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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Straight Talk

Some serious problems facing our boys:

1) Twice last night we got lead-off doubles and failed to score. We've seen this happen all too often... one or two runners in scoring position with less than two out, and we can't push either of them across the plate. If this continues, we'll be talking like the Cubs in about another week or two.

2) After starting the season 19-9, the Astros have gone 28-44. That's a drastic drop from a .679 winning percentage to .389. Needless to say, this doesn't get it done.

3) The Astros are tied with the Florida Marlins at 6.0 games back in the Wild Card race. Ahead of us (from leader down to us) are: the Reds, the Diamondbacks, the Giants, the Brewers-Braves-Rockies (all tied at 5.5 back). That makes 6 teams for the Astros to pass.

4) Multiple defensive lapses as of late have made bad situations worse (e.g., Mike Lamb's not effectively looking Phillips back to third on a routine groundball to first by the pitcher).

5) Our hitters don't look like they want to hit. I don't care what Gar[d]ner says, they don't look "hitterish." They look scared. Case in point... Brad Ausmus is sitting 2-0, a hitter's count, a fastball count, with a runner at second and no outs, and he takes a fastball right down the middle and then moans about it when it's called a strike.

6) Our hitters look like their reacting instead of having a plan. What this amounts to is that we end up playing the opposing pitcher's game instead of our own. We allow him to make his pitches and we in turn offer at them. Instead of being disciplined and hitting the pitches we want, we give in.

7) Compare some of our high strikeout guys to someone like Adam Dunn and you'll see an interesting difference. Adam Dunn is hitting just .246, but he has an OBP of .376 and SLG of .543. He's got 30 HR and 66 RBI, with 73 BB and 115 K's.

What's the most notable thing about those stats? I would suggest that it's not the 115 K's. All that shows is that a high percentage of the outs Dunn makes are by strikeout. But when you look at the rest of his numbers, he's extremely productive.

Now compare Dunn's stats to those of our strikeout leader, Preston Wilson. Preston is hitting .276, but he has an OBP of just .315 and SLG of .418. He's got just 9 HR and 52 RBI, with 20 walks and 90 K's.

See the difference? I would make the case that Adam Dunn is much more valuable to his team than Preston Wilson is to ours. Though I like him, it is what it is.

8) Inconsistent outings by our starting pitchers, coupled with high pitch counts, have set the tone for a long second-half. Roy Oswalt has hardly been himself this year. When he has been, the team gives him no support. Andy Pettitte has been horrible this year as well. When your go-to guys can't get it done (or, in Roy's case, the team can't get it done with him on the hill), you're in trouble.

9) Guys like Brad Ausmus are supposedly kept around because of their defense, but even Brad's defense has dropped tremendously. I posted recently that only Mike Piazza's throwout percentage is worse than Brad's. About the only thing he's still doing well right now is blocking the ball. I think I'd be willing to give that up for more offensive production.

10) Gar[d]ner is micro-managing. He's trying too hard to manufacture runs, and he's making off-the-wall moves in tinkering with his lineup. Can you blame him? But let's remember what worked in 2004 and 2005... patience and not over-reacting. Jimy Williams can tell you about the effects of micro-managing. There's got to be consistency, coupled with accountability. In my book, you yank somebody (apart from the occasional day off) only if he's not producing or he's injured.

So will fixing these issues solve all of the Astros' problems? Maybe not, but at least it may still give the team a chance.


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