Game 19 Notes—Houston Astros vs. Pittsburgh
- As was probably expected entering the season, the Astros are struggling to put runs on the board. Coming into the game, the Astros have plated 81 runs, 11th in the National League. Houston starts three offensive ciphers—Brad Ausmus, Adam Everett, and Craig Biggio.
– Speaking of Biggio, he presents an uncomfortable situation for the Astros. Biggio is a franchise icon and will one day have a plaque in Cooperstown, but he’s cooked as an everyday player. The second baseman has declined to the point where he is hindering the team’s ability to contend while pursuing the 3,000 hit milestone. Biggio has very much become a one-trick pony, using the Crawford Boxes to pop some homers (.293/.346/.516 at home from 2004-2006) while struggling immensely on the road (.232/.297/.382). Biggio’s range at second has been compromised as well. The Astros would unquestionably field a better lineup if the team were to play Chris Burke at second base and top prospect Hunter Pence in center field, but Houston has chosen good public relations over the correct baseball decision. In lieu of Jeff Bagwell’s ugly exit, perhaps the team fears alienating fans and players alike by pushing the other marquee player from the past decade out the door unceremoniously.
– Teams are scorching line-drive after line-drive off of Zach Duke in his past few starts. It appears that Duke is having a difficult time keeping his two-seam fastball down in the strike zone. This is vital for a contact-oriented, groundball pitcher. A well-placed two-seamer will cause hitters to drive the ball into the dirt, but an 88-90 MPH fastball over the middle of the plate is clearly inviting trouble.
– With the back of the Houston rotation in flux, Matt Albers could play an important role in how the team fares. Albers has a solid repetoire, possessing a plus two-seamer that sits around 92 MPH, a good slider, a curveball, and a changeup. Albers has some control issues at times, but he has the look of a decent mid-rotation starter. For a team relying on guys like Wandy Rodriguez and Woody Williams, that holds significant value. At the very least, Albers looks like a good bullpen arm.
– I’m going to be honest—I think the idea of Brad Eldred becoming a valuable everyday player is laughable. There are so many holes in the guy’s game. He certainly has tremendous raw power, but Eldred has serious issues controlling the strike zone, rarely walking and swinging at pitches in the dirt on a regular basis. He does not make consistent contact, striking out at an alarming rate that will inhibit his batting average. Eldred seems nearly helpless against any pitch that has movement on it. Defensively, the big “outfielder” offers little versatility, as his below-average speed and range make him a poor fielder at first base or right field. The 26 year-old has all the makings of a Quadruple-A slugger, possessing the ability to mash AAA pitching but lacking the athleticism and strike-zone judgment to succeed at the major league level.
– I realize he’s new at this, but Eldred’s movements in the outfield could kindly be described as resembling those of a wounded horse.
– Duke has done a considerably better job of keeping the ball down tonight. He also appears to be throwing a slider fairly often, something we have not seen with any regularity from the lefty in the majors. The progress with the slider is interesting, but Duke still has some work to do with his curveball, which has been loopy as of late.
– I’ve been very impressed by Jonah Bayliss so far this season. His low-90s fastball has a good deal of movement on it, and he has made considerable progress with his slider. Bayliss has occasional control issues, but I see no reason why he can’t become a fixture in the Pirates bullpen.