The Astros’ 2011 Rotation

The Astros finally caved and traded longtime ace Roy Oswalt as part of their rebuilding effort this year, but the move certainly didn't cripple the team's rotation. In fact, the starting five has been the team's greatest strength amidst a disappointing season that has Houston sitting in third place in the NL Central at 67-73. For all intents and purposes, the same group will be returning in 2011.

The last remaining link to the 2005 NL Championship team is 31-year-old southpaw Wandy Rodriguez. He followed up 2009's breakout performance with what can best be described as a tale of two seasons. His ERA stood at 6.09 with a 6.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 through his first 14 starts this year, but Wandy rebounded to post a 1.91 ERA, 8.8 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 in 14 starts since. The Astros control Rodriguez as an arbitration-eligible player for the third and final time next season, when his salary figures to jump from $5MM into the $8MM range.

Joining Wandy at the top of the rotation is former Phillie Brett Myers, arguably the single best free agent signing from last offseason. After signing for just one year and $5.1MM guaranteed, all he's done is post a 2.91 ERA, 7.1 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 29 starts this season, going no fewer than six innings each time out. The Astros rewarded Myers' effort with a contract extension that guarantees the 30-year-old at least $21MM through 2012. 

Lefthander J.A. Happ, acquired in the Oswalt deal, figures to hold down a spot in the middle of the rotation next season. He's made eight strong starts since coming over (3.21 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 4.2 BB/9), and won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2011 season.

Rookie righthander Bud Norris has been impressive even if his 5.16 ERA doesn't back it up. He's struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings, sixth-most among NL starters, and his walk rate is a tolerable 4.0 BB/9. The 25-year-old Norris figures to remain in the rotation next season after cutting his teeth this year.

Brian Moehler, Felipe Paulino, Wesley Wright, Josh Banks, and most recently Nelson Figueroa have rounded out the back of the rotation at different times this year. Paulino, 26, is the most promising of the bunch (4.40 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9), but he's missed the second half with a shoulder strain. At 95.5 mph, only Ubaldo Jimenez has a higher average fastball velocity than Paulino among starters (AL and NL) this year. Moehler is due to become a free agent after the season and Figueroa is a perpetual non-tender candidate, especially since he'll be up for arbitration for the first time this winter.

Down on the farm sits one of the game's best pitching prospects in Jordan Lyles, who dominated the Double-A level (3.12 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9) at just 19 years of age this season. Houston gave him a late-season cameo with Triple-A Round Rock, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that he'll make his big league debut at some point during the 2011 season. 

Oswalt won't be around to be that veteran, shut-down ace next season, but the Astros have plenty of arms to work with. Rodriguez and Myers are a more than capable one-two punch (not necessarily in that order, of course), while Happ and Norris give the team plenty of cost-effective production with a chance to improve as they continue their development. If Lyles steps up and establishes himself at some point next summer, Houston's starting five will be one of the deepest, and perhaps most underappreciated, in all of baseball.


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17 Comments on "The Astros’ 2011 Rotation"


RGV84
4 years 11 months ago

I am very excited for next year I can’t wait they might not contend next year but these guys are much more exciting than the team fielded to start the season.

RGV84
4 years 11 months ago

I am very excited for next year I can’t wait they might not contend next year but these guys are much more exciting than the team fielded to start the season.

Bob George
4 years 11 months ago

Nice article Mike.

oremlk
4 years 11 months ago

If healthy, I tend to think Paulino will be penciled into the fifth starter role with Lyles starting at AAA to get him more much-needed development time and delay his Super Two eligibility.

For me, as an admittedly biased Astros fan, this is one of the deepest rotations in baseball, although it needs at least one of the pitchers to emerge as a legitimate ace in order to be in the conversation for being the best. Maybe that will be Wandy or Myers, but I wouldn’t put it past one of the young guys to break out.

The Astros have some money to spend on pitching in the offseason; my hope is that they will spend it giving Wandy a moderate extension, buying out at least one free agent year.

elkinsknights
4 years 11 months ago

Finally somebody outside of houston gives the astros some good publicity.

RGV84
4 years 11 months ago

I know! It feels like every where i look they are bashing the Astros.

elkinsknights
4 years 11 months ago

hopefully next year we get some respect.

elkinsknights
4 years 11 months ago

Finally somebody outside of houston gives the astros some good publicity.

