June in Review

added 7/3/2003 by Ray Kerby

What a difference a month makes. At the end of May, the Astros appeared as if they were finally hitting on all cylinders. They were 29-27 and two games behind the Cubs but seemed to have a lot of momentum. In June, however, Roy Oswalt and Jeff Kent went on the Disabled List and the team shuffled through a series of stopgap measures in the rotation. Worst of all, their seemingly invincible bullpen began to show significant cracks. When the June dust had settled, the Astros had gone 13-12 for the month and entered July with a 42-39 record.

It is a good thing that the Astros are playing in a weak division. They are on a pace to win 84 wins, matching the total for last season and when they finished atop the NL "Comedy" Central division. If the Astros are lucky, neither the Cubs nor the Cardinals will pull away in the standings.

The early excitement in the June arrived with the Summer Draft. Because of the Jeff Kent signing, the Astros had to give their first round pick to the Giants. Nevertheless, pitcher Jason Hirsh, a giant in his own right, fell to the second round and the Astros snapped him up. Things continued well when Drew Stubbs, whom the Astros were ready to pick in the 2nd round, fell to the 3rd round for the team. Check the 2003 Draft Recap for information on all of the team's selections.

The biggest moment in June, however, came on the 11th against the New York Yankees. Roy Oswalt started but left the game with a groin pull in the 2nd inning. What followed was a supreme, 8-inning, 5-reliever effort that resulted in the tenth no-hitter in franchise history. You can read more about it here. Dave Matranga, on the roster for just one day after Julio Lugo was released, was called back up after Kent's injury and responded by hitting a home run in his first major-league at bat. Matranga was only the second Astro in history to accomplish that feat, duplicating Jose Sosa's effort 28 years earlier.

There continued to be quite a few black holes in the lineup. Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett were still the weakest sticks around, and Jeff Bagwell only made a minor improvement from his May slump. Craig Biggio's struggles in the outfield continued, and his hitting was not much to write home about. Even Jeff Kent went into a mini-slump before going on the Disabled List with a wrist injury. Speaking of wrists, Jose Vizcaino had his left wrist broken on an errant pitch and will be out until at least mid-August. On the other hand, Lance Berkman, Richard Hidalgo, and Morgan Ensberg continued to crush the ball, providing the only consistent threats in the lineup.

The starting rotation in June was a mess. Oswalt pitched only 8 innings. Wade Miller regressed after a promising month. The shine on Tim Redding's season continued to wear off as he looks more and more hittable. Among the regular starters, Jeriome Robertson turned out to be the only bright spot in June even though he finished with a 4+ ERA for the month. Among the reserves, Rodrigo Rosario looked good in his major-league debut but was injured in his second start. Ron Villone was called up in desperation and gave the team three desperately-needed quality starts. Too bad for Ron that the bullpen blew all three games!

Houston big strength this season, the bullpen, started showing signs of decline. Billy Wagner was still throwing 100 mph, but blew a couple of games. Ricky Stone had a complete meltdown, worst than anything he experienced after the All-Star break last season. Brad Lidge also had a couple of really bad outings. The only 'rock' in the bullpen seemed to be Octavio Dotel, who continued to shut down the opposing teams with regularity.

At the midpoint of the season, there's really no way to discern which direction the team is going to take. A pessimist could look at the faltering bullpen and predict more trouble. An optimist can point out that Roy Oswalt and Jeff Kent, two star players, are about to come off of the Disabled List. The team seems to have too many flaws to pull away from the other teams in the division, so a division championship will require one of two things: that the Cubs and Cardinals continue to play poorly, or Gerry Hunsicker will need to make a key move at the trading deadline. The team desperately needs a quality starter who can, at a minimum, be a solid #3 man in the rotation who can soak up innings. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of guys like that available, and they all come with a hefty price.

