All-star break grades Part I

added 7/16/2008 by Scott Barzilla

We've talked long and hard about what has happened this season. It's time to grade your Astros so we can assign some blame. After all, every season has disappointments and surprises. We can also see if there is any hope for the second half of the season. We will break this up into lineup, bench, and rotation this time. Next time we will look at the bullpen and management.

The Lineup

If we go in order of the diamond we have to start with J.R. Towles. His overall grade by the end of the season could change, but right now he deserves a big fat F. I'm not dissing the guy because rookies go through that all the time, but you can't look at a .150ish batting average any other way. Give him credit though for battling.

Lance Berkman gets an A+. Ignore the .350 batting average and 22 dingers. This guy has 15 stolen bases and is playing the best defense of his career. In short, he is having his best season ever and I can't imagine it getting better after this year.

I've made no bones about the fact that I like Kaz Matsui, but he gets a C at this point. He has been productive while he has been in the lineup, but he missed far too many games to get more than that. He also got off to a brutal start defensively.

Ty Wigginton is in the same boat as Matsui. He gets a C+ because he has played more games, but the numbers don't look impressive. Still, a .270ish average and good power numbers are all we can expect from Wigginton.

Mark me as someone that is disappointed in Tejada. For all of the talk about him being rejuvenated, his offensive numbers are spiraling down. However, he has run the bases better and produced defensively more than anyone else. He gets a B from me.

Carlos Lee deserves an A- for his efforts. Yes, he is producing home runs and RBIs, but he is not producing the kind of OPS numbers befitting a 100 million dollar man. Also, Lee is not fun to watch with the glove.

Michael Bourn gets a D for his efforts. He is playing great defense and has been dangerous on the basepaths, but he has also been brutal in the batter's box. He still has time to turn it around.

Hunter Pence has been a bit of a disappointment for most. His 2007 numbers were a bit of a tease. Pence has a hole in his swing the size of Craig Biggio swinging at a slider in the dirt. However, he has been a nice complementary player with the bat and really good with the glove.

The Bench

Brad Ausmus began the year the way he always does. A nice push at the end of the first half might produce his highest OBP in years, but he is still a singles hitter and GIDP waiting to happen. I still give him a B+ for his willingness to expand his role when Towles flamed out.

Darin Erstad was wildly panned as a pick up, but he has turned out to be one of Wade's better moves. He is Orlando Palmeiro with power and an ability to play defense. He has played a considerable amount in centerfield, but he is better cast as a pinch hitter and occasional starter. He deserves the A though.

Geoff Blum is also a guy that has been miscast as a starter. He has five dingers, but his offensive numbers reflect someone that should be only an occasional starter. Give him credit for filling in for Wigginton when he was sick. He deserves a B.

Mark Loretta is not a good player anymore, but he is a good contact hitter who seems to hit better with men on base. He doesn't have the power he had in Boston, but he is a nice guy to have on the bench. He gets a B+.

Reggie Abercrombie and Jose Cruz Jr. combine for a D. Ironically, if you combine Abercrombie's speed and power with Cruz Jr.'s patience you get a pretty good centerfielder. As it stands, neither was good enough to keep around.

The Rotation

Roy Oswalt might be the single most disappointing performer on the team. Most of it was just a run of bad luck, but a troublesome hip might hold him out for part of the second half. They need him to be the old Oswalt to make any kind of run. He gets a C-.

Wandy Rodriguez finds his spot next to Wigginton and Matsui. He has done more than anyone could have expected when healthy. Unfortunately, his missed about a third of the first half. He gets a B for his efforts.

Brandon Backe has been everything we know Brandon Backe to be. The problem is that the organization still sees the guy that came up big in one game in 2004 and 2005. This has hidden a below average pitcher that just doesn't throw enough strikes. He gets a C.

Brian Moehler is the surprise of the season on the mound. His ERA doesn't look great, but as a starter he has been the most consistent pitcher on the staff. He doesn't deserve a big contract, but he might be a fixture in 2009 as well. He gets an A+.

We will take a look at the bullpen and management next time around. Obviously, there are some folks I'm leaving out. You will hear about them next time.