Backup_Slider
4 years 11 months ago

A bullpen that would stand to feature Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Mark Melancon, Fernando Abad, Alberto Arias, and Someother Guy could be very good too, though certainly not dominant by any stretch.

mrsjohnmiltonrocks
4 years 11 months ago

I’m not particularly an Astros fan, but kudos to the Astros for finally starting a rebuild. I like that they have some stability going forward in Myers and Rodriguez (even if he starts slow) and Happ looks good, Norris has shown some improvement and they actually have a few youngsters that might help in the not too distant future.Brad Mills has done a superb job while managing the roster changes. The team has had a good run since the All Star break. Oh, and I’d keep Figueroa around because he’d be able to fill in for starters or relievers that get injured or are ineffective. Even with arbitration, he has kicked around so much, he may sign to make sure he has a spot somewhere for next year. I just don’t see that he’d ask for that much.

The_Porcupine
4 years 11 months ago

I’m an Astros fan, since about 1992. I say that because I don’t want people to think I’m bashing them just because. I’m not as optimistic about their rotation next year. I have zero confidence in either Norris or Paulino as starters. I think they would be solid bullpen arms, but I’ve low expectations for both. Happ seems to outperform his skill set somehow and the Phillies were a little too willing to get rid of a young, cheap starter for some reason. I’d hesitate to expect him to be more than a #3 or 4 starter. Myers and Wandy are solid, but I don’t consider them to be #1 or 2 starters. They’re good, but expecting them to repeat their performance next year is wishful thinking in my book.

Don’t get me wrong, the rotation is the strength of the Astros right now. They have a nice collection of complimentary players who perform well within their roles. But to put them in roles with higher expectations is bound to disappoint.

4 years 11 months ago

I still have a bit of trouble getting excited about the Astros future. General development of young pitchers would seem to indicate that most of their young guys aren’t going to work out or at least not become top of the rotation starters. Wandy and Myers are good but each have faults and somewhat limited upside. Also, even if they do get the rotation figured out and productive it looks as if the offense is going to be an issue. The weight Lee carries around is taking him downhill faster than most, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bounce back some next year but I doubt he’ll ever be the impact hitter he was. Pence is ok but not really a star type anchor for an offense, Bourn has OBP issues etc etc…. The ‘Stros are notoriously streaky, slumping in the first half and streaking in the second. I think it would be better to analyze a team such as this after the season is over and the dust has settled, not during their hottest time of the year. Every year at the start of the season every teams fans think their team is going to compete, if only the players play up to their potential, that’s how I see the ‘Stros at this point. They could be a good team if only everything breaks right for them. Never happens in the real world though and I have to think it’s going to be a few years at least before they can compete for the playoffs seriously over the course of a full season.

Guest
4 years 11 months ago

Nice assessment, Mike. I really enjoyed this. Idk about them having one of the best rotations in the league, but it’s definitely one of the more underrated ones for sure (especially if Jordan Lyles can crack it next spring).

I’m really happy for the Astros right now. They look like they’re heading in the right direction. Next season will be big for them though. We’ll find out if they’re gonna become one of the next up and coming teams in the league, or cellar dwellars for the next decade. Should be interesting to keep an eye on

The_Porcupine
4 years 11 months ago

And for the love of all that may be holy, no more Brian Moehler. Or his type of pitcher. Please don’t punish us with an over the hill, barely holding onto a career pitcher. I’d rather have young and inconsistent versus old and occassionally good. He’s overachieved for the stros but it is time to move on.

shephill
4 years 11 months ago

One thing that’s been left out thus far is the likelihood that Brad Arnsberg is and will be making a considerable difference. Myers, Happ and Norris have all commented on Arnsberg’s game plans (the term they used). And that could very easily explain how Figueroa, a mediocre pitcher at best, comes in to Houston and has the success (albeit limited) he’s having. Arnsberg may not be another Duncan, but then again, before Duncan came along, I never knew a pitching coach could make that much of a difference. I’ve surely enjoyed the Astros recent success, and look forward to what they might be able to do next year.

Guest
4 years 11 months ago

That’s an excellent point. And you can add Roy Oswalt to the list of guys who appreciated Arnsberg before he was traded

I think the biggest addition for the Astros this year has been the coaching staff. Leaps and bounds doesn’t even begin to describe the difference b/w last years coaches and this years. Cecil Cooper completely destroyed the great clubhouse atmosphere that carried over from the Bagwell/Biggio days, and Dewey Robinson was hated by most of the pitchers on the team. Brad Mills has brought a much more positive and upbeat personality to the team, and the players are all responding to the philosophies of Arnsberg and Bagwell as the pitching and hitting instructors. They’ve done an excellent job w/ this team since the all star break. Here’s to hoping they don’t fire next time they hit a funk like they did w/ Garner, Jim Hickey and Gary Gaetti

stroh
4 years 9 months ago

I think the Astros will look to sign a starter along the lines of a Rich Harden – give him a 1 year contract for $5-6M with an option for a 2nd year at $7-8M. I think Felipe Paulino may end up in the bullpen and with his stuff could prove to be an effective 7th or 8th inning guy. They also need to sign a lefty for the bullpen if they don’t resign Tim Byrdak.