On Brett Wallace, Hunter Pence, and the racing presidents.

Random thoughts and observations as the schedule whittles down to single-digits:

Why is Brett Wallace sitting?

I’ve heard from quite a few of you who are concerned with Brett Wallace’s playing time — or, lack thereof — as Carlos Lee continues to get the lion’s share of starts at first base.

Manager Brad Mills is doing his best to put the young first baseman in situations where he can be successful, but he’s also cognizant of Wallace’s 42 strikeouts in 125 at-bats spanning over 46 games since he was called up by the Astros after the trade deadline.

There’s a delicate line between letting a kid play every day to get his feet wet, no matter what, and putting a struggling young hitter out there day after day and possibly, for lack of a better term, “burying” him. This is not a situation where Mills is benching Wallace, and Wallace hasn’t done anything to fall out of favor with his manager. As we discussed in the last blog, Lee is likely to receive some serious consideration to play first base in ’11, and therefore, he is a viable option there as this season winds down as well.

I would expect to see Wallace at first base for many of the remaining games when the Astros face a right-hander, and he’ll certainly be in the mix when Spring Training begins next February.

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Hunter Pence was back in the lineup Thursday after missing Wednesday’s game with discomfort in his right hip flexor. He showed up to the ballpark early and practiced everything he might have to do in a game — hit, run, steal bases, run down fly balls. Mills said Pence was “100 percent” ready to play and “he probably would have killed me if I didn’t put him in the lineup.”

Michael Bourn, out with an oblique strain, is not expected to bounce back so quickly. He has been sidelined for four days and there is no timetable yet for a return.

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Even with the offday on Monday, the five-man starting rotation will stay on schedule. Mills noted that all of his starters want to continue to pitch and get as many starts as possible before the season ends. Even though the Astros are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, none of the Astros players appear to be in shutdown mode. “They want to keep pitching,” Mills said. “That’s a nice thing to see.”

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The season is almost over, and the Astros have an action-packed weekend series planned against the Cubs that includes quite a few ticket specials.

Here’s a quick rundown:

$5 fan appreciation special (On sale until Oct 3)

As part of Fan Appreciation weekend at Minute Maid Park, you can buy $5 Outfield and View Deck I or II tickets to any remaining game. Available through this link only.

Waive the fees offer

As a thank you for your support during the 2010 season, and for helping the Astros reach 30,000,000 total fans in the history of Minute Maid Park, the Astros will pay your ticket fees to any of the last three games of the year.

Purchase any full-price, individual ticket through this link by Sept. 26 and the Astros will pay the fees.  Click here for details.

Other events on the docket:

Oct 1: Player of the Decade Ceremony

All year, fans voted on line for the player of each decade from the 1960s to the 2000s.  Jimmy Wynn won for the 60s, Jose Cruz for the 70s, Nolan Ryan for the 80s, Jeff Bagwell for the 90s and Craig Biggio the 2000s.  All of them, with the exception of Ryan, will be present for a special pregame ceremony on Friday.

Sat, Oct. 2: Minor League MVP night

The Astros will honor the MVPs from all of their Minor League affiliates before the game on Saturday. Click here.

Sun, Oct. 3: Fan appreciation

As a thank you to the fans for their continued support, prizes will be given away every half inning to fans in attendance at Sunday’s game. For a full rundown of prizes, click here.

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0923_prez+grou.jpg

We’re mostly about news, views and all things Astros on this blog, but there’s nothing that says we can’t have a little fun, too. And as much as the games on the field are the focal point of every ballpark experience, there are plenty of addition attractions in and around the venue that are worth noting. 

Big, billowy, inanimate objects racing around the warning track between innings has become something of a new-age phenomenon in the past several years. We have the old staples, such as the sausage race in Milwaukee (always a hoot) and the pierogi race in Pittsburgh (not as famous, but delightful in its own special way). But I have to say that hands down, the best races run are those in Arizona and Washington.

In Arizona, four gigantic foamy larger-than-life versions of Diamondbacks legends — Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Mark Grace and Matt Williams — race around the track, looking eerily like their real-life model (but with slighter smoother skin).