Key Player Recaps

Brad Ausmus, C

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS
April:  .247 .303 .383   81   7  20  3  1  2  12    7   8   1  1 
May:    .138 .222 .175   80   6  11  3  0  0   6    8  12   1  0 
June:   .234 .301 .250   64   6  15  1  0  0   6    7   8   0  0
TOTAL   .206 .270 .274  225  19  46  7  1  2  24   22  28   2  1  

Another month has passed and I am forced to struggle for another reason to justify Brad Ausmus' weak bat in the everyday lineup. It is not an understatement to state that Ausmus is suffering through the worst offensive season of his career; even worse than the horrid 1999 campaign with the Astros (.232 avg, 5 HR). How can you justify such an offensive black hole in the lineup? Well, it's pretty difficult.

Brad is certainly playing like a Gold Glover at one of the most difficult positions in the game. He is throwing out an impressive 41% of would-be basestealers while doing a top-notch job handling the pitchers. If he can keep his average over the Mendoza Line (.200), then he will stay off of the bench.


Jeff Bagwell, 1B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS
April:  .314 .390 .648  105  15  33  5  0 10  19   11  11   1  1 
May:    .257 .328 .310  113  18  29  3  0  1   6   11  27   1  0 
June:   .255 .340 .447   94  15  24  9  0  3  11   11  22   1  0
TOTAL   .276 .352 .465  312  48  86 17  0 14  36   33  60   3  1  

Jeff Bagwell showed signs of snapping out of his May funk, but his performance in June was still well below Bagwellian norms. The big news for Jeff is that he announced that he would retire after the 2006 season, when his current contract expires. Interestingly, the last season on his contract is 2007, not 2006. That final year is an $18 million option for the club, with a $12 million buyout. If Bagwell can still hit, he might play in 2007.

With 2003 at the statistical midpoint, Bagwell projects to just 28 homers and 72 RBI in what would arguably be the worst season of his career. If we were to play the pessimist and assume that Bagwell hit this poorly through 2006, his career totals would read: 492 home runs, 2657 hits, and 1609 RBI. In my opinion, that would not be enough to assure him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Offense is the primary consideration for inclusion, especially for first basemen, and Bagwell's numbers were depressed by his many seasons in the Astrodome. Mark McGwire finished with over 570 homers, Raphael Palmeiro is at 510 and climbing fast, and even Fred McGriff seems assured of reaching 500. Unfortunately, reaching big numbers is an important part of the Cooperstown game and Bagwell has a lot of stiff competition at his position.


Jeff Kent, 2B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
April:  .300 .349 .520  100  13  30 10  0  4  16    8  15   0  1  
May:    .340 .417 .573  103  21  35 12  0  4  23   13  23   3  0  
June:   .290 .333 .435   62   8  18  0  0  3  11    3   5   1  0
TOTAL   .313 .373 .521  265  42  83 22  0 11  50   24  43   4  1  

Jeff Kent was slogging through a down month in June before experiencing problems with his left wrist that placed him on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis. As of this writing, I do not know when he is expected back. The uncertainty surrounding the injury seems to preclude a stopgap solution of moving Craig Biggio back to second base while Kent heals. Instead, the Astros are making do with callup infielders like Dave Matranga and Eric Bruntlett.

Despite the downtime, Kent still leads the team with 50 RBI, thanks in no small part to the high on-base averages of the hitters in front of him. Interestingly, Kent has a real shot at becoming the first second baseman to lead the team in RBI. Over the team's 41-year history, here is a breakdown of RBI leaders by position:

Yrs Position    Players 
 22 First Base  (lots of guys) 
 15 Outfield    (lots more guys)
  2 Shorstop    (Denis Menke, 1969-70)
  1 Catcher     (John Bateman, 1967)
  1 Second Base (???)

Trivia Question: Who was the only other second baseman to lead the Astros in RBI? Make a mental guess and then check it against the answer at the end of this column.


