Game 19 Notes—Houston Astros vs. Pittsburgh

- As was probably expected entering the season, the Astros are struggling to put runs on the board. Coming into the game, the Astros have plated 81 runs, 11th in the National League. Houston starts three offensive ciphers—Brad Ausmus, Adam Everett, and Craig Biggio.
- Speaking of Biggio, he presents an uncomfortable situation for the Astros. Biggio is a franchise icon and will one day have a plaque in Cooperstown, but he’s cooked as an everyday player. The second baseman has declined to the point where he is hindering the team’s ability to contend while pursuing the 3,000 hit milestone. Biggio has very much become a one-trick pony, using the Crawford Boxes to pop some homers (.293/.346/.516 at home from 2004-2006) while struggling immensely on the road (.232/.297/.382). Biggio’s range at second has been compromised as well. The Astros would unquestionably field a better lineup if the team were to play Chris Burke at second base and top prospect Hunter Pence in center field, but Houston has chosen good public relations over the correct baseball decision. In lieu of Jeff Bagwell’s ugly exit, perhaps the team fears alienating fans and players alike by pushing the other marquee player from the past decade out the door unceremoniously.
- Teams are scorching line-drive after line-drive off of Zach Duke in his past few starts. It appears that Duke is having a difficult time keeping his two-seam fastball down in the strike zone. This is vital for a contact-oriented, groundball pitcher. A well-placed two-seamer will cause hitters to drive the ball into the dirt, but an 88-90 MPH fastball over the middle of the plate is clearly inviting trouble.
- With the back of the Houston rotation in flux, Matt Albers could play an important role in how the team fares. Albers has a solid repetoire, possessing a plus two-seamer that sits around 92 MPH, a good slider, a curveball, and a changeup. Albers has some control issues at times, but he has the look of a decent mid-rotation starter. For a team relying on guys like Wandy Rodriguez and Woody Williams, that holds significant value. At the very least, Albers looks like a good bullpen arm.
- I’m going to be honest—I think the idea of Brad Eldred becoming a valuable everyday player is laughable. There are so many holes in the guy’s game. He certainly has tremendous raw power, but Eldred has serious issues controlling the strike zone, rarely walking and swinging at pitches in the dirt on a regular basis. He does not make consistent contact, striking out at an alarming rate that will inhibit his batting average. Eldred seems nearly helpless against any pitch that has movement on it. Defensively, the big “outfielder” offers little versatility, as his below-average speed and range make him a poor fielder at first base or right field. The 26 year-old has all the makings of a Quadruple-A slugger, possessing the ability to mash AAA pitching but lacking the athleticism and strike-zone judgment to succeed at the major league level.
- I realize he’s new at this, but Eldred’s movements in the outfield could kindly be described as resembling those of a wounded horse.
- Duke has done a considerably better job of keeping the ball down tonight. He also appears to be throwing a slider fairly often, something we have not seen with any regularity from the lefty in the majors. The progress with the slider is interesting, but Duke still has some work to do with his curveball, which has been loopy as of late.
- I’ve been very impressed by Jonah Bayliss so far this season. His low-90s fastball has a good deal of movement on it, and he has made considerable progress with his slider. Bayliss has occasional control issues, but I see no reason why he can’t become a fixture in the Pirates bullpen.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates/2007/04/25/game-19-vs-houston/ Pittsburgh Lumber Co. | MVN – Most Valuable Network » Blog Archive » Game #19 vs. Housto

    [...] Short pre-game notes are after the jump; Dave’s trends and highlights are here. [...]

  • nicolas

    interesting point about Biggio, Dave. Baseball Prospectus, in the ’07 edition, aptly summarized Houston with “spent 2006 with both legs in the ‘Lovable Aging Veteran’ trap…this year, with Bagwell retired, they removed one leg from the trap – so they can run in circles.”
    Biggio is definitely fading. Problem is, they really have no choice right now. Hunter Pence is currently just getting his first taste of AAA ball. Granted, he’s on pace for a June or July 1st callup, but even if that happens, 1) there’s no guarantee that he’ll adjust quickly enough to be productive right away, and 2)if his defense is as the scouts say, he won’t be playing in center field anyway (more likely to start in LF).

  • nicolas

    interesting point about Biggio, Dave. Baseball Prospectus, in the ’07 edition, aptly summarized Houston with “spent 2006 with both legs in the ‘Lovable Aging Veteran’ trap…this year, with Bagwell retired, they removed one leg from the trap – so they can run in circles.”
    Biggio is definitely fading. Problem is, they really have no choice right now. Hunter Pence is currently just getting his first taste of AAA ball. Granted, he’s on pace for a June or July 1st callup, but even if that happens, 1) there’s no guarantee that he’ll adjust quickly enough to be productive right away, and 2)if his defense is as the scouts say, he won’t be playing in center field anyway (more likely to start in LF).

  • Lee Young

    Personally, I hope we’re buyers rather than sellers at the trade deadline.

    And I sure would take that ZIPs prediction for Pedro

  • scrappy2499

    Tim, didn’t you do something last year (maybe with fangraphs) that showed a pitchers balls in play and where they landed?  It would be interesting to see how many of Burnett’s long balls would have been kept inside the walls of PNC compared to Yankee Stadium.

  • leadoff

    If there is one thing that stands out about Burnett, it is that he can’t be figured out by stats, some say he is terrible, others say he is/can be quite good.
    The reason I say this is because there are so many factors that baseball people come up with beyond stats, like:
    PNC park will help him
    The NL Central will help him
    No designated hitter will help him
    A fresh start will help him
    And the list goes on.

    This is what I think!
    Most major league teams need about 10 starting pitchers in the organization that can be used at the major league level, 2 usually get hurt, 2 usually have off years and 1 or two are traded.
    So IMO, Burnett is depth, not a world beater at his age, but if he does not totally tank, he will help the Bucs, simple as that. Most of what I said changes when you have a starting staff like the Phillies or Cards or Giants, but most teams don’t have that kind of starting pitching.

    Sure would like to know why Bedard is wearing a knee brace, heard that report on one of the sports shows on TV last night.