Feb 212013
 

Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.

  1. Houston Astros

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

The Rangers’ cross-state inter-league rival is making the move to the American League West starting in the 2013 season to become a more frequent opponent on the Rangers’ schedule and potentially bring more intrigue and consequence to each match-up.

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

New Manager Bo Porter hopes to get things turned around in Houston.

The Astros are a young team who will struggle to really build their identity in the American League in 2013.  However, with new manager Bo Porter in place, a respected front-office and a strong farm system (4th on Keith Law’s organizational rankings),they hope to get out of the cellar in the next 2-3 seasons.

Unfortunately, with the move to the AL West (Hello DH!), the limited experience of many key players (youth) and the anticipated improvement in Seattle, it’s not likely that they will finish anywhere but last this season.  The question is, how many games will this team lose?

After finishing last in the National League Central in 2011 and 2012, with 106 and 107 losses respectively, the win’s won’t come any easier in 2013.  Is another 100+ loss season on tap for the Lastros (sorry, couldn’t resist)?  Uhhhh…yes.

The Bats & Gloves

As stated earlier, the Astros have some young talent at the Major League level and the large majority of that, if not all, falls to the position players.  With some moving parts and flexibility in the line-up, it could easily change, but…

Projected Lineup (from Chip Bailey, Ultimate Astros blog)

  1. Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

    Jose Altuve will set the tone for the Astros’ lineup in 2013.

    Jose Altuve, 2B

  2. Tyler Greene, SS
  3. Brett Wallace, 1B
  4. Chris Carter, LF
  5. Justin Maxwell, CF
  6. J.D. Martinez, RF
  7. Carlos Pena, DH
  8. Jason Castro, C
  9. Matt Dominguez, 3B

There are many potential variations out there for the Astros’ lineup, but the players are pretty set with the exception of OF Fernando Martinez who should crack the lineup regularly throughout the season.

The 5’5″ Altuve is a solid lead-off option, but beyond that the Astros have a number of question marks with inexperience and inconsistency being the big culprits.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some players here, but I don’t think the Astros can count on the offense to improve enough to avoid 100 losses again.

If a couple of the youngsters (Martinez, Martinez, Wallace, Castro & Dominguez) can break out and if they can get some consistency from the veterans (Pena, Maxwell), they could help win 7+ more games in 2013, but….

The Arms

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

Can the Rocket improve this pitching staff?

A few key figures from 2012:

  • .270 Batting Average Against – 27th in the Majors
  • .337 Opponents On-Base Percentage – 28th in Majors
  • .427 Opponents Slugging Percentage – 25th in Majors
  • 2.17 K/BB – 25th in Majors
  • 1.43 WHIP – 29th in Majors
  • Only blew 19 saves…but that was on only 50 save opportunities, so good enough for a 62% Save Rate – 26th in Majors

With all due respect to Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun and Joey Votto…it’s not going to get any easier in the American League West.

The Astros brought former Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens in to help, but that’s not going to help unless he brought Brian McNamee along.

The Rotation

There are as many as 10 pitchers in the mix, vying for a spot in the starting rotation, but here’s what’s likely:

  1. Bud Norris
  2. Lucas Harrell
  3. Phillip Humber
  4. Jordan Lyles
  5. Erik Bedard

Brad Peacock, Alex White, Jared Cosart and John Ely are all talented young pitchers who will very likely get a shot at some point during the season as well.

The Pen

Looking at this bunch, I would say there are no clearly defined roles with setup and closing duties open for competition in Spring Training – and the possibility of some of the youngsters mentioned above (Peacock, White, Cosart and Ely) fighting for spots in the bullpen (ala Robbie Ross).

More than likely, Jose Veras will be the closer at least to start the season.

The Manager

First year rookie manager Bo Porter has his hands full, but barring a cluster of unforgivable mistakes, expect the Astros front office to have some patience with him.  I, for one, think Porter was an excellent hire and if given time can be a good major league manager.

From “The Legend of Bo Porter” on RantSports.com:

Porter studied all 162 games of the Astros season last year. He believes the Astros could have won 35 more games than the 55 that the Astros did actually win. If you do the math, that is 90 win season for the Astros and would have ultimately propelled the Astros into the playoffs as the second Wild Card. Porter said those 35 games were lost at the “breaking point”. He also went on to say all the Astros need was mental toughness, and of course, a little motivation.

Maybe a little much, but shows the enthusiasm and confidence.

The Bottom Line

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

Astros’ prospect Delino Deshields Jr.

