93-69? Don't bet the farm!

added 5/20/2001 by Matthew Becker

I'll admit, I screwed up. At the beginning of the season, I predicted the Astros to finish just slightly better than they did last year. However, with the emergence of Wade Miller and Lance Berkman, and Billy Wagner coming back to form, this team is good. Real good. However, the team that wins this division is going to win it with pitching, and the Astros fall just short. Too many players are overachieving right now. Let's take a quick look.

Overachievers:

Wade Miller: After an amazing start, he has cooled of lately. The Astros cannot afford to rely on him as an ace just yet. He's not ready, and he's not as good (yet) as he's shown for the first quarter of the season. Let's not give the man the Cy Young just yet.

Jose Lima: As soon as you quit laughing, I'll continue. Lima is not on this list because of his amazing pitching performance, but rather as a representative of the team's luck as a whole. Lima right now is 1-1 with seven no decisions. The Astros have won 6 games thus far by one run, scoring just enough for pitchers like Miller who have put in strong performances, but scoring mounds of runs for pitchers like Lima. Unless this is something psychological with the team (which I seriously doubt), I don't think this luck will continue over the course of an entire season.

Julio Lugo: 35-40 home runs? Ain't gonna happen. Even if he could, his defense would still take the Astros out of too many games. He is not a leadoff man, striking out too much, but he is the best solution that this team has. Once Lugo cools down, though, the Astros are left without a tablesetter in the front of the lineup, and consequently, their run production will suffer.

Moises Alou and Lance Berkman: These two are put together because they both are overachieving slightly, but not so much that they each deserve individual mentions. Will Berkman truly reach base during half of his plate appearances this year? Will Alou hit .400? No. Both are very good hitters, though, and will make strong runs at the All-Star team this year.

Level Par

Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio: The two greatest players in Astros history are both having average years, with Bagwell slightly underachieving, and Biggio slightly overachieving. If this team is going to win the division, it will have to begin and end with these two. For their sake and ours as fans, let's hope both bust out with some great years.

The Bullpen: You can't ask much more out of this group so far this year. They're not performing as the saviors of the staff, but they are definitely doing their jobs. This group will never resemble the 1990 or the 1999 Reds, but they are effective, and will continue to do so over the remaining parts of the year. On a side note, it is definitely great to see Billy Wagner back. How much adversity does he have to overcome? How does he keep doing it? Great story, and a great guy as well.

Shane Reynolds and Kent Bottenfield: I may be in the minority, but I just don’t think that Reynolds will ever perform like he did in the 90's again. His splitter has lost some bite, and his fastball has lost a little bit of zip. He's still a good pitcher, and will help this team, but not much more than he has already. Bottenfield was a nice surprise early, then cooled off considerably. I don’t think he'll be as bad as he has been recently, but I don't think he'll be as good as the beginning of the season, either.

Vinny Castilla and the third base monster: Let me get this straight…we replaced Chris Truby with his evil, 10 year older twin? I'm in favor of this signing just because we can stop watching Truby strike out all the time, but Castilla is not the answer. He's been good in the past, but he's left his talent in the past, as well. Are you sure Ensberg isn't ready yet?

Underachievers

Richard Hidalgo: He’s hitting well, but not as well as expected, and should bounce back for the rest of the year. Even though he is underachieving, it is not by much, and should not be expected to make the difference in the team for the rest of the season.

Summary:

This all adds up to one thing: This team is good, but it can’t keep up this pace for the entire season. Look for the team to drop a few more games here and there. It’s going to be a dog-fight for the wild card this season, and the Astros will be in the thick of the race. Does the team have enough pitching? We’ll certainly find out.

On another note:

Do the Rangers really want to trade Ivan Rodriguez? Would the Astros be interested? At this point, if Houston could get him for the rest of the season, I’d make a push to get him. He just might make the difference in the division this year. How does a combination of Lugo, Brad Ausmus, and Tim Redding sound?

Is Albert Pujols ever going to calm down? He and J.D. Drew are carrying the Cardinals right now. Matt Morris isn’t doing too badly right now, either. If McGwire were healthy, this might have been a World Series contender.

And how ‘bout them Brewers?

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