June in Review

added 7/3/2003 by Ray Kerby

What a difference a month makes. At the end of May, the Astros appeared as if they were finally
hitting on all cylinders. They were 29-27 and two games behind the Cubs but seemed to have a lot of
momentum. In June, however, Roy Oswalt and Jeff Kent went on the Disabled List and the team shuffled
through a series of stopgap measures in the rotation. Worst of all, their seemingly invincible bullpen
began to show significant cracks. When the June dust had settled, the Astros had gone 13-12 for the month
and entered July with a 42-39 record.

It is a good thing that the Astros are playing in a weak division. They are on a pace to win 84 wins,
matching the total for last season and when they finished atop the NL "Comedy" Central division. If the Astros are lucky, neither the Cubs nor the Cardinals will pull away in the standings.

The early excitement in the June arrived with the Summer Draft. Because of the Jeff Kent signing, the Astros had to give their first round pick to the Giants. Nevertheless, pitcher Jason Hirsh, a giant in his own right, fell to the second round and the Astros snapped him up. Things continued well when Drew Stubbs, whom the Astros
were ready to pick in the 2nd round, fell to the 3rd round for the team. Check the 2003 Draft Recap for information on all of the team's selections.

The biggest moment in June, however, came on the 11th against the New York Yankees. Roy Oswalt started but left the
game with a groin pull in the 2nd inning. What followed was a supreme, 8-inning, 5-reliever effort that resulted in the tenth no-hitter in franchise history. You can read more about it here. Dave Matranga, on the roster for just one day after Julio Lugo was released, was called back up after Kent's injury and responded by hitting a home run in his first major-league at bat. Matranga was only the second Astro in history to accomplish that feat, duplicating Jose Sosa's effort 28 years earlier.

There continued to be quite a few black holes in the lineup. Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett were still the
weakest sticks around, and Jeff Bagwell only made a minor improvement from his May slump. Craig Biggio's struggles
in the outfield continued, and his hitting was not much to write home about. Even Jeff Kent went into a mini-slump
before going on the Disabled List with a wrist injury. Speaking of wrists, Jose Vizcaino had his left wrist broken
on an errant pitch and will be out until at least mid-August. On the other hand, Lance Berkman,
Richard Hidalgo, and Morgan Ensberg continued to crush the ball, providing the only consistent threats in the
lineup.

The starting rotation in June was a mess. Oswalt pitched only 8 innings. Wade Miller regressed after a promising
month. The shine on Tim Redding's season continued to wear off as he looks more and more hittable. Among the regular
starters, Jeriome Robertson turned out to be the only bright spot in June even though he finished with a 4+ ERA for
the month. Among the reserves, Rodrigo Rosario looked good in his major-league debut but was injured in his second
start. Ron Villone was called up in desperation and gave the team three desperately-needed quality starts. Too bad
for Ron that the bullpen blew all three games!

Houston big strength this season, the bullpen, started showing signs of decline. Billy Wagner was still throwing
100 mph, but blew a couple of games. Ricky Stone had a complete meltdown, worst than anything he experienced after
the All-Star break last season. Brad Lidge also had a couple of really bad outings. The only 'rock' in the bullpen
seemed to be Octavio Dotel, who continued to shut down the opposing teams with regularity.

At the midpoint of the season, there's really no way to discern which direction the team is going to take. A
pessimist could look at the faltering bullpen and predict more trouble. An optimist can point out that Roy Oswalt
and Jeff Kent, two star players, are about to come off of the Disabled List. The team seems to have too many flaws
to pull away from the other teams in the division, so a division championship will require one of two things: that
the Cubs and Cardinals continue to play poorly, or Gerry Hunsicker will need to make a key move at the trading
deadline. The team desperately needs a quality starter who can, at a minimum, be a solid #3 man in the rotation
who can soak up innings. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of guys like that available, and they all come with a
hefty price.

