SportsPickle is previewing each MLB team in the lead up to Opening Day 2010.
Today:Houston Astros (2009: 74-88, 5th in NL Central)
STARTING PITCHING Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez give Houston a solid top to its rotation. Where the success of the staff will lie is with Brett Myers and Bud Norris. Norris is a young righty with significant upside and a devastating fastball. Myers is a veteran with significant downside but a devastating upper cut.
LINEUP Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are a dangerous duo in the middle of the order. But there isn't much else in the lineup and if the Astros don't contend, and it's not likely they will contend, you have to wonder if Houston will deal them both to stock their minor league system. Berkman and Lee are getting older and fatter every day, but they would still be useful chips come the trade deadline. (Fun Fact: Berkman and Lee believe the most useful chips are those scoop ones that let you really load up on the cheese dip!) As evidence of Houston's lack of major league caliber prospects, this year their starting shortstop will be someone called Tommy Manzella, who will be 27, has five career major league at-bats, and a .268 career average in the minors. Sad. However, in his defense, one can assume a person named Tommy Manzella also works nights as a lounge singer, so as a part-time baseball player he's actually done quite well for himself.
BULLPEN Matt Lindstrom is the closer, Brandon Lyon is the setup man. This is not a very good bullpen. Evidence: lefty middle reliever Tim Byrdakfaced Minnie Minoso in the minor leagues in 2003 and walked him. Really. He walked a 77 year-old man. Really. Now imagine Byrdak in a division game facing Albert Pujols. Pujols is way more productive at 77 than Minoso was.
BENCH Geoff Blum will get heavy use at second, third and as a pinch-hitter in the super-sub role. This reminds me: I have to send my comic book pitch to Marvel. It's called "Super-Sub Man" and it's about a scrappy superhero whose superpower is being adequate at several baseball positions. It could be BIG!
OUTLOOK Can the Astros contend this year? Probably not. But they do have some hope. Consider:Houston's new manager isBrad Mills. An anagram for Brad Mills? "Lard Limbs". Clearly he is the perfect manager for Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee.