Our friends over at The Dream Shake have a sponsor for their player of the week award. Before we could get a sponsor for TCB, I figured we'd need to create something worth supporting. Hence, the newly created Player of the Week awards, where we'll pick the top hitter and pitcher for the previous week and discuss it each Monday.
This week, we only have four games worth of spring data to work with, but I've come up with a couple reasonable choices. In the future, we'll post a poll Sunday night with some good options and we can come to a consensus on who the awardees should be.
Hitter of the Week: RF Hunter Pence - After going 3 for 3 against Washington with two home runs, Pence was 1 for 3 with two runs, one RBI, two walks, one strikeout, a double and a triple. He finished with a slash line of .667/.750/2.167, had 10.53 Runs Created, a BABiP of .667 and a wOBA of .838. Not a bad start to the spring.
Pitcher of the Week: LHP Wesley Wright - No Astro pitcher had more than two innings of work in the first four games, but Wright had the best FIP and WHIP of the bunch. In his two innings, Wright picked up one save, allowed one hit while striking out two with a 3-1 GO/FO ratio. Wright has also not given up a walk.
Who were your POWs for the first four games?
Berkman a-okay: Lance Berkman played Saturday and Sunday's games against Atlanta after missing the first two of the spring season with a swollen knee. All the talk about how serious it might be seems to be for naught now, as Berkman went 2 for 4 with one run scored, one RBI, one walk, two strikeouts and two doubles.
His knee is still a concern, but could safely be faded into the background for the time being. The type of injury (possible arthritic condition) can reveal itself quickly or slowly, depending on a number of factors. I'm guessing Berkman doesn't miss much if any time this season.
What's interesting to consider is what happens if the knee is arthritic, yet Berkman goes out and hits like he did in 2008 when he was in the MVP talk. Would the Astros think about an extension at that point, or are they more concerned about his knee than they are letting on?
Lyon throwing well: Zach Levine tweeted today that Brandon Lyon threw 30 pitches earlier and felt file. He may move up to throwing BP by the middle of this week. The pitching staff is struggling early, but it will be very nice to get Lyon back into the fold with enough time to be ready for opening day.
Left behind: While the offense was prolific over the weekend, the Astros also left 60 men on base. Compare that to their 29 runs and they could have done a lot more damage in their two losses. The biggest culprit was Cory Sullivan, who left nine men on base while going 0 for 5 with one strikeout. T.J. Steele, Brian Bogusevic, Yordany Ramirez and Wladimir Sutil are the only Astros with at-bats who did not leave a man on base.
While that stat is not saber-friendly (it's all about context and who's in front of you), I think it shows both the good and the bad about the offense. Yes, you'd like for the hitters to come through with a few more hits with men on base. At the same time, those hitters won't always fail to get hits in those situations and that means the offense could get good in a hurry. Through four games, the Astros have scored ???? runs per game, which is over their average of 3.97 from the 2009 season.
Pitching woes: The pitching hasn't been great in the past four games. Outside of the shutout on Saturday, the Astros have given up just over 10 runs a game. Of course, that also includes a 17-run game against Detroit where Polin Trinidad didn't get an out while giving up six runs.
As a group, the pitchers have an ERA of 6.88, an FIP of 4.64, a WHIP of 2.03 and a BABiP of .347 in 34 total innings. It's safe to assume, however, that their team BB/9 rate of 6.88 won't stay that high forever, so the run totals should fall.
One positive sign here is that the staff has only given up one home run, from Yorman Bazardo. They also have a 44/34 GO/FO ratio and haven't hit a batter yet. So, there are some good signs here. This group won't struggle as much as the spring goes along (we hope) and at the very least, some of these roster-fillers will get weeded out by opening day.
Hitting stars: Individually, Hunter Pence wasn't the only Astros hitting the ball well. In addition to Berkman's two doubles, Chris Johnson had a good start with three doubles and a home run. Jason Michaels had two doubles and ahome run while generating 5.43 Runs Created. J.R. Towles was second to Pence with Runs Created at 5.96.
As a team, the Astros have 31.75 Runs Created with a slash line of .350/.383/.594 and a BABiP of .369. Yordany Ramirez was also a big contributor to this, going 3 for 4 with two runs and four RBIs. He is also the only Astro that's been caught stealing this spring. Speaking of stolen bases, the Astros only have two attempts this spring, with Pence being the only successful base thief. Mills was concerned about the Astros selectivity after the Washington game. Since then, Houston has walked seven times in three games while striking out 15 times.
Positional battles: It's early and spring stats are not good predictors of regular season success. However, they do matter for guys battling for roster spots or starting jobs. Using Runs Created, let's break down the open spots:
Fifth Outfielder: Yordany Ramirez, 3.00 RC
Catcher: J.R. Towles, 5.96 RC
Backup infielder: Edwin Maysonet, 2.50 RC
We'll keep an eye on these battles all spring. Who do you have in the lead for each spot?