That's right, after a week's worth of games, The Crawfish Boxes (soon to be sponsored) Players of the Week awards are back! There was no truth to the rumor swirling around that Pepto Bismol had decided to sponsor this week's POWs since the Astros don't have any runs this season. At any rate, let's head to the awards:
Hitter of the Week: Jeff Keppinger - The guy isn't even a starter. What's he doing here? It was, in fact, a toss-up between Kepp, Michaels and Sullivan, all bench guys. Do you realize that the Astros top three leaders in wOBA right now are all pitchers? At least Kepp has drawn the occasional walk. I considered boycotting this award in protest of an offense on pace to score 300 runs for the entire season, but wanted to give Kepp his due.
Pitcher of the Week: Roy Oswalt - You can look at the 0-2 record and see the same guy who struggled through 2009. But, a dominant Roy lurks under the surface. Against a patient Phillies team, Roy struck out seven in six innings. Get him some runs and the Astros will have their Wizard back.
Defender of the Week: Hunter Pence - Why, you ask? Because Pence has already made three Out of Zone plays this season. That projects out a little under his total of 81 from 2009, but it's still the best on the team. We remember the play where Pence didn't drop the foul pop and couldn't throw out the runner at home plate. Do we remember the same, routine plays Hunter makes the rest of the time? Put T.J. Steele, Brian Bogusevic or J.B. Shuck in left field in two years and the Astros outfield might not let a fly ball drop all season.
Astros Stock Watch (who's rising, who's falling, who needs to call their broker)
Lance Berkman, heading towards a dropoff - As Stephen so eloquently pointed out this morning, there is no time table with Berkman that we can trust. Things have gotten pushed back for so long now that it's doubtful he will play before the middle of May, much less before June. I had hoped the arthroscopic surgery he had back in spring training would fix the problem and he'd be back quickly. I had hoped the repeated draining of fluid out of his knee would get him back quickly. Now, I just don't know. What I do know is that I have too much Geoff Blum in my life right now. Berkman needs to get back yesterday.
Hunter Pence, bottoming out - Was Saturday a slump-buster for Pence? Or was it just an abberation? The Astros badly need both he and Lee to get going. Two days off out of the last three hopefully gave Pence enough time to sit and reflect on his life choices. Either that, or clear his head of all this anxiety. Can someone just keep him away form the energy drinks before the games? Thanks.
Carlos Lee, stop order - Oh, give me a home/Where El Bufalo roams/Where he never strikes out again....I'm not the first to point it out (actually, clack usually is, pointing out my points long before I make them), but Lee's K rate is pretty staggering. After posting rates of 9 percent, 10 percent and 8 percent in the past three seasons, Lee has struck out 32 percent of the time in 2010. He looks lost at the plate and even looked lost in left on Saturday when he got beaned by that Howard ricochet. The Astros absolutely need him to hit. What other value can he have to the club otherwise?
Kazuo Matsui, hostile takeover alert - The Man from Japan could be in danger of losing his job to Kepp. As clack posted earlier this week, Keppinger has been pretty bad defensively at second base. However, the Astros need offense badly. Matsui needs to get the bat going or risk Mills losing faith.
Brandon Lyon, volatility index through the roof - Which 15 Million Dollar Man will we see? The guy who gave up a gopher ball to Ryan Howard? Or the one who pitched effectively against the Giants? The Astros were only in position to use him once to protect a lead. In a bit of forward thinking by Mills, he deployed Lyon against the Phillies best hitters instead of waiting for the eighth inning. That could have easily been because of all the pitchers he used to get through Friday's game, but I prefer to think it was inspired.
Wandy Rodriguez, ebbing slowly - Two lackluster starts in a row for Wandy. To his credit, it wasn't the first inning in either game that gave him trouble (like the last couple of years, when Wandy would struggle early and settle in for the rest of the game). Unfortunately, his curve wasn't dancing like it usually does against the Cardinals. A win against the Cubs this weekend would do wonders for my confidence in him. It'd also help my fantasy team out quite a bit.
Sammy Gervacio, slight decline - Seems like forever ago, but it's only been a week since Slingin' Sammy went on the DL. Everyone has been positive about it, sayign he just needed some time to rest his shoulder and he'll be back good as new. Color me dubious. I also remember the same talk about Berkman, and about Arias, and about Bagwell....
Tim Byrdak, surprisingly high - Call him Mr. Sample Size. After a terrible spring, Byrdak had one bad outing against the Giants before throwing effectively in his next four games. He's tied with Sampson for the most appearances with five and Mills seems comfortable letting him throw to RHH and LHH alike. Points to him for that, considering Byrdak's unorthodox splits that clack refers to quite often. At the same time, he's only thrown in five games. It's a long season yet.
Brad Arnsberg, slow growth - Seven games in and the new pitching coach looks to be batting .500. Arnsberg has gotten Roy back on track, but he hasn't helped Wandy back to his 2009 levels. He made Paulino into a good starter (for one game) but has struggled with Bud Norris. The bullpen is a work in progress but its refreshing to see Chris Sampson doing well. All in all, he's done a good job with what he has. Now, if we can just keep them all healthy...
Brian Bogusevic, slow riser - While the Tulane star hasn't shown much power, he has continued to rake at Round Rock. From Saturday through Monday, Bogey was 6 for 11 with a double and two RBIs. He hasn't walked yet, but with his defense, couldn't he do a better job in left field right now than El Bufalo? Is he really more valuable to the club playing regularly in Round Rock rather than helping to jump start a stagnant offense at the big league level?
J.B. Shuck, moving quickly - The slap-hitting leadoff man for Corpus has been on a tear to start the season. Shuck already has one three hit game and has scored six runs in six games. The 22-year old is already proving to be as capable a leadoff hitter in Corpus as he was in High A Lancaster in 2009. A nasty 0-for-6 last night dampens some of the excitement here, but it's good to se Shuck transitioning well to the Texas League.
Wladimir Sutil, surprising upside - The Little Shortstop That Could took his assignment back to Corpus in stride. In fact, the 25-year old had hit in every game until Tuesday. Sutil is hitting .296/.296/.296...basically, all his hits have been singles and he hasn't walked yet. But, on the plus side, he did steal one base. And he's only struck out once in 27 plate appearances. So that's nice.
Jeremy Johnson, quick, fast drop - A trip back to New Orleans proved rocky for Johnson. Much like Bud Norris, the third inning was Johnson's undoing. He gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings on Sunday. The sinkerballer wasn't getting enough ground balls, it seems.
Casey Daigle, slowly increasing - In what is clearly a sign that the Astros view Daigle as a bullpen callup, the big righty has been pitching out of the 'pen for Round Rock. Of course, they haven't had too many opportunities to close down games, but Daigle has been lights out. In one of his appearances last week, Daigle struck out five in two innings. He did give up a two-run home run, but let's not focus on that.