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(Above: Johnson, Williams)

But I’m giving the slight edge to the presidents in Washington, because well, there’s just nothing funnier than watching Teddy Roosevelt smoke Abe Lincoln (by cheating and leaving the starting line early), while George Washington and Thomas Jefferson lag 20 paces behind with their oversized gray ponytails flopping in the breeze.

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0923_race_back.jpg

0923_teddy.jpg

(Roosevelt)

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(Jefferson)

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(Washington)

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(Lincoln)

The racing presidents page on the Nationals’ web site gives pretty detailed information on each president. For example, Lincoln is noted for his major achievements, including the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment and the Gettysburg Address. But we also learn that his favorite sport is wrestling. Who knew?

So which is better…the Legends, or the Presidents? On one hand, the Legends represent players we’ve seen on television and in some cases, in person, in our lifetimes. Definite plus. On the other hand, the Presidents are identified on the backs of their shirts by name — first name. Ted, George, Abe and Tom. That’s got to count for something.

0923_abe_back.jpg

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And finally, some images from batting practice Thursday:

Jason Bourgeois, Jeff Bagwell

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Michael Bourn, Bourgeois

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Jason Castro

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Carlos Lee

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Hunter Pence

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Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com  

7 Comments

In his Minor League career, Brett Wallace hit .278 against right-handed pitching and .365 against left-handed pitching. His OPS is more than ONE HUNDRED points higher against left-handed pitching. Yes, you read those correctly. Why, why, WHY does Brad Mills continue to sit him against lefties? WHY? Really, I just don’t get it. All he gets is right-handers, he struggles and then he gets benched. I just…don’t understand.

Presidents all the way! That first picture you posted of Roosevelt running on the warning track is hilarious.

I’m going to echo Ashitaka sentiments above, because I have yet to see an answer to it

Why is Wallace sitting against lefties? His Minor League AND Major League numbers show he has no issue with lefties.

I understand sitting the player if he’s struggling, but not starting him against lefties, who he does well against, is handicapping him.

Hi Alyson……..we all pretty well know WHY Wallace is not
in the line-up. Carlos Lee is being “looked” at to let other
teams see he CAN play left AND first. Lee’s contract is
very expensive, and the club will hope to find a better club
to trade him. We all know this, and I appreciate Mills not
setting Wallace up for early failure. We saw that happen
to Towles, getting baptized by fire, can backfire.
On another note: When is Q’s wife due?? We’ve been
waiting to hear about this new arrival!! Thanks! Becky:) :)

Don’t worry about Wallace. I like the kid, but he is doomed as long as Carlos Lee is on this team. Carlos would have been playing first base all along, except that position was held by Lance Berkman. When Berkman was traded, the opportunity to have him play first became a possibility.

Carlos Lee doesn’t have outfield skills and the Astros don’t need to continue playing him out of position. In the NL, he has to be a first baseman, because he hurts the team too much in left field. A number of people have been surprised with his defensive play at first, as he has been more than adequate.

The Astros will never be able to trade him with his current contract. The only way that they could unload him is in the last year of his contract to an AL team in pennant race that needed a DH at the trade deadline. He and Alphonso Soriano have the 2 worst contracts in the NL That is just how bad his contract is.

I feel bad for Wallace, but he is not in any different position than many that have come before him. Timing in baseball is a large part of the equation of success and failure.

We can’t just let Wallace rot in the minors until Lee’s contract runs out. That would mean Wallace wouldn’t get his real shot until 2013. He’ll be 27 that year and have only three of his “prime” seasons left to try to come up, make the adjustment and have any kind of success.
Carlos Lee is like a fat, open flesh wound. He has no place on a rebuilding team if he’s just going to block your top prospect, and he needs to be purged immediately. Trade him. Failing that, release him. It’s very clear to me and a lot of other fans that his lazy butt would be much, much happier selling cows at the rodeo and putzing around on his ranch. I say let him, and let the hungry, talented young players he’s blocking get their shot. They may not succeed, but at least they’ll care.

Will be looking forward to Minor League MVP night. It will be nice to see two of our guys being honored.

http://thehooks.mlblogs.com/

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