For a couple of years now, I’ve been thinking that Ed Wade’s “try to win now with a team full of lackluster vetrans” plan was going to backfire on the Astros. I’d say that 106 losses and a massive roster purge at the trade deadline counts as a backfire. The Astros are expected to have a new owner in 2012 and maybe a new league in 2013, which could obviously mean a new GM. So what will that new GM have on his hands?
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Astros gave up 796 runs this year, but in looking at their Baseball-Reference page, I thought to myself, “Well I think they had more pitchers have good years than hitters.” So, uh, I guess we can say that Bud Norris and Wandy Rodriguez has pretty strong years, and those two thigns weren’t entirely disastrous for them. They also got a pretty nice haul from the Phillies for Hunter Pence, and that was pretty important for them, all things considered.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Everything. Just everything. The Astros best hitter this year was Hunter Pence, who’s now a Phillie. Their second best hitter was Michael Bourn, who’s now a Brave. Their third best hitter was Carlos Lee. Fat, old Carlos Lee who had a .788 OPS and hit 18 homers, his fewest homer total since 1999. Add in those 796 runs that the pitching staff gave up and … yeah, 106 losses.
Bud Norris is pretty quietly turning into good pitcher. He’s always been a big strikeout guy, but in 2011 he started to rein his walks a bit, dropping them from 4.5 per nine innings last year to just 3.4 per nine this year, and as a result his ERA dropped by more than a run. He won’t turn 27 until March, either, so there still might be a bit of room for improvement. That’s hardly a huge surprise or a stunning development, but it’s about the best the Astros had.
There’s a lot to choose from here, but I’m leaning towards Brett Wallace at the moment. Houston handed him the first baseman’s job after acquiring him from Toronto last year, and he repaid them with a .259/.334/.369 season. That’s an alarming lack of pop (just five homers in 379 PAs) and it got him demoted back to Triple-A for a stretch this summer. He’s only 24 and his minor league numbers are still quite good, so I’m not advocating giving up on him. Still, the Astros were hoping he’d be a bat that would become a fixture in the middle of their lineup and instead, he was demoted to Triple-A in August.
Well, most of the changes went down at the trade deadline. The ‘Stros will likely continue to try and move Wandy Rodriguez, but no one was interested in picking up his contract during the season and that might not change over the winter. I’m sure they’d love to find someone to tak the last year of Lee’s deal off of their hands, but that’s pretty unlikely unless they’re willing to eat a chunk of his $18.5 million salary. The
Again, with so much up in the air it’s hard to see where there might be position battles. Blake DeWitt might push Barney for more time at second, though he also might be the de facto third baseman if they let Ramirez walk and don’t pick anyone up to fill the position. Obviously something needs to be done about the back end of the rotation, because Wells and Lopez aren’t going to cut it. Casey Coleman could get a full year in the rotation if he improves his command some, but things are still pretty open behind him and Garza. Cubs’ fans (and everyone, really) are expecting a lot from Epstein and Hoyer and rightly so, but it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.