Key Player Recaps

Brad Ausmus, C

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS

April: .247 .303 .383 81 7 20 3 1 2 12 7 8 1 1
May: .138 .222 .175 80 6 11 3 0 0 6 8 12 1 0
June: .234 .301 .250 64 6 15 1 0 0 6 7 8 0 0
TOTAL .206 .270 .274 225 19 46 7 1 2 24 22 28 2 1

Another month has passed and I am forced to struggle for another reason to justify Brad Ausmus' weak bat in
the everyday lineup. It is not an understatement to state that Ausmus is suffering through the worst offensive
season of his career; even worse than the horrid 1999 campaign with the Astros (.232 avg, 5 HR). How can you
justify such an offensive black hole in the lineup? Well, it's pretty difficult.

Brad is certainly playing like a Gold Glover at one of the most difficult positions in the game. He is
throwing out an impressive 41% of would-be basestealers while doing a top-notch job handling the pitchers. If
he can keep his average over the Mendoza Line (.200), then he will stay off of the bench.


Jeff Bagwell, 1B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS

April: .314 .390 .648 105 15 33 5 0 10 19 11 11 1 1
May: .257 .328 .310 113 18 29 3 0 1 6 11 27 1 0
June: .255 .340 .447 94 15 24 9 0 3 11 11 22 1 0
TOTAL .276 .352 .465 312 48 86 17 0 14 36 33 60 3 1

Jeff Bagwell showed signs of snapping out of his May funk, but his performance in June was still well below
Bagwellian norms. The big news for Jeff is that he announced that he would retire after the 2006 season, when his
current contract expires. Interestingly, the last season on his contract is 2007, not 2006. That final year is an
$18 million option for the club, with a $12 million buyout. If Bagwell can still hit, he might play in 2007.

With 2003 at the statistical midpoint, Bagwell projects to just 28 homers and 72 RBI in what would arguably
be the worst season of his career. If we were to play the pessimist and assume that Bagwell hit this poorly through
2006, his career totals would read: 492 home runs, 2657 hits, and 1609 RBI. In my opinion, that would not be enough
to assure him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Offense is the primary consideration for inclusion, especially for first
basemen, and Bagwell's numbers were depressed by his many seasons in the Astrodome. Mark McGwire finished with over
570 homers, Raphael Palmeiro is at 510 and climbing fast, and even Fred McGriff seems assured of reaching 500.
Unfortunately, reaching big numbers is an important part of the Cooperstown game and Bagwell has a lot of stiff
competition at his position.


Jeff Kent, 2B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

April: .300 .349 .520 100 13 30 10 0 4 16 8 15 0 1
May: .340 .417 .573 103 21 35 12 0 4 23 13 23 3 0
June: .290 .333 .435 62 8 18 0 0 3 11 3 5 1 0
TOTAL .313 .373 .521 265 42 83 22 0 11 50 24 43 4 1

Jeff Kent was slogging thrown a down month in June before experiencing problems with his left wrist that placed
him on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis. As of this writing, I do not know when he is expected back. The
uncertainty surrounding the injury seems to preclude a stopgap solution of moving Craig Biggio back to second base
while Kent heals. Instead, the Astros are making do with callup infielders like Dave Matranga and Eric Bruntlett.

Despite the downtime, Kent still leads the team with 50 RBI, thanks in no small part to the high on-base averages
of the hitters in front of him. Interestingly, Kent has a real shot at becoming the first second baseman to lead the
team in RBI. Over the team's 41-year history, here is a breakdown of RBI leaders by position:

Yrs Position    Players 

22 First Base (lots of guys)
15 Outfield (lots more guys)
2 Shorstop (Denis Menke, 1969-70)
1 Catcher (John Bateman, 1967)
1 Second Base (???)

Trivia Question: Who was the only other second baseman to lead the Astros in RBI? Make a mental guess and
then check it against the answer at the end of this column.


