Promoter and Chief

added 7/22/2008 by Scott Barzilla

I know, I know. I promised another mid-term report card, but this recent deal plays into most of that anyway. For those that don't know, the Astros traded Chad Reineke for Randy Wolf. I called up my dad after the trade and said, "we got who?" He's certainly no expert, but he is a season ticket holder and likely the demographic that Drayton and company are aiming to please.

Of course, there are under the radar guys everywhere. Ask the casual fan about James Shields and you get the same puzzled look. Wolf ain't no James Shields. What makes this deal somewhat comical is the comparison with the real contenders from the Central. C.C. Sabathia and Rich Harden went to the Brewers and Cubs respectively. How does Wolf compare? Well, let's find out:

                GS        INN         ERA         SO       BB          HR
Pitcher A       21        146        3.51        147       40          14
Pitcher B       21        119        4.74        105       47          14 
Pitcher C       15         89        2.12        112       36           6

If you guessed that Pitcher B was Wolf then you are either an avid fan or know Drayton's law inside and out. Don't get me wrong, Wolf isn't abysmal and will likely be better than a Jack Cassel/Runelvys Hernandez combination down the stretch. What Wolf won't be is any better than Brandon Backe or Brian Moehler. Far be it from me or anyone else to rain on their parade, but Wolf isn't exactly an infusion of great pitching.

If Wolf continues to pitch as he has, he might do good enough to become a Type B free agent. In other words, if the Astros offered him arbitration (and he refused or signed with someone else before deciding on arbitration) he would net them a sandwich pick. Trever Miller netted them the same thing this year and that sandwich pick would certainly be better than Chad Reineke. Of course, he could just as easily not be worth anything:

           GS        INN       ERA         SO         BB         HR
Home       11       65.1      3.17         62         23          6     
Away       10       54.1      6.63         43         24          8

Wow, can we have that guy that pitched at home? Oh yeah, that's Petco Park, the best pitcher's park in the National League. The pitcher on the road is not as bad as his ERA looks, but he is a Brandon Backe type of pitcher. Who knows, maybe being in a pennant race will motivate Wolf. Oh, you mean the Padres are just as close to winning the West as we are to winning the Wild Card? Scratch that idea.

Leaving Wolf aside for a second, this is where we can begin to look inside the minds of those running the Astros. Drayton McLane doesn't want to rebuild. Why? It means fewer fans would walk through the doors at MMP. So, why not acquire a pitcher and tell the bumpkins in south Texas that "we're trying." Let's take a look at the standings and apply some simple rudimentary math:

                       W       L
St. Louis             57      44 
Milwaukee             56      43
Houston               46      54

Alright, let's assume that the Cards and Brewers both finish .500 in their last 61 and 62 games respectively. They both would finish with 87 wins on the season. Let's also assume that no one in the Eastern Division (say the losers between the Phillies, Mets, and Marlins) passes them. That means that the Astros would have to finish 41-21 to tie them. Is that possible? Sure, I suppose Miguel Tejada could suddenly snap out of his funk and become the player he was in 2004 when he drove in 150 runs. I suppose Michael Bourn could suddenly morph into Kenny Lofton in his prime. I suppose Humberto Quintero could turn into Ivan Rodriguez. Maybe we even buy Brian Moehler turning in 12 more starts like he has the past couple of months.

That might have been the longest paragraph I've ever typed in one of these columns. The chances of those happening are the same as me duplicating that paragraph again in this column. Any rational owner, president, and GM would look up at five teams in their division and decide to sell some of the pieces. No, they don't need a garage sale like the Marlins had in 1998, but there's little reason not to listen to offers for Jose Valverde.

The Nats just traded Jon Rauch to the D-backs for young talent. I would think the defending saves leader and current second place holder would command as much if not more than that. Are Mark Loretta, Darin Erstad, and Doug Brocail really integral for this club's future? Any one of them could bring a prospect or two at the deadline. Instead this team seems to be flirting with the idea of bringing in Jeremy Affeldt as well. Of course, Affeldt is just so much better as a lefty than Tim Byrdak or Wesley Wright.

As an Astros fan, I simply want what's best for the team. I would never wish ill will on anyone, but Drayton needs to figure out that people are not going to be fooled by this. You can't put Icy Hot on a gun shot wound all you want, but it won't do the trick. One mediocre pitcher won't do the trick either and Astros fans won't be fooled. This is still a below average baseball team.