Entering the 2011 season, the Astros' starting pitching rotation was supposed to be the strength of this team. Many optimists even thought they could carry them to a respectable record.
Unfortunately that has not been the case. Bud Norris has been a pleasant surprise, Wandy put up similar numbers to years past and Jordan Lyles has shown flashes of brilliance. But that is where the good ends.
Brett Myers has regressed a lot from his strong 2010 finish. J.A. Happ did not take the next step in his young career. Throw in the failed experiments of Nelson Figueroa and Aneury Rodriguez as starting pitchers.
Now that the 2011 season is almost over, it is time to turn our sights to the 2012 season. I have come up with the eight most likely scenarios that could happen to shape the starting rotation next season.
The Astros could look outside of the organization for help with their starting rotation and bring in a free agent pitcher or two. The last big name starting pitcher they brought in was Andy Pettitte and that was a pretty good move since they finally made it to the World Series.
The free agent class for starting pitchers is pretty weak starting and ending with Texas Rangers' C.J. Wilson. He will most likely command a hefty contract and this will most likely knock the Astros out of possible contention.
If the Astros do go after a free agent it will most likely be a veteran looking for a second shot, like a Brett Myers. I think the Astros may be willing to go with one of their young arms before bringing in free agents, making this scenario the least likely.
The Astros have made two attempts this season to move Wandy Rodriguez and I would not be surprised to see him with a new team once spring training starts next year.
There were reports that Wandy generated a lot of interest from teams at the end of the trade deadline but unfortunately there was not enough time to work out a deal.
The Astros then put him on waivers where he was claimed by Colorado. Once again a deal could not be worked out and the Astros pulled him back off of waivers.
I think the Astros are in cost saving mode which means they will want to move Wandy's contract. One team out there will probably take a chance on him and get him for less than fair market value.
The Astros signed Brett Myers midway through 2010 to a new contract extension but after his 2011 season it may be time to cut their losses.
Myers has a record of 5-13, which includes him winning his last two starts this season.
He has given up the third most home runs by any starting pitcher this year with 31 and his ERA jumped almost 1.50 runs from last year.
At 31, I don't know how much value he can provide to a team that will still be rebuilding next year.
I am sure the Astros will try and find a trade partner for Myers but his contract will scare teams away. I could see them releasing him to get some younger pitchers major league experience.
With Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers gone and the Astros most likely not bringing in any top starting pitchers, there is a void at the top of the rotation. I think this will be filled by Bud Norris, a position in which he'll perform well.
His win-loss record won't scare anyone at 6-9 this season and 21-22 for his career, but he has shown glimpses of being a top starting pitcher.
This season he has averaged over six innings a start, has a K/9 ratio of 8.68 and opposing batters are only hitting .249 against him.
Generally you need your ace to go deep into games, shut down opposing offenses and, when necessary, stop losing skids. Norris has shown an ability to do two of these three things and could take that next step next year.
Jordan Lyles is one of the youngest players in the majors this year and made the jump from Double-A to the majors this year. It doesn't matter how old you are, this is not an easy task but Lyles responded pretty well.
He finished his first season 2-7 as a starter before being sent down to Triple-A. He will finish the year in a relief role to help keep his innings pitched down.
The Astros showed a lot of faith in the young right handed pitcher having him skip Triple-A and I would not be surprised to see him start out the 2012 year in the two spot in the rotation.
J.A. Happ had a disappointing 2011 season after many fans had high hopes for the lefty. He was the key piece that came over from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade in 2010 but struggled for the majority of this season.
He was even demoted to Triple-A at the start of August before being called back up on August 26th. The move down to Triple-A could of been the best thing for him as he has pitched very well in three of his four starts since then.
He gave up a total of two runs over 19 innings pitched in those three starts, with his last start coming against his former team.
Happ looks like he has regained some confidence and if he can carry that into 2012, he should have a bounce back year.
Henry Sosa came over to the Astros in the Jeff Keppinger trade this season. He is 26 and had never pitched in the majors before this season. Many wrote him off and did not think he had much value.
The Astros wasted little time calling him up and he has had some really good starts and some really bad one.
He had a stretch of three starts where he went 2-1, giving up only four earned runs in 18 innings pitched. In his last start, though, he gave up five earned runs in only 2.2 innings of work to the Nationals.
Even though he has had the up and down season, I think he does have enough talent to be a fourth or fifth starter in a rotation. With options fairly limited, I expect the Astros to give Sosa that chance next year to solidify his role in the rotation.
Jarred Cosart was one of the main prospects the Astros received in the Hunter Pence trade and is thought of by many as a top talent. Cosart is currently pitching in Double-A for Houston and in seven starts is 1-2 with an ERA of 4.71.
The Astros have already demonstrated they are not afraid to send top pitchers from Double-A to the majors with the way they handled Jordan Lyles this year.
If Cosart is able to dominate at the Double-A level in the early going of the season and the Astros struggle out of the gates, I would not be surprised to see Cosart get some major league experience in 2012.