Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 Houston Astros Mid-Season Report Card: Position Players

Like any other baseball site, we're sitting here dulled into ignorance by nine hours of Chris Berman's yelling (similar to being repeatedly slapped in the face by a boat oar), and wondering what the heck we do with three days of no baseball. And so, like any other baseball site, we'll kill time with a report card. Grades assigned on an A-F basis.

1B Lance Berkman: C-

I know, Berkman missed most of Spring Training and the first eight games of the season with a knee injury, and he's getting older. Since posting a four-year high for OPS in 2008 with .986, Berkman's OPS has retreated: .907 in 2009 and .829 so far this year. All of his slash line numbers are the lowest since his 34-game debut in 1999. Berkman is hitting just .229 against LHPs this season, and .216/.364/.388 on the road.

His defense has been solid, making just one error all season, but Berkman is declining, and in a big, obvious way.

2B Jeff Keppinger: A

I did not think anyone would get an A this half, but we'll grade on a curve. Keppinger is leading the team in batting average (.284), and is second in OBP (.335) and third in total bases. He also is the only Astro to have more walks (25) than strikeouts (24). He's five walks away from a career-high, and while his OBP and SLG have stayed along the lines of his career numbers, his average has taken a 28 point jump in 2010. His defense has been solid at 2B since replacing Kaz Matsui.

3B Chris Johnson: Incomplete

We just don't know enough about what Chris Johnson can do to give him a grade, although he would get a higher grade than Pedro Feliz simply by not being Pedro Feliz. His strikeouts have always been an issue (9:1 ratio - 18K:2BB in 80 PAs this season), but he has managed 22 hits. In his first 63 PAs (18 games), he was 22x61, but finished the last six games of the "first half" on an 0x17 slide, to the point of giving 3B back to Pedro Feliz in the last two games before the break.

SS Tommy Manzella: D

Before Manzella broke his finger, he was hitting .212/.259/.254 through 59 games. Granted, Manzella wasn't supposed to be a big hitter - instead, he was to provide stability with his glove on defense, but he had committed eight errors for a .970 Fld% (league average is .969 Fld%). His glove hasn't been as advertised as he tries to make the transition to the Majors from Triple-A, and his .513 OPS is simply brutal. His rookie status prevents him from getting an F.

C Jason Castro: Incomplete

Same as Chris Johnson. We're not giving a grade here due to the fact that we're talking about 15 games. However, his .170/.278/.255 slash line is fairly brutal. That said, we have to remember that two summers ago he was playing for Stanford. The best thing about Castro is his arm behind the plate, nailing six of nine would-be base stealers.

LF Carlos Lee: F

Jeebus. From 1999-2009 Lee averaged .291/.344/.503, with 31 HR/110 RBI per 162 games. Which makes his current .240/.287/.395 (yes, that's a difference of 165 points) even more shocking and FAIL-worthy. He's hitting just .230/.266/.278 against RHPs, and .223/.275/.344 on the road. He may be coming on lately, though. After an April-May in which he posted a .453 and .666 OPS, respectively, he has followed it up with an .834 and an .804 in June and July. Regardless, he hasn't played like he's worth $1.8 million, much less $18 million, with his -1.5 WAR.

CF Michael Bourn: C

Bourn is leading the NL with 28 steals, and is obviously the Astros' lone All-Star. Still, his .331 OBP is low for a lead-off hitter, and he seems to be taking a step back from his "breakout" 2009 season. His OPS is 77 points lower in 2010 than in 2009. His defense is still Gold Glove-caliber, but he is hitting .208/.300/.264 against LHP (after posting .287/.325/.399 against LHPs in 2009).

RF Hunter Pence: C-

Pence is second on the team with a .743 OPS, but is sorely lacking in the "on base" thing, drawing walks in 7.1% of his ABs. Pence is one of the very few Astros doing better against LHPs than RHPs - all slash line categories are higher against LHP, but he's hitting .278/.337/468 at home and .248/.295/.388 on the road. He gets blown away by power pitchers, posting a .385 OPS. And his six outfield assists are nice, too - 3rd in the NL. He's been alright, not good, certainly not great.