Skip to content

Do the Houston Astros have what it takes?

May 6, 2013, 10:28 AM EDT

Detroit Tigers v Houston Astros Getty Images

The Houston Astros have five pseudo regulars in thelr lineup — FIVE — who are striking out more than once per game. This is a rather astounding achievement, possibly historic, and it leads to my prediction that this team will get no-hit before the year’s out, maybe twice. They have already flirted with no-nos — Yu Darvish took a perfect game into the ninth against them and Justin Verlander had them no-hit for six innings on Sunday. It will happen.

But what makes the Astros special is that their lineup is probably the best part of the team. Their pitching staff is obviously trying to become legendary. At the moment, their rotation includes Erik Bedard (7.36 ERA), Phillip Humber (8.82 ERA) and Brad Peacock (9.41 ERA). Each of these pitchers has been extraordinary in one way or another this year. Bedard has given up an  eight home runs in 22 innings, which, honestly, would be tough to do if you were throwing batting practice. The league is slugging .681 against Peacock. And the league is hitting .349 against Humber. Your 3-4-5 pitchers, ladies and gentlemen.

CSN Houston: Astros hold team meeting after being swept

It is hard not to feel sorry for second baseman Jose Altuve, a good young player perhaps breaking out into stardom. Nobody notices.

Right now, the Astros are 8-24, right at the the magical .250 winning percentage that the 1962 New York Mets nailed perfectly. Those Mets went 40-120, and they did it with a breathtaking consistency that, even 50 years later, fills the soul with joy.

1962 Mets

April: 3-13 (.231)

May: 9-17 (.345)

June: 8-23 (.258)

July: 6-23 (.207)

August: 8-26 (.235)

September: 6-18 (.250)

That’s how you do it — month after month after month of consistent awfulness. You think it’s easy, but it isn’t. There are series when the other team is beat up and uninterested. There are games when the bounces break your way. There are times when the umpire gives you a good call and the ball looks like a beach ball coming in. You have to overcome that sort of good fortune and still find ways to lose.

Look at those Mets: Sure, they got blown out 37 times by five runs or more — but that’s the easy part. This Astros team is on pace to being blown out 50 times this year. The hard parts: The Mets had to lose 39 of the 58 one-run games they played, which is a real challenge even for a terrible team. They had to lose 13 of the 17 games they played that went into extra innings. They had to have an LVP …  a player who found ways, through performance and bad luck and sheer happenstance, to deliver losses consistently, even when victory seemed assured. That Mets team had a 23-year-old righty named Craig Anderson, who served the role beautifully.

Anderson had talent. He was a good pitcher at Lehigh, and the Mets took him from St. Louis in the expansion draft. Through May 20, he was 3-1 with a couple of saves and a 2.38 ERA. On May 12, he actually earned the win in both games of the doubleheader, pitching two scoreless innings in the first game and one scoreless in the second. Anderson could never have known then what was about to happen to him.

On May 24, he gave up back to back RBI singles to Frank Howard and John Roseboro to turn a 2-2 game into a 4-2 loss. Three days later, he came into a game against the Giants with the Mets leading 5-2. A single (to Willie Mays), double, single, wild pitch, stolen base, walk and passed ball later, the Mets lost 6-5. Next time out, tie game, Anderson allowed a homer to Willie Davis to lose another.

He entered a game the Mets were losing 4-0, and pitched pretty well for 5-plus innings. The Mets scored four runs to tie the game in time for Anderson to give up what turned out to be the losing runs. He was one out away from getting a save against the Cubs when third baseman Rod Kanehl botched a ground ball. Anderson promptly walked the next guy and gave up a three-run homer to Ernie Banks. He blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth against the Houston Colt 45s, with Joey Amalfitano lining the walk-off single, The Mets led 3-2 in the seventh, and Anderson gave up the tying homer to Billy Williams. He started a game against the Pirates and lasted 1/3 of an inning, giving up five hits before he was pulled. Two starts later, he threw a complete game against St. Louis and allowed only three runs — and lost 3-2.

He got shelled against the Dodgers and lasted only an inning. Pitched into bad luck in Cincinnati and lost 5-3. Blew a save in Milwaukee and then had a bad start in Milwaukee two days later. Lasted only 3 1/3 innings his next two starts. Gave up 11 runs — only three earned — against the Dodgers. Blew a lead in Houston when the guy he intentionally walked scored on a single and an error by left fielder Frank Thomas.