Morgan Ensberg, 3B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
April:  .250 .306 .438   32   3   8  0  0  2   7    3   4   0  0  
May:    .321 .455 .623   53  16  17  2  1  4  11   10   9   1  0  
June:   .344 .440 .750   64  16  22  2  0  8  19   10  16   3  1
TOTAL   .315 .418 .638  149  35  47  4  1 14  37   23  29   4  1  

How high can Morgan Ensberg fly? That seems to be the question now. Coming off of an impressive showing in May, Ensberg raised the bar even higher in June. 8 homers? 19 RBI? a .344 average? Heck, he even stole 3 bases! But how good is good? Here is a listing for the most home runs by an Astro third baseman in any month:


Player           Year Month   AB  Avg  Obp  Slg HR RBI
Ken Caminiti     2000 May    107 .327 .438 .654  9  20
Morgan Ensberg   2002 June    64 .344 .440 .750  8  19
Doug Rader       1973 July    96 .281 .349 .563  8  22
Vinny Castilla   2001 August  99 .253 .315 .515  7  17
Vinny Castilla   2001 July    99 .283 .339 .566  7  28
Chris Truby      2001 April   84 .238 .313 .524  7  18
Doug Rader       1972 June   104 .298 .381 .558  7  15

If you look at some of the highest-homer months ever by Houston third basemen, it is not a stretch to suggest that Ensberg's June was the best in the bunch. The only thing that hurts him is his lack of at-bats. I don't know about you, but I think it's about time that the 3B platoon comes to an immediate halt.


Geoff Blum, 3B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
April:  .259 .323 .341   85   7  22  4  0  1   5    8   9   0  0  
May:    .273 .284 .494   77  11  21  5  0  4  15    2  12   0  0  
June:   .241 .300 .352   54   6  13  3  0  1   4    4   9   0  0
TOTAL   .259 .303 .398  216  24  56 12  0  6  24   14  30   0  0  

Before the Astros acquired Geoff Blum at the end of last Spring, his career avg was under .260 and he wasn't considered much of a hitter. He then had a very nice season at the plate for the Astros and expectations increased dramatically for him this season. Not only has Blum regressed to his pre-2002 performance, he is below it. Coupled with Morgan Ensberg's Ruthian rise to dominance, Blum looks to be just about done as an everyday player for the team once Jeff Kent returns from the Disabled List. Move along, nothing to see here.


Adam Everett, SS

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
May:    .247 .304 .365   85  12  21  5  1  1   7    6  16   5  0  
June:   .286 .313 .476   63  13  18  3  0  3  11    3  13   1  1
TOTAL   .264 .308 .412  148  25  39  8  1  4  18    9  29   6  1  

Adam Everett removed any doubt that he could hit major-league pitching with another respectable month at the plate. After averaging .240-.250 in the minors, Everett is up to .264 in the majors. But don't get too excited, because it is still a rather hollow .264 average. Everett's on-base pct is only .308 but he has shown a little pop with his 4 home runs. None of them were monster shots, but he trotted around the bases nevertheless. I was also a little disappointed with his dropoff in stolen bases because the team really needs a good threat to steal in order to keep the opposing pitchers honest. And until he shows an ability to get on base regularly, Everett will never earn a spot at the top of the lineup.

The two most critical defensive positions in baseball are catcher and shortstop. If there is any place to hide a good-glove, weak-bat player, it is in one of these spots. For better or worse, this is exactly what the Astros are doing. Everett's Zone Rating at SS sits at a respectable .870, but there is still room for improvement. As always, you can see Zone Rating rankings for shortstops at ESPN.com: 2003   2002    2001


Jose Vizcaino, SS

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
April:  .125 .186 .150   40   1   5  1  0  0   0    3   5   0  1  
May:    .315 .339 .426   54   4  17  3  0  1  10    2   9   0  0
June:   .265 .275 .490   49   6  13  2  3  1   9    0   5   0  0
TOTAL   .245 .273 .371  143  11  35  6  3  2  19    5  19   0  1  

Jose Vizcaino had surgery on June 27th for his broken left wrist. He has been a marginal role player all season and will miss July and most of August. One curiosity about his June performance was that he was able to bat 49 times without drawing a single walk. In fact, his walk rate has been abysmal all season. For Astros with at least 200 at-bats in a season, here are the worst walk rates in club history:

  yr name                   ab   bb   ab/bb 
1984 Kevin Bass            331    6  55.167 
1996 Orlando Miller        468   14  33.429 
1971 Jesus Alou            433   13  33.308 
1974 Lee May               556   17  32.706 
1985 Craig Reynolds        379   12  31.583 

