4/1-4/3 Series Preview: Houston Astros

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

After more than four months of offseason and six weeks of Spring Training, meaningful baseball is back. The Yankees open the 2014 season later tonight in the same place they ended last season, at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Astros will honor Derek Jeter with a ceremony prior to tomorrow’s game, according to Evan Drellich. Former Yankees and former Astros Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens are scheduled to attend. Neato.

What Did They Do Last Year?
Stunk, mostly. The Astros went 51-111 with a -238 run differential, the worst marks in baseball by eleven games and -64 runs, respectively. Terrible. They made a few moves to add legitimate MLB caliber players over the winter but not nearly enough to right this ship. Houston went 12-15 during Grapefruit League play.

The Yankees were terrible offensively last season thanks to the injuries, and the Astros were just as bad. The two clubs were nearly identical on a rate basis (86 vs. 85 wRC+), though New York did a better job of actually pushing runs across (4.01 vs. 3.77 runs per game). Houston did add one notable position player in OF Dexter Fowler (106 wRC+ in 2013), who they stole from the Rockies for pennies on the dollar.

Castro. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

Castro. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

The Astros’ best hitter and best all around player is C Jason Castro (130 wRC+ in 2013), who broke out last summer and lived up to the hype of being the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft. 1B/DH Chris Carter (113 wRC+) has huge power (29 HR and .223 ISO) and was the club’s only other comfortably above-average hitter in 2013. 2B Jose Altuve (85 wRC+) has become one of the game’s most overrated players the last year or two. His production is on par with the Yankees version of Melky Cabrera, except instead of having a cool name, he’s really short.

3B Matt Dominguez (89 wRC+) quietly swatted 21 homers a year ago. Guys like OF L.J. Hoes (98 wRC+) and OF Robbie Grossman (97 wRC+) had strong showings after being called up at midseason, SS Jonathan Villar (80 wRC+) and 1B Marc Krauss (74 wRC+) less so. OF Alex Presley (career 102 wRC+ vs. RHP) and UTIL Jesus Guzman (career 130 wRC+ vs. LHP) were low-cost offseason pickups who are good platoon options. C Carlos Corporan (79 wRC+) is Castro’s seldom used backup and IF Marwin Gonzalez (55 wRC+) is essentially the 25th man on the roster. The top four hitters in the lineup (Fowler, Altuve, Castro, Carter) are MLB caliber, but it really falls off after that.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Scott Feldman (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Feldman, 31, was one of those legitimate MLB players the Astros added this winter, signing him to a three-year, $30M contract. I like him as a back-end starter, but not that much. Anyway, Feldman is coming off a solid season split between the Cubs and Orioles, pitching to a 3.86 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 181.2 innings. His strikeout rate (6.54 K/9 and 17.4 K%) wasn’t anything special but he limits walks (2.77 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) and gets ground balls (49.6%). He also had no platoon split, holding righties to a .297 wOBA and lefties to a .298 wOBA. Freaky. Feldman is primarily a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter/mid-70s curveball pitcher, though he will throw the occasional mid-80s splitter that serves as his changeup. Feldman has been around a while and so has most of the Yankees’ lineup, so there’s some familiarity here.

Cosart. I don't know either. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Cosart. I don’t know either. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade, the 23-year-old Cosart made his MLB debut last season and managed a 1.95 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 60 innings. He got a ton of ground balls (54.5%) but walked (5.25 BB/9 and 14.2 BB%) more batters than he struck out (4.95 K/9 and 14.4 K%). Eek. Command has never been his strong suit. The young righty had a reverse platoon split last year — righties had a .376 wOBA, lefties only a .236 wOBA — but that’s a sample size thing more than anything. Cosart throws very hard, sitting in the mid-90s and touching 97-98 with a four-seam fastball that he threw more than 70% of the time in 2013. An upper-70s curveball is his top secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in the occasional mid-80s changeup. Cosart did not face the Yankees last season and players on the roster have four combined plate appearances against him, three by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Oberholtzer, like Cosart, made his big league debut last season. The 24-year-old had a 2.76 ERA (3.65 FIP) in 71.2 innings, walking no one (1.63 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%) but not striking anyone out either (5.65 K/9 and 15.5 K%). He also didn’t get many ground balls (35.6%) or do a particularly good job against same-side hitters — lefties had a .325 wOBA, righties a .271 wOBA — though again, that’s probably a sample size thing. Oberholtzer is a classic finesse southpaw, sitting right around 90 mph with his fastball while throwing both his changeup and curveball in the low-80s. The Yankees did face Oberholtzer in Game 160 last year, but the only guy who was in the lineup that day and on the active roster right now is Alfonso Soriano. Here’s the box score if you don’t believe me.