Morgan Ensberg, 3B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

April: .250 .306 .438 32 3 8 0 0 2 7 3 4 0 0
May: .321 .455 .623 53 16 17 2 1 4 11 10 9 1 0
June: .344 .440 .750 64 16 22 2 0 8 19 10 16 3 1
TOTAL .315 .418 .638 149 35 47 4 1 14 37 23 29 4 1

How high can Morgan Ensberg fly? That seems to be the question now. Coming off of an impressive showing in May,
Ensberg raised the bar even higher in June. 8 homers? 19 RBI? a .344 average? Heck, he even stole 3 bases! But how
good is good? Here is a listing for the most home runs by an Astro third baseman in any month:



Player Year Month AB Avg Obp Slg HR RBI

Ken Caminiti 2000 May 107 .327 .438 .654 9 20
Morgan Ensberg 2002 June 64 .344 .440 .750 8 19

Doug Rader 1973 July 96 .281 .349 .563 8 22
Vinny Castilla 2001 August 99 .253 .315 .515 7 17
Vinny Castilla 2001 July 99 .283 .339 .566 7 28
Chris Truby 2001 April 84 .238 .313 .524 7 18
Doug Rader 1972 June 104 .298 .381 .558 7 15

If you look at some of the highest-homer months ever by Houston third basemen, it is not a stretch to suggest that
Ensberg's June was the best in the bunch. The only thing that hurts him is his lack of at-bats. I don't know about
you, but I think it's about time that the 3B platoon comes to an immediate halt.



Geoff Blum, 3B

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

April: .259 .323 .341 85 7 22 4 0 1 5 8 9 0 0
May: .273 .284 .494 77 11 21 5 0 4 15 2 12 0 0
June: .241 .300 .352 54 6 13 3 0 1 4 4 9 0 0
TOTAL .259 .303 .398 216 24 56 12 0 6 24 14 30 0 0

Before the Astros acquired Geoff Blum at the end of last Spring, his career avg was under .260 and he wasn't considered much
of a hitter. He then had a very nice season at the plate for the Astros and expectations increased dramatically for him this season.
Not only has Blum regressed to his pre-2002 performance, he is below it. Coupled with Morgan Ensberg's Ruthian rise to dominance,
Blum looks to be just about done as an everyday player for the team once Jeff Kent returns from the Disabled List. Move along, nothing
to see here.


Adam Everett, SS

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

May: .247 .304 .365 85 12 21 5 1 1 7 6 16 5 0
June: .286 .313 .476 63 13 18 3 0 3 11 3 13 1 1
TOTAL .264 .308 .412 148 25 39 8 1 4 18 9 29 6 1

Adam Everett removed any doubt that he could hit major-league pitching with another respectable month at the
plate. After averaging .240-.250 in the minors, Everett is up to .264 in the majors. But don't get too excited,
because it is still a rather hollow .264 average. Everett's on-base pct is only .308 but he has shown a little
pop with his 4 home runs. None of them were monster shots, but he trotted around the bases nevertheless. I was
also a little disappointed with his dropoff in stolen bases because the team really needs a good threat to steal
in order to keep the opposing pitchers honest. And until he shows an ability to get on base regularly, Everett will
never earn a spot at the top of the lineup.

The two most critical defensive positions in baseball are catcher and shortstop. If there is any place to hide a good-glove,
weak-bat player, it is in one of these spots. For better or worse, this is exactly what the Astros are doing.
Everett's Zone Rating at SS sits at a respectable .870, but there is still room for improvement. As always, you
can see Zone Rating rankings for shortstops at ESPN.com: 2003   2002    2001


Jose Vizcaino, SS

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

April: .125 .186 .150 40 1 5 1 0 0 0 3 5 0 1
May: .315 .339 .426 54 4 17 3 0 1 10 2 9 0 0
June: .265 .275 .490 49 6 13 2 3 1 9 0 5 0 0
TOTAL .245 .273 .371 143 11 35 6 3 2 19 5 19 0 1

Jose Vizcaino had surgery on June 27th for his broken left wrist. He has been a marginal role player all
season and will miss July and most of August. One curiosity about his June performance was that he was able
to bat 49 times without drawing a single walk. In fact, his walk rate has been abysmal all season. For Astros
with at least 200 at-bats in a season, he are the worst walk rates in club history:

  yr name                   ab   bb   ab/bb 

1984 Kevin Bass 331 6 55.167
1996 Orlando Miller 468 14 33.429
1971 Jesus Alou 433 13 33.308
1974 Lee May 556 17 32.706
1985 Craig Reynolds 379 12 31.583

