2011 Houston Astros Preview
The Houston Astros rid themselves of many of their big names last season, shipping out both Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. Finally in full rebuilding mode, the Astros don’t have a whole lot to work with. The major league roster is one of the emptiest rosters in all of baseball. The minor league system has been dismal the past few years. As a result, it’s tough to bring in any free agent talent as well. Things will be bleak for Houston in 2011.
Here’s a stat for you: the Astros rotation had 95 quality starts last season, just as many as the World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants. That just goes to show you how inconsequential the quality start stat is. I mean, the definition of a quality start is to have anything better than a 4.50 ERA. How quality is that? But, I digress. The rotation last season was a big reason as to why the Astros won 40 of their last 73 games. Wandy Rodriguez is the ace, but Brett Myers was the most consistent pitcher for Houston last season. Myers came out of exile from the Philadelphia bullpen last year to post 14 wins as a Houston starter. J.A. Happ and Bud Norris provide some young pitching that may be part of the reclamation project with the Astros. Nelson Figueroa, who for years was jerked back and forth between the minors and majors with the Mets, was given a solid chance to start for the Astros and will be given that same chance again in 2011.
Brandon Lyon took over the closer’s role midway through last season after Matt Lindstrom faltered. Lindstrom is now in Colorado and Lyon is one of the few recognizable names in a weak Houston bullpen.
There’s a new double play combination up the middle, with Clint Barmes at shortstop and Bill Hall at second base. If that doesn’t strike fear into you, maybe this will: first baseman Brett Wallace hit .222 in 144 at-bats with Houston last year, the third organization for which this top prospect has played. Another prospect who didn’t succeed on the field was catcher Jason Castro. Castro, though, suffered a knee injury that will keep him out most of the year.
The outfield has a bit more talent. Hunter Pence is entering his prime and coming off a .282/25/91 season and now carries the torch as Houston’s best player. In left field, Carlos Lee still can put up some power numbers, although not at the level he used to. Michael Bourn stole 52 bags last season. Jason Michaels can play all three outfield positions.
It’s not looking good for Houston this season. Aside from Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, Houston isn’t as good as Chicago this year and may not even be as good as Pittsburgh. The Pirates made some very modest, but serviceable moves in the offseason. The Astros and the Pirates will duke it out to see who stays out the NL Central basement. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros lose that battle.
By Matt Dagostino
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