Since the All Star Break, the Astros are 9-9 and in the midst of a difficult stretch of games. All things considered though, things could be much worse. Injuries to our best pitcher and best position player, a platoon at third base that isn't exactly tearing up the NL, and a 37 year old catcher who is playing way too much. All of this probably should lead to thoughts about 2010, not a playoff push.
One area where the Astros definitely do not excel in is drawing walks. The virtues of walking are many, and are most times directly correlated to runs scored. The top three teams at getting on via the free pass, the Rays, Yankees and Rockies are all top run scoring teams. Our Astros are on the other end of that spectrum and it's extremely unlikely that this leopard will be able to change it's spots this season. August is three games old, and there no Astros have drawn a walk.
Hunter Pence has shown a recent trend towards reversing his July non walking habit. Michael Bourn hasn't been the most patient hitter on the planet but he has improved since last year's disastrous performance. Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum/Jeff Keppinger don't walk much, nor do they strikeout frequently, so perhaps their inability to display a willingness to walk isn't as bad. Pudge Rodriguez has a 69/12 K/BB ratio...moving on!
A combination of low walks, low OBP and low extra base potential pretty much sums up the Astros offense. The schedule won't get any easier, and if the Astros want to remain relevant it looks like the pitching will have to get better because our veteran bats aren't going to change their AB strategies.
What a difference four months makes. The April starting rotation of Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler, Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton is no more. As of today, only three fifths of that group are scheduled to make their next start.
Felipe Paulino will be inserted into the rotation tonight in place of Roy Oswalt, and has mixed results in the majors. His time spent in Round Rock has resulted in a low ERA, but a troubling 19/17 K/BB ratio. Bud Norris out-dueled Adam Wainwright on Sunday, and nobody knows if his future lays in the rotation or as a reliever. Any mistep by Mike Hampton or Brian Moehler may result in Yorman Bazardo being moved to the Astros to join his former Round Rock compatriots.
This type of movement between levels is common for a lot of teams, but the Astros have in the past been hesitant to address challenges such as injury with internal solutions. Fortunately, there have been options on the farm and the big league team has taken advantage of them. Whether or not Norris and Paulino reward their club's confidence is another story.