Friday, February 29, 2008

Houston Astros Preview

The Astros were weak sauce last year and became one of the oldest teams in baseball thanks to geezers like Craig Biggio. Many people thought Houston would be destined for the NL Central Cellar again this season and look to the future, but instead they surprised many by becoming big players in the free agent market. It's now clear they hope to contend in what should be a very interesting division race.

2007 Record: 73-89 4th place in NL Central

Key Acquisitions

Miguel Tejada

Michael Bourn

Kaz Matsui

Jose Valverde

Key Losses

Craig Biggio

Brad Lidge

Chad Qualls

Mike Lamb

Luke Scott

Projected Line-up

1) Michael Bourn CF

2) Kaz Matsui 2B

3) Lance Berkman 1B

4) Carlos Lee LF

5) Miguel Tejada SS

6) Hunter Pence RF

7) Ty Wigginton 3B

8) JR Towles C

9) Pitcher

Offensive Grade: B+...I'm tempted to go higher here, but I'll keep it like it is for now until I see that this team can stay healthy. It's a pretty intimidating 3-6 centered with Perrennial Homerun Kings Berkman and Lee. Matsui, Bourn, and Pence all missed multiple weeks of last season, but all showed signs of brilliance when healthy. I really like the blend of speed and power here with Matsui and Bourn both capable of 30+ steals while Berkman and Lee are both potential 30 HR guys. Tejada and Pence are no joke either. One is on the still coming into his own and one is on the decline, but both still can produce in big ways for the 'Stros this year. Don't forget about Wigginton either. He's not flashy, but he'll move the base runners ahead of him when asked, and you can bet he'll have plenty of RBI opportunities given the potency ahead of him.

Projected Rotation

1) Roy Oswalt

2) Wandy Rodriguez

3) Woody Williams

4) Brandon Backe

5) Felipe Paulino

CL) Jose Valverde

Pitching Grade: C...This isn't pretty. While Oswalt could anchor the majority of staffs out there, it's very shaky from #2 down. Way-Rod had great stats at home, but was lit up like a Christmas tree on the road. Woody Williams is on his way to the retirement home and neither Backe nor Paulino have proven anything on the Major League level. Luckily for the Starters, if they are able to get the ball to Valverde with a lead, he's probably gonna close the door. His 47 saves last year really helped the D-Backs in their quest to lock down their division title. Every 5th game when Oswalt is out there though, he can bank on getting a win. He's been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game over the last half-decade.

2008 Outlook

This team is going to score a lot of runs this year, but when Oswalt's not on the mound they are going to give up a lot of runs as well. With one of the more complete line-ups in baseball though they should be able to outscore their opponents more often than not. They won't be able to just coast though in this division. The Cubs, Reds, and Brewers all have powerful offenses as well so there are bound to be some high-scoring games in Houston. The Astros are many experts "sleeper" team this year, but I don't see a playoff run in their future. The injury and pitching concerns are too much of a question mark to compete in this deep division.

Projected Record: 84-78

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