Run production in 2010. Anyone else concerned?

I’m all for the team getting younger next year, and at some positions — catcher and shortstop, namely — it’s probably unavoidable, and necessary.

But here’s what worries me. The production from the middle of the order has been, at best, ordinary in the second half this year, and I’m wondering if this is a preview of what we’re going to see next year, too.

I’m concerned about the veterans — specifically, Lance Berkman, who hasn’t hit a home run since July 9 and who is on pace to fall far short of 100 RBIs on the season. He’s driven in fewer than 100 only twice before, since his first full season in the Majors in 2001: in ’03, when he drove in 93, and ’05, when he drove in 82 after starting the season a month late because of the knee injury.

Carlos Lee has put forth a steady year, although he’s also in danger of falling short of the 100 RBI mark. He has 88 with 23 games remaining. His overall numbers are decent — .306 average, 23 homers — but you can’t help but wonder what he’ll be as a 34-year-old in 2010.

This is disconcerting because the production of both Berkman and Lee is vital to the Astros makeup, and if they do inject some youth into their order next season, they have to figure those young players are going to have their share of struggles at some point (or points) in the season.

I full support the defensively-sound Tommy Manzella getting a very real shot to win the shortstop job next Spring Training, and I hope the Astros are serious about approaching the catcher situation with the same open mind when Jason Castro reports to Kissimmee in February. But we can’t just assume that the offensive production is going to come from those two future rookies, or from Chris Johnson, should he win a job at third base.

For any of this to work, the Astros have to be able to pencil in Berkman and Lee for their normal productive numbers, and quite frankly, given the fact that they’re both turning 34 next year, I’m not really optimistic that they’ll be able to carry the lineup. Especially since they haven’t consistently done so this year.

There probably is not a quick fix for the problem. It’s unlikely the Astros would be able to find a Berkman-type to pluck from another organization, so realistically, Berkman and Lee will be the two big boppers in the Astros lineup again next year, with Hunter Pence presumably moving up one spot to No. 5 in the order. The club might look into bringing back Miguel Tejada to play third base, but even so, his role will be mainly as a singles and doubles producer, with his home run power all but gone.

That’s why I believe it’s imperative this team shore up its defense and starting rotation. Better range partially translates into quicker innings for starters, which in turn allows them to pitch deeper into games. Adding a veteran starter could be a nice piece for a rotation already in the capable hands of Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez.

It could be a lean year for the offense in 2010, and the Astros need to prepare accordingly.

Puma sat by the water cooler today and talked candidly about his homerless streak. Read McTaggart’s story here.

0909_puma.jpg

__________________

Here’s The Pitch!

The latest episode of the Astros reality-based show “Here’s the Pitch!” will be aired on FS Houston Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT. Featured guests include Geoff Blum, who takes his family to the zoo to feed a white tiger. Berkman shows his softer side on Faith and Family night at Minute Maid Park, and the Astros Buddies tell us what it’s like to be a kid meeting players and hanging out on the field.

Kazuo Matsui talks about how it felt to achieve the 2,000 hits, and one segment will be dedicated to answering fan questions.

Also, the finalists in the fan recipe challenge will be announced.

___________________

Birthdays were a hot topic on Wednesday, and with all due respect to Mike Hampton, his 37th came and went with little fanfare. The same can’t be said about Jose Valverde’s birthday, which is either March 24, 1978, March 24, 1979 or July 24, 1979, depending on which web site you’re referencing.

In a strange twist, had it not been for Valverde’s brand new web site, papagrandellc.com, the birthday discrepancy probably never would have been discovered.

Valverde has a couple of biographies working on his web site. One said he was born on March 24, 1978, and one said he was born on July 24, 1979. The Astros’ media guide in 2008 listed his birthday as March 24, 1979. After doing some digging, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart discovered the true date — March 24, 1978.

That’s the long way of saying, “slow news day.”

___________________

And a quick thanks to you, the readers…

The latest blog rankings were recently released and I was thrilled to see that my Footnotes blog landed at No. 10. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported the efforts and kept the blog a lively place for debate and discussion. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the pictorial side as well. It’s been a lot of fun telling the story of the Astros from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Thanks everyone!

4 Comments

To be honest, I wonder if letting Tejada walk will be a sort of addition by subtraction; I realize he’s a great presence in the clubhouse, but the double plays he hits into constantly are just killer. Add in the fact that he NEVER walks and hits a homer even more infrequently, and in all honesty, I don’t think the impact on the lineup will be all that significant. Hawkins can serve as a short-term option at closer why guys like Gervacio and Arias continue to be polished, and Valverde’s contract and Tejada’s contract coming off the books should be plenty to sign a solid #3 starter to fit in behind Roy and Wandy and before Moehler and Norris, with some left over to get a solid bat at 3B (Eric Hinske anyone?) and work with the arbitration-eligible players.

There was an interesting article earlier this year on SI.com that pointed out that the age of 34 is when production drops off for most major leaguers. As you mentioned, Lee & Berkman are right there. Puma was actually mentioned in the article.

Bring on the youth and hope that another Bagwell or Puma is a couple of years away.

Congrats on the ranking of your blog. You’re #1 in my book!

Power-wise, there isn’t much we can do except cross our fingers and hope Big Puma and El Caballo have a good year next time around, and that Hunter breaks out with a vengeance.I’m ambivalent about Miggy. Between his waning defense, his average on-base percentage, and his lack of power, he’s not nearly as valuable as he would have been in the past or as his batting average might suggest. But he’s still a good hitter, on the strength of that average alone. Much, I suspect, depends on what kind of contract he wants in the offseason.Although my first choice for a free agent pickup would be a true sub-4.00 ERA #3 starter, I would also be fully in support of a shortstop, third base, or second base purchase along the lines of Chone Figgins or Marco Scutaro. Somebody patient and fast, with good defense, who gets on base a lot.But payroll is a problem. I am strongly in favor of dropping Blum, Boone, Michaels, and Valverde; I would have no problem with letting Hawkins and Moehler go if it’s necessary to free up payroll and meet the needs I discussed above. Much as I like Moehler, Norris and Paulino need lots of big league starts to mature anyway.

I live in a city where i get to watch a owner spend more freely than any owner, Then i here that Drayton has more money than all of them so i say this as a Astros fan since 1974. DRAYTON STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE PAYROLL
SPEND SPEND anthonyfromnyc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 255 other followers

%d bloggers like this: