Thursday, March 27, 2008

Houston Astros preview

by Steve

The 'stros are now 3 years removed from being swept in the World Series by the White Sox in '05 and are a distant memory to that great team. Garner is out and Cecil Cooper is in. The original B's are gone and so is the buzz. I wouldn't completely disregard this squad in a mediocre Central, but this team will need to win with offense cause the pitching won't be there.

Lance Berkman had a solid yet quiet 2007. He recently turned 32 and is no spring chicken. You can still pencil him in for 30 and 100 especially in Minute Maid/Enron. Kaz Matsui is an average second baseman with no upside. His $5.5 mill a year contract is pretty reasonable especially when you recall the Mets gave him $20 mill when he first got to the States. I completely forgot Tejada was traded to this squad and I have no idea why Houston wanted him. He had his lowest home run and rbi totals since '98 and was obviously on roids. He is due for an injury and is on the down side of his career. They gave up 5 prospects for him! Ty Wigginton, the ex-Met, is an underrated 3b at least offensively and should give them 25 and 90 in the 5 or 6 hole this season. Rookie JR Towles looks to be taking over for Brad Ausmus behind the dish and may have a bright future in the majors. He has power and can hit for average, look for him to be receiving some ROY chatter.

Carlos Lee is a straight stud and can flat out mash. He may have received a gigantic contract, but it was worth it. Hunter Pence is the real deal in right and could have a huge sophomore season in H-town. The only real question the outfield has is CF. Michael Bourn has no power and hasn't been real productive at any stop to the majors. Behind him is Reggie Abercrombie formally of the Marlins. He's fast as hell but strikes out a lot and hasn't produced offensively since making his debut three years ago.

Oswalt is one of the best in the NL at what he does, pitch and win games as the ace of a staff. In 2008 there is no competition biting at his ankles to be the new ace. In fact the cupboard is quite empty. Wandy Rodriguez lowered his ERA in '07 but only won 9 games. He is no #2 but then again Woody Williams is in the starting rotation. This pitching staff might be one of the worst in the majors. If Brandon Backe can bounce back from some horrid, injury ridden back to back seasons it will be a major boost to the rotation. I have no idea who Chris Sampson is but if he is behind Woody Williams it isn't a good thing. Maybe Woody just wasn't used to the dry heat in Texas compared to the sunny beach breeze in San Diego, but he needs to be much better to maintain his position as a starter.

The team has offense and they have a stud pitcher. That is about it. If their bullpen is strong with the acquisition of Valverde they should win some ball games. The need for another pitcher should have been an absolute necessity this season, maybe they're just waiting for CC Sabathia or someone else next offseason I have no idea. Is Cecil Cooper the answer? Was firing Garner the right call?

Record 76-86

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