Houston Astros Round Table Discussion (4/6)


The Astros are off to another slow start but as they fight to get into the win column we at Climbing Tal’s Hill have another round table discussion for our loyal readers. If you would like to see us discuss a specific topic please leave it in the comment section and we will tackle it next week.

Has your expectations for this team changed after their slow start to the season?

Brandon: My expectations haven’t changed for this team because looking at their schedule I expected them to struggle out of the gates. Their schedule gets much easier as the season goes along however I did expect them to be much more competitive than what the have shown. The blown save by Lyon Opening Day I think had a carry over to the rest of the games in Philadelphia and hurt the team’s confidence. This team does have alot of talent and they should be playing competitive baseball but the strength of this team, which was suppose to be the pitching staff, has really struggled and the Astros won’t be able to go anywhere until the starting pitchers can get it together.

Trevor:No. This team did not surprise me by getting swept to start off the season. Keeping in mind that the Phillies put three aces together at the front end of their rotation, you cannot be too dismayed for losing this series. We did learn that we need to convert our runners in scoring position opportunities better since we went just 4 for 20 in RISP chances. Lee was disappointing in that first game particularly since he failed to bring home an insurance run which proved costly.
That being said, I think that this series is unfair to write the Astros off. One thing that was discouraging is the lack of bullpen presence. With this team, it is a must to preserve leads when past the 7th inning. I think Wilton Lopez, Fernando Abad, and Jeff Fulchino were satisfactory, but other than that, it was pretty pitiful. Brandon Lyon was … well he was just pathetic. I have been stating my case for Lopez to be the closer since last season, and Lyon’s inability to get the strikeout and lack of a pay off pitch was put in the spot light Friday. In order for this team to give its starters some confidence in their bullpen, let the players that perform play. Money aside, Lopez has the talent and the numbers to be closing out games for the Stros, and, until then, we may have some more scary 9th innings.
Hitting wise, it was nice to see Lee have a strong Saturday and Pence do so well against Oswalt after looking straight silly in the first two games. Johnson was hitting bullets on Sunday which is comforting due to that being his stigma in 2010. It is tough to assess the offense after this series and be fair, but I think the Cincinnati series will be crucial since it is against a NL Central foe. In short, my expectations have not changed, but we will need to show some life in the upcoming week for fans to still have some pride. On to Cincy.

Greg:The sweep in Philly hasn’t changed my expectations at all. I don’t exactly expect this team to contend but I think they might surprise some people. I was happy to see some of our hitters having good at-bats. But on the other hand I was a little disappointed with the pitching with the exception of Myers. Hopefully we can get into the win column against the Reds and bring some momentum into the homestand.

Jesse:This series against the Phillies did not affect my expectations at all for this team this year. One of the reasons I think this way is because going up against those three pitchers that the Phillies threw at the Astros in their home ballpark was a very tough challenge, and if all were on which they were, then there was a pretty good chance that any team could have gone 0-3 in their first three games. Check back in two weeks, and we will see if this series was due to the quality of their opponent, or if the Astros have a lot of work to do.

 
Some positives that could be drawn from this series is that the Astros offense faired pretty well considering the quality of pitching they were up against. Brett Wallace looked decent at the plate which is a big plus for the team. He will be counted on to provide a large amount of offense this season. Another pleasant surprise is that both Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence swung the bat well in this series. If they can avoid getting off to a slow start then that will do wonders for the offense when compared to this time last year.
With the positives also come the negatives. Starting pitchers Bud Norris and Wandy Rodriguez struggled mightily in this series. Starting pitching was expected to be this teams strength going into the season and Wandy and Bud are a big part of that. This teams success hinges on the success of the starting rotation and the Astros cannot afford for Wandy to be Bad Wandy in the first half again, nor can they afford Bud Norris to pitch sub-par against every team not named the Cardinals.
Brad Mills has used three different batting lineups in the first three games. What is your ideal lineup?

Brandon: My ideal lineup for the Astros would look like this:

  1. Michael Bourn
  2. Angel Sanchez
  3. Hunter Pence
  4. Carlos Lee
  5. Chris Johnson
  6. Brett Wallace
  7. Bill Hall
  8. J.R. Towles
  9. Pitcher

Trevor:      Bourn obviously should lead off this lineup due to his speed, and those that contest can email me. Angel Sanchez has showed great patience at the plate, and I think he possesses the ability to let Bourn do what he needs to do on the basepath while being able to convert the hit & run. Pence is a stereotypical three hitter if he could just reduce the strikeouts. He can hit for power, but still get contact when he needs to put the ball in play.
     Chris Johnson is another guy who I think is fit to hit in the 3 hole, but I would like to see him hit in the four spot. He hits for contact and can bring in the runners. He may not have the power, but if you can string together hits, runs will cross the plate. Let Lee bat fifth and clean up what is left after the contact hitters so that he will still have RBI opportunities. Wallace has the potential to be a great contact hitter with 30+ homer pop in the future, but for now, let him sit in the six hole and experience his first full MLB season. Hall has yet to really impress me, and frankly, I don’t think he deserves to be above Q or Towles. We will see how April unfolds before I close the book on ol’ Billy, though.

  1. Michael Bourn
  2. Angel Sanchez
  3. Hunter Pence
  4. Chris Johnson
  5. Carlos Lee
  6. Brett Wallace
  7. Bill Hall
  8. Humberto Quintero / J.R. Towles
  9. Pitcher

Greg: Mills is pretty close with the lineups he has been using. When he put Pence in the three spot last year I thought it was too soon. But after his prolonged slump Hunter came to life and proved to be a legitimate number three hitter. Ideally if we can get everyone healthy I like the following lineups.
 
against RHP
1 Bourn CF
2 Keppinger 2B
3 Pence RF
4 Lee LF
5 Wallace 1B
6 Johnson 3B
7 Sanchez SS
8 Quintero C
 
against LHP
1 Bourn CF
2 Keppinger 2B
3 Pence RF
4 Lee 1B
5 Johnson 3B
6 Hall LF
7 Sanchez SS
8 Quintero C

Jesse:The only difference between the first game and the second game as far as the lineup goes was the fact that Mills substituted Towles for Quintero, which will probably be a pretty common theme this year since Towles and Quintero will essentially be splitting time behind the plate. In the third game Mills opted to bat Wallace ahead of Johnson in order to split up the right handed hitting Hall and Johnson. I think this is a good idea, but if Chris Johnson runs into a stretch where he gets hot like he did last year then I think that Ideally I would like to see Johnson bat fifth and Hall bat seventh.

My ideal lineup would be as follows:

1.) Bourn

 2.) Sanchez

 3.) Pence

 4.) Lee

 5.) Johnson

 6.) Wallace

 7.) Hall

8.) Towles

 I like Towles in the lineup over Quintero because he has more upside. Quintero is a solid backup and valuable to the team, but also has already reached his ceiling, whereas Towles may still be able to prove he can be a starting catcher at the major league level.

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