I’m tired of spending most of a post talking about last night’s game. You can only write up a loss so many ways so many times. So let it suffice to say the Astros loss last night 9-1. Brian Moehler pitched just okay, giving up a three-run homer to Carlos Delgado in the first, and putting on two runners in the sixth before being pulled from the game. But the bullpen, which has been pretty steady the past month or so, did its best impersonation of Brandon Backe to put the game out of reach.
Mets starter Mike Pelfry shut down the much-vaunted high-powered Houston offense – one run and six hits over nine innings. It was Pelfry’s second straight complete game, which is probably the best way for the Mets to deal with their imploding bullpen. Delgado belted another three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh (giving him six RBI for the night) and Jose Reyes tripled in the eighth to knock in two runs. And with the loss, the Astros record dropped to 66-65.
But I’ve got something else I’d really like to discuss, and it’s a Steve Campbell blog post over at Chron.com. I know that sometimes it seems like I exist just to diss the Chron's coverage of the Astros, but I like Campbell, and I like the blog post in question.
Campbell’s basic premise is simple. The Astros record is not an indication of how bad the team really is. There’s a good chance the Astros will finish around the breakeven point this season, but if you look at a stat I discussed earlier this year, the Expected Won-Loss, you’ll see that the Astros are out performing the numbers. And these numbers indicate that the Astros should be playing way below five hundred ball.
Sure, it’s only math. But I agree with Campbell that the number can be used as an indicator of what to expect next year. If you’re a young, up-and-coming team, you can look at these numbers and say that you’re only going to get better. But when you’re a team like the Astros, an aging team like the Astros, the numbers serve as an indicator of where your record will probably be sinking. And Campbell does a good job of showing how every key Astro is over 30 and rapidly aging with no real up-and-coming youth movement.
Campbell also looks at something else which is good. The Astros came into this season with lots and lots of questions. None of which have been answered. The Astros still don’t seem to have an answer to the centerfield question – Michael Bourn doesn’t appear to be the answer. J.R. Towles didn’t get the job at catcher at this season, and it’s not known if he can do it next year, while Humberto Quintero hasn’t shown that he’s more than just average. And most important of all, there is still no legitimate pitching rotation behind Roy Oswalt. It’s a depressing summation of the Astros, but it’s accurate.
I think he forgot two things, however. For instance, I don’t think the Astros have handled the shortstop problem. Miguel Tejada will be 35 next season, and he hasn’t done much with the bat since mid-May. He also seems to be a bit of a prima donna like Craig Biggio when it comes to playing time – Cecil Cooper is always talking about how he needs to discuss Tejada’s playing time with Tejada, which sounds just like Phil Garner saying he needed to discuss Craig Biggio’s time with Craig Biggio. And I also don’t think the Astros have any answer for second base. Kaz Matsui has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can’t handle second base for an entire season.
So long story short, don’t be fooled by the Astros record. This isn’t a good team, and there are no indications that it will be any better next season.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
The Astros return home for six games to finish out the month of August. They play three games with the Cincinnati Reds starting tonight, and then finish up the month with three games against St. Louis Cardinals. Wandy Rodriguez (7-6, 4.11) gets the start against Bronson Arroyo (11-10, 5.32) tonight. Roy Oswalt (11-9, 4.23) goes against Josh Fogg (2-6, 7.66) on Wednesday. And Brandon Backe (8-12, 5.54) pitches against Aaron Harang (4-13, 5.35) on Thursday afternoon.
And Astros fans, if you like to catch home run balls in the outfield stands, then this might be a good series to attend because, Oswalt aside, all of these guys are pretty miserable pitchers this year. – John Royal