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Friday, July 14, 2006

Report Card Time, Part 2: "Hitting" (A through E)

Theoretically, because the Astros chose to go with the old "fire the hitting coach because he was unsuccessful in forcing the players to become better hitters than they're meant to be" response to one of the worst offenses in the National League, I could simply assign to Gaetti a grade of F, and give everybody else an A+ for their patience in dealing with him. Or I could just drop the hammer on them, as they deserve.

My way's more fun.
Ausmus, Brad: Whatever the reason(s)--even if I may have been solely to blame for Ausmus's 0-for-40 slump--he's currently hitting .234/.304/.294. That freaking sucks, especially because that's roughly 20 points below his career batting average and OBP, and almost sixty points below his career "slugging." He's pretty much an automatic out, and a sure bet to ground into a double play most nights. (He has grounded into almost as many double plays this year as he did all of last year.) Defensively: He's thrown out only nine out of fifty baserunners: a CS% of .180 (clearly his worst season percentage ever, and less than half his career average). Finally, for being a great "pitch-caller," his catcher's ERA (4.41) is the worst it's been since he was in Detroit. On the bright side, he hasn't allowed a passed ball. Yet. D.

Berkman, Lance "Fat Elvis": He's having a freaking phenomenal year, despite being asked to move back and forth from first base to right field. This ranks as his second-best offensive year, only slightly below his unbelievable 2001. He's led the league in RBIs, and manages to produce consistently despite having a spate of lousy hitters right behind him. (Let us hope that Huff 'n Stuff's presence behind him in the lineup will mean that Lance sees some more hittable pitches.) He's already hit as many home runs as he did all of last year. I really couldn't ask for more from him. A+.

Biggio, Craig: It ain't 1998 (.325/.403/.503), but the Beege is having another solid year offensively. Even at the age of 40, his numbers remain right in line with his career averages. One of the joys of watching Astros games is seeing which Hall of Famer he passes with his offensive accomplishments. He's not carrying the team by any means, but is producing well enough to merit a B+.

Bruntlett, Eric: He's a role player, so he doesn't get all that many opportunities to impress. He seems to be suffering from a significant power drop-off from other years, but his batting average and OBP are up to acceptable levels. Still, it would be nice to have some power threat off the bench, and he ain't it. C.

Burke, Chris: He's having an amazing year at the plate, especially given his relative inexperience at the major-league level. While his numbers have dropped a bit recently, he's been in the 290s or better pretty much all season, with an OBP of .372 and .473 slugging. He's also proving to be a pretty solid "Johnny-on-the-spot," as he's played pretty much every position well. I love his aggressive approach at the plate. I can't help but comment, however, on what I think has to be the very worst player photo in the majors:

I mean, seriously, just because you're giddy to be in the bigs doesn't mean you have to look like you have something shoved up your arse. A for the hitting, F for the photo.

Ensberg, Morgan "The Vortex": *sigh* How do you solve a problem like Maria--I mean, Morgan. I dig his attitude, and the way he plays the game, but he's very, very, very high on my s___ list for not coming clean about his shoulder injuries since May 1st or whenever it was that he began to absolutely suck. I appreciate the whole thing about wanting to play through pain, and all that stuff, but he's only now admitted that he hasn't been able to get the head of the bat through the zone fast enough to make good contact with the ball. Accordingly, he's been content to sit back and watch pitch after pitch come down the strike zone. Yet--largely based on his amazing April--he's having one of his better slugging years, and his OBP has remained at almost .400. Still, he's been hitting in the "production" part of the lineup, and we just can't be content with having our third or fourth hitter sitting there taking walks all the time, instead of looking to get a hit. .236 just can't cut it. Despite his power numbers and amazing April, I can't give him any higher than a D+ given how completely unproductive he's been in the last two and a half months. I hope that his stint on the DL will get him rested enough to get back to his old self; we need him for this pennant run.

Everett, Adam "Never-Hit": He may be a sh__ty hitter but, man... he is a sh__ty hitter. This season, he's even underperforming his own sh__ty standards: .236/.303/.357. And he pretty much had to go on a tear in June (.312) just to get to his current sh__ty .236 level. Would it hurt this guy to take a walk now and then? That the numbers show him to be the best defensive shortstop in the majors is a sure plus, because just about everything else about his game is just... plain... pisspoor. (You thought I was going to say sh__ty, didn't you?) F+
So as I look ahead to the rest of the lineup, I can fairly predict that the grades are just going to get uglier. After all, we haven't even talked about Lanedoza yet.


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