We are getting close to the end of the month, but I'm going to play this stock watch straight and wait until next week to look back at the month of May.
Hunter Pence, blue chip - The worst thing I can say about Pence this week is he's not walking enough. That has never been a part of his game, though, so Pence can still be considered the best player on this team. Trading him to the Phillies AND picking up money for him? Improbable bordering on crazy. Pence is hitting for power, average and keeps driving in those runs. If he keeps this up, he'll definitely be the Astros All-Star representative. It'll be his second time in the Midsummer Classic and will make him the 24th player in Astros history to have that distinction. Wait a second...that sounds like an article idea...
Chris Johnson, cooling some - Though his average dropped this week, Johnson is still spraying line drives at a high percentage, which means he won't be terrible for long. I'm not sure what to expect from him in the future, but if he does get to 17 home runs this year, it'll be the 12th season in franchise history where a third baseman has hit that many homers from just six players. It's elite company, of a kind and may show why the Astros are sticking with him at the hot corner, even though his defense is pretty poor.
Bill Hall, finally rising some - It wouldn't take much, and certainly doesn't include walks, but Bill Hall is finally putting together some decent at-bats, providing a solid stick in the Houston lineup over the past week. Hall hit .308/.308/.462 with two doubles in 13 at-bats. He still has problems striking out, like he did in crunch time Tuesday night and his defense still isn't good, but Bill Hall is finally contributing. Who'd have thought it was possible?
Brett Wallace, bouncing up again - Brick didn't have a bad week and compared to the past few weeks, this one was positively rosy. Wallace hit .278/.333/.289 with two RBIs and a 9.5 BB/9 rate. Of course, he also struck out 27 percent of the time, which has become a real problem. His average has also perked up as his BABiP rises, so we still can't be sure how much of his average this week was caused by a few lucky bounces.
Carlos Lee, falling, falling, falling - That's also a reference to the two different times Lee fell down last night in left field. What in the world are those statheads thinking giving him positive defensive numbers?? I'm not sure if you can characterize Lee's bat as cooling off, because this might be his new equilibrium. I'm only being half-facetious there, because we can't be sure what Lee has left. We assume he'll hit again, but the more time that goes by and he's not made any improvement, the worse things look for his future.
Michael Bourn, red hot - .296/.406/.333. That's the epitome of a good leadoff hitter. The only thing you could ask for to make him even more perfect is a higher slugging percentage, but I'll take that weekly slash line for Bourn every day of the week. We have already talked about that phenomenal slide Bourn made on Monday night and that's borne out in Bourn's Ultimate Baserunning Number on FanGraphs, which is the highest on the team in the past week and the eighth-highest in the entire majors this season.
Clint Barmes, rising quickly - Deer Meat has only played in 22 games this season, and yet, he's now third on the team in fWAR. That's only slightly amazing. He's had some high profile errors, but his defense at short overall has been nigh brilliant and his baserunning has also been surprisingly good. Basically, Barmes is having a season like Bourn did last year, where he's very, very good in everything but batting average. Only six other National League shortstops have a better Fielding Runs total this season and only four have more Defensive Runs Saved. It's for those reasons that Barmes could bring a couple nice prospects at the trading deadline, if the Astros are so inclined.
Humberto Quintero, back to good - He isn't hitting for a ton of power, but Quintero stopped his slide for long enough to go .333/.375/.400 in his past five games. Of course, it's mostly because of a .385 BABiP. Q's value isn't at the plate, so it's a bonus when he goes on these streaks. It just stands out a little more with Towles struggling so mightily this month.
J.R. Towles, still slumping badly - May 4 was the last time J.R. Towles had a hit. He's 0 for 30 since then with four strikeouts and two walks. To me, that means Towles has just been incredibly unlucky during that stretch, since he hit 16 ground balls over that stretch, which should lead to one or two hits. He only had one line drive over that stretch, so he's not hitting the ball with authority, but he should still be luckier than he's been.
Brian Bogusevic, also slumping badly - The only lefty bat on the bench is not hitting. That's been the case all season, but before it was Joe Inglett that had the problems. Bogusevic has just one hit in his last 13 plate appearances, but played in all seven games over the past week. He hasn't walked and his only saving grace is above average defense.
Angel Sanchez, rising slightly - A double-digit walk rate is the biggest reason Sanchez rose this week. His average wasn't anything special, but is probably indicative of his status quo. Still, Sanchez certainly isn't slumping, and put together a very impressive at-bat in the ninth inning of that Dodgers game Monday. He's still got defensive shortcomings, but does he work as the other side of a second base platoon with Bill Hall? Has he done enough to stay on the roster once Jeff Keppinger is back?
Bud Norris, dipping a bit - That's two starts now where Bud hasn't been his 2011 self. Instead, he's reverting to what we've seen from him in past seasons: decent strikeout rate, bad control and mediocre results. If Cudly Budly really has made a Leap this season, an occasional start or two like this against a good team like the Cardinals is understandable. He was also pitching a good game against the Dodgers before that pivotal last inning. I'm not ready to say Norris is regressing yet, but if we get a couple more starts like this, that Hardball Times article on his fastball velocity will take on more and more importance.
Brett Myers, bottoming out - He's not striking anyone out. He's also not walking anyone and his LOB percentage is an awful 38 percent. For Myers to be this bad with a .250 batting average on balls in play is scary. How much worse could it get? He's still plugging away, piling up the innings to keep pressure off the bullpen, but that's about the only good thing he's done this season.
Wandy Rodriguez, volatile - Boy, Wandy's FIP is ugly for his only start in the past week. That's partly because he didn't let any baserunners score, giving up all his runs on home runs. He also had a pretty bad BB/9 rate, which doesn't help matters. I didn't expect Wandy to be as good as he was in the last two road starts, so a few bumps in his control don't hurt as bad, but if the Astros truly are looking to trade him in the next few months, he needs to button up some of these peripherals.
Wilton Lopez, solidly rising - You can be worried about his arm and if Mills is avoiding using him on back-to-back days, but no reliever pitched more innings in the past seven days than Lopez. He's effective and he's a great option setting up Shark. What more can you ask?
Mark Melancon, rising - Shark is really settling into the closer's role. It's a shame this team isn't good enough to get him steady work. Still, his prowess there brings up a good question. Does Brandon Lyon automatically get his job back when he returns from the disabled list? The obvious answer is no, but those unwritten baseball rules usually dictate a guy can't lose his job because of an injury. I wonder if Mills will adhere to that or go with the guy who's getting the job done.
Jeff Fulchino, holding steady - It's somewhat amazing that Jeff Fulchino has put together a fairly solid season so far, coming back from his injuries. Relievers are the most fungible parts of teams, and you have to plan on some flaming out either by injury or ineffectiveness. Fulchino, though, has numbers so far which are reminiscent of his breakout 2009 campaign. His FIP is higher, but his expected FIP is right in line with two years ago. He might be that piece the Astros need in the seventh inning to form a solid bridge to Melancon.