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Matchup/Preview/Game Thread Game Ten at D-Backs 8:40 CST


Brandon Webb   Andy Pettitte
0 - 0, 2.77    1 - 1, 8.18

Let's start with a couple quotes from Baseball Prospectus: First from Jim Baker.

Catcher: Brad Ausmus and Eric Munson have 36 PA between them with seven singles and three walks. Center field: Willy Taveras has come to the plate 39 times with 11 singles and two walks. Shortstop: Adam Everett has tried 29 times with six singles and no walks. Pitcher: Astros pitchers are 2-for-18 with a walk. That's a lot of black holes for one lineup to endure. Yes, it's early and there will be some improvement from the position players in question, but it's not like any of them have a proven record of real success in this area.

There's an upper limit to how many players a team can start for defensive/speed/sentimental reasons and the Astros are over it. This is something they'll have to endure all season, I'm afraid, unless they tire of seeing single digits in the middle of the stat column and make some moves.

Well that's his opinion. Seems to me the Astros are fifth in the league in homers and sixth in OBP (!). That's a small increase in homers off last year, and a big one in onbase. Combine that with a team ERA of 4.01 that's currently fifth in the league and I think we got something we can run with. Last I saw, you want your best defense at--let me think--got it! short, center, and catcher. And I know the starting pitchers are taking lots of batting practice. . . .

And second from Will Carroll.

The big thing about pitchers is that there?s no small thing. Keep this in mind as we discuss Brandon Backe. Backe struggled through spring training with a sore lower back, and once that was cleared up--with a cortisone injection late in March--Backe got his velocity back and looked pretty good. Perhaps the quick return of his velocity--coupled with his lost conditioning--contributed to Thursday?s injury.

Backe was throwing in the low 90s and quickly went to the mid-80s. He grabbed at his forearm and got a mound visit by the coaching and training staff, but was allowed to stay in the game. He continued to lose velocity before he was removed the following inning. Backe was diagnosed with an elbow sprain, but there is no immediate plan for imaging. The Astros are hoping Backe?s arm will respond to conservative treatment, with Phil Garner even hoping that Backe won?t miss a start. That?s unlikely. Backe, a converted outfielder, is the latest in a long line of conversions that end up injured. We?ll know more about the severity of the injury by Saturday, but for now, watch him very closely.

No pithy retorts here. Mr. Carroll seems very well grounded in what he says. And of course the news within the last hour or so that Backe has in fact been put on the DL confirms everyone's skepticism.

Anyway, D-Backs! Can't hit, these poor Diamondbacks, but they've got the second-best ERA in the league. Last in batting average, 11th in homers, and 14th in OBP. I guess they were throttled by the Brewers in their second series of the year at Milwaukee, and that might be understandable, but come on: they've already had a home and home with Colorado. This does not portend well for Arizona.

Gonzo's got a couple jacks, but is hitting .229. Counsell is hitting .345, but has provided the gap and fence power you might expect: a single double and no homers. Tony Clark has a tater but a .182 average to go with it. Conor Jackson is rumored to be somewhat studly, but maybe you want some more power at first?

It actually looks like the D-Backs--tenth in runs-- have scored more than they should have based on their hitting statistics, and could find runs even harder to come by in future games.

Let's hope that starts now.

Ground ball guru Brandon Webb comes in with the 2.77 ERA but also with a .327 OBP allowed. His K/9IP and ground ball fly ball ratios also appear down so far. On the other hand, he's always handled the Astros, coming in with a 1 - 1 record against Houston but the 1.98 ERA, and having held the Astros to a .172 batting average. The only current Astro with an OPS over .650 is Preston, and he's at .727

For the D-Backs, Damian Easley is 15 for 47 against Pettitte, Shawn Green is 8 for 32, and Tony Clark is 5 for 28. No-one else has faced And more than 8 times, though Gonzo has a jack.

Let's take a look at onbase percentages, the new Astros' calling card, and the D-Backs' failure:

OBP Astro Pos D-Back OBP
x .370 Brad Ausmus C1 Johnny Estrada .217
.167 Eric Munson C2 Chris Snyder .385 x
.439 Lance Berkman 1B Conor Jackson .464 x
x .316 Craig Biggio 2B Orlando Hudson .250
.207 Adam Everett SS Craig Counsell .424 x
x .541 Morgan Ensberg 3B Chad Tracy .371
.359 Jason Lane OF1 Jeff Davanon .360 x
x .333 Willy Taveras OF2 Eric Byrnes .310
x .333 Preston Wilson OF3 Luis Gonzalez .289
.000 Orlando Palmeiro OF4 Shawn Green .143 x
.429 Eric Bruntlett Util/PH Damian Easley .474 x