Also come to be known as "Houston Baseball." After every miracle run that could be squeezed from the legs of our aging stars and rentaplayers was exhausted, the machine fell into a pile steaming crap. There is actually the foundation for a good starting rotation for a long time to come(Roy Oswalt, Jason Jennings,Chris Sampson, Wandy Rodriguez, and Brandon Backe if his health returns well) but it does little to ease the troubles that arise in the pen, overall offense and weak bench. The Bayou Buzz has scored the fifth worst amount of runs in Major League Baseball. The team batting average is .250 and includes the "never before seen inconsistent"Lance Berkman (.244) as well as Super Craig Biggio 3000 Hits Edition. Berkman leaves me speechless. Biggio's quest for 3000 hits could not have come at a worse time. I understand that he needs them to ensure a much deserved Hall of Fame enshrinement. That said, he probably has been the block that ruined Chris Burke's career and is absoutely killing run production. Biggio is as automatic an out as Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus have been for the last five years in the Astro lineup. To make matters worse, he is usually toward the top of the lineup rather than the bottom.
As for Everett(.214, .562 OPS) and Ausmus(.235, .639 OPS), both have been kept around for the glove but it's just too much dead weight at this point. Everett's offensive performance is so poor he would have to play two positions at the same time and win Gold Gloves at both to even be close to worth it. Ausmus is older and experienced and has not been expected to stay above where he is currently hitting.
Morgan Ensberg had a phenomenal year two years back. Last year he maintained a good OBP but lost his power and ability to make contact. Which year did the real Ensberg play? I'll take either one because this year he's doing neither and he's hitting .231. The Bench includes Luke Scott (.234), Jason Lane (.167) and even Orlando Palmeiro (.154 with .477 OPS). Palmeiro frustrates me the most because he has been kept on the staff year after year in spite of his poor performance because of ridiculous excuses like "he's a contact hitter." I'm really thrilled that OP can ground out to first base and all. Sure makes my day to see that. Palmeiro is the worst player in Major League Baseball (Minimum 30 AB).
All this and we sent Chris Burke to Triple AAA Round Rock for hitting .236.
Remarkably, the offense shapes up to an unholy amount of men that would be cut from most teams in the league, a retiring star, a slumping star and three red hot heavy hitters in Carlos Lee (.317-.345-.541), Ulti-Rookie Hunter Pence (.348-.380-.583) and the experienced Mark Loretta (.349-.400-.425). Considering the cost of Lee I am pleased but had high expectations for him. I would say that Loretta can't fly high forever but who the hell thought that Jason Lane would be well under .200?
The bullpen has a 1-2 punch almost as potent as it once was. Brad Lidge has been back to himself for the last 20 appearances or so and Dan Wheeler has done as well as anyone could have asked for given what he is signed to do. In fact, the bullpen has even been close to respectable. Dave Borkowski carries a 3.52 and Chad Qualls clocks in with a 3.86. The problem in the pen is that our permanent lefty Trever Miller is a crooked number waiting to happen and Rick White's numbers have gone through the roof (in a bad way) since his return from the DL. Teams are hitting something .650 off of him since he came back
What does this leave? Rooooooom for suggestions. Purpura better be flexible and ready to take all the advice in the world and there is plenty to dish out.
1) Cut anyone hitting under .200.
Seriously, this is out of control. That's a black hole of worse than Cristian Guzman proportions and we have two of them.
2) Bench Everett for anyone, Mark Loretta included.
Loretta is the hottest hitter on the team and he has had a fair amount of AB. Everett is AT the Guzman level himself, just barely above Lane and Palmeiro. We do not tolerate this crap in Texas, boy.
3) Rick White: Out to Pasture
A well-greased race horse was having a good veteran year before being derailedby injury. Nevertheless, the arms in AAA should get a chance.
4) Trever Miller Finally has Percentages Explained to Him...
And is told that a lefty that sucks is a pitcher that sucks, even if he is left-handed.
5) Give Chris Burke a prime spot on the bench.
And make him the starting second baseman the day Craig Biggio gets his 3000th hit.
6) Play a combination of Mike Lamb, Ensberg and Loretta at third
Until you finally strike the right balance.
7) Open the floodgates for a rookie free for all.
Every job but that of Lee, Berkman, Pence Loretta and the aforementioned starters should be on the line. Welcome to a late Spring Training.
I must admit that I stole the last one from Richard Justice, who recently wrote a column suggesting it was time to trade out the Mendoza geezers for every fresh set of legs that could be found in the minor leagues. I'm with him. They can't be worse.
Those moves don't make for a better team this year. It makes for a different team this year and COULD make them better. Anything over 75 Wins is icing on the cake at this point and next year will still be there after this one ends in hot Summer misery.
Bless, and curse, baseball.