Monday's Three Astros Things

April 7, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell (64) pitches against the Colorado Rockies during the second inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

A weekend has come and gone, with Houston winning a series. What's there to talk about?

1) Winning is like, you know, better than losing?
- Wow, it's amazing how opening the season with a couple of victories and the first opening-series win since 2006 can change perspectives, huh?

Now, let's all dramatically overreact and be sad when Houston loses more games than it wins for the rest of the season.

The Rockies series did a lot of good things for the Astros and those of us who think Houston won't be as bad as last season. For one, guys like Jose Altuve showed they've been working on their weaknesses from last season and may improve given more playing time in 2012.

The biggest reason for encouragement is the starting rotation. Only two of these guys were good bets to perform well, and Wandy was inconsistent this spring while Bud battled injuries. Lucas Harrell had a very enjoyable first outing and if Kyle Weiland can pick things up on Tuesday, Houston will have the makings of a pretty solid, if unspectacular, staff.

(Yeah, that's right. I completely glossed over Happ. I have zero confidence in him right now)

It's early for that too, but pitching was probably my biggest concern heading into this season. Houston has answered some questions early, but it's still just three games.

Plus, we're not even sure how good the Rockies are yet. What if they're one of the worst teams in the league? We'll feel pretty silly for getting excited about this, won't we?

2) Early impressions of Marwin - The rookie shortstop had some Opening Day jitters. That tag play was a mental error and he was also out of position on the Castro throw that allowed Young to score. But, the rookie shortstop played pretty well, all things considered.

His speed is also a pleasant surprise. He had a triple during spring ball and easily had that double into the gap Saturday night. His defense also seems to be good, Friday's mistakes nonwithstanding. He's not going to keep the starting job or anything, but there are plenty of good signs for the young infielder.

After Lowrie comes back from his thumb injury, I'd hope Mills can find some time to get Marwin regular at-bats. As a Rule 5 pick, he's already been thrown into the fire a bit. So, when he's not required to start, maybe he can be eased into his big league role and be given plenty of opportunities to have some success.

It's so hard to judge a shortstop until you see them play. I remember reports on Angel Sanchez being similar to what MarGo was hung with. It turned out that he was not nearly as good defensively as he was purported at the time. Marwin, at least, is better than that right off the bat.

3) Lucas Harrell's big night - How much fun was Lucas Harrell's night Saturday? He was obviously enjoying himself immensely, as some of you commenters pointed out. The funniest moment for me was when he beat out that bunt. From the high-stepping, to the big grin after he was safe, it was a really great moment.

The biggest thing for Harrell was he threw strikes. His reputation coming into the season was that as a control guy who didn't throw especially hard. That wasn't really the guy on display Saturday. While he wouldn't be confused with Billy Wagner, Harrell averaged 92.6 MPH on his fastball throughout the game with a change/curve that were about 10 MPH slower. Changing speed like that will get Harrell a few more turns through the rotation for sure.

The other, early thing we can talk about Harrell's night is that he threw a bunch more in the zone than he has in previous major league stints. Harrell threw first-pitch fastballs almost 60 percent of the time, and nearly as much in the zone period. For his career, Harrell had never thrown more than 50 percent in the zone in the big leagues. Obviously, we don't have Pitch F/X data on the minors, but it's easy to see the kinds of changes Harrell may have made to be successful both this spring and going forward.

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