Thursday's Three Astros' Things

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 17: Matt Downs #16 congratulates Brett Wallace #29 of the Houston Astros after Wallace's solo homer in the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)




1. Brett Wallace

After Wednesday's horrific day game in Brewerland, we want---we need---silver linings. And Brett Wallace definitely was the shiny gem identifiable among the wreckage. Wallace went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs in his third game back from AAA. I have no idea if this is this is a sign that Wallace can establish himself as a solid major leaguer; only time will tell. But the Astros can really use a revived Brett Wallace. If Wallace's former prospect promise can materialize, this would mean so much to the Astros' future. Wallace's performance has been disappointing in two previous season, so I'll wait to celebrate.

I wondered how Wallace's performance ranks among the other young first baseman trying to establish themselves in the majors. So, I called up the 2011 - 2012 stats for all first basemen between the ages of 23 and 26 with at least 200 plate appearances during that period. This produced 18 players. Not surprisingly, the list contains some young hitters who were fairly high profile prospects. Some have struggled, like Smoak, LaPorta, and Brandon Allen. Some had repeated failures in call ups before finding recent success, like Chris Davis. Some have been inconsistent, like Ike Davis. And some have shown star level performance, like Goldschmidt and Trumbo.

Here is how Wallace ranks among the 18 young first baseman during 2011 - 2012. I have shown the most comparable peer for each statistic.

Batting Average 6th (Similar: Trumbo, Parmelee)

Runs Created+ 9th (Similar: Moreland, Ike Davis, Belt)

wOBA 9th (Similar: Morelnd, Chris Davis, Ike Davis)

BB% 11th (Similar: Ike Davis, Brandon Allen)

K% 6th (Similar: Ike Davis, Hughes)

Isolate Power, ISO 15th (Similar: Daniel Murphy, Alonso)

BABIP 2d (Similar: Goldschmidt)

If I had compared Wallace to a similar list of young third baseman, he probably would rank a bit higher, because the offense from third basemen tends to be less potent than first basemen. But these first baseman probably best represent his peer prospects. Two hitters, Mike Moreland and Wallace's former college teammate, Ike Davis, keep coming up as similar to Wallace in the rankings. During the trading period, many commenters at TCB said they wanted the Astros to acquire Brandon Belt. However, note that Wallace generally has out performed Belt, although perhaps by a narrow margin. And, yes, the fact that Wallace had the second highest BABIP may not be a good sign for the direction of his offensive numbers.

As Brett Wallace comes back to the majors this season, it would be nice to see him rank solidly in the upper half ranking among these young first baseman on the global offensive stats, like RC+. and wOBA. (He is close enough to average, right now, among his peers for both stats that this is a feasible target.) As time goes on, the hitters who are in the lower half will eventually drop off the ML map.

2. Jordan Lyles

On the same day that David Coleman writes that we shouldn't give up on Jordan Lyles, Lyles' ERA takes a brutal beating at the hands of the Brewers. Of course, that doesn't change the conclusion about Lyles' future. But it has to be disheartening for Lyles.

Lyles did some good things in the game. He faced more adversity than he should have early in the game, but he battled through it and contained the damage. Most of the adversity was caused by his teammates whose fielding was less than crisp. In the 5th inning, Lyles faced several bad breaks, in the form of bloopers and weak hits as well as a blown call by the third base umpire. At some point, the dam just broke, and Lyles surrendered a hard hit double and a HRs that put the game out of reach.

HRs have been a vulnerability for Lyles this year, as well as 5th and 6th inning problems. I am guessing that these issues may be related to prolonged innings in the middle of the game which tend to fatigue Lyles. The fatigue can show up in pitches located up in the zone---which are more likely to be hit a long way. Lyles' low strike out rate doesn't help. An additional swing and miss here or there might have prevented the big inning. Lyles' K/9 stands at 5.8, compared to the NL starting pitcher average of 7.7.

I'll give you one opinion---don't move Lyles to the bullpen. I occasionally read comments suggesting that Lyles should be moved to the bullpen; I have no reason to believe the Astros are considering it. I don't think that would do any good for Lyles, plus there is no evidence that it would help the team. In an effort to reduce his work load, the Astros used Lyles as a reliever in 5 games last year. He did not look comfortable in the role, and had a 12.46 ERA out of the bullpen.

3. What?

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has this to say about the Marlins' effort to trade Carlos Lee:

...the Marlins took a curious approach in trying to move Lee to the 15 teams that could acquire him without restriction under his limited no-trade clause.

The Houston Astros covered virtually all of the approximately $9 million that Lee was due when they sent him to the Marlins on July 4, with Miami responsible for only a prorated portion of the minimum salary.

But the Marlins, according to one club that spoke with them, actually wanted as much as $2.5 million in a trade for Lee — even though they basically weren’t paying him anything.

Needless to say, the discussions failed to progress.

Did I get that right? The Astros covered Lee's salary when he was traded to the Marlins, but when the Marlins decided they didn't want him anymore, they still wanted other teams to pay for his salary as part of a trade. I guess the Marlins' strategy was to make Carlos Lee a profit center. Curious is right. And no surprise he wasn't traded.

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