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Tank Still Full

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2010 at 12:01 am

Houston has quietly been playing some really good baseball the past two weeks going 10-3. They are still 15 games out of first place but are only 12 games under the .500 mark. The Astros are currently riding a four game winning streak and looking to sweep the Phillies tomorrow afternoon as Wandy Rodriguez will be taking the mound. What may be shocking as Houston has seem to find a way to win is that they are not giving up many runs. They are not scoring many either but the starting rotation looks like they may have found their niche. This being said, all this could unravel come tomorrow but Houston fans will take it. Starting pitching Brett Myers has really impressed me with his consistency. He has the ability to last 7 innings and only gives up 2 or 3 runs per outing. Usually this is strong enough for the offense to supply enough run support to help notch the W. Though usually the bullpen would find a way to falter but not as of lately. J.A. Happ has had  5 quality starts out of six appearances. I would like to see Happ go into deeper innings but as of now I pleased with his overall performance. With his current victory over ex teammate Roy Halladay, Happ has shown that he can compete with the elite. I am honestly excited to see the starting rotation for next season because I think if the top three are Happ, Myers and Rodriguez, Houston would have a very solid 1-3. The back end still hasnt been decided yet but Figueroa is making a very strong statement to make the rotation. Than there is AAA player Jordan Lyles who might be called up next season and as of now, he has a great shot to make the ball club.

Hitting hasn’t changed too much as Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez and Jeff Keppinger are still producing. Hunter Pence has seemed to turn it on a bit as he is batting .337 in the month of August. His 17 RBIs are only second to Carlos Lee’s 19 this month. The team seems to hitting well together but their scoring rampage has slowed down a bit. They have the ability to score a lot of runs but expect an average of 3-5 a game. I would like to see Houston find some more power but hopefully Brett Wallace will soon find his stride as the season comes to a close. I really like the players now but still wouldn’t mind seeing Carlos Lee shipped off for some younger talent.

Houston has played better ball than I predicted but there is still awhile to go. If they can manage to get within 5 games of .500, I think their record would look better than they have shown all season. I find this team really fun to watch when I can because they tend to have this spark about them. The younger players seem to respond really well to tough situations and I believe if they can continue to get better that head coach Brad Mills has the ability to lead this team back to NL champions.

The Road to Prominence

In Around The League on August 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

With still over a month and half left till the post season, there can still be a lot of movement around the divisions to claim a playoff spot. A lot of teams haven’t been able to expand their division lead outside of the Texas Rangers. They are only team in baseball with a lead more than 5 games. It seems like their division rival Angels are not going to be making any ground on their own without some help. Rangers left fielder, Josh Hamilton, looks like he should win the MVP award. His .362 average is the best in baseball and he is on pace to crack the 100 RBI mark. Many Rangers fans hoped that pitcher Cliff Lee would be an automatic win when he takes the mound. Since his debut with the Rangers, Lee has gone 2-3 and his ERA has jumped .43 %. Come post season, Lee has been very dominate going 4-0 as he helped the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series. When in the playoffs, you only really need three good pitchers and a dominate closer to be successful. The Rangers do have three good pitchers but four of the five starters have zero playoff experience. Along with that their closer too has not seen the more beautiful side of October. This being said, the Rangers should still make a good run but I do not think they will make it past the ALCS.

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have identical records but the Rays would be crowned A.L. East Champions as they boast a 6-5 record vs the Bronx Bombers as of now. These two teams will face each other seven more times and unless the Red Sox make ground up, the AL East will be very interesting race to claim the crown.

While the Red Sox are only 5.5 out, their up and down play isn’t going to help them gain any ground. If they can get back on track, the rest of their schedule is very manageable. They face four teams with records under .500 and outside of the Yankees and Rays, they face two teams with winning percentage that barely clips the .510 mark. Josh Beckett has seemed to lost his dominance presence as he claims a 3-2 record with an ERA over 6. Lester and Bucholz have been very good this year but struggled as of lately. Dice-K who was once a dominate pitcher has been turned into a very good number three starter. Though he does boast an 8-4 record, his era is still way to0 high.