Peacock. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Peacock. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Astros did spend some money on bullpen help this winter, though RHP Jesse Crain (1.52 FIP in 2013) will open the season on the DL with a biceps strain. Manager Bo Porter has declined to name an closer to start the season, with RHP Chad Qualls (3.32 FIP) and RHP Josh Fields (5.10 FIP) considered the leading candidates.

Porter’s middle relief crew is solid, with veteran RHP Matt Albers (3.49 FIP) joining LHP Kevin Chapman (4.28 FIP) and RHP Anthony Bass (4.24 FIP). RHP Brad Peacock (4.98 FIP) is moving into the bullpen after a failed experiment as a starter, so he could take off in his new role as many failed starters have done before. Veteran RHP Jerome Williams (4.60 FIP) is the long reliever. Only one left-hander, so Porter will have to decide whether to save him for Ellsbury or Brian McCann. The game situation will dictate that. There aren’t many Astros blogs out there, but The Crawfish Boxes is very good.

Categories : Series Preview
  • Dalek Jeter

    They only lost 11 games last season, that’s basically the opposite of stinking, Mike =P

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    The Astros remind me of when I would play Baseball Mogul and go 100% prospect heavy. Only in that game, I could simulate a painful season in 20 minutes instead of being forced to live through it for years.

    • chris

      Great Game.

  • Roy Munson

    God I’ve missed these

    • OB/GYN Kenobi, bushmaster

      All we need is a post game recap and DotF threads and we’ll be back to normal.

      • Roy Munson

        Right F’ing On!!!!!!!!!

    • BrianMcCannon


      • CS Yankee

        Nice handle

  • Dalek Jeter

    Also, Idk if I just never noticed them last year, but the addition of links to gifs and Yankees career vs a pitcher? Awesome. Love it.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Both new. I didn’t even know about the Pitcher GIFs site until a few weeks ago.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Very cool.

      • Dalek Jeter

        You spoil us sometimes, little things like that (what look like little things, it’s probably a decent amount of work including them)are what make this blog better than just about any other.

        • jjyank

          Yup. And since I’d cracked open my first beer of the day already, I might as well toast to Mike and the rest of RAB for another season!

    • http://pitchergifs.com MaxPitcherGifs

      Hey, I’m a writer and gifmaker for pitchergifs.com. The site has only been up a couple months and we think it’s a great resource. Just wanted to thank Mike for posting our links and let everyone know we have a database of every pitcher in the majors on our site. Check it out. We’ll also be doing gif roundups of cool gifs from the previous day’s games every weekday. Thanks again Mike.

      • OB/GYN Kenobi, bushmaster

        Thanks for sharing. Nice site.

      • jjyank

        Awesome, thanks for letting us know!

      • lightSABR

        Very nice.

      • Havok9120

        Thanks very much for the work.

      • Dalek Jeter

        Thanks for your awesome work, and thanks for allowing Mike to use your content, it’s awesome to see what a pitcher looks like before the game starts.

      • BrianMcCannon

        *Hat tip*

  • I’m One

    4/1-4/3 Series Preview: Houston Astros

    I’ve been waiting for 6 months for one of these. Good to see again!

    • Adam

      I agree, I freaked out a little bit when it was the top story, I was like, “oh yeah, I forget we get these!” The new links to pitchers vs nyy and pitcher gifs are super awesome too.

  • ropeadope

    At conclusion of Jeter ceremony, George Steinbrenner makes a surprise appearance (from beyond), announcing he’s retaken control of team and Clemens & Pettitte will rejoin pitching staff after a stint in extended spring training.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Matt Warden

      On a related note, Suzyn Waldman goes bananas.

      • The Tenth Inning Stretch

        Oh my goodness gracious!

  • IRememberCelerinoSanchez

    And Robertson got the save in the Oberholtzer game Mike linked to.

    Robertson was the closer in Houston to end last season, and he is the closer in Houston to start this season. Meaningless? Yes. I am going to take it as a good sign anyway? Yes.

    • stuckey

      Along with Randy Johnson and Ken Phelps.

  • RetroRob

    Yay! Series previews are back, which means baseball is back.

  • Kiko Jones

    Cosart a Flavor Flav fan?

    • OB/GYN Kenobi, bushmaster

      Yeah boyeeeeeeeee!

  • hogsmog


    I want baseball now, got dangit.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    they have to win at least 2 out of 3 in Houston, anything else would be embarrassing. Just wondering: how many series did Houston win last season?

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Ah. My favorite part of the series previews.

