Thomas ("Stros Bro"), of SBN sister site The Crawfish Boxes, was kind enough to answer my questions about his team. We've got a three-game set against the Astros this weekend, and now we'll have a little better idea of what we're watching.
Q: You've gotten to watch Carlos Lee every day for a full season now. What do you think? Is he worth $12MM this year? How about $18.5MM in 2012?
A: Last season, I would have said without much doubt in my mind that he was worth the money and will be worth it over the life of his contract. Now seeing how he's playing this season, I can't help but wonder whether that is now true. He seems to be gaining weight and isn't getting better in the outfield. If he was still hitting like last season I would be okay with it, but he's not even doing that this season. Right now he's playing as a below average defensive player and an average offensive player. He's definitely not playing up to what we're paying for him.
Q: Fun fact: The opening day starting five for the Astros were all born within 21 months of each other. The rotation seems to me to be the achilles heel of this team, especially with Oswalt struggling. What do you think?
A: Quick answer to this would be... who knows? Before the season started, most people believed the Astros were solid everywhere but their starting rotation and the starting rotation was Roy Oswalt and then a bunch of question marks. Well, now that the season has started, Roy Oswalt was terrible for his first 3 starts and 3 of the 4 other Astros starters were at least solid. I think the Astros rotation is still going to end up being the weak point for the Astros, but they haven't shown it so far this season for the most part.
Q: I'm really curious about J.R. Towles. Catchers (at least of the non-Joe Mauer variety) usually don't get promoted straight a starting job, much less hold on to it when a vet is sitting on the bench. What are your impressions of him so far?
A: I can't say that I've been overly impressed with J.R. Towles so far this season. He has some pop and can definitely bring more to the plate than Brad Ausmus... but Ausmus is one of the worst offensive catchers in baseball, so that's not much of a compliment. Towles is a solid defensive catcher but still has a few strides to take before he becomes a real major league catcher. If I had my choice right now, I'd rather the Astros have Quintero up taking most of the catching duties and let Towles have another season down in Triple-A to work on some things.
Q: Brewers fans like grit, and we've got our share, but Kendall, Counsell and Kapler pale in comparison to Ausmus, Matsui, and Erstad. How do you feel about your team's bench construction?
A: The Astros bench consists of weak-hitting Brad Ausmus, light-hitting Geoff Blum, decent-hitting Mark Loretta, not-hitting Jose Cruz Jr and swings-at-everything Darin Erstad. I wouldn't rank our bench in the top 20 in baseball. If I had a choice of who to keep and who to get rid of... only Erstad and Loretta would still be on the team. The other 3 aren't of much use to me other than defensive replacements. Blum is good for a clutch hit every now and then, but at the end of the night, he's still just a light-hitting .250 hitter.
Q: Since the Miguel Tejada trade, Miggy has, uh, "matured," and Troy Patton has had shoulder surgery. It's early, but what's your take on the big swap?
A: With Patton going down this trade comes out as Tejada for Luke Scott. I really liked Luke Scott when he played for Houston and don't think he ever really got a chance to be a starter; no matter how well he did. I think the Astros leash on him was too short. That being said, Tejada is a monster and has been one of the best Astros players this season. You have to look past all of the steroid talk and the age issue and see the good clubhouse guy and energetic leader who has been one of the only bright spots on the Astros this season. So I'll have to say that I am happy with the trade overall... although, I think ultimately, the O's will be happy with the trade as well, once Patton becomes healthy.