Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday's Rundown

The InterWeb has been abuzz in the past 12 hours since the news of Bud Norris' callup hit. A couple months ago, I did a short profile on Norris here. In charting each of his starts, I really like what Norris brings in terms of potential to the rotation. In 19 starts for Round Rock, Norris struck out 112 batters in 120 innings, averaging 8.40 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9. He struck out ten batters once and allowed two or fewer runs in 11 starts. Norris has a positive G/F ratio at 129/109 and a HR/9 rate of 0.45.

His record at Round Rock is pretty terrible at 4-9, but his expected winning percentage sits at .687, meaning his record should be more like 13-6. His Pitching Runs Created is at 51.12, which means he has created the most runs for the Express of any player this season. His average game score is a 57 and he's induced 16 double plays.

I am concerned, however, about his control. In Zachary Levine's Q&A with Tal Smith yesterday, Smith suggested that Norris' lack of control was similar to Wandy Rodriguez, so I went back and looked at Wandy's track record to begin his career. Rodriguez is pitching in his fifth season in the majors and here are his BB/9 rates over that time span: 3.7, 4.2, 3.1, 2.9, 3.0. In the minors, Wandy had a career BB/9 rate of 3.1 and his progression went like this: 2.4, 2.5, 3.3, 3.6, 3.3, 4.5 (though that last season consisted of only five starts at Round Rock).

Obviously, as the levels got harder, Wandy got more inaccurate. Norris has a career minor league rate of 3.7 and a progression of 3.1, 3.7, 3.5 and now 3.98. So, to this point, Norris has had worse rates for most of his time in the minors and for his college career. In three season with Cal Poly, Norris had a BB/9 rate of 5.47, but that number is skewed by his sophomore season when he walked 30 batters in 34 innings. In his only season as a full-time starter in college, Norris walked 57 in 110 2/3 innings, giving him a BB/9 rate of 4.64.

While Norris does give up free passes more than you'd like, he differs with Wandy in another, very key area. Only once in his minor league career has Norris given up more hits than innings pitched and that came in 2008 when he hurt his arm. That's only been true for Wandy about half the time, as he had 3 of 6 minor league seasons with more hits than innings pitched and his first two pro seasons continued that trend. Of course, this shows the big difference between the two: Norris is a power pitcher, who misses bats while Wandy is not overpowering, but uses location to make up for lack of speed.

What does this mean for Houston? I haven't the foggiest. No one seems sure how they'll use Norris, as the 8th inning role has recently been vacated with LaTroy Hawkins shingles-related trip to the DL. Norris has proven, though, that he does deserve a shot at the big league rotation.

So, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the links of the day and then all the news and notes you can handle from the Astros minor league system:

Links for today:

More discussion of curveballs and our youth

Even more about curveballs

Not specifically about the topic, but a good read on pitching mechanics

Now the notes:

Polin Trinidad and T.J. Burton got absolutely 70's era Led Zepplin-rocked on Tuesday against Memphis. Trinidad lasted five innings, giving up 10 hits and nine earned runs while striking out three and walking one. The 23-year old also gave up six home runs. What's worse? Trinidad gave up two home runs each to three different players, including two to former Padres shortstop Khalil Greene. Burton got off no lighter, giving up eight hits and five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings while walking three and striking out no one. Not a pretty night on the mound for the Express, as even catcher Brian Esposito got into the fun, pitching a scoreless eighth while allowing two hits and one walk. That's after he caught the first seven innings of the game.

Esposito was called up to Round Rock after J.R. Towles went back on the disabled list. I'm not sure why this time, but the 25-year old has had just 18 at-bats this month and 129 total at-bats this season (in the minors). Towles just can't seem to stay healthy the past month or so, but hopefully he can turn it around soon and maybe make a September call-up.

Mark Saccomanno hit another home run on Tuesday, his 11th of the season. The 29-year old has now gone 5 for his last 8 and has three home runs this month. Saccomanno is hitting .313/.407/.522 with an OPS+ of 147 in July.

Reliever Chia-Jen Lo pitched a scoreless inning on Tuesday, giving up a hit and striking out one. Lo also didn't walk anyone, which is noteworthy since the 23-year old has walked four in seven innings this month and has generally struggled with his control since being promoted to Corpus Christi.

Starter Brad James, however, wasn't so lucky, lasting seven innings while giving up eight hits and five earned runs. James walked three but struck out three and suffered his eighth loss of the season....Drew Meyer extended his hitting streak to 11 games by going 2 for 4 with a double and a strikeout.

Collin DeLome hit his 17th home run of the season on Tuesday, going 1 for 4 with three strikeouts and two RBIs. The 22-year old has created 17.5 runs this month and has 61 runs created this season. DeLome has 38 extra base hits in 383 plate appearances, but has also struck out 92 times. His OBP of .340 is good but not great and he'll have to continue walking occasionally to offset his strikeouts.

This post is running long, so we'll break it up into two parts today. Part II coming up soon...

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