It's time once again for The Crawfish Boxes (soon to be sponsored) Player of the Week awards! Also a reminder, in case you haven't seen Alyson Footer's latest tweets, she will be hosting a watch party for tonight's game at Lucky's Pub. Footer will be giving away lots of cool Astros swag, so if you have time, stop by and support the team.
Hitter of the Week: Hunter Pence - After an extremely cold start to the 2010 campaign, Pence has been on fire in the past week. His wOBA for the last seven days is .466. He's 7 for 19 over that span with two doubles, two home runs, three runs scored and three RBIs. It's been a nice rebound for Pence, as he's returned to the five spot in the lineup. If the Astros can get Pence, Lee and Berkman all going at the same time, the offense moves from inept to just bad.
Pitcher of the Week: Felipe Paulino - With apologies to Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers, Paulino deserves this award after not getting the victory Saturday. Sure, it wasn't a 1-0 loss like Oswalt suffered through last week, but Paulino did strike out 11 in seven innings with no walks. In another bit of sample-size tainted trivia, Paulino also had the best curveball last week, clocking in at 3.90 runs above average when normalized per 150 pitches.
Defender of the Week: Brad Mills, manager - I could have given this to someone who, you know, plays the game. But, if Brad Mills showing some fire on Sunday in getting ejected jump-starts this team...That's right, he 'defended' his players, thus winning their trust and respect even more. It's exactly the kind of chemistry-type reason I usually scoff at, but I think in that situation, it was important for Mills to get ejected. This team needed a wakeup call. Here's hoping he gave it to them.
Astros Stock Watch
Lance Berkman, bottoming out - His slash line of .190/.261/.381 was pretty bad. In 23 plate appearances, he managed two hits, a double and a home run. He did walk twice but also struck out five times. This is about as bad as it can get for Berkman. He will turn it around and the home run on Tuesday may have been the first sign of it.
Carlos Lee, rebounding nicely -Another middle of the order guy who continues to improve. Yes, Lee struck out looking on Saturday to end the game, but he's showing a good deal of power. Of course, his defense continues to be pretty terrible, so it's sort of a wash. I could see him finishing with a WAR of 3.0 now, at least, which is an improvement on a couple weeks ago.
Michael Bourn, short-term volatility -What will the impending suspension of Michael Bourn mean? Not too much, actually. Expect Michaels and Sullivan to get starts in either game, assuming the penalty isn't reduced to one game. Each is due for a spot start soon anyway, though it will be interesting to see who Mills decides to put in center field. My money is on Sullivan, though Mills seems to like bringing the lefty off his bench.
Kaz Matsui, cratering fast - It did look like Matsui was snapping out of his early season funk. But then he goes 1 for 14 in the past week, confirming every bad thought we've had about him. The Astros just do not have many good options at second base right now. Yes, they need to keep throwing Matsui out there until he rebounds, but when is the cutoff? When does Brad Mills have to make a move for better options? Matsui is in the final season of his contract, so he could be designated for assignment in a month or so if the Astros deem German Duran, Osvaldo Navarro or Edwin Maysonet better options at second.
Roy Oswalt, blue chipper -The Wizard again proved just why he's one of the best pitchers in the game. We've talked about each of his last two starts, but let's take a minute to see where he stands compared to previous seasons. Roy is on pace to throw 205 innings, which is the most he's thrown since 2008. His strikeout rate is higher than any time since his rookie season while his walk rate is also the highest it's ever been. His home run rate is up a bit from his career average, but is right in line with the past few seasons. He's also stranding over 80 percent of the runners who reach base, which would be a career high for him. All in all, he is dealing out on the mound and it's a pleasure to see him return to dominant form.
Brett Myers, rising to record highs -The weird thing about Brett Myers right now is his BABiP is much higher than his career average. We've talked in the past about him pitching to contact more often as a reason for this, but it's comforting to know that his very good ERA and xFIP could drop even lower if his batted ball rate drops back to league average.
