Houston Astros - Team Preview

Season Series: First meeting of the year.

Houston comes to town with the worse record in the NL at 13 - 24. The Giants just finished sweeping them right after the Astro's had swept the struggling Cardinals. They managed to score only six runs in three games against the Giants. They finally have Berkman back but he has done little to help the anemic offense. They have a .228 team average, and a .328 team wOBA both dead last in the NL. Their best hitter is a pitcher named Felipe Paulino who at this point is a better hitter then pitcher. As far as pitching goes the Astro's have a solid 4.13 ERA right around league average.  The FIP is even batter at .364 good for 4th in the league, and the xFIP is 3.99 also good for the fourth in the league. So while the Astro's can't hit, contrary to popular opinion they can pitch. We will be seeing two pitchers who have much higher ERA's then FIP so don't be surprised if all these games are low scoring. 

Old Friends: None

Position Breakdown:

1st Base-Lance Berkman missed the start of the year and is slowly rounding into shape. A week ago his OPS was sitting below .700, and it is now at .818.   Berkman has been one of the best hitting 1st baseman for the last ten years, and is still a potent force with the bat. Actually I can't say that, for quite a few years he was an outfielder so I'll just say he's been one of the better hitters in the NL since he started playing full time in 2000.

2nd Base-Jeff Keppinger and Kaz Matsui share 2nd base and neither can hit. Between the both of them they have managed 9 doubles, no triples, no home runs. Very DeWitt like, but without the ability to draw a walk.

SS-Tommy Manzella mans SS for them and is another SS in the long line of Astro shortstops who can't hit.  His wOBA of .212 has to be one of the lowest in baseball for someone with over 100 plate appearances. Unlike Everett who was at least a wiz with the glove, Manzella appears to be average at best.

3rd Base-Ex Giant Pedro Feliz takes his ancient bat and glove to the Astro hot corner and not surprisingly is having a tough time of it. A TSL of .233/.252/.320 tells you all you need to know. Other then 1st base the Astro's might have the worse hitting infielder at each position.

Catcher - The Astro's demoted Kevin Towles and are now going with Humberto Quintero / Kevin Cash as their catching duo. This is a team that could use Brad Ausmus back. Even the one with the bad back. These guys have been AAA fodder for years. AJ Ellis your future is calling and it is not  being Martin's lackey but playing everyday for the Astro's.  When people wonder if Lucas May has a future in the Major Leagues they only need to look at who the Astro's are starting.

Right Field- Hunter Pence not to long ago was the bright young star of the Astro's when he burst upon the scene in 2007. He has never replicated what he did in 2007 but he has had three solid years until this year. Unlike the other Astro's who are not hitting, Pence can hit but simply has not gotten it going yet. His TSL of .248/.265/.421 tell his struggling story. Where did the plate discipline go? Last year he walked 9% of the time, this year 2%. 

Center Field- Michael Bourn can actually play some ball. Known most for his penchant for stealing bases (61 in 2009) he can also take a walk and hits enough to be a valuable commodity.  His wOBA of .343 is solid and I just love speed who can carry a double digit walk rate (10%).

Left Field- Carlos Lee has been a quiet but productive power hitter since 1999. His time might be over. He had some declining peripherals entering 2010 but they have fallen off the cliff, and the once solid threesome of Lee/Berkman/Pence is now just Berkman. Lee has a TSL of .199/.247/.301 and while his BABIP is only .211 that does not explain the .301 slug%. Is anyone getting paid more and doing less then Carlos Lee? I actually had to do a double take on the .301 slug%.  Lee has a career slug% of .499 and it was over .500 before the start of this year. I'm not sure what TBLA would do if the guy earning the most money on the team had an OPS of .548 on May 17th.

Reserves

You know the starters are not very good, so the bench can't be much better.  Beside the platoon players mentioned above the rest of the bench consists of  Jason Michaels and Jeff Blum. Blum was getting some time at 1st when Berkman was out and he can play anywhere on the diamond. A nice versatile player, as long as he's your utility guy your doing okay. Jason Michaels is a decent backup outfielder.

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game One: Wandy Rodriguez not Roy Oswalt was the best Astro pitcher in 2009. Not happening in 2010. He's not doing as bad as his 4.82 suggests with a FIP of 3.83, and an xFIP of .405 but the K Rate has dropped from 8.45 to 5.96 and that can't be good.  He does like Dodger Stadium and has given up an OPS of only .634 in four career starts.

Game Two: Bud Norris should be fun to watch. He strikes out a lot (10.75) and walks alot (5.24). His ERA of 6.03 is way off his FIP of 3.47 due to a 39% BABIP. He's a two pitch pitcher with a 93 MPH FB and a 88MPH slider. 5% of the time he'll mix in a change.

Bullpen:

They imported Matt Lindstrom to be the closer and for the most part he's done the job when given the lead. He just doesn't get many leads. Brandon Lyon sets him up and so far has been what he normally does. Chris Sampson and Jeff Fulchino round out the right handers who do the bulk of the work. Tim Byrdak  is the LHP who might not have to face Andre over the next few games.

Series Prediction:

None - The Dodgers have barely hit the ball since Andre left the lineup.

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