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Naturally, I know all yall incredibly eager to read the Astros forecast written by yours truly, so I will post part of it. Now mind, I had to submit this before the brilliant moves by Drayton McLane to form the Blum-Boone-no platoon at 3B and the swift move to sign Matt Kata to replace Mark Loretta as all-purpose backup infielder (1/4 the price, 1/4 the production) and the stealing of ace Russ Ortiz for pennies on the dollar, so this is why they weren’t included.
Check it out:
- The Astros had a better year than I expected, thanks to Lance Berkman carrying the team through the first half, and then Carlos Lee and Ty Wigginton picking up after the All-Star break. As usual, the Astros picked it up after the ASB, going 42-24, unfortunately encouraging the owner to believe that the team was better than it was.
As usual, the Astros ended April on a losing note, partly because Roy Oswalt was struggling, partly because Valverde was blowing saves and also because Bourn and Towles were significantly underperforming. The Astros had an outstanding May because Lance Berkman couldn’t be gotten out and Miguel Tejada and Hunter Pence had their only good months of the year. They lost and lost and lost in June and hit (hahaha) a low point when pitcher Shawn Chacon, uh, shall we say, expressed his displeasure with Ed Wade by punching him. The manager had clearly lost the team (dissing players to the media is generally not conducive to building a strong working relationship), the new catcher, J.R. Towles had lost his confidence, his swing and his job and the new CF, Michael Bourn, was catching balls but not getting on base.
After the All-Star break, as usual, the team started winning. Ed Wade stunned Astros fans by
1 – trading for failed, DFA’d Yankee reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who was promptly installed in the setup role after Doug Brocail ran out of gas, and promptly ran off a string of 22 scoreless appearances which lasted until the last game of the season
2 – trading for starting pitcher Randy Wolf, who actually pitched better than expected for the Astros, who won all but 3 of his 12 starts.
The Astros responded by winning, especially because Carlos Lee upped his game, hitting .371 in July. In August, he had already driven in 13 runs when he was knocked out for the year on August 9th when hit by a pitch that broke his pinky. And when Ty Wigginton was installed in left, HE responded by going on the hitting streak of his life, hitting .369, hitting 12 homers and driving in 27 runs until he also was hurt September 5.
In fact, the Astros appeared to be ready to compete for the Wild Card when disaster hit. A gigantic hurricane headed straight for Houston. The owner, even with a minimum of 5 days advance knowledge of the direction and scope of the storm, was unwilling to risk losing the gate from 3 sold out Cubs games, delayed rescheduling/relocating them until it was far too late. Bud Selig moved the games to Milwaukee (instead of more fan-friendly Arlington, which was available) and the shell shocked, exhausted, sleep deprived Astros promptly allowed the Cubs to pitch a no-hitter, then a 2 hitter. They lost the last game of the series before heading to Florida to lose 3 more, which effectively, permanently knocked them out of the Wild Card race.
Not that Drayton McLane was willing to shoulder any blame for his idiotic decision, not that he would allow himself to wonder what had he done to be a champion that year. The players should have just sucked it up, not worried about their families, none of whom were evacuated, and acted as if they were in their own stadium and just won.
I should mention that the Astros’ team defense was the 3rd best in the NL and that they made the fewest errors of any NL team. Both Tejada and Wigginton far outperformed expectations, Lance Berkman looked like J.T. Snow with the glove and Michael Bourn was excellent in center, as were Erstad and Abercrombie. Carlos Lee was, as usual, a cement statue in left, but Cecil Cooper had the sense to pull him for Erstad in the late innings if the Astros were ahead.
But sometimes, the whole actually IS better than the sum of its parts, and the 2008 Astros exemplified that.
Reasons to be Optimistic:
- every time I am POSITIVE the Astros are going nowhere, they make one of their patented second half runs and make it, at the very least, interesting.
Reasons to be Pessimistic:
The team will remain essentially the same and its weaknesses have not been addressed:
1 – The rotation consists of Oswalt, Hampton, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler and Ida Know-Hu. A rotation consisting of one ace, an acceptable 3rd starter when healthy, one 38 year old who had performed so poorly that he had been relegated to mopup duty before having a decent year last year, and a guy who had been on the DL with one surgery after another for 3 years doesn’t scream “CHAMPIONS” to me.
2 – Ty Wigginton, the third best hitter on the team, is gone and has been replaced by Geoff Blum, who is not good enough with either bat or glove to be a full time third baseman.
3 – Miguel Tejada, whose bat was already in severe decline, is even older, and will most likely decline more.
4 – Kaz Matsui will spent 1/3 of the year on the DL, as usual, and instead of Loretta/Newhan filling in, we will have some cheap replacement-level filler like Tomas Perez or Jose Castillo
5 – Humberto Quintero, a worse hitter than Brad Ausmus, can’t frame a pitch to save his life and will be the main catcher, and neither Roy Oswalt nor Wandy Rodriguez appear to like throwing to him.
6 – The players do not appear to like playing for the manager, who rips them to the media. And once again, the manager was not permitted to select his own bench coach. The pitchers do NOT like the pitching coach and he has not been replaced.
7 – The 4 most highly paid players can not be traded for prospects – 3 because they have no-trade clauses and one because his contract significantly exceeds his value.
8 – Every time I am pessimistic about the future of the team, they perform better than I expect.
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Full Disclaimer: I get paid a few bucks for writing my chapter. Period. The rest of the money earned on this book goes to pay for the stats we buy from BIS and the cost of running the website. I sure do WISH i could say that this book will make me rich as Oprah, but no such luck…
Tags: Houston Astros