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Astros fans, step back from the ledge....

The Astros have had a poor first week in the season.  Understandably, Astros' fans here and elsewhere are upset, even despondent.  This is just a's still very early.  A 1-5 string in mid-season wouldn't be suprising for any team.  But it gets enlarged out of proportion, in the minds of fans, when it begins the season.

One might rightfully be concerned about potential issues surrounding the Astros' offense---but concern for those issues (like plate discipline and lack of OBP) are largely unaffected by the season so far. By that, I mean, the concern is based on the players' offensive history, and remains the same as  we could foresee before the season began.

So far the source of the Astros' poor offensive results has been the inability to drive in runners on base.  But this, itself, demonstrates the problem with drawing conclusions about the future from a small sample.  The Astros are hitting .357 with bases empty, 4th best in the majors.  The Astros are hitting .188 with runners in scoring position, 4th worst in the majors, and ..167 for RISP-2 outs, 6th worst in the majors.  This kind of differential is unsustainable over the long term.  No matter whether one thinks clutch hitting exists as a skill or not, the differentials in these situations tend to be on the order of 20 to 30 points.  (In 2008, the Astros hit .291 with bases empty and .262 with RISP.)  The Astros haven't been very lucky in their distibution of far in this early season.  The fact that the middle of the order hasn't produced in RBI situations underscores the small sample size, since Berkman, Lee, and Tejada are proven run producers.

If you want something to be optimistic about...may I suggest the Astros defense.  Obviously, this is all subject to the same "small sample / it's early" caveat.  Coming in to opening day, we knew that some key players needed to produce good defense this season for the Astros to succeed.  Despite a few errors, overall the defense looks good.  Kaz Matsui had a poor defensive year in 08, which was unexpected , given his great defensive season for the Rockies in 07.  I suspected that his movement back and forth to the DL had something to do with that.  So far, Matsui's defense has been outstanding.  Matsui's fielding was the highlight of Sunday's game.  We wondered whether Tejada could maintain his good defensive performance of last year.  So far, he looks fine, showing both range and a strong arm.  Blum has continued his good defensive performance at 3d base.  We haven't seen Keppinger at 3d base enough to draw conclusions, but he looked good on the few chances he was given.  So, maybe there is a glimmer of light.

So, it's not time to get upset....yet.