The Astros topped the Mets in Grapefruit League action today to extend their winning streak to five. It’s probably no coincidence that this all started when our beloved Astros Fan in Exile headed down to Kissimmee. It’s official, Susan, you can never leave.
As if to highlight the theory that the contracting roster and further conditioning of the veteran starters was the key to the turnaround, it is the continued evolution of those very starters that has provided this turn around.
I took a look at the numbers for the Astros’ projected starting lineup of Ivan Rodriguez, Lance Berkman, Kazuo Matsui, Miguel Tejada, Geoff Blum, Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn, and Hunter Pence. First, their numbers during the 13-game winless streak between their 7-5 exhibition win over Panama on 03/05 and their 4-2 win over Cincinnati on 03/20. Then, their numbers over the past five games:
Winless Streak: .173/.240/.259
Unbeaten Streak: .363/.392/.538
It’s no surprise that a team who gets on base at a .392 clip will out-perform one that gets on at a rate of .240. Neither is it terribly shocking that one who slugs .538 is better than one with a SLG of .259.
As the veterans – Rodriguez, Berkman, Matsui, Tejada, Blum, and Lee – continue to fall into their comfort zone, and as the starting eight begin to jell, they should continue to get better. The scary part comes with injuries. If I had to guess at our bench right now, I’d take Humberto Quintero, Jason Smith, Edwin Maysonet, Darin Erstad, and Jason Michaels. Neither the most nor the least efficient bench in the majors.
But the deeper we have to go into the organization, once we get past the top tier of Chris Johnson, John Gall, Brian Bogusevic, J.R. Towles, and Tommy Manzella – we will run into trouble, and a lot of it. This year is going to be topsy-turvy. Can the current team compete while the younger guys continue to get ready to take over? It should be fun to find out.