Astros analysis through 16 games: 6 wins, 10 losses

Thursday’s loss to the Phillies puts the Astros at 6-10, and it’s 10 percent of the season. Here’s how it looks so far:

Offense: 60 runs is 3.75 per game. Can’t possibly grade higher than a D. Lance Berkman and Tejada are hitting, and J.R. Towles has extremely effective at the plate — despite his .200 average. He’s had only six hits but 16 total bases in 30 ABs, and he’s drawn 6 walks. (I assume he’ll start soon since he pinch-hit Thursday.) The Astros have scored at least 4 runs in 8 games, and at least 5 runs in 6 games. Carlos Lee is slugging but not on-basing, so the problem is that the two guys at the top of the lineup aren’t doing their jobs. Michael Bourn’s OBP is a not-too-good .318, and Hunter Pence is just getting killed up there:

RF  Hunter Pence        25   14   56    4    9   3  1   0    2   2   16  .161  .186  .250   1   1   0   0   0   1   0   16

I have never seen a player with an OPS+ of 16 before, even in a short stretch.

The upshot is that Berkman, Tejada and Lee all have more than half their at-bats with nobody on base, and everybody hits better with men on base.

Pitching/defense: Probably also a D. The Astros have allowed 23 home runs, next-to-last in the league. Looking at the pitching independently, here’s the line: 137 IP/49 BB/99 SO/23 HR. Per 9 IP, that’s 3.2 BB/6.5 SO/1.51 HR. Or, you could say they’re on a pace to allow 230 HR this season.

Closer Jose Valverde has been dismal-dismal-dismal and appears to have lost the job in just 7 appearances. The last of the seven was Thursday, when Cooper brought him in with the Astros down 8-1. Since Valverde pitched on April 12, 13 and 15, he obviously wasn’t coming in to stay sharp. He might have been coming in to try to fix something, but since he allowed a double and a home run, the something isn’t fixed yet.

Defensively, it’s three young guys (Pence, Bourn and Towles) and a bunch of old guys, one of whom aged two years just in the past few days.

Speaking of which, lying about your age is a huge deal in baseball, isn’t it? A multimillion-dollar arrangement? If Tejada is as big a man as he says he is, he should be giving some of his contract back.

And I read what Ed Wade said, but of course, he’s got part of his reputation in this contract. I’ll be interested to see if the Astros try to get something from Tejada at the end of the season. Do contracts require players to certify their ages?

But back to the defensive issues, you’re looking at a team that has been fielding this team by age at positions 2-9: 24-32-36-35-33-32-25-25. When Kaz Matsui replaces Loretta, the 36 will drop to 32. And Wigginton is 30 to Blum’s 35. Even so, it’s an old team at most positions, the oldest in the league, actually. With an old bench. And a left fielder who can’t cover much ground or throw very well.

And so you have a team that makes few errors but doesn’t get to as many balls in play. 14th in the league in defensive efficiency, but 1st in the league in fewest errors. 14th in the league in hits minus home runs allowed.


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