Will the Houston Astros Contend in 2011?

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40+ wins, .sub-4.00 ERA (Post-All Star Break, 2010)

Playoff Teams
Phillies: 50-25, 3.39 ERA
Twins: 48-26, 3.80
Giants: 45-29, 3.20
Reds: 42-30, 3.80
Rangers: 40-34, 3.89

Non-Playoff Teams
Astros: 40-33, 3.69

The Astros improved both their pitching (23rd to 8th in ERA) and hitting (28th to 19th in runs) from the 1st half to the 2nd half.  Their starting rotation changed and improved quite a bit, even though they traded away long-time ace Roy Oswalt at the end of July.

1st Half
Wandy Rodriguez: 6-11, 4.97 ERA
Brett Myers: 6-6, 3.41
Felipe Paulino (put on DL in June, in bullpen after he returned): 1-8, 4.40
Roy Oswalt (traded to Phillies in late July): 6-10, 3.08
Bud Norris: 2-6, 5.97

2nd Half
Wandy Rodriguez: 5-1, 1.87 ERA
Brett Myers (signed as free agent in January 2010 after 8 years with Phillies): 8-2, 2.81
Nelson Figueroa: (claimed off waivers from Phillies) 5-3, 3.22
J.A. Happ (acquired from Phillies in Oswalt trade): 5-4, 3.75
Bud Norris: 7-4, 4.18

Their 2nd half rotation, while effective, is not very intimidating, but does have a lot of potential.  None of them have proven themselves to be consistent over a long period of time, but Myers, Rodriguez and Happ have had success, and Norris proved that he could be an effective back of the rotation pitcher. 

If they could hit (even at a mediocre level like in the 2nd half) and avoid a slow start (0-8, 8-18, 17-34 in 2010), they could be a surprise player in the NL Central.

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