TCB Players of the Week and Stock Watch

HOUSTON - MAY 11: Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros and Brandon Phillips #4 of the Cincinnati Reds chat during a break in the play after Pence doubled in the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park on May 11, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

An added benefit to this post, we're including the stock watch back in with the players of the week.

Hitter of the Week: Hunter Pence - As the Astros' offense has fallen off a cliff in the past 10 days, Pence has been red-hot. He's got a .375/.385/.700 line in the past 26 plate appearances with an ISO of .333. He only has one home run over that stretch, but also has one triple and three doubles. 

Pitcher of the Week: Mark Melancon - There were a couple of people who could have landed in this spot, but I wanted to highlight the nice work Shark has been doing in his new role as closer. In the past seven days, he hasn't struck out any batters, but he's only allowed one hit in nine plate appearances. That's the complete opposite of what Brandon Lyon was doing, and it's nice to see.

Fielder of the Week: Clint Barmes - In just 86 innings this season, Barmes has already been good for 2 Defensive Runs Scored at shortstop. He's got five Out of Zone plays and has becomes at least the second-best defensive player on the team as soon as he stepped on the field. He and Bourn may own this award from here on out.

Bud Norris, holding steady - Again, Norris was serviceable in his last start. He kept the walks under control, struck out a big number of batters, but couldn't shut out the Pirates, which was his biggest downfall. He has still been the best pitcher on this staff through the early going, even if he's not getting the victories to show it.

J.A. Happ, volatile - His last start makes him look a little more competent than he's shown this season, but there were enough bad signs to still be concerned about Happ. He's still got problems with his control, which really makes me support The Constable's theory that Happ is still hurting to some degree from his injury in spring training. Right now, there's just no telling what his next start will look like.

Wandy Rodriguez, adequate - Wandy gave up five runs over 14 innings and two starts in the past week. He struck out eight and walked two over that stretch, which are fine numbers. He's been good, but not yet great. Over the past couple years, we've seen Wandy have stretches of just brilliant pitching. If this stretch is his "ordinary" period, then we're in for something special soon. If this is as good as it gets, things are not nearly as good.

Brett Myers, falling fast - As clack pointed out, as much as it seems like something is up with Myers, he did strike out eight in his last start. Like he said, we may be seeing a simple regression based on Myers' heavy reliance on batted balls. Which means he could be the third-best pitcher on this staff from here on out.

Aneury Rodriguez, rookie jitters - Aneury is batting .500 on his starts, looking good once against the Reds and then not so good in another. Of course, a large chunk of that has to do with his control problems. Even last season in Triple-A with the Rays, he had a 3.88 BB/9 rate. The problem with these control problems isn't necessarily that it leads to more walks (it does), but that Aneury misses his spots and the hitter puts the ball in the air. That's somewhat manageable in Minute Maid Park, but if he continues to have a 25 percent fly ball rate, he will not last in the rotation.

Wilton Lopez, rising - Another nice, solid week for Lopez, as he looks better and better coming back from the injury. His strikeouts aren't terribly impressive (2 in 3 1/3 innings) and he's walked just as many, but just showing he's healthy and effective is huge for this bullpen. Giving the Astros a second dependable reliever is very key.

Carlos Lee, strong returns - I really don't get it. Carlos' season has been a mystery wrapped in an enigma rolled in a conundrum. From his defense to his wild swings in offensive prowess, Lee just can't be explained. He only played in five games over the past week, but went 7 for 20. He's still hitting very poorly against right-handers, and the power has not returned, but if Lee can continue to at least be passable at the plate, he's not a black hole in the lineup. More like a white dwarf.

Michael Bourn, turning around -  Not necessarily at the plate, but Bourn's defensive metrics are inching back towards respectability. We knew it was going to happen, but it's still nice to see Bourn is resuming his place at the top of the league defensively. 

J.R. Towles, dropping quickly - It had to happen, but the past week was not kind to Towles. He did play in four games, but went 0 for 14 with one strikeout, two walks and a run scored. With Q struggling (we'll get to that in a minute), this is the perfect time for Towles to stake his claim to more playing time. Unfortunately, that didn't happen this week, but there's always time. It's not like he's getting sent down to the minors for someone like Max Ramirez.. (whispers from off-stage) Oh...

Brett Wallace, slumping badly - Wallace is almost as bad as Towles right now, going 3 for 17 with three walks, three strikeouts, a sacrifice fly, grounded into a double play once with one RBI and one run scored. With his batting average on balls in play being so high, he was bound to find a little regression there. But, he's still hitting over .320, so even with a struggling week like this, Wallace is still having a solid season. 

Humberto Quintero, regressing to mean - Q went 2 for 12 in the past week, playing in just three games over that stretch. He's now hitting .259/.299/.359 this season, which is higher still than his slash lines for the past few seasons. Which means Q still has a little way to fall yet, which may be why he's been losing some playing time lately. Also, the latest catcher defense ratings from Beyond the Box Score suggests Q has been below average defensively as well. I'm not sure how much stock to put in that, but if it leads to more playing time for Towles, I'm in favor.

Chris Johnson, May is not helping - There is nothing new here. Johnson has been this bad for the entire season now, hitting the occasional home run, but if there is good news, it's that Johnson had a 30 percent line drive rate in the past week. That didn't translate to a higher BABiP, which means Johnson has just been unlucky. If he keeps hitting line drives like that? Things may eventually turn around.

Angel Sanchez, bottoming out - It's not that I care whether Sanchez hit 2 for 11, because he's not really playing regularly any more. But, his batting line is indicative of a bigger regression by this entire offense. We worried earlier in the season that the Astros offensive production may not be sustainable because of their low walk rate. Well, that may be coming home to roost, since they had seven position players hit under .200 in the past week. They have also plummeted in the overall team offensive rankings in the past two weeks, going from the top 12 or so to the bottom eight. It's disappointing and not really reversible.

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