Vizcaino is drawing a walk for every 28.6 at-bats this year, which is 16th worst all-time. For his career
in Houston, Vizcaino is 12th-worst all-time at drawing walks. Tellingly, the top 11 is a veritable rogues gallery
of weak hitters: Julio Gonzalez, Jesus Alou, Wilbur Howard, Bob Lillis, Enos Cabell, Orlando Miller, Rafael Ramirez,
Tony Scott, Craig Reynolds, Brian Hunter and Tommy Helms.

For comparison, here are the top 5 Astros seasons for drawing walks:

  yr name                   ab   bb   ab/bb 

1969 Jim Wynn 495 148 3.345
1999 Jeff Bagwell 562 149 3.772
1995 John Cangelosi 201 48 4.188
1996 Jeff Bagwell 568 135 4.207
1997 Jeff Bagwell 566 127 4.457



Lance Berkman, LF

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

April: .208 .337 .319 72 13 15 2 0 2 4 12 14 1 1
May: .308 .423 .514 107 21 33 4 0 6 25 21 21 0 1
June: .314 .429 .628 86 20 27 7 1 6 17 17 19 0 0
TOTAL .283 .402 .498 265 54 75 13 1 14 46 50 54 1 2

The team seems to remain in denial about Lance Berkman's inability to hit from the right side of the plate.
Here are his left-right splits this season:



Avg OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO

Right: .232 .323 .375 56 13 21 0 1 2 12 6 12
Left: .294 .423 .526 211 62 111 13 0 12 35 45 42

The huge difference in lefty-righty splits are typical for Berkman over the last few years, but they are very
extreme for most switch-hitters. Berkman's struggles from the right side of the plate are now so pronounced that,
when a lefty was recently brought in to face him, Lance was pulled for a pinch-hitter rather than allowed to bat
right-handed. Now how bad is it for a switch-hitter when the team would rather pull you from the game than have
you bat the other way? This is crazy!

The team needs to do one of two things with Lance: make a concerted effort to work on his right-handed hitting,
or have him convert to being a full-time lefty



Craig Biggio, CF

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB HBP  SO  SB CS 

April: .243 .306 .423 111 18 27 2 0 6 15 6 4 20 2 2
May: .311 .388 .437 119 17 37 15 0 0 7 11 4 22 1 1
June: .253 .333 .429 91 15 23 7 0 3 9 5 6 20 2 0
TOTAL .271 .345 .430 321 50 87 24 0 9 31 22 14 62 5 3

Each time a new, monthly review is due for the team, one thing I really hope for is that I can give you some good
news on Craig Biggio's defensive improvement in centerfield. However, with each passing month it seems more likely
that Biggio is going to remain below-average defensively. There's nothing that can really be done about his weak
throwing arm, but we can hope that Biggio's defensive instincts in the field will improve over the off-season. It's
really hard to imagine them improving substantially in the last half of the season.

Even though he is still struggling in the outfield, I do not wish to personally criticize Biggio. In fact, I admire
him for playing the outfield as well as he has. You have to admit, it cannot be easy for a 37-year-old to become a
major league outfielder overnight. This position switch was imposed on Biggio in the off-season with the signing of
Jeff Kent. In case Biggio refused to move to the outfield, one fallback option was to move Kent to third base. But
with Ensberg playing third like an All-Star, that is no longer practical. However, Kent is now sitting on the Disabled
List and the team seems reluctant to move Biggio back to second base, even temporarily. I am not sure how wise this
is, because it is almost like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Milestone Watch: Biggio needed 10 doubles in June to reach 500 for his career, and now he is just two shy
of that impressive milestone. Stay tuned, because it could happen in any game! Biggio needs 99 runs scored this season
to reach 1500, and he is halfway there with 50. A weak, second-half performance could push this milestone to next season.


