Back early…for now

Today is the Annual First 50-Game Awards Day, presented by AJS, inc.

The winners…

Richard Hidalgo Early-Season MVP Award
1. Lance Berkman –
‘Nuff said.

Miguel Tejada – Steroids, schmeroids.  Age, schmage.  The fastest-aging man in America has quietly been on pace for a 16 HR, 113 RBI, .335 campaign.  While trading partner Baltimore Orioles have gotten quality work from Dennis Sarfate, Matt Albers, and Luuuuuuuuke Scott, it’s hard to say how different this lineup is with a dynamic hitter like Tejada.

Shawn Chacon – this “bargain-bin” pickup is beginning to look like one of Ed Wade’s smartest, as the 2nd-best Alaskan pitcher of this decade (after Curt Schilling) has been the ‘Stros most consistent pitcher, logging a team high 7 quality starts, with only a 1-0 record to show for it.

Cliff Lee Fast Start Pitching Award
1. Jose Valverde –
Another under-the-radar Astro, quietly leading the NL in saves.  After a rough start, he’s brought his ERA down over 7 points while recording a lengthy scoreless streak.  Did I mention he took one off the face and still recorded a save?

Shawn Chacon – see above.

Geoff Geary – Before going on the DL, the forgotten member of the “Lidge for Bourn trade” had become Cooper’s favorite 7th inning go-to guy, having earned the spot with some clutch pitching and awesome teeth.

Who is this kid? Rookie of April/May
1. Michael Bourn
– Houston native Bourn literally flew through April and the beginning stages of May, managing to get caught only twice (a third time remains disputed…) while swiping 21 bases, establishing himself as Houston’s first premier base-stealer since the days of Tony Eusebio…just kidding.

2. Wesley Wright – the 12-year old Wright – whats that? he’s 23!?!!?!?! – the baby-faced Rule V draft pick from L.A. has officially made a successful jump from AA to the Bigs.  Despite a few bumps, Wright has been superb first as a lefty specialist and more recently, as Coop’s seventh-inning guy du jour. 

J.R. Towles – only in the running because he’s a rookie.  Rough times have found the young backstop, and his 8-RBI performance last September in St. Louis is looking more and more like a fluke everyday.  Thank god for the offensive prowess of Brad “What’s up dude?” Ausmus. Also makes you thank your lucky stars that former 1st-round draft pick catcher Max Sapp is…struggling still in Class A ball three years removed from hearing his name called. Ouch.

Other award winners:
The Shane Reynolds Struggling Ace Award: Roy Oswalt
Toughest Guy Award: Jose Valverde
Closer Down!
Best Song Played When Gets a Hit Award: Miguel Tejada
The song is called Track 11 and unfortunately cannot be purchased anywhere
Coolest Joint Defensive Play Award: Tim Byrdak and Kaz Matsui



Unfortunately, due to time constraints mainly stemmed from finals I will be taking a short moratorium from The Astros from Afar.  I know that my huge fanbase, namely Angela Ha and Kylie Herzik will miss me.  I should be back in action Wednesday afternoon.



While I’m gone:

Funny English Project
Andy Samberg before SNL
Astro Minor League Yordany Ramirez Making a Sick Catch (Last Year…)
Very Bizarre Final Scene (**Spoiler Alert**) of 1995 thriller Se7en
and finally
Another Great Blog

Draft ’08

With the upcoming MLB First-Player Draft, I feel it necessary to compile names who have been mentioned as possible Astros targets.

The most prominent name, that is until a recent injury, was Fresno State fireballer Tanner Scheppers.  Unfortunately, due to health concerns, he is neither worth the Astros 10th pick, nor will he be around still when they pick again, most likely having been picked up by a big-market team that can afford to wait for him to heal or risk him never overcoming it.  Thus, the name thrown into the mix has been Tulane right-hander Shooter Hunt.  Other options at the 10 spot would be University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham (if he’s still around), Eastern Kentucky lefty Christian Friedrich, or maybe Miami first-baseman Yonder Alonso, who wouldn’t make as much sense given the blockage at 1st base and corner outfield positions. 

