Mind Playing Tricks on Me: a Houston Astros Preview

That's an outfielder pitching, a fairly apt metaphor for the Astros.

A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.

Offense: Jordan Schafer-CF, Jose Altuve-2B, Jed Lowrie-SS, J.D. Martinez-LF, Chris Johnson-3B, Brett Wallace-1B, Fernando Martinez-RF, Jason Castro-C. Bench: Chris Snyder-C, Brian Bogusevic-OF/P, Justin Maxwell-OF.

HOU R/G: 4.23. CHW R/G: 4.72. MLB AVG: 4.28

I don't know who is DHing, so I left that off. Whomever he is, he isn't going to be particularly good. Carlos Lee being on the DL took that option away and bummed me out. I wanted to see El Caballo batting at USCF again. Jordan Schafer came over from the Atlanta Braves in the Michael Bourne trade, meaning he is now the man who has to deal with a hill and flag pole for 75-81 games a year. I almost pity him, but he's a professional athlete so I don't. His life is fantastic, mine is merely neat. Schafer can steal and play defense, but has little power and can't hit for average. He belongs closer to the bottom of the order than the top. Jose Altuve is my favorite Astro. Why? Because that's him on the right. He's tiny! And an internet meme! He has the plate discipline you'd expect from someone of his stature: doesn't walk much nor strikeout a ton. But he has good speed, gap power, and the hilarious potential to hit 10 homeruns despite being shorter than most middle school basketball teams' centers. He's a bit bad at defense.

Still don't really understand why the Boston Red Sox were so keen on trading away Jed Lowrie for relief pitching help but I don't try to understand anything about that team and/or fanbase. Staring into the abyss and all that. Lowrie has been the most productive hitter for the Astros and is likely to be their All-Star Game representative (either him or Altuve, but not both). He's already hit 10 homeruns this season while playing good defense at a key position. Most teams would kill for a shortstop with a .383 wOBA. Except Boston. They like their shortstops shitty. Finally being healthy appears to be paying off dividends for the 28-year-old who should be anchoring the team for at least a little while. J.D. Martinez has an exceptionally dull Wikipedia page. Martinez should develop into a solid power threat in the middle of the lineup, but isn't quite their yet. He'll hit somewhere around 15-20 homeruns this year while being a slightly above-average bat. He's okay defensively.

Chris Johnson is a player created by MVP Baseball 2005 that somehow escaped into the real world. Your name is too generic to be real. I'm onto you, pixel man. His plate discipline is awful (5.7 BB%, 24.2 K%). He has 15 homerun power, but is awful defensively and wouldn't be a starter on any team in contention. "But he's batting .291!" Yeah, but he's not fast and has a .369 BABIP. Remember when Brett Wallace was a can't miss prospect? Sure, he wasn't going to play good defense or have any speed, but he was destined to hit? The 25-year-old is now on his fourth organization and has not lived up to his potential above AAA. He still hasn't developed the power you expect out of a corner infielder. He'll be serviceable, but it's a bit harder to stomach a K% near 30 without 25+ homerun power.

Yes, this is that Fernando Martinez. If your the type to pay attention to prospects, there was a long stretch where F-Mart was the crown jewel of the Mets' farm system. But much like Wallace, he hasn't put it together above AAA. He is still only 23, so it's possible he could still cash in on that potential. He can't stay healthy and other than hitting for power, he hasn't shown many other skills. This roster is just an amalgamation of failed promise and shattered dreams. And Jason Castro. Castro was the 10th pick in the 2008 draft and inherited the title of "Top Astros Prospect" in a farm system as barren as our own. Castro has decent plate discipline, but little to no power and isn't much of a hitter for average. Thieves have been running wild on him this year as he's only thrown out 17% of runners. Alejandro De Aza should be running wild.

Pitching: Wandy Rodriguez-LHP, Jordan Lyles-RHP, Lucas Harrell-RHP, Brett Myers-CL.

HOU RA/G: 4.68. CHW RA/G: 4.14. MLB AVG: 4.28.

In case you don't remember, for three game series I only cover the three starters we face and the closer. Because I am lazy. Is this finally the year that Wandy Rodriguez gets traded at the deadline? The only remaining player from the 2005 National League Champion team has been a rumor mill fixture ever since Houston started tanking. Wandy's K/9 has been declining since 2008, with a noticeable collapse over the past two seasons. He throws a sinker and a four-seamer in the low-90s, along with a curveball and a changeup. Jordan Lyles hasn't been able to strike hitters out at a good rate above AA (excepting his small stint in AAA this year). You're going to have a hard time succeeding with a K/BB ratio under two, especially when you're prone to homeruns. Watching him match up with Chris Sale tomorrow will be interesting in a sad way. Lyles has a four-seamer and a sinker in the low-90s, a curveball, a cutter, and a changeup.

Lucas Harrell, former White Sox farmhand, has wound up filling the role of "cheap right-handed innings-eater who isn't very good". He still suffers from the same problems he did with us: lack of strikeouts, lack of control. But he gets groundballs at a very good rate (58% this year) which helps to mitigate the damage somewhat. That being said, we should destroy him. He throws a sinker in the low-90s, a changeup, a slider, and a curveball. Because having an established closer is so important for a team that doesn't have a chance of contending, the Astros converted Brett "Wife Puncher" Myers back to a reliever. I guess it's in an attempt to ship him out to a contender, but whatever. Myers is keeping his walk rate down, which offsets his decline in strikeouts nicely. But he's been homer happy so far this year. His BABIP is a cool .200 and he's currently sporting a 94.2 LOB%. Regression is a bitch and she will hit hard. Myers four-seamer and sinker are now in the low-90s, mixed with curveballs and sliders and the occasional changeup.

Outlook: I don't think I've ever actually predicted a sweep in one of these, but if I feel like doing so today. 3-0 series sweep.


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