The Astros Meet Blind Optimism, Because It's All They Got Left

Look, I know it's hard to be an Astros fan right now. I know nobody wants to read the same negative story over and over again. That doesn't mean we have to slap aside every bit of the team this year, as there are bright spots to be found everywhere. Chris Johnson could be a player, Hunter Pence could have his best year yet, Brett Wallace's development could be meaningful, or...

If ‘Achy Breaky Heart' could be a hit, then why can't the Astros?

Why would you want to compare anything to that song? Especially something that you want other people to like? In fact, why would you want to remind anyone of that song? Achy Breaky Heart is so old that you can't even make a joke about how the Astros hitters were relevant when it was released. Carlos Lee hadn't even signed his first organized baseball contract by the time it came out. What possible relevance do the Astros and said song have other than that nobody seems to like them?

Maybe the big picture is so bleak, the Astros should just cancel the rest of the season. But they've got contracts to fulfill, bills to pay, places they're supposed to be for the next 151 games, so they might as well make the most of it.

POSSIBLE REASONS FOR ASTROS TO KEEP PLAYING BASEBALL IN THE 2011 SEASON:
1) They could be just like "Achy Breaky Heart," which I assume means they would be thought of as one of the worst songs of all-time despite paradoxically making lots of money. So the fans would show up?
2) They are obligated to.

We're off to a rip-roaring start!

A 0-5 start was cause for doom and gloom, but the Astros are only one game behind the Cardinals (4-7). They're two games behind the Cubs (5-6)

They're also the worst team in the National League by record. That was before last night's loss. So perhaps we should just go by a) the general perception of the team in the preseason and b) the fact that they have lived up to it so far.

The Astros are 2½ games behind the 5-5 Pirates, who haven't had a winning season since "I'm Too Sexy" and "Achy Breaky Heart" were at the top of the musical charts, and the Brewers.

And Mike Crudale.

The Reds are off and running at 8-3, and they look supremely talented, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

We won't, I'm sure! In fact, I'm sure you won't use any stats coming up in the rest of the piece that could clearly be considered getting ahead of ourselves!

For the first time since May 2009, they've had 10 or more hits in five consecutive games. They're sixth in the NL in runs per game (4.54) and fourth in batting average (.276). They're even fifth in slugging (.411), despite ranking 13th in home runs (36). Nobody is giving them any catchy nickname (the Bourn Agains?), but they're hitting at a pace that would deliver 736 runs - their most since 2004.

Who wants to guess what happened last night? I'll give you a hint: the Astros didn't get 10 hits. They also lost. The Astros pitching staff has eight hits. Angel Sanchez is hitting .383. I'm sure both of those things will keep up!

It's insanely early, no doubt, to take "on pace" projections seriously.

You're right, so why give them the time in the first place? Which side are you on here, Campbell?

Remember, too, that this small sample size of a season is weighted by the Astros having faced Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt in the first three games. When given the chance to beat up on somebody making his first major-league start, as was the case with James Russell on Tuesday, the Astros connected.

POSSIBLE REASONS FOR ASTROS TO KEEP PLAYING BASEBALL IN THE 2011 SEASON:
1) They could be just like "Achy Breaky Heart," which I assume means they would be thought of as one of the worst songs of all-time despite paradoxically making lots of money. So the fans would show up?
2) They are obligated to.
3) Because they can totally beat up a reliever making his first career start in a situation where he isn't stretched out.

Sure, shortstop Angel Sanchez has nowhere to go but down from .395. Sure, catchers Humberto Quintero (.292) and J.R. Towles (.375) are over-performing. Then again, Carlos Lee (.200, one homer in 45 at-bats) and Chris Johnson (.189, one extra-base hit in 37 at-bats) are underperforming.

Are we sure Lee isn't just washed up? You know, he did hit .246 last year. As for Johnson, there was nothing in his minor league record prior to last year to suggest that he was good enough to hit .300 with power in the big leagues. He'll likely rebound to hit better than this, but is that really enough to offset the overperformance of Sanchez, both catchers, the pitching staff, and the bench? 

Like I said, I know it's hard to keep writing negative columns about a bland team. There has to be some optimism somewhere. But why not stick it on something that has a chance of working out? The Astros aren't a good offense because they suddenly managed to pound James Russell into the dirt. There is every reason to believe their offense is overperforming right now, which makes it incredibly sad that they're still in the middle of the pack in all those offensive statistics. Their pitching should be better than this. They have played half their games against some tough teams. Maybe they won't be the worst team in the National League. 

Lets not confuse that for progress.

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