Time To Jet The Vets

added 5/29/2011 by Bob Hulsey

One of the mistakes being made when assessing the Astros' poor performance is that the club is young and lacking in talent. Sure, both are true - particularly in the bullpen - but youth is not what is killing Houston, particularly on offense.

Find a roster and list the hitters that are age 30 or over:

  • Humberto Quintero (age 31) .248-0-9-.606 OPS
  • Bill Hall (31) .228-2-13-.620
  • Carlos Lee (35) .251-4-26-.670
  • Clint Barmes (32) .226-1-4-.671
  • Jason Michaels (35) .152-0-1-.434

    Joe Inglett (33) has now been waived and Jeff Keppinger (32) has just had one game (all stats through Saturday) since returning from the DL but, as a group, clearly the 30-somethings are not earning their pay at the plate.

    The question is why are we holding onto any of them? Quintero is currently on the disabled list and is a fine defensive catcher who has actually been hitting above his career average. And, frankly, he's filling a spot while Jason Castro heals from his knee injury that's expected to keep the prospect out all season.

    Barmes missed a month with a broken hand and does provide solid range and defense at shortstop. I wouldn't keep him around after this season but he's not harming anything by staying since there is no shortstop in the organization capable of doing much better.

    The Untradeable Carlos Lee has not had a bad month of May but there's simply no reason to keep him and his massive contract if even one team shows any interest in acquiring him. Given that the American League is having a terrible year with left fielders, just maybe some team would be desperate enough to make the call but it's unlikely.

    Hall and Michaels would have already been waived if I were general manager. Now that Keppinger is back, neither one serves a useful purpose in Houston and ought to be gone so that someone else can get their at bats. In Hall's case, he's been on a pace for over 200 strikeouts were he given a full season of plate appearances.

    A look at the pitching staff shows more of a mixed bag. Brett Myers (age 30, 1-4, 5.11 ERA) and Brandon Lyon (31, 3-2, 7.15, 4 blown saves) have been huge disappointments while Wandy Rodriguez (32, 3-3, 3.41) and Jeff Fulchino (31, 1-2, 3.18) have been adequate. I wouldn't get rid of any of them just yet (Lyon and Rodriguez are presently on the DL) but I'd be willing to listen to offers were any of them brought up in trade discussions.

    Unfortunately, I think the Astros front office just hit the panic button by calling up 20-year-old phenom Jordan Lyles from AAA. This tells me they are more focused on winning games this year and trying to keep their jobs when the new ownership group comes aboard than holding onto their best pitching prospect one additional season before he hits free agency later on.

    Lyles will probably sell tickets while he's a novelty (the Astros even screwed this up since his first two starts are projected to be on the road) but the danger is overworking his arm or risking that he may pitch too deeply into games because of our spotty bullpen. Like Washington phenom Stephen Strasburg, who is sitting out 2011 after Tommy John surgery, pushing Lyles could turn into disaster.

    There's a long line of pitching prospects who were pushed forward by losing clubs to try to generate some box office enthusiasm which may have cost the pitcher a long, prosperous career. David Clyde was one. Strasburg may be the latest. Let's hope Jordan Lyles isn't the next one.

    Since the Lyles move tells me the front office is playing to win now, expect the 30-somethings to still be around and still get playing time when the younger guys ought to be playing more. Brett Wallace, Angel Sanchez, Matt Downs, Jason Bourgeois (also on the DL) and Brian Bogusevic have all shown they've earned a role on the club, moreso than Hall or Michaels have done. They should all get more playing time.

    Relying on "veteran experience" is the wrong way to take this club that obviously needs to continue rebuilding, even if it means taking their lumps now and continuing at the bottom of the National League standings. Those veterans aren't helping the younger players develop. They're just holding them back.