Wandy Rodriguez, dropping fast -This is not the Wandy you know and love. This season's version has been very hittable, has been unable to pitch deep into games and generally screwed up plans for a great rotation. If he can turn things around, Rodriguez would give the Astros four solid starting pitchers for the first time since Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens wore the Brick Red jerseys. There are some encouraging facts, such as his BABiP (.366) being absurdly high, even with a ground ball rate of 50 percent. His xFIP is actually pretty decent, though Wandy needs to improve his strikeout rate if he hopes to be as successful as seasons past.
Bud Norris, crashing - What a time to be headed back to St. Louis. Bud Norris has owned the Cardinals in the City of the Arch and needs some of that magic to rub off on him this time around. He has failed to pitch into the fifth inning in any of his starts and the only time he's allowed less than two runs in a game was his last start in St. Louis, back on April 15th.
Humberto Quintero, leveling off - Since the catching apocalypse that was J.R. Towles demotion hit, Q has gone 4 for 9 in five games, with one strikeout, one run scored and one RBI. He's also got a .500 BABiP to go with his .444 batting average. Q hasn't been as abysmal as he was earlier in the season, but don't expect him to hit enough to be a regular. In fact, his usage this past week looks like Mills will split time equally between Cash and Q for the time being.
Kevin Cash, penny stock good buy - He has no expectations on him and he hasn't been hitting. Literally, he's 0 for 9 since being called up from Round Rock. Of course, he's also seemed to calm some of the pitchers down and has overseen a good stretch by the starters. So, for now, Cash is doing exactly the kind of job the Astros asked of him. Someone compared him to Brad Ausmus. I'm pretty sure Ausmus could still do a better job defensively than Cash, but he can definitely hit as well as Bradley.
Pedro Feliz, underperforming -1 for 14 with a walk, two strikeouts, a run scored and an RBI does not make for a good week. We've already went over how bad Feliz has been compared to other free agent third basemen. Feliz has been so bad that Geoff Blum started earlier this week and thought it was a good move. He's been so bad, I've thought about Sean Berry taking a few hacks in his stead. He's been so bad...okay, I'll stop now. Suffice it to say, Feliz has been bad. Forgetting advanced metrics for a bit, he's also on pace for just 55 RBIs and five home runs in 147 games played this season. That's a little off of GM Ed Wade's 100 RBIs, 20 homers assessment this offseason.
Tanner Bushue, climbing steadily -Bushue had his most impressive start of the season earlier this week, earning a Game Score of 78. He's also continued his remarkable streak of striking out five batters per start. While five K's in seven innings doesn't seem like much, his K rate is actually a little north of 8 right now, which is prettty darned good. He's Pitching Runs Created is at 13 right now, which is about four runs less than Jordan Lyles has through six starts.
Chris Shelton, paying nice dividends -Shelton has gone 16 for 47 this month with two doubles, three home runs, 11 RBIs and three runs scored. He's only walked once and has struck out six times, but is showing some of the power that made him such an attractive secondary option this spring. At 29, he certainly is no prospect, but he is shoring up the first base position if the Astros have any injuries in the coming months.
Oswaldo Navarro, better than expected returns - Did you know that Navarro is the third youngest regular on the Express roster, behind Jason Castro and Collin DeLome? At 25, Navarro has already been through one team, but is 12 for 33 this month with four walks, two doubles, one triple and a home run. His slash line of .364/.462/.576 in 48 at-bats is one of the best on the team and his wOBA of .367 is very respectable. He's also just a hair behind Shelton for second place on the team in Runs Created.
Drew Locke, rising slightly - It's been a bad start to the 2010 season for Locke. After a stellar 2009 campaign with Corpus Christi. Locke struggled badly out of the game with the Express and lost starts to Yordany Ramirez in right field. This month, though, he's starting to rebound. He's walked eight times in 32 plate appearances while going 7 for 24 with two doubles and a triple. He's still striking out an awful lot, but is at least showing signs that he could be getting out of his current slump.
Polin Trinidad, under-the-radar buy - Did you know Trinidad is 1-1 in two starts this month, logging 11 2/3 innings while allowing 11 hits and two earned runs? He's also struck out eight batters while walking three and giving up zero home runs. His FIP of 2.58 very good, as is his BABiP of .275. Trinidad isn't a hard thrower and had a bad April, but if he can adjust to Triple-A, he might be a good option for the bullpen later this season.
