April 11, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez (14) drives in a run with a ground ball in the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
All smiles for Jordan Schafer and J.D. Martinez at present.
Jordan Schafer had an eventful offseason, lets leave it at that. We do not need to plough over that ground all over again. Just as I took exception to an Astros bloggers' constant use of 'wifebeater' to describe Brett Myers years after the fact, Schafer's shenanigans should now be dealt with as yesterday's news.
What he's doing on the baseball field is helping put those considerations in the rear view mirror. He's had a blistering first week, scoring eight runs, drawing eight walks and stealing five bases in his first eight games. Among qualifiers his 21.1% BB rate puts him fifth in the majors, behind Chase Headley, Russell Martin, Justin Upton and Carlos Santana.
That's a pretty good start for the 25-year-old. He will not be able to keep up a .444 OBP, which coupled with his speed, would put his value as a lead-off hitter up in the stratosphere. What can we reasonably expect from Schafer though? His power is expected to be non-existent, yet he cracked a decent sized home run in the first week. ZIPS does not think much of his ability to keep his BA much above the Mendoza Line, so while he may be able to draw quite a few walks, it reckons his OBP will be around .300. That's around Kaz Matsui level.
How many bases is Schafer going to end up with? Could he top the National League? Michael Bourn you suppose will be in the hunt, while the guys currently at the top are Starlin Castro on six, with Emilio Bonafacio, Dee Gordon and Schafer trailing at five.
J.D. Martinez is the other player who has started out the season red-hot, but he also started that way at the majors last year before cooling off. In his first 30 games he put up a .837 OPS, in the next 23 it was .622.
Still, Martinez seems to make adjustments to his approach at will, using the chip on his shoulder to great positive effect. You look at Chris Johnson and I wish he had an approach like Martinez. Keep at it Julio.
The Astros won a scrapper last night, knocking four runs off Heath Bell, including a laughable fourth where Logan Morrison inexcplicably dropped a routine Brian Bogusevic flyball. I think the most enjoyable part of the game was when Brett Myers struckout the last Marlin, the players in the dugout went crazy, which was fantastic to see.
I was really struck yesterday by Jeff Luhnow's rather candid comments on Twitter:
7 mile run in Miami cleared my head... thought after seven games: Our goal was to have a winning mindset,compete consistently, and execute. We've been in every game. The guys believe they can win. We still have challenges executing all of the time and when we make mental errors they are costly. Overall, a positive first week. Healthy mentally and physically.
Rebuilding isn't some magic excuse for losing. Friday's loss, after six sterling innings from Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter and Fernando Rodriguez, saw Brandon Lyon come in and do the equivalent of wetting the bed. Seven pitches and none missed the bat. Two hits, one ball and four foul balls.
As Astros County remarked to me, he is pretty much a dead man walking. He's getting paid $5.5m this season but it should not even factor. Release him and let someone else waste playing time on him. If we're going to let guys blow leads at least let it be young guys. Even no-control Rhiner Cruz has started the season well. With the amount of innings these guys have thrown already we do not need a passenger in a seven-man bullpen. That will lead to some Cecil Cooper-grade arm trouble.
Finally, we ask ourselves this week, is eighth the best lineup spot for Jose Altuve? With the return of Jed Lowrie, formally ensconced in the two spot, Altuve slides right to the bottom. I've also heard some rumblings about Brian Bogusevic in the five spot, in front of Johnson and behind Lee. Guys in the two spot are going to get 100 or more plate appearances than a guy at eight, so shuffling a guy that far down is going to impact on him. I'm not certain I agree that Altuve could bat ninth, and perhaps, considering he turns 22 next month, Mills is right to leave him lower down the order, where there is less pressure on his shoulders.