added 7/25/2002 by Raymond Desadier
Just when I think I have seen it all, the Houston Astros amaze me yet again. They are such heady ballplayers! Last nights game against Milwaukee was a true summation of the Astros mentality.
Ruben Quevedo, starting for the Brewers, comes out throwing batting practice and rather than use up all their hits at once, the Astros take 5 innings to knock him out of the game. Daryle Ward took fastball after fastball down the middle of the plate, saving his energy for his third at bat in which he belts a 3 run home run. He continued to take first pitch stikes and then in the ninth inning with the game on the line, he is aggressive swinging at a ball below the knees. I can see why Ward is credited about being “smart” when it comes to hitting.
Earlier that inning, Lance Berkman, who attended Rice University for 3 years, SLIDES into first base, hurting his wrist in the process. Despite the fact that 1) sliding SLOWS you down and 2) you can overrun first base, Berkman goes in head first so he can get his jersey dirty. Sure his sore wrist may affect his hitting, but at least he got down and dirty!
Then there’s the Dartmouth graduate Brad Ausmus, who on a Julio Lugo pop fly ran to second base and was doubled up on the play for not returning to first base. Dr. Ausmus used a routine pop fly to show how he can be Double-Play Brad on the base paths as well as at the plate.
Lugo has to be the valedictorian. While trying to turn a double play in the sixth inning, he drops the ball and ponders on why he dropped it. At the last minute he picks up the ball to force the runner coming from first, barely retiring him but providing some excitement.
Then “The Teacher” brings his infinite wisdom to the game later that inning. Brandon Puffer had been pitching strong for 2 innings, but had loaded the bases due to Lugo’s botched double play. Jimy Williams flips to page 13 of “The Book” and it tells him to bring in the “situational lefthander” (as in SNAFU). Unfortunately, Pedro Borbon is only in the major leagues because he throws with his left arm and walks a batter and then allows a hit to a left-handed hitter. But hey, Jimy used strategy and that’s why we’re fans and he’s a manager.
Much has been said about the struggling Houston offense. Why aren’t they hitting? Simple – they’re waiting. I have yet to figure out just what it is they are waiting for, but they continuously take pitch after pitch RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE of the plate, then swing at a pitch in the dirt. I guess they are creating an element of surprise for a rainy day. They purposely look foolish at the plate so pitchers won’t even prepare a plan of how to pitch to them making it easier for them.
If they actually do reach base, many times they pull some sort of base running stunt so they can sit back on the bench rather than stand around in the heat. The best example of this came earlier this month. Brian Hunter gets caught in a run down between third base and home plate. In the meantime, Richard Hidalgo (the Salutatorian) comes from FIRST base all the way to third to get tagged out along with Hunter in a very unusual double play. Brilliant! All of those base running classes at the Astros' accredited Venezuelan Academy really paid off.
The Cardinals and Reds don’t stand a chance! The Astros are going to sneak up and just snatch that lead from them like thieves in the night. Heck, under the guidance and crafty pitching management of Jimy Williams, this team may go all the way. Who needs complete games! Statistics mean nothing. Wait a minute, aren’t wins a statistic…?
Borbon in a glass
As the left-handed specialist, Pedro Borbon typically enters a game to face left-handed hitters. Since the first batter he faces is normally left-handed, he should have a very high percentage of first batters retired. In truth, he has retired the first batter only 28% of the time, ranking 9th (last) among relievers with 10 or more appearances. Nelson Cruz ranks 8th with a percentage nearly twice that (50%). He also ranks last among relievers not demoted or retired in ERA (5.32) and has been scored upon in 23 of his 32 outings (74% - also a bottom ranking). He truly epitomizes how poorly left-handed specialization has been misconstrued (for elaboration, please see the Lefty Malarkey column in the Astros Daily archives).