We come to July and we find the Astros leaking oil badly. The team has a ton of issues but let’s all remember, it’s about the future not the present. We at Climbing Tal’s Hill would like to present the latest installment of the State of the Astros report. Let’s see how each part of the Astros organization is doing and help explain how it got there.
Brian starts us off with the on-field staff and front office look, just a hint one gets glaring reviews while the other, not so much.
Manager: I’ve said several times that I truly do not know what Brad Mills’ future is with the club or if he even has a future. It’s easy for us all to sit back and nitpick at moves managers make and second guess but Mills takes it to a whole new level. His use of the righty/lefty platoons (depending on whether we are facing a right or left handed pitcher) is odd, to say the least. There have been games where we will go through three pitchers in one inning (for the lefty/right or righty/lefty matchup) and then be in a bind later in the game as we head for extra innings and do not have enough arms. His constant use of David Carpenter and especially Fernando Rodriguez is puzzling to me. Rodriguez leads the team in losses….AS A RELIEVER. He continues to get put in the game in critical situations and continues to screw up.
Overall Grade for Mills: D
Front Office:This is my first time being able to grade the front office. I cannot stress how important Jeff Luhnow, George Postolos and most importantly, Jim Crane, have been to this ball club. The Astros have been stuck in a combination of purgatory and hell for the past six years. Bringing in this new front office and getting rid of pretty much everyone associated with the previous regime was a breath of fresh air.
While many fans wanted Jim Crane to hire hometown boy, Andrew Friedman, away from the Rays, he went with an under the radar guy in Jeff Luhnow who has simply been fantastic. I cannot think of nor can I find a single move that Luhnow has made that has been a mistake. He has put an emphasis on the draft and player development and just hit a grand slam in his first ever draft as Astros GM. The Astros were universally applauded for their draft as they selected and signed three first-round talents in Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz. The latter two were considered tough signs with firm college commitments but Luhnow was able to get them into the fold.
Luhnow traded former closer Mark Melancon for (possible) All Star SS, Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland. Lowrie is having one of, if not the best, seasons of all major league shortstops. He also has an agreement in place (pending his approval) to trade Carlos Lee for a pretty nice prospect.
Overall Grade for Front Office: A+
Greg follows up with a look at the Astros’ bullpen and starting pitching staff.
Starting Pitchers: The starting pitching has been fantastic over the last couple of weeks, especially the young guys. Dallas Keuchel (1.35 ERA and 1.15 WHIP) and Lucas Harrell (3.63 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for the month) have carried the staff. Harrell picked up three wins during the month, including a shutout. Jordan Lyles and J.A. Happ won two games apiece in June. Happ has been solid in each of his last three outings after an inconsistent beginning.
The pitchers that we expected to do most of the heavy lifting have experienced a difficult month. Bud Norris missed time due to injuries and went 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA for the month and Wandy Rodriguez had a 1.50 WHIP and a 6.00 ERA.
With such a mixed bag of results I’m going to have to temper my grade accordingly. It’s definitely nice to see the young guys getting it done, but we need the veterans to step up and pull their weight.
Overall grade for Starting Pitchers: C+
Bullpen: The bullpen has been the most inconsistent aspect of the 2012 Astros. The Regulators shut teams down in the late innings during the month of May after getting off to a slow start in April. Well, it was nice while it lasted. In June the bullpen was terrible, going 0-4 and posting a 7.00 ERA. And that doesn’t include Brian Bogusevic‘s stats. (Bogey pitched an inning in a blowout and allowed a couple of runs)
With Wilton Lopez on the D.L. due to over-usage by Mills, the ‘pen has fallen apart. If Lopez was healthy he might be a candidate to replace a struggling Brett Myers as the closer. Myers has been hammered on a regular basis this month, as have David Carpenter and Rhiner Cruz. And please, don’t get me started about Fernando Rodriguez.
Overall grade for Bullpen: F
Now let me discuss the offense, it is missing in action. We haven’t seen it for some time and fans are getting worried. I even think I saw it on the side of a milk carton. As far as the defense, they’ve been okay but Chris Johnson is a major liability at 3rd. We already knew that but it was painfully re-enforced this past week.
Offense: With Jose Altuve on the shelf, the offense has been even worse. It’s hard to say anything positive besides the fact Atluve was chosen to the All-Star team yesterday. Jed Lowrie has been slumping this month but is still one of the best hitting shortstops in the game. Jason Castro has improved a great deal and is showing promise. After that, it’s hard really as most everyone else has been mediocre to bad. Carlos Lee has been decent but let’s not discuss him today. Overall, the offense has disappeared and if or when Lowrie gets dealt, it could get even worse.
Overall Grade for Offense: D
Defense: The Astros have been decent in this category. I can’t really complain too much but honestly Chris Johnson is a problem. While he is hitting just enough to stay productive, his defense is an issue. It really has been an issue for some time but it reared it’s ugly head once again this past week. Besides our friend CJ, I can’t really complain much.
Overall Grade for Defense: B
So it’s obvious the team has problems but none we didn’t expect. It took time for the ‘Stros show their true weaknesses but it has happened. I don’t see it getting much better anytime soon but once again, 2012 was always about development not winning.