Richard Hidalgo, RF

         Avg  OBP  SLG   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI   BB  SO  SB CS  

April: .293 .377 .511 92 14 27 8 0 4 10 11 15 3 0
May: .306 .442 .500 62 14 19 3 0 3 15 13 9 1 1
June: .362 .392 .652 69 12 25 8 0 4 11 4 13 0 3
TOTAL .318 .401 .552 223 40 71 19 0 11 36 28 37 4 4

After missing time in late May and early June to a virus, Richard Hidalgo has come back with a vengeance. With
a 950 OPS (400 OBP + 550 SLG), Hidalgo is clearly the second-best hitter on the team behind Lance Berkman. Keep in
mind that Hidalgo batted .256 in the Spring. With so many pitching injuries and black holes in the lineup, the team
needs Hidalgo to stay healthy and consistent. He is actually hitting better on the road than at home, but not by
enough to be significant.

Defensively, Hidalgo has 9 outfield assists, setting a pace for 18. The team record is 20, set by centerfielder
Jim Wynn way back in 1968. Some of you may recall that Hidalgo was seriously threatening to break this record back
in 1999 before a knee injury ended his season on August 9th with a league-leading 15 outfield assists.



Roy Oswalt, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

April: 2-3 3.86 .244 6 39.2 38 23 17 4 13 34
May: 1-1 2.42 .290 4 26.0 27 7 7 3 7 24
June: 1-0 1.13 .250 2 8.0 8 1 1 0 0 13
TOTAL 4-4 3.05 .260 12 73.2 73 31 25 7 20 71

Game Log:
Date Opp Inn H R ER BB SO HR Pit

6/5 Bal 7.0 8 1 1 0 11 0 103
6/11 NYY 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 23

Roy Oswalt was pulled in the second inning on June 11th, sparking the remarkable, six-pitcher no-hitter against
the Yankees. He was pitching very well and the team has floundered in his absence. He was scheduled to make a rehab
start on July 1st, but that was postponed. Unless he experiences a setback, he should be back on the mound before
the All-Star Game in mid-July.


Wade Miller, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

April: 0-3 6.07 .305 6 29.2 36 22 20 1 17 19
May: 3-3 3.64 .205 6 34.2 25 14 14 4 9 33
June: 2-2 4.09 .246 5 33.0 30 15 15 2 9 25
TOTAL 5-8 4.53 .253 17 97.1 91 51 49 7 35 77

Game Log:
Date Opp Inn H R ER BB SO HR Pit

6/4 Bal 7.0 4 3 3 2 8 0 100
6/10 NYY 7.0 7 5 5 4 5 1 112
6/15 Bos 6.0 7 2 2 2 2 0 88
6/20 Tex 6.0 6 2 2 1 4 0 101
6/25 Ari 7.0 6 3 3 0 6 1 103

After looking like he had finally turned the corner, finishing May with a two-hit shutout over the Cubs, Wade Miller sputtered through
June with a 2-2 record and 4.09 ERA. The dropoff from May was not as drastic as you might think. Opposing hitters still batted at just a .246
clip against Miller in June, and both his walk and strikeout rates remained good. While it will take good pitching and good breaks to turn his
5-8 record at the halfway mark into something attractive when the season is over, the Astros are still in the thick of a tight race in the NL Central.
A rebound by Miller could easily make the difference between winning the division and finishing a few games out.


Tim Redding, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 

April: 2-2 3.29 .274 5 27.1 29 10 10 3 10 21
May: 1-2 3.41 .267 6 34.1 35 14 13 2 18 16
June: 1-4 5.34 .297 5 28.2 35 21 17 2 10 18
TOTAL 4-8 3.99 .279 16 90.1 99 45 40 7 38 55

Game Log:
Date Opp Inn H R ER BB SO HR Pit

6/3 Bal 4.0 7 4 4 1 2 1 89
6/8 TB 7.0 2 1 1 1 5 0 83
6/14 Bos 4.2 8 6 2 3 1 0 91
6/19 Ari 7.0 7 4 4 1 6 1 105
6/24 Ari 5.0 10 5 5 3 4 0 92

Let us hope that June was a one-month aberration for Tim Redding. This does not look like the performance
of a young pitcher coming into his own as a quality starter. His strikeout rate remains low and his hits allowed
are increasing, resulting in an ugly 1-4 record in June. April was his best month and he has been declining
since then. And, if you look at the beating he took from Boston, his ERA for June could easily have been a lot
higher than 5.34. After two decent months, the jury has suddenly disappeared on the issue of whether Tim Redding
can step up and be a quality major-league starter. Right now, he is sporting a 4-8 record and has just 55
strikeouts in 90 innings.


