Once again, we get to the point in the week when we need to check in on the Astros roster. Who's up, who's down and who might need a trip to Oklahoma City?
Hunter Pence, blue chip - Though he hasn't been hitting home runs, Pence is picking up hits at a pace he hasn't seen since his rookie season. Give him a few more weeks like this and we might have to start asking whether Pence can make a run at the batting title.
Clint Barmes, rising quickly - This is the Clint Barmes the Astros thought they were getting in the Felipe Paulino trade. He's hitting for power (with a .600 slugging percentage) and putting up his normally great fielding numbers. That's exactly the kind of player who should be a boon to the lineup, not competing for the seventh spot in the batting order.
Michael Bourn, staying strong - The surprising thing about Bourn is that he's only stolen one base in the last week. It's not because he's hitting any worse (.367/.385/.467), or is he scoring any fewer runs. He did lead the team with five runs scored over the past week. He also had great baserunning numbers again, which just shows that stolen bases do a poor job of showing how good a runner someone is.
Wandy Rodriguez, down but still high - What Wandy did over the last week just wasn't very good. His strikeout rate was under 7 and his walk rate was over 3.5, but the ERA, FIP and xFIP were still around 3.50, which is pretty good. Compared to what Wandy has done before that, it's a disappointing run, but he's still one of the best pitchers on that staff.
Brett Myers, down but not forgotten - Even though Myers' ERA is almost 5, his peripherals are bad enough that his expected FIP is actually right around what Wandy's is. He's been victimized by a high BABiP and a higher than normal home run rate. All signs point to Myers putting up a decent second half.
Jeff Keppinger, middling - While Kepp hasn't hit badly, he's also not walking and not hitting more than singles. Which isn't surprising, because that's what Kepp does. He showed surprising doubles power last season, but there was nothing really in his career to sustain that power. He might get back into a rhythm of hitting doubles, but this may be more what the Astros (or any other trading team) will get from him.
Matt Downs, falling - Boy, increased playing time has cooled Downs off more than anything. It's just one week, but Downs is only hitting .214/.267/.286 this week in 15 plate appearances. That should normalize out if he continues to get more playing time, but he's certainly cold right now.
Mark Melancon, in a bad spot - It's a bad sign that the Astros closer only has 1 1/3 innings of work in the past week. It's a worse one that he didn't strike out anyone there and lost one of the two games he did play in. In a bad bullpen, the Astros need him as a dependable arm, not an adventure.
Sergio Escalona, suprisingly good - I've never really thought much about Escalona this season. But, facts are facts. He's been better than I expected him to be, and looks like Wade made another good, low-level trade. Of course, strictly in the past week, he's been terrible. Don't let that change the fact he's been good the rest of the season.
Carlos Lee, returning to normal - I say that because of two big things. Carlos is hitting for power again (two home runs in the past week) plus his defensive numbers are going back to horrible. Certainly, this is a good sign if the Astros think they can trade him, but I'm convinced that will never happen. Carlos Lee will be with the Astros forever. He'll move up into the management and will someday buy the team with his cattle money and run it until the end of time. That is my nightmare.
Brett Wallace, bottoming out - What an up-and-down season for Brick Wallace. He's been very, very good, driven by a high batting average on balls in play. Now, that's plummeted and so has his average. Wallace may just be the streaky kind of player, but I'm ready for that streak to start going back in the right direction.
J.R. Towles, penny stock but still falling - Hitless again. Any value Towles once had is gone forever. I cannot wait for Jason Castro to come back.
Humberto Quintero, crazy returns - He's working back from his latest injury, but the story of his time in a Memphis hotel was crazy. Q got caught up in a murder investigation and missed the trip back to Oklahoma City. All I know is that even having Q back in the lineup would be preferable to what the Astros have been running out lately.
Bud Norris, volatile - It was a tale of two starts for Norris. When he struck out 10 last week, he allowed four runs in six innings, giving just four hits, but also walking four. Against the Pirates last night, he only struck out three, but he walked just two in seven innings. He also allowed seven hits and two runs. That evens out, with 13 strikeouts in 13 innings, but a 1-1 record.
J.A. Happ, bottoming out - Did you know Happ has a .286 batting average on balls in play? That means he's been pretty lucky on the batters he didn't strike out, walk or hit a home run. And his ERA was still up in the 6's.
Aneury Rodriguez, slowly showing returns - It's happening. In the bullpen, Aneury is finding his footing. Is this a precursor to him pulling a Johan Santana? Will every Rule 5 pitcher who isn't quite ready be compared to Santana?
David Carpenter, making me look foolish - Now, it's personal David Carpenter. All I do is write a pretty fair critique of your time in the minors. How does he repay that? By striking out almost everyone he sees, not walking anyone and not giving up a run in his first three appearances. Psh, it's almost like he's saving the Astros bullpen...