Trying to bring a little common sense to the game of baseball. But considering many of the people who read baseball blogs, I'm probably just pissing into the wind.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Houston Astros preview

A team that looks better than they are due to playing in the same division as the Pirates and the Cubs, as this allows them to win more games and finish higher in the standings than they would in another division. There is some pitching, and not much else. The offense features a guy who should have been a designated hitter a long time ago. 18 games with the Pirates will help.


Humberto Qunitero. Or whoever can fit into the equipment. He’s a career back up projected to be a starter. The only team with a worse catching situation is the Red Sox. He doesn’t hit for average, hit for power, walk, run well, or do much of anything at the plate. He is a good defensive catcher and is good at stopping the running game. But can they afford to hide his offense for his glove?

Upside:  almost anyone could replace him

Downside:  there is no one to do it

Score:  - 2

First base:

Brett Wallace. Let’s get this straight. He is not replacing Lance Berkman. He’s replacing Jeff Bagwell. He has the minor league numbers, with good power and on base ability. Whether he can do it at the big league level remains to be seen. He didn’t do much last year, but there shouldn’t be high expectations for him. He does play good defense, so he has that. He needs power, if nothing else.

Upside:  hits like he did in the minors

Downside:  fans can’t get past the fact that he’s not Bagwell

Score:  - 2

Second base:

Bill Hall. But which Bill Hall? The one that has some power and was able to get on base a little bit, or the Bill Hall who hits like a utility player? Which is what he would be better suited to at this stage, as he can play all the positions. He’s good defensively, but this team needs his bat. He won’t hit 35 homeruns, but he needs to get over 20, and be in the line-up everyday.

Upside:  not much is expected of him

Downside:  that’s what they get

Score:  0

Third base:

Chris Johnson. There is hope for the team, and Johnson is the place to start. A good rookie season that seemed to get lost amongst the better known outfielders, he has a future. In limited time, he hit for average, he hit for power, and he got on base just enough. More time should give him more patience. He’s not good defensively, so he might be the answer at first if Wallace doesn’t work out.

Upside:  shows what he’s capable of doing in a full season

Downside:  doesn’t learn any plate discipline

Score:  + 1

Short stop:

Clint Barmes. A strange pick up for the team. He spent his entire career in Coors, and showed very little. No power at all, and he doesn’t get on base or run very well. He’s good defensively, and that will help the pitching staff, but they can only hide so many bats. I believe in pitching and defense, particularly with defense at shortstop. But someone has to hit the ball, and Barmes won’t.

Upside:  hits like he did in Coors

Downside:  even Coors exaggerated his numbers

Score:  - 1

Left field:

Carlos Lee. The worst year of his career, and you have to wonder if he can bounce back. The team really needs him to, but any success at the plate will turn into a lot of walks unless someone else hits. He lost any ability to get on base, but he doesn’t strike out either. He never could field, so no one expects that. They can live without the average, but he needs to get back to the 30-home run plateau.

Upside:  a good half-season gets him traded to a contender for a prospect

Downside:  he’s done

Score:   0


Michael Bourne. The only other left-handed hitter besides Wallace, and he’s not there for power. He has no power, and doesn’t get a lot of extra base hits, but he is learning to walk. Runs well, and needs to. He’s good defensively, and that will help with Lee in left field. He has to watch his strikeouts, but he is durable and should play every day. He’ll set the table, in case there is anyone capable of clearing it.

Upside:  learns to walk a little bit more

Downside:  Ron LeFlore had a short career also, but it was better

Score:  + 1

Right field:

Hunter Pence. A good player who will probably be the team leader in most categories. Good power, but more would be nice. Doesn’t strike out too much, but doesn’t walk enough either. Not good defensively, but he plays every day, and will get the job done. If he had some more help, he could hit the next level. He hits arbitration after this season, so a big one would be expected.

Upside:  consistent, and we know what to expect

Downside:  has to do too much

Score: + 1

Pinch hitter/general utility:

Jason Michaels. At 34, finding his niche. He has decent power for his playing time, and that’s what you look for at this position. He’s forgotten how to draw a walk, which isn’t good, but he won’t strike out much either. Not good defensively any more, but that won’t be a problem here. His playing time will depend a lot on Lee and Jason Bourgeois. He’ll also see some time at first, maybe even in a platoon if Wallace doesn’t hit.

Upside:  veteran presence who knows his role

Downside:  doesn’t stay a role player

Score:   0

Backup catcher:

J.R. Towles. Only because there is no one else. He has limited power, but doesn’t do much else at the plate. He can’t hit for average, so his lack of walks is amplified. He doesn’t run. Defense is okay, but not spectacular. He’s not even really back up material, but there is no one else. Some kind of trade will have to be made if the Astros want to get to .500.

