As an avid, lifelong, true Astros fan, I have experienced bliss as well as turmoil. It was only 5 years ago that the ‘Stros found themselves in the World Series. Yet there is now a putrid taste in my mouth when I think of my beloved big league club. How could this be? What went so wrong that only 5 years removed from winning the NL pennant, Houston is now ranked as one of the worst organizations in professional baseball?
For starters, we can look at a couple declining stars. While it hurts me to even utter these words (let alone type and post them for all to see) Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are finally on the downhill track of their careers. The Puma is always a health concern, even managing to find himself on the DL before the 2010 season even started. 2009 was the first season that Fat Elvis fell short of the 600 PA plateau since 2005, and only the 3rd time since he became an everyday player. Secondly, his WAR, according to FanGraphs, tied a career low at 3.2 (as compared to previous years in the 6’s.) While his BB rate increased last year from 14 to 17%, his K rate has been on the rise since 2005. It made a jump from 15.4% in ’05, to 19.8% in ’06, and has continued to hover at, or above, the 20% rate since then. All of this, along with the fact that Berkman is not getting any younger (he is 34 this year) tells me that we may be seeing the beginning of the end for the Big Puma.
Then there is Carlos Lee. By most accounts, El Caballero had a tremendous season last year. There are just a few stats that concern me. The first being his O-swing%, or percentage of balls swung at outside of the strike zone. This number stands at a gaudy 36.6% for last year; a whopping 13% above his career average. The next problem I have is Lee’s isolated power. Last year C. Lee posted a paltry .186 in this department. You can chalk some of this up to age, (he turns 34 this June) but when you play in one of the most hitter friendly parks, Minute Maid, it makes you wonder a little. Even if you don’t want to look at the numbers, face the facts that most big leaguers do not have very successful careers once they reach the age of 34-35; including Berkman and Lee.
Well what about the guys we have coming up? Sure there is Wandy and Pence, and maybe even Bourn will work out. (I am a big Bourn supporter despite what most critics predict.) Ok, sure those are a few guys who have the possibility to be studs for a while. But for those few guys, there are the J.R. Towles (a busted stud), Tommy Manzella (a 27 year old “prospect”), of the organization who have not panned out. Sure, Houston is devoting new time and efforts into finding quality prospects internationally, especially in the D.R., but only time will tell how that works out. For now, we are stuck with what little we have on the farm.
To top it off, we go and make Brandon Lyon one paid motherfucker at 15 mill for 3 years. Why give that kind of money to a guy who has only had one season of 15 saves or more, has a career ERA of 4.23 as a reliever, and has never shown dominant stuff on the hill? I don’t know why, and there may be more to it, as Mclane has shown that all these oddball signings come off the book at the same time in a few years. But until then, we will have to settle with that putrid taste, and have to do enough other things during the summer to help reduce the strength of that taste. One.