|2007 Postmortem: Houston Astros||| Print |||Send|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on December 24, 2007
Regular Season Finish: 73-89, fourth in NL Central, 12 GB
AVG: Carlos Lee, .303
HR: Lance Berkman, 34
RBI: Carlos Lee, 119
Runs: Lance Berkman, 95
SB: Hunter Pence, 11
Worst Move of the Season: For much of the season, the ballclub saw fit to give teams three easy outs every time through the lineup: catcher Brad Ausmus, shortstop Adam Everett, and the pitcher’s slot. A pitcher must hit in the National League and you can rationalize having Everett out there due to his spectacular glove work, but there’s no justifying having Ausmus step up to the plate.
Key Player: It would be nice to go sentimental with Biggio here, but the big guy for the Astros this year was outfielder Carlos Lee. The big man finished with a .303/.354/.528 line to accompany 32 home runs and 119 RBIs. What’s amazing is that this guy does not strike out. He struck out 53 times, as opposed to only 63 walks. Amazing.
Up and Coming Player: Hunter Pence is the guy that Astros fans are looking forward to for the next few seasons. The rookie played with relentless enthusiasm and hit pretty darned well, too -- .322/.360/.539 with a few stolen bases. Given that he only played in 108 games, it’ll be interesting to see what Pence can do in a full season.
What Went Right: There’s not really a lot you can pinpoint here. Roy Oswalt had a very good year, throwing 212 innings with a 3.18 ERA. He was not as dominating this season as he had been in years past -- see his weak 151 strikeouts -- but he’s still an ace in the prime of his career.
What Went Wrong: For a team that had such high hopes going into the year, a lot went wrong. Jason Jennings was supposed to replace Andy Pettitte in the rotation, while guys like Wandy Rodriguez and Chris Sampson were supposed to slot in well in the third and fourth slots. That never happened. Both pitchers finished with ERAs north of 4.50, which was not good for an offense that finished 13th in the NL in runs scored in 2007.
And that segues perfectly into the other thing that went wrong. The offense finished with a paltry 723 runs scored, getting beat out by such offensive juggernauts as the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres. Lance Berkman and Lee produced like the middle-of-the-order hitters they are, but the guys around them could have been much better.
Offseason Preview: The Astros have made a ton of moves, so it would be judicious to start working from there. They acquired shortstop Miguel Tejada from the Baltimore Orioles for five players, including three young pitchers. They acquired closer Jose Valverde from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the expense of a young pitcher and quality setup man Chad Qualls.
Their lineup, featuring Berkman, Lee, Tejada, and Pence in the middle, should be more imposing next season and finish higher than 13th in the senior circuit in runs scored. After all, Berkman should be much better -- in the last six seasons, he has averaged a little less than 28 homers in the odd-numbered years and 39 in the even-numbered years. Tejada should be helped by the friendly Crawford Boxes in left field and improve upon the paltry 18 home runs he put up last year, too.
Pitching-wise, however, is where the Astros could use some improvement. They go into 2008 with one of the best pitchers in the major leagues in Oswalt. After that, they’ve got little. Wandy Rodriguez is no one’s idea of a number two, Brandon Backe is coming off Tommy John surgery, and Woody Williams shouldn’t even have a job anymore.
The relief corps may be slightly better with a good closer like Jose Valverde, but setting him up is Doug Brocail and Chad Paronto. Neither is anyone’s idea of a shut-down setup reliever.
If the Astros are going to get anywhere next season, they need to find some starters. Maybe two. Maybe three. Some names of guys who may come cheaply are Freddy Garcia, Jon Lieber, and Mark Prior. But even if the Astros got all three, they’d need a miracle to hold their starting five together.