The Minnesota Twins have still been the hottest team in baseball since the All-Star break. They have only loss eight times while winning twenty-two. They currently have a three game lead over the White Sox. Their team batting average is an impressive .281 while being lead by Joe Mauer, Delmon Young and Justin Morneau. The Twins could make a solid playoff run too but like the Rangers their starters are not greatly experience. The White Sox seem to more of a gritty team that likes to grind it out day in and day out. They do have talent but their play doesn’t seem to be very polished at times. Their starters are not un hittable and their hitters are not overwhelmingly dangerous. With Ozzie Gullien being the coach, he will always have this team prepared every day.

The National League definitely has the more intriguing and tighter races in baseball. A week of baseball could make a huge difference in the division leaders. All the current division leaders have had their struggles but seem to find a way to win. In the NL East, it has been the Phillies  and Braves for the past two months while the Mets tried to contend but now have dropped 10 games out. The Braves currently lead the division by two and half games. They have been really good even with Chipper Jones being out with an ACL injury. Outside of the Reds, the NL top-tier teams are in the bottom half of run production while the AL elite are all in the top ten. When it comes to pitching though, three of the four top NL teams are 1-3 in overall pitching but the AL does also have all their top four teams in the top ten. The Phillies might have one of the best starting rotation as they were able to acquire Houston’s ex ace Roy Oswalt. They also have Roy Halladay who has been worth every penny since his trade from the Blue Jays.

The Central has been between the Reds and Cardinals from pretty much day one. Every other day it is either the Red Birds or the Reds leading. The Reds survive on great hitting with mediocre pitching while the Cardinals are opposite and have great pitching but their offense isn’t near what it use to be. Puljos is still a threat every game and Matt Holliday is still producing. It’s the players as Rasmus, Schumaker and Molina that are struggling this year. At the end of the day though when the season comes down to its finally games, the Cardinals pitching should prevail. Both Carpenter and Wainwright could win the Cy Young this year and Jamie Garcia as his first real year as a starter has been outstanding. This division will be the most exciting to watch because who ever wins will be in the NLCS and possibly a very good shot at the World Series.

The West has been the Padres for a while. While teams like the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies have been shuffling  all season to maintain distance, the Padres keep churning away. Their hitting has picked up while their pitching has been untouchable. They still ranked number one over all in pitching with a 3.23 ERA. Starting pitcher Mat Latos has been unbelievable as he has only surrender six runs in his last seven starts. The Padres hitting is so mediocre that despite them leading the division, they have scored the least amount of runs than any other team in their division. The Giants are only four games back but they seem to have trouble maintaining good play by anyone. One week it could be the pitching but then the offense struggles. Next week it would be vice versa. Lincecum has not lived up to his usually self and Barry Zito who started the season 6-1 has a  record of 8-6 now. Matt Cain still hasn’t been able to find consistency in his performance. He was able to extend his record to 6-4 with three straight winning performances. Then he followed that up with three straight losing starts. I think the Padres will be able to keep up their strong pitching and if their hitting still gets better, they will win this division.

This season definitely has the potential to be the most exciting as their will be tight finishes in nearly all the divisions. Also there will be some exciting playoff series as we might be seeing some new faces this year.

Stuck In Reverse

In Houston Astros 2010 Season on August 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

A week ago things started looking right for the Houston Astros. The team was winning and winning convincingly. The pitching and hitting seemed to be on par and glimpse of another late season run seemed possible. Now losers of the last 6 of 7, Houston has gone 13 games behind the division leader to 16. They were only 12 games under the .500 mark and now have extended their deficit to 17. So what went wrong is such a quick turn around? After their 18-4 victory over the division leading Cardinals, Houston’s momentum has seem to just float off into space. Their impressive starting pitching has evaporated and bullpen has been beyond atrocious. The hitting has slowed down but not enough to keep them in ball games.

