Taking A Look At The AL West’s Newest Member, The Houston Astros.

The Houston Astros were easily the worst team in baseball last season. Their 55-107 record is something to behold and I don’t mean that in a good way; after all how is it that a major league squad only manage to accumulate a +10 WAR with every single guy on its roster? For those of you who don’t understand how horrid that is you need to consider the fact that Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez had a +6.1 WAR all by himself this past season. That is 61% of the Astros’s WAR, ouch.

This season was one for the folk in Houston would like to forget as the offense, defense and pitching absolutely collapsed forcing one of the worst seasons in baseball history. And it has driven fans away from Minuet Maid Park as the club continues to lose and lose in epic fashion.  So how does a group of 25 guys, being paid major league wages, end up only winning ten more games than a Triple A squad would be expected to win at the highest level of baseball? Well taking a look at the clubs overall statistics in two parts is a pretty good start. The Astros offensive statistics tell you a pretty interesting story and to tell that story we will be taking a look at the club’s BA (batting average), BABIP (batting average on balls in play), OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), RC/G (runs created per game), and SLG (slugging percentage).

2012 Season BA BABIP OPS RC/G SLG
Astros .236 .288 .673 3.8 .371
NL Average .254 .300 .718 4.5 .400
AL Average .255 .293 .731 4.6 .412

The question immediately that comes to mind is how the Astros only manage to score 3.8 runs a game while putting up a near league average BABIP compared to their current and future leagues? Looking at that above chart the number that immediately jumps out to me as a big contributor to the low RC/G would be the clubs .371 slugging percentage. Getting on base can only get a ball club so many runs, there has to be that guy in the middle who can consistently get the extra base hits and maybe even home runs (the Astros HR% was a pitiful 2.4% last season).

Their inability to turn hits into runs was only part of the Astros problems last season. The other part of the problem was a pitching staff that failed so often and so hard; to get an interesting look at the Astros’s pitching struggles we will take a look at their pitching staffs WHIP (BB+H/IP), SO/BB (Strike outs to walks ratio), and ERA (Earned Run Average, be aware this is a stupid stat but an interesting one as a point of comparison).

2012 Season WHIP SO/BB ERA
Astros 1.428 2.17 4.57
NL Average 1.311 2.50 3.94
AL Average 1.308 2.45 4.08

The Astros’s WHIP and ERA are ridiculously higher than either League’s average; meanwhile, their SO/BB ratio is ridiculously lower than either League’s average. What this indicates to me is that while the pitching staff wasn’t getting much help from the offense (3.8 RC/G is pretty freaking low) they weren’t even in a position to complain about a lack of offensive support as they often allowed the other team to get on base and score. Basically what ended up happening last season was that the Astros’s pitching staff would end up allowing guys to get on base and to score at a faster rate than their inefficient offense could produce runs. And as a result the Astros’s put together one of the worst baseball seasons in recent memory.

And now the Astros are bringing their struggling offense and pitching staff to the American League West. The AL West had a pretty damn good season in 2012 as three of its four teams reached the 90-win plateau, and its worst team was the Mariners and they finished with a 75-87 record. It doesn’t look like things will get any easier for the fan base down in Houston as they move into a division that put half of its clubs in the playoffs last season.

  1. Neil! I’d love to hear a write up on M’s prospective FA deals. You think we’re gonna grab Swisher?

    1. Hey Walter! Swisher would be an interesting grab and is probably the most likely of these three that the M’s could get. Personally I think Melky Cabrera would be the most intriguing of for the M’s to wind up with.

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