Houston Astros Last Year: 86-75 3rd in NL Central This Year: 5th in NL Central
Growing up as a kid, the Astros were my National League team. Once I had given up on Pat Mears, Pat Mahomes and Ron Coomer winning the AL Central I would turn my attention to Jeff Bagwell (clearly used steroids), Craig Biggio, and Derek Bell. My fondness of the Astros made me even temporarily tolerate Clemens, Pettite and Jeff Kent. It dissolved with the retirement of the Killer B's and them allowing the White Sox to win a World Series. This current team still has some big boppers but they aren't getting any younger and the pitching is not there for this team to have any hopes of competing in the NL Central.
Opening Day Lineup w/Projections 2B Kaz Matsui .285 4 HR 33 RBI 16 SB RF Hunter Pence .297 31 HR 85 RBI 13 SB 1B Lance Berkman .308 33 HR 103 RBI LF Carlos Lee .301 26 HR 95 RBI SS Miguel Tejada .279 11 HR 63 RBI 3B Geoff Blum .247 14 HR 56 RBI CF Michael Bourn .239 5 HR 33 RBI 43 SB C J.R. Towles .245 9 HR 35 RBI P Roy Oswalt
Rotation RHP Roy Oswalt 16-9 3.56 ERA 161 K LHP Wandy Rodriguez 11-9 3.79 ERA 154 K LHP Mike Hampton 5-9 5.34 ERA 74 K RHP Brian Moehler 8-12 4.73 ERA 87 K RHP Brandon Backe 7-13 5.15 ERA 133 K
CP RHP Jose Valverde 3.54 ERA 38 SV 79 K
Best Case Scenario: Pence becomes an all-star and bats around .320 with power. Berkman and Lee continue to produce in the middle of the lineup. Tejada holds off father time for one more year. Oswalt has a Cy Young caliber year. Valverde remains solid at the back of the bullpen and the rest of the rotation scrapes through 6 innings to give the lineup a chance. This team ends up around slightly above .500 and fights to finish in 2nd but ends up in 3rd place.
Worst Case Scenario: The Tejada perjury issue dominates the team focus. Hunter Pence fails to get back to rookie year production. Berkman or Lee goes down with injury. J.R. Towles continues his struggles in the majors. Astros can't get a quality start out of anyone not named Oswalt. This team wins 70 games.
Player Most Important to Success: Hunter Pence. As a rookie in 2007 he hit .322 with 17 home runs in only 108 games finishing 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting behind Braun and Tulowitzki. Last year he struggled at times. He batted .269 and struck out 124 times. He still hit 25 home runs. He has the potential to be a Grady Sizemore or even better. He has the potential to be a .320-35-120-20 player. If he gets even close to that this year the Astros good surprise a few. Pence-Berkman-Lee is quite a force with all hitting for average and power. If they become a force they should be able to outscore their average pitching staff.
Outlook: This team is getting very old. Berkman is 33, Lee is 32, Oswalt is 31, Tejada is 34 (at least that is what is he says he is), and Kaz Matsui is 33. Out of the opening day lineup and rotation only Pence, Bourn, and Towles are younger than 30. They also have some huge holes. Tejada can't play shortstop defensively anymore. They are planning a Geoff Blum and Aaron Boone platoon at 3rd. They have Mike Hampton, who has made 25 starts in the last 4 years, penciled in as the #3 starter. They have 36 year old LaTroy Hawkins as the set-up man. They have Kaz Matsui as the leadoff hitter. This team has to many holes for Berkman, Lee and Oswalt to cover.