 in 1-run games next season?

What to watch: Corey Hart is obviously going to be playing every day. That leaves two positions – either CF and RF or 1B and CF up for grabs. I say that because Hart can play 1st and it isn’t clear that Mat Gamel can perform at the big league level. The Brewers have a solid center field platoon lined up with Nyjer Morgan (who hit over .300 last year) and Carlos Gomez (one of the best defenders in the game). But what about the Japanese batting champion, Aoki? Will Morgan show he can replicate his 2011 performance? All we know for sure is that Hart is playing every day and Gomez is only starting against southpaws and finding his ways into other games as a pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. All told, this makes for an incredible log-jam – and that’s before you start including all of Morgan’s alter-ego’s.

2012 Prediction: 87-75, 2nd place

Pittsburgh Pirates

2011: 72-90, 4th place, 24 GB, Scored 3.77 R/G (14th in NL), Allowed 4.40 R/G (11th in NL)

Key Losses: Paul Maholm (SP), Ryan Ludwick (OF), Derrek Lee (1B), Jose Veras (RP)

Key Gains: AJ Burnett (SP), Erik Bedard (SP), Casey McGehee (3B), Rod Barajas (C), Clint Barmes (SS)

Why they could win: Gotta hand it to the Pirates – they made quite the turn-around last year. After winning just 57 games in 2010 (while placing last in both runs scored and runs allowed), the Pirates jumped out as contenders early-on and were in first place as late as July 25th. They went just 19-43 from that point on, however, all while tacking on a pair of has-been veterans in an effort to put them over the top. There exists a fine young group of talented players on this team, however, led by Andrew McCutchen – who had a break-out first half and is one of the best players in the National League.

Why they might fail: Their first half made for a great story but it can be chalked up to flukiness. A lot of players came back down to Earth in a hurry, most of which were to be expected. All-star Kevin Correia struggled mightily in the 2nd half, failing to qualify for the ERA title, not that his 4.79 mark would have gotten the job done. No Pittsburgh starter made it to 175 innings, and it’s highly unlikely that AJ Burnett will turn that around. No regular hit over .275 or OPS’d over .830 and only McCutchen was a measurable force of any kind. They’ve got a major talent on their hands in center field, but given the Pirates’ history, he’ll be fulfilling that potential in some place besides Pittsburgh.  

Things to watch: Joel Hanrahan emerged out of nowhere last season to be one of the National League’s premier relievers. However, like most closers, he was criminally mis-managed, as Clint Hurdle saved him only for save situations – including an 18-inning affair against the Braves that ended on a blown call. Has Hurdle learned his lesson? The fans at PNC better hope so.

2012 Prediction: 73-89, 4th Place


St. Louis Cardinals

2011: World Series Champs, 90-72, 2nd place, 6 GB, Scored 4.70 R/G (1st in NL), Allowed 4.27  R/G (9th in NL)

Key Losses: Albert Pujols (1B), Edwin Jackson (SP), Octavio Dotel (RP)

Key Gains: Carlos Beltran (OF), Adam Wainwright (SP)

Why they could win: The departure of one of the greatest players to ever play the game certainly could spell doom, but GM John Mozeliak did a fantastic job of overcoming that loss by signing future hall-of-famer Carlos Beltran to an affordable 2-year deal, locking up Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter for 2 years before the season even ended, and bringing back spark-plug Rafael Furcal. They would be better off for 2012 with Albert Pujols, but 10 years at 24 million per season was just too much – and I think Mozeliak made the right call by thinking beyond 2012 (apparently, he doesn’t take Mayans too seriously). Holliday-Berkman-Beltran spell the best heart of the order in this division and the return of Adam Wainwright to the rotation means that the Cardinals have the pitching necessary to take them back to the post-season. They are my pick to win the division.

Why they could fail: They did undergo some changes, that’s for sure. Mike Matheny will take over for Tony LaRussa and the great pitching coach Dave Duncan will not be around for 2012, as he is helping his wife, Jeanine during her bout with cancer. And of course, Albert Pujols is no longer a Cardinal. This could have far-reaching effects beyond the .328/.420/.617, 42 HR, 126 RBI line he averaged in eleven years as a Cardinal. Losing Pujols means everyone gets pitched to differently, it means teams can approach situations differently, and it means that lesser players have to take up the slack. That’s not to hate on Berkman, Holliday, Beltran, or NLCS & World Series MVP David Freese – but there’s excellent ballplayers, and then there are transcendent ballplayers. Pujols was the latter.

