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Cooper: don't listen to Jose Ortiz

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Jose Ortiz's blog at the Chronicle says the Astros' offense and bullpen is unacceptable.  I doubt that anyone who has watched the Cincinnati series disagrees with that.  But Ortiz seems too panicky over the situation, particularly for someone who has seen a lot of baseball.

Ortiz gives this advice to Cooper: Coop, it's time to make some of your stars upset. Make them earn their place in the lineup instead of waiting for them to match the numbers on the back of their baseball cards, which show what you've done in the past, not what you're going to do.

Ortiz is less than clear what he is asking for...to some extent, he wants Cooper just to do something, anything.  The one specific example he gives is to move Berkman down in the lineup and moving Lee either up to No. 3 or down to No. 5.  He asked Cooper why he doesn't bat Tejada 3d without telling us what Cooper answered.

In general, this strikes me as terrible advice--and not necessarily because batting order changes are a bad idea.  But to make them out of panic is a bad response at this point in the season.  Even worse is the idea of using batting order changes to "punish" players. 

Without a doubt, Berkman's performance has been disappointing so far.  But, keep in mind that his .830 OPS is second best, among regulars, on the team.  His .375 OBP is among the best on the team.   Does that really justify moving him down in the batting order?  Sure, his offense with RISP is bad.  (.697 OPS)   Lee's OPS with runners on base is bad too. (.583 OPS)  Undoubtedly that explains a lot of the Astros' problems scoring runs.   But the sample size issue this early in the season is illusrated by Lee's and Berkman's "sizzling" OPS with RISP w/ 2 outs-- .929 OPS for Lee and 1.133 OPS for Berkman.  My point: a lot of luck is affecting the RISP results.  Talking about luck:; Berkman has the lowest BABIP (.207) among Astros' regulars.  Lee is nearby, with the third lowest BABIP (.225), which is very unlucky considering that Lee is a good contact hitter.

What Ortiz didn't mention is the bench.  The Astros' bench players have been horrid.  This has become more obvious because of the numerous important pinch hitting opportunities when the team is behind on the scoreboard.  Michaels has hit into some bad luck, and I'm sure he will improve. But, by and large, the Astros bench strikes me as weaker than it has been in the past.  That tends to happen when you replace Mark Loretta with Jason Smith, for example.

The bullpen has been disappointing.  Some of the recent problems have been exacerbated by Brocail's stint on the DL.  Cooper went to Byrdak/Geary last night because Sampson and Fulchino were unavailable.  Wright has been terrible, and now Cooper seems reluctant to use him.  The bullpen bears some watching.  But Ed Wade's history suggests he will make changes to the bullpen if it is ineffective for a lengthy period.