Vizcaino is drawing a walk for every 28.6 at-bats this year, which is 16th worst all-time. For his career in Houston, Vizcaino is 12th-worst all-time at drawing walks. Tellingly, the top 11 is a veritable rogues gallery of weak hitters: Julio Gonzalez, Jesus Alou, Wilbur Howard, Bob Lillis, Enos Cabell, Orlando Miller, Rafael Ramirez, Tony Scott, Craig Reynolds, Brian Hunter and Tommy Helms.

For comparison, here are the top 5 Astros seasons for drawing walks:

  yr name                   ab   bb   ab/bb 
1969 Jim Wynn              495  148   3.345 
1999 Jeff Bagwell          562  149   3.772 
1995 John Cangelosi        201   48   4.188 
1996 Jeff Bagwell          568  135   4.207
1997 Jeff Bagwell          566  127   4.457  


Lance Berkman, LF

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
April:  .208 .337 .319   72  13  15  2  0  2   4   12  14   1  1 
May:    .308 .423 .514  107  21  33  4  0  6  25   21  21   0  1
June:   .314 .429 .628   86  20  27  7  1  6  17   17  19   0  0 
TOTAL   .283 .402 .498  265  54  75 13  1 14  46   50  54   1  2   

The team seems to remain in denial about Lance Berkman's inability to hit from the right side of the plate. Here are his left-right splits this season:


         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO   
Right:  .232 .323 .375   56  13  21  0  1  2  12    6  12
Left:   .294 .423 .526  211  62 111 13  0 12  35   45  42

The huge difference in lefty-righty splits are typical for Berkman over the last few years, but they are very extreme for most switch-hitters. Berkman's struggles from the right side of the plate are now so pronounced that, when a lefty was recently brought in to face him, Lance was pulled for a pinch-hitter rather than allowed to bat right-handed. Now how bad is it for a switch-hitter when the team would rather pull you from the game than have you bat the other way? This is crazy!

The team needs to do one of two things with Lance: make a concerted effort to work on his right-handed hitting, or have him convert to being a full-time lefty


Craig Biggio, CF

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB HBP  SO  SB CS 
April:  .243 .306 .423  111  18  27  2  0  6  15    6   4  20   2  2  
May:    .311 .388 .437  119  17  37 15  0  0   7   11   4  22   1  1  
June:   .253 .333 .429   91  15  23  7  0  3   9    5   6  20   2  0   
TOTAL   .271 .345 .430  321  50  87 24  0  9  31   22  14  62   5  3   

Each time a new, monthly review is due for the team, one thing I really hope for is that I can give you some good news on Craig Biggio's defensive improvement in centerfield. However, with each passing month it seems more likely that Biggio is going to remain below-average defensively. There's nothing that can really be done about his weak throwing arm, but we can hope that Biggio's defensive instincts in the field will improve over the off-season. It's really hard to imagine them improving substantially in the last half of the season.

Even though he is still struggling in the outfield, I do not wish to personally criticize Biggio. In fact, I admire him for playing the outfield as well as he has. You have to admit, it cannot be easy for a 37-year-old to become a major league outfielder overnight. This position switch was imposed on Biggio in the off-season with the signing of Jeff Kent. In case Biggio refused to move to the outfield, one fallback option was to move Kent to third base. But with Ensberg playing third like an All-Star, that is no longer practical. However, Kent is now sitting on the Disabled List and the team seems reluctant to move Biggio back to second base, even temporarily. I am not sure how wise this is, because it is almost like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Milestone Watch: Biggio needed 10 doubles in June to reach 500 for his career, and now he is just two shy of that impressive milestone. Stay tuned, because it could happen in any game! Biggio needs 99 runs scored this season to reach 1500, and he is halfway there with 50. A weak, second-half performance could push this milestone to next season.