What to watch: All eyes will be on Adam Wainwright, who returns this season after losing 2011 to Tommy John surgery. Wainwright placed top-3 in the last two Cy Young ballots, posting 11.9 WAR in that time span. He pitched over 230 innings in both years but is unlikely to reach 200 this season in his recovery. We’ll see how his new arm ligaments hold up.

2011 Prediction: 92-70, 1st Place



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4 Reasons the Houston Astros in the AL Will Be Awesome

The Astros have finally been sold and that means two things for the team and the fans.  First it means that Jim Crane is going to make sure that our payroll is near the bottom of the league.  More importantly it means that the Astros are moving to the American League.  There is an upside and a downside to everything but there should be more upside.

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Projecting the Houston Astros 2012 Depth Chart

2011 has been a year to forget for the Houston Astros. The only good thing that has come out of 2011 is a good look at some new, young players and the No. 1 draft pick in next year’s draft. Next year’s team is expected to be even younger than it is this year, with few veterans, returning sophomores and some new rookies. Although the team will almost definitely not be in contention next year, it still shouldn’t be underestimated. It carries a lot of young, promising and enthusiastic players who are eager to win.

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Houston’s Randy Johnson (Wandy Rodriguez) Blanks Hapless San Francisco Giants

I think people are starting to get the idea. If you don’t get the idea yet, then you are either an exceptionally optimistic fan, or delusional.

The San Francisco Giants are not a good baseball team.

Perhaps they were at one point in the season. Perhaps they were until the acquisition of Carlos Beltran. But they certainly aren’t now.

Granted, they have extraordinary pitching. Ryan Vogelsong threw seven innings of two earned-run ball, and remains second in the league in ERA.

The key word in the previous sentence is earned. Errors by Mark DeRosa and Nate Schierholtz enabled the Houston Astros to score three unearned runs off of Vogelsong. Guillermo Mota’s bogus home run to Bogusevic extended the lead to 6-0, which turned out to be the final score of the ballgame.

Realistically, though, it wouldn’t have mattered if Vogelsong had pitched a shutout—he still would have received a no decision at best.

The San Francisco Giants were completely baffled by left hander Wandy Rodriguez, who, like so many pitchers, had his finest outing of the season against the Giants’ hapless offense.

While the Giants are still only 2.5 games out of first place behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, the deficit seems nigh insurmountable.

In fact, a more realistic goal for the Giants this season than the playoffs is to finish the season above .500. At 67-59, the Giants would need to go 14-22 to finish the season at .500. Given the way this team has been playing recently, even that goal seems lofty.

The excellent Bleacher Report sportswriter Manny Randhawa will have to search deep into his bag of tricks to justify the Giants’ “excellence” in losing 6-0 to a team that was 44 games under .500 coming into the ballgame.

“It’s only just one game.” But is it? Is it really? Or is this game just an accurate representation of a disturbing trend?

One thing is certain: People should be fired after tonight’s travesty. Or at least demoted. Or, if Bruce Bochy prefers, they should come up with a mysterious foot strain. Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand are two examples of this type of person who does not belong on a Major League baseball field, contract or no. It’s already a “sunk cost.”

Am I overreacting? Is this a knee jerk reaction? I don’t think so. These are calculated statements backed up by on-field performances and statistics.

The Giants need to dramatically overhaul their lineup to put a competitive team on the field, or risk seeing their attendance and reputation plummet.

Not to mention, the Giants should be interested in keeping the sole bright spot on the team (pitching) intact. With free agency looming in the not too distant future for Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, do you think either starter would be willing to play for a team wherein they get no offensive support?

Regardless of the pitchers’ unflappable coolness in the clubhouse in the face of losing and shouldering of responsibility for each loss, you know that these pitchers want to win. Not only do they want to win, they want to win championships.

And no team ranked last in the league in offense has ever made the playoffs, let alone won a championship.

In conclusion, if the Giants come out and score seven runs tomorrow, please save your “I Told You So’s.” After scoring seven runs against the Braves in game three of their series, they have been shut out twice consecutively.

For those keeping track, that is an average of 2.33 runs per game.

Even the lowly Giants are capable of scoring seven runs once in a while. A playoff caliber professional baseball club, however, will perform on a regular basis and demonstrate at least a modicum of consistency.

Madison Bumgarner (7-11, 3.49ERA) pitches next against Jordan Lyles (1-7, 5.31ERA). The ingredients are in place for a 5-3 Giants victory, if each pitcher pitches to their potential. Something tells me, however, that Bumgarner will lower his ERA once again, and loss number twelve will materialize as he is out-dueled by Roger Clemens…er…Jordan Lyles. 

