As March Madness looms on and makes its way to the Final Four, you know that baseball is lurking around the corner. Spring is drawing to a close, and fantasy drafts are taking place when you get off work or school. Around the nation, fans of all teams are looking forward to the start of America’s past time, but there are October dreams for every team in March. The Astros are no exception, but some would argue differently. Here is a count down of why we should be optimistic:
5. Gold Gloves
Michael Bourn is returning from his 2010 Gold Glove campaign, and expect a streak to start. Bourn covers more field than any player since Jim Edmonds in his prime. Milo will have his fair share of “blue star” plays from the press box this year, but it won’t be out of charity. Bourn makes the lives of fly ball pitchers easy, and he will be a key roll in turning doubles and triples into outs.
Hunter Pence hustles more than anyone I have every seen play, but it is not due to a lack of athletic ability. If he raises his put out numbers in right field, he stands a chance to receive a Gold Glove. One problem is that he has been steadily gaining respect from opposing teams, so don’t expect the opportunities to come pouring in.
4. The New Scoreboard
I seldom let aesthetics take precedence over the game, but the score board in center is now a sight to see in and of itself. Richard Connelly writes an article showing the size of the scoreboard, and compares it to the old one. I have been to Kansas City to see the Royals play, and I will say that the huge scoreboard in center helps make the ballpark and experience unlike any other. Giving the park a feature that is state of the art and ahead of most teams in the category of fan experience. Now if only they would stop showing useless stats like “Humberto Quintero’s situation hitting with RISP in spring when there is a 20% chance of rain”. One step at a time, I guess.
For another view of the scoreboard, look at these pictures submitted by @adamclanton : http://ow.ly/i/9wz5/original
3. The Rotation
Brett Myers performed at a level that made the Phillies feel like they made a mistake holding on to Blanton instead of Myers. I don’t expect him to have 32 starts of 6+ innings to start the year, but he will hopefully put together a 200+ inning season with an ERA below 4. WayRod has been on the verge of putting together great seasons for two years in a row. His ability to disappear for months at a time is bothersome, but look for 2011 to be the first year where he taps into his ability for a majority of the season while producing 200+ K’s and innings. J.A. Happ finished second in 2009 for the Rookie of the Year, and he will look to build off of a strong 2010 for the Stros. Norris and Figueroa are capable of pitching 150 innings each, and Norris has yet to hit his ceiling. These 5 guys may not be the best in the MLB, but there is not a free pass in the bunch.
2. The Corners of the Infield
Wallace has been tearing up the Grapefruit League this spring which leaves Astro fans wondering what he is capable of when he gets into a groove in the regular season. Brett “Tree Trunks” Wallace is a doubles machine that has shown that he can hit with RISP this spring with his 18 RBIs coming with only one home run (Hunter Pence has the opposite problem). Chris Johnson had a tremendous 2010 that made him a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate as the year wore on, mostly because of his absurd batting average. I don’t know if he will hit .330 for most the season ever again, but he has the pop to bat .290 and will put the ball in the gaps. Both of these guys are youngsters, and even though they may still be developing, they are capable of producing in the process.
1. Because We’re Astro Fans
Boston, Philadelphia, and the Cubs go into every season wanting a 162-0 season. Why can’t Houston fans be unrealistically optimistic? It is one thing to be reasonable, but it is another to just always want the best for your team. The Astros have been to the World Series in the past decade, and have some guys on this team that should excite you for the present and future. Twitter has been an interesting forum for Astro fans, and a good amount have made me smile with their pride. Here are some examples:
If you are showing Astro pride, follow @astrosCTH on twitter and send us your pictures or statuses that showcase the Astros! The more fans we can get on the site, the better. Astro fever is approaching.