Richard Hidalgo, RF

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  
April:  .293 .377 .511   92  14  27  8  0  4  10   11  15   3  0 
May:    .306 .442 .500   62  14  19  3  0  3  15   13   9   1  1 
June:   .362 .392 .652   69  12  25  8  0  4  11    4  13   0  3
TOTAL   .318 .401 .552  223  40  71 19  0 11  36   28  37   4  4   

After missing time in late May and early June to a virus, Richard Hidalgo has come back with a vengeance. With a 950 OPS (400 OBP + 550 SLG), Hidalgo is clearly the second-best hitter on the team behind Lance Berkman. Keep in mind that Hidalgo batted .256 in the Spring. With so many pitching injuries and black holes in the lineup, the team needs Hidalgo to stay healthy and consistent. He is actually hitting better on the road than at home, but not by enough to be significant.

Defensively, Hidalgo has 9 outfield assists, setting a pace for 18. The team record is 20, set by centerfielder Jim Wynn way back in 1968. Some of you may recall that Hidalgo was seriously threatening to break this record back in 1999 before a knee injury ended his season on August 9th with a league-leading 15 outfield assists.


Roy Oswalt, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
April:   2-3  3.86 .244   6  39.2  38 23 17   4  13  34
May:     1-1  2.42 .290   4  26.0  27  7  7   3   7  24
June:    1-0  1.13 .250   2   8.0   8  1  1   0   0  13 
TOTAL    4-4  3.05 .260  12  73.2  73 31 25   7  20  71  

Game Log:
Date   Opp   Inn  H  R ER BB SO HR  Pit
6/5    Bal   7.0  8  1  1  0 11  0  103
6/11   NYY   1.0  0  0  0  0  2  0   23

Roy Oswalt was pulled in the second inning on June 11th, sparking the remarkable, six-pitcher no-hitter against the Yankees. He was pitching very well and the team has floundered in his absence. He was scheduled to make a rehab start on July 1st, but that was postponed. Unless he experiences a setback, he should be back on the mound before the All-Star Game in mid-July.


Wade Miller, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
April:   0-3  6.07 .305   6  29.2  36 22 20   1  17  19
May:     3-3  3.64 .205   6  34.2  25 14 14   4   9  33
June:    2-2  4.09 .246   5  33.0  30 15 15   2   9  25
TOTAL    5-8  4.53 .253  17  97.1  91 51 49   7  35  77

Game Log:
Date   Opp   Inn  H  R ER BB SO HR  Pit
6/4    Bal   7.0  4  3  3  2  8  0  100
6/10   NYY   7.0  7  5  5  4  5  1  112
6/15   Bos   6.0  7  2  2  2  2  0   88
6/20   Tex   6.0  6  2  2  1  4  0  101
6/25   Ari   7.0  6  3  3  0  6  1  103 

After looking like he had finally turned the corner, finishing May with a two-hit shutout over the Cubs, Wade Miller sputtered through June with a 2-2 record and 4.09 ERA. The dropoff from May was not as drastic as you might think. Opposing hitters still batted at just a .246 clip against Miller in June, and both his walk and strikeout rates remained good. While it will take good pitching and good breaks to turn his 5-8 record at the halfway mark into something attractive when the season is over, the Astros are still in the thick of a tight race in the NL Central. A rebound by Miller could easily make the difference between winning the division and finishing a few games out.


Tim Redding, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 
April:   2-2  3.29 .274   5  27.1  29 10 10   3  10  21
May:     1-2  3.41 .267   6  34.1  35 14 13   2  18  16
June:    1-4  5.34 .297   5  28.2  35 21 17   2  10  18
TOTAL    4-8  3.99 .279  16  90.1  99 45 40   7  38  55

Game Log:
Date   Opp   Inn  H  R ER BB SO HR  Pit
6/3    Bal   4.0  7  4  4  1  2  1   89
6/8     TB   7.0  2  1  1  1  5  0   83
6/14   Bos   4.2  8  6  2  3  1  0   91
6/19   Ari   7.0  7  4  4  1  6  1  105
6/24   Ari   5.0 10  5  5  3  4  0   92

