Christopher Reina. 30th March, 2009 - 7:39 pm
2008 Record: 86-75
2008 Team OPS: .737 (20th)
2008 Starters ERA: 4.56 (18th)
2008 Relievers ERA: 4.09 (14th)
2008 HOR Leader: Lance Berkman, 3rd, 15.4%
2009 Projected Team OPS: .750
2009 Projected Starters ERA: 4.70
2009 Projected Relievers ERA: 4.20
*2009 Projected Record: 74-88
* Projected Record is a formula that takes projected team OPS, starters ERA and relievers ERA into account in order to get a projected runs scored and runs allowed per game. Those figures are then inserted into the Pythagorean record formula.
Recent Opsera History
2008: 18th, 3.01
2007: 24th, 2.74
2006: 11th, 3.33
2005: 4th, 3.79
2004: 5th, 3.73
2003: 5th, 3.81
2002: 12th, 3.55
2001: 9th, 3.61
- Opsera is a stat I created that ranks team based on OPS minus ERA.
Click here to view the full Astros Opsera history
Rating The Offseason
The Astros made a late charge and finished the season with a very inflated 86-75 record; inflated because they were outscored by 31 runs and therefore had a Pythagorean record of 77-84.
Whether the realization that this club wasn't as good as it performed factored into their cheapness this offseason isn't clear, but it is clearly a wise decision not to prop up this club as if it is a genuine contender.
They let Brad Ausmus, Ty Wigginton, Mark Loretta and Randy Wolf all leave, with a Mike Hampton reunion and signings of Aaron Boone and Jason Michaels be their major 'splashes' until they signed Ivan Rodriguez during the middle of the WBC.
No Dumb Questions
1. Can Hunter Pence take his excellent September into 2009?
2. Will Wandy Rodriguez match Roy Oswalt in ERA (3.54) again?
3. Are the 'Valverde is how you say Lidge in Spanish' jokes now over?
4. Can Michael Bourn possibly have a .325 or better OBP in order for the Astros to utilize his speed?
5. Will Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee combine for 300 games and an OPS over .950?
The Astros have an offense that is actually very easy to like. Any team with sluggers as good as Berkman and Lee in the middle of the lineup is going to put at least some runs on the board, but the pieces before and after them will really make the difference between a team that scores 775 runs and 700 runs. This is where Hunter Pence, Kaz Matsui and Bourn come in.
I really like Pence to have a breakout 2009 after his relative sophomore slump in 2008. He hit .277/.338/.521 in the second half, reducing his strikeout rate and also showing a lot more power. He had a .971 OPS in Houston wins and a .572 mark in their losses.
Matsui got off to a slow start in 2008, but he was extremely productive in the second half, though his time was limited. He hit .313/.372/.542 in the second half of the season after hitting for an OPS of .709 in the first half. He's never had an OPS above his 2008 season of .781.
My confidence in Bourn is decidedly more modest than the previous two. Bourn cannot hit lefties at all and his best month of 2008 topped out at a .653 OPS in September and that followed a .435 mark (.200 OBP) in August. If he can increase his OBP, then he of course represents Cecil Cooper's best alternative in the leadoff slot, but looking for alternatives though there are very few unless they complete a trade.
Their rotation has Roy Oswalt and a bunch of salvage cases and question marks. Brandon Backe was dreadful in 2008, but at least he was healthy for the first time since 2005. Mike Hampton returned to an MLB mound for the first time since 2005, throwing 78.0 innings while posting a 4.85 ERA with the Braves. Wandy Rodriguez could have another second starter type of season.
What Will Likely Happen
Without the kind of luck the Astros had in 2008 and a piecemeal pitching staff makes Houston a ballclub that will end up reaching a win total somewhere in the 70's.
The offense will score runs, but it is a unit that remains far from elite even under the most optimistic projections and will have a huge hill to climb whenever Oswalt doesn't take the mound.
Predicting Their Season With A Movie Trailer
- Chris Reina is the executive editor of RealGM.com