It’s All Ballbearings These Days

Leave it to 1985 cinema classic, “Fletch” to capture the feeling of the Astros 6-3 loss to the Dodgers Saturday.  Anyone who stayed up with us until 1:01am CDT knows exactly what I’m talking about.  For those who lost the battle with the sandman, let me explain.

The Astros and Dodgers — two of the National League’s greatest surprises this year — engaged in an epic stare-down at Chavez Ravine.  The low-scoring, see-saw game sat tied, 3-3, in the ninth inning after 3 hours and 49 minutes of play. The teams combined to leave 22 men on base and didn’t exactly dazzle with runners in scoring position: they were 5-for-19 collectively.  With 31 runners roaming the bases, it made for a lot of stressful — or high-leverage — pitches.

How many? The teams conspired to use 11 pitchers who combined to throw a whopping 333 pitches.

PERSPECTIVE: Given the distance from the mound to the plate at 60 ft. 6 in., that means the clubs pitched the ball 20,146 ft. 6 in.  Translated, that’s the length of nearly 310 Jose Altuves or 3.815 miles.  (gulp).

I’d say it felt like the teams might play all night long, but they already had.  So maybe it seemed like they would just play forever; no end in sight.

“Sure, but uhhh, the end was very — very sudden.” –Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Once again we see life imitating art.  Hard to believe that it was 27 years ago when Fletch — a Los Angeles journalist — foreshadowed what we witnessed last night.  And let’s not quibble over the meaning of “art” here. The silver screen has given us “Rosebud,” “Frankly, my dear…” and this iconic scene:

Fittingly, reporter AJ Carravell opened his game story with the following line. I haven’t asked, but I like to think it was a nod to the great Irwin Fletcher:


LOS ANGELES — The Astros’ four-game winning streak came to a sudden and disheartening halt Saturday night with a walk-off home run off the bat of Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis.


Sudden, indeed. Exactly 3 hours and 50 minutes into an agonizing contest of limited offensive display, Ellis took a 1-1 offering from Wilton Lopez and swatted it deep into the left field bleachers.  Dodgers Stadium fans were delirious. Maybe it was their exhaustion, maybe elation.

It all happened so suddenly, it was hard to tell.



• Lucas Harrell pulled off a rare feat in beating the Dodgers on Friday.  He threw 94 pitches, 64 of which were strikes in his 7.1 innings of work. He induced 17 groundballs. A fantastic effort.

What was amazing is that the Dodgers never swung through a pitch that night. Not a single one. They took 17 called strikes and fouled off 47 pitches.

Since 2000, only two pitchers have pitched that deep into a game — giving up one or fewer runs — without inducing a single swing and miss.  The list, according to our buddy Kevin Eschenfelder (who credits STATS Inc.):

April 28, 2002 – Scott Erickson, Bal  (9 IP vs. Royals)
July 19, 2003 – Darrell May, KC  (8 IP vs. Mariners)
May 28, 2007 – Steve Trachsel, Bal  (9 IP vs. Royals)

• I could be wrong, but it seems like the Dodgers foul off a lot of pitches. I certainly don’t know how or where to find that kind of data.  That said, I went back to count the first two games of the Astros series in LA.  I think these numbers are pretty interesting.

–Dodgers fouled off 53 pitches on Friday.  That’s 39.6% of the pitches they saw!

–Dodgers fouled off 41 pitches on Saturday; a more reasonable 24.3% of the pitches.

–So for the first two games, they’ve spoiled over 31% of Astros pitches.  That seems high to me.  Not sure how much meaning to ascribe to those numbers, but they interested me, anyway.

• This might be the weirdest one yet.  Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley simply would not let anyone else play last night.  He worked deep to every single Astros hitter and managed to rack up a few strikeouts along the way. When JD Martinez lined out to Andre Ethier to strand the bases loaded in the second inning, it was the first time in the game that a Dodgers position player figured into a putout (other than catcher AJ Ellis).  The play by Ethier occurred 45 minutes and four seconds after the first pitch of the game was delivered.




Just want to say thanks to all of you who have visited and left comments.  I have lots of ideas for this blog and hope you’ll continue to enjoy it.  Please feel free to leave any suggestions on things you’d like to see/read/hear.  And spread the word!  The more the merrier here.

Follow me on twitter, too.  @daveraymond4


A Novel Idea

“Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations.” -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Mr. Dickens, arguably the greatest writer of the Victorian period, knew the 2012 Astros before you ever root, root, rooted for Jed Lowrie or had heard of Marwin Gonzalez.  About 150 years before, in fact.

