Friday, July 14, 2006

Howdy everyone. I actually didn't watch the Home-Run Derby OR the All-Star Game. Frankly, I needed a break from baseball as much as the players did. Too many fantasy teams (once again), and too many crummy Astros defeats have left me somewhat burned on this whole national pasttime thing. But a few days off, and a few interesting moves by the Astros have gotten me right back into the swing of things. Here we go:

As Barstool pointed out, the Astros made several moves to try and revitalize the offense. First, we traded Ben Zobrist and Mitch Tablot (two decent prospects) to the Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff and cash. This is a great trade for us. Yes, Huff is in his last year before free agency, and he hasn't lived up to his 2003-04 potential over the last year and a half. But he has smacked the crap out of the ball recently, hitting 3 HR in his last 5 games (the latest was a 3-run shot to give the Astros a 5-1 win over the Marlins). So hopefully, he's found his swing and can put up a .850 OPS.

Huff is, if nothing else, a very good hitter, which is exactly what we need. Like Richard Justice said when we signed Preston Wilson: Forget where he's going to play or who he's going to take at-bats from, just having him on the team is a very good thing. Unfortunately, he doesn't replace Everett or Ausmus at the end of the lineup, but we'll get to that later.

Lane was optioned to Round Rock to make room for Huff. Like last year, Lane went through an extended slump, but he just never seemed to rebound from it. Just about every time I saw him at the plate or on the bases, he seemed to make dumb mental mistakes. He's not as bad as he is right now, but at 29, his time with the Astros might be coming to a close.

Ensberg to the DL. This move is about a month late. Ensberg has very obviously been bothered since he dove for a foul ball and landed awkwardly on his shoulder against Atlanta on June 9. Good timing at least, since Huff will move into the 3B spot full-time for the next two weeks.

Luke Scott was called up to replace Ensberg. I'm not sold on this move. Seems to me we could have just kept Lane in the majors and Scott at AAA and saved a couple of options. But hey, Scott will probably go back down once Ensberg plays again.

Brandon Backe is scheduled to pitch July 22, and it looks like Wandy will be sent to the pen, with Buchholz staying in the #5 spot. This is probably a good move — Wandy was awful in June and his two starts in July were not promising. Wandy has pretty much shown us his potential in the last year, and he doesn't appear to have what it takes to be a major-league starter. Buchholz, on the other hand, has potential, and if nothing else, he'll be surrounded by Oswalt, Pettitte and Rocket.

Oswalt, Clemens, Pettitte, Backe and Buchholz is a damn fine rotation. The lineup, even with Huff, needs help. The problem, as always, is the bottom of the order. Unless we make even more drastic changes, Ausmus and Everett aren't going anywhere. Here's my proposition: Have Burke start at SS twice a week, have Munson start at C twice a week, and have Wilson make some starts in CF. Burke's offense more than makes up for his lack of defense at short. And obviously, once we get a late lead, we can sub Everett in at SS and Willy T in CF. How's about this lineup?:

2B Biggio, SS Burke, LF Berkman, CF Wilson, RF Huff, 3B Ensberg, 1B Lamb, C Munson

Those are clearly our best hitters. Obviously, this would be a disaster defensively, but we need some freakin' offense.

Clemens vs. the Marlins tonight. Go Rocket.

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