Jeriome Robertson, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  GS  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

April: 1-3 7.99 .313 5 23.2 30 24 21 3 11 22
May: 2-0 4.94 .320 4 23.2 31 13 13 2 7 15
June: 2-0 4.39 .275 5 26.2 28 13 13 4 11 11
TOTAL 5-3 5.72 .302 14 74.0 89 50 47 9 29 48

Game Log:
Date Opp Inn H R ER BB SO HR Pit

6/1 Chi 6.0 4 2 2 0 3 0 78
6/6 TB 3.2 5 3 3 2 1 1 69
6/12 NYY 5.2 7 4 4 3 2 0 100
6/17 Ari 6.0 8 3 3 1 2 2 83
6/22 Tex 5.1 4 1 1 5 3 1 100




Ron Villone, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  G   IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

2002: 4-6 5.81 .270 45 93.0 95 63 60 8 34 55
AAA: 4-2 2.30 .232 20 54.2 44 19 14 2 22 40
June: 0-0 2.45 .215 3 18.1 14 5 5 3 5 16

Game Log:
Date Opp Inn H R ER BB SO HR Pit

6/18 Ari 6.1 5 0 0 2 6 0 79
6/23 Ari 6.0 6 2 2 1 3 1 76
6/29 Tex 6.0 3 3 3 2 2 7 84

Talk about catching lightning in a bottle! I don't think anyone realistically expected Ron Villone to figure
into the team's plans this season, even after he signed a minor league contract with the team on May 18th. Even
after his impressive showing in New Orleans and his emergency callup, no one expected him to pitch well.

Instead, the team picked up three very nice starts from Villone. Unfortunately, Villone has nothing to show
for it as the team's vaunted bullpen failed to hold a lead in all three games. Now all Villone has to do is have
one shaky start, perhaps 5 runs in 4 innings, and suddenly he'll be 0-1 with a 4.00+ ERA. Given Villone's shaky
history, this is not an unlikely scenario. And if it does pan out that way, everyone will then start screaming for
the winless Villone to be sent packing back to New Orleans.

OK, I know this is a really obscure stat but it took me about three seconds to find the answer. The most innings
that a Houston starter has pitched in a season without finishing with a decision is 21 innings by Larry Yellen in
1964. No starter has finished a season with more than one start without getting a decision. Seriously, it took me
longer to type that up than to find it.


Rodrigo Rosario, SP

         W-L   ERA  Avg  G   IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

AAA: 5-7 4.03 .222 15 87.0 71 40 39 7 32 68
June: 1-0 1.13 .172 2 8.0 5 2 1 0 3 6

Game Log:
Date Opp Inn H R ER BB SO HR Pit

6/21 Tex 6.0 4 2 1 2 4 0 86
6/27 Tex 2.0 1 0 0 1 2 0 36

Bad luck seems to plague the starting rotation this season. Called up to replace the disabled Roy Oswalt, Rodrigo Rosario
was very impressive in his debut against the Rangers. He faced the Rangers again in his second start, but left after
two innings with a sore shoulder. One downside to this injury is that it may be some time before Astros fans will see
how Rosario fares against a major-league team. He has looked very good in 8 innings against a fairly potent Texas
offense, but the 87 innings he tossed in New Orleans probably give a more accurate indication of his ability.
Hopefully, Rosario's brief major league action will not become a retelling of the Carlos Hernandez saga.