J.A. Happ’s career in an Astros uniform has been seen three games, he has been impressive. Outside of the huge implosion vs the St. Louis Cardinals where he surrender seven runs in the first inning, Happ has had two extremely solid outings. Unfortunately for him, he is dealing with the same problem that Oswalt had to contend with. If it isn’t the offense being able to score runs, it is the bullpen not being able to hold the lead. Now these two can play hand in hand. It is hard to put pressure on the bullpen when the team only can muster a 1 or 2 two run lead with 3 + innings to go.

Another pitcher that has performed well but has failed to gain a victory in last two starts is Wandy Rodriguez. In his appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 6, Wandy pitched 6 strong innings only giving up two runs. Houston had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th where closer Matt Lindstrom blew his fifth game of the season giving up 4 runs. In his latest start Wandy again pitched admirably going seven strong allowing 2. The game extended into ten innings where relievers Lyon and Fulchino gave up six runs to the Braves.

It could be that the pen is getting worn down already as they have put in a lot of innings. They could have just hit a bad rut but excuses can be made. Things still need to be done all around the organization to improve this team. Lindstrom is going to be around as he hasn’t had a bad year blowing only 6 games. It is really the inconsistency that wears down the ball clubs patience. Not just with the pen but the starters and hitters. It is rare to have Houston’s 1-3 starters pitch great games. The pitchers themselves might go on a winning streak but as a whole, the starters will go 2-3 as the rotation cycles. That number is just if the starters can make it more than 5 innings. Most of the time it is the pen being spotted with the loss.

The rest of the August doesn’t ease up as the next five opponents will be the Pirates, Marlins, Mets, Phillies and Cardinals. The 100 loss mark could come up a lot quicker if the pen doesn’t turn it around. As the season does come to an end, we all will get a good idea who might be sticking around next year.

New Era In Both TT

In Random Rants on August 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm

This is a new era in Texas Tech Football as there will be a new head coach leading the Red Raiders out onto the field. Former Auburn coach, Tommy Tuberville will be now controlling the reigns of Tech as his new image and character has seem to make significant changes already. After the Mike Leach debacle, everyone was on edge to find out who would be taking over as names were being thrown out in the wind. Finally once news broke on who would be in charge, everyone become optimistic of the future. As the months soon passed, people started seeing positive change as better recruits were making commitments. More convincing to prove that Tech will become a powerhouse seem to seep into people’s minds and the new East Side Expansion progression has increased anticipation.

The season begins 28 days from now as the Red Raiders will be facing the SMU Mustangs on September 5th. The game  is on a Sunday which is very different as most collegiate football games are held on a Saturday. Tech is 30-16 vs SMU and look to extend their current 12 game winning streak. As of now no one really knows who the starting QB will be but I think either Taylor Potts or Steven Sheffield will be prepared to lead the Red Raiders to victory. This will be the first game as head coach of the Red Raiders for Tommy Tuberville and everyone will be intrigued to see if the offense changes a lot and how much better the defense will be. Tech also has a new offensive coordinator in Neal Brown who came over from Troy. While at Troy, Brown also lead a pass happy offense which actually racked up more yards than Tech did last season. We all have been told that the offense will remain the same but try to utilize the backs more. I am honestly fine with this as long as we can still score at will. The main concern that all Tech fans have is the mediocre defense. While yes Tech can score on majority of teams, being able to hold those teams have been disheartening. Now that new defensive coordinated has been put in place, James Willis. Willis was the linebacker coach last year at Alabama who are coming off a National Championship win. This has brought a lot of new optimism as now Tech has put in place two defensive minded coaches.