Wesley Wright, good indicators - Speaking of Round Rock starters, Wesley Wright has made good strides in his transition to the rotation. He's struck out seven in 13 innings this month while walking four. More importantly, he's gotten 24 ground ball outs compared to five air outs. He also hasn't had to throw a ton of pitches to get through the order, averagin 3.38 pitches per plate appearance. The victories aren't there, but the Astros have to be encouraged by this run of success.
Koby Clemens, solidifying blue chip status - Clemens isn't showing the prodigious power he had in April, but he is still banging out extra-base hits. He's still batting over .300/.400/.600 this month and has struck out five times in 41 plate appearances. He's also playing a pretty good first base. I'm still concerned about his strikeouts, but it appears his bat is pretty legitimate. It'll be interesting to track what the Astros do with him for the rest of the summer.
T.J. Steele, good bounce -After struggling in the transition to Double-A, Steele has found a pretty good groove of late. The only problem is he's missing the walks and the power that could make him an elite prospect. On the plus side, he hasn't been injured yet. Still, a .318/.333/.409 slash line in 45 plate apperances with 14 strikeouts isn't exactly elite prospect material. I still am dubious about his 'five-tool ability' but reserve the right for future judgement.
Tyler Lumsden, deceiving growth - Yes, Tyler Lumsden has started two straight games. Yes, he's done pretty well in them. If you remember, Lumsden is who the Astros got for Jordan Parraz two offseasons ago. He was primarily a reliever last season, but has moved into the Hooks starting rotation with Fernando Abad out for a while. Lumsden isn't young and has struck out just eight batters in 18 innings this month. Why has he been so successful? Try 35 ground ball outs in his last three starts. With German Duran, Jhon Florentino and Wladimir Sutil holding down the defense, Lumsden can afford to get a few ground balls. His BABiP of .2322 is not sustainable long-term. So, don't get excited about him just yet.
Albert Cartwright, excellent second quarter numbers -What a steal of a late-round pick! Cartwright has taken full advantage of Lancaster to go 12 for 35 this month with five walks, seven strikeouts, three doubles and a home run. He's also stolen five bases in eight attempts while playing good enough defense at second to force 2009 draft pick Barry Butera to the bench, for the most part.
Leandro Cespedes, dismal returns - Another season of banging his head against the California League wall has brought nothing good for Cespedes. Once considered a good prospect, Cespedes just hasn't been able to put it together at higher levels. His strikeout rate continues to be under-par while he struggles with his walk rate. In some parks, that could be hidden, but the Cal League is pretty unforgiving. I'd like to see some bounce from Cespedes, but I'm afraid we might be seeing his ceiling.
Jiovanni Mier, bottoming out -It's been a hard first full season for Mier. He's committed nine errors already, he hasn't flashed any of the power he showed in short-season ball and he's not hitting for average. One of the few positives is he's walking at a decent rate. Still, his start reminds me too much of Jay Austin's last season to get excited about his long-term future. The South Atlantic League is a pitcher's paradise, but Mier's bat was supposed to be the most solid part of his game. If he's struggling to hit for average now, we might have to downgrade our future forecasts of him.
J.D. Martinez, skyrocketing -This man was put on this earth to hit. That's the only explanation I can come to for how well Martinez has started off his pro career. He isn't walking much and is prone to strikeouts. Without seeing vidoe of him, I have no idea if he'd be vulnerable because of a long swing at higher levels, but I like what I see so far.
Jose Cisnero, volatile -Not much has gone right for Cisnero on the field this month, as he's given up seven earned runs in 10 2/3 innings. However, his 12 strikeouts leads the Legends staff, as does his 10.12 K rate. If he can cut down on his walks, Cisnero could be very good.
Arcenio Leon, rising profile - Pitching mostly in relief, Leon has been almost unhittable. In seven innings over two appearances this month, he's given up just one hit while striking out nine and walking four. For the season, the 23-year old has given up 10 hits in 23 innings with a K rate of 9.00. He's exactly the kind of pitcher who could skip Lancaster entirely and move to Corpus Christi. Expect him to get the call when Danny Meszaros gets called up to Round Rock.