Yikes. Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park is known to be a hitter friendly park, but this series was truthful to only one team, and it was not your Astros. Here, we will take a look at the series that was to open the season:
First, let’s take a look at the starting pitching staff. Brett Myers started his year off strong with a seven inning performance against his former ball club, only surrendering three hits and three walks and one earned run. What is more impressive is his pitch total only getting up to 85 pitches. He would be pulled due to his spot in the order coming up in the top of the eighth, but you have to imagine Brad Mills regretted taking him out. Though Bourgeois had a pinch hit for Myers, Myers had swung the bat well and seemed to have figured out how to work around the Philadelphia lineup. Granted, no one could have told you Lyon would blow the game (well, maybe I could have if you have read my predictions for his season), but you have to stay with a hot pitcher if his pitch count is low enough to finish out the game. Anyway, Myers looked great in his first outing. Due to his lack of focus on getting strikeouts, he worked quickly through the Phils, and took charge of the game. Bravo Brett, bravo.
Wandy, Wandy, Wandy. Someone needs to write a memo to this kid telling him the season starts in April, and not June. Historically a slow starter, WayRod refused to break tradition and did his best 2000 March Kingdome impression with an implosion of epic proportions. Allowing Giving away 9 hits in only 4 innings, Rodriguez needs to settle down in his next start, or he will need another month to get adjusted. His 5 strikeouts were noteworthy, but he failed to get them in key situations. 7 earned runs… need I really say more? Wandy performs better at home, so let’s hope he kicks off the 2011 home part of the season at MMP with more success.
If you need someone to shut down the bottom of the order, Bud Norris is your man. If you are Ryan Howard, though, Bud Norris is still your man. Howard’s first inning jack was a sign of things to come, and Bud’s 5 surrendered runs didn’t go down easy. One bright spot for Bud was his 7 strike outs, but his lack of a “gotcha” change up will prevent him from sitting down the big guys. Norris will improve as the season continues if that change up develops, but until then he will be a big inning waiting to happen.
The starters stat line looked as follows: 15IP, 18H, 5BB, 13ER, 12K, 2HR, and two loses. The 7.80ERA and 1.53 WHIP are concerning, but a slow starting Wandy and learning Norris can be charged with almost all of that. 7.2 K/9IP is underwhelming, but coupled with a 3 BB/9IP , you can rest assured that control is not our problem. What is a problem, though, is the 10.8 H/9IP. Look for this number to go down, or else you will not see a starter go past the sixth inning all year.
As for the bullpen, everybody got to see some action due to the struggling starts of Wandy and Bud. Mark Melancon is the only person who walked away from two games without allowing a run to score, though Del Rosario pitched in two games as well, but allowed two of Aneury Rodriguez’s runs to cross home. Wilton Lopez and Brandon Lyon are the only two pitchers that pitched on Friday, but they also did not make any appearances in the last two games of the series. Brad Mills is obviously saving Lyon to pitch in closer situations, but Lopez not being used shows that he will only be used in leads if he is questionably rested. Lopez had a solid inning on Friday, allowing just one hit in one inning, but Lyon decided to blow the game while surrendering an amazing 6 hits and three runs in just one out recorded. If Lyon continues to struggle (expect it), Lopez may get the tap to close, so we will keep tabs on how the two perform in early April.
Abad came in after Norris blew up this Sunday, and pitched a great inning of 1 hit baseball. As the only left handed pitcher in the pen, Abad will have to extend his pitching duties outside of specialist situations and step up for the ball club in big innings. His ability to stop some of the bleeding today bodes well for the rest of the season.
Jeff Fulchino and Aneury Rodriguez both allowed 2 walks respectively in their appearances this weekend which is something that will need to be limited if they want to be effective as relievers. Giving up free passes to batters gives your team no chance to succeed. Some people come from the school of thought that “a walk is the same as a hit”, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you allow the ball to be hit, your fielders have a chance to make a play and your able to possible get them to hit one of your junk pitches. Aneury and Jeff will have to be monitored in this regard if their role is going to be effective.
The line for the relievers is as follows: 9 1/3 IP, 19 H, 5 BB, 7ER, 5 K, 0HR, 1 Loss. One number that pops out is the 19 hits which comes out to a H/9 of 18.32. If you want an bull pen that can shut down games, you need this number to be below 7. I know Lyon is much to blame, but there were zero appearances this series in which the relievers allowed zero hits. Base runners can equate to runs, and less stressful innings with get this team in a rhythm.
Altogether, a crummy weekend for Astro pitching. Look for the series against the Reds to have less hits allowed and more effective starts in order for the W column to have any chance of change.