Maybe you didn’t like Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities (I’m more of an Oliver Twist kind of guy, myself).  That’s okay.  You’re watching this novel play out in front of your eyes this summer.

SIDE NOTE: Brett Myers might have a case against the legendary author.  Looks to me like Dickens is guilty of plagiarizing the look of the potential All-Star closer.  If it pleases the court, I submit exhibits A and B:


Anyway, Dickens built his literary classic around Pip — a destitute young orphan with a checkered legal record who falls into the grace of a mysterious and quite generous friend.  Pip jumps at the once-in-a-literary-era chance to leave his shameful past in the dust and become a man of dignity and repute.  As the story goes he has “great expectations” for himself.

The 2012 Houston Astros are a lot like Pip.

Coming off a calamitous season in which they dropped a franchise-record 106 games, the Astros had lost their way.  They needed help.  They needed someone who could see the good lurking underneath all the bad.

Enter Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow and whole lot of new leadership at Union Station.  Crane gives Astros fans a voice; he listens instead of spinning.  Luhnow brings thoughtfulness and creativity to the baseball side.  The message from every source of leadership is clear: success follows attitude.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that this young team “…has great expectations.”

Look at the boys now: young, promising and getting better by the day.  Off a sweep of the Chicago Cubs, the Astros are 21-23 as they hit the road for Los Angeles — where the Dodgers are the only National League team with more home wins than the local nine.

I’m sure it’s fun to be the Yankees or Phillies and know you’re going to be a factor every year.  Can it possibly be as rewarding as proving everyone wrong?  Maybe.  But these first two months have been more fun that I could have imagined.

The big question is how will it all end up?  Hard saying.  We could plunge into a lot of history and data to try to find an answer — and I don’t think you’ll find the Astros front office running from those realities.  At the same time, you can’t spreadsheet heart and hustle and attitude.

So I’ll settle for chapters 4, 5 and 6 of this fascinating story.  And I’ll anxiously await every plot twist and new character development along the way.  This book is too good to put down right now.  Maybe a classic.

Who knows?


Fun with Numbers

• The Astros are 21-23 and in third place in the NL Central — only 4.0 games out.  They are 16-10 at home this season.  Last year they won 25 games at Minute Maid Park.

• A number of websites include a pretty cool feature which predicts the chances of any team making the post-season.  ESPN, Baseball Prospectus and all use some variation of the same idea.

After last night’s win over the Cubs, projects a 26.8% chance of the Astros qualifying for October baseball.  That’s up from a 6.4% chance on Opening Day.

• According to, the Astros payroll will end up around $60M this year.  As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, they are closer to first place than the following teams:

Yankees — $196M
Phillies — $173M
Angels — $155M
Red Sox — $146M
Tigers — $119M
Giants — $118M
Brewers — $98M
Cubs — $87M


Speaking of Attitude

In the Brewers win over San Francisco yesterday, Ryan Braun was upset about the roof being open at Miller Park.  At least that’s what I have to assume.  With his team leading comfortably in the sixth inning, Braun led off against Giants reliever Steve Edlefsen.  With a 1-2 count, Braun bunted foul to strikeout in an obvious display of petulance.

Now my personal disdain for bunting is difficult to hide at times, but it has nothing to do with my feelings on this specific matter.

Braun may not like the shadows at Miller Park.  I doubt many hitters — or fielders for that matter — do.  However, he owes more to his teammates, the game and THE PAYING FANS than to throw away an at bat like that.  Fans certainly didn’t pay to see him pout.

That’s low-rent on his part.  I’m surprised it wasn’t covered with more interest by the newspapers.


Milo Update

During the bottom of the sixth inning last night, Carlos Lee fouled a ball directly into the home radio booth.  That bad boy got back in a hurry and skipped off the desk, deflecting off Milo’s chest.  Fortunately, he didn’t absorb the entire blow.

Milo finished the game with the help of two ibuprofen and a bag of ice.  Even better, he feels fine today and is running about town taking care of all his off-day errands.

As for Lee, it’s the second time he’s found our booth.  During the previous home stand he drilled Milo’s blue-star neon, sending glass everywhere.  The light was replaced and all is well.


A Special Treat

So I want to thank you all for visiting my new blog.  This is entry number one.  No turning back now.  Please tell your friends or tweet it out to folks and let’s see if we can get some interesting conversation going in this quiet little corner of the internet.

As the Astros are in-transit today to Los Angeles, I wanted to give you something to help get you through the day.  I saw a cool piece at and had to pass this on.  I dare you to watch the video of the Harvard baseball team and not feel a little better.  Hard to explain, but it just makes me feel good to see people enjoying music and having fun.