So half way through spring training, we are seven games below .500 and have the second worst run differential in the Grapefruit league. This is not the regular season, though, and these stats are pointless. Let’s take a look at why you should be optimistic about this year’s club with how they have performed so far.
In 2010, the Astros finished 26th in the majors with a batting average of .247, but have batted .275 this spring for 12th in the majors. Granted, most of the spring has had the DH position batting instead of the picture, but an almost 3o point average differential cannot be accredited to just this. Nor can you accuse minor leaguers of boosting our stats. Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, and the combination of Quintero and Towles, are all batting above .300 on the spring. What is perhaps the most impressive from the Astros offense this spring is the extra base power. In 2010, the Astros only mustered up enough XBHs to finish 29th, one spot above the lowly Mariners, in the majors. In the brief spring so far, they have powered their way to second, only behind the productive Phillies, in all of baseball. Granted a lot of this production has come in blowouts, but it is coming nonetheless.
What is best about the success of the Astro’s recent uproar in spring offense is from whom it has come. Brett Wallace went 4-5 on the day with a grand slam, two doubles, and an impressive 7 RBIs. He has been cold at moments throughout the course of the spring, but a game like this is the kind of success that motivates players to keep their confidence up. Wallace’s 5 doubles this spring in 11 games is one less than the 6 he had last season in 51 games.
Most news on Astro pitching this spring has focused on either the inconsistency of Wandy or the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, but the most comforting news is coming from the bullpen. Acquired from the Reds last season, Enerio Del Rosario has pitched 8.1 innings of scoreless work while striking out 7. This comes after he signed a contract for $417,000 this past February. Wilton Lopez was also inked to a $442,000 deal this past February, and Lopez has pitched 5 perfect innings so far this spring. ( Brian McTaggart reported) that Lopez “stranded 32 of 33 inherited runners, the best ratio in the Majors since 1974″. (In last week’s round table forum), I discussed how I believe Lopez will end up being the closer by the year’s end, and if his success is shared with Del Rosario, then the Astros could potentially see the late innings of ball games be dominated by two young pitchers for less than $900,000. Mark Melancon has also pitched well this spring with an ERA below 2, but a concerning WHIP at 1.80.
I refuse, though, to act as if the pitching of Jordan Lyles should go without note. His 10 innings pitched are the most among any Astro pitcher this spring, and he boasts a 1.80 ERA to go with it. He has only walked two batters and his opponent’s slugging percentage of .237 reveals that it is near impossible to get extra base hits out of him. With the rest of the competition clearly falling behind him, it will be interesting to see what Wade and Mills do in regards to the youngster’s amazing spring. If he replicates these numbers the rest of spring, it will be tough to send him down.