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Who's your Astros closer, A preview worth noting and the Crawfish Boxes NCAA Bracket Challenge

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It's a tough decision. None of us have ever been in the position to have to decide on who should close out games for a MLB team, but on a smaller scale, we've been there. Two situations come to mind:

  • Women. It's the age old question of which girl do ya choose: the sensible, reliable, doesn't knock your socks off with her looks but you could do a whole lot worse, OR, the 10 who is sorta scatterbrained and likes American Idol a little too much, but...she's a 10! Either could ultimately make you happy, but their ways of getting you to that ultimate happiness are different.
  • Cars. In the end, Point A to Point B is the goal, but we know that isn't everything that goes into someone's decision making process when deciding on a new car. Great gas mileage but not as sporty vs. 10 miles/gallon but wows you (and maybe Woman No. 2) with the aesthetics. Maybe you spend more time in the shop with the second car, but when everything is running smoothly...

It could be that these aren't perfect comparisons, but I think you can see what I'm going for here. Brandon Lyon is the sensible girl who may or may not listen to Iron and Wine while Matt Lindstrom is the beauty whose footwear choices may be a bit questionable

With Lyon coming back after an off season shoulder surgery, his progress will be slower in coming than that of Lindstrom who has pitched air-tight this spring.

The differences in their respective approaches are obvious. Matt Lindstrom has the more "traditional" closer stuff with a 96 MPH fastball and a sharp slider to his credit. On the other side of things, Brandon Lyon throws three pitches (fastball, slider, curve) and is coming off a season where all three were successful when thrown. His BABIP was low even for a reliever (.229), so an ERA regression is in order to some degree I would think.

All things considered, Lindstrom's heater/slider combo doesn't induce the high amount of strikeouts that you may expect. Coupled with his inability to control his pitches, Lindstrom would probably struggle in the closer's role to a fair extent. Among relief pitchers with at least 40 IP last season, none of the top ninth inning men had a K/9 rate at or near Lindstrom's 7.42.

Throw in the control issues and Lyon may be our best option in the ninth. If nothing else, going with a hot hand may not be the worst way to go. Potentially four pitchers could get time as the Astros' closer this season- Lindstrom, Lyon, Sammy Gervacio and Alberto Arias. All have their strengths. All of them have holes as well. We've covered Lindstrom and Lyon already, but Arias struggles with control as well, while Gervacio is a situational pitcher at this point due to tough times getting left handed hitters out.

If healthy, my vote goes to Brandon Lyon despite the fact that I would like him more as a set up man to a dare I say it...Jose Valverde-type closer. That's not the situation we have to deal with in 2010, so he may be the best bet to hold down the ninth inning.

We've gone through tons of team previews on TCB so far this off season and thankfully the season is approaching so we won't have to read any more. That all being one more.

I think I like this preview because it could very well have been written by David, Stephen or myself. It takes into account the fact that the team has seen better days, but isn't so bombastic as to make it appear that Drayton McLane eats puppies or that Ed Wade struggles worse as a GM than Charlie from Flowers for Algernon. In fact, the writer of this preview, Brian Joseph, believes that much like he did in Philadelphia, Wade will eventually get his due in Houston for helping to steady the ship that had blown off course.

I also liked how he ranked Koby Clemens are our fifth best prospect. I don't know if that's even close to fair, but the fact that somebody noticed Clemens is pretty cool/rare.

Joseph's assessment of the next three years for the Astros:

A continued effort of half rebuilding and half competing should keep the Astros fairly mediocre and slightly better or worse depending on luck. The door should close on the Berkman and Lee era with the Oswalt era not far behind. Although Baseball America projects Chris Johnson (at third), Jiovanni Mier (at short), Ross Seaton and Jordan Lyles (in the rotation), and Sam Gervacio (as closer), McLane’s desire to compete keeps at least one of these player’s off their major league path with another blocked for the usual "prospect fails to live up to expectations" occurrence.

It's NCAA Tourney time, and I created a Crawfish Boxes Tournament Pick'em league on Yahoo! for us to compete against each other and for the $1 million prize awarded for a perfect bracket. If you're interested in participating, shoot me an email, or just comment with your email address and I'll invite you to the league. The games begin on Thursday so early that morning is the latest you can join. Game on!