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Houston Astros Midterm Report Cards: The Infield

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Brad Ausmus Stros Bro : B Everyone knows that Ausmus isn't much of an offensive player. . . but unfortunately for him, baseball is an offensive sport, and he's lucky to get a B. Brad is batting .260 on the season with 18 RBI's and 2 home runs. He's still a good defensive catcher and one of the best pitch callers in the game.
rastronomicals : C+ While it is true that at times, Ausmus has been fully as bad with the bat as his very vocal critics have maintained, it is also undeniable that CatcherBrad has fashioned for himself a very respectable career. He will more likely than not finish the season (and thus his career) with over 1500 hits, a threshold only 28 catchers in the history of the game have reached.
And Ausmus has done a credible job this year. His average stood at .260 as the Astros entered the Mets series, which is just about average for an NL backstop, not as good as Russell Martin or Johnny Estrada but better than Gary Bennett or Yorvit Torrealba. And he may be about to put together another one of his nearly legendary second half kicks: he was fourth in the NL in catcher's OPS for June
Lance Berkman Stros Bro : B- On one hand I almost want to give the "Big Puma" an F with the way he started off the year. . . but fortunately, he's come back as of late and brought his average up to .266. He's still 2nd on the team in RBI's, home runs and OBP, but 5th on the team in slugging %. He just hasn't been the same Lance that we've been used to. Look for Lance to have a strong 2nd half.
rastronomicals : C Berkman was better than most assume in April because even as he turned into a .250 hitter, he continued reaching base via the walk, at the very least avoiding some outs and getting on for Carlos. Berkman had the team-best 28-game onbase streak in April that had me thinking he was right around the corner.
Instead, despite a good series at Cincy early in the month, his numbers dipped further in May. At some point during the interleague swing, however, things came around for him, and he's got an OPS above a thousand for July.
Craig Biggio Stros Bro : C- BGO! Craig started the year off pretty slow, but has caught fire lately, bringing his average up to .258. He's still a doubles machine with a team leading 23 on the season. Unfortunately, his OBP still stinks and he can't hit a breaking ball for shit, but he still a productive player even at his advanced age. He has also been a good role model for the team in the way he plays the game as well as a boost to the club by getting his 3000th career hit.
rastronomicals : D I'll be the first to say that Bidge has had a great career, but great season? Not so much.
In fact, he's been pretty awful. His .306 OBP in the leadoff slot is eighth in the league of the nine qualifiers, and 18th of 21 among those with 100 plate appearances hitting first. His slugging is middle of the pack for leadoff guys, but even so, it's very apparent in fly ball after fly ball to the track in left that he's lost the power that even last year had him slugging over .500 during the months of April and July. The best month he's had in slugging this year was April at .457. He had 21 homers overall in '06; he won't reach half that in 2007. Although Biggio has had himself a very nice kick over the last week as he's become turbocharged by his climb up the 3000 hits slope, the power outage will undoubtedly continue. There's no question the Astros will be a better team without Biggio leading off, and with 3000 out of the way, for the first time, that is a distinct possibility. I want to see this man on the podium at Cooperstown, not at the top of Garner's lineup sheet.
Chris Burke Stros Bro : D Burke was supposed to be our replacement for Willy T. Unfortunately, things didn't work out, and Chris was riding buses in Round Rock before he knew it. Lucky for him, he did get a call up and has been with the big club for a few weeks now. Unfortunately, he hasn't been a very good offensive player batting .217 on the season with a .319 SLG. He hasn't been getting much playing time (138 AB's) but he really hasn't done anything to deserve it either.
rastronomicals : D Poor Chris Burke. He's just a kid from Tennessee who wants to play baseball, but the Astros keep trying to make him something he isn't. First they draft him number one when he's not Number One talent, then they promote him to the bigs when he's not quite ready to go. And now most recently, they try to make him a centerfielder, when he'd worked to become a very acceptable back up second baseman.
How's that for a master plan? Burke's performance might be failing, but he's getting a very large benefit of the doubt for how he's been misused, and mistreated.
Morgan Ensberg Stros Bro : F Morgan, Morgan, Morgan. Where is the MVP candidate from two years ago? Not sure if the problems are mental, physical, or he's just not that good of a player, but Ensberg just hasn't been a productive player for the Astros this year. No matter what stance he uses, or which glasses he wears, his .208 avg and .361 SLG are pathetic. He's basically lost his job at 3rd base and is mainly used as a defensive replacement and for pinch hitting duties.
rastronomicals : F I've always been a big supporter of Moberg, because of his keen knowledge of the zone, because of his power, and because of his plus glove. All three have deserted him in 2007, leaving us with a crappy fielder who more than anything else strikes out looking on 3 - 2 counts. Has had a couple good games as we head into the break, so who knows, but I'm not expecting much.
Adam Everett Stros Bro : C- First off, let me state that Everett is not a member of the Astros for his stick. Good thing for him, because he carries a toothpick. Adam's hit .228 on the season with a massive .275 OBP. He's still slick-handed in the infield (despite his rather high amount of errors [8]).
rastronomicals : D Great defensive player who through organizational edict doesn't have to do much with his bat. Yet he still wasn't meeting even the minimal expectations set for him before his injury. Adam at .250 is a no-brainer everyday shortstop. But when he hits .228, even those fully aware of how great he is with the glove have to consider other options. Like, how about a platoon?
Mike Lamb Stros Bro : B+ Mike has had a solid year, batting .305 with 7 home runs and 25 RBI's. The one downfall to Lamb is that he doesn't seem to be able to put up good numbers in an everyday role. He is a great role player and spot starter, but it doesn't seem like we can rely on him to play every day. With that being said, he's still a solid offensive producer when we need him and an asset to the team.
rastronomicals : B+ Seems like Lamb had a hiccup. After posting an OPS over 1.00 in only 25 AB for April, then being rewarded with more playing time as Ensberg floundered, Lamb went into a tailspin of his own, finishing May with an OPS under .600. But June saw a rebound: he played everyday AND was third for the month on the team in OPS. I still cringe a little when a hot shot is hit his way at third, but he makes most of the plays he should, and then sometimes surprises you, too. With Loretta being a slap-hitter and with Berkman enduring one of the longest slumps of his career, Lamb has to be considered the Astros' third biggest offensive force of the first half, after Lee and Pence.
Mark Loretta Stros Bro : A Mark leads the team in OBP and 2nd on the team in average, so how could I give him anything lower than an A? The thing that hurts Loretta the most is his lack of power. He only has 2 HR's on the year and is fifth on the team in total bases. Honestly, I think Loretta has been under-used for the most part of the season, but he has continued to put up good numbers despite being a spot starter most of the first half.
rastronomicals : A In my opinion, you can't really downgrade a player who's playing to the fullness of his potential. Loretta is a mere slap-hitting utility player, but as slap-hitting utility players go, he has had a whale of a first half. He's carried an average of .300 for every month in the books, and an OBP over .400 in two of three of them.
All this while playing first second, third, and short as asked. I may not be comfortable with him at short, but that's more of a team/management issue than it is one with him as a player. I doubt an onsite poll would get him very many votes for first-half MVP, but you can make a very good case for him if you sat down and tried.