When the women of AMF asked me to come here, enemy territory, and talk about the latest with the Houston Astros, my heart split in two. You see, I really, really, really don’t like the Cardinals. I am, after all, a die hard Astros fan. But at the same time, the lovely writers at AMF are dear to me and so how could I refuse.
So what about those ‘Stros? Well, this is definitely not the team you saw last year. This is a young and vibrant group of guys, led by a handful of veterans that are out to prove something. They want the world to know that there won’t be another 100+ loss season if they have anything to say about it. They definitely have skin in the game.
The Astros are currently 11-14 (.440) and in a 3 way tie for third in the NL Central leaving the Cards in first and the Cubs (who I’m happy to say we can all agree to dislike) floundering in the basement.
Offensively, this team knows how to get on base. Jose Altuve (2B) has one of the best batting averages in MLB (.358 BA) and that’s not going to change. Combine that with his new affinity for drawing walks and you’ve got yourself a guy who gets on base…a LOT (.404 OBP)! Jordan Schafer (CF) has now reached base in 24 games. That’s some consistency we didn’t see last year from anyone. Jed Lowrie (SS) is swinging the bat well (.329 BA) and has had some timely hits this year.
The power guys have a hit a few, but not a lot of dingers yet. JD Martinez (LF), one of the breakout new stars in Houston, has tallied up 3 homers this year – one being the first hit in the new Marlins Ballpark. Add that to Carlos Lee’s two home runs and Lowrie’s three and Chris Johnson’s (3B) two and you can see that power is still limited and spread around in Houston.
Despite the lack of big hits, the run production has been massive although not always timely. They sit 8th (118) in number of runs in baseball, just 5th in batting average (.266), and 5th in on base percentage (.340) So this team’s offense is there. The problem? It often fails them in clutch situations. They load up the bases effectively, but can often find themselves stranding all of those potential runs.
Defensively, I’d say they’re a vast improvement over last season, especially the second half, but would rank them as middle of the pack so far this year.
Pitching is another area they’ve improved, but aren’t superstars. An overall team ERA of 3.92 isn’t particularly impressive, but there are gems within both the rotation and the bullpen. The move of Brett Myers to closer has proved a good one as he’s saved all 6 games he’s closed. Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ and Bud Norris have all be impressive and improved over their performances last year. Rhiner Cruz has been a star out of the bullpen as has former Cardinals prospect, David Carpenter.
This new Astros team is nothing to sneeze at. New owner, Jim Crane, and new General Manager, Jeff Luhnow (thanks for him, Cards!), have built a team that CAN win ball games. Overall, I’d say this is a middle-of-the-pack team this year which is light years better than what the Astros were last year. Many a ball club is going to assume a game against Houston is an automatic win. That is a very big mistake this year. Just ask the Mets.
Terri Schlather (AGirlintheSouth) is the tortured Senior Houston Astros Writer for Aerys Sports. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her ridiculous ramblings on sports, vodka and the weeone on twitter @agirlinthesouth.