Assessing the winless Astros after one week

So what have we learned about the Astros after six games? The pitching has a chance to be OK, but they have some major offensive problems. Either everyone not named Jeff Keppinger is a slump at the same time, or this is just not a very good offensive club.

Surely, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, who have been at the center of the offensive struggles, can only get better, and the return of Lance Berkman – which won’t be until April 20 at the earliest – can only help stretch out the lineup a little bit.

But there remain questions at catcher, shortstop and second base. These were three spots in the batting order that were somewhat in doubt coming into the year, and J.R. Towles, Tommy Manzella and Kaz Matsui haven’t done much at the plate, not that they’re alone.

The Astros don’t expect Manzella to carry the team offensively. If everyone is hitting as they should, he’ll hit at the bottom if the lineup and make all the plays defensively like he’s done for the most part this year. Matsui needs to give them more or perhaps risk losing his job to Keppinger, who’s certainly a better offensive player and remains steady with the glove.

But what to do at catcher? Towles is hitting .067 (1-for-15) with four strikeouts and doesn’t look comfortable. It’s too early to summon Jason Castro from Triple-A Round Rock, and he’s not off to a great offensive start anyway. Like everyone else in the lineup, the Astros can only hope he turns it around and in a hurry.

Manager Brad Mills said something interesting Sunday when asked why he didn’t pinch-hit Towles with runner at first and second in the seventh inning.

“We needed to find out what’s going on here and how he’s going to do it,” Mills said.

Towles struck the ball well right back at the pitcher, but made an out.

The Astros face Adam Wainwright in Monday’s series opener in St. Louis, so they continue to see strong pitchers. Tim Lincecum shut them down Monday, and Roy Halladay threw a complete game against them Sunday, with both guys beating Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt is frustrated, understandably, and left the clubhouse with addressing the media Sunday. He has two quality starts and two losses to show for it because the Astros have scored only three runs in his two starts. It’s nothing that Oswalt hasn’t seen in the past.

Yes, there are 156 games and the offense will come around at some point, but after the first week of the season the Astros are the worst team in baseball.

7 Comments

No sugar coating this loss. Roy was pissed, and I DO NOT
BLAME HIM! All he sees is a continuation of last season.
If Roy doesn’t ask to be traded soon, he’s got rocks for brains.

The Astros are now on a 9 game losing streak in the regular season dating back to last year. Three consecutive sweeps.

Towles looks okay, in my opinion. I don’t want him to overthink it and change anything because it looks like he’s putting at least one good swing on the ball every at bat. It keeps getting pulled a little foul or goes right at somebody or someone makes a spectacular play. I don’t know why he struggles with BABIP so much but I think that’s what we’re seeing yet again.

I’d like to see Mills be really patient with him and just see if his issues work themselves out. It’s not like Castro is hitting any better, and he’s facing AAA pitching. Quintero isn’t really hitting better either.

The Astros no longer have the talent to compete with teams such as San Fran or Philly. This is a continuation of the product of a World Series run of a small market team. Once you choose the year to bet the farm, it takes 10 or so years to get back. Gotta say though, I still love the Astros!!

I think Manzella is doing pretty well. His 286/333 and 619 OPS are in line with what we all expect from him. If we get this production from him all season, we?ll be in much better shape at this position than anticipated. Sure he has little to no power, but we already knew that.

This is basketball, but in 1968 Borger Houston Jr High lost to favored SF Austin. Before Austin left the court Houston was holding a workout in preparation for the next game. That work yielded an upset win in the next meeting. Why not hold the press conference from BP after the game so we can be doing it instead of talking about it?

Pardon me, but am I the only one who can’t help but roll my eyes a little at Oswalt? I’m as big a fan of his as you’ll find, but did he expect a lineup that was 12th in the league in OPS last year, THEN subtracting Berkman and Tejada, to give him any run support against the two best pitchers in all of baseball? And it’s not like Oswalt was lights-out against the mediocre-at-best Giants lineup either. A poor attitude from the ace pitcher can’t help the spirits of the rest of the team.

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