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Archive for the ‘Preseason Previews’ Category

I closed my last entry by pointing out that the Astros were 14th in the NL in runs scored last year and 4th in the NL in runs allowed.  That puts them in the company of NL bottom-dwellers such as San Diego and Pittsburgh.  The great news for the Astros is that one of those teams is in their division, so Houston has the benefit of numerous games against one of the league’s worst teams.

The bad news for the Astros is that they made a lot of moves in the off-season that do not remedy any of those problems.  They lost Miguel Tejada, and while I do not mourn that loss at all, the Astros didn’t replace him with anything better.  Edwin Maysonet and Tommy Manzella have been competing for the job.  Both would be suitable replacements (Maysonet for his bat or Manzella for his glove), but my gut tells me it will be Jeff Keppinger.  My gut, and this chart:

Player ML games played
Jeff Keppinger 350
Edwin Maysonet 46
Tommy Manzella 7

See! See that right there?  Keppinger has played more Major League games, which means he should be playing, regardless of the performance of Maysonet or Manzella.  Ed Wade can’t help himself when it comes to veterans, and make no bones about it – he is calling the shots.  He loves veterans, so you can count on determinations for playing time coming down to veteran status.

Or being a former Phillie, as in the case of Pedro Feliz, Jason Michaels, Michael Bourn and Brett Myers.  I’m not exactly sure what Wade thinks he’s going to get by loading his team up with guys that winning teams don’t want, but it really doesn’t seem like a winning formula to me.

And that’s where the Astros are left on their worst case scenario.  Sadly enough, the worst case for the Astros would be for them to actually see some success using this formula, because it means they will continue the same policy that has produced a 315-332 (0.486) record the last four years.  The longer the Astros continue to convince themselves that they will win by stocking up on cast-off veterans, the longer the team will flounder.  The worst case for the Astros is not finishing with a bad record; the worst case is justification for continuing to follow a failing policy.

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I hate to start my first blog post with bad news, especially before I even post my “worst case scenario,” but the fact is that the Astros aren’t giving fans a lot to look forward to this year.  After finishing 17 games out of first place last year (74-88, 5th in NL Central), the Astros have a long way to go.  That is the farthest back the Astros have finished since 2000 and the changes they made in the offseason are not that encouraging.

The current Spring Training roster is still at 38, and the last 13 cuts are turning out to be very difficult to make, more because of a dearth of talent than an excess.  I’ll break down how the Astros look position-by-position in the coming days, but I’ll say for now that the rotation is shaping up to be Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, and then…well…an optimist would say the options are wide open, so we’ll put it like that.  I seriously doubt that such a rotation, even led by two of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, will be able to accomplish much.

On the offensive side, the Astros are still light hitting.  Lance Berkman is still solid and underrated, as is Michael BournCarlos Lee does what he does – good batting average, lots of RBIs, lots of double plays.  The left side of the infield didn’t get any better with Pedro Feliz and whomever among the three or four players that may replace Miguel Tejada.  This still looks like a defensively challenged team that will struggle with scoring runs and hitting into too many double plays.

The bottom line is that the Astros are far more than a few cheap veteran acquisitions away from overcoming being 14th in the NL in runs scored (ahead of only the Padres and Pirates) and 4th in the NL in runs allowed (better only than the Nationals, Brewers and Diamondbacks).  Only the Padres and Pirates rival the Astros for being so deficient in both categories.  That’s pretty bad company.  Even in an NL Central that does not look that strong this year, the Astros are probably looking at no better than a fourth-place finish.  The best thing the Astros can hope for is that Ed Wade and Drayton McLane realize what most Astros fans already do — that they’re more than a few cheap veterans away from being a contender — and they start looking to trade the few coveted players they have left to build for the future.  Some of the minor leaguers are showing real promise in spring training this year.  The team should build on that.

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