My prediction: Astros will go 79-83

National expectations are so low for the Astros, they’ve been lumped into the same category as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. In other words, few think they’re going to be any good. They are picked last in the NL Central by some, which means behind Pittsburgh, and are picked fifth in the division by most.

With the Astros set to open the 2010 season tonight at Minute Maid Park against the Giants, I can see why the expectations from the experts are so low. They lost 88 games last year and said goodbye to their leading hitter (Miguel Tejada), closer (Jose Valverde) and setup man (LaTroy Hawkins) and replaced them with Pedro Feliz, Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon. Feliz isn’t nealry as good of a hitter as Tejada, and Lindstrom and Lyon aren’t as proven as Valverde.

To be the fair, the Astros also added right-hander Brett Myers and have a better rotation than they did at this time last year when Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz were part of the team. But they’re also relying on a rookie at shortstop and an unproven catcher.

The bottom line is this: if the Astros are going to have any chance to compete, they need to stay healthy, and considering they have an aging core of players, that could be challenging. Lance Berkman is opening the season on the disabled list and Roy Oswalt has already had an injection into his lower back. Berkman has to produce and Oswalt needs to make 30 starts for the club to have a chance.

The second biggest factor are the younger players continuing to progress. I’m throwing Wandy Rodriguez in the young crowd because he had a breakout year last year, but he and Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence can’t afford to take a step back.

What is impossible to measure is the difference Brad Mills will make. The players completely bought into his system and are going to play hard for him, which wasn’t the case with Cecil Cooper last year. Plus, Mills can’t be a worse on-field tactician than his predecessor, so he’s going to make a positive difference in the standings in a division that includes experienced managers in Tony La Russa, Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella.

At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to talent and health. This is not a bad team when it’s healthy, certainly not a team that will compete with Washington and Pittsburgh for the worst record in the NL. But it’s hard to convince me at this point the health of the Astros won’t be an issue.

Thus, I’m picking the Astros to go 79-83 and finish in the middle of the pack in the NL Central. That’s a more optimistic prediction than most, but still well short of contending for the playoffs. I would love to hear your prediction.

9 Comments

I think 72-90. They should be better than the Pirates, but I don’t think by much. I’m a little leery of the injury bug, Feliz’s bat, Manzella’s bat, and the rotation (Brett Myers has not had much luck as a starter recently, Paulino is unproven). I like Lindstrom closing and Gervacio in the bullpen mix – the bullpen may end up being a strength this year, which I think it may have to be.

I predict 69-93 with the team as is.

Keep in mind, the ’09 squad over achieved in numerous areas:

-They won 7 games over their Pythag record. 74-88 actual vs. a Pythag record of 67-95.

-According to Bill James Handbook, the Astros were the most efficient team in ’09.

-Nobody really had a down year last year. Oswalt was slightly low on his projections, but everyone else did their part or more. Wandy, Bourn and Tejada played way over their expectations.

With all this in mind, I think the Astros will have a few less wins than last year.

Yes, the defense is better which should help the Pitchers, but the other problem, Scoring Runs, was not addressed during the off season. In fact, the Astros are going to be hard pressed to find a replacement for Tejada’s ’09 season.

So, yeah, barring an unforeseen fire sale, I predict 69-93. If McLane decides to rebuild and can move the NTC veterans, a 100 loss season could happen.

Don’t despair!!! The Mariners lost 100 games in ’08 with a huge payroll and came back to win 85 in ’09. So all is not lost! The key is to dump the large contracts and rebuild.

The Astros only need a true commitment to rebuilding. I understand the economics in trying to field a competitive team, but spending vast resources to consistently stay mediocre isn’t going to accomplish much in profit or championships.

I think we have a very good bullpen, and potentially an improved rotation. It?s too early to say though as Paulino and Norris are unproven. All in all I?m confident in Mills? ability to get this team together and squeeze a few more wins than expected out of this line-up. Since we were in contention up until the All Star last year, and since the team is not worse this year I want to believe we can prove all the prediction systems wrong. Realistically, I think the Reds stand a better chance to win the central than we do.
Ghick: Berkman had a down year last year as well which hurt us arly in the season.

Despite the loss tonight, my prediction is 90-72.

Despite the loss tonight, my prediction is 90-72.

Renaudtn: Berkman’s ’09 fell within what one would expect from him. .274/.399/.509 isn’t a bad year. There was no way he was going to match his monster ’08. Throughout his career Berkman peaks with incredible even numbered years and falls back to just good odd numbered years.

All I’m saying is based on his career history, one could expect him to dropped off a bit in ’09, but still put up above average numbers. And this is what he did, so it wasn;t like Berkman tanked and that is the reason for the bad record last year.

PREDICTION: 78-84

I figure Mills is worth about 4 more wins. It’s nice when the cameraman scans over to the manager and he doesn’t look dazed and confused. He looks focused and intense. THAT is refreshing.

When it comes to the players on the field, I’m obviously concerned about the offense. It was definitely weakened with the departure of Tejada. On the other hand, the defense is better without him. Injury woes are my main concern. Oswalt and Berkman are huge question marks and without them being healthy this team is in for a LONG season.
Bullpen is improved, and Lindstrom is looking great. Lyon…the 5 mill dollar set up guy raised some eyebrows with the cyst on his shoulder. Myers hasn’t been good for a couple of years, Matsui needs to stay off the DL, Pence needs to be more selective at the plate, Wandy needs to get it together, and Towles has to prove he belongs in the majors. There are so many question marks surrounding this team, I can’t be optimistic. I’m thinking they will finish around the middle of the pack in a weak division, but I hope they surprise me and finish higher than that. I’m ALL for it.

http://stonebutch99.mlblogs.com

Win #1 would be a good thing…

I believe the Astros will be fighting it out with the Pirates to stay out of the cellar. Let’s face it, Oswalt and Berkman are on the decline. Norris and Paulino are very raw and unproven. It’s hard to figure what you are going to get from Wandy. I can remember the gripes about the automatic outs in years past with Everett, Ausmus and the pitcher. It looks like the same deal this year, although early on, I like the leather that Manzella has displayed. Scoring was bad last year and I think it will be worse this year. Oh, and quit comparing the Nationals to the bottom of the standings. I think they will be better than that.

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