I honestly think Tech can have a decent season once again reaching a bowl game. Ideally I think Tech should win 9 games. Tech’s schedule follows as

The first two games will be a good test for both team and coaching staff to see how prepared and ready this team will be going into the rest of the season. I believe that both of these games against SMU & @ New Mexico should be wins, they will not be blow outs. Then September 18, the game that everyone all season will be anticipating brings the Texas Longhorns back to Lubbock, TX. As many of us remember, the last the UT played at Jones AT&T stadium, they walked away being upset as Michael Crabtree scored the game winning touchdown with a second left on the clock. Now both teams are basically have a new looking arsenal, this will stay make for an exciting game. I think Tech has a very good chance to pull out of this game with a W and with an always rowdy Tech crowd, this should help the Red Raiders come out victorious. If Tech does win, the next three games should also be victories. The Red Raiders will be facing Baylor in Dallas again but not at Cowboys Stadium. They both will be playing at the Cotton Bowl stadium and the last time Tech played there, they lost to Ole Miss in the 2008 Cotton Bowl game. Baylor has yet to be the Red Raiders since the birth of the Big 12 but have been playing Tech a lot closer. A 6-0 start will be outstanding but after their match up against the Ok. State Cowboys, Tech will have to travel to Boulder,  Colorado. Despite how bad the Buffaloes are, the Red Raiders always have trouble in Boulder. For some reason, winning at Folsom Field seems impossible. I think Tech will lose this game to notch their first L of the season. Last year the Aggies came stumbling into Lubbock after being dismantled by the Kansas Jayhawks. Well they seem to take out their aggressions as they rolled over Tech, 52-30. Tech does have a chance to win this game but it is always difficult to win in Kyle Field. I just have a gut feeling that Tech will walk away with a loss.  Despite A&M having a terrible defense, their offense will be quite good. The game will be close and exciting like most are but I see A&M winning by 10. Missouri will be the next opponent and just like Colorado, Tech has trouble beating this team that they should notch Ws against. Missouri is on a three game winning streak against the Red Raiders but I think their winning streak ends this year. By now Tuberville will have the Red Raiders extremely ready, especially if Tech does lose to A&M. The game at Norman vs the Sooners will be a loss. The Sooners are loaded at almost every position and looking to once again redeem themselves as Tech ran Landry Jones and his crew out of town. This game could be ugly once again just like 2008. The next two games should be winnable, especially the game against Weber State. Houston will finish off the regular season and will be a huge game for Tech as they want to revenge their loss last year to the Cougars. While Houston will be tough, I think Houston’s weaknesses will be easily exposed by the time this game arrives.

As I mention, a nine game winning season would be optimal and very possible. Anything more would be outstanding and anything less especially under 8 will be a disappointment. I am just reading for tailgating and spending some more great moments will my fellow Red Raiders.

Revamped For The Future

In Houston Astros 2010 Season on August 3, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Who knew new faces could make such a huge impact immediately on a ball club. A lot of Astros fans were gloomy to see their two big stars in Oswalt and Berkman leave the organization. They have been the face of this team for the past nine plus years. They have help transition the loss of Biggio and Bagwell and send Houston to its very first World Series birth. That is history and there are a ton of new players that seem to be ready to lead this team back in contention.

The Astros are currently on a seven game winning streak which is by far the longest of this season. A team that pretty much baseball considered down and out for the count looks like it might be showing what it is capable of doing next season. So what does this mean for the rest of the season? It would be historic to see the Astros not loose for the rest of the year and make probably the greatest playoff run in the history of the game. Don’t forget, Houston has done it before. Back in 2004 the Astros fired skipper Jimmy Williams a little half way through the season and hired Phil Gardner. The Astros then went on to finish the season 46-26 and clinch a playoff berth. They eventually were ousted by the by division foe Cardinals but help set up the historic 2005 year.

After tonight’s 18-4 dismantling of the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston does sit 12 games out. This deficit seems way too big for any club to come back from. A team that has been struggling to gain any type of composer all season has enough will power to shock the world? Honestly I do not think so. Yes they have looked impressive in their win streak. They have been able to outscore their division rivals 57-12. There were times were Houston looked like they would have trouble scoring 57 runs in a month. Their starting pitching and bullpen have all of suddenly have found their niche . Every starting pitching was able to notch a victory at least once and new face J.A. Happ looked like he has claimed the Ace roll.

There are so many players that have impressed me. Jason Bourgeois and Jason Castro who both were called up from Round Rock have made a significant impact. Bourgeois who hasn’t yet found his swing yet has been a more than solid fielder. His ability to play outfield and infield makes him such a viable utility player. The same goes with Castro as he seems to be able to communicate with his fellow pitchers. Though his batting average hasn’t been outstanding, he does have two home-runs.

