Things to Know About the Houston Astros

The Mets return to Citi Field this week for a three game series against the Houston Astros. Here’s some stuff you might want to know about them:

Record: 5-11
Manager: Brad Mills
Park: Home games for the Mets. Citi Field reduces run scoring.

Lineup:
CF – Michael Bourn – L
SS – Angel Sanchez – R
RF – Hunter Pence – R
LF – Carlos Lee – R
1B – Brett Wallace – L
2B – Bill Hall – R
3B – Chris Johnson – R
C – Humberto Quintero – R

Oh dear. Both teams come into the series with 5-11 records. The Mets are a .500 team playing bad baseball; the Astros might be the worst team in the National League, and they’re playing like it. On offense, they strike out, don’t draw walks, and don’t hit home runs. On defense, they have made the most errors (17) and have the worst defensive efficiency and fielding percentage in the NL. Outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence are the only players who might realistically start on other teams. Young corner infielders Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson at least have something resembling upside. But there isn’t much to see anywhere else: just three players on the roster have a better-than-average career OPS. With a dry farm system and top catching prospect Jason Castro already out for the year, help isn’t on the way either. It’s going to be a long year in Houston.

Rotation:
4/19: LHP – Wandy Rodriguez (vs. Jon Niese)
4/20: RHP – Bud Norris (vs. R.A. Dickey)
4/21: LHP – J.A. Happ (vs. Chris Capuano)
Miss: RHP – Nelson Figueroa
Miss: RHP — Brett Myers

The Astros’ rotation has surrendered more runs (60) than any other group in the NL, but their starters are better pitchers than the ERAs have shown — much of the damage has been done by the aforementioned league-worst defense. Games 1 and 3 will be started by the lefties Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ. Rodriguez has been hit hard in two of his first three starts, but posted a 3.36 ERA over the past three years; he’s their best pitcher. The fly ball happy Happ has also struggled early, walking more than he’s struck out and allowing 31 base runners in 18.2 innings. Righty Bud Norris starts Game 2; his 5.06 ERA is the second best mark in the rotation. Norris has great stuff and racks up strikeouts, but struggles with his command. Also of note: Wandy, Bud, and J.A. sound like a group of guys who might start a Phish cover band.

Bench:
C – J.R. Towles – R
IF – Matt Downs – R
UT – Joe Inglett – L
UT – Jason Bourgeois – R
OF – Jason Michaels – R

Two 27 year olds, former top catching prospect J.R. Towles and infielder Matt Downs, have combined to hit .368/.414/.605 in 41 plate appearances off the bench. Both have hit well in the minors, and they’re probably better than half the players the Astros are starting. For example: Humberto Quintero and his career .599 OPS. They’re not starting because the Astros are a bad team, and bad teams don’t play their best players.

Bullpen:
RHP – Brandon Lyon
RHP – Mark Melancon
LHP – Fernando Abad
RHP – Jeff Fulchino
RHP – Enerio Del Rosario
RHP – Aneury Rodriguez
RHP – Jose Valdez

Manager Brad Mills loves to make pitching changes, which is bad news for fans of quick games, but good news for the overly hydrated. Last season, Astros relievers worked the fifth fewest innings in the league, but made the third most appearances. This season: sixth fewest innings, third most appearances. There’s only one lefty out there, Fernando Abad, so it’s not as if Mills is playing lefty-righty matchups — perhaps he just enjoys the exercise he gets walking out to the mound twice an inning. His bullpen is mostly a group of younger arms, with the closer Brandon Lyon and Jeff Fulchino the only pitchers over 30 and the only pitchers with at least 50 games of experience.

And those were some things you may have wanted to know about the Houston Astros.

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