1983. The year my older brother (and his wife) was born. Also, the same year the Astros got off to a horrible 0-9 start. I decided to joke around with my brother and tell him I knew the reason for the horrible start. The illogical reasoning I gave him was it is all his fault. His wife just gave birth to their first born this morning, a little girl, and I was blaming his coming into the world and her coming into the world as the reasons why the 'Stros are off to such horrible starts in their years of birth, respectably. And to mess with him even more, I decided to justify myself as a good luck charm as I was born in 1986 and they were so close to going to the World Series that year. I told him I better get on producing an offspring soon to turn this mess around. He just laughed quietly as to not wake the baby or his wife from their much needed sleep. I decided to let him go as he also needed to get some sleep.
If you are still with me, don't worry, there is a point to this and hopefully a little bit of logical thinking. I'll let you be the judge of the latter. Anyways, they say history repeats itself, well they might just be right in this case as a three game set with the cards might put us back in that same old hole. But have no fear. When history repeats itself, good things can happen and this just might be our year.
I was curious about that 1983 team so I went over to Baseball Reference to see who was on it and what the make up of the team was. I found some very exciting similarities with the 1983 version and the 2010 version*.
*Note: This does assume a healthy Berkman and hopefully soon, that will be true.
Lets first look at the start of the season.
The first six games where played at the Astrodome. The Astros were out scored 39-22. The median age was 29.2. The team was built around pitching and defense.
The first six games where played at Minute Maid Park. The Astros were out scored 37-13. So far the median age is 30.6 (although I think this will come down some as we call up a few players). The team was built around pitching and defense.
So what do we have so far? Well, both teams started at home. The 83 team scored a few more runs, although it is of note that both teams have scored 3 or less runs in 4 of the first 6 games played. Median age is about the same (its even closer when you look at the pitchers ages, 83: 30.8; 10: 30.7). And both teams are built around pitching and defense. So far it looks like we might have the same team and history might be repeating itself. Now its time for the position players.
In 83, the starting catcher was Alan Ashby whose splits were .229/.303/.389. He hit 8 HR and grounded into 12 double plays. According to the averages given by Steven, Towles OBS and SLG are .329/.389. Kinda freaky how their SLGs are exactly the same. And with a higher projected OBS, Towles should hit for a higher average and be a slight upgrade from his 83 version.
In 83, the starting first baseman was Ray Knight (.304/.355/.444). He hit 9 HR and grounded into 17 double plays. Lance has a career line of .299/.412/.555. And I think we would all be disappointed if we only saw 9 HRs from good old Lance. So based off his career numbers, I would say Lance should be able at least maintain something close to Knights numbers and should easily exceed them.
In 83, the starting second baseman was Bill Doran (.271/.371/.364). He hit 8 HR and swiped 12 bases. Kaz has a career line of .271/.325/.387. Needs to improve his OBS but should be good for the same number of HRs and a few more swiped bases. (By the way, Doran was only 25 and a rookie that year).
In 83, the starting shortstop was Dickie Thon (.286/.341/.457). He was the leader in HRs at 20 while leading in stolen bases at 34. Manzella's average projections for OBS and SLG are .294/.347. This is our weakest link in comparing the two teams. Hopefully though, Towles and Berkman will out preform their 83 counterparts and make up for this loss. Berkman should at least cover the HR difference.
In 83, the starting third baseman was the one and only Phil Garner (.238/.317/.362). He hit 14 HRs and was second on the team with 79 RBIs. Feliz's career line is .254/.293/.422. 14 HRs is about right for him and in every season he has played more than 140 games, he has at least 72 RBIs (he averages 83.4 when playing more than 140 games). Doesn't get on base nearly as much but has some more pop in his bat.
In 83, the starting left fielder was Jose Cruz (.318/.385/.463). He hit 14 HRs, while leading the team with 92 RBIs. Lee's career line is .291/.343/.502. We all know Lee is good for at least 100 RBIs and 25 HRs. Just like Feliz, he doesn't get on base as much but has way more pop in his bat.
In 83, the starting center fielder was Omar Moreno (.242/.282/.326). He hit 0 HRs while swiping 30 bases but lead the team in triples with 11. I think Bourn's career numbers are a pretty small sample size but I will use them anyways because they are lower than his average projected numbers. His numbers are .263/.327/.349. The HRs are about right, he will steal more bases, and the triples are about right also. He looks to be a huge upgrade over Moreno and will help fill the slack in OBS left by Lee and Feliz.
In 83, the starting right fielder was Terry Puhl (.292/.343/.428). He hit 8 HRs while contributing only 44 RBIs. Pence's career line is .286/.337/.485. Not a big drop off for average and OBS, but a nice boost in SLG. Really Pence is just like Puhl with more power.
One final word about the position players. In 83, all but two starters were over 30. Doran and Thon were the lone exceptions and both were 35. As stated earlier, Doran was a rookie while Thon had a few years under him at this point (3 full seasons I think). Now our regulars are a bit younger than that as four players are under 30. But our bench is full of key veteran leadership (yes I am buying into this idea of a veteran bench being a calming influence on younger players). So while I could lean in favor of the 83 team being more stable, I think it is a wash because when you need a hit in a key moment, like pinch hitting, the 10 team has those veterans to rely on and get the job done (hopefully).
Now for the pitchers:
In 83 the starting pitchers were: Nolan Ryan (14-9, 2.98), Joe Nieko (15-14, 3.48), Bob Knepper (6-13, 3.19), and Mike Scott (10-6, 3.72). Oswalt has the ability to be just like Ryan. Wandy has the stuff to be like Nieko, and a healthy Meyers could fill in like Scott. The only question that remains is who steps up, pitches pretty darn good, but gets no run support to be Knepper. Can Norris do it for a whole season? Can Paulino finally live up to his billing? I don't know but if we are going to have a shot either one of them needs to step up big time.
In 83 the relief pitchers were: Frank DiPino (3-4, 2.65, 20 saves), Mike LaCoss (5-7, 4.43, 1), Vern Ruhle (8-5, 3.69, 3), Bill Dawley (6-6, 2.82, 14), and Dave Smith (3-1, 3.10, 6). LaCoss did start 17 games that year and Ruhle started 9. Which works out for us since Moehler will probably be spot starting throughout the season and his career era of 4.81 isn't too far off of where LaCoss was. Another interesting note, it looks like there is no defined closer. DiPino and Dawley shared the job as Lyon and Lindstrom very well could do this year. All in all, I think the bullpen is solid and once the start of the season jitters leave them, they will settle down and produce like the 83 team did, not over baring but good enough to get the job done.
Some final common themes among the teams: 83 was manager Bob Lills first full season as a manager. Yes he did take over the team with 51 games left in the previous season, but I'm still counting it as a similarity. Obviously this is Mills first season as a skipper. I'll be lame right now and point out Mills and Lills are just one letter different. As stated earlier, the 83 team was build for pitching and defense with little offense. That team scored only 643 runs while allowing 646. I know I have seen on this site a few times that we are projected to score under 700 runs this year. In 83, they committed 147 errors while turning 443 double plays and as a team had a fielding percentage of .977. If Lee can have a career fielding percentage of .985, I think the team can pull off a .977.
Oh, and just for the record, after that 0-9 start, the team went on a 85-68 tear. They finished that year at 85-77 and in 3rd place in the West. So lets not get down in the dumps just yet. History has a funny way of repeating itself and who knows, this might be one repeat we don't wanna miss.