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Tank Still Full

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2010 at 12:01 am

Houston has quietly been playing some really good baseball the past two weeks going 10-3. They are still 15 games out of first place but are only 12 games under the .500 mark. The Astros are currently riding a four game winning streak and looking to sweep the Phillies tomorrow afternoon as Wandy Rodriguez will be taking the mound. What may be shocking as Houston has seem to find a way to win is that they are not giving up many runs. They are not scoring many either but the starting rotation looks like they may have found their niche. This being said, all this could unravel come tomorrow but Houston fans will take it. Starting pitching Brett Myers has really impressed me with his consistency. He has the ability to last 7 innings and only gives up 2 or 3 runs per outing. Usually this is strong enough for the offense to supply enough run support to help notch the W. Though usually the bullpen would find a way to falter but not as of lately. J.A. Happ has had  5 quality starts out of six appearances. I would like to see Happ go into deeper innings but as of now I pleased with his overall performance. With his current victory over ex teammate Roy Halladay, Happ has shown that he can compete with the elite. I am honestly excited to see the starting rotation for next season because I think if the top three are Happ, Myers and Rodriguez, Houston would have a very solid 1-3. The back end still hasnt been decided yet but Figueroa is making a very strong statement to make the rotation. Than there is AAA player Jordan Lyles who might be called up next season and as of now, he has a great shot to make the ball club.

Hitting hasn’t changed too much as Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez and Jeff Keppinger are still producing. Hunter Pence has seemed to turn it on a bit as he is batting .337 in the month of August. His 17 RBIs are only second to Carlos Lee’s 19 this month. The team seems to hitting well together but their scoring rampage has slowed down a bit. They have the ability to score a lot of runs but expect an average of 3-5 a game. I would like to see Houston find some more power but hopefully Brett Wallace will soon find his stride as the season comes to a close. I really like the players now but still wouldn’t mind seeing Carlos Lee shipped off for some younger talent.

Houston has played better ball than I predicted but there is still awhile to go. If they can manage to get within 5 games of .500, I think their record would look better than they have shown all season. I find this team really fun to watch when I can because they tend to have this spark about them. The younger players seem to respond really well to tough situations and I believe if they can continue to get better that head coach Brad Mills has the ability to lead this team back to NL champions.

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The Road to Prominence

In Around The League on August 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

With still over a month and half left till the post season, there can still be a lot of movement around the divisions to claim a playoff spot. A lot of teams haven’t been able to expand their division lead outside of the Texas Rangers. They are only team in baseball with a lead more than 5 games. It seems like their division rival Angels are not going to be making any ground on their own without some help. Rangers left fielder, Josh Hamilton, looks like he should win the MVP award. His .362 average is the best in baseball and he is on pace to crack the 100 RBI mark. Many Rangers fans hoped that pitcher Cliff Lee would be an automatic win when he takes the mound. Since his debut with the Rangers, Lee has gone 2-3 and his ERA has jumped .43 %. Come post season, Lee has been very dominate going 4-0 as he helped the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series. When in the playoffs, you only really need three good pitchers and a dominate closer to be successful. The Rangers do have three good pitchers but four of the five starters have zero playoff experience. Along with that their closer too has not seen the more beautiful side of October. This being said, the Rangers should still make a good run but I do not think they will make it past the ALCS.

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have identical records but the Rays would be crowned A.L. East Champions as they boast a 6-5 record vs the Bronx Bombers as of now. These two teams will face each other seven more times and unless the Red Sox make ground up, the AL East will be very interesting race to claim the crown.

While the Red Sox are only 5.5 out, their up and down play isn’t going to help them gain any ground. If they can get back on track, the rest of their schedule is very manageable. They face four teams with records under .500 and outside of the Yankees and Rays, they face two teams with winning percentage that barely clips the .510 mark. Josh Beckett has seemed to lost his dominance presence as he claims a 3-2 record with an ERA over 6. Lester and Bucholz have been very good this year but struggled as of lately. Dice-K who was once a dominate pitcher has been turned into a very good number three starter. Though he does boast an 8-4 record, his era is still way to0 high.

The Minnesota Twins have still been the hottest team in baseball since the All-Star break. They have only loss eight times while winning twenty-two. They currently have a three game lead over the White Sox. Their team batting average is an impressive .281 while being lead by Joe Mauer, Delmon Young and Justin Morneau. The Twins could make a solid playoff run too but like the Rangers their starters are not greatly experience. The White Sox seem to more of a gritty team that likes to grind it out day in and day out. They do have talent but their play doesn’t seem to be very polished at times. Their starters are not un hittable and their hitters are not overwhelmingly dangerous. With Ozzie Gullien being the coach, he will always have this team prepared every day.

