H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Smoke...Too...Thick...Need...Mask

It's wonderful for the Astros and their fans (like Katy Tim) that Roger Clemens is coming back. Clearly, adding the Rocket to your starting rotation is going to provide a tremendous upgrade. And for all of the doomsdayers, the Astros, despite their open sores, are only 6.5 back in the Central and 3.5 back in the NL wildcard. There is plenty of time to make a run at the postseason, and the Cardinals are clearly more mortal than in years past (save that pesky first baseman). However, adding the Rocket is not going to by itself put the 2006 Astros in contention for the postseason.

The Astros are already averaging six innings per start from their rotation, and their starters have posted a serviceable 4.55 ERA thus far in 2006. For argument's sake, that means through 53 games, their starters can be counted on for six innings and three runs allowed every night, which is certainly good enough to win games. They have allowed more HR than any rotation in the NL so far (47), but the main culprit has surprisingly been Andy Pettitte (12), whose spot in the rotation will not be affected by the Rocket's arrival. The rotation has made 30 quality starts in 53 tries, which is a solid, though not spectacular, ratio. Even with the Rocket, the rotation needs Pettitte to improve and Wandy and Buchholz to continue their decent starts, which are fairly considerable question marks.

For all of its highly-publicized struggles, the bullpen has also not been the biggest reason for the Astros' struggles. The bullpen ERA is 4.83 and its WHIP is 1.44, both of which are in the middle/bottom of the NL, but that is as much the result of the terrible pitchers in the pen getting thomped in meaningless situations (Zeke, Gallo and Miller have a combined ERA of 6.78 in 33+ IP) as the struggling studs (Lidge, Wheeler and Qualls) blowing close games. At least it can be said that the studs are deviating from their career norms. If those three get back on track, the bullpen is in good shape. Nieve could also prove to be a solid contributor in the pen with the Rocket returning, taking some of the pressure off of the Big Three.

In the end, as with last season, the Astros' hopes are pinned on their pathetic offense. The Astros have the third-lowest slugging percentage as a team in the NL and the third-lowest team OPS. Their bench has been weak, posting a .232 avg in 69 ABs. Only the Padres and Cubs have lower Isolated Power numbers (SLG - BA). Preston Wilson has a .303 OBP and an even more disturbing .383 SLG. Jason Lane's travails at the plate have been highly publicized, but please note that J-Lane has scored more runs, hit more HR, walked more, struck out less and posted better OBP, SLG and OPS than Wilson, all while playing a very good defensive RF. Lane should not be the man who sits as long as Preston Wilson occupies a roster spot. My personal punching bag, Adam Everett, has posted incredible offensive numbers (.206/.261/.306) - 'incredible' meaning, "It's incredible that this guy is still an everyday major league position player". I'm not intending to put steroids on the guy, but his offensive numbers have continually decreased since 2004, when he was merely terrible at the plate. Only Clint Barmes has a worse OBP, SLG and OPS among NL shortstops, and the average SS is putting up about a .350 OBP and a .440 SLG, both of which are numbers that Everett has never even approached in his career.

For the time being, it appears that the Astros are going to pin their hopes on the Rocket's return alone, hoping that it serves to ignite a lifeless squad. Such hopes are as faint as the skin tone on my rear end. Tim Purpura and Phil Garner have to scrap their laissez-faire management styles and do something to drastically shake up this team's offensive roster, or else they'll be better off fielding July 31 phone calls from the Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees for the Rocket's services than jockeying for postseason position.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tim said...

When did "thomped" become a word, Mr. Webster?

Wed May 31, 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Bosquez said...

Good read. It's good to see someone point out that for all the emotional and symbolic value of resigning the Rocket, there is a limit to how far his mere presence will actually push this team.

It might be worth saying that his fire and determination might inspire some players and give them the confidence to believe that they will win, but for all the effort and expense that the Astros showed in securing Clemens' services, it would have been interesting to see them put similar effort in adding some pop into the lineup.

I am not sure that management can be blamed for the performance of the bullpen as who would have thought normally dependable relievers would be in the midst of a mental breakdown.

Wed May 31, 04:32:00 PM  

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