It's that time again, where we give out awards to some of the Astros best performers in the past week.
Hitter of the Week: Chris Johnson - Two other players had higher wOBAs than Johnson. Since his was at .513 AND he did it in 20 plate appearances, I didn't feel bad about naming him here. For the record, in two weeks since Callup Sunday, two of the three players who joined the Astros have won this award. Granted, it's not as scientific as others, but that's both impressive and depressing for the offense as a whole.
Pitchers of the Week: Bud Norris -I really wanted to recognize Norris for his great outing against the Padres. He pitched into the seventh inning for the second time all season and the first since May 13 in St. Louis. Norris didn't try to strike everyone out, held the ball like an egg and unblocked his eyelid, so that could have contributed to the success. Still, it was a good sign for the young right-hander after his return from the disabled list.
Defender of the Week: Angel Sanchez - The newest Astro was 1 for 11 with the bat, but his defense really is why he's on the team. He made enough of them and avoided taking plays off that I feel good about putting him here. Sure, I could slap Bourn up again for making catch after great catch or Pence for his hustle and determination to stick out his tongue. But, Sanchez has been a better replacement for Manzella than Blum or Navarro and shortstop is the toughest defensive position on the field. So, give credit where credit's due.
Astros Stock Watch
(Note: We're going to do this differently. Since Subber has done such an excellent job recapping the minor leagues, it feels less crucial that we recap the stock of various minor leaguers. That's why I looked at the 2010 draft class last week and why I'm going to break down the hitters and disabled list players on the 40-man roster this week. I'm open to suggestions for next week's target. I'm thinking of doing the 2009 draft class as of this moment)
Lance Berkman, dropping slightly - Puma had a bad week. He went 4 for 21 against Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and San Diego. He did hit two home runs, a triple and a double and drove in a team-leading six RBIs. He also led the team with five walks. One of the reasons his batting average was so low could be his team-leading seven strikeouts, or his .167 BABiP.
Geoff Blum, dropping quickly - That's what happens when you can't even get dressed without hurting yourself. All joking aside, Blum gets a lot of ill will thrown at him over his fielding, his perceived batting, etc. He had a very solid month in April, but has fallen off the proverbial cliff since then. His defense is solid if unspectacular and he has the range of a third baseman when he plays shortstop. Still, I think the Astros will miss Blum on the balance while he's on the DL.
Brian Bogusevic, rising rapidly - The former pitcher-turned-outfielder has been tearing the cover off the ball. In his last 10 games, Bogey is hitting .350/.409/.475 in 45 at-bats. He's also stolen two bases, hit a home run and had two three-hit games. It's safe to say that Bogey is moving himself into serious contention for a roster spot should a starter's job suddenly open with the Astros.
Jason Bourgeois, rising slowly - Sure, he only got one at-bat and three plate appearances, but Bourgeois did get called back up to the big league team. That's got to raise his stock a little, right? His two walks tied him for third on the team, even though he had so few plate appearances, which is also a good sign.
Michael Bourn, dropping again - A .182 batting average and a .228 wOBA in the past week is pretty bad. But, he was named to the All-Star team, so it's not all bad. More surprising is that Bourn only stole one base over five games and that came in Tuesday's Pittsburgh game. Bourn also was second to Berkman with five strikeouts. One value we can't really quantify is Bourn's base running abilities. How many times does he get on base, steal second, take third some way and score on a sac fly or ground out?
Jason Castro, holding low - My expectations of Castro in Year One never extended to a great performance at the plate. Some day, he may hit over .300 with 10-15 home runs, but that's not going to happen right away. I'm content with him banging out a walk every day with an 0-fer at the plate. Still, he was one of four Astros who picked up only one hit in the past week. Also, I was somewhat surprised to see he only walked twice in five games. Perception vs. reality again, I guess.
Pedro Feliz, stop order - Wow. I hadn't really realized how little I've seen Pedro Feliz lately. He only played in three games in the past week and got six plate appearances. Of course, he showed why he's playing so little, going 0 for 6 with no walks, no strikeouts and a whole lot of zeroes. Will the Astros finally bite the bullet and designate him for assignment when Manzella comes off the DL?
Jeff Fulchino, not positive - Still no word on what's bothering Fulchino's elbow. The doctors just had a second opinion done and still can't seem to come up with a definitive prognosis. It's looking more and more likely that the big right-hander will miss significant time before returning to the bullpen.
