Another week and another Astros Round Table discussion with the writers here at Climbing Tal’s Hill. This week we are going to discuss how Carlos Lee’s injury will affect the Astros and if Bud Norris could develop into an ace for the Astros. To all the readers: If you would like to see us answer your questions, please post them in the comment section and we will use them for next week.
What affect do you think Carlos Lee’s injury on Sunday will have on the Astros if he is required to miss extended time?
Brandon: I never would wish an injury on a player but Lee out of the lineup I think makes this team much stronger. Jason Bourgeois has played very well in limited action and offers more to this team than Lee does at this point in his career. Bourgeois plays better defense, is a terror on the basepaths and has already come up with some big hits late in games. Lee no longer really strikes fear in opposing pitchers and has been hanging around the Mendoza line for most of the season, something you don’t want from your cleanup hitter. With Jason Bourgeois in the lineup, Brad Mills can take a page out of Tony LaRussa’s book and move the pitcher to the eighth spot, plug Bourgeois in the ninth and pair him up with Bourn and Sanchez at the top of the order. This would provide a ton of speed in front of Pence and Wallace.
Trevor: I think it is evident that Brian Bogusevic and Jason Bourgeois will take the reps out in left field due to Michaels being on the DL for now. Of these two options, Jason Bourgeois shows that he deserves the every day opportunities with his 8 steals and .350+ batting average. The lineup used on Saturday, as well, shows how having Bourgeois in the lineup gives us speed that can translate into runs. By having Bourn, Bourgeois, and Sanchez in front of Pence in the lineup will give us more opportunities to score some small ball runs that seem to fit this offense more than looking for the long ball. This lineup gives Houston the opportunity to execute their offense at the most effective level: high OBP leading to runs.
Jesse: Carlos Lee has gotten off to another slow start this year. However, he has managed to hit 3 homeruns this year which is 3 more than he had hit at this time last year. It’s hard to determine how Lee’s injury will affect the team. If Sunday’s 2 for 3 performance with the Homerun was a sign that he was about to breakout then his injury drastically hurts the team. On the other hand if that performance was just an abberation then Lee missing some time will not affect the team, and the argument could be made that the Astros could improve. Jason Bourgeois is hot right now and there’s no denying that, so he would likely see an increase in playing time. What I would like to see happen is Brad Mills go with more of a platoon approach with Bourgeois taking the starts when a lefty is on the mound, and Brian Bogusevic taking the starts when a righty is on the mound. This type of platoon should maximize both players production as both of them has shown that a noticeable difference in their righty/lefty splits, with Bogusevic’s being more noticeable.
Greg: If Tuesday’s game is any indication, Lee’s injury could be a blessing in disguise. With Bourgeois hitting second and Wallace in the four spot the Astros have an extra table-setter and a legitimate cleanup hitter. Even Clint Barmes, in the seven spot where he belongs, responded with an RBI extra base hit. I have always been one of the few supporters of El Caballo, but I have to admit that he is looking less and less like the player that he once was. The early reports suggest that Lee will not miss an extended period of time. So we may not get to see this lineup get many opportunities. I know it’s only one game at this point, but the immediate success would suggest that Lee is expendable. Who knows? Maybe the Astros can find an A.L. team willing to part with a prospect or two for a DH.
Do you think Bud Norris has the ability to become the Astros’ ace in the near future?
Brandon: I think Bud Norris has the talent to become an ace for the Astros. He has been pitching very well this season and keeps getting better each season. He has improved his K/9 ratio each season to this years total of 10.85 and has one of the better ERAs in the National League right now at 3.03. He has also dropped opponent’s batting average down to .237 this season. If he wants to become that true ace, he will need to work on getting quality starts and go deeper into games but I think he will be able do that as he gains experience and gets stronger. Bud Norris either way looks like he will be a fixture in the Astros rotation for years to come.
Trevor: Bud Norris is panning out to quite the starting pitcher. If he continues to put up the numbers that he has produced so far this season, he will end up being one of the top National League pitchers in strike outs and ERA. Norris is a good pitcher that has the potential to be a dominate, but I do not see him as a guy that can consistently go out and pitch more than 6 innings on any given start. When I think ace, IP is the first stat to come to mind outside of the obvious wins, ERA, and WHIP. For example, Brett Myers is our “ace” for that reason: he goes deep into games and gives the Astros a chance to win almost every time he is on the bump. If you leave a game with 3 or 4 innings left to go, then the stress is put on the bullpen to lock up the win, and that is not the characteristics of an ace. Bud can be a shut down, darn good two pitcher that will make opponents throw fits, but an inning eating, consistent pitcher is what makes an ace.
Jesse: Can Norris become a serviceable major league pitcher for the next couple of seasons? Will Norris become a staff ace for the Houston Astros? Does Norris have what it takes to remain in the starting rotation or will he be viewed as a future closer? The key to which one of these three questions Bud Norris will answer will depend on his development and ability to transition from thrower to pitcher. He is on the right path, but still has a little way to go before you can annoint him an ace. As witnessed Sunday, Norris has one of the best Fastball-Slider combinations out there. These two pitches will and have carried Bud a long way, but it will be how his changeup develops that will determine if he is a future ace or average starter. His location has improved from last year to this year, and if his changeup continues to improve then adding that pitch to his Fastball-Slider combo will make Norris very tough. Here’s hoping that he continues to put it all together.
Greg: I think Bud Norris is developing into the type of pitcher that could become a staff ace. He’s always had great stuff and now he is learning to harness it. If Bud can continue to decrease his walk rate the sky is the limit. Norris seems to be gaining confidence in his changeup, which has been a nice addition to his arsenal this season.