Personally, if he’s still around, I’d love Gordon Beckham.  Not only would he by far be the best player left on the board, he’d also fill an organizational need, a double bonus.  Our top SS prospect right now is Tommy Manzella, who’s basically Adam Everett, with worse D and a tad better O.  Actually, when you think about it, that just sounds like Rey Ordonez or Cesar IzturisBeckham is “a line-drive hitter who consistently squares up on the ball and works the count to his advantage” who also is “a very natural defender, but he’s fighting his size a bit at short and might profile better as a second baseman.” Quite different from light-hitting Manzella, huh? However, other sources disagree, arguing that he could for sure stay at shortstop in the pros with his fielding grace and range.  Out of the pitchers, I like Hunt more, as he has a higher upside than Friedrich, who scouts believe may top out as a #3 pitcher. However, thinking like the GM of a farm-poor team like the Astros, Friedrich may be the better choice as he is almost a sure thing to speed through the farm system and have some sort of impact – maybe marginal – at the big league level within two years of being drafted.  Shooter not only has a cool name, but he is less of a sure thing. If he pitches like he has at Tulane, however, then he could be the bigger payoff of the two pitchers.   Gladly, I don’t make the decisions on draft day.

What are your thoughts? Suggestions?

Astros Victory

Final: Astros 5, Chicago Cubs 3

W: Chacon (1-0)
L: Gallagher (1-1)
S: Valverde (14)

Another comeback victory for the Astros.

Carlos Lee led the Astros’ offensive attack with a 3-run home run, his 10th of the season.

Shawn Chacon, after surrendering three runs in the first (2 on a Derrek Lee monster home run, 1 on a Geovany Soto double that scored Micah Hoffpauir), settled down and earned his first decision, a win, this season.

Michael Bourn, continuing his hot streak, went 3-4 at the plate with a triple, two singles, and his 20th stolen base.

With the victory, Houston improves to 27-21, only 1 1/2 games behind the division leading Cubs, who are now 28-19. 

Up next, the Philadelphia Phillies (26-22) come to town for a four-game set that marks the last time these two teams will play each other in the regular season.

Kyle Kendrick (3-2, 4.76) will pitch for the Phillies, while Houston will counter with struggling ace Roy Oswalt (4-4, 5.43), game time 7:05 CST.

Lineups (5/21/08)

1. Michael Bourn (CF)
2. Kazuo Matsui (2B)
3. Miguel Tejada (SS)
4. Lance Berkman (1B)
5. Carlos Lee (LF)
6. Geoff Blum (3B)
7. Hunter Pence (RF)
8. J.R. Towles (C)
9. Shawn Chacon (P)

Ty Wigginton appears to have some sort of “lingering injury” that Coop says will keep him out for a couple days, giving the switch-hitting Blum a chance to get some PT.  Cubbies lineup not posted yet.

For the Cubs, Micah Hoffpauir will make his first Major League start in place of the formerly-hot Alfonso Soriano.  Hoffpauir has been a consistent Minor League player (.315, 16, 73 last year in AAA-Iowa) who really hasn’t had the chance to crack the bigs until this year.

1. Ryan Theriot (SS)
2. Kosuke Fukudome (RF)
3. Derrek Lee (1B)
4. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
5. Micah Hoffpauir (LF)
6. Geovany Soto (C)
7. Jim Edmonds (CF)
8. Mark DeRosa (2B)
9. Sean Gallagher (P)

Hopefully the Astros can pull this one out to win the series from the Chicago Cubs!

The Battle of the Shawns (or if your a Cub fan,  Seans)

Allrighty, first post.  Tonights matchup of the Cubs vs. Astros finishes a three-game set: winner takes the series. 

The Cubs will pitch 22-year-old Sean Gallagher, making his 3rd start of ’08 and 5th appearance overall.  He brings to MMP a 4.40 ERA.  Apparently he’s good at getting out of jams because he’s allowed just about a hit per inning and walk every two.  The righty has struggled against right handed bats, so maybe Tejada, Lee, and the smokin’ hot Pence can do some damage. 

The Astros counter with Shawn Chacon, who is still looking for his first decision wearing a Houston uniform.  Chacon has been spectacular versus righties but lefties (such as perennial Astro-killer Jim Edmonds) have rocked him. 

I’ll update later when lineups are posted.