Let us hope that June was a one-month aberration for Tim Redding. This does not look like the performance of a young pitcher coming into his own as a quality starter. His strikeout rate remains low and his hits allowed are increasing, resulting in an ugly 1-4 record in June. April was his best month and he has been declining since then. And, if you look at the beating he took from Boston, his ERA for June could easily have been a lot higher than 5.34. After two decent months, the jury has suddenly disappeared on the issue of whether Tim Redding can step up and be a quality major-league starter. Right now, he is sporting a 4-8 record and has just 55 strikeouts in 90 innings.


Jeriome Robertson, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
April:   1-3  7.99 .313   5  23.2  30 24 21   3  11  22
May:     2-0  4.94 .320   4  23.2  31 13 13   2   7  15
June:    2-0  4.39 .275   5  26.2  28 13 13   4  11  11
TOTAL    5-3  5.72 .302  14  74.0  89 50 47   9  29  48

Game Log:
Date   Opp   Inn  H  R ER BB SO HR  Pit
6/1    Chi   6.0  4  2  2  0  3  0   78
6/6     TB   3.2  5  3  3  2  1  1   69
6/12   NYY   5.2  7  4  4  3  2  0  100
6/17   Ari   6.0  8  3  3  1  2  2   83
6/22   Tex   5.1  4  1  1  5  3  1  100


Ron Villone, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  G   IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
2002:    4-6  5.81 .270  45  93.0  95 63 60  8   34  55
AAA:     4-2  2.30 .232  20  54.2  44 19 14  2   22  40
June:    0-0  2.45 .215   3  18.1  14  5  5   3   5  16

Game Log:
Date   Opp   Inn  H  R ER BB SO HR  Pit
6/18   Ari   6.1  5  0  0  2  6  0   79
6/23   Ari   6.0  6  2  2  1  3  1   76
6/29   Tex   6.0  3  3  3  2  2  7   84

Talk about catching lightning in a bottle! I don't think anyone realistically expected Ron Villone to figure into the team's plans this season, even after he signed a minor league contract with the team on May 18th. Even after his impressive showing in New Orleans and his emergency callup, no one expected him to pitch well.

Instead, the team picked up three very nice starts from Villone. Unfortunately, Villone has nothing to show for it as the team's vaunted bullpen failed to hold a lead in all three games. Now all Villone has to do is have one shaky start, perhaps 5 runs in 4 innings, and suddenly he'll be 0-1 with a 4.00+ ERA. Given Villone's shaky history, this is not an unlikely scenario. And if it does pan out that way, everyone will then start screaming for the winless Villone to be sent packing back to New Orleans.

OK, I know this is a really obscure stat but it took me about three seconds to find the answer. The most innings that a Houston starter has pitched in a season without finishing with a decision is 21 innings by Larry Yellen in 1964. No starter has finished a season with more than one start without getting a decision. Seriously, it took me longer to type that up than to find it.


Rodrigo Rosario, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  G   IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
AAA:     5-7  4.03 .222  15  87.0  71 40 39  7   32  68
June:    1-0  1.13 .172   2   8.0   5  2  1  0    3   6

Game Log:
Date   Opp   Inn  H  R ER BB SO HR  Pit
6/21   Tex   6.0  4  2  1  2  4  0   86
6/27   Tex   2.0  1  0  0  1  2  0   36

Bad luck seems to plague the starting rotation this season. Called up to replace the disabled Roy Oswalt, Rodrigo Rosario was very impressive in his debut against the Rangers. He faced the Rangers again in his second start, but left after two innings with a sore shoulder. One downside to this injury is that it may be some time before Astros fans will see how Rosario fares against a major-league team. He has looked very good in 8 innings against a fairly potent Texas offense, but the 87 innings he tossed in New Orleans probably give a more accurate indication of his ability. Hopefully, Rosario's brief major league action will not become a retelling of the Carlos Hernandez saga.


