- Gary Gillette, ESPN.com MLB insider contributor
Editor's Note: Report is updated through the Astros' Championship Series victory over the Cardinals.
Brad Ausmus, C
Brad Ausmus hasn't had a good season with the bat since 1999, but at least he's got the excuse that he's not expected to hit. Ausmus has a slow bat and no power, though he will take a walk when it is offered and bunts and hits-and-runs well. He contributed a bit during the Astros stretch run, batting .286 with a .398 OBP in September. Though he runs well for a catcher, he no longer is a threat to steal. Ausmus plays for his defense, of course, and is considered a model receiver. He has a strong, very accurate arm and good hands.
Key stat: Ausmus has struck out in 10 of his 40 October at bats, twice his rate during the regular season, showing that he's overmatched against good righties. Ausmus' dramatic home run against a power right-hander in the final game of the Division Series was an impressive feat, but he is a much better hitter against lefties (.293 BA, .409 OBP).
Lance Berkman, 1B
After missing the first two months of the season to heal from offseason knee surgery, Berkman has been one of the two mainstays of the Houston lineup. His 36 extra-base hits and 1.009 OPS in 257 at-bats in the second half have re-established him as a fearsome slugger. An excellent low-ball hitter, Berkman's quick bat lashes pitches to all fields, and he has outstanding patience and plate discipline. On the basepaths, Berkman is a decent runner, though his injury has cost him some speed. At first, he is a minus fielder, and he has some range in the outfield.
Key stat: Berkman was always a better left-handed hitter, but his lack of power from the right side of the plate in 2005 (three homers in 125 at-bats) is a real problem. Berkman feasted on Braves pitching in the Division Series, going 4-for-12 with a double, home run, and three walks, partly because the Braves didn't have a good lefty in the bullpen to face him. Berkman was 1-for-6 (single) with a walk against Cardinals lefties in the NLCS.
The Astros have the pitching to make a run deep into October.