How wide is the corner the Houston Astros are turning?
Record: 51-111 (Last place in A.L. East)
How do you endure a 111-loss campaign in your first year of managing? Not sure there’s enough Tums and/or Pepto-Bismol to overcome those losses, but Houston Astros manager Bo Porter may have endured the stormiest of storms in 2013. Think about it: Your first big league managerial gig and your team drops 111 games. Let that soak in for a few.
But even with all of those losses, there were some bright spots on the 2013 Astros.
We witnessed the blossoming of catcher Jason Castro. The 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft is showing the promise associated with the eslection. After missing all of 2011 with a torn ACL and damaged meniscus, Castro broke out in 2013, posting an OPS+ of 130, tops on the club.
In 120 games, he crafted a triple slash of .276/.350/.485 with 18 HR and 56 RBI and was the team’s All-Star Game selection. A well-deserved selection, too. He also earned AL Player of the Week honors for May 20-26.
And Castro performed when the team needed him to do so. He hit .309 RISP and .282 in high-leveraged situations. AL West opponents found him a difficult out. Against three of four divisional foes, Castro hit higher than .290 against them.
Now Cosart will have to severely limit his walks (35 BB in 60 IP), but what aided him was posting a .220 BAA for his 10 games. Check out his game logs. Did anyone expect seven quality starts in his first ten MLB games? Yes, it was only 60 innings, but a strand rate of almost 86% is something in which to build. A groundball rate of 54.5% is nice. Very nice. As you’ll see, get a little help from the gloves…
In his MLB debut, Cosart hurled eight shutout innings, allowing only two hits, while walking three and striking out two.
Oberholtzer gained a little more experience than Cosart as he also started 10 games, but pitched in 13. But those 10 games he started…
4-5, 2.24 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, .224/.263/.347 triple slash against, 41 SO, 13 BB in 64.1 IP
You look at the overall numbers and say the pitching staff was lousy. Dig a little deeper. Sure, the starters weren’t performing well, but the bullpen was deplorable. Name a stat and the Astros bullpen was either last or darn close to last in that category. Their triple slash against was .270/.352/.464, all last in the American League. The ‘pen walked more than any (252) and struck out the least opposing batters (418). That transfers to a SO/BB of 1.66.
The defense wasn’t all that spectacular either. The DRS was -43, which was “good enough” for 10th in the AL, and far from the -99 the Seattle Mariners posted, then you look at a couple of other stats. But the Houston defense did commit an AL high 125 errors. Their UZR of -61.7 was the next worst in the league (Seattle: -73.0).
Talk about a poor way to end a season, what about losing your last 15 games? I know September call-ups can factor in here, but…
The Hot Stove…
Had heard that the Astros could have an Opening Day payroll as high as $60MM. So, if this is the case, and I take Cot’s 2014 committed number of $6.9MM as correct, that leaves the club $53MM left to add. For the record, $5.5MM of the $6.9MM is for Wandy Rodriguez, leaving Houston with one player under contract, Jose Altuve ($1.4MM).
With only one arbitration-eligible player (Castro), the ‘Stros can look a little within the free agent market. And I like the approach they’re taking. Here’s manager Bo Porter (via Brian McTaggart/MLB.com):
As the market starts to shake out, we’ll get more aggressive for the guys we believe will really make an impact on our ballclub. We’re in a better position this year than last offseason, as far as acquiring players that will be able to help the Major League team.
Words that caught my attention: impact and help. Porter realizes his club cannot, and maybe more importantly, will not go out and snag a guy just for the sake of snagging him. As the organization has been over the past couple of seasons, they are willing to exercise some patience and do their due diligence when adding to the roster.
GM Jeff Luhnow is hoping to add an outfield bat, relief help, and a veteran starter to stabilize the rotation.
As we have read, there is help on the way. With a stocked farm system (7 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100), Houston will once again have the top pick in June’s draft. All the roads lead in a positive direction.
The burning question is will the Astros fanbase exercise their patience as much as the organization has?