I want to believe in Bud Norris. I really do.
The Bud Norris Facts are fun. He seems like he's a good guy in the clubhouse. At least, he can put up with all the teasing well. He's also one of the few homegrown prospects to come out of the system recently.
I just don't know what to expect out of him game in and game out. Sometimes, he throws like he's constantly facing the Cardinals. Others, he gives up four or five runs, like he did in his last start and again tonight. His inconsistency is maddening, exactly because he does have a lot of talent. He can strikeout batters with extreme predjudice but battles control problems. He has the frame to be an innings-eater, but rarely pitches past the fifth inning.
This game was no different, as Norris gave up seven runs (four earned) on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings while striking out four and walking two. The interesting thing with Norris is how similar is struggles were to what the Astros went through with Octavio Dotel (who incidentally pitched the ninth tonight as well). Halfway through his first season with the club in 2000, the Astros moved Dotel from the rotation to the bullpen, where he's flourished ever since.
Norris has that kind of stuff. He's also got a repertoire that can get hit hard if he's not on as a starter, but would work just fine as a reliever in one to two inning stints. I'm not yet convinced that Norris cannot be a good starter. He's shown too many flashes of brilliance. After all, the Astros moved fairly quickly to put Ducky in the 'pen. The fact that they haven't done the same with Norris is telling. But, it has to be considered, and maybe as early as this offseason.
This game wasn't all Norris' fault. When the other team scores 12 runs, it rarely is. Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson both had costly errors, while the hitting went back to sleep for the most part after the first few innings. Hunter Pence had another strong post-ASG start, going 2 for 4 with a home run and two runs scored, while Jason Castro broke his 0-fer streak by going 1 for 4 with a few hard hit outs in there.
There's also a smidge of regression to the mean in here. The Astros have never won seven straight games against the Pirates to open a season. And that's with a really bad Buccos team for the past decade and a half. So, yeah, the PIrates were due. I just wish they didn't have to win like this. I'm resigned to the fact that the Astros will not play as well as I'd like them to, but I'd still like to avoid being embarrassed by a team like the Pirates. It makes it look like we're as bad as they are...