Billy Wagner, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
April:   1-1  1.80 .192  12  15.0  10  4  3   1   6  16
May:     0-1  1.59 .180  16  17.0  11  3  3   1   1  24
June:    0-1  3.38 .204  13  13.1  10  5  5   2   4  20
TOTAL    1-3  2.18 .191  41  45.1  31 12 11   4  11  60

Although a 3.38 ERA for June looks shockingly high for Billy Wagner, it was primarily caused by two bad outings: a two-run blown save in Arizona on 6/18 and two-run outing against Texas on 6/27. Billy has to be the odds-on favorite to represent the Astros at the All-Star Game on July 15th. If he is selected, Wagner will set yet another record for Astro relievers: three All-Star appearances. A list of Atros relievers to make the All-Star Game:


Year Pitcher           IP  H  R BB SO
1963 Hal Woodeshick   2.0  1  0  1  3
1966 Claude Raymond      DID NOT PLAY
1976 Ken Forsch       1.0  0  0  0  1
1979 Joe Sambito      0.2  0  0  1  0
1983 Bill Dawley      1.1  1  0  0  1
1986 Dave Smith          DID NOT PLAY
1990 Dave Smith       0.2  1  0  2  1
1994 John Hudek       0.2  1  2  1  1
1999 Billy Wagner     0.2  0  0  0  2
2001 Billy Wagner     0.1  0  0  0  0


Octavio Dotel, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 
April:   1-1  2.08 .167  11  13.0   7  3  3   1   5  14
May:     2-0  1.02 .119  15  17.2   7  2  2   1   5  23
June:    3-1  1.76 .155  14  15.1   9  4  3   1   5  17
TOTAL    6-2  1.57 .145  40  46.0  23  9  8   3  15  54

At the halfway point in the season, reliever Octavio Dotel is tied for the team lead with 6 wins. I've looked and found that only one other time in club history has a reliever led in this category -- in 1992, when closer Doug Jones led the team with 11 wins, 36 saves and a 1.85 ERA in 111 innings. That season, Jones was teamed with starters Pete Harnisch (9-10), Butch Henry (6-9), Jimmy Jones (10-6), Darryl Kile (5-10), Mark Portugal (6-3) and Brian Williams (7-6). The team finished the season exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. Dotel's pace of 92 innings would easily be the lowest inning total for the team leader in wins.

It seems unlikely, however, that Dotel can repeat Jones' feat. Of course, on the outside chance that a setup reliever is chosen, Dotel's 6 wins and a 1.57 ERA just may translate into an All-Star selection.


Ricky Stone, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
April:   1-0  1.93 .294  10  14.0  15  3  3   0   8   9
May:     3-1  1.86 .172  13  19.1  11  5  4   1   6   7
June:    0-1 10.13 .347   9  10.2  17 12 12   7   2   6
TOTAL    4-2  3.89 .262  32  44.0  43 20 19   8  16  22

Even those of us who recall that Ricky Stone lost his effectiveness after the All-Star break last year were surprised by what happened in the middle of June. Hitters started pounding Stone, who has now become suddenly unreliable. Is he injured? Is he tired? When was last time an Astro reliever gave up 7 homers in a month?

The only answer I can give is to the last question: Never. While there have been a lot of stinky months for Houston starters, never in the history of the organization has a reliever given up 7 homers in just one month. The previous "record" was held by Trever Miller with 6 homers allowed in July, 1999. Here are the worst "home runs allowed in a month" performances by Astro starters:

Pitcher          Year Month      HR
Jose Lima        2000 May        12  
Jose Lima        2000 April      10  
Scott Elarton    2001 June       10  
Mike Hampton     1998 July        9 
Bob Knepper      1987 June        9  
Jose Lima        2000 September   9  
Jose Lima        1999 August      9 

Here is the same list, but for relievers only:

Pitcher          Year Month      HR
Ricky Stone      2002 June        7  
Trever Miller    1999 July        6  
Xavier Hernandez 1990 May         5
Jim Ray          1972 June        5 
Doug Henry       2000 April       5


