Have Bat, Will Hit: How To Win a Spot on the Houston Astros

Richard ZowieCorrespondent IMay 19, 2010

HOUSTON - APRIL 05:  Geoff Blum #27 of the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 5, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The last time I blogged, admittedly far too long ago, I wrote about my kids playing baseball and how I encourage them NOT to become the pitcher's friend by swinging at pitches that look uglier than a celebrity chronically addicted to plastic surgery.


(Joan Rivers, Jocelyn "The Cat Lady" Wildenstein, and a certain late pop singer come to mind.)


Not hitting, of course, is something the Houston Astros have been doing far too much amid their 13-26 record.


A quick look at the team's hitting stats (as of May 19 at 11 a.m.) reveals something very disturbing only four players are hitting above .290 and only three above .300. The club's top two hitters, in terms of batting average, are pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Felipe Paulino.


It makes you wonder if Rodriguez or Paulino should be hitting second or third when they bat.


It is very ironic both pitchers, who've struggled with lack of run support, have higher batting averages than most of their teammates.


Once you get past Geoff Blum's .308 (the highest batting average of a non-pitcher) and Michael Bourn's .292, things drop off. Jeff Keppinger's at .270, Hunter Pence (who got off to a dreadfully-slow start) is at .248. Humberto Quintero's at .239 and Lance Berkman's at .236.


Skip over some pitchers and bench players, and then you have Carlos Lee at .201 just one thousandth of a point above the dreaded Mendoza Line.


Yes, I know it's only late May, but when I look at Houston's hitting, I think there's a reason why the team's languishing in dead last in the National League Central, 10 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.


If not for the Baltimore Orioles, the LASTros would have the worst record in all of baseball. There's a reason for the rumors that Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman will be traded for lots and lots of prospects.


Houston needs hitting, period. How they can get it is another story.


Perhaps free Ruth's Chris Steakhouse tickets for those who get above .290. (Let's just hope there are no vegetarians on the team, since this incentive wouldn't work.)


Perhaps extra batting practice after the game during a lousy performance. After all, Astros hurlers love limiting their opponents to two to three runs over seven innings and still getting the loss because the offense couldn't plate any runs.


Perhaps threatening to set up a karaoke machine in the clubhouse and have Drayton McLane sing KISS songs like "Rock and Roll All Nite, " "God of Thunder, " and, "Shout It Out Loud," would help. It is, however, hilarious to imagine Mr. McLane in KISS makeup and even emulating Gene Simmons by spitting blood or blowing fire.


Perhaps the team should take a page out of Sammy Sosa's alleged playbook and use a corked bat in hopes that it'll end a hitting slump. Just don't use those bats when facing pitchers who like to jam hitters with bat-breaking inside fastballs.


Should Oswalt and Berkman be traded, I hope the team gets a few solid hitters in the process. Roy O and Elvis are both not as young as they used to be, but it's not unreasonable to demand a few top prospects for teams interested in either of their services.


Play it soft, and all you'll get are prospects the team either don't really need or won't have anyplace to put them anytime soon.


Maybe, somewhere out there, Houston will conduct another Jeff Bagwell-style trade.


Perhaps in the winter 2010-2011 meetings, Houston will actually pursue some solid hitters on the baseball market. It's not like the Astros play in a pitcher-friendly park anymore. You'd think hitters would look at the shorter foul poles and more cozy power alleys and salivate at the idea of playing in Houston. Instead, opponents salivate when they get to play against Houston in Houston.

Richard Zowie's a Houston Astros blogger who seems to have more gray hair lately. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com .