2011 Astros: A New Quick Look

Mr. Bright Spot, Jose Altuve, started his MLB career a few weeks ago wearing his baseball pants the right way, but now, as I noticed in Friday night's Dodger game, someone or something has caused him to pull the legs down nearly over the shoes like all the other poorly dressed players of this era. Guess he doesn't care that the move to conventional style simply makes him look less like Phil Rizzuto and a whole lot shorter than he really is.

Where do the 2011 Houston Astros stand? Let’s start with the easy stuff.

With a record of 38-81, .319 through the ten inning, 1-0, loss to the Dodgers in LA last night, August 12th, they rest dead last in the NLC, a full 30 games behind division leader Milwaukee and 13 game behinds the next club above them, the Chicago Cubs. – Their record is the worst in MLB, by far, as one of only two clubs that haven’t yet (if ever) won 50 games on the season and the only team that has yet to reach the 40-win mark. The Baltimore Orioles have 45 wins; all others have at least 50 wins to date.

With 43 games left on the schedule, the Astros must now go 43-0 the rest of the way to finish at .500 for the year, an improbability that borders on certainty.Equivalently probable and certain is the guarantee of a losing record season and virtually certain bottom-feeder finish as the worst team in baseball, by record, and most likely too, they will become the first team to be eliminated from pennant contention and wild card qualification.

That being said, the Astros “Kiddie Corps” that now inundates the active roster has shown us some encouraging moments over the past three weeks or so. We would have to be blind not to see the potential of  Jose Altuve at 2nd base, Jimmy Paredes at 3rd base, and J.D. Martinez in left field. Just look at what they’ve done in their very short runs as big league rookies.

Jose Altuve is impossible to ignore. Anyone who goes 29/85 for a .341 average staring out would be. He’s an energized modern version of the old style pepper pot middle infielder that we used to value so highly in the Phil Rizzuto-Pee Wee Reese era. Solly Hemus was our local Buffs version of Altuve back in the late 1940s – and Solly went on from here to do the same thing at the MLB level for both the Cardinals and the Phillies. I see Altuve very much in that same light, but he’s going to have to learn how to draw more walks to get there. He has only two walks next to his 85 official times ay bat and that’s a pattern you don’t want booked in permanent ink in every MLB pitching book on you. Altuve is getting away with it now during this first run through the league, but, if he cannot, or will not, allow more walks, that fact goes into a pitcher’s book as one of the first items on the adjustment list. A pitcher can do  a whole lot with a batter that he knows is not going to walk. Let’s hope that someone in the Astros organization can help Altuve with the walk issue. It could be the difference between a long successful career – and no career at all.

Jimmy Paredes is athletic, quick, and fast – the kind of naturally reflexive performer who always has the potential to excel if he can figure out his own best talents and sharpen them to a high execution rate. I like the fact he switch hits too. Combine that ability with the fact that he also can hit to all fields, drive the ball into the gaps, and also hit with some pop and you may begin to see his small early stat sample as the harbinger of things to come. Hitting .275 (11/40), Paredes’ eleven hits include a double, a triple, and a home run.

J.D. Martinez is hitting only .250 in 13 games (12/24), but his work includes 4 homers, 4 doubles, and 14 RBI _ pretty good power numbers for a young guys starting out. He will need to cut down on the “K”s from his current rate of 11 per his first 48 times at bat, but more importantly, he needs to figure out why it’s happening and adjust – because we know big league pitching is going to adjust to his power-hitting production and cut down on the pitches that make it easy for him.

We haven’t seen enough of outfielder J.B. Shuck or even Brian Bogusevic to get excited, but both appear to be prospects for the pasture lands. I do like what I’ve seen with some of our younger pitchers. Fernando Rodriguez did a brilliant job of pitching himself out of that bases loaded, nobody out situation in the 9th at Dodger Stadium last night. I also like what I see in the stuff of David Carpenter – in spite of his second loss last night in the short-term.

Where things stand now is simple. As Astros fans, we need to be patient and enjoy the changing face of the future. There are talented younger men now taking the field with either “Astros” or “Houston” streaming over the heart sections of their baseball jerseys and we need to give them our full support. It’s going be a long ride out of this valley and we may as well relax and enjoy the trip without loading our horses with bags of fool’s gold expectation.

Let’s give GM Ed Wade and new owner Jim Crane the time and opportunity to show what they are going to further do. As I heal from my personal disappointment over the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies, I get more into this grove of thinking “younger quality players in greater numbers” as more than a fix, but as a condition we need to build into a farm system that works to stay in that  shape over time. Wade effectively says he wants that condition to be in place and we may only presume at this point that Mr. Crane shall want it too. We shall see.

The only thing I want from GM Wade is this qualified commitment: The next time you decide to move one of our major players, if there are any again, anytime soon, could you please at least try to first work a deal with some club other than Philadelphia?

Have an ice (not a typo) weekend, everybody.

POSTSCRIPT: I just received this interesting not from good friend, fine baseball writer, and baseball obscuria historian extraordinaire Al Doyle of Oshkosh, Wisconsin: ” Your boy (Ryan McCurdy) is 22 for 67 (.328) with 12 RBI at Tri-City of the New York-Penn League.  Amazingly, Ryan hasn’t walked yet, but he’s continuing to pile up the hit by pitches (4) as he did in college.  It will be interesting to see how far this McCurdy goes in the professional ranks.”

Ryan McCurdy

Well, young Ryan is only my boy by namesake coincidence, but I can’t help pulling for him to make it to the big leagues because of our fairly rare, shared family name. Like Altuve, Ryan McCurdy also needs tt walk more, but he seems to already be near Biggio-capacity in the art of attracting those non-lethal HBP rides to first. Ryan McCurdy is a catcher and, as many of you blue nose baseball historians already know, there was another pretty good MLB catcher back in the 1930s by the name of Harry McCurdy. Maybe it’s time for some namesake continuity. This one signed with the Astros out of Duke University a couple of years ago.


One Response to “2011 Astros: A New Quick Look”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    Regarding the long pants, that’s a strategic thing, not a fashion thing. Wearing high socks like the picture above helps define the knee line to a lot of home plate umpires. The hem line of the pants becomes their quick-and-dirty knee line for balls and strikes. The long droopy pants (as worn by the on-deck hitter) makes it impossible to do that which means the batter is apt to get the benefit of more low pitches called a ball than a strike. The droopy pants also are likely to keep more dirt out of the shoes for players who might do a lot of sliding.

    As for the players themselves, I think you are right about most of them. Altue needs to walk more, Martinez needs to cut down on the Ks, Paredes reminds me of a switch-hitting Enos Cabell who probably needs another year or two on the farm before he’s ready for the bigs. Bogusevic and Shuck are showing just what they did in AAA, although Shuck does draw a lot of walks.

    The bullpen is full of kids who will look good one day and worthless the next. That’s the biggest problem with a youth movement is the uneven performances.

    The game of baseball breaks down to three aspects – scoring runs, strong starting pitching and solid relief work. It really just takes one of the three to fail which leads to defeat. Last night, it was the offense. The night before, it was the bullpen. But every night it seems to be something. The Astros aren’t as bad as their record implies but they’ve had the uncanny knack of losing one of the three aspects every game.

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