Astros Mid-Season Report Card

added 6/23/2008 by Bob Hulsey

The 2008 season has been a strange journey of high and lows but, as the team nears the mid-season point, it has shaken out about as many forecast before the season began.

A topsy-turvy season can mask some individual accomplishments and disappointments. While assessing the team overall and looking to the future, it is important to evaluate each individual player and how well they have done their job. The grades given here reflect what the player has done in the context of what was expected of them when the season began and how well they have fulfilled that or exceeded that. (stats courtesy Baseball Reference.com through June 22nd)

Pitchers

Roy Oswalt: (6-7, 4.84 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) Any evaluation of the starting pitching has to start with their ace. While Oswalt has had some starts that have resembled the pitcher we've grown accustomed to, they have been rare. What has shown up more often is the pitcher that is among the league leaders in home runs allowed and who has only recently been able to get his ERA down below 5.00. D +

Wandy Rodriguez: (2-3, 2.81, 1.23) A groin injury took almost a month from his season and the good Wandy/bad Wandy conundrum continues although it hasn't always been home/road consistent as it was last year. Rodriguez lives with his curveball and when it is on he can be excellent. When it is not, he's very hittable. Overall, he's been slighty better than expected. C +

Brandon Backe: (5-8, 4.82, 1.57) Like the rest of the staff, Backe's inability to go deep into games is taxing the bullpen heavily. Coming back from injury, it is hard to assess how well he would pitch but, considering what the Astros believed they could get from him, the results are not satisfactory. C -

Shawn Chacon: (2-3, 5.04, 1.51) Signed to be a fourth starter, Chacon has pitched like a fourth starter or maybe a little better. However, he's being sent to the bullpen, in part, because he has a better track record as a reliever than Backe. He also is burning bridges with his temperment. C +

Brian Moehler: (3-3, 4.35, 1.37) Expected to be a mop-up reliever, Moehler has moved into the starting rotation and, arguably, has been their best pitcher. He doesn't fill anyone with confidence and he can't go more than six innings but he's been far more than you'd expect of a fifth starter. A -

Chris Sampson: (3-3, 5.46, 1.41) A disappointment as a starter, he is now trying to blend into a bullpen that desperately needs an innings-eater. He may wind up being better-suited for this role than he was being part of the rotation. C -

Oscar Villarreal: (1-3, 4.72, 1.43) Penciled in as the set-up reliever when he was signed, Villarreal quickly proved incapable of holding the role and has been left to do mop up pitching in losing games. Whether this is temporary or permanent, he is by far the most disappointing pitcher on the staff. D -

Tim Byrdak: (2-0, 1.96, 1.43) Signed as a late-spring waiver claim, Byrdak has been an effective lefty option who has taken some of the stress off Wesley Wright. As a situational guy, he's done well. Just don't ask him to go very far in one outing. B

Wesley Wright: (3-2, 4.97, 1.50) Taken as a Rule V claim out of AA ball, the rookie came into camp just hoping to have a job. Instead, he's played a significant role in the bullpen although, like many rookies, he has had a bumpy ride. Control is his main problem (16 BBs in 25 IP) and if he can harness this, he can be considered a steal. B -

Geoff Geary: (1-1, 2.28, 1.23) He looks shaky but the results haven't been bad. A groin injury cost him a stint on the DL. He's generally been what has been his history - a back-of-the-bullpen guy who does well on occasion but is less than dependable. B -

Doug Brocail: (2-3, 3.35, 1.06, 2 saves) The old man of the staff has been pressed into a set-up role that may exhaust him by season's end, not a good thing to do to a heart patient. Aside from a few bad outings (like Saturday at Tampa), he's been our best late-innings option. B +

Jose Valverde: (4-2, 4.00, 1.42, 18 saves) We wondered if we'd get the 2006 version of Papa Grande or the 2007 version and the answer is a little of both. He started the season badly, got hot when the team got hot but has been vulnerable since taking a line drive off his cheek. He's given us about what we are paying for him. C +

(Spent some time in Houston and are still with the organization:)
Dave Borkowski: (0-2, 6.86, 1.76) Mop-up reliever that was given chances to pitch with the game on the line and did not come through. Now down in Round Rock hoping for another chance. D -

Jack Cassel: (1-0, 6.28, 1.47) As an emergency starter, he wasn't half bad but he's not the answer for a staff upgrade. C

Fernando Nieve: (0-1, 18.00, 3.67) Still has long-term potential with the Astros but has battled injuries the past two years. D

