May 13, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Carlos Lee (45) returns to the dugout after scoring a run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-2 in twelve innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Let's catch up on the weekend's things with three questions...
1) The Brad Mills question - After Sunday's game, Brad Mills is catching a lot of flak. I had a friend text me twice on Sunday that Millsy should be fired. The same guy has texted me that for weeks now, but Sunday really frustrated him.
And I can understand that. Pulling Wandy when he was cruising along was debatable at best, and when Myers (who's not a shutdown closer, no matter how good he's been this year) blew the lead, he caught more heat. Then, the Wright-F-Rod situation made things worse.
I agree with all the criticism you can level at Mills, but I wonder if it matters right now. The Astros are currently playing better than their reputation. The young guys are, for the most part, taking steps forward. He's not really putting any young arms at risk. So, shouldn't he get credit for all that?
I guess it comes down to how you view this season. There is a chance that the Astros could make the playoffs with a manager who has a knack for making good moves, but this team isn't as talented as the 2004 squad who made a switch and went on to the NLCS. This is a team that needs time to grow, so the question on how to evaluate Mills shouldn't come down to tactical decisions.
If Escorpion, J.D. and Bogey/Schafer stop hitting while Cruz, Carpenter and Jordan Lyles all get hurt or stop being effective, then yeah, he's going to be judged on that.
2) The Chris Johnson question - You know, I've doled out my fair share of grief for CJ this season, but it's not for why you may think. Going back to his minor league days, I've just been very frustrated for his reputation as a power hitter without ever showing any, you know, consistent power.
I can understand why he earned the rep. Just watch him in batting practice some time. But, it's clear that in the majors, he's a 15-home run guy each year and that's pretty much it. He may peak better than that, but all the evidence (majors and minors) seems to suggest that's the case.
He also hasn't been terrible defensively this season. FanGraphs has him for -2.9 Fielding Runs this season, with -3 Defensive Runs Saved. That makes him the 17th-best fielding third baseman in the league, ahead of guys like Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. The problem, though, is there are only 20 third baseman that qualify for the list, so he's fourth-to-last in the majors defensively so far.
The guy I always think about when comparing Johnson's offensive production is Ken Caminiti. Though Cammy came with a ferocious defensive reputation, his career high was just 13 home runs for the first seven year he was in the majors. He of course turned that around in San Diego thanks to some "extra" help, but for most part, Caminiti was a good power hitter...for third base.
Should that be how we think of Johnson? That he provides good power and bad defense at a position where his marginal power can be viewed as a positive?
3) The roster shakeup question - I know, it's crazy to think that a team which just finished off a 6-3 home stand should be struggling enough to warrant a roster shakeup. But, that's the talk right now.
Would it do J.D. much good to get sent down? No, not in my book. I think the things he's struggling with can't be fixed by a quick stop in the minors so he can start hitting. I think the change in how pitchers have approached him is causing his struggles and that's affecting his confidence. Which means, he needs to work out of it in the majors more than anything.
Guys slump, and I don't think this is prolonged enough to warrant a quick hook for an Opening Day starter.
As for the Happ/F-Mart questions...I'm not going to defend Happ. He's been better than I expected this season, but he's still going to draw a lot of ire. I think he's flashed enough so far as to be immune from any demotions right away. If he goes into a tailspin? Yeah, he could be gone by the end of June, but I'd expect it to take at least five or six more terrible starts.
Fernando Martinez may be hot right now, but he's doing it against Triple-A pitching and he's only been doing it for six weeks. Remember when Ubaldo Jimenez was scorching hot for half a season and then did nothing for the next two years? Extreme example, yeah, but we shouldn't make snap judgments on guys based on six weeks of play, either good play or bad play.
Martinez still needs to prove he can stay healthy, and just because he's lighting things up at OKC doesn't mean he'll do the same in the big leagues. He did the same ping-pong thing for the Mets with little success in the majors. Plus, I think the Astros would just as soon install Justin Maxwell in left and see how he does rather than call up a guy from Triple-A.
I'm not against a roster shakeup in theory, but I think calling for one now is premature. Let's wait till they've played more than one bad week after a good week after a bad week.