Current Outlook Dead Last, Future Outlook Dead Last: Houston Astros  Preview

Manager: Brad Mills (17-30) (93-116)

Current: One of the few teams in baseball with a record the Dodgers won't look on longingly. The Astros are dead last in the NL central with the expectation of being dead last by end of the season. The offense is not as bad as the Dodgers but they are one of the few teams who have hit fewer home runs. Their 26 home runs puts them dead last. Hate to use fielding metrics at this point but I do need to point out that according to fangraphs they are dead last in fielding by a large margin. Pitching has been a problem in both the rotation and bullpen but they are not dead last.

Outlook: Dead Last

Disabled List: Brandon Lyon , Jeff Keppinger, Jason Bourgeois,  

Old Friends: Not a one

Positions:

1st Base: Brett Wallace is one of the few bright spots for the Astros The one time top prospect of the Blue Jays has emerged as a solid offensive 1st baseman in his first full year. His OPS of .850 gives him a 140 OPS+ and puts him around fifth best in the NL, a head of the likes of Pujols and Ryan Howard

2nd Base: Bill Hall is another player we were lucky enough not to sign this winter. He may not be the worst offensive 2nd baseman in the NL, but he's close to it, throw in his terrible defense and you have the worst regular 2nd baseman in the NL. If Houston is smart as soon as Jeff Keppinger comes off the DL they hand him the job and don't look back. 

Shortstop: Angel Sanchez and Clint Barmes handle SS, neither can hit very much so they are just following in a long line of Astro shortstops who could not hit.

                                                                       
Rk            Player OPS+    G From   To   Age   PA   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
1        Denis Menke  109  634 1968 1974 27-33 2524 .266 .355 .373 .728
2        Dickie Thon  106  566 1981 1987 23-29 2013 .270 .329 .395 .725
3      Miguel Tejada  101  316 2008 2009 34-35 1339 .298 .327 .435 .762
4     Orlando Miller   93  247 1994 1996 25-27  895 .262 .307 .406 .713
5     Andujar Cedeno   92  395 1990 1996 20-26 1458 .250 .309 .389 .698
6         Julio Lugo   81  366 2000 2003 24-27 1483 .268 .332 .391 .723
7    Ricky Gutierrez   81  469 1995 1999 25-29 1617 .266 .337 .340 .677
8     Rafael Ramirez   80  612 1988 1992 30-34 2086 .257 .290 .335 .625
9      Sonny Jackson   80  299 1963 1967 18-22 1288 .264 .313 .307 .620
10    Craig Reynolds   79 1170 1979 1989 26-36 3721 .252 .286 .345 .631
11       Eddie Kasko   72  201 1964 1965 32-33  727 .244 .300 .290 .589
12      Adam Everett   69  649 2001 2007 24-30 2374 .248 .299 .357 .656
13     Roger Metzger   67 1021 1971 1978 23-30 4100 .229 .291 .291 .582
14         Tim Bogar   60  392 1997 2000 30-33 1149 .219 .297 .327 .624
15        Bob Lillis   56  613 1962 1967 32-37 2043 .232 .267 .272 .539

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2011.

3rd Base: There are some really offensive (as in lousy) 3rd baseman in the NL this year. Chris Johnson is not one of them, but he's not good either. He's in that tier below the very good where it drops right to crappy before heading toward craptastic as in our own Juan Uribe. Johnson had a stellar rookie season but his 3% walk rate has caught up to him. His TSL of .225/270/.394 is not what the doctor ordered for a team in desperate need of offense.

Catcher: Humberto Quintero and JR Towles share this position. Towles can hit a little, Quintero cannot. Hey, remember when Barajas was having a solid offensive season? That 100 OPS+ is headed down down down.

Right Fielder: Hunter Pence is no superstar but ever since 2007 he's been a very solid offensive hitter, and 2011 is no exception.  For Houston he's the best they got with his 127 OPS+. That is what a .808 OPS gets you in the offensively challenged world of 2011. 

Center Fielder: Michael Bourn gets on base just enough (.340 OB%) to use his superior speed to wreck havoc on the base paths. Stolen 16 bases, been caught only twice.  He might steal five bases off of Lilly if he can get on base. 

Left Fielder: Carlos Lee (El Caballo) was once a feared offensive hitter, now he's just one of the many players in baseball who have bloated contracts with little production to match. At $19,000,000 in 2011, if he's not the worst deal in baseball it is only because baseball is littered with GMs who did not grasp the significance of aging baseball players in the post PED era. 

Bench: Their best bench player is on the DL, Matt Downs is making some hay in limited playing time.

Starting Pitching:

Game Pitcher Triple Stat Line ERA/FIP/xFIP
Game One Bud Norris Versus Clayton Kershaw 3.93 / 3.38 / 2.85
Game Two AJ Happ Versus Chad Billingsley 5.30 / 4.66 / 4.71
Game Three Aneury Rodriguez Versus Ted Lilly 5.31 / 4.78 / 4.95

Bud Norris is quietly having a very solid season with the sixth best xFIP in the NL. He has a K rate over 10, has reduced his walk below 4, and will give Clayton a battle on Monday. 

If we don't bounce around AJ Happ or give Aneury an aneurysm all hope is lost. 

Bullpen: 

Setup: Jeff Fulchino, Enerio Del Rosario, Wilton Lopez and Jose Valdez do the right hand work for the Astros. Sergio Escalona and  Fernando Abad do the left side work.

Closer: With Brandon Lyon on the DL, Mark Melencon is the new closer and so far he's been up to the task. At one time he could strike out hitters but so far this year his K rate has dropped to 6.23 from the high 9's last year. He's basically a fastball (92) curveball pitcher. 

Matchup Notes: This is a series the Dodgers have to win. Clayton needs to shut down the Houston offense because it is likely the Dodgers will have trouble scoring against Bud Norris. On Tuesday / Wednesday, we should score enough to win at least one, if not both. Houston comes into this series having stolen 38 bases in 45 attempts, so expect them to run wild on Barajas's 19% caught stealing rate. Then again the Golden Rod may not play this series so Bourn gets to run wild on Navarro instead.

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