Time for a reality check. Posters all over the message board are either crowning us champions or getting ready for a last-place finish. Let's take a look at what's going to happen over the 2007 season. First, the offense:
1. Carlos Lee will bring much-needed offense. Yes, he'll 'provide protection' for Berkman, not that he needed any in the first place. The duo will combine for at least 65 homers and 200 RBI. Lee's defense, however, will be somewhat atrocious.
2. The back of the lineup will once again drag the team down offensively. Everett will begin the season decently, trying to hit the ball to all sides of the field. But he'll fall back into old habits by swinging for the fences in the second half. Jennings and Williams will both out-OPS Ausmus, who will stay the 'starting' catcher much too long. Quintero will serve as an adequate back-up. He'll hit the ball hard, but will be too slow to take second most of the time.
3. Burke will put up decent numbers, although he'll continue to be a streaky hitter, vulnerable to lenghty slumps. His defense will be mediocre at first, as he'll have communication issues. But he'll make some Web-Gem-worthy diving catches coming in or to his left. He'll get banged up every now and then, requiring Jason Lane to fill in a handful of times in center.
4. Biggio will start off hot as usual, even though the home-road split phenomenon will stay. Come All-Star break, he'll begin his annual descent into .240-land. Garner and Purpura will take too long in replacing Biggio as an everyday player, claiming he's just going through a slump.
5. Luke Scott will regress toward the mean, but so will Jason Lane. The two will combine for slightly above-average production in right field. They'll combine for 30 homers and 100 RBI.
6. Mark Loretta and Mike Lamb will provide a spark off the bench. Loretta will fully embrace the pinch hitter/defensive replacement/spot starter role, making fans forget about Eric Bruntlett (sorry, Eric!). Lamb will swing a hot bat, earning a start every now and then at the corners to keep Ensberg and Berkman fresh.
7. Ensberg will rebound, but he'll once again fall out of favor among Astros fans. He'll hit plenty of homers, and get on base nearly 40 percent of the time, but his knack for striking out with RISP will cause an outcry. Garner will sit him four or five times a month, but Ensberg's power and patience will keep him in the lineup a a regular for ht most part.
Next up: Pitching predictions.