Glass half full or half empty? Your 2009 Houston Astros Preview

Taking a look at the Houston Astros roster you can see a team that could either win 85 games or lose 85 games.

From a literal standpoint, the Astros weren't all that bad in 2008, finishing with a 86-75 record and a third place finish.

Given the way the Milwaukee Brewers regressed, there's no reason to think Houston can't contend for second place in the NL Central and potentially, a wild card berth.

But while the Brewers went backward, the Astros stood pat, returning roughly the same team for 2009.

Perhaps the most glaring weakness for this team is the pitching staff.

Randy Wolf was added at the deadline and performed well in the rotation but he is still a free agent and it's doubtful that Houston has the resources to bring him back.

For that reason and the three or four other reasons behind ace Roy Oswalt is why this team is capable of winning 85 games or losing just as many.

Wandy Rodriguez turned in a respectable season with an ERA under 4.00 but he's more of a back of the rotation starter at this point.

Behind Rodriguez are a bunch of question marks and it doesn't appear that either Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler or Brandon Backe will become pitchers of great worth.

Hampton was the prime comeback candidate but he recently experienced heart problems.

The offense on the other hand will make the Astros a team to watch.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada, first baseman Lance Berkman, left fielder Carlos Lee and right fielder Hunter Pence provide a potent attack.

Second baseman Kaz Matsui also delivered as advertised after coming from the Colorado Rockies in 2008. He'll get runners moving along if center fielder and speed demon Michael Bourn can actually get on base more (.288 OBP).

The high water mark for this club is second place because there is no way, even if they get lucky, that they can overtake the Chicago Cubs for NL Central supremacy. But with a steady offense, they should be neck and neck with the Brewers.

Now of they could just get a mascot that doesn't look like the Nesquick bunny.