Season in Review: Houston Astros

A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.

Number Twenty two: Houston Astros

Ignore that 86-75 record. The Astros were nowhere near that good of a team this year. Their pythagorean record was just 77-84 and BaseRuns agrees with the long dead Greek philosopher, crediting the Astros with 699 runs scored (23rd in the league) and 754 runs allowed (20th in the league). That’s good for a 75-86 mark, inverse of their actual record.

The 2008 Astros remade 3/5ths of their infield replacing Craig Biggio, Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett with Kazuo Matsui, Ty Wiggington and Miguel Tejada. Those were three pretty good candidates for replacement as they all had bad years at the plate last season. The new trio were better, but collectively only a few runs above average thanks to Miguel Tejada’s post-April collapse.

Lance Berkman certainly exploded in 2008, but Hunter Pence regressed and Luke Scott was dealt away in the Tejada deal and overall the Astros offense remained pretty static compared to last year. That wasn’t a level they should be proud to stay at either.

The bullpen certainly could have used the revitalized Brad Lidge this year, but actually did quite fine on their own thanks to Chris Sampson, Jose Valverde and the newly re-signed LaTroy Hawkins. In the rotation, Randy Wolf was a decent enough idea, but really it was more important to do whatever it took to get Brandon Backe out of there. Oswalt clearly had a down season, but Wandy Rodriguez added another data point to the trend that he’s capable of being an above average starter in the NL.

Besides needing to make decisions on the rotation for 2009, the Astros should also really look into trying to upgrade their defense up the middle which spent another year being a liability and with Tejada at shortstop needs all the help it can get from other positions. Though if that means more playing time for Michael Bourn maybe it’s best they just forget it.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

5 Responses to “Season in Review: Houston Astros”

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  1. Joel says:

    Where are you getting your info?

    Whose Craig Biggle?

    Defensively they were very good. Offensively and Pitching wise they did suck.

    Berkman exploded in 2008? Not really he was the same as every other year he has played. Wasn’t even his best year.

    Tejadas defense was acceptable.

    They need to upgrade the rotation and obp.

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  2. That’s an obvious typo.

    The defensive comment was referring to their middle infield, which was poor.

    Berkman exploded from his 2007 line.

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  3. C Johnson says:

    By most defensive metrics (whether PMR, RZR, Fielding Bible), Tejada was good defensively last year, ranging from slightly above average to well above average. Matsui was below average according to RZR and Fielding Bible, but above average, according to PMR. Having watched most of his games last year, Matsui clearly has good range but seems to come back rusty in the field after each trip to the DL. I don’t think the middle infield is the defensive area which the Astros need to upgrade. Carlos Lee in LF is the defensive weakiness; however, he isn’t likely to be replaced. Wigginton was decent defensively at 3d base last year, but he is still a potential defensive liability.

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  4. Max says:

    Berkman exploded in the first half of the season but then he imploded during the second half.

    A big reason for the the discrepancy between the Pythagorean and the actual record was the inconsistancy of the starting pitchers. It seemed like there were way too many games where the Astros’ starter gave up 10 runs on 2 innings. Backe actually only missed one start this season. Wolf filled the spot in the lineup created by Chacon’s ‘explosion’.

    I guess Tejada just has a bad reputation for his defense, but his performance this year was not enough to convince people otherwise.

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  5. Ryan says:

    I can’t help but notice that a huge reason the Astros overachieved their Pythag Record this year is because they committed BY FAR the least amount of errors this year (67). The next closest teams were the Yankees and Mets with 83, and the worst team in the league were the Rangers at nearly double the errors the ‘Stros committed. By position, Astros 3B and SS were among the best fielded in MLB.

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