2009 Houston Astros: So Very Lousy
BaseballEvolution.com Spring Preview
by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
April 3, 2009
| Key Transactions |
| Acquired || Pos. |
| Mike Hampton || SP |
| Aaron Boone || 3B |
| Jeff Keppinger || IF
| Ivan Rodriguez || C |
| Toby Hall || C |
| Clay Hensley || RP|
| Jason Smith || SS |
| Jason Michaels || OF |
| || |
| Departed || Pos. |
| Ty Wigginton || 3B |
| Mark Loretta || IF |
| Randy Wolf || SP |
| Brad Ausmus || C |
The Houston Astros are going
to be terrible this season. I will not mince words. They are one of the worst
five teams in the league, despite their managementĎs positive babble. Cecil
Cooper says he thinks his team can win 90 games this year because they went
42-24 in the second half last year. Ed Wade thinks that anything can happen and
points out that nobody believed in his team last year. I think thatís fine for
him to say, but we need to get real. Beyond the fact that their second half last
year was so good it would be difficult for any team to match, they do not have
the same team, so the point is moot. In fact, theyíve given up several key
players from last yearís ďrun,Ē including Ty Wigginton and Randy Wolf.
So who is on the Astros, and
why are they going to be so lousy next year?
I considered predicting that
the Houston Astros would be the worst team in baseball this year. Only a few
things stopped me. One of them plays at first base, and his name is Lance
Berkman. He had a great season last year if you look at the overall batting
line, but he was the best hitter in baseball during the first two months of the
season and one of the worst by comparison in the second half. Still, Berkman has
made a career out of being consistently excellent, and thereís little reason to
expect otherwise in a normal year. Problem is, itís not a normal year, and that
little reason is in his shoulder, as heís been having a nagging pain all through
spring training. The Astros need Berkman to perform at Berkman-levels, and if he
isnít, their season is doomed. Or, more doomed.
At second base is Kaz
Matsui, who has a reputation as a solid leadoff hitter. He missed sixty-six
games last season to various injuries and heís getting on in years, but if he
can stay healthy and steal a few bases for the Astros, heíll make some
Which is more than what will
be coming out of third base. In one of the most baffling moves of the
offseason, the Astros let the steady Ty Wigginton go via free agency in favor of
career backup Geoff Blum and an aging Aaron Boone, who is now out for the season
with a life-threatening heart condition. Simply put, this is going to be an
offensive black hole and there was no reason to allow Wigginton to go. They
could have been respectable with him but, alas, that is not to be.
One of the more interesting
players to watch this season will be Miguel Tejada, who is recovering from a
terrible second half last season (he hit two home runs in the last two months!)
and from being hassled by Congress for lying to them. Tejada is getting on in
years and is starting to decline significantly at shortstop. I expect
that to continue, but Tejada will try and say something about that. I donít
think the bottom will drop out of him completely, however, and I imagine that he
will have a solid season.
Ivan Rodriguez, who was the
best catcher in baseball ten years ago, is now an aging catcher who canít
take a walk, doesnít hit for power, and canít do much but throw out runners.
Thatís not without virtue, but it is without VORP!
The Astros have four
outfielders whom you can expect to play. Only one of them resembles a
Carlos Lee, their everyday
left fielder, can hit, but he is way too heavy to be playing the
outfield. He is a massive liability on defense. Of course, when I say he can
hit I mean it: he can really hit, but he canít field at all.
Michael Bourn, meanwhile, canít hit worth a lick (5 HR, 29 RBI, 41 SB, 111 K in
467 AB) but he can steal a few bases and play some good defense. Unfortunately,
his stolen bases donĎt offset the lack of offensive production with the bat,
and you should expect the aging Darin Erstad to take some playing time in
center. Unfortunately, heís old and his ankles are made out of tape, so he wonít
be much better.
On the plus side is their
right fielder, Hunter Pence, who is good and should continue to improve. He was
excellent as a rookie in 2007 and had a solid first year last year. Thereís no
reason why he canít be a bright spot, unless he gets injured trying to cover
extra ground in center as Bourn tries to cover extra ground in left. But he is
a lot of fun to watch.
The ace, Roy Oswalt, is
awesome at the front of the rotation but nobody else is really worth
getting excited about. Oswalt was utterly dominant in the second half last
season after having a hip injury in the first; he has made 32 starts or more in
five straight seasons and leads the majors in victories since 2001. Simply put,
heís good and will continue to be good assuming good health.
The only other pitcher in
the rotation who might be worth talking about is Wandy Rodriguez, who was
dependable last year (3.54 ERA) except for a month he spent on the disabled
list, but his career has been marred by inconsistencies. It should also be noted
that heís been injured off and on this spring. The other pitchers in the
rotation are the junkballer Brian Moehler, the permanently-injured Mike Hampton,
and the terrible Russ Ortiz, who been neither good nor serviceable since 2004.
Waiting on the disabled list (likely for a Hampton injury) is Brandon Backe, who
carried a 6.05 ERA last season. If they were relievers theyíd come out to the
song Send in the Clowns.
Fortunately for Houston, the
bullpen is a bright spot, or at least not as opaque as the rest of the team.
If they were starters, they wouldnít be awful. Jose Valverde is coming back
after a 44-save season for the Astros, while Latroy Hawkins, Doug Brocail, and
Geoff Geary will be around to reprise their roles as solid, unspectacular middle
relievers and setup men. They will have two LOOGY pitchers, Tim Byrdak and
Wesley Wright, who they will be counted on to not let games get carried away. I
do not like making predictions for relievers because of how inconsistent
bullpens are as a rule, but Iím guessing these guys wonít be so bad.
Unfortunately, the team is
Their upside is a middling contender with eighty wins or so. They are far more
likely to lose 100 than they are to make the playoffs, however. That makes me
sad for fans of the Houston Astros, but to tell you the truth it makes me
saddest for Roy Oswalt, who deserves better.
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