Now batting 2nd, Lance Berkman

added 6/8/2001 by Raymond Desadier
Let me make something crystal clear: I don't adhere to "The Book" or any of its' "conventional" teaching. The game would be much better off without "set-up men" and knowing when a team is going to bunt. You should use your brain to construct a strategy to fit the unique features of your team, not follow the crowd. With that said, I am going to throw conventional thought out the window and make a very bold yet logical suggestion.

Lance Berkman should be batting SECOND.

With this powerhouse Astro lineup, the RBI men should be shifted up giving each of them an occasional extra plate appearance. Berkman has the speed and on base percentage of a plate setter, not to mention he is least likely to kill a rally with a double play, an essential feature of a # 2 hitter. Since he also has the tools of an RBI man, he serves as a perfect bridge between the two roles. In a sense, the # 2 and 3 slots would be combined into one hitter.

For those of you still not convinced, let's explore our other options:

Julio Lugo – his on base percentage stinks, partly due to his poor strike zone judgment.
Brad Ausmus – oh sure, if Bidge reaches, he'll just kill the rally a-la-Derek Bell (Double-
Play Brad)

The only other option would be the pitcher who could sacrifice Biggio over when he reaches, but what about the 60% of the time when Bidge doesn't reach; or when he hits a triple or home run? There are exceptions to every rule. The Astro lineup is the exception to sticking to conventional batting order roles.

Should Berkman be slotted second, Lugo would be the sensible choice for batting eighth in order to break up the two near-automatic outs of Ausmus (or Awfulmus as my Dad would say) and the pitcher. If tough Tony is playing however, he is better suited for eighth with Lugo seventh.

His name is Scott, but he's no Mike

Evidently someone misled Scott Elarton into believing that he had a devastating fastball. Well, its time to face the facts – 92 ain't gonna cut it in the bigs unless it is 1) in the corners and 2) mixed among other pitches. With a curve as good as his and with the speed variance of his change, there is no excuse for him throwing fastball after fastball, begging each hitter to hit it into the cheap seats. The key is to pitch smarter rather than harder.

Most of the damage done against Elarton seems to come when he is pitching from the stretch. He should take a trip to New Orleans to pitch an entire game from the stretch until he gets it right. Wouldn't hurt if they limited him to 1 fastball per hitter either.

That poses a question: Why is Elarton immune to being pulled from the rotation? He is stinking it up worse than anyone not pitching on Lima Standard Time! Oh, silly me, that's right; he is the "ACE of the Future!" He won SEVENTEEN games last season! That stat is misleading to say the least.

Hunsicker & Co. have always been quick to point out Elarton's 2000 "success". This is similar to mentioning that Jay Powell won game 7 of the 1997 World Series or Jose Vizcaino had the game-winning hit in last year's World Series. A note to you casual fans who are impressed: those respective accomplishments are the ONLY things worth mentioning in their career. As for Elarton, he certainly did not earn 17 wins. With average run support of 7 per game, any average pitcher could chalk up at least 17 victories, given the right circumstances and little luck. Case in point: Kent Bottenfield won 18 in 1999 with an ERA of 3.79, nearly a run lower than Elarton's 4.81! If Chris Holt had had that kind of support, and better defensive support, he'd be in an Astros uniform today with about 20 more career victories under his belt and the confidence he needs to be a complete pitcher.

If we are going to right the ship before it's too late, Elarton must improve. If not, Tony McKnight is 7-3 with a 3.72 ERA, for those of you in Union Station that haven't noticed.

Astros.comedy

Major League Baseball had a good idea when it attempted to create uniformity among all of the ball clubs' websites. I think it is a great idea because I always had trouble navigating other team's sites when I was looking for something in particular. I also like the plethora of stats that they now offer. What I don't like is sacrificing the quality of the site to achieve these goals.

I'd have to say that my biggest complaint would have to be the poor minor league coverage. How hard is it to post a transaction and keep updated rosters? And what is the deal with the player bios? I liked it before when it was identical to the media guide. Now you have to click through 3 tabs and wait for this big, blurry background picture to download. Today I noticed that Charlie Hayes and Joe Slusarski don't have bios on the site. What's the delay with Hayes? Don't we have Slu's on file from the last two years? It appears that Ben Rose is slacking off a little.

Scrap it and start over – just like the Texas Rangers need to do with their team.

Lone Star Series take

Texas has the worst, or at least one of the worst, pitching staffs in baseball. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say that the Silver Boot will be on its way to Arlington on June 17. I certainly hope not, BUT I know how good our lineup is at making bad pitching look like Cy Young award winners. I am also afraid of the payback that Ken Caminiti has in store for us.

I don't like interleague play, but since we're stuck with it I am thrilled to have the games against the Rangers. I pull for the Rangers because I am true to Texas, as a true Texan should be, so this gives me an opportunity to see them in action without missing the Stros. It's also nice to add Daryle Ward to the lineup without taking out one of the other big sticks. But then again, even our pitchers and Ausmus could hit Rangers pitching!

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