Pete Munro, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 
April:   1-1  3.06 .188  12  17.2  12  7  6   1  10  10
May:     2-2  9.60 .403  11  15.0  27 17 16   4   9   8
June:    0-0  0.00 .217   7   6.0   5  0  0   0   3   5
TOTAL    3-3  5.12 .286  30  38.2  44 24 22   5  22  23

After a very rough May, Pete Munro pitched much more effectively in June. However, his change in effectiveness may have a lot to do with a change in usage. After tossing 2.2 innings in the June 11th no-hitter, Munro has not pitched more than one-third of an inning in any appearance. Whether this represents a new role for Munro or "writing on the wall," it's certainly going to take him a long time to work down his 5.12 ERA at six innings per month. The sad thing is that most of the damage against Munro this season has come in his two starts. As a reliever, Munro has fared much better:


          W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB SO 
Starter   0-2 16.88 .500   2   5.1  14 11 10   2   3  3
Reliever  3-1  3.15 .234  29  34.1  30 13 12   3  20 20

Munro's walk rate is still high, but otherwise he looks like a great mop-up guy that can give you 2-3 innings in a pinch.


Brad Lidge, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO
April:   2-0  1.02 .172  12  17.2  10  2  2   0   7  18
May:     1-0  2.25 .196  15  16.0  11  5  4   0   9  20
June:    1-1  5.79 .226  13  14.0  12 10  9   1   8  15
TOTAL    4-1  2.83 .198  40  47.2  33 17 15   1  24  53

What is going on with Brad Lidge? Like Ricky Stone, his ERA suddenly shot up in June. He was thrashed by Arizona for 5 runs in just 2/3rds of an inning on June 23rd, and then the Rangers tagged him for three more runs in his next outing on the 27th. However, a closer look reveals some of the "bad luck" that can really skew a relief pitcher's ERA. He allowed 5 runners against Arizona and was charged with them all when Pete Munro came in to relieve Lidge and promptly gave up a two-out, bases-loaded triple. The runs against the Rangers were all 'legitimate' thanks to a three-run homer by a red-hot Rafael Palmeiro -- a future Hall of Famer, by the way.

Although Lidge is apparently not going to overtake Octavio Dotel or Billy Wagner as one of the Big Two relievers in the bullpen, he is still pitching very well. Opposing hitters are still not hitting him well, and he's striking out a lot of batters. Wildness remains a big problem for him, though.


Nate Bland, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 
May:     1-1  6.30 .317  12  10.0  13  7  7   2   6   9
June:    0-1  5.23 .250  10  10.1   9  6  6   1   6   9
TOTAL    1-2  5.75 .286  22  20.1  22 13 13   3  12  18

Nate Bland was a late bloomer who showed flashes of competence. He pitched decently against lefties, but was clobbered by righties. He pitched very well in June until his last two outings, and was optioned back to New Orleans on June 28th. It's doubtful that he'll get another shot with the team.


Kirk Saarloos, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  
May:     1-0  7.82 .300   7  12.2  15 12 11   2   6  16
June:    1-0  3.18 .279  10  11.1  12  4  4   0   4   7
TOTAL    2-0  5.63 .290  17  24.0  27 16 15   2  10  23

Despite the drop in his ERA from May to June, Kirk Saarloos is still getting hit at about the same rate. One key thing to note is that, after racking up a ton early, his strikeout rate has dropped quite a bit. Because of his history as a starter, Saarloos is really the reliever best suited on the team for long relief, but he is rarely used in that role.

In Closing...

The All-Star Game is on July 15th. My prediction is that Billy Wagner will be selected as the team's lone representative, although Octavio Dotel is arguably more deserving. The trading deadline is on July 31st, but there is no telling what kind of deal the team is going to make, if any. If the team struggles and Chicago or St. Louis gets hot, they may actually try to offload salary and look towards next year. That seems like a real longshot, however.

And the trivia answer is: Phil Garner. In 1982, Phil played 136 games at second base and led the team with 83 RBI. He also hit 13 homers, batted .274 and stole 24 bases.

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