Left me a mule to ride: a Houston Astros preview

Baseball! - Jamie Sabau

We've got us a battle of cellar dwellers!

Offense: Brandon Barnes-CF, Jason Castro-C, Jose Altuve-2B, J.D. Martinez- LF, Carlos Pena-1B, Chris Carter-DH, Jimmy Paredes-RF, Matt Dominguez-3B, Marwin Gonzalez-SS. Bench: Carlos Corporan-C, Ronny Cedeno-INF, Trevor Crowe-OF.

HOU R/G: 3.79. CHW R/G: 3.63.

The Houston Astros seem to be following a similar offensive plan as the Chicago White Sox: have one player hitting above average, a couple around okay, and then drecks. The fun is looking at that lineup and trying to figure out who is the above-average hitter. It's not who you think it is. Unless you follow the Astros or are a cheater. Either way, I pity you. Brandon Barnes is making the most out of playing for a horrible team. Would he be starting for most teams in the league? Maybe not. But that .376 BABIP is making him look like a pretty respectable option in center field, pushing his wOBA up to .330. He has some power and some speed, but not enough of either. He seems to be a pretty good defender though, which makes up for quite a lot. If you guessed Jason Castro was the above-average hitter, congrats. You're really weird. I once knew a girl who was an Astros fan solely because she liked Brad Ausmus. I never understood her but now I'm wondering what became of Miranda. What? Oh yeah, Castro. The man picked two spots after Gordon Beckham has shown himself to be a pretty decent hitting catcher. He walks enough to have an acceptable OBP and has surprising power. This is good, as he is horrible defensively. Run rabbits, run.

Jose Altuve is still shorter than almost everyone reading this right now, so if you want to feel really bad about yourself remember that fact. He's hitting only slightly worse than he did last season, so it's safe to say he's pretty much the same little guy he's always been. He's speedy, but could stand to be a little more selective when it comes to stealing bases. J.D. Martinez has some good power, but that's pretty much the only thing he brings to the table. Even with a .342 BABIP, he's still only managing to be an average hitter. Normally he walks twice as much as he has been, but even then he's not the most dangerous guy in the world. Which is probably why he's playing for Houston. He strikes out a lot and plays a pretty piss-poor outfield.

Carlos Pena has really been struggling since his strong 2011 season with the Cubs. The plate discipline numbers remain constant as ever, but old age continues to rob him of his power. His slugging percentage sits below .380 for a second consecutive season and that's not a good sign for someone whose best attribute was dingerability. It's nice to see Chris Carter finally land somewhere where he'll get to play a full season. The man who landed us Carlos Quentin is four games away from setting a new career high in games played for a season with 68, which is not how most 26-year-olds picture themselves. If he gets enough plate appearances, Carter legitimately could hit 30 homeruns. That being said, he's striking out in 37.7% of his PA. He's a TTO kind of guy, but he's cheap.

Jimmy Paredes is an infielder by trade. But the Astros are playing him in the outfield. Which leads to things like this happening. And it hasn't been a one time thing. Why they keep parading a man with a 47 OPS+ out of position and in a spot he can keep hurting his teammates is a question no one could truly answer. Matt Dominguez moved to Houston last summer when the Marlins decided they needed Carlos Lee to help them not make the playoffs. Dominguez is supposed to be an all-glove/no-hit third baseman. So far he's living up to half of that. Yeah, he has nine homeruns. But he also has a .275 wOBA and has only manged to draw seven walks. Marwin Gonzalez is another terrible hitter in a lineup full of them that I can no longer abide writing about.

Pitching: Bud Norris-RHP, Lucas Harrell-RHP, Jordan Lyles-RHP, Erik Bedard-LHP, Dallas Keuchel-LHP, Jose Veras-CL.

HOU RA/G: 5.25. CHW RA/G: 4.16.

In case you were wondering what separates the Sox from truly becoming the Astros, it's the pitching staff. This is a terrible, terrible pitching staff. How is Bud Norris not even eligible for arbitration until after this season? The man has had to pitch for Houston since 2009 which should be worth more money than any owner has. He's seen shit that would make your hair curl, and yet every fifth day he wakes up to face the same crap. He's some sort of hero. His strikeouts are down for whatever reason this year, but he's allowing fewer homeruns so that's a pretty fair tradeoff. Bud throws a four-seamer in the mid-90s, a slider, and a changeup. The slider tends to be fairly impressive. Former farmhand Lucas Harrell is still very much so a person that throws baseballs for a living. Harrell is an extreme groundballer, which is good because he cannot strike people out nor control his pitches (K:BB of damn near 1 right now). He's rotational filler in a very bad rotation and unlikely to ever become more. Harrell uses a sinking fastball in the low-90s, a cutter, a changeup, and a curveball.

Jordan Lyles could actually become something better though. Lyles is also a groundballer, but he actually has decent stuff and a good grasp on how to use it. He'll never be great, but the world needs middle of the rotation guys and Lyles may just be that. Jordan throws a fastball in the low-90s, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. None are really plus pitches, making his success all the more mystifying. If you believe in karma or something similar, you must wonder what the hell Erik Bedard did to deserve his fate. Once a demigod of sorts pitching in Baltimore, now an old shell living out his final days on the worst team in the American League. Do you think the world feels heavier to him than most? I do. Good thing he's developed that impeccable sense of apathy. He doesn't get groundballs and he no longer has the filthy stuff he once used to dominate hitters. His fastball now sits in the low-90s and is mixed with a curveball, a changeup, and a cutter.

Dallas Kuechel was not good in the minors. He has continued to be not good in the majors. He throws an upper-80s fastball, a changeup, a cutter, and a curveball. The Astros will turn Jose Veras into a prospect or two next month. The closer has a nice 3.00 K:BB ratio to go with a GB% over 42%. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he mostly complements it with a curveball, though he also sprinkles in the odd changeup.

Outlook: This is going to be some straight up hideous baseball. Just all around ugly. The White Sox are a flawed team, but they should still be able to take five out of seven. Please let me be right.


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