by Daniel Gettinger
Yes, this is a blog primarily about the San Diego Padres. Recently though, a friend of mine from Houston asked me to “write a blog post about the surging Astros.” To be perfectly honest, I had not even noticed the Astros had been winning ball games, but I’ll oblige and touch on the Astros. Unfortunately for my friend, I don’t have anything promising to report.
As of this moment, the Astros are 50-48. Only two games behind both the Cubs and Cardinals. They trail the wildcard leading Rockies by 3.5 games. Compared to preseason expectations (PECOTA had the Astros pegged for 66.6 wins), this has been a surprisingly good season for Astros fans. They have certainly had more fun than Padres fans have had. That said, the Astros are not a legitimate 50 win team. They have been outscored by 28 runs, and have an expected win/loss record of 46-52.
The Astros biggest problem is they have very little talent on the roster. Berkman and Pence are good. Carlos Lee can hit. And Tejada had had a surprisingly solid season. But other than those players, the Astros have very little in the way of position players.
Geoff Blum, Kaz Matsui, and Jeff Keppinger have all received more than 200 plate appearances. The team’s bench is nearly non-existent. The Astros have little lineup depth, and quite frankly, one of their “stars” is incredibly overrated. Carlos Lee has essentially given back all the runs he has generated with his bat by playing terrible (-7.8 runs below average) defense at a corner outfield spot.
The starting pitching is not fantastic either. Roy Oswalt leads the staff, and is still a good pitcher. Just not great. He has a 3.80 FIP, exactly the same mark he posted in 2008. Wandy Rodriguez has been a nice surprise, posting a 2.72 ERA. But his peripherals, while good, are not 2.72 ERA good. Lets play the player A/player B game…
Player A: 8.38 K/9, 3.01 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9, 3.61 FIP
Player B: 8.97 K/9, 4.66 BB/9, 0.63 HR/9, 3.67 FIP
Player A has better control than player B, but strikes out less batters (albeit barely), and gives up more homeruns. Player A is Wandy Rodriguez. Player B is Chad Gaudin. Yup, Wandy Rodriguez is essentially Chad Gaudin. Wandy has gotten lucky this year. Chad has been somewhat unlukcy.
Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, and Russ Ortiz round out the rotation. Um, yeah. Can’t say I have a lot of faith in any of those guys. At best Hampton is a league average pitcher. Moehler and Ortiz are not even that. The Astro’s starting pitching mirrors the team’s bats. The top 40% is solid. The bottom 60% is pretty bad.
The bullpen has been good. Jose Valverde has returned from an injury, and has done a capable job in the closer’s role. Letroy Hawkins and Chris Sampson are both enjoying good seasons as well. Even lesser known players such as Tim Byrdak and Alberto Arias have done a nice job when called upon.
The bullpen may be the Astro’s strength, but a good bullpen is not going to make up for the rest of the team’s flaws. The Astros lack depth in both their lineup and their starting rotation. The Astros are overachieving, and will not make the playoffs this season. As George Zimmer says: “I guarantee it”…