The Astros started off the year with eight straight losses, and were sitting at 17 games below .500 at the all-star break. However, they turned things around somewhat in the second half of the season, going 40-33 despite trading co-faces of the franchise Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt at the trade deadline. Much like the Pirates the Astros did well against the Cubs, going 11-7 against them.
The Astros had the second-worst offense in MLB last year, and their team .296 wOBA was better than only the Marlins. Their fielding was right around average and it was their pitching that propelled them into fourth place in the division. Wandy Rodriguez, Felipe Paulino, Brett Myers, and the now-departed Roy Oswalt all posted FIPs below 3.6.
The Astros haven’t been particularly active this offseason, which is unusual given Ed Lynch’s penchant for signing mediocre relievers to long-term deals. Maybe he’d be interested in John Grabow? They actually traded away a reliever for once, rather than signing new ones, when they moved closer Matt Lindstrom to Colorado for some minor league arms.
They traded SP Felipe Paulino to Colorado for former Rookie of the Year and venison lover Clint Barmes, who was penciled in as their starting shortstop until he broke his hand in spring training. He should miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season. They also picked up Mariners castoffs Ryan Rowland-Smith and Bill Hall.
Players To Watch:
Hunter Pence, I guess? Berkman has taken his awkward picture taking talents to Saint Louis. Now that Oswalt is gone as well, Pence is the de facto face of the franchise. However, the perpetually underrated Wandy Rodriguez and noted public spousal abuser Brett Myers are projected to be their top two players in 2011.
The minor league system is bare, and to add insult to injury one of their top prospects, catcher Jason Castro, tore his ACL in spring training and will miss most of if not all of the 2011 season. Their other top prospect, SS Jio Mier, is still in A-ball so we won’t see him anytime soon.
Here’s a rough look at their team headed into the 2011 season. Since we don’t know a ton about not the Cubs, we used Baseball Prospectus’s depth charts to estimate playing time. The players OBP/SLG are a simple average of their PECOTA and Oliver projections. The defensive numbers are from the players’ 2010 Fan Scouting Report, and baserunning was ignored unless a player was especially good (i.e. Bourn) or awful on the basepaths.
TOTAL WIN PROJECTION: 68.4
I know MB says he never counts out the Astros because of his feeling that, much like the Angels, they tend to outperform their projections. If they do outperform it by 8-10 games they could be a threat to the Cubs hopes for fourth place.