I mentioned something in my recap Sunday about how the Astros could go 0-6 in the first two series and still be a decent team. To flesh that idea out a bit, let's look at a couple of key stats.
First, Houston faced three pitchers who could arguably be placed in the Top 10 in the National League last weekend. They only managed 11 runs off of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt while allowing 21. As we've mentioned over and over, the Phillies are a very good team. Yes, the Astros have played well at Citi Bank Field in the past, but that doesn't guarantee they'd repeat last year's performance to start the season.
Which brings us to the Reds. Houston was outscored by Cincy 41-85 last season. In games at Great American Ballpark, the Astros were outscored 15-39. While the Reds rotation isn't as glamorous as Philly's, they have shut down the Astros pretty effectively in the past. Mike Leake has a 1-1 record in 19 1/3 innings against the Astros with a 2.33 ERA and 11 strikeouts. Edinson Volquez is 4-0 in 33 2/3 innings with a 1.34 ERA and 35 strikeouts. Even fifth starter Sam LeCure, filling in for Homer Bailey, is 1-0 in seven innings of work with a 2.57 ERA and six strikeouts.
Looking a little bigger, Houston was outscored by its first three opponents (Philly, Cincy, Florida) by a margin of minus-60 runs in 2010. The Astros didn't have a positive run differential against any of those teams, despite holding a 7-6 edge in games against the Phillies and Marlins. Does this kind of macro-stat tracking of the past predict future success? Not really, but it does show that the Astros have a hill to climb. It'll take us a little time to see if the Astros offense is as anemic as last season or if it was the Philly pitching that did the trick.
Either way, don't count on a big improvement in the record yet. That'll come against the Cubs next week...
- A bit of good news did trickle out of the weekend, when it was announce that Clint Barmes may only miss 3-4 weeks with his broken metacarpal. Once he returns, he'll be wearing the giant Jeff Bagwell pad on that hand (h/t to Astros County for that), but listening to Ed Wade on Sunday's pregame show, it sounded like Barmes is able to do all his baseball activities right now, except swing a bat and catch the ball with his injured hand. Those are two pretty big exceptions, but the team was confident if he continues to improve on this road trip, that he could resume swinging a bat by the time the Astros make it back home.
- As Steve Campbell pointed out, the Astros had a 95.5 percent chance of winning that Opening Day game before Brandon Lyon fell off the cliff like Mufasa into the herd of wildebeest.
- Lineup Tracker: Games 1 and 2 saw pretty much the same lineup for the Astros, with the only change being that J.R. Towles got the start against Cliff Lee. On Sunday, Mills switched up Brick Wallace and CJ in the order, while Q returned to his starting role. Could this mean that we'll see Towles and Q alternate? Or is it more of a straight-up platoon, with Towles seeing action against lefties? Either way, the most encouraging sign was that Mills left Wallace in the lineup to face Cliff Lee, who's as tough a lefty as they'll find. Maybe he's finally over that pesky "Wallace can't hit lefties thing." (don't look at Wallace line from that game...don't look at his line....don't look at his line)
- Did you catch the snark that Roy Oswalt brought when asked about his run support last season? Something about he was only given one lead, and he couldn't hold that? That annoyed me.
- Houston has hit two home runs already this season. It took the Astros five games to reach that total last year.
- Angel Sanchez wins the award for the "Only possible early in the year" batting line, with his .333/.308/.333 slash line. It's hard to get his on-base percentage lower than that batting average, but it's possible with sacrifices. Still, the fact that Sanchez is hitting .333 has to be a good sign for this season.
- Lastly, in case you were still worried about that 0-3 record, one of the favorites to contend in the Central, Milwaukee is also 0-3. And, Pittsburgh is 2-1 and in second place in the division. Do you really think that will last?