The Astros At The Break: An Assessment

It's All-Star Game break time in Major League Baseball, which means that there are no chances for the Astros to lose again until Thursday. Surprisingly, the team's record is an even 44-44 and they somehow find themselves in contention for a playoff spot. Of course, the Astros are also seemingly playing in the worst division in baseball. There can be no other explanation for why the team is actually in contention.

But since this is the so-called halfway point of the season, I thought we would give out some midseason awards.

Half-Season MVP: Michael Bourn. Bourn's average has been hovering around the .290 mark most of the season. He's always on base, and he's had no difficulty with being able to steal bases or score runs. He's also playing a fantastic defense -- the two runners he nailed at the plate on Friday night helped the Astros to a victory.  

Half-Season MVP (Runner Up): Hunter Pence. Pence is going to his first All-Star Game tomorrow night. He's settled into right field and he and Bourn cover tons of ground. He's hitting for a decent average with some decent power numbers. He's still got a great arm on defense.  Pence and Bourn have the makings of a fantastic outfield for years to come. Now if the team could just do something about that lump in left field.

Best Pitcher: Chris Sampson. Because of injuries throughout the pitching staff, Sampson has turned into this season's Doug Brocail, which means Cecil Cooper's using him just about every game, and which means that Sampson is about to break down from overuse.

Most Shocking Development: The mere fact that the pitching staff hasn't murdered Cecil Cooper yet has to be the most amazing, shocking thing about the season so far. Russ Ortiz  and Brandon Backe have accused him of being a liar. Roy Oswalt has expressed his displeasure. To me, the big question isn't whether Cooper gets fired, it's whether one of the pitchers goes Shawn Chacon on Cooper.

Most Shocking Development (Runner Up): Miguel Tejada lied to Congress about HGH and was convicted for so doing, yet Major League Baseball chose not to suspend him. So much for that saying that it's not the crime, it's the lying about the crime that brings about the most grief.

Most Non-Shocking Development: Kaz Matsui's continued visitations to the disabled list. Seriously, didn't anybody with the Astros check this guy's injury history before giving him that giant contact last year?

Biggest Whiner of the Year: Geoff Blum. Blum decided to loaf it around the bases the other night, and was booed by the fans. Blum proceeded to argue with some fans during the game, then, instead of apologizing for doing his best Carlos Lee impersonation, he came out on the attack the next day and said no matter what, the home team should never be booed.  

Most Puzzling Decision of the Season: The Astros at best have three legit starting pitchers -- and that comes only from combing Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, and Felipe Paulino into one pitcher. But for some reason, Cecil Cooper decided to go with a six-man rotation, but while telling Jim Deshaies he was doing it, forgot to inform his pitchers that he was going to the six-man rotation.

Most Puzzling Decision of the Season (Runner Up): Geoff Blum, infielder, claims he's injured. Darin Erstad, backup outfielder and infielder, is injured. Kaz Matsui is a slight breeze away from an injury. As a result, the team sends one of it's few healthy infielders to the minors so that they can pick up a third catcher off waivers and put him on the roster.

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