Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The State of the Central: Houston

Yesterday we filled you in on where the Pittsburgh Pirates were at and what their second half may figure to be, Today... the Houstons Astros. So without further ado, let's get to it.

Houston Astros: Being an Astros fan must be frustrating. Yes, they are 40-41 and 3.5 games out of first. But does anyone really think they will make the postseason? They are old, understaffed on pitching and on paper are just not a very good team. But, since they are close they will put off rebuilding for yet another year, which is unfortunate for them since they have a lot of good veteran pieces that teams would be interested in.

The Good: Pitching has been a nice surprise so far for Houston, Wandy Rodriguez(left) has been the ace of the staff with a 7-4 record. Roy Oswalt has been alright, but the real surprises are Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz who have combined to win eight games with ERA's near four. Michael Bourn has had a nice first half witha .358 OBP mostly out of the leadoff spot.

The Bad: Overall, the offense has been underachieving. In the National League Houston is 13th in runs scored and 11th in home runs. Lance Berkman is hitting .270, which is an improvement over his awful start. Hunter Pence has driven in only 34 runs and Carlos Lee(right) has just 12 home runs. You wonder if age is catching up to Lee and Berkman.

What to Expect:
If we've learned anything about Houston over the last several seasons, it's that they don't realize how bad their team really is. They're a good enough team that they will stay close enough to mention in the division race, but they aren't good enough to actually contend. Tejada will fall off in the second half, like he did last season. You have to wonder how long Ortiz can keep pitching well, he hasn't been a good pitcher for four years so it won't last. There won't be any help coming from the minors either, the Astros have one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball.

Outlook: The Crew will matchup with Houston nine more times, six in the juicebox. They've had some success against the Astros this season and last but road wins are always tougher to come by. Winning the series in Milwaukee is likely, and one of the series in Houston as well. A 5-4 record is most likely but 6 or 7 wins is not out of the question.

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