HOUSTON,TX-MAY 05 : Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros high fives J.D. Martinez #14 of the Houston Astros after the final out as the Houston Astros defeat the St. Louis Cardinals on May 5, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The Astros, picked by almost everyone in the world to lose 100+ games this season, have been surprisingly OK so far in 2012. Their record of 22-25 is better than five NL teams (your Rockies included), and their pythagorean record is a game above .500 as a result of cumulatively outscoring their opposition (189 runs scored, 182 runs allowed) thus far.
Looking at their lineup, there are four guys who have been above-average in terms of OPS+ to this point in the season. Carlos Lee (111 OPS+), while having been sapped of a lot of his power, still gets on base and never, EVER strikes out. In fact, his 4.9 K% leads the league by a fairly wide margin - almost two full percentage points ahead of Marco Scutaro. Meanwhile, Jed Lowrie, who was jettisoned from Boston for some unknown reason, has posted a 122 OPS+, powered by a team-leading seven homers. Chris Johnson has an atrocious K/BB ratio, but still owns a slug-heavy 106 OPS+. The best of the bunch is a guy who is among the league's most diminutive players:
#27 / Second Base / Houston Astros
May 06, 1990
|2012 - Jose Altuve||.307||.359||.469|
The 22 year old Altuve made waves last season by being the best hitter in the minors, as his .389/.426/.591 line in 391 plate appearances would indicate. In a late-season call up to the bigs, he struggled a bit, but he has picked up the pace this season and continues to defy odds. His OPS+ of 126 leads the team, and it's not batting average/OBP-fueled, either; his 19 extra base hits are the most for any player on the club.
Houston doesn't have much in the way of bench depth, which may ultimately be their undoing once we get later into the season. Nobody has an OPS+ better than Travis Buck's 70, and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Matt Downs has lived up to his name a bit this season, as his slash line is down to .150/.203/.367, good for a 53 OPS+.
The rotation has held up fairly well so far, with Wandy Rodriguez being far and away the best of the group. Boy, would the Rockies love to have his 2.14 ERA/180 ERA+, 1.09 WHIP, and 3.00 K/BB ratio atop their rotation. Nevertheless, Rodriguez is clearly making the best of his situation in Houston, despite constantly being surrounded by trade rumors. In terms of striking people out, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ have been pleasant surprises for the Astros. Both pitchers are whiffing a batter per inning, but Happ has been a little more hittable and homer-prone, leading to his below-average ERA+ of 88. Norris (115 ERA+), meanwhile, has continued to build upon the promise he has shown in the previous few seasons. He has always struck guys out, but has walked a few too many in the past. However, he has improved upon that a bit this season, so we'll see where it takes him. Lucas Harrell rounds out their regular rotation (as Kyle Weiland and Jordan Lyles have shared time in the fifth spot), and he is due to get hit hard by regression. Currently, he sports an ERA+ of 103, but a lot of that resides with the fact that he has been the benefactor of some decent BABIP luck (.275). His K/BB ratio is pretty horrendous, and his GO/AO ratio of 2.43 should revert to the norm, as it has never been higher than 1.64.
Houston's bullpen has been a strength, particularly the top three guys. Brett Myers is the closer, and he already has 12 saves. He strikes out enough batters, doesn't walk many, and to this point hasn't been very hittable, allowing just 11 in 17 innings. Wilton Lopez and Brandon Lyon follow that mold as well; Lopez strikes out seven batters for every walk issued, while Lyon's number is 9 K's for every walk.
For more on the Astros, head over to The Crawfish Boxes.
Probable starters and more after the jump.
Game 1 - today at 1:10 PM MT (ROOT Sports)
Wandy Rodriguez (4-4, 2.14 ERA) vs. Juan Nicasio (2-2, 4.83 ERA)
Game 2 - tonight at 6:10 PM MT (ROOT Sports)
Jordan Lyles (0-1, 5.29) vs. Alex White (1-3, 5.32)
Game 3 - Wednesday at 6:40 PM MT (ROOT Sports)
Lucas Harrell (4-3, 3.72) vs. Christian Friedrich (2-1, 5.09)
Game 4 - Thursday at 6:40 PM MT (ROOT Sports)
Bud Norris (5-1, 3.34) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (2-3, 5.31)
Houston Astros Roster
|Enerio Del Rosario||66||P|
Houston Astros Injuries