      No, if we only win 1/3, that’s not “embarassing”. The worst team in baseball is still likely to beat the best team 1/3 games, and shit happens.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        see, you prove me right. According to you the chances of Houston winning the series is 1 to 9. Sounds pretty embarassing to me if you can’t win a series that you’re supposed to win 8 out of 9 times ;)

        • Adam

          They were 4-16 in season series, as in total with another team for the year. As far as series by series throughout the season they were 12-39 including a really depressing series starting june 21st when they lost 15 straight series until they finally beat Oakland two out of three… on August 14th. That is rouuuugh!

          • OB/GYN Kenobi

            I want to thank the good lord for making me a NY Yankee (fan).

    • jjyank

      Meh. I’d be disappointed if they didn’t win at least 2 games, but very few things are embarrassing to me in baseball. Something about not being able to predict it. It’s a long season, and at some point, good teams will get swept by shitty ones. And the world just keeps spinning.

  • pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero)

    Be neat if Pettitte pays a visit in Houston.

    Won’t be neat if Girardi has CC intentionally walk a guy in the first inning.

    • jjyank

      Heh, I had forgetting about that. For the sake of the game thread, I hope he doesn’t.

      • OB/GYN Kenobi

        A Men.

  • Worst Fans In Baseball

    Why are the Yankees destined to win the World Series this year? Do the math on the travel chart floating around, the Yankees will travel precisely 28,001 miles. 28. Boom.

    • Yankenstein

      My mind is blown.

    • 28 this year

      That one mile is the parade. Boom!

      • Havok9120


      • BFDeal

        Unless “stuart a” starts throwing parades for everyone this year.

      • Worst Fans In Baseball

        I like your thinking…

      • jjyank


      • OB/GYN Kenobi

        *light applause*

  • Aims

    Seems like a must win series to me. If not, the orioles may run away with the division after their big win over the grady sizemores

  • nycsportzfan

    One things for sure, this yankee team has championship potential. I see it, I feel it, and god I love opening day!

    • CS Yankee


  • nycsportzfan

    One things for sure, this yankee team has championship potential. I see it, I feel it, and god I love opening day!

  • Havok9120

    Thanks very much for keeping these going, Mike. I know they’re work, but they’re really useful for those of us that only watch the Yankees with any regularity. I love the new additions.

    • jjyank

      Indeed. I rarely watch non-Yankee games. Really the only exception is when I go to Nats games, but even as a DC resident, I don’t watch them on TV. These previews are crucial to keeping me up to speed on the teams we’re playing.

  • YG49

    You got the days wrong…we all wish it started yesterday, but today is Tues :-)

  • Dalek Jeter

    Unless we sweep the series, winning each game by at least 6 runs while holding them to 1 or 2 runs per game, I can’t see how this is looked at as anything but an embarrassment.


    (god I really need it to be 7 already.)

  • The Other Matt

    When the hell are they going to announce the move to open up the spot on the 40 man roster ?!

    • The Other Matt

      Just read somewhere that Solarte will be wearing 26. Nunez’s number … Tea Leaves

  • Darren

    This team has the potential to be one of the all-time great Yankee teams. Forget about the record, although I think they’ll win 108 games including the World Series. I’m talking personality, grit, fighting spirit, the ghost of Sweet Lou’s chapped ass. The thing you can’t mention with WAR or UZR or even wins and losses.

    This team had dramatic stories at almost single position, sharing the field with all those question marks. The veteran comeback stories Tex, Jeter, Roberts. Beltran the star finally landing in the Bronx, desperate for the one thing he hasn’t done yet – win it all. The catcher compared to Thurman, challenged to bring it all home.
    The superstar from Japan with nothing at stake…. except his honor and the weight of a nation. And don’t forget Tanaka. From CC to Nova to Robertson, to Pineda to Kelly to Nuno to Betances, everyone who takes the mound will have something to prove.

    What are we up to, 27 of those things? One more wouldn’t hurt anyone.

    • W.B. Mason Williams

      In a world where the World Series is automatically given to not the Yankees every February…

      In a world where Grady Sizemore is pre-season MVP…

      In a world where douchey beards make you cool…

      One team dared to say no.

      TOM HANKS (circa 1995) IS MARK TEIXEIRA



      and starring in his motion picture debut:


      • jjyank

        Well done.

      • vicki

        smiley face.

      • Thomas


        • Dalek Jeter

          Oh my god, this just got better.

        • Chip Rodriguez

          you win this thread.

    • jjyank

      There…there are no words.

    • Havok9120



      Is this not parody?

  • vicki

    free roger clemens!

    • Rooting for U.S. Steel

      I’ll take two, so I can use ‘em as bookends.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    It’s hard to believe the Astros were in the World Series not only in the current century but, even more shocking, within the last decade! I know an opening series sweep is a lot to ask for, but damn it shouldn’t be with how bad they’ve been for years now. Is it first pitch yet?! I’m dying here…

  • Kosmo

    Nunez was just DFA.