It's always a pleasure when sometimes-contributor Bill Gilbert sends us along something we can post, and despite the less-than-stellar circumstances, tonight is no different.
Mr. Gilbert is president of the Larry Dierker chapter of SABR, has worked on salary arbitration cases for the Astros for some years now, and is a close associate of Tal Smith.
All I can say is that his expert opinion is always valued by those of us here at TCB.
The month of May was even worse than April for the Astros with a 12-17 record. While it ended on a bright note with the 10-2 win on Thursday night, it was preceded by one of the worst stretches of baseball seen in Houston in several years.
Fortunately, the other teams in the Central Division have also struggled so the Astros are not completely out of contention. However, another bad month will end any remaining hopes for a successful season.
To be successful, a team generally needs to average at least 4.5 runs per game with their pitchers allowing something less. Last year, the Astros averaged 4.54 runs per game and held the opposition to 4.44. This year they are scoring 4.00 runs per game and allowing 4.66. It was even worse in May as they scored only 3.90 and allowed 4.93.
The only players that are hitting with any consistency at all are Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence and Mark Loretta. All three are new additions to the team this year. The problem is with the "veteran" Astros, Craig Biggio, Adam Everett, Lance Berkman, Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane, Luke Scott and Brad Ausmus. None have been able to get anything going at the plate this year. All have batting averages under .250 and only Scott has a slugging average over .400. Berkman is the biggest problem. With one third of the season now in the books, Berkman's full season projections are a batting average of .245, 18 home runs, 84 RBIs and 3 doubles.
The pitching has not been great but that was expected before the season started. The plan was that this could be offset by an improvement in the offense. The new players brought in to provide this improvement have come through. For the team to get back into contention, the rest of the team must begin to produce at a level comparable to what they have in the past. A comeback this year, similar to the last three years, will be much more difficult with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte no longer in the picture.
-- Bill Gilbert