This is the fourth installment in Bleacher Nation’s 2009 preview of the National League Central – specifically, how every team not named the Cubs is going to suck. Previously: Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
Welcome back to Bleacher Nation’s foray into the other teams of the National League Central, and their prospects for 2009 success. But, as it’s boring to just preview a team and predict their finish (boring/too hard), we do things a little differently here. It’s much more interesting (easy) to simply examine why they currently suck and are going to suck in 2009. So I guess the prospects we explore are the prospects for failure.
Up this week is the Houston Astros.
Tougher to write, no doubt, than the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Cincinnati Reds, but significantly more enjoyable. I don’t know what it is, but the Astros have always bugged me. I hope that doesn’t mean the venom spewed in the comments will be any more harsh than for the previous entries in this series – because man, people can be harsh when you dump on their team.
In case you’re an Astros fan getting ready to anonymously rip me or the Cubs in the comments, may I humbly suggest to you: 1.) we’re aware that the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in 100 (plus) years; 2.) that has surprisingly little to do with how the 2009 Houston Astros will perform.
Baseline for Suckitude
The Astros somehow managed to scrap together an 86-75 record, but that obscures how sucky they actually were last year. Their expected record was actually a full 11 games worse. That means they were lucky. Very lucky. How lucky?
By that metric, they were the luckiest team in all of baseball.
Sucky Offseason Moves
Sad Arrivals: LHP Mike Hampton (free agent), RHP Jeff Fulchino (waiver claim from Royals), C Lou Palmisano (Rule 5 selection from Brewers, via Orioles), LHP Gilbert De La Vara (Rule 5 selection from Royals), OF Jason Michaels (free agent), INF Aaron Boone (free agent), C Toby Hall (minor league free agent), RHP Jose Capellan (minor league free agent), RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent), C Ivan Rodriguez (free agent).
Happy Departures: INF Mark Loretta (free agent, signed with Dodgers), C Brad Ausmus (free agent, signed with Dodgers), LHP Randy Wolf (free agent, probably not coming back), INF/OF Ty Wigginton (non-tendered).
The Astros looks set to replace Randy Wolf with Mike Hampton. Hampton has thrown 78 innings… in the last THREE YEARS COMBINED. He is a guy that 29 other teams in MLB would be willing to take a flier on, maybe a minor league deal, and see what happens. The Astros? He’s penciled into the middle of their rotation. Good luck with that.
Even the best thing the Astros did this offseason was a crippling defeat: the failure to resign catcher Brad Ausmus. But he sucks. So the sucky failure to do something that sucks ends up being ok. Two sucks equal ok. Ivan Rodriguez might be an upgrade, but the Astros are about 10 years too late on him.
Their Very Own Blogoverse Thinks They Suck
You don’t even have to read the content of the post to know what the Astros Dugout is thinking about the team thus far in Spring Training: Astros Finding Suck-Cess In Spring Training 2009.
The Crawfish Boxes (yeah, that’s apparently an Astros blog) knows the Astros are in for a bowl of suck, but wishes they would just accept it and rebuild:
I don’t mind if the Astros suck by design. If Ed Wade came out tomorrow and said, “We’re entering a rebuilding phase, expect us to be back up and running in 2011-2012,” I’d throw him a parade.
The Suckiest Part of Their Suck
It’s the rotation, duh. Oswalt is good but frail. I know, I know, he’s started 32 games each of the last three years, but he’s just got this way about him that screams shoulder explosion to me. Wandy Rodriguez was pretty good last year in a limited season, but before that he was nothing but terrible. Oh, and his name is Wandy. That’s like one letter from Wendy. Or Wanda.
And those are the best two starters. After those two, it’s a trainwreck. Maybe Hampton will actually pitch this year. Maybe Brandon Backe will hold down a 5.00 ERA. Maybe Brian Moehler won’t be terrible. Maybe Russ Ortiz will pitch in and come back from obscurity.
And maybe Lance Berkman will sprout little pink wings and fly off to the short porch in left. Get it? I called him pig. He’s chubby.
And in the End
The bullpen is a strength, and any lineup with Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence hitting back to back to back will score a few runs. But Miguel Tejada is on his last leg, Kaz Matsui is and always has been terrible, Geoff Blum is a mediocre career backup who’s going to be starting, and Pudge Rodriguez ain’t the hitter he used to be (and they overpaid in this market).
The rotation is simply going to sap the Astros of any chance they had to compete in the Central this year. Recall that even when the ‘Stros were trotting out Oswalt, Clemens and Pettitte (and had a superior lineup), it is not as if they ran away with anything.
Further, they’ve got what is roundly considered one of the worst farm systems in baseball (yeah, yeah, the Cubs’ is no peach), so even if they had the payroll flexibility to add an arm mid-season, they probably don’t have the pieces.
Could they make a show of things in the Central? Probably not if you’re talking about the top. They can probably play slightly better than .500 ball and maybe even play for second place. But the Wild Card is highly unlikely to come out of the Central this year, and they simply don’t have the constitution to challenge the Cubs.