74-88, 5th Place NL Central
Not much went right for Houston last year. They saw ace Roy Oswalt miss time with an injury. Lance Berkman had a down year. We witness the beginning of Carlos Lee’s decline, which saw his power numbers drop to his lowest number since 2004. Mike Bourn and Hunter Pence had little plate discipline; Bourn was an improvement over 2008 though.
One bright spot was Wandy Rodriguez stepping forward. As the #2 pitcher, he made 33 starts and had a 3.02 ERA. He had a career high 193 strike outs. This was definite step forward, as he only made 25 starts the year before.
Gains: Pedro Feliz, Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers
Losses: Robert Bono, Aaron Boone, Doug Brocail, Luis Bryan, Chris Coste, Darin Erstad, Geoff Geary, Mike Hampton, LaTroy Hawkins, Chad Paronto, Miguel Tejada, Jose Valverde
Minor League Deals: Josh Banks, Kevin Cash, Gustavo Chacin, Shane Loux, Gary Majewski, Oswaldo Navarro, Alex Romero, Chris Shelton, Cory Sullivan
The main losses for the â€˜Stros this off-season was shortstop Miguel Tejada and relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde.
Tejada was a shell of the player he was 5 years ago, but he was still better than most of the hitters in this line up. They are going to miss his production. His replacement in the line up is Pedro Feliz, who won’t hit as well but will field much better.
For the relievers, they replaced Hawkins, their main set up man, and Valverde, their closer, with Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon. The deal for Lindstrom was good, considering they have no farm system; the deal for Lyon no so much. They committed 3 years $15MM for him.
Brett Myers is a nice addition for the rotation. He’s not the same pitcher he was 3 years ago, but he’s better than the current options. It does bring up a moral question for the club: they released Julio Lugo for spousal abuse, but signed a guy that did the same thing â€“ only in public.
The Astros did find 2 potential gems in the minor league bargains. Gustavo Chacin burst on the scene a few years ago as fast as he disappeared from it. He’s got a deceptive delivery, and when effect can be a solid back of the rotation starter. If he can put it together, he’ll be a nice find.
Remember a few years ago when Chris Shelton hit 15 home runs in the first month of the season and everyone was trying to trade for him in your fantasy league. We’ll, if he can crack the roster, he’ll be a solid bench option for the Astros. Imagine him in that launching pad. He’s not going to beat Lance Berkman for the first base job, but he’d be worth it as a pinch hitter.
This could be a rough year for the Astros. As the players get older, their chances of winning decrease. As do the chances of them staying on the field for 162 games.
The offense gains nothing by adding Feliz and Tommy Manzella to the left side of the infield; in fact, it’ll be weaker as neither can have the impact that Miguel Tejada provided. They will provide a better defense, which should help the pitching. Lance Berkman should have a bounce back year; he’s still able to produce. The question is will he play the whole season in Houston? He’s said that if they don’t plan on picking up his option, he’ll test free agency. Well, they’ll attempt to trade him before they’d let him walk.
The outfield is set (Lee, Bourn, Pence), but there are plenty of questions. Lee appears to have started his decline phase, so Bourn and Pence will really need to step up to off set it. Personally, I see Pence having a breakout year.
The pitching is a wash in my eyes. Adding Myers is big, but they still have questions for the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. The bullpen took a step back as Lyons and Lindstrom haven’t had long stretches of successful closing experience; they are a definite step down from Hawkins and Valverde.
I’m expecting a lower win total for next year.
68-94, 5th NL Central
Tags: 30 Teams in 30 Days, Baseball, Baseball Preview, Houston Astros, Roy Oswalt