Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking you through all 30 MLB teams, discussing their positives and negatives from the year that was. Regardless of how lopsided it may get, we will stay the course and ultimately determine whether or not their 2015 efforts resulted in a successful season.
The Houston Astros were on top of the world in 2005 as they charged to the World Series before ultimately losing to the Chicago White Sox. Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman, Clemens, Pettitte, Oswalt…
The old crew is a memory for today’s fans. The grand experiment started by Jeff Luhnow when he became GM in 2011 showed the first signs of promise in 2014 when the Astros broke out of three straight 100-loss seasons to win 70 games. While the 2017 World Series prediction was something of a joke, Houston showed what they can do with breakouts in 2015 and the promise of youth beginning to deliver.
— David Hinojosa (@hinojosa_david) June 26, 2014
Carlos Correa made the case that, at 20, in just over half a season, he might be the best shortstop in the American League. A league that has young stars like Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado (should he return to short), and veteran Troy Tulowitzki. Hitting 22 homers and stealing 14 bases with an overall line of .279/.345/.512, good for 4.1 bWAR, would be considered a success. Every game he plays past 99 next year could be special.
Jose Altuve didn’t win back-to-back batting titles but he reached 200 hits for the second consecutive season and led the AL in steals with 38. The second baseman, still just 25, was worth 4.5 bWAR while hitting .313/.353/.459.
George Springer, also 25 but in just his second major league season hit .276/.367/.459 while going 16-16 in homers and steals in an injury-shortened year. Joined in the outfield by Preston Tucker (.243/.297/.734 with 13 homers) the Astros have some nice players joining the big league club.
Acquired at the deadline, Carlos Gomez struggled in 41 games while hitting just .242/.288/.383. Gomez entered 2015 coming off a two-year stretch averaging .284/.347/.491 with 24 homers and 37 steals per season. With another year on his deal, his story with Houston could yet be positive.
Chris Carter hit home runs (24) and struck out (151) while coming in under the Mendoza line: .199/.307/.427. Braves import Evan Gattis brought some power (27 homers) to the DH spot but .246/.285/.463 is really tough to swallow when he’s not going yard. Colby Rasmus, formerly a Cardinal while Luhnow was in St. Louis, enters free agency with 25 homers and a .238/.314/.475 performance. Power is scarce, right?
Dallas Keuchel began his career with two years of 5.20 ERA and 4.78 FIP performance. The next two? ERAs of 2.93 and 2.48, respectively. What happened? Increased strikeout rates: 10.1%, 18.0%, 18.1%, 23.7% and falling walk rates: 10.3%, 7.6%, 5.9%, 5.6%. He’s their ace. And he’s not alone.
Collin McHugh was drafted by the Mets in 2008, traded to the Rockies in June 2013, and claimed off waivers that December by the Astros. In 47.1 innings for NL teams, his ERA approached nine and the Rockies cut bait after less than 20. Since joining the Astros, McHugh has averaged a 3.39 ERA—3.89 in 2015—and a 3.38 FIP—3.58 in 2015. Not a bad waiver pickup.
Lance McCullers made his debut in 2015 at 21 and showed he was ready: 3.22 ERA against a 3.26 FIP, 24.8 percent strikeout rate, and an 8.3 percent walk rate. Scott Kazmir once again wore down as the season went on and failed to impress during his time in Houston. The southpaw tossed six or more innings six times in 13 starts but failed to complete five innings four times, including back-to-back six run performances to finish the regular season.
Luke Gregerson, long limited to setup duty with the Padres and A’s ascended to the ninth inning this year and put up a 3.10 ERA, struck out nearly six times as many men as he walked, and yes, saved 31 games.
Was it a successful season?
The jokes about the Astros winning the World Series in 2017, the “Ground Control” leaks, and multiple hundred-loss seasons meant rough years for the first team to ever move from the National League to the American League.
They had prospects, they had a budding star in Altuve, but it didn’t seem like progress was happening fast enough. And then the season started, Although the division ultimately slipped away from them, this was the best season for Houston in a decade and it includes a bright future.
Reinforcements have arrived.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs