Thursday's Three Astros Things

HOUSTON,TX-MAY 09 : Wilton Lopez #59 of the Houston Astros has words from the dugout for Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Miami Marlins after they had a confrontation in the seventh inning when Ramirez was hit by a pitch on May 9, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Here's some things to talk about while you dress up like Fidel Castro...

1) The middle infield gets some love - FanGraphs had two straight very complimentary pieces on Houston's middle infielders, comparing Jose Altuve to Starlin Castro and talking about Jed Lowrie's "breakout."

Some very good points in both posts, as well as the obligatory cautions about it being early in the season, etc. But, if things continue on this way, this Houston 2B-SS combo has a chance the be the best since 2008, when Kaz Matsui and Miguel Tejada posted a combined 5.4 fWAR.

Since both Altuve and Lowrie are very close to topping 3.0 fWAR right now, let's aim a little higher. When was the last time that combination has had 6.0 fWAR or higher? That would be 2004, when Jeff Kent and Adam Everett combined for 7.1 fWAR.

The biggest thing, that the FanGraphs article didn't touch upon, is that Lowrie's got very good defensive numbers early. He's also looked good in the field and appears to be better than his reputation coming over from Boston. Does that mean he'll stay healthy?

Either way, those two guys are going very strong this season and it's nice to see them get some more national attention.

Here's the Pick 6 leaderboard for Wednesday. Congrats to Puma for leading the way and good job by the three TCB writers for making the top 10. For the week so far, Crazy Cajun and thebluffrat are leading the way, so make sure you get your picks in to catch them.

Rank Player Points
1 Puma028 57.9
2 David Coleman 50.2
3 La Verdad 47.0
4 Timothy De Block 44.0
5 thebluffrat 38.3
6 clack 36.8
7 longam 35.5
8 lawson3 35.1
9 klk025 34.4
10 Mustang_Farmer 30.8

2) Weiland's replacement - I'm confused by the whole situation Houston's going through to find Kyle Weiland's replacement. It looks like Weiland will not be back into the rotation for at least a month and it may be more like the end of July.

So, why are we not sure who's grabbing his spot yet? Both Jordan Lyles and Aneury Rodriguez pitched well in cameos with the big team, but it appears the club has no real plan to make a choice yet.

What are they waiting on? Do they want Paul Clemens to get things straightened out and steal the job? Are they really holding a weird, slow competition between the two? Why am I asking so many questions today?

I'd assume this is Lyles' job to lose and if he pitches well next Tuesday, he should have the job going forward. Maybe the Astros are just hedging their bets to keep from handing Lyles the job in case he struggles. I don't know, and I'm still confused by the mystery to this situation.

3) Houston's got attitude - Okay, so in the wake of Cole Hamels "sending a message" to Bryce Harper, I want to revisit this whole Bud Norris/Wilton Lopez beaning incidents and what it says about this Houston team.

Norris did not come out and say that he hit Rickie Weeks a day after the Brew Crew went all Gregg Williams on Jason Castro, but he hinted that the pitch was a message without saying that. The pitch "got away from him," just like it did out of Wilton Lopez' hand when he hit Hanley Ramirez Wednesday.

Lopez also didn't make any overt signs that it was on purpose, except for stealing the Marlins' hand gesture as he walked off the field.

It sure seems like this pitching staff isn't taking guff from anyone in its final tour through the National League. They're doing it in a way that keeps them from getting suspended, but will it continue? Do you think this is a trend and if so, does it stem from the leaders of this staff like Norris and Brett Myers? Or, is this just coincidence?

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