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Low Slugging Teams, High Scoring Phils and Hampton's Improvement

When I saw the lineup that the Pirates sent out on Monday, I was surprised to see many names I wasn't all that familiar with. Delwyn Young hitting third? Steve Pearce and Garrett Jones starting? This was no major league caliber lineup that Mike Hampton faced that night, and he responded by pitching quite well. The Pirates have basically waved the white flag on 2009. They have a fairly young roster though, who will be under their control for years to come. It's sort of the anti-Astros way of operating, but they seem to have a plan. Unless their no namers catch lightening in a bottle this is now a five team race in the NL Central. For what it's worth, Freddy Sanchez leads the Buccos in OPS at .832.

Beyond the fact that I didn't recognize some of the Pirates in their Monday lineup, the Astros past three series have been against some extremely inept offensive clubs: San Diego, San Francisco and now Pittsburgh. All three teams have their strengths, but putting together a fearsome lineup, or even 3-4-5 hitters, is not one of them.

For instance, the Padres' Adrian Gonzales is a home run hitter extraordinaire. His .588 SLG% is superb both in how high it is in and of itself, and in how much better it is than his next closest teammate. With Scott Hairston now gone, Tony Gwynn Jr. and his .405 SLG% is second on the team. I don't see Gwynn keeping that pace up given his prior seasons. He may be a poor man's Michael Bourn.

San Francisco is in the hunt thanks to a stellar pitching staff, not because of their bats. Pablo Sandoval is a young stud who is probably playing a bit over his head, but a .572 SLG% is nothing to sneeze at. Aaron Rowand is having a season that may justify his big contract, but he is slugging nearly one hundred points lower at .475. Corner outfield spots and first base offer the following SLG%: .330, .324, and .410. They beat us down last Friday and Saturday though, and the Giants are above .500 so pointing this out may just be sour grapes on my part...

I don't want to sound like Tim Kurkjian, but the Phillies beat the Reds 22-1 on Monday night. If nothing else, this should help people forget the Astros were outscored 22-0 by the Giants over the course of two games last week. With one loss, the Reds' pythag record fell back four games....

Mike Hampton may have beaten a not so great Pirates lineup on Monday, but it's not as if he didn't pitch well in doing so. He threw his slider as much as his four seamer, and did it with preciscion. What's more, his peripheral stats lead me to believe that his good play is sustainable. Last week we all loved what Felipe Paulino did against the Tigers. This week it's Hampton's turn to bask in adulation.