I was looking at the Bill James projections on Fangraphs, and they actually lifted my spirits, unlike the ZIPS (or whatever it was) that painted a pretty dismal picture of our 2011 lineup. I think we have a pretty good idea of what the hoped for starting lineup will be next season, so I started to wonder what each player will have to do in order for the Astros to keep us watching late into the season.
Assuming Keppinger is out of the picture as a regular or even as an Astro, I cannot find a number 2 hitter on this team. Personally, I would like a guy with a good eye and that is willing to take some pitches so that Bourn will have a chance to turn any singles or walks into doubles. Castro showed it in the minors, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he can get close to what he did in the minors as a Major Leaguer. But he really didn't show it in 2010. So this is what I think they will have to do while trying to keep my hopes in the realm of possibility:
Bourn: I think the key stat for Bourn is OBP (duh), and I think he will need to get it up between .360 and .370.
Castro: If he works his way up to the second spot I would hope that he maintains a .350 OBP (I highly doubt it).
Pence: As the best hitter who is in his prime, we need some power from him so how about a .200-.210 ISO?
Lee: I'll happily take the Bill James projection from Lee: 27 HRs, .194 ISO, and 101 RBI (they mean someone is getting on base somewhere in the lineup).
Johnson: What will he do? I'd be happy with 22 HRs and .270 average.
Hall: I hope that Hall can muster a .250 average and hit 20 HRs.
Wallace: I have no clue what to expect of him. I will hope for about a .260 average and about 20 HRs.
Barmes: I expect a poor season from him, but I'm praying for a .250 average and 15-18 HRs.
It's not how I would go about building a lineup. And I don't expect all or any of these performances to occur, but I think if I have a few drinks and watch highlights of the 2005 season to get in the mood, I can see a lineup that will at least have some pop from the 3 to 8 hitters (or 2 to 7 hitters depending on who the 2 hitters and 8 hitters are). But when I sober up I see a frightening number of strike outs.
So the real hope will be on the shoulders of the pitching staff. What are realistic positive hopes and goals for our starting five? I'll go with these wishes:
Myers: 200 IP 3.50-3.60 ERA
Wandy: 200 IP 3.50 ERA
Happ: 180 IP 3.80 ERA
Norris: 180 IP 4.20 ERA
Rodriguez: 150 IP 4.70 ERA
Well, I'm out of time to kill at work. I don't really care too much about the bullpen right now. If it is pissing me off during the season then it means other things are going well enough for me to be disappointed by it, so the odds are we won't get to that point. Do you think the performances I listed will be enough to keep things interesting? What do each of the players need to improve to reach these numbers? I think they are all too optimistic but not complete fantasy. I can see some guys like Pence, Bourn, Wandy, and Norris having very good or even award caliber seasons, but I wouldn't bet on it. Sadly, the Astros are.