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April 17, 2005

Stros limp home

Biggio.jpgAfter starting the season with a promising 4-1 homestand, the Stros (5-6) stumbled on their their first road trip of the season over the past week. The Stros lost five of six games on the trip, with the Mets (6-6) sweeping the Stros in three close games to begin the trip. Then, after the Stros blew out the Reds (6-5) in the first game of their weekend series, the Reds came back to win two close games to take that series.

Despite the disappointing road trip, the Stros are about where most everyone expected them to be 11 games into the season. Until slugger Lance Berkman returns (probably in a couple of weeks or so), it is unlikely that this Stros team has enough hitting to do much better than win as many games as they lose. In fact, unless changes are made, it is highly unlikely that this Stros team can win more than 85 games even with Berkman.

I hope Stros management is open to making changes because the Stros' pitching staff is every bit as good as I predicted and, barring injury, good enough to carry the team to more than 90 wins. Through two weeks of the season, the Stros pitching staff is ranked second only to the Marlins (6-6)in the National League in runs saved against average ("RSAA," explained here). With the exception of Brandon Duckworth's typically mediocre performance in today's game, every Stros pitcher has been above-average in their pitching performances to date.

Although it's a bit dicey to make firm conclusions less than 7% into a baseball season, it's becoming clearer with each game that Phil Garner is not pushing the right buttons to maximize the effectiveness of the Stros' meager offensive weapons. He continues inexplicably to bat the light-hitting Everett (.150 Ave./.255 OBP/.225 SLG) at leadoff even though Everett has not yet proven that he is even an average Major League hitter, much less an effective leadoff batter. Similarly, Garner continues to write the anemic Ausmus (.111/.200/.148) into the lineup each day even though Ausmus has now deteriorated to well below even replacement level performance. Meanwhile, Garner continues to sit Mike Lamb, the Stros' best lefthanded hitter outside of Berkman, and makes such questionable moves as batting Jason Lane -- arguably the club's best hitter right now -- sixth in the batting order in the final game of the Reds series.

This Stros club is going to win most of its games with its strong pitching. But the club's hitting is so weak that there isn't much marging for error, and Garner made his share over the past road trip. Garner needs to put Lamb in left field and leave him there and move Everett to the back end of the order. Then, the Stros' management needs to call up catcher Humberto Quintero (acquired in the Tim Redding trade) from AAA Round Rock, where he is currently hitting .368/.428/.667. Quintero and Chavez would be a better duo than Chavez and Ausmus, who simply is no longer a major league quality player.

The Stros have a quick four game homestand this week with two games each against the Braves (6-5) and the Brewers (5-6)before going out on the road again to face the Cardinals (6-4) next weekend and then the Pirates (4-8) during the first part of next week. The Stros return home to face the Cubs (6-6) on Friday the 29th.

Posted by Tom at April 17, 2005 7:59 PM |


Sabermetric-minded friends of mine are all complaining about Garner's use of his bullpen. I don't follow the game closely enough to know, but I haven't noticed this from you, which surprised me.

Posted by: Evan at April 18, 2005 11:46 AM

IMHO, Garner's use of the bullpen has been adequate, although certainly not outstanding. However, in comparison to his handling of the hitters, his handling of the pitchers makes him look like Leo Mazzoni. ;^)

Posted by: Tom Kirkendall at April 18, 2005 11:55 AM

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