Jeff Keppinger, rising again - Finally, someone else who had a decent week. Kepp led the Astros in hits with 10, hitting .400/.423/.480 in 27 plate appearances. He also hit two doubles and struck out twice. Really, that's the point about Kepp we haven't talked about enough. One of the reasons that Kepp has been the best choice to hit second this season is that he has the lowest strikeout rate on the team. This season, he's struck out just 7.8 percent of the time, which is right in line with his career average. His walk rate is middle of the pack on this team, but with Bourn hitting in front of him, I'd rather someone who can make contact, avoid striking out and try to move Speed into scoring position more often. That's Kepp in a nutshell.
Carlos Lee, volatile - One of the reasons why big-picture analysis is tough in this particular feature is sample sizes. I'm looking at week-by-week data. Heck, THE BOOK just smacked down the collective blogosphere for looking at half-season totals of UZR/150 data. My point is that Lee's OPS was very good at .834. His wOBA was pretty fair at .358. In the last week, though, he's done squat. 4 for 20 with last night's home run being his only extra-base hit. Looking at that, you'd conclude Lee has been struggling of late. Looking at the slightly bigger picture, he probably just ran into ballparks/pitchers that gave him some trouble. I expect his next week's data to be much better than that.
Tommy Manzella, looking better - The former Tulane star is chomping at the bit to get back on the field. Doctors recently blessed his recovery enough so he can start range of motion drills, according to Bernardo Fallas' latest Astros Notes. Getting Manzella back would put the Astros in sort of a roster crunch, but it's a better problem to have than they were in when Manzella was originally hurt.
Edwin Maysonet, showing signs of life - The utility infielder played in his first game since the first of June on Tuesday, going 1 for 4 with a double. After an impressive spring training, Maysonet has tailed off some, partly due to injuries. Now that he's healthy, expect him to get back to playing solid defense and hitting for a pretty good average.
Jason Michaels, rising - I briefly considered giving Michaels the HOW award, but then I saw he only had 11 plate appearances and just couldn't justify it. The only Astro with a higher wOBA than Michaels' .530 last week was Blummer. That's on account of his double and home run in Petco Park, which should really count double for difficulty.
Oswaldo Navarro, falling fast - Any sports fan probably has a part of them that roots for underdogs (except for front-running Lakers and Yankees fans). That may be why I feel bad for Ozzie, because it just doesn't seem like he got a fair shake. He doesn't really have the minor league track record to prove he can hit in the majors, but couldn't the Astros give him a shot? What would they have to lose? Instead, they started Blum at short for the most part and then traded Kevin Cash for Angel Sanchez. That's why Navarro only got five plate appearances in three games. He did walk twice, including a memorable one on the heels of Quintero's walk on Saturday, leading to possible comeback speculation. But, on the whole, Navarro hasn't played enough to prove one way or the other whether he can hit. If his defense isn't good enough, say so. I'd accept that. But, I still think he needs a better shot than he's gotten.
Felipe Paulino, slightly rising - A player on the disabled list doesn't exactly have the best stock potential, but this is a DL stint I can agree with. Paulino probably didn't need to pitch a full season's worth of innings, especially coming off such a dramatic jump from 2008 to 2009. A little time to rest his arm before the second half of the season seems very reasonable.
Hunter Pence, struggling to stay at previous levels - When a team gets shut out for 18 straight innings and faces the best pitching team in the National League, it can be tough to score runs. Pence did hit a double, but he also struck out four times and only walked once. Gone are the days where we talk about Pence hitting .350 consistently, but I definitely think he's better than this. At least he only tried to steal one base, though he was caught when he did it. Does that count as a bright side?
Humberto Quintero, not adjusting well - Maybe it's just a regression of sorts, but Q's bat doesn't seem to be taking well to this new backup role of his. Ironically, though, he walked a heck of a lot more than he has this season in the past week. I'm sure Q will return to being a nice, defense-first backup fairly soon.
Wladimir Sutil, falling - One of the slickest defensive players in the system has had a rough transition to Round Rock. He's hitting .129/.200/.129 in his last 10 games, but has struck out only three times. The big question with Sutil has always been his bat. I'm not sure it'll improve enough to ever be a big-league regular, but his defense is good enough for him to see a bench role at some point in his career.
J.R. Towles, bottoming out - If it wasn't bad enough that his time as the starting catcher lasted about as long as his last stint, Towles has been on the disabled list since shortly after arriving in Corpus Christi. This marks the second straight season he has missed time due to injuries and I'm sure the Astros couldn't be more down on his future potential. If I had to bet, Towles gets traded over the winter for "cash considerations."