These next two players have been the most impressive. Third baseman Chris Johnson who has been called up before has seem to finally been able to figure how to hit off big league pitchers. Since becoming a consistent starter June 22, Johnson has a .341 B.A., 21 RBI and 4 HR. Johnson rode a 14 game hit streak all the way to the end of July but hasn’t seemed to slow down going 4 of 8 the last two games. New SS Angel Sanchez has also made a strong impact as he has shown the ability to hit. Entering the lineup July 2, Sanchez B.A. is .293 along with 14 RBI. Since he isn’t a power hitter, he has shown be a great contact hitter. His role at the top of the lineup has really boosted this offense and could make Michael Bourn’s job a lot easier.

These next two guys have been on the team for a while but mainly bench players. Since they team needed a lot of changes, they have come through unbelievably as starters. Jeff Keppinger might have found a home after bouncing around on four ball clubs in six years. His bat, glove and veteran-ship have seem to make a contribution throughout the organization. Though his numbers are not overwhelming All-star caliber, with the combination of all these new players, they have helped tremendously. Jason Michaels who switches roll as starter and bench player has not been a disappointment. It seems whenever this club needs a boost during the game, it is Michaels that can create that spark. His Grand Slam against the Brewers help Houston propel into the lead and the rest of the offense seemed to come alive.

If the Astros are able to finish .500 come season end, than this year will be a success. Anything less won’t shock me and anything more will be a miracle. All I know is if Houston can get a couple more of key pieces, than the rebuilding process will not be as long as people thought.

8/2/10 MLB Top Five

In Around The League on August 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm

With the second half of the 2010 fully underway, there have been numerous trades to help get teams in position for the playoff run. This being said, not a lot recently has changed much as your current division leaders have been there for the past three weeks. After the trades though, some clubs became a lot stronger while others are just hoping their current roster is good enough to maintain a playoff spot.

1.) New York Yankees ( 66-38 ) – Even though they just lost the series to their division foe Rays, they are still the powerhouse team of their division and baseball. With the recent acquisitions of Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, the Yankees now have made their already all-star line up stronger and added more depth to their pen and bench. Once all these players settle, I expect the Yankees to finally pull away and easily win this division by 7 + games.

2.) Tampa Bay Rays ( 65-39)- For awhile the Rays were battling with the Red Sox for the second spot and basically the wild card spot. They are 11-5 so far in the second half and should keep this winning pace up for the rest of the year. They rank third overall in the majors in hitting as they are also third overall in runs scored. They do not have an outstanding batting average but they do have one of the best pitching staffs. Three out of five starting pitchers have ten or more wins while the two other are sitting at nine.

3.) Texas Rangers ( 61-44 ) – The Rangers might have been the biggest winners out of all the clubs trading. Outside of signing starting pitcher Cliff Lee, they also acquired Bengie Molina, Jorge Cantu, and Cristian Guzman. Since joining the club, Cliff Lee has gone 1-2 but has had decent outings. Their already 8 game lead out in the West seems to be enough to win the division as the Angels are not deep enough to make a run.

4.) San Diego Padres ( 61-42 ) – The Padres were one of the few teams that didn’t make any moves this past week. They still cannot hit but having surprisingly good pitching. With the rest of their division making moves though, mainly the Dodgers. How long will the Padres be able to keep this miracle run up? If the Padres do make the playoffs, they are not good enough to go anywhere past the first round.

5.) Minnesota Twins ( 59-46) – They might not be winning their current division but they definitely have been the hottest team in baseball. A 13-4 record this half, the Twins have dominated their opponents. Fifth overall in hitting, they do have the best batting average at .283. Justin Morneau, Delmon Young and Joe Mauer are all in the top ten in hitting. The Twins acquired closer Matt Capps from the Nationals making their back end extremely efficient  as they will know have two strong closers but Jon Rauch taking over the set up role.