Billy Wagner, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

April: 1-1 1.80 .192 12 15.0 10 4 3 1 6 16
May: 0-1 1.59 .180 16 17.0 11 3 3 1 1 24
June: 0-1 3.38 .204 13 13.1 10 5 5 2 4 20
TOTAL 1-3 2.18 .191 41 45.1 31 12 11 4 11 60

Although a 3.38 ERA for June looks shockingly high for Billy Wagner, it was primarily caused by two bad outings: a two-run blown save in
Arizona on 6/18 and two-run outing against Texas on 6/27. Billy has to be the odds-on favorite to represent the Astros at the All-Star Game on
July 15th. If he is selected, Wagner will set yet another record for Astro relievers: three All-Star appearances.
A list of Atros relievers to make the All-Star Game:



Year Pitcher IP H R BB SO

1963 Hal Woodeshick 2.0 1 0 1 3
1966 Claude Raymond DID NOT PLAY
1976 Ken Forsch 1.0 0 0 0 1
1979 Joe Sambito 0.2 0 0 1 0
1983 Bill Dawley 1.1 1 0 0 1
1986 Dave Smith DID NOT PLAY
1990 Dave Smith 0.2 1 0 2 1
1994 John Hudek 0.2 1 2 1 1
1999 Billy Wagner 0.2 0 0 0 2
2001 Billy Wagner 0.1 0 0 0 0



Octavio Dotel, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 

April: 1-1 2.08 .167 11 13.0 7 3 3 1 5 14
May: 2-0 1.02 .119 15 17.2 7 2 2 1 5 23
June: 3-1 1.76 .155 14 15.1 9 4 3 1 5 17
TOTAL 6-2 1.57 .145 40 46.0 23 9 8 3 15 54

At the halfway point in the season, reliever Octavio Dotel is tied for the team lead with 6 wins. I've looked
and found that only one other time in club history has a reliever led in this category -- in 1992, when closer Doug Jones led the team
with 11 wins, 36 saves and a 1.85 ERA in 111 innings. That season, Jones was teamed with starters Pete Harnisch (9-10),
Butch Henry (6-9), Jimmy Jones (10-6), Darryl Kile (5-10), Mark Portugal (6-3) and Brian Williams (7-6). The team
finished the season exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. Dotel's pace of 92 innings would easily be the lowest
inning total for the team leader in wins.

It seems unlikely, however, that Dotel can repeat Jones' feat. Of course, on the outside chance that a setup
reliever is chosen, Dotel's 6 wins and a 1.57 ERA just may translate into an All-Star selection.


Ricky Stone, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

April: 1-0 1.93 .294 10 14.0 15 3 3 0 8 9
May: 3-1 1.86 .172 13 19.1 11 5 4 1 6 7
June: 0-1 10.13 .347 9 10.2 17 12 12 7 2 6
TOTAL 4-2 3.89 .262 32 44.0 43 20 19 8 16 22

Even those of us who recall that Ricky Stone lost his effectiveness after the All-Star break last year were
surprised by what happened in the middle of June. Hitters started pounding Stone, who has now become suddenly
unreliable. Is he injured? Is he tired? When was last time an Astro reliever gave up 7 homers in a month?

The only answer I can give is to the last question: Never. While there have been a lot of stinky months for Houston
starters, never in the history of the organization has a reliever given up 7 homers in just one month. The
previous "record" was held by Trever Miller with 6 homers allowed in July, 1999. Here are
the worst "home runs allowed in a month" performances by Astro starters:

Pitcher          Year Month      HR

Jose Lima 2000 May 12
Jose Lima 2000 April 10
Scott Elarton 2001 June 10
Mike Hampton 1998 July 9
Bob Knepper 1987 June 9
Jose Lima 2000 September 9
Jose Lima 1999 August 9

Here is the same list, but for relievers only:

Pitcher          Year Month      HR

Ricky Stone 2002 June 7
Trever Miller 1999 July 6
Xavier Hernandez 1990 May 5
Jim Ray 1972 June 5
Doug Henry 2000 April 5



