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Two Astros' starts, how the Marlins finish and Being clutch without swinging the bat

And Bazardo makes three: With Mike Hampton's injured shoulder holding him back for at least one start, Yorman Bazardo will become the third former Round Rock starter to make his season debut for the Astros in 2009. He is following in the footsteps of Felipe Paulino and Bud Norris. Hampton is going to throw a bullpen today in hopes of returning to the rotation on Saturday.

For what it's worth, isn't this what we all pretty much expected from the Ortiz/Hampton experiment? That at some point, both veterans would step/be pushed aside in favor of younger arms? It was a marriage of convenience for Ed Wade and those two: the Astros would have two fairly cheap replacement level arms to toss out there on the cheap, and Ortiz/Hampton would be able to showcase their arms coming off serious injuries. At certain points it seemed like it could work, that they would at least give the Astros a puncher's chance of winning in the games that they started. At this point though, the experiment has been much more failure than success.

With the deadline to sign 2009 draftees having past, the Astros didn't have to sweat not having their highest draft choices go unsigned. First rounder Jiovanni Mier is no exception. A number of early signees have gotten off to solid professional starts, and Jio is no exception:

Houston has done a very good job of bungling previous drafts to horrific levels, but the organization seems to be making amends with its last two drafts. Mier was selected out of a California high school with the 21st pick of the draft and has performed better than expected. The raw shortstop is currently hitting .302/.406/.504 with nine steals and 15 extra base hits in 139 at-bats. Scouting reports suggest Mier has average to below-average power, but he’s already hit four homers in rookie ball. He’s also showing an encouraging walk rate of 13.1 BB%.

Heading into last week's series with the Marlins I was somewhat optimistic because while the Astros pitching staff doesn't strike out that many batters, the Marlins were a team with a reputation for being a fairly free swinging team. Obviously, they had no problem hitting against the Astros, and worked counts well. In the Miami Herald, I came across an article that detailed how well the Fish were hitting of late. Up and down their lineup, there are no holes. Everyone can hit for extra bases, and guys like Nick Johnson and Dan Uggla will work counts and draw walks.

The other strong suit of the Marlins that really struck me as impressive was their bullpen. They throw hard, limit the long ball and have a top 10 FIP as a group. Matt Lindstrom, their closer entering the season, has been hurt and/or ineffective for much of 2009, but step in closer Leo Nunez, along with unheralded pitchers like Kiko Calero, Brian Sanches and Dan Meyer have filled in the gaps. I wouldn't say that they are the favorites the win the Wild Card, but hot hitting and a strong bullpen can at least help the boat stay afloat until a fourth starter can find his way behind Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad.

Say what you will about the Astros, but at least they have a home all to themselves. I tried to find a picture of their "new field", but was unsuccessful. It looks at this point like the A's are a definite afterthought. You can almost picture JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and the rest of the Radiers tapping their toes and pointing at their watches during A games. Then again, I guess if the Texans and Stros played at the same stadium, the same could be said...God Bless the Juice Box.

Last, there is at least one conflucence of sabermetric thought and traditional baseball thought. I present to you: clutch walking.