These are just the lowlights of a pretty incredible season, one where Anderson lost 16 straight games, blew six saves and allowed 27 unearned runs in barely more than 100 innings over a four month period. Well, if you’re going to lost 120 games in a season, you need that kind of individual performance and team effort to pull it off.

The question is: Does this Houston Astros team have the staying power to be that kind of awful all year long? Oh, they’re bad … no question about that. They will lose 100 games. But, those of us who have spent much of our lives following and studying bad teams know: It’s not easy to stay THAT bad for an entire season. The 2005 Kansas City Royals were probably the worst team I have watched with regularity, which is saying something when you consider I watched the 1985 and 1991 Cleveland Indians, the 2004 and 2006 Kansas City Royals with regularity.

That 2005 Royals team had a magic about them. They started the year with Tony Pena as manager — he quit in May. Bob Schaefer took over in an interim capacity, which saddled the poor guy with a lifetime 6-12 career record. Then Buddy Bell came in and piloted the team to a delightful 19-game losing streak. The Royals that year lost one game when the left fielder dropped a pop-up, lost another when two fielders started jogging back to the dugout with the ball still in the air, lost another when a pitcher, in attempting to get force out at the plate from about 40 feet away, threw the ball roughly 50 feet over the catcher’s head. It was an astonishing team, really.

They only lost 105 games, though.

The 2003 Tigers are probably the worst team I watched from a relatively short distance. That team had it all. The couldn’t hit, couldn’t field, couldn’t pitch. The Tigers’ best starting pitcher — their very best, and it wasn’t especially close — was Nate Cornejo, who went 6-17 with a 4.67 ERA and (I find this quite amazing) just 46 strikeouts in 194 innings pitched. That’s 2.13 strikeouts per nine, if you are scoring at home, and that’s the lowest total for any qualifying pitcher in the last 50 years. You would expect more strikeouts than that by mistake. Repeat: He was their BEST starter.

And the Tigers were even worse offensively — dead last in almost every category, Just one example: They hit 73 fewer doubles than any team in the league. One more example: Their .300 on-base percentage was tied for the worst in the league in a decade — tied with themselves one year earlier.

But they too could not quite maintain the magical .250 win percentage.They tried, Lord they tried, but playing the Royals and Twins at the end of the year, they could not help but win five of their last six to go 43-119 … and the 1962 Mets players filled their champagne glasses and toasted themselves once more.

The 2010 Seattle Mariners are the worst offensive team I’ve ever seen. Ichiro hit .315 with 42 stolen bases in more than 700 plate appearances that year … and scored just 74 runs. That’s almost a mathematical impossibility. The team was last in batting averages, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, doubles, triples and home runs. Forty three times that year, the Mariners score one or zero runs, most in the AL since 1990. But that team still managed to lose only 101 games, largely because of that party pooper Felix Hernandez, who won the Cy Young Award with his league leading 2.27 ERA and dominant pitching.

The 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks were terrible in so many different ways. They were dead last in the league in on-base percentage. They were near the bottom in walks allowed and ERA. And, wow, was that team a defensive disaster. They gave up more than 100 unearned runs,. But as bad as they were, they were not quite bad enough — at one point early in the year they won eight of 12 to more of less guarantee they would not lose 120 games.

Even the 1988 Orioles, who lost their first 21 games and finished the year dead last in both runs scored and runs allowed, lost only 107.

Does this Astros team have the staying power to challenge the ’62 Mets? They did show something over the weekend, first losing a hard-fought 4-3 game to Detroit and then losing 17-2 and 9-0. They have given up seven or more runs 15 times already. Their record when they allow four-plus runs is a choice 1-23, which shows a certain team effort. But it’s a long season. And it’s hard to maintain this kind of bad.

Latest Posts
  1. Video: Umpires review, uphold Nick Franklin homer that hit the “C” ring at Tropicana Field

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    Nick Franklin Nick Franklin

    Nick Franklin hit the “C” ring catwalk at Tropicana Field with a deep fly ball to right field, which was initially ruled a home run. Replay review confirmed the ruling.

  2. Scrambling Dodgers to give Jamey Wright a start on Sunday

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT

    Jamey Wright Jamey Wright

    The pitching-light Dodgers will have Jamey Wright make his second start in the last seven years on Sunday against the Cubs.

