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Houston Series Q & A

Posted on July 20, 2009 at 12:51 PM
Filed Under: Houston Astros | St. Louis Cardinals
I had a chance to exchange some questions with James of Astros County (and one of the members of the fledgling Baseball Bloggers Alliance--if you are a blogger of a non-Cardinal team and are interested in the BBA, contact me!) pertaining to the Astros and this upcoming series.  I returned the favor over at his site today.

C70: I thought the Astros were safely buried, but then I look up and they are only three games out.  How did this happen?

AC: That's a really good question, because the Astros haven't put together any great winning streaks, and looked old and overmatched for a lot of the season. But they also have only lost three of their last 14 series, which is hard to believe, even for an Astros fan. But three things come to mind about the "success" of the Astros season so far: 

(1) When Roy Oswalt was struggling at the beginning of the year, Wandy Rodriguez pitched like a Cy Young candidate. His ERA is a run and a half lower than his career, strikeouts are up, and he's one win away from a career-high 10 wins, and we're not out of July yet. So Wandy has been a big part of the Astros' success this season. 

(2) Miguel Tejada has played like MVP-era Tejada. For a time he was hitting over .350, and while his average has settled closer to .320, that's about 40 points higher than I think any of us expected, and carried the team while Berkman was hitting .160. 

(3) Michael Bourn's surge has been nothing short of miraculous. He was probably the worst everyday offensive player in the Majors last year. We're talking about a guy who, last year, hit .229/.288/.300. Now he's sitting at .286/.358/.408 and already has 34 steals. Astros fans heard all winter that he was working on plate discipline, and hitting the ball to all fields, and we all thought "Okay. If he hits .240 we'll be happy."  But Bourn has turned into the prototypical leadoff man that Ed Wade trade Lidge for at the end of 2007.


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C70: I believe I read that the Astros have confirmed they won't be buyers at the deadline.  What does that mean to the fan base?  And what would have to happen for a major selloff?

AC: I think that the Astros won't be buyers is a relief to the fan base. The farm system at the higher levels is so weak - as Baseball America likes to remind us on a near-daily basis - that there's no one really to sell, other than Oswalt and Berkman. Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins are mentioned as trade bait, but over the last two drafts, Assistant GM Bobby Heck has thrown together what currently project to be two pretty great drafts. There are a couple of pitchers at Triple-A - Bud Norris and Yorman Bazardo - who we would like to see in Houston sooner than later, and to have them traded for...anyone would not be smart/popular. 

In order for there to be a major sell-off, the Astros' history of second-half surges would have to be totally discounted. They probably would need to lose out in July, and find themselves 25 games back for owner Drayton McLane to even consider selling 2009. On July 31, 2008 the Astros were 50-57, and 14 games back. On September 11, 2008 the Astros were 80-67 (yeah. 30-10. I know.) and 3GB of Milwaukee before a number of factors combined to finally eliminate the Astros in the last two weeks of the season. There's basically no way the Astros sell in 2009.

C70: Give us a rundown on the pitchers going in this series.

AC: It's going to be a great series. Tonight? Not so much in the way of pitching matchups, as the Astros have Moehler going against Lohse. Moehler has been hair-pullingly inconsistent, alternating shutout innings, quality starts, and complete meltdowns. He's had some bad luck with Astro errors and baserunning mistakes, but you can't hide his 5.08 ERA. Then the Astros have their big guns going - Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday and an Oswalt/Carpenter matchup on Wednesday. If that game isn't on ESPN, I might blow a gasket. Optimistically, I think the Astros could take 2 of the 3 games, which obviously would be nice for our place in the standings.

C70: What's the biggest topic circling around Astros Nation as we come out of the All-Star Break?

AC: The biggest thing is probably, "Can they keep this up?" In order to do that, they're going to have to stay healthy. There's a chance Berkman won't be playing this series as he's dealing with a calf strain, Carlos Lee fouled a pitch off the inside of his knee on Friday night, go-to reliever Chris Sampson is on the DL, Darin Erstad is probably headed to the DL, and Kaz Matsui is banged up. So in a team that needs its veterans for a second-half run, there are an awful lot of those veterans who are trying to stay away from a 15-day team-ordered rest.

C70: What do you think happens in the second half for the 'Stros?

AC: Your guess is as good as mine. Baseball Prospectus said the Astros would finish 66-96, and the Astros are currently sitting at .500 after splitting a series they could have swept in Los Angeles. They're overperforming, but they've held it together longer than I expected them to, and they're heading into a time of year when they normally dominate.

I think we'll see the same thing we've seen from them over the last five years - they'll keep it just interesting enough to not give the Young'uns a chance, but ultimately fade in September. Of course, they very well could win 40 games in the next two months. And then there's an equal chance they could lose 40 games. But the key to the second half of the season is how the Astros do in the next three weeks, with 13 of 16 games against the Cards, Cubs, and Brewers. If they go 4-9 or 5-8, they might be toast. 

My thanks to James for giving us the pulse of the Astros fanbase.  Should be a fun series to watch!


1 Comments

1 Comment | Leave a comment

Tonight should be interesting, need a win with Welle going tomorrow.

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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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