Upside:  gets to be a back up all year

Downside:  ends up having to start

Score:  - 2

Backup first baseman:

Depth chart says Carlos Lee, but I don’t see it. Most likely Jason Michaels, and maybe even a platoon if Wallace doesn’t hit lefties. Maybe Johnson if they find another third baseman. Whatever happens here, someone will need to get a lot of plate appearances, and it will hurt another position. Bill Hall is always available to get some time there also.
I just don’t see Wallace getting 130 starts.

Upside: none

Downside:  if Wallace doesn’t do it, it messes with the line up

Score:  - 2

Back-up infielder:

Jeff Keppinger. A starter with a surprisingly good year last year, he’s going to be the super sub this year. He’s not good defensively, but he is versatile, and could even get into the first base mix. Hits for a decent average and can get on base. Not a lot of power, but will hit doubles. He could take over for any of the other starters, especially at third base, if Johnson needs to move.

Upside:  won’t hurt the team if he has to become a starter

Downside:  can only start one position at a time

Score:  + 1

Back-up outfielder:

Jason Bourgeois. A journeyman who doesn’t bring much, but someone has to play. He doesn’t hit for average, walk, or have any power. Extended time might show he can run, but he doesn’t hit well enough to get the plate appearances. Average defensively, so he’ll get some time in left field replacing Lee, but won’t get a chance to hit very often. He should learn to catch.

Upside:  last player on the bench

Downside:  spends too much time off of it

Score:  - 2

Rotation (front 3):

Bret Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, and J.A. Happ. A good front three that might actually be the best in the division. Rodriguez and Happ need to pitch deeper into the games, and walk fewer guys. They all strike out enough hitters, so with the defense, they should be okay. They might be just good enough to lose a lot of 1-0 games. They’ll keep the team close, and the offense will have to do something to help.

Upside:  50 wins between the three of them

Downside:  15 from the rest of them

Score:  + 1

Rotation (back end):

Bud Norris and Nelson Figueroa. Norris needs to pitch better. Lots of strikeouts, but way to many walks and hits. He also doesn’t pitch nearly enough innings for the amount of people he lets on base. He has to get better this year. Figueroa could be the surprise of the year, and was pretty good last season. Not much is expected of him, so there really isn’t much pressure.

Upside:  they both pitch better than last year

Downside:  Norris is the same and Figueroa doesn’t surprise

Score:  0


Wilton Lopez, Alberto Arias, Mark Melacon, Jeff Fulchino and Wesley Wright. Exactly why the starting rotation needs to pitch more innings. Lopez is good, but the others are inexperienced or fillers. They don’t bring a lot and they won’t do well trying to bridge the starters to the closer. Melacon pitched well, but in limited time and has to prove he can do it again.

Upside: the starters go deep

Downside:  becomes a revolving door

Score:  - 1


Brandon Lyon. He’ll get a chance to do it by himself this year, but it remains to be seen. He’s been better as a set-up man than a closer, but it might not matter much here. The bullpen doesn’t look to hold a lot of leads for him, and he won’t get real chances. He should rack up quite a few saves, but they’ll be meaningless if the team isn’t winning the other games.

Upside:  shows he is more than a set-up guy

Downside:  no games to save

Score:  0

Team speed (which includes base running):

Average. Lots of stolen bases, but that’s mostly Bourne, and then Pence and Bourgeois. Not one else really runs. They don’t hit doubles and triples, so there is no help with the offense. The defensive range will be good up the middle, and that will definitely help. The Astros always seem to have a reputation as a running team, but that time has passed.

Upside:  every little bit helps

Downside:  there isn’t offense for it to matter

Score:  0

Team defense:

Again, average. Good up the middle, where you like it, but not so good on the corners. Bourne will help a lot with his range, and do more than he should have to. Keppinger will get some time out there to help. If Quintero can hit slightly better than a back up, he’ll be okay. The defense has to be good, or this team will have no chance. The bullpen will need all the help it can get.

Upside:  helps a poor offense by not giving away runs

Downside:  loses them games they should be winning

Score:  0

Team batting:

A disaster. The only things they do well are steal bases (one player) and not strike out. But why try to strike these guys out when they can hit and won’t walk. Through it over the plate and let the fielders deal with it. No runners means no runs, and the Astros will help with that. Some guys could have good years, but they have to have several string them together. Where’s the power for this park?

Upside:  breakout years for some guys

Downside:  they’ve already had them

Score:  - 2

Team pitching:

The saving grace of the team, but even salvation won’t do much good. The starters are good, but don’t pitch nearly enough innings. Even if they can get a lead, they will have a hard time passing it to the bullpen. Which will find it hard to pass to the closer, who isn’t really a closer. They’ll keep the games close, but it won’t be enough. They need more innings from everyone.

Upside:  bullpens are easy to staff

Downside:  they already have the best guys available

Score:  + 1

Total score:    - 7

1 comment:

  1. I've always liked Pence. Hopefully he can get to a real team next season.