Maybe an evening spring training game can help the Astros out of their funk? We should be pretty familiar with the Nationals at this point. It seems like this is the 9th time the teams have squared off already. Felipe Paulino will make his first start this spring, in a virtual audition to take Brandon Backe's spot in the rotation.
Brian McTaggart warns us: don't worry, yet
On the opposite end of the injury spectrum, Mike Hampton was effective in three innings on Saturday. He gave up two runs before exiting, but he's pain free so far. With players dropping like flies, it's nice to see the most injury prone among them to be chugging along.
Hunter Pence looks to have a rebound season in 2009, and hitting coach Sean Berry has nothing but good things to say about his work ethic. My advice to Hunter- take the walk. His strong September was highlighted by his only double digit walk month of the season. Footer writes how the Astros September surge coincided with Pence's .302 BA. It's just as important to note that his higher walk numbers coincided with his better performance.
A friend of mine recommended the book, Summerland, by Michael Chabon (author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay). It's 500 pages of baseball centered fantasy, in which a young little leaguer is tapped by a group of dwarf sized Native Americans to save their world from the forces of evil. Saving the world by playing baseball? Sounded good to me. I'm 150 pages in, and it's a really good read, the perfect pool-side/bedtime book.
I was playing around with a Lineups Analysis tool for the Astros, and here are the results. The best lineup would yield 4.538 runs:
1. Lance Berkman
2. Hunter Pence
3. Kaz Matsui
4. Carlos Lee
5. Miguel Tejada
6. Humberto Quintero
7. Geoff Blum
8. Roy Oswalt
9. Michael Bourn
As it stands, the probable lineup will be good for 4.257 runs per game.