Pete Munro, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 

April: 1-1 3.06 .188 12 17.2 12 7 6 1 10 10
May: 2-2 9.60 .403 11 15.0 27 17 16 4 9 8
June: 0-0 0.00 .217 7 6.0 5 0 0 0 3 5
TOTAL 3-3 5.12 .286 30 38.2 44 24 22 5 22 23

After a very rough May, Pete Munro pitched much more effectively in June. However, his change in effectiveness
may have a lot to do with a change in usage. After tossing 2.2 innings in the June 11th no-hitter, Munro has not
pitched more than one-third of an inning in any appearance. Whether this represents a new role for Munro or "writing
on the wall," it's certainly going to take him a long time to work down his 5.12 ERA at six innings per month. The
sad thing is that most of the damage against Munro this season has come in his two starts. As a reliever, Munro
has fared much better:



W-L ERA Avg G IP H R ER HR BB SO

Starter 0-2 16.88 .500 2 5.1 14 11 10 2 3 3
Reliever 3-1 3.15 .234 29 34.1 30 13 12 3 20 20

Munro's walk rate is still high, but otherwise he looks like a great mop-up guy that can give you 2-3
innings in a pinch.


Brad Lidge, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO

April: 2-0 1.02 .172 12 17.2 10 2 2 0 7 18
May: 1-0 2.25 .196 15 16.0 11 5 4 0 9 20
June: 1-1 5.79 .226 13 14.0 12 10 9 1 8 15
TOTAL 4-1 2.83 .198 40 47.2 33 17 15 1 24 53

What is going on with Brad Lidge? Like Ricky Stone, his ERA suddenly shot up in June. He was thrashed by
Arizona for 5 runs in just 2/3rds of an inning on June 23rd, and then the Rangers tagged him for three more
runs in his next outing on the 27th. However, a closer look reveals some of the "bad luck" that can really
skew a relief pitcher's ERA. He allowed 5 runners against Arizona and was charged with them all when Pete Munro
came in to relief Lidge and promptly gave up a two-out, bases-loaded triple. The runs against the Rangers were
all 'legitimate' thanks to a three-run homer by a red-hot Rafael Palmeiro -- a future Hall of Famer, by the way.

Although Lidge is apparently not going to overtake Octavio Dotel or Billy Wagner as one of the Big Two relievers
in the bullpen, he is still pitching very well. Opposing hitters are still not hitting him well, and he's striking
out a lot of batters. Wildness remains a big problem for him, though.


Nate Bland, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO 

May: 1-1 6.30 .317 12 10.0 13 7 7 2 6 9
June: 0-1 5.23 .250 10 10.1 9 6 6 1 6 9
TOTAL 1-2 5.75 .286 22 20.1 22 13 13 3 12 18

Nate Bland was a late bloomer who showed flashes of competence. He pitched decently against lefties, but
was clobbered by righties. He pitched very well in June until his last two outings, and was optioned back
to New Orleans on June 28th. It's doubtful that he'll get another shot with the team.



Kirk Saarloos, RP

         W-L   ERA  Avg   G  IP     H  R ER  HR  BB  SO  

May: 1-0 7.82 .300 7 12.2 15 12 11 2 6 16
June: 1-0 3.18 .279 10 11.1 12 4 4 0 4 7
TOTAL 2-0 5.63 .290 17 24.0 27 16 15 2 10 23

Despite the drop in his ERA from May to June, Kirk Saarloos is still getting hit at about the same rate. One
key thing to note is that, after racking up a ton early, his strikeout rate has dropped quite a bit. Because of
his history as a starter, Saarloos is really the reliever best suited on the team for long relief, but he is rarely
used in that role.

In Closing...

The All-Star Game is on July 15th. My prediction is that Billy Wagner will be selected as the team's lone
representative, although Octavio Dotel is arguably more deserving. The trading deadline is on July 31th, but
there is no telling what kind of deal the team is going to make, if any. If the team struggles and Chicago or
St. Louis gets hot, they may actually to try offload salary and look towards next year. That seems like a real
longshot, however.

And the trivia answer is: Phil Garner. In 1982, Phil played 136 games at second base and led the team with 83
RBI. He also hit 13 homers, batted .274 and stole 24 bases.


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