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Los Angeles’ "Brooklyn Dodgers" Uniform and the Top 20 MLB Throwback Unis

Recently, the Dodgers announced they would wear their Brooklyn Dodger throwback uniforms for a few home games this season. 

Other teams like the Braves, Reds and various others said they would follow suit and wear their own throwbacks during games this year too.

Some teams have great throwback uniforms, and others are terrible looking. 

Either way, they all stand out in a good or bad way from the other uniforms today.

Here is a list of the top 20 throwback jerseys in MLB history.

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Houston Astros: 2011 MLB Season Preview


Last Year: 76-86, fourth in NL Central 

Manager: Brad Mills 


C- Humberto Quintero (R)

1B- Brett Wallace (L)

2B- Bill Hall (R) 

3B- Chris Johnson (R)

SS- Clint Barmes (R)

LF- Carlos Lee (R)

CF- Michael Bourn (L)

RF- Hunter Pence (R)

The Astros’ lineup was the worst in the NL last season, but the club should be improved with the acquisitions made in the middle infield. Bill Hall and Clint Barmes will provide power that the club desperately lacked at those positions. Bill Hall has 20 HR power, but he strikes out over 30 percent of the time. He should post a line of .240/.310/400. Clint Barmes should hit 10-15 HRs with a .260/.315/.400 line.

Those lines may not be that impressive, but they will be significant improvements. Brett Wallace will be key to this lineup, and I will break down his potential 2011 season later. Chris Johnson had a wonderful 90 games when the Astros benched Pedro Feliz and installed Johnson as the everyday third baseman.

Johnson should have a solid year, but his numbers were inflated by an abnormal .387 BABIP. His lack of plate discipline is also concerning, but I think he will hit 15-20 HRs with a .285/.315/.455 line. 

The lineup revolves around both corner outfielders, Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who will bat third and fourth respectively. Pence was the Astros’ best offensive player in 2010, and has been remarkably consistent since 2008. Pence is a sure bet to hit 25 HRs, steal 14-18 bases, and post a line around .280/.330/.470.

Carlos Lee had his worst offensive season in 2010, but that was due to an extremely unlucky .238 BABIP. His power has decreased over the last few years, but I expect Lee to bounce back to his old ways and hit 28 HRs with a .290/.350/.490 line.

Michael Bourn is the one of the most dangerous leadoff men in baseball because of his ability to steal bases at an absurd rate. Bourn complies an average .270/.350/.355 line, but he has the potential to steal upwards of 60 bases in a full season.

Humberto Quintero will bat eighth in the lineup, after Jason Castro tore his ACL a few weeks ago. He won’t provide much offense in this lineup, and he is considered a backup at best. 

The Astros finished in the bottom half of UZR rankings, and it is hard to see the team making many improvements. Michael Bourn is the club’s best defender and is considered the best defensive center fielder in baseball.

In the corners, Hunter Pence is an above average fielder in right, but left fielder Carlos Lee has some of the worst range of any outfielder in baseball. Humberto Quintero calls a great game behind the plate, and has recorded very good CS numbers. The infield defense may be the worst in baseball.

Clint Barmes has played well at SS in the past, but he hasn’t played more than 100 games there since 2006. Bill Hall can play most positions on the diamond, but his range at second base is below average. Chris Johnson really struggled at third base in 2010, committing 17 errors and having a negative nine UZR rating. Brett Wallace played well at first base in limited time, but scouts say he is below average at first base.


IF- Tommy Manzella (R)

IF- Angel Sanchez (R)

OF- Jason Michaels (R)

C- JR Towles  (R)

OF- Jason Bourgeois (R) or Brian Bogusevic (L)

IF- Jeff Keppinger (R) (Will start year on DL with foot surgery) 


RHP- Brett Myers

LHP- Wandy Rodriguez

RHP- Bud Norris 

LHP- JA Happ

RHP- Nelson Figueroa 

The best part of this lackluster Astros squad is the starting rotation. Ace Brett Myers had a career year for the Astros by cutting down on his BB and HR total. However, the most important change in 2010 was that Myers started using his mediocre fastball less (avg. 89.3 MPH), and throwing his slider and curveball more often.

Both were pitches were fantastic in 2010, but I don’t think he will be as effective in 2011. I expect an ERA in the high 3.85-4.00 range, 7 K per 9, and close to 3 BBs per 9 innings. Wandy Rodriguez got off to a terrible start in 2010, but still proved to be one of the more consistent starters in baseball.

