Mar 21, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Houston Astros.
The Big Question: Will the Astros be historically bad?
Maybe this isn’t the biggest question facing the Astros this year, but it’s one that’s sort of been sticking with me for a couple of weeks as I’ve made the rounds on various radio shows previewing the 2013 season. Almost all of the hosts ask me how bad the Astros will be and almost all of them are assuming this is going to be some sort of 1962 Mets situation or something. I actually had one guy take the under on an over/under of 45 wins for them. Which seems kind of nuts.
Look, the Astros aren’t going to be good, I’ll agree with that. But we have to be realistic here and note that in the 162-game era, only two teams have failed to win 45 games: the 1962 Mets and the 2003 Tigers. Indeed, unless I’m overlooking someone, I do not believe any team has won fewer than 50 games in a full 162 game season apart from those two teams. Every season brings us some bad teams, but teams that putrid are few and far between. And really, there is no reason to think that these Astros, as thin as they are, will be historically bad.
Part of this is a gut feeling, based on the usual composition of awful teams. They tend to be teams who have not yet begun the full rebuilding process yet — or expansion teams — which feature a lot of old guys and castoffs on the roster. The sorts of players who can fool a GM into thinking, “well, maybe we’ll be OK because I’ve heard of that guy,” and thus causes them to forego real substantive fixes. That was the 2012 Astros, right? Home of Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. A team which gave Armando Galarraga a shot because, hell, he almost had a perfect game once, right? A team which went on a 7-43 stretch at one point because, eh, just because?
The 2013 team is not a talented one, but the moves to make them better have begun. The Jed Lowrie trade, which brought back Chris Carter, Max Stassi and Brad Peacock is the sort of move I like: boring ones to most fans, but moves which constitute the dirty work of a rebuilding process. Getting depth and incremental improvement. That, along with a pretty substantial overhaul of the minor leagues, represents an all-in approach which is admirable and rare in rebuilding. Let’s just forget for a moment that Carlos Pena, currently slated to be the Astros’ DH, was on that 2003 Tigers team, OK?
Little upside at the moment, but fewer gaping holes and a lot of hungry young players who are happy to be anywhere make for a much better vibe than last year’s 107 loss team possessed and, I have a feeling, will help stave off some sort of historically bad showing. Perhaps that doesn’t make Astros fans feel better at the moment, but merely believing that this team will not set records for futility is a compliment. One that, for some reason, a lot of people are unwilling to offer. I think that’s both ahistorical and kinda sad. Think positively, Houston!
What else is going on?
- Positive thoughts and the avoidance of ignominy are one thing, but this lineup isn’t gonna scare anyone:
Jose Altuve is legit and will likely be the last dude left from this bunch when the Astros next win 90 games, but I don’t know where the runs are gonna come from. Maybe Carlos Pena has one last good year in him. Maybe he can check the pockets of the pants he wore back in 2009.
- How’s about that rotation?
Hmm. Phil Humber. Let’s forget that comment I made about Armando Galarraga and signing someone just because they once did something interesting above too.
- The Astros may play poorly, but they’ll look awesome doing it. They will be sporting what are easily the nicest new uniforms any team has switched to in years if not decades.
- That’s pretty, but you know what’s ugly? Moving to the American League West. With the Angels and Rangers being two of the most talented teams around, the defending champ Oakland A’s always being solid and with an improved Mariners team, the Astros are gonna have way tougher competition this year than they’ve seen in the past.
So, how are they gonna do? Not good! I will refrain from predicting loss totals, but I’ll give a range of somewhere between 100 and 110. And if things break awesome in six different ways and they lose only, like, 97, well then they should be allowed to crack champagne. Because it’s not 2013 that matters for this franchise. It’s the future. And no matter how dark the present may be, they’re finally doing the heavy lifting they’ve long needed to do in order to make that future bright, so bully for them.
That said: Fifth Place, AL West.
Jul 10, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
The field for next week’s Home Run Derby is officially in place.
Jul 10, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT
The Cardinals and Reds were both dealt some tough blows on the injury front today, but the Brewers are doing their part to let them hang around in the National League Central.
Jul 10, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon is out for the All-Star game because of a wrist injury, so MLB has named Angels shortstop Erick Aybar as his replacement on the American League roster.
Jul 10, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Viva democracy. Especially Chicago-style democracy.
Jul 10, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Wilson failed to make it out of the fourth inning yesterday and hasn’t made it past five innings since June 19, allowing 22 runs in 16.2 innings during that span.
Jul 10, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Hardly anyone throws it anymore. Why?
Jul 10, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn repeatedly expressed confidence in his ability to get No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon signed despite the North Carolina State left-hander being a Scott Boras client and sure enough the two sides have reached an agreement.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
A tough, tough break for the Cardinals and Yadier Molina.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT
Carlos Beltran was scratched from the Yankees’ lineup last night when a ball he hit during batting practice bounced off the screen protecting the pitcher and struck his eye. And now he’s been diagnosed with two facial fractures, but they’ve been classified as “small” and the Yankees think he’ll avoid the disabled list.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Cincinnati’s injury woes keep getting worse, as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips will be “out a while” with a ligament issue and possible tear in his left thumb.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Braun has hit exclusively second (37 times) or third (32 times) in the lineup this season and has a grand total of just three career starts in the fifth spot, all of them coming 2008.
Jul 10, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
It’s a magical realism thing: features a coach putting Jeter at second base.
Jul 10, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
For now Marco Estrade is scheduled to start Saturday, but he’s been terrible all season while serving up an NL-high 27 homers in 18 starts.
Jul 10, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
Could be bad news for the Reds and Bailey
Jul 10, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT
Astros rookie George Springer has gotten lots of attention for his offense, which includes 19 homers and an .818 OPS in 74 games, but the 24-year-old outfielder can also do some spectacular things defensively like he did last night.
Jul 10, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
A.J. Pierzynski being let go is not necessarily a white flag move. But should the Sox be sellers now?
Jul 10, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT
Signed to a four-year, $32 million contract this offseason that draw quite a bit of criticism, Vargas has a career-best 3.31 ERA and was on pace for a career-high 225 innings after throwing just 150 innings for the Angels last year.
Jul 10, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT
I can see not trading him given the small return he might bring. But re-signing him?
Jul 10, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Jered Weaver left Wednesday’s start against the Blue Jays with lower back tightness and there was some speculation that the Angels would give the right-hander a little extra time off before the All-Star break, but manager Mike Scioscia announced that Weaver will start Saturday versus the Rangers.
Jul 10, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Yes, it’s Jeter day at HBT, apparently.
- Yadier Molina to miss 8-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament 24
- Carlos Beltran placed on concussion disabled list after batting practice mishap 16
- Derek Jeter is the most popular MLB jersey this year 15
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 52
- The Rockies “aren’t looking around very hard” for a trade of star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki 28
- Jury finds the Dodgers partially negligent, awards $18 million to Bryan Stow 46
- Masahiro Tanaka injured: Yankees ace to undergo an MRI exam on his right arm 60
- David Ortiz is not pleased that his name got pulled into the John Lackey-Nelson Cruz thing 99
- Shocker: the Red Sox publicly criticize A.J. Pierzynski after cutting him (185)
- John Lackey on Nelson Cruz: “Not even going to comment … I’ve got nothing to say about him” (143)
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (126)
- The 2014 All-Star rosters have been announced (103)
- Giants broadcaster says Angel Hernandez “does not belong in the big leagues” (101)