If you want to dig for dirt, don’t bother getting a shovel if it is on the topic of the Astros. It doesn’t take a baseball fan to recognize that the 2011 campaign for the Astros thus far has been rough to say the least. In a Zachary Levine article today, readers could see why the Astros have had such a terrible start, and it frankly didn’t take any stat bending to do so. Here, though, we can take a look at what we have to look forward to as 2011 progresses.
1. A better bullpen
With Brandon Lyon going on to the DL and Fernando Abad shipping up to OKC, the Astros have been able to boast a strong bullpen over the past week, allowing just 1 ER in the past 6 games. Obviously, that is a small window of stats, but having Melancon and a healthy Lopez at the back end of the bullpen for the rest of the year will make the MLB’s worst bullpen into one that is above average. In a perfect storm of bad pitching decisions and match ups by Mills, the Astros have squandered away victory after victory early in the year, but they didn’t have Lopez to turn to in tight situations. Having him back and healthy will prevent Fulchino from being over worked, and the 7-9th innings will surely be more secure.
2. An improving Carlos Lee
After putting up a dismal .561 OPS in April, Lee currently boasts a .815 OPS in May. Though the over paid slugger is still on pace to just knock in over 80 RBIs, Lee is notable for his ability string together clutch games where he knocks in Astros as if it were going out of style. I am not completely defending his terrible performance in 2011, but his May shows that he will be more of a threat that he was for the first half of this young season. Pence has been getting on base at a record high this season, and Lee’s ability to put the ball in play as opposed to in the SS’s (fun abbreviation there) glove after a tall pop out this May should convert into some run support the heart of the order was missing.
3. Jeff Keppinger
Remember that “slugger” for the Astros last season that led the team in batting? He is due to come of the DL very soon, and will add some discipline to the middle of the infield that has been absent in previous weeks. Kepp will also give the Astros a guy who can handle the ever important 2 spot in the order. Bourn saw his steal production go up last season after Matsui was released due to the savvy plate appearances of Keppinger, and you can only imagine that Bourny will see his steals rise upon his arrival. Unlike Bill Hall, Kepp can also put the ball in play instead of striking out at a historic pace. The Astros have missed the veteran approach of Ol’ Kepp, and, until he is traded, Jeff will provide the rhythm this team has been missing up the middle.
These are only a few reasons as to why I think you should be optimistic, but I do believe that this team can finish with less than 90 losses. In fact, mark my words: they will. The Astros have scrapped together some impressive second halves to the season, and this year is just another hopeful example. So keep your heads up, Astro fans. The season isn’t even a third of the way over.