  3. Jerome Williams becomes first to beat one opponent with three different teams in the same season

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    Jerome Williams Jerome Williams

    Jerome Williams continued to pitch well for the Phillies, even notching a baseball first in the process of defeating the Athletics on Saturday.

  4. Matt Garza ejected after hitting Andrew McCutchen a second time

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:19 PM EDT

    Matt Garza Matt Garza

    Matt Garza doesn’t hit many batters, but the right-hander managed to hit Andrew McCutchen twice in his start on Saturday.

  5. Mark Teixeira left Saturday’s game with soreness in his right wrist

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT

    Mark Teixeira Mark Teixeira

    Mark Teixeira’s wrist injury flared up again, forcing him out of Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays in the fifth inning.

  6. Josh Hamilton has needed 12 cortisone injections in the last two weeks

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT

    Josh Hamilton Josh Hamilton

    Josh Hamilton has received a lot of pain-killing injections lately, as the veteran has battled shoulder and rib cage problems over the last two weeks.

  7. Jason Kipnis considered day-to-day with hamstring issue

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Jason Kipnis Jason Kipnis

    Jason Kipnis is listed as day-to-day with a sore right hamstring.

  8. Glen Perkins has learned his lesson about pitching through an injury

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Glen Perkins Glen Perkins

    Glen Perkins tried to tough out an injury and it didn’t go so well, but he seems to have learned his lesson.

  9. Tigers hang on for second straight win against Royals

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

    Hunter AP AP

    This was a day of missed opportunities for the Royals.

  10. Nationals activate Ryan Zimmerman from the disabled list

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT

    Ryan Zimmerman AP AP

    Zimmerman has been sidelined since July 22 due to a Grade 3 strain of his right hamstring.

  11. The Braves could shake things up in their baseball operations department

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT

    braves logo large

    The Braves have wilted down the stretch and it appears that some changes could be in store for their front office following the season.

  12. The Yankees will open the gates early for their final home series next week

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:29 PM EDT

    Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Getty Images

    With Derek Jeter’s career coming to an end, the Yankees will open the gates early next week for their final home series of the season.

  13. Giants mull over options as Tim Hudson continues to struggle

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    Tim Hudson Getty Getty Images

    Hudson has a 9.92 ERA over four starts this month.

  14. Phil Hughes could finish the season with the best K/BB ratio in MLB history

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

    cb5dcb6958b647d1df076d653df15985 Getty Images

    Twins right-hander Phil Hughes has thrived with a change of scenery this season and he could finish the year with a place in MLB history.

  15. Masahiro Tanaka expected to be limited to 70-75 pitches in return Sunday

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

    c3744cd5ad0be7c72993ae1f6d3a5888 AP

    Tanaka has been out since July 8 with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, but he’ll make his return Sunday against the Blue Jays.

  16. VIDEO: Little girl throws back a Derek Jeter foul ball and horrifies parents

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:29 AM EDT

    jeter ball

    I’m going to guess that the little girl is suffering from Jeter fatigue.

  17. John Lackey impresses in return to Cardinals’ rotation

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:49 AM EDT

    8eacda0dc18fd4679845c6bf8f6157e4-1 Getty Images

    John Lackey had his most recent turn in the Cardinals’ rotation skipped due to a “dead arm,” but he was impressive in his return last night.

  18. Michael Cuddyer drove in a career-high seven runs last night

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:09 AM EDT

    Michael Cuddyer Getty Getty Images

    Michael Cuddyer has had a really tough time staying healthy this season, but the impending free agent is making up for lost time right now.

  19. VIDEO: Fan catches Lucas Duda home run ball in his bucket of popcorn

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    fan popcorn

    A fan sacrificed his popcorn to catch a home run ball last night at Turner Field.

  20. Settling the Score: Friday’s results

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:57 AM EDT

    52a2981688df59976e21e02bd42d5156 AP

    A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including the A’s getting back in the win column.

Featured video

Patience finally paying off for Royals fans
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Castillo (2871)
  2. D. Ortiz (2167)
  3. J. Hamilton (2112)
  4. N. Arenado (2105)
  5. C. Kershaw (2075)
  1. G. Stanton (2047)
  2. A. Rizzo (1959)
  3. A. Pujols (1879)
  4. A. Pagan (1805)
  5. M. Trout (1796)