Now that the Astros season is 60 games in and currently have a 23-37 record, I thought it would be a good time to look back and reflect on the clubs progress, or lack there of, to this point. I think one word that could sum up the first part of the season would be disappointment. Many people projected the Astros to be last, which they are, but I was one of the few who was cautiously optimistic because of how the team finished last year.
The fact the Astros are in last place is not the reason I am disappointed but rather how they got there. The bullpen has been blowing leads left and right and Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle posted on Twitter at the end of May via the Elias Sports Bureau that the Astros had lost 11 games when they were up two runs, lost eight games when up three or more runs, and five games when up four or more. This a tough stat to swallow and the reason this season has been so disappointing. After the jump, I will be going through the infield and giving grades on their performance to this point. Tomorrow I will touch base on the outfield and the pitching staff.
Catcher: The season started out on a low note with Jason Castro going down with season ending knee injury during Spring Training. This created a platoon at the position between veteran Humberto Quintero and JR Towles, who has had a number of chances in the majors but can’t seem to reach his potential. Well 2011 started out strong for Towles who hit .364 in the month of April but has since come crashing back down to Earth. Since May 1st, he has a grand total of six hits in 62 at-bats for a whooping batting average of .097. With Quintero currently on the DL, this looks like a position of weakness all year.
First Base: Brett Wallace has been playing lights out all season and has been one of the few bright spots on this Astros team. He is hitting .319 with four home runs and 18 RBI and his RBI number would be higher if Pence wasn’t clearing the bases before Wallace got up to bat. The best stat though has to be that he has 22 walks through 59 games, which is 12 more walks than he had in 2010 in 51 games. He looks more comfortable at the plate and is becoming the batter many people have envisioned for some time. Not to mention he isn’t a bad glove in the field. The one stat I would like to see improved his is power numbers and see a couple more home runs out of the man.
Second Base: Where to begin? How about we are 60 games in and our second baseman from Opening Day is no longer on the roster. Bill Hall, yes the same Bill Hall that was the Astros top free agent signing, was released last week. However, this isn’t a bad thing as this now opens the door for Jeff Keppinger to take back what was rightfully his in the starting second base job. Keppinger has been on the DL for most of the season and has only played in nine games so far this season. However, he is hitting .314 with three home runs and 14 RBI already. He will definitely be fun to watch the rest of the season and should help the Astros a ton.
Grade: Incomplete (I want to give Kepp a chance to show what he can do before I grade)
Third Base: Chris Johnson played like a man possessed at the end of 2010 and doesn’t look like the same man in 2011. He currently has a .222 average to go along with six home runs and 22 RBI. A sign though that things are moving in the right direction is that his batting average has kept increasing each month from .185 in April, to .250 in May and he is hitting .278 so far in June. I don’t see Johnson getting sent back down to Triple-A and this is something he needs to work out and should have all season to do it.
Shortstop: Clint Barmes was the other free agent of note this off-season and spent time on the DL as many Astros havel this season. He is currently batting .235 with three home runs and seven RBI in 33 games but has gotten better as the season has gone on and hit .333 so far in June. The power numbers are a little bit of a concern, as this was the many reason they brought the Astros in. The bright spot to start the season was Angel Sanchez who filled in great for Barmes and I personally think should of kept the starting spot, so because of that this position gets a little higher grade.