Most of you will just skim over this post in your RSS feed... but since I did a season preview I figured I ought to review this season. First of all, I'll admit that I was ENTIRELY too optimistic in hoping that the Astros wouldn't be the worst team in baseball. In retrospect I wrote with my heart instead of my head, I WANTED them to be better (much like all of Red Sox Nation and Braves fans WANTED them to make the playoffs... too soon? hehehe) Anyways, it's hard to be optimistic about the Astros right now, but I'll try my best to give my fellow Astros a glimmer of hope...
This is going to be a short section of the review. There wasn't a whole lot that went right this year. The pitching was bad, the hitting was bad, the defense was bad and the management was suspect at best. The best pitcher was probably Bud Norris. He led the squad in K's and ERA. J.A. Happ, well, was J.A. Happ. He was supposed to be our #2 or #3 starter but ended up at AAA for a while as his walk rate escalated as the season went along. Wandy was his usual self, he'll never be a #1 but he's as close to a #1 starter as we've got. Brett Myers proved why no one else would give him a long term deal, he's just not that good. The 5th starter slot was catastrophic most of the season. Nelson Figuroa started out in that slot, then it went through and bunch of minor leaguers and AAAA-type prospects. Finally, the front office wised up and brought up the only pitching prospect in the system: Jordan Lyles. He's 20 and very raw, but he's going to be a solid starter in due time. The best hitter was, unfortunately, Carlos Lee? Or half a season of Hunter Pence? Or half a season of Michael Bourn? Trying REALLY hard to be positive here... Oh yes, I mentioned half seasons: the TRADES! The only thing to be positive about this entire season. We purged the Phillies' farm system of their best hitting and best pitching prospect for Hunter Pence. Look, I am a HUGE Pence fan, I will continue to collect his cards; but he was no HOF'er. He and Bourn were BY FAR the best players on a horrible team, which made them seem more valuable. And thus we got better prospects for them than I think we would have gotten otherwise. Our farm system is a tad bit more "restocked" but it still has a LONG way to go. But getting the #1 overall pick in the draft should be a good step in that direction. We just have to make sure that we hit a homerun with the pick, another "Phil Nevin" type whiff will set us back even more.
Ok, this is going to be easy... EVERYTHING WAS BAD. It was a horrible year for every facet of the organization. The pending ownership change (which still may not go through because of Mr. Crane's allegedly sketchy past) looms over the franchise and effectively paralyses it. Payroll must be stripped, the rebuilding process is FINALLY started (about 4 years too late in my opinion) and Uncle Drayton sits in his Diamond Club seats and wonders why there are so many empty seats. At least he didn't spend the entire year yelling about how "WE'RE CHAMPIONS!" Well, Ed Wade did what he could mid-season to swing some trades, but this roster was a mess from day 1 of spring training. Jason Michaels has no business being on a MLB roster. The bullpen was a mess having no true closer after trading Lindstrom to the Rockies (I assume the Phillies didn't want him) for Clint Barmes, who I think was a bit of a failed experiment as well. When Brandon Lyon finally admitted he was having arm problems (5-6 blown saves later) it was too late. Young prospects, Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace namely, struggled to hit and ended up getting sent to AAA as well. Lots of roster turn over during the season, with lots of prospects getting their MLB debuts. Jose Altuve looks to be a serviceable 2B option after we realized Bill Hall was a horrible signing. Jimmy Paredes, from the Berkman deal last year, looks to be a decent option at 3B or SS if he can sew up some holes in his swing... oh, and that J.D. Martinez guy can hit too. Wow, just realized I'm posting good stuff in the "The Bad" section after posting bad stuff in the "The Good" section... just go with it people... Finally, Carlos Lee. What can I say about the rotund mound Panamanian that hasn't already been said? He led the team in HR's, yes, but that just indicates how horrible the team was, he only hit 18. Ack... just horrid... I won't even get into his defensive "skills". Sometimes, I swear we'd be better off playing with 2 outfielders and just have Carlos sit in the dugout instead of manning LF. At 1B he wasn't horrible.
Here's the thing I realized today: We WILL be worse next year, absolutely, no questions asked. It is not going to get better. "Why?" you may ask... well, I'll tell you. There are only 2 free agents: Clint Barmes and Jason Michaels. I can only hope that Ed Wade lets them both leave and neither of them are even Type B free agents, so no draft help. Happ and Quintero are the only arbitration eligible players, both of them will be back. There will be no money spent on free agents, as I think that both leaving players will be replaced internally. So, we're banking on all existing players to get better. History says that Carlos will get worse. Same with Myers, Wandy, and Happ. There is some hope that all the rookies who made their debuts this year will get a bit better with more AB's and a full season at the MLB level instead of starting at AAA or AA. Heck, Altuve and Paredes started at single A this year and made their way up to the MLB squad. Odds are they are more likely to regress next year as pitchers figure them out a bit. Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace, well sadly they possibly may have already peaked (wow that's sad). In fact, the roster is littered with guys who may have already peaked and are going to be on a downward trend. We will be getting Jason Castro back from the knee injury that knocked him out for the season in spring training.
Here's what I foresee the opening day 25-man roster to look like:
C - Castro, Quintero
IF- Wallace, Altuve, Paredes, Johnson, Downs, Sanchez
OF - Bourgois, Bogesevic, Lee, Schafer, Shuck
SP - Happ, Myers, Wandy, Lyles, Norris
RP - Pendelton, Melancon, Wright, Sosa, Harrell, Lopez, Carpenter
Ok, so the bullpen will be a work in progress, you could take the names of the current pitchers on the roster in a hat and pull out 7. They are all pretty much interchangeable. Wandy might get traded in the offseason. If so, then Sosa or Wright will get a shot at the 5th starter slot.
As I get ready to watch the playoffs starting tomorrow, I realize it's been 6 years since the Astros' amazing run to the World Series only to get swept by the White Sox. I miss that team. You know, back when we were good....
As for who I'm rooting for in the World Series, GO RANGERS! As for who I think wins it all, I predict a Phillies ring is in the future. Good pitching always beats good hitting, and the 3-man rotation of Halladay, Lee and Oswalt will be hard to beat, not to overlook the bullpen with Worley and Blanton. The only question I see with them is their lineup, but I think Hunter Pence will be enough to get them another championship.