The Houston Astros came into the offseason with bolstering the bullpen in mind. They have done just that, but still have work to do. Early during the offseason, the Astros signed Peter Moylan to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Just before the Winter Meetings, they added Chad Qualls, who will make a nice addition to the back end of the bullpen. During the Winter Meetings, they traded their first round pick in the Rule 5 draft for Anthony Bass from the San Diego Padres, who could pitch out of the pen or the rotation. Earlier today, Monday the 16th, the Astros signed Matt Albers. If you’re keeping tabs, that’s the second reliever from the 2007 the Astros have signed this offseason.
The Astros brought Albers back, not because he is from Houston, though he is, or because he has Houston ties, but because he fits the mold that General Manager wants his pitchers to have. Albers had a pretty extreme ground ball percentage (GB%) last season (63.8%), and we all know Luhnow loves those ground ball pitchers. In fact, lets take a look at the recent acquisitions and their GB% based on last season’s stats. Scott Feldman’s GB% last year 49.6%, Anthony Bass’ GB% was 45%, Chad Qualls’ GB% was 63.3%. In Peter Moylan’s last full season, 2010, his GB% was 67.8%.
Given that the Astros are actually spending real money this offseason, I don’t think the Astros are finished signing relievers. In fact, I think the next pitcher the Astros sign is a familiar name in Jose Veras. Veras, as most of know, was apart of the Astros before they traded him to the Detroit Tigers. During the Winter Meeting, the hot rumor surrounding Jose Veras was that he wanted to return to Houston. In fact, they were discussing a contract, but I haven’t heard anything more than that. I, for one, hope the Astros have continued talks with Veras and end up bringing him back.
The Houston Astros haven’t been all that busy the past few years in the offseason. They’ve signed older veterans to get them through the year. Last year’s offseason acquisitions included Jose Veras, Carlos Pena, and Rick Ankiel. However, this year, they’re actually spending real money. They’ve traded for Dexter Fowler, and they’ve signed Scott Feldman to a three year, 30 million dollar contract. They also brought in a former Astro Chad Qualls at two years 6 million dollars with an option for a third year at 3.5 million dollars. Those acquisitions could just be the tip of the iceberg for the Astros as the head into the Winter Meetings.
According to Brian McTaggart, the Astros are still in the market to add another reliever, as well as a middle of the order bat. Whether the Astros would trade for those guys is beyond me. I don’t think the Astros the spend millions of dollars, but they’re suggesting that they’re staying on track to raise the payroll up to 60 million dollars this year, and they’re not there yet.
Out of the relievers that are available in free agency, I would love for the Astros to take a look into Andrew Bailey, though he may be out of their price range. Another guy I would love for the Astros to sign would be Jose Veras. Veras was a big piece of the Astros bullpen last year, seeing as how they blew 10 saves in the month of August after he was traded, and 29 as a whole throughout the season.
Where things get a little weird is the Astros acquiring a “middle of the order” bat. There aren’t many on the free agent market unless you include Corey Hart, who would potentially hit 5th or 6th. However, the Phillies just made Dominic Brown available. If you remember correctly, the Astros tried to acquire Brown last season, and they may pick talks back up, but I’m not sure how big a possibility that is.
Nothing is imminent involving the Astros, but one can only imagine that they’ll be active in the market during the Winter Meetings. We’ll see were this leads, and as always, we’ll keep you updated if anything happens.
Over the past five games, the Houston Astros starting pitchers have four quality starts, and the other was a great effort from Dallas Keuchel to help keep his team in the game, and eventually got the win. Honestly, this is the best stretch of baseball I’ve seen the Astros play. Yes, the blowouts of the Mariners were fun, but the pitching was bad. I’m not saying it is great, it still needs a lot of work, but the pitchers have been improving, and are looking much better now. However, the Astros are going up against a team that has really had their number this season, the Oakland Athletics.
When you’re in the position that the Astros are in, a lot of teams have your number, but the A’s have really destroyed the Astros in the six games that they’ve played so far this season. In six games, the A’s have outscored the Astros by 26 runs, and that leads to run differential of 45-19 in favor of the A’s. One thing that you can notice from that is the fact that the A’s starting pitchers have obviously outpitched the Astros, and obviously the bullpen played a role in that too.
In this upcoming series, the Astros are going to need strong starting pitching to have any chance.
If I remember correctly, the last time Erik Bedard faced off against the A’s, he couldn’t get out of the first inning. Tonight, Bedard takes the mound and needs another good start to keep his rotation spot. Since being placed in the bullpen, and then placed back into the starting rotation, Bedard has been pitching much better, and another good start tonight could go a long ways for his confidence, and he may be able to pick up that first win of the year. He is 0-2 on the season.
In fact, the Astros starting pitchers will need to have a week much like the week that just passed. If they do that, the Astros have a good chance to pick up at least one game against the A’s. One thing I know, don’t let the Astros have a lead in the ninth because then it is Jose Veras time.
It seems that the only thing that you hear about the Astros in 2013 is that they are bad, really really really bad. Most of what you hear about the Astros is how they are bad enough to out do the 1962 expansion New York Mets’ worst record in the modern baseball era. Most recently, Buster Olney (whom I revere and respect) on the Baseball Tonight podcast simply trashing the Astros, saying that they were “non-competitive” in their most recent sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers. Olney went on to talk about exactly how bad this team is, listing every possible statistic the Astros are on pace to set a new season worst record for, and summarized how they simply had their butts handed to them on a silver platter by the best team in the American League. Continue reading