The Astros have been pretty good for awhile. They have finished in second place in the NL Central for five straight seasons and made the playoffs six of the last 10 years. But pretty good is never good enough.
After struggling to generate much offense last season -- last in the NL in batting average, second to last in slugging and OPS -- Houston added more punch to the lineup by signing Carlos Lee for $100 million. Lee is a safe bet for at least 35 home runs and 110 RBIs. Lance Berkman is also a sure thing, but the pressure's on Morgan Ensberg (58 RBIs in '06 vs. 101 RBIs in '05) to produce. Time will tell how Chris Burke handles the full-time center field job.
After Roy Oswalt, who might just win 20, the pitching staff is an enigma without Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Jason Jennings posted a 3.78 ERA with the Rockies last year and could bolster the staff at No. 2. Then again, he's 38-47 since 2003. Woody Williams went 12-5 last season, he is 40 and has had a shaky spring. The bottom of the rotation -- Wandy Rodriguez and Fernando Nieve -- remains untested.
Closer Brad Lidge (5.28 ERA in '06) needs to rebound, or it could be a long year in Houston.
Can the Astros make a run in the NL Central, or are they in trouble? Let us know what you think.