Astros Things I Think I Think

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 18: Pitcher Fernando Rodriguez, Jr.#43 and left fielder Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros celebrate after the game with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 18, 2011 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Astros won 7-0. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Sorry, all, for the lack of posts the past few days. In my spare time this week, I've been building a toy box for my son's 2nd birthday. Surprisingly, it came out pretty decently, but it did eat up almost all of my free time this week. Thus, the lack of posts. To catch up, we're going to do a catchall post here. With apologies to Peter King...

 

  • I know Jayson Stark and Buster Olney over at ESPN talk to executives with major league teams. I understand that they hear teams being upset now with the six-team division messing things up for everyone. But, having six teams in the division isn't keeping anyone down. It's the fact that no one else has been particularly good over that stretch. In the past 10 years, only four of the six teams have won divisional titles, but that's only saved by the Reds winning last season and the Astros winning in 2001. Other than that, it's been the Cardinals or the Cubs at the top of the Central. Moving the Astros to the American League isn't going to give Milwaukee a chance to finally win the division. Better players will do that.
  • Boy, Brett Myers couldn't have picked a better time to turn things around this season. In the past two weeks, he's thrown more innings than any other Astros pitcher and is finally seeing some good results. Despite a .180 batting average on balls in play, his FIP and xFIP are both lower than his ERA. In fact, the big problem for Myers of late has been his tendency to give up home runs. If a few more balls stay in the park, he's back to being as good as he was last year. That means nothing but good things for Houston on the trade market.

 

  • Was pretty impressed with Jordan Lyles' last start, even if he did last just 5 2/3 innings. His control has been pretty good overall this season and he was really baffling Pittsburgh's hitters. The fact that he gave up as many runs as combined hits and walks speaks more to his luck and the defense behind him than anything else.
  • Speaking of the defense, wasn't this supposed to be a different Astros team defensively? With Clint Barmes replacing Tommy Manzella and Bill Hall, the infield defense was supposed to improve dramatically. Instead, the Astros have the lowest Fielding Run total in the entire major leagues. With Hall gone, Jeff Keppinger should be steady if not spectacular at second. Now that Barmes is playing regularly, Angel Sanchez' contributions at short may get balanced out, but that doesn't fix the problems with Chris Johnson, J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace. With the way the advanced metrics love Carlos Lee so far, they're the two weakest links left in the lineup.
  • Speaking of Wallace, I was probably a little too harsh on him the other day. The fact that he's got the second-highest walk rate on the team, plus a solid batting average and the second-highest doubles total on the team speak highly of him. Remember how we felt after he failed so miserably last season? He's more than proven he can be a solid player at the plate, which was expected after his minor league track record. His problems on the defensive side stand out, but probably will get better. His big thing there is just experience at the position, which will come in time.
  • By the way, Wallace is in the top 20 in the majors in doubles with 18. Pence is one of the guys ahead of him with 20
  • Sign me up, too, for the Matt Downs For Third Base campaign. Johnson has improved from early in the season, but he's still never going to get on base at the same rate that Downs may. Since they're the same age, why not give Downs a shot?
  • I am still upset about the Brad Arnsberg firing.
  • Nice to see Wandy healthy again. With Lyles, Wandy, Norris and Myers, this is a good rotation. The question is, can this rotation be a playoff rotation? Right now, probably not, but I'd feel pretty good with Norris and Wandy at the front of a playoff series, with Myers and Lyles in Games 3 and 4. It wouldn't be as good as the Oswalt/Pettite/Clemens combo, but I'd put Lyles or Myers up against Brandon Backe any day. I know many people want the Astros to trade Myers and Wandy, but I could definitely make a case against it.
  • Did you see Footer's blog about Jose Altuve? Wade wanted to bring him up to the majors the first time he saw him. I'd take that as a ringing endorsement, until I realize that Wade has had a terrible history with judging second base talent in his tenure in Houston. Seriously, the best second sacker he's brought in (Jeff Keppinger) has had to fight for his job every year on the team.
  • Speaking of Kepp, what can the Astros expect to get for him? Plugging him into the trade value calculator and assuming he finishes with a WAR around 2.0 for this season and 1.5 for next season, Kepp will be worth about 8.3 million. That won't get a top level prospect, but it could get two B-level players. If the return is anywhere as good as what Wade got for Felipe Paulino or Pudge Rodriguez, the Astros would probably be happy.
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