Non-Pitchers

Brad Ausmus: (.221 BA/.258 OBP/.301 SLG, 1 HR, 10 RBI) Brad is Brad and he's turning in another typically Brad season. It will be interesting to see if the increased playing time helps him or hurts him as the year wears on. C

Humberto Quintero: (.217/.217/.261, 0, 0) He's been yo-yo'd by the organization as if they really don't want him here yet the slimmer Quintero had a solid spring and has been decent as a fill-in catcher. We'd hoped he had turned a corner back in March but he now looks like a career back-up with solid defense and a weak bat. C

Lance Berkman: (.354/.438/.683, 20, 60) It is hard to imagine Berkman having a better year than this one yet it is starting to level off after a record-breaking May. He deserves to be the All-Star starter and that is saying something considering the competition. His 12 steals have been a bonus. A

Kazuo Matsui: (.271/.336/.342, 1, 18) He's been a solid #2 hitter but a bit sloppy in the field. When the offense clicks, he does the little things to increase scoring chances but he's not a Jimmy Rollins-like force at the top of the order either. C +

Miguel Tejada: (.294/.332/.468, 10, 43) Not so bad for an old guy. Despite all the tumult, he's been better than advertised on defense and a bit streaky on offense. Considering what the Astros have traditionally staffed at shortstop, he's been sensational. But he's less than what he used to be offensively. B +

Ty Wigginton: (.262/.361/.414, 4, 11) Slowed by injuries, Wigginton has rebounded to put up the sort of numbers that were expected of him yet his defense has been shakier than hoped for and his power numbers are down. He could heat up further or this may be what we get for this year. C -

Mark Loretta: (.264/.338/.372, 2, 16) Well-suited as a backup infielder and spot starter. He's a decent hitter with little power and a useful member off the bench. C +

Geoff Blum: (.232/.260/.360, 4, 16) Very similar to Loretta from the left side with similar results although slightly better power. I still can't quite get over what he did to us in the 2005 World Series though. C

Carlos Lee: (.276/.319/.527, 17, 58) He's still the run-producer he was last year but his batting average has dipped and he's a liability on defense. Up until now, he's been very consistent year-to-year so he might perk up in the second half. C +

Michael Bourn: (.232/.284/.306, 3, 13) As a leadoff hitter, he's been a disappointment but he's improved the defense and is a legitimate threat on the basepaths (28 of 34 in steals). Whether he becomes the next Kenny Lofton or the next Gerald Young depends on how well he can adjust as a hitter from here. D +

Hunter Pence: (.273/.312/.453, 10, 37) He hasn't been the hitter he was as a rookie and part of that is from getting moved around in the batting order. Stick him behind Carlos Lee and leave him there if you want the best out of him. C -

Darin Erstad: (.295/.345/.448, 2, 14) Remember when he was signed and the internet gurus said this proved Ed Wade didn't know what he was doing? What do the Wade-haters say about it now? A

Reggie Abercrombie: (.222/.300/.333, 0, 0) He hasn't played enough to fairly grade but he has done all right in a limited role. C

(Spent some time in Houston and are still with the organization:)
J.R. Towles: (.145/.270/.282, 4, 14) Coming into the year, he basically had two things to do - catch well enough to gain the confidence of his pitchers and hit better than Brad Ausmus. It's not clear he has done either which is why he is back in Round Rock, hopefully not for long. D

Tomas Perez: (.200/.200/.200, 0, 0) Veteran spare infielder who had a cup of coffee when Matsui was on the DL to start the season. Didn't play much. C

Management

Manager Cecil Cooper: (35-41, 5th place) Shows his inexperience at times and his emotional outbursts aren't wearing well on the veterans. At this point, he's fighting to keep his job for 2009. He was given a tough mission and it is close to falling apart. C -

Pitching Coach Dewey Robinson: (4.54 team ERA) Other than Oswalt and Villarreal, he has gotten expected or better results from all his pitchers. I find it difficult to fault his performance. B

Hitting Coach Sean Berry: (.259 team BA) If you count his main pupils as Pence, Bourn and Towles, the results have been underwhelming. C -

General Mgr. Ed Wade: Did a major makeover of the team in the off-season and the acquisitions have been, on the whole, more good than bad. I've said he'd eventually be judged based on the performances of Tejada and Valverde and this grade fits. B -

Owner Drayton McLane: Seems lost without Biggio and Bagwell. It is hard to tell what he's trying to accomplish. Win now or rebuild? If you want to build a champion with a medium-sized payroll, you need young stars under club control that you can underpay. Other than Pence, we have nobody who fits that description. Long term, he has to either sink more resources into young talent or he has to expand the payroll and win with established veterans. Straddling the middle is just going to continue the course we are seeing now. C