“We should win 90 games . . . I believe we’ll win 90 games, 90-plus.”
Left fielder Carlos Lee:
“If we stay healthy, yeah, we can win 90.”
Star first baseman Lance Berkman:
“I believe that we can win at least 90 games. At least 90. It could be 91 . . . Why wouldn’t we [win 90]? We won 86 last year. I feel like we have a better team this year.”
I’m here to burst Cooper, Lee, and Berkman’s respective bubbles. I’m going to tell you exactly why the Astros won’t sniff 90 wins this season, and why even mentioning that number as a remotely possible goal is ludicrous. “Why wouldn’t we win 90?” Here’s why you won’t, in succinct and ruthless bullet-point format:
- You scored 712 runs last year and allowed 743. Your record was 86-75. That should seem wrong to you, because teams that allow more runs than they score typically lose more games than they win. It’s safe to say that you were incredibly, historically lucky last year. And, despite what Berkman believes, you did not improve in the off-season. You are due for a harsh regression.
- Your second baseman is Kaz Matsui. He has a career .331 OBP, which is not good. Sure, his OBP was .354 last year, but his LD% (line drive percentage) hit a career low and his BABIP was quite high. This means he got seriously lucky. He’s 33 years old, which means he’s beginning to decline from his resoundingly mediocre peak.
- Your shortstop is Miguel Tejada, who suddenly became 35 years old this winter. He had a .314 OBP last year, which is just terrible. His walk rate reached a career-worst level in 2008. He posted his worst SLG since 1998. And again, he’s 35 years old and right smack in the middle of his decline phase.
- Your third baseman is Geoff Blum. Blum is 36 years old, and hit .240/.287/.418 in 350 PAs last year. That is unacceptable production from a corner infielder. He’s projected to hit a marginally better .245/.306/.400 this year, which is just as unacceptable. His defense is average, but that’s not nearly good enough to warrant putting his noodle of a bat in the lineup every day.
- Your left fielder is Carlos Lee. Lee can hit just fine, but is one of the very worst defensive outfielders in all of baseball. The Astros can’t afford to give back any production on offense in the field, but Lee does just that.
- Your center fielder is Michael Bourn. Last year, Bourn was – without exaggeration – one of the very worst everyday players in Major League Baseball. He hit .229/.288/.300 in over 500 PAs. Even more ridiculously, the vast majority of those PAs came in the leadoff spot. He struck out frequently, which is not necessarily a bad thing if the player walks or hits for extra bases every so often. Bourn does neither. He’s also merely average in the field, despite looking like he’s fast and trying super hard. For reasons I don’t fully understand, he’s projected to hit .258/.327/.362 this year, production that is merely bad instead of his 2008 levels of atrociousness.
- Your catcher is Ivan Rodriguez. He is 37 years old and plays like it. He had a .319 OBP last year, and is projected to regress to .301 this year. Rodriguez posted a startling 2.35 GB/FB – the worst of his career – leading to a career-high rate of grounding into double plays. He is now merely average at throwing out base stealers.
- Darin Erstad is on your team.
- Your #3 starter is 37-year-old Brian Moehler, who had a 4.56 ERA in 150 IP last year. He has a mediocre 4.92 K/9, a high HR/9 rate, and a plummeting GB rate. This means he gives up lots of fly balls in a hitter’s ballpark, which is just asking for trouble for an old pitcher with no stuff. He’s projected to post a 5.46 ERA in 130 IP this year.
- Your #4 starter is 36-year-old Mike Hampton, who hasn’t been healthy since 2004. In the 78 innings he managed to throw for the Atlanta Braves last year, he posted a 4.85 ERA and 1.42 WHIP with a horrid 4.1 K/9. Any team relying on Hampton to be its fourth starter is in a world of trouble.
- Your #5 starter is some combination of Jose Capellan, Russ Ortiz, Felipe Paulino, Alberto Arias, and Brandon Backe. If you don’t know why that’s terrible, I can’t help you.
- Baseball Prospectus ranked your farm system 30th, the worst in the major leagues. The Hardball Times ranked your farm system 30th, the worst in the major leagues. Baseball America ranked your farm system 30th, the worst in the major leagues. There is no help on the way.
- Very smart people are projecting you to score 700 runs and allow 808 this upcoming season, which would give you roughly 68 wins. That’s 68 as in “22 fewer than 90.”
- In spite of all this readily-available information, your manager thinks you can win 90 games.
When asked about their expectations for this upcoming season, I understand that the Astros can’t throw up their hands and say “we’re screwed.” But even players on the worst teams say things like “I don’t know how many games we’ll win, but we’re just going to do our best, play hard, and see what happens.” To repeatedly put forth 90 wins as a reasonable expectation does nothing but a disservice to the players and insult the fans.
If the Astros win 90 games this year, I will buy a Red Sox hat and wear it on the following Opening Day.