Rodriguez does not have the greatest stuff (avg. 89.6 MPH), but he changes speeds well with his slow curve and decent change. He strikes out a good deal of hitters, averaging more than eight per nine innings over the last three years, and records a strong groundball rate.

Looking at his xFIP over the last three years, he is a safe bet for something around a  3.50 ERA. The 26-year-old Bud Norris has a lot of talent, and pitched much better than his final stat line would indicate. He was hurt by a high BABIP and a below average left on base percentage.

Norris has a 94 MPH fastball that he has trouble locating, but he uses a nasty slider to strikeout more than a hitter per inning. Norris will walk a litte more than four per nine innings, but he should have an ERA in the lower 4’s. 

JA Happ, acquired in the Roy Oswalt deal, has pitched well in the 60 major league games he has appeared in over the last few seasons. Happ hides the ball well, which makes his 89 MPH more explosive to hitters.

He compliments his fastball with an average slider, curveball and change. Happ will strike out seven per nine innings, but he does not have great command walking almost five per nine innings last year. Happ will pitch at an ERA around 4.40, but he could he has surprised before.

The fifth spot in the rotation comes down between veteran Nelson Figueroa and Jordan Lyles. Nelson Figueroa will probably get the first crack while Lyles starts the season in AAA. Figueroa is a soft tossing right-hander (avg. 88 MPH on fastball), who relies on his slider, curveball, and change-up to keep hitters off balance.

He can put up good strikeout numbers, and probably pitch to something like a 4.30 ERA. However, he will probably head to the bullpen to make room for Lyles at some point this season. 


RHP- Brandon Lyon (Closer)

RHP- Wilton Lopez

LHP- Fernando Abad 

RHP- Mark Melancon 

RHP- Jeff Fulchino 

LHP- Ryan Rowalnd-Smith or LHP- Wesley Wright or LHP- Gustavo Chacin 

RHP- Alberto Arias or RHP- Aneury Rodriguez or RHP- Ernerio Del Rosario 

The bullpen will be a problem for the Astros this season. Brandon Lyon will start the year as the closer, but at best he is considered a setup man. He has only had one season with a WAR above 1.5, due in most part for his below average strikeout and walk rates. Lyon throws 90-92 with a good slider, curve and changeup, but he doesn’t have the dominant stuff to be a good closer in this league.

Wilton Lopez might be the best option for the Astros. He averages 92 on his sinking fastball and compliments it with a decent change and show-me slider. He should only strikeout 6.5 per nine, but his command and ability to get ground balls are unbelievable. He finished with a BB rate of 0.67/9.

Mark Melancon, acquired from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman deal, is another good option from the right side. He throws a 92-94 MPH with a very good curveball that should lead to him striking out a batter per inning and an above average grounball rate. 

The rest of the bullpen is up in the air. Fernando Abad, who will be the primary lefty, impressed in his 20 games last year. He throws a 89-91 MPH fastball with a curveball, and change, but hasn’t had enough major league innings to prove he can do it for the entire season.

Jeff Fulchino pitched very well in 2009, but he struggled with an elbow injury that rendered him ineffective for most of 2010. He throws hard, averages 93.8 MPH, and he has hard breaking slider and splitter. I don’t think he should be counted on to provide many good innings for this club.

The rest of the bullpen is still auditioning for roles in Spring Training and could be any combination of the pitchers listed above. My guess is Ryan Rowland-Smith and Anuery Rodriguez make the team. 


LHP- Gustavo Chacin

IF- Anderson Hernandez (S)

KEY PLAYER- Brett Wallace

The Astros need Brett Wallace to develop into the 20 HR .300 hitter that many scouts have projected. Wallace struggled in 144 ABs with the Astros last season hitting .222 with 2 HRs and striking out 30 percent of the time. I don’t think Wallace is there yet, but he should hit 15 or so HRs with a .270/.330/.415. I don’t know about his power, but I do think he will eventually become a consistent .300 hitter in this league. 


Baseball America rates Jordan Lyles as the Astros’ top prospect in 2011. Jordan Lyles had some success in the minors by controlling his 89-92 MPH two seam fastball and throws his four-seamer a little harder. His secondary stuff doesn’t isn’t supposed to wow anyone, but the curveball is a little better than a show-me pitch. He will throw a change to lefties, but his major league success will depend on how he locates his fastball. He should make his debut sometime this season. 

PROJECTED FINISH- fifth in NL Central

The Astros don’t have a good enough lineup or bullpen to compete in the division. The starting rotation will keep the team in games, but I can’t see a final record reaching .500. The organization should think about dealing Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez if many of the younger players don’t produce, because this organization needs to infuse some talented young prospects into this farm system. 

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