The National League definitely has the more intriguing and tighter races in baseball. A week of baseball could make a huge difference in the division leaders. All the current division leaders have had their struggles but seem to find a way to win. In the NL East, it has been the Phillies  and Braves for the past two months while the Mets tried to contend but now have dropped 10 games out. The Braves currently lead the division by two and half games. They have been really good even with Chipper Jones being out with an ACL injury. Outside of the Reds, the NL top-tier teams are in the bottom half of run production while the AL elite are all in the top ten. When it comes to pitching though, three of the four top NL teams are 1-3 in overall pitching but the AL does also have all their top four teams in the top ten. The Phillies might have one of the best starting rotation as they were able to acquire Houston’s ex ace Roy Oswalt. They also have Roy Halladay who has been worth every penny since his trade from the Blue Jays.

The Central has been between the Reds and Cardinals from pretty much day one. Every other day it is either the Red Birds or the Reds leading. The Reds survive on great hitting with mediocre pitching while the Cardinals are opposite and have great pitching but their offense isn’t near what it use to be. Puljos is still a threat every game and Matt Holliday is still producing. It’s the players as Rasmus, Schumaker and Molina that are struggling this year. At the end of the day though when the season comes down to its finally games, the Cardinals pitching should prevail. Both Carpenter and Wainwright could win the Cy Young this year and Jamie Garcia as his first real year as a starter has been outstanding. This division will be the most exciting to watch because who ever wins will be in the NLCS and possibly a very good shot at the World Series.

The West has been the Padres for a while. While teams like the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies have been shuffling  all season to maintain distance, the Padres keep churning away. Their hitting has picked up while their pitching has been untouchable. They still ranked number one over all in pitching with a 3.23 ERA. Starting pitcher Mat Latos has been unbelievable as he has only surrender six runs in his last seven starts. The Padres hitting is so mediocre that despite them leading the division, they have scored the least amount of runs than any other team in their division. The Giants are only four games back but they seem to have trouble maintaining good play by anyone. One week it could be the pitching but then the offense struggles. Next week it would be vice versa. Lincecum has not lived up to his usually self and Barry Zito who started the season 6-1 has a  record of 8-6 now. Matt Cain still hasn’t been able to find consistency in his performance. He was able to extend his record to 6-4 with three straight winning performances. Then he followed that up with three straight losing starts. I think the Padres will be able to keep up their strong pitching and if their hitting still gets better, they will win this division.

This season definitely has the potential to be the most exciting as their will be tight finishes in nearly all the divisions. Also there will be some exciting playoff series as we might be seeing some new faces this year.

Stuck In Reverse

In Houston Astros 2010 Season on August 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

A week ago things started looking right for the Houston Astros. The team was winning and winning convincingly. The pitching and hitting seemed to be on par and glimpse of another late season run seemed possible. Now losers of the last 6 of 7, Houston has gone 13 games behind the division leader to 16. They were only 12 games under the .500 mark and now have extended their deficit to 17. So what went wrong is such a quick turn around? After their 18-4 victory over the division leading Cardinals, Houston’s momentum has seem to just float off into space. Their impressive starting pitching has evaporated and bullpen has been beyond atrocious. The hitting has slowed down but not enough to keep them in ball games.

J.A. Happ’s career in an Astros uniform has been seen three games, he has been impressive. Outside of the huge implosion vs the St. Louis Cardinals where he surrender seven runs in the first inning, Happ has had two extremely solid outings. Unfortunately for him, he is dealing with the same problem that Oswalt had to contend with. If it isn’t the offense being able to score runs, it is the bullpen not being able to hold the lead. Now these two can play hand in hand. It is hard to put pressure on the bullpen when the team only can muster a 1 or 2 two run lead with 3 + innings to go.

Another pitcher that has performed well but has failed to gain a victory in last two starts is Wandy Rodriguez. In his appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers on August 6, Wandy pitched 6 strong innings only giving up two runs. Houston had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th where closer Matt Lindstrom blew his fifth game of the season giving up 4 runs. In his latest start Wandy again pitched admirably going seven strong allowing 2. The game extended into ten innings where relievers Lyon and Fulchino gave up six runs to the Braves.

It could be that the pen is getting worn down already as they have put in a lot of innings. They could have just hit a bad rut but excuses can be made. Things still need to be done all around the organization to improve this team. Lindstrom is going to be around as he hasn’t had a bad year blowing only 6 games. It is really the inconsistency that wears down the ball clubs patience. Not just with the pen but the starters and hitters. It is rare to have Houston’s 1-3 starters pitch great games. The pitchers themselves might go on a winning streak but as a whole, the starters will go 2-3 as the rotation cycles. That number is just if the starters can make it more than 5 innings. Most of the time it is the pen being spotted with the loss.

The rest of the August doesn’t ease up as the next five opponents will be the Pirates, Marlins, Mets, Phillies and Cardinals. The 100 loss mark could come up a lot quicker if the pen doesn’t turn it around. As the season does come to an end, we all will get a good idea who might be sticking around next year.