Placed 2B-S Kazuo Matsui on the 15-day DL (back), retroactive to 8/13; purchased the contract of C/1B-R J.R. House from Round Rock (Triple-A). [8/16]|
Claimed 2B/3B-R Jose Castillo off of waivers. [8/20]
In terms of shedding runs, the Astros are finding their fair share of ways. Consider the cost of switching from Carlos Lee to Geoff Blum, the practical upshot of what they get for losing Lee for the season and moving Ty Wigginton to left field: Lee's MLVr was .321, while Blum's is -.105. That's a .426 swing per game, or almost a half-run's worth of difference, day in, day out. Now multiply that by 46, the number of games the Astros had left at the point that they lost Lee for the year. You get 19.6, or nearly twenty runs, a nearly two-game swing in the standings because you decide to trust Geoff Blum won't be a distraction, whereas that mean old Barry Bonds would probably alienate Astros fans by helping score runs and keep their make-believe bid for contention viable. Keep in mind that Bonds' MLVr in 2007 was .421, meaning that even with ground lost to Father Time, he might have been an improvement on Lee. (Let's skip the question of whether Bonds or el Caballo is the better fielder—they're both ungood, and it's only left field.)
So now they've lost Matsui as well, and he's been something less than you'd want to throw $16.5 million at, but he's also more valuable than Mark Loretta—the MLVr loss there is between Matsui's .050 and Loretta's -.060, or something almost negligible, but also something which could get a bit worse, considering that Loretta's projected MLVr was -.114. Add in hits on baserunning (something Matsui does well) and defense, and it gets expensive in terms of runs, run increments, you name it, the Astros are losing it. Swapping in Castillo, perhaps a better defender at second than Loretta, doesn't help; his MLVr with the Giants was -.120, only slightly better than PECOTA projected him to do (-.133).
Assuming it isn't already too late—and it is, but let's indulge Ed Wade and credit him with sincerity as well as ambition—the one place they can make up lost ground beyond the obvious Bonds-related pickup would be at catcher. They're starting Humberto Quintero regularly these days, and he's hitting .243/.270/.308, or about as well as you might expect. (This also means that Brad Ausmus isn't getting the “blaze of glory” package apparently reserved for only the very best very done Astros.) House has continued to do what he's done since he launched his comeback two years back, hammer hurlers and give catching his best shot. At Round Rock, he was hitting .303/.377/.476, which really only makes for a .245 EqA, but that's still a huge step up from what they're getting and will get from Quintero or Ausmus. Sure, House can't throw well; PCL baserunners have stolen 27 bases in 31 attempts in 40 games. That's still less than a steal per game allowed, so I'm not sure we're really talking about something at the Matt LeCroy/Frank Robinson level as far as a crying shame. On the other hand, if House's defense behind the plate is that bad, why not play him at first, move Berkman to an outfield corner, and leave Wigginton at third base? That might not be ideal, but it would still cost you fewer runs than playing Blum in Lee's place. Worried House needs a platoon partner? Hell, summon Mike Lamb from his couch or the golf course or wherever he's gotten himself to since earning his release from the Twins [Ed. note: In point of fact, Lamb remains a Twin, although if you blink you might miss his increasingly rare appearances.]
For the full text of this Transaction Analysis, subscribe to Baseball Prospectus