Battle to stay out of last place: Houston Astro Preview

The Dodgers back are against the wall as they take on Hunter Pence and the last place Astros. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Manager: Brad Mills (25-44)

Current: The Astro's are bad but they do have some bright spots. They are getting decent work from LF, above average work out of CF and 1st base, with great work coming from RF.  We will be seeing two of their best pitchers, and these would be good pitchers on any team.

Outlook: Dead Last

Disabled List: Brandon LyonHumberto Quintero , Jason Castro, Alberto Arias

Old Friends: Not a one

Positions:

1st Base: Brett Wallace is still performing at a 141 OPS+. He may have an inflated BABIP of .400 but with a walk rate of 11% even when that hit rate normalizes he's still going to get on base enough to be functional.  The one time top prospect of the Blue Jays has emerged as a solid offensive 1st baseman in his first full year. 

2nd Base: Bill Hall is gone, as the Astro's jettisoned him as quickly as a team could when you consider they just signed him this offseason to a 3.25 Million dollar deal.  In his place is the sabre friendly Jeff Keppinger. Shockingly I said this back on May 23rd 

If Houston is smart as soon as Jeff Keppinger comes off the DL they hand him the job and don't look back


and damn if they just didn't do exactly that.

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:  Chris Johnson handles most of the work. He had a dreadful May but is bouncing back in June. When it is not Chris Johnson it is Matt Downs. In limited plate appearances (86), Downs is leading the team in OPS+ (164).

Catcher: Humberto Quintero is on the DL so the full time job now belongs to J.R. Towles. Carlos Corporan is his backup. Towles is a terrible offensive catcher.

Right Fielder: Hunter Pence is no superstar but ever since 2007 he's been a very solid offensive hitter, and 2011 is no exception. Pence is doing his best to become the Astro all - star representative. He had a recent 23 game hitting streak snapped this week. During the streak he had a TSL of .406 /.436 /.625 /1.061. Overall only Lance Berkman is having a better offensive season in right field.

Center Fielder: Michael Bourn gets on base just enough (.351 OB%) to use his superior speed to wreck havoc on the base paths. Bourn has stolen 29 bases while only being caught three times, he's the new Carlos Beltran of the basespaths.  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.  That said he's still outhitting our left fielders.

Starting Pitching:

Game Pitcher Triple Stat Line ERA/FIP/xFIP
Game One Brett Myers
5.03 / 5.25 / 4.15
Game Two Wandy Rodriguez 3.13/ 3.93 / 3.60
Game Three Bud Norris 3.48 / 3.58 / 3.37

Brett Myers has been tough at the Ravine with a career OPS against of only .634 in six starts. That is his 2nd best mark for any park he has made more then two starts.

Wandy Rodriguez has only made one start since May 22nd and it was a gem, throwing six two hit shutout inning on June 13th. He's a tough left hander, expect the Dodgers to have trouble.

Bud Norris has seen his K/9 rate drop from a high of 10.29 in April to 7.29 in June but has seen his ERA drop from 3.86 to 2.57 due to a .222 BABIP in June.

Bullpen: 

Setup: Fernando Rodrigez has been doing the bulk of the work in June with 10 innings. He is sporting a 16 K/9 rate so far this month.   Jeff Fulchino, Enerio Del Rosario, and Wilton Lopez do the right hand work for the Astros. Sergio Escalona is the main left hander.

Closer: With Brandon Lyon on the DL, Mark Melencon is the new closer and so far he's been up to the task converting six saves so far. 

Matchup Notes:I'd expect Wandy to dazzle the Dodgers to death with his left handedness unless they foolishly decide to give Matt Kemp some strikes. The Dodgers need to sweep this series, but how can this team sweep anyone? If Andre goes not come out of his shell this team will have a hard time scoring runs. So far in June, Andre has an OPS of .686 including four games in Coors against mostly RHP. Matt Kemp has done his share of carrying this team, it is time for Andre to step up and help shoulder the load.

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