The facts:

  • New rookie manager
  • Move to the American League
  • Lots of unproven young talent
  • Very shaky (at best) pitching staff
  • Highly regarded front office
  • More young talent in the minor league system

Not working this game by game, but here are my predictions:

  • Best case: 77-95 – Altuve solidifies himself as an up-and-coming MLB star, a couple of the young bats really break out and Brad Peacock and Alex White save the pitching staff.
  • Worst case: 52-110 – Altuve regresses and Porter can’t find the right mix offensively or with his staff all season.

Up next…stay tuned.

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Jun 162012
 
For Grimm, the future is anything but.

Grimm Reaps Win in Debut as Boomstick Helps Rangers Bag Silver Boot

For Grimm, the future is anything but.

Rookie right-hander Justin Grimm did something during his major league debut that one particular Texas pitcher hasn’t pulled off since 2011.

He earned a win.

Before yet another sellout crowd at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Grimm (1-0, 4.50 ERA) was cool, calm and collected…even after surrendering a first inning solo shot to Houston’s shortstop, Jed Lawrie.

Grimm would be touched up for two more Houston runs in the top of the fifth inning thanks to a Justin Maxwell RBI double and a Jordan Schafer single.

In between the one-run first and two-run fifth, Maxwell struck out five-straight Astros, and finished his day with six innings pitched, seven strikeouts, zero walks and three earned runs.

Not bad for a 22-year-old that had never pitched above Double-A.

And to think that when Grimm threw his final pitch in the sixth inning, he was in line to take the loss, as the Texas Rangers were down 3-0.

The three-run deficit wouldn’t last long.

Moments after Grimm used his 88th and final pitch to record the final out of a 1-2-3 sixth, the Texas Rangers offense suddenly sprang to life.

Better late than never.

After being blanked in their first five frames the Rangers finally solved the Lucas Harrell puzzle. Harrell had surrendered just two hits heading into the sixth. Before he could register the sixth inning’s second out, the Rangers had exploded for five hits and just as many runs, highlighted by a one-out, three-run homer by Nelson Cruz.

¡Gracias, Señor Boomstick!

I’m willing to bet Justin Grimm enjoyed the backing of the most potent offense in Major League Baseball. Here’s hoping the powers that be will grant the kid another big league start in the near future.

Numbers of Note and Notes on Numbers:

33%

• Percentage of the Houston Astros’ total hits that Jordan Schafer recorded from the leadoff spot yesterday. Schafer, Houston’s center fielder, went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base.

Lucas Harrell

• 2 and 0…number of hits and runs Harrell allowed through his first five innings of work.
• 5 and 5…number of hits and runs Harrell allowed in the sixth inning; he recorded just one out before being replaced by Fernando Rodriguez.

The Five-run Inning

• A five-run fifth inning on Friday fueled the Rangers’ to victory in game 1.
• Likewise, it was a five-run outburst—this time in the sixth inning—that was Houston’s downfall yesterday.

June 3rd

• The last time Cruz had hit a home run before yesterday’s go-ahead, three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning.
• Nelson’s big blast was just his second in the month of June.

Silver Boot

• Yesterday’s 8-3 win guaranteed that the Silver Boot is the property of the Texas Rangers forever…this is the last Lone Star Series as the Astros will move into the AL West in 2013.

16

• Run differential between the Rangers and Astros through their first five games. Texas has outscored Houston 29-13.

13

• Number of consecutive at-bats Ian Kinsler had gone without a hit until he singled in the bottom of the sixth inning yesterday.

71.4%

• Justin Grimm’s winning percentage over his minor league career—spanning 38 starts…Grimm’s won 100% of his major league starts.

3rd Straight

• The Texas Rangers secured their third consecutive series win, and will go for their first sweep since late last month tomorrow in the Lone Star Series finale.

Up Next:

Anyone know a good real estate agent? Because the Silver Boot will be looking to buy some land in the DFW Metroplex—it won’t be heading back to Houston.

The Texas Rangers (39-27) will close out their three-game series with the Houston Astros (27-38) today, with the first pitch scheduled for 2:05 PM (CT).

RHP Colby Lewis (5-5, 3.13 ERA) will look for his second-straight win against the Houston Astro’s rookie LHP Dallas Keuchel (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who will be making his big league debut.

Make sure to check back here for the Baseball Do series finale preview!

Grimm Reaps Win in Debut as Boomstick Helps Rangers Bag Silver Boot

Happy Father's Day Dad! You've still got a full head of thick...lettuce. You're the best! Love, Tim (Howell)

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