This year’s edition of the Houston Astros appears to be better than the 2011 and 2012 teams that lost more than 100 games, but the real truth is that they are on track to break that century mark in losses for the third straight season—and with no legitimate relief in sight.

Changing from the National League to the American League merely gave the Astros another bat in their everyday lineup with the addition of the designated hitter. But in reality, Houston’s DH position’s batting average and runs batted total in aren’t much better than when the pitcher’s batted in the NL.

We’re really trying to avoid another doom-and-gloom article about the Astros, but that is very difficult to do when wading through the statistics for the first half of the 2013 major league baseball season.

One bright spot we can report on is the fact that on May 26 the Astros were floundering as the worst team in the entire major leagues with a dismal 14-36 record, and at the halfway point, they are 30-51, thanks to a 16-15 record since then.

Also, the team has registered 16 come-from-behind victories and the Astros’ six wins after trailing by at least three runs is tied for the second-best in the major leagues. “I think we’ll finish with close to a 10-game improvement over last year,” General Manager Jeff Luhnow prophesized.

Luhnow is hoping the team can avoid a summer skid like they had last season when they only managed to win a combined eight games in July and August. And at the mid-way point in 2012, Houston was a bit better than this year at 32-49 and still lost a franchise-record 107 games.

Before the season began, the Astros believed they will wind up with between 95 and 105 losses this year, displaying improved starting pitching, a more powerful offense and increased excitement between the foul lines, according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.

Manager Bo Porter already has used 66 different lineups, but this year’s Astros’ team still has a lower batting average (.238) at the halfway point than teams from the previous two seasons and currently leads the major leagues in errors (67) and strikeouts (761) and ranks last in team ERA (4.72) and On Base Percentage (.296).

And even if Houston continues to play .500 ball during July, chances are that will all come to a screeching halt as the July 31 trading deadline approaches.

A total of 40 different players already have donned the Astros uniform during the first-half of the season and the Houston beat writers and veteran scouts believe the team will be actively working trades this month.

The Astros’ three-million dollar man, ace pitcher Bud Norris, has been whining about wanting to be traded to a team on the West Coast so he’ll be closer to home and the front office probably will accommodate him.

Two other starting pitchers—Lucas Harrell and Erik Bedard—also have been mentioned as prime candidates to be traded before the July 31 deadline along with veteran closer Jose Veras.

Others mentioned in trade speculation include former slugger Carlos Pena, backup catcher Carlos Corporan, often-injured outfielder Justin Maxwell and veteran reliever Wesley Wright.

I’m wondering when this process of getting rid of REAL major league Astros’ players and trading them for minor league prospects will ever end. I will admit that the team still is desperate to find a shortstop.

They have tried four different bodies at that position since they dumped Jed Lowrie after last season, including Jake Elmore, whose costly throwing error led to the Angels’ 3-1 win Sunday.

Tyler Greene didn’t make the team out of spring training, 30-year-old Ronny Cedeno was a late addition after being waived by St. Louis and switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez was sent to Oklahoma City when the Astros realized he couldn’t hit from either side of the plate.

The front office predicts the Astros will become playoff contenders during the 2015 season when they promised the team payroll will be $100 million.

I believe snow on the Fourth of July would be a better bet.

KWICKIES…While of the subject of major league baseball, a couple of players own impressive streaks. Detroit right-handed starting pitcher Max Scherzer became the first pitcher in 27 years to win 12 consecutive decisions to begin a season when he beat Tampa Bay 6-3 last weekend. The last pitcher to do it was our own Roger Clemens, who was on his way to starting the 1986 season at 14-0 with the Boston Red Sox. And Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies extended his franchise-record hitting streak to 27 games going into Tuesday’s action. It is also the major league’s longest hitting streak this season.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, who are only in their second year as an independent minor league team, have captured the Atlantic League’s Freedom Division first-half title with a record of 47-23. The Skeeters are managed by former major league player and coach Gary Gaetti, who enticed his friend Roger Clemens out of retirement to pitch to his son and catcher Koby for only one game last season.

Bill Haas fired a five-under-par 66 in Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour AT&T National tournament at Bethesda, Md. to break a logjam and win handily by three strokes over Roberto Castro. Haas’ victory netted him a check for $1.17 million. Port Neches-Groves and Lamar University product Chris Stroud finished 12 strokes behind Haas and earned $43,225.

ESPN on its NFL Live show Monday said that Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is the most disruptive defensive player in the NFL since Hall of Famer Reggie White, which is a great compliment.

JUST BETWEEN US…Earl Thomas has to be one of the greatest promoters of his hometown as he constantly says he’s from Orange, Texas whenever the Seattle Seahawks’ defense is introduced on national television when the other players give the college team they played for. The entire defensive secondary of the Seahawks was on hand at Dan Hooks Stadium on the West Orange-Stark campus last weekend to assist him in hosting his Second Annual Earl Thomas Free Football Camp that attracted between 500-600 youngsters who braved the 100 degree temperatures to soak up some football knowledge from someone who excelled at every level of the game. Earl was an All-State High school player for the WO-S Mustangs, was a first-team All-American safety at the University of Texas and so far is a two-time All-Pro safety in the NFL. And Earl and his teammates enjoyed the camp as much as the kids. “I take a lot of pride being from, and love, Orange,” Thomas said. “We have some amazing athletes and they just need direction.  I want to be that guy to point them in the best direction. At the conclusion of last weekend’s free football camp at West Orange-Stark, Earl announced that he had joined the Nike Jordan brand team of seven NFL players including Houston Texans’ star receiver Andre Johnson. As part of the new endorsement Thomas will wear Nike’s Jumpman Cleats this season.”