Let’s play a game. I’m going to list, in order, all of a certain player on the Astros’ at-bats, and you see if you can tell me which player you think it is. Ready? HR, K, K, K, line out, K, K, K, K, K, K, K, K, K. Yes, I’m being completely serious. If you’ve followed the Astros this season you know it comes down to one of two players: Brett Wallace or Rick Ankiel, but only one of those players hit a HR on Opening Night. The correct answer? Mr. Rick Ankiel! Brett Wallace’s season line isn’t much, if any better. He’s sporting a .048 batting average, .091 OBP, .000 ISO, and a 77.3 K%. There is good news though. Ankiel, Wallace, Carter, and Peña, while they are prone to striking out at a high rate, will not continue to strike out over 50% of the time. And if they do, they won’t be in the big leagues come May.
On Tuesday, we finally got to see some of this “power potential” the Astros showed flashes of in Spring Training as they put up 16 runs on 22 hits to beat the Mariners 16-9! We won’t talk about how they were up 13-0 in the 5th before almost letting the Mariners back in the game, let’s stay focused on the positive: 22 hits! Every player in the starting lineup had at least one hit (except Brett Wallace who managed to go 0-4 with 4 more Ks. His K-rate is a feat in itself, really) with HRs from Chris Carter (2), J.D. Martinez, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jose Altuve. The Astros managed to hit .409 with RISP, which is a pace that won’t last but was fun for one night. I’m just glad to see some positive life out of this team. They won’t be good this season, but it would be nice to win more than 1 out of every 6 games and to at least keep the losses at a respectable score. I think they may surprise some people yet! Now on that positive note, let’s do some 3 up and 3 down!
1) Boston Red Sox – Boston has taken two out of 3 from the Yankees and Jays en route to a 5-2 start to the season. Rookie sensation Will Middlebrooks is hitting .286 with 4 HRs this season (3 of them coming in 1 game) while their other rookie sensation, Jackie Bradley Jr. has started off a little slow. But, JBJ has shown phenomenal plate discipline managing a .333 OBP with 5 BBs even though he is only hitting .143. Pitchers Clay Buccholz and Jon Lester have both gotten off to hot, 2-0 starts posting ERAs of 0.64 and 1.50 respectively. If pitching can stay strong, the Red Sox have a real shot to contend in the AL East a year after a disappointing 69-93 finish.
2) Atlanta Braves – Two words: Justin Upton. Through 8 games, Justin Upton is hitting .400 with 6 HRs and 9 R. Any team would be hot with a player with that kind of production and he is a major reason the Braves are off to a 7-1 start. As impressive as Upton’s first week has been, Maholm and Medlen have been equally impressive on the mound. Maholm is 2-0, his pitched 12.2 innings, and has yet to give up a run while Medlen is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA through 12.0 innings.
3) Texas Rangers / Oakland Athletics – It’s hard to judge the first week of the season for these two clubs because they both got a series with the Astros, but as much as I hate to say it, we’re looking at at least 1 playoff team, maybe 2. They both dominated the Astros, both offensively and with pitching, and don’t look to slow down anytime soon. Keep an eye out for the 2nd and 3rd weeks in May when the Rangers visit Oakland and then Oakland makes a trip down to Texas. It should be a fun couple of series’.
1) Houston Astros – For the sake of everyone that reads this and for my own sanity, I’m not going to include the Astros on this list every week. Even though they should probably be on it, it would just depress me and that’s no fun for anyone. If they have an absolutely dreadful week (like this one) I’ll include them, but hopefully those are few and far between. Until the K-rate turns around, it’s going to be hard to win games. On the bright side, the starting pitching has looked phenomenal so far. Now only if the Astros could score a few runs…
2) Miami Marlins – Things sure got ugly in a hurry for Miami and their outlook is even bleaker than the Astros. The one good thing that has happened to them so far was 20-year-old rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez’s first start. Having never started a game above High-A ball until this week, Fernandez threw 5 shutout innings against the Mets giving up only 3 hits, 1 ER, and recording 8 Ks. He may even compete for rookie of the year but I’m sure Loria will trade him away as soon as he can.
3) Cleveland Indians – After I bragged about them last week and said they had potential, they promptly went 1-5 in their next 6 games. I stand by what I said about their potential, but they need to find some consistency in their pitching. It’s tough to win games when you’ve got to score 13+ because your starting pitchers hand out runs like they’re running a charity.
One final note: It’s Masters week, aka “The Best Weekend of the Year” aka “I Have an Excuse to Sit Around All Weekend and Watch Golf” aka “No Girls Allowed”. I wasn’t selected for tickets this year but I’ve already put my application in for 2014. So this year I’ll be watching from my couch again but my roommates and I have taken it upon ourselves to create a fantasy-style game for the Masters (or any tournament, really). It’s simple, you pick 8 players from the field and at the end of the tournament, and add up all of their winnings. Whomever’s players’ earnings add up to the highest total, wins. Who did I pick? This won’t post until after the Masters has started so I’ll tell you. I went with Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, and Angel Cabrera, Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, and Matt Kuchar. Keep an eye on 14-year-old (!!) Chinese sensation Tianlang Guan from Guangzhou. He qualified by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur and hopes to make a splash at Augusta. With a loaded field and a perfectly manicured golf course, this year’s tournament should be as good as ever.