May 6, 2013, 10:28 AM EDT
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.
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.
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.
Mar 10, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT
Barry Bonds showed up at San Francisco Giant camp in Scottsdale today, where he will begin a week as a coach/instructor. As I type this, he’s sitting with Bruce Bochy for a press conference. Barry Bonds back in a Giants uniform. pic.twitter.com/x4AJ0ZhJmt — Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) March 10, 2014 Having a guy who is among…
Mar 10, 2014, 12:18 PM EDT
Initial reports of Aledmys Diaz‘s deal with the Cardinals suggested he’d be getting at least $20 million over four seasons, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch now writes that the Cuban shortstop is getting significantly less upfront money. According to Goold it’s a four-year, $8 million deal, which is essentially utility infielder…
Mar 10, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT
The Fresno Grizzlies are going to wear an alternate/promotional jersey this year. They’re Awesome! Righteous! Bossa Nova! Um, Chevy Nova? No, they’re excellent! .@MattOtstot has the details on our #TMNT jerseys. Only place to get the scoop is tomorrow on @KSEE24 Sunrise. pic.twitter.com/QBZQl9zQD1 — Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) March 10, 2014 No, they’re not dignified or anything, but you can’t…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Among the numerous Ervin Santana rumors swirling right now is that the Orioles remain in the mix to sign the free agent right-hander. Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com asked Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette about that specific rumor and his response was an interesting one: I really don’t know what’s real and…
Mar 10, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Sergio Romo has been one of the best relievers in baseball for six seasons now, posting a 2.27 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his career, but he’s gotten knocked around this spring while allowing 12 runs in three innings. That includes retiring zero of the five batters he faced in his last…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Brandon Phillips‘ interview with MLB.com was noted mostly for his “how the [expletive] am I declining” comment, but John Fay of Cincinnati.com notes that Phillips is either lying or deluded about something else too: the source of his beef with local reporters. Phillips is not talking to the four daily beat guys who cover the…
Mar 10, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
Matt Ehalt reports that Ike Davis now has a walking boot on his right leg. Davis has been sidelined with right calf tightness for a week. Walking boots tend not to suggest that the matter is improving. Between Davis’ calf and Lucas Duda’s hamstring barking, it would seem that the frontrunner for the Mets’ first base…
Mar 10, 2014, 8:52 AM EDT
David Laurila of FanGraphs has a fascinating interview with a former pitcher — now retired — about his PED use. It’s not clear whether this guy was a major leaguer, but his comments about PED use — extremely detailed comments about what they did for him and how they made him feel — refer to his…
Mar 10, 2014, 6:50 AM EDT
This is so weird. No one is supposed to take pictures or video in the clubhouse, yet here we have video of Juan Uribe at his locker. Seems odd. Oh, hello Hanley.
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier that Ichiro Suzuki appears to be the odd man out in the Yankees’ outfield and adds that the Phillies could use outfield help. The Yankees, of course, will have recent free agent additions Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran in center and right, respectively, and Brett Gardner in left. Alfonso Soriano…
Mar 9, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks took Trevor Bauer in the first round, third overall, in the 2011 draft. They sent him to the Indians in a three-team trade in December 2012. Manager Terry Francona sees why, even after Bauer has had back-to-back mediocre showings in limited Major League action, the D-Backs took him so early. Bauer has made…
Mar 9, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
In today’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes that the Twins have interest in White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza. 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reported on Friday that some in the Twins’ front office are fans of De Aza’s. The White Sox will use De Aza as a utility outfielder with Dayan Viciedo…
Mar 9, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Jorge De La Rosa will be the Rockies’ Opening Day starter, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. The Rockies haven’t made an official announcement yet. It doesn’t come as much as a surprise as his only real competition for the honor was Jhoulys Chacin, but Chacin is dealing with a shoulder strain and may…
Mar 9, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Padres and third baseman Chase Headley appear unlikely to agree to a contract extension before he heads into free agency. The club offered him an unknown amount over the winter, but talks dissipated. Headley had a breakout season in 2012, finishing with an .875 OPS and a…
Mar 9, 2014, 7:10 PM EDT
Refuting recent reports that the Tigers were taking offers on starter Rick Porcello, GM Dave Dombroski told the media that the team isn’t interested in trading any starting pitching and hasn’t fielded any offers on their pitching, per Tony Paul of the Detroit News. Porcello has been the subject of trade rumors for a while…
Mar 9, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Twins have offered free agent starter Ervin Santana a three-year deal. The right-hander has been mulling one-year deals from the Blue Jays and Orioles and has stated that he prefers a one-year deal, which doesn’t bode well for the Twins’ chances of signing him. In the…
Mar 9, 2014, 5:18 PM EDT
Bronson Arroyo was diagnosed last week with a bulging disk in his back, which threatened to steer him to his first-ever 15-day disabled list stint. But recent workouts have it looking like a minor blip. According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the veteran right-hander felt “way better” Sunday in Diamondbacks camp after testing…
Mar 9, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT
As speculated last week by MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick … Don Mattingly announced today @ClaytonKersh22 and @HyunJinRyu99 will start in games one and two of the #OpeningSeries, respectively. — Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 9, 2014 Zack Greinke would have started the second game if not for a calf strain that he is still rehabbing. Kershaw…
Mar 9, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Braves right-hander Kris Medlen made an early departure from a Grapefruit League appearance on Sunday against the Mets after appearing to injure his elbow on a pair of consecutive fourth-inning pitches. Medlen grabbed at his throwing elbow following his second-to-last delivery of the game and then skipped to the Braves’ dugout after his final pitch,…
Mar 9, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
From beat writer Adam Rubin of ESPN New York comes word that Mets left-hander Jon Niese has been cleared to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday against the Cardinals. Niese came down with some left shoulder soreness at the end of February and was sent to New York for an MRI, but that exam…
- Kris Medlen leaves game with right forearm strain 16
- Cardinals sign Cuban middle infielder Aledmys Diaz to a four-year major league contract 60
- Cardinals and Matt Carpenter agree to a six-year, $52 million extension 11
- Jet Blue Park is absolutely incredible 59
- Gary Nolan one of many careers saved by Dr. Frank Jobe 17
- Ian Kinsler hopes Rangers go 0-162, calls GM a “sleazeball” (132)
- Albert Pujols was insulted when someone asked him if he can put up Mike Trout numbers (103)
- The politics of “The Cardinal Way” (67)
- Brandon Phillips: “How the [expletive] am I declining?” (61)
- Reporter calls Ian Kinsler as self-absorbed as A-Rod (60)