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July 11, 2004

Stros sink to new low

The Stros officially hit oblivion on Sunday afternoon as they they hacked away with futility at Jose Lima's change up and lost the third of their four game series with the Dodgers, 7-4.

Roy O started on three days rest and battled gamely, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks over 6 innings. But then Weathers gave up a grand salami to Lo Duca in the eighth and the Dodgers cruised to the win. The Stros got their usual six hits, with Beltran and Everett cranking two run yaks to account for the Stros four runs.

The Stros are 44-44 at the All-Star break, 11 games behind the Cards in the NL Central, and 4 1/2 games behind the Giants for the NL Wild Card spot. Since winning 10 of 12 games for a 21-11 record as of May 11, the Stros are an atrocious 23-33. That's a lousy two months, and the Stros' hitting statistics reflect it.

Here are the Stros' hitters' runs created against average ("RCAA," explained here) through Friday's games, courtesy of Lee Sinins:

Lance Berkman 33
Craig Biggio 10
Jeff Bagwell 6
Mike Lamb 5
Carlos Beltran 4
Eric Bruntlett 1
Jeff Kent 1
Chris Burke -1
Jose Vizcaino -1
Jason Lane -3
Orlando Palmeiro -3
Raul Chavez -8
Richard Hidalgo -9
Morgan Ensberg -11
Adam Everett -17
Brad Ausmus -20

The Stros' team RCAA has now plummeted to -13. During their feeble West Coast swing, the Stros have fallen from 7th to 12th out of the 16 National League teams (only the Brewers, Rockies, DBacks, and Expos are worse).

Berkman continues to have a solid overall season, but he has fallen to ninth and eighth in RCAA and OPS (on base average + slugging percentage) respectively after challenging Bonds for first place earlier in the season. Berkman's RCAA now is the same as it was on May 30, so Berkman has been precisely an average player in the National League over the past month and a half.

But things get even worse. The Stros now have two players (Everett and Ausmus) among the worst ten hitters in the National League, and Ausmus is bearing down on Neifi Perez for the lead in that dubious category. Moreover, Ensberg -- who followed up last weekend's promising performance against the Rangers with a horrid West Coast trip -- is not far from breaking into the ten worst hitters in the NL. That means that four out of the Stros' nine hitters in most games (Everett, Ausmus, Ensberg, and the pitcher) are are producing far fewer runs than an average National League hitter would be generating.

And they aren't the only ones not performing. Bags has had a -4 RCAA and is 43rd in OPS among regular players in the National League, the lowest position for Bagwell in those categories in his career. Similarly, Kent a -3 RCAA since May 30 and beyond Bidg, Lamb, and Viz, no other Stro player has had a positive RCAA since May 30. Indeed, Beltran leads the Stros in RCAA since joining the club in June.

Remarkably, the Stros' pitchers' runs saved against average ("RSAA," explained here) is actually improving:

Roger Clemens 23
Brad Lidge 12
Wade Miller 11
Roy Oswalt 11
Octavio Dotel 5
Dan Miceli 4
Andy Pettitte 2
David Weathers 2
Kirk Bullinger 1
Mike Gallo 1
Pete Munro 0
Brandon Backe -2
Jeremy Griffiths -3
Ricky Stone -3
Jared Fernandez -6
Chad Harville -7
Brandon Duckworth -10
Tim Redding -14

The Stros team RSAA is fourth in the National League behind only the Cards, Mets, and Cubs. Clemens remains one of the best pitchers in the league, and Lidge and Roy O's RSAA are improving steadily. Miller remains a big loss for the club, and Harville, Duckworth and Redding are disasters, but perhaps Carlos Hernandez will be called up from AAA New Orleans and provide some spark to the bullpen during the second half of the season.

The Cards have emerged as the clear power in the NL Central over the past two weeks and should win the division easily if current trends hold. The Cubs remain a solid wild card contender and the Stros should eventually overtake the Reds and the Brewers for third in the division, although the Brew Crew is gaining on the Stros statistically and could maintain their position over a discouraged Stros ballclub. The Reds' lack of pitching should continue to grease their skid during the second half of the season.

The bottom line: The Stros pitching is good enough to contend for a wild card spot. However, unless Bags, Kent, and Ensberg heat up considerably, the Stros' lack of hitting will prevent them from contending for a playoff spot. Inasmuch as Bags and Kent are in age-related declines, and Ensberg still is not a proven big league hitter, my bet is that the Stros' hitting will not improve enough in the second half of the season to contend for the wild card spot.

Posted by Tom at July 11, 2004 10:49 PM |

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