Although Jim Edmonds is in the twilight of his career, he showed again on Saturday that he is capable of roughing up his favorite plaything, the Houston Astros. Before the forgettable blow out had blown up, Edmonds hit a HR into the Crawford Boxes. At age 40, Edmonds went 2 for 4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI. This raises the question, "is Jim Edmonds the biggest Astros-killer of our times?" To make that question easier, I'll confine this to position players, since a review of pitchers probably would include the likes of Zambrano, Glavine, and Maddux.
Edmonds is a career .944 OPS hitter against the Astros. That, in itself, isn't overwhelming. Sure, it's 40 points higher than his overall career OPS. But, in terms of teams with a comparable sample size of at bats, he may be more of a Pirates' killer, with a career 1.060 OPS versus Pittsburgh. Edmonds has hit the 3d most HRs (31) against the Astros, and he only hit 1 more HR each against the Reds and Cubs, which have more HR-friendly ballparks. The Astros have been the leading target for his doubles (28) too. Edmonds has more RBIs (87) against the Astros than any other team. Now we are getting somewhere---RBI may be a sabermetrically flawed statistic, but I think it tells us something we remember, Edmonds seemed to get hits against the Astros when they hurt the most.
I think the "dagger in the heart" timing of Edmonds' work against the Astros is one reason that Astros' fans frequently mention him as an Astros-killer. Edmonds highlight catches in CF are not reflected in his offensive stats. It always seemed that Edmonds made great defensive pays to prevent the Astros from getting a key double, triple, or HR. Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS seemed to cement this perception of Edmonds. With a big scoring threat which could have allowed the Astros to take over the game and proceed to their first World Series, Edmonds made a diving catch of Brad Ausmus' bid for a huge double. That final game capped a 2004 NLCS in which Edmonds hit 2 HRs, posted a .982 OPS and drove in 7 runs. Apparently having expended himself against the Astros, Edmonds posted a .192 OPS against Boston in the subsequent World Series.
Aramis Ramirez is frequently mentioned as an all time Astros-killer. This reputation rests mostly on the fact that he has hit more HRs (36) against the Astros than any other team. But, surprisingly, Ramirez's career OPS (.806) versus the good guys is lower than you would expect, and lower than his career OPS. Ramirez had gained an Astros-killer reputation with the Pirates, and it irritated Astros' fans that he was traded for spare change to the Cubs at mid-season 2003, allowing the Cubs to squeeze past the Astros for a playoff slot. Ramirez doesn't measure up to Edmonds as an Astros-killer in part because the Astros and Cubs have never met in playoff games.
Many Astros' fans view Albert Pujols as the biggest Astros-killer. No doubt the HR heard round the world--the blast which put Brad Lidge into that odd squatting position--plays a role in that perception. However, the media sometimes forget that the HR didn't win that 2005 NLCS series for the Cardinals. It simply allowed an even more satisfying series win for the Astros to close out old Busch stadium. Without a doubt, Pujols has great raw offensive numbers against the Astros-- but that reflects the fact that he is a great future Hall of Fame player. The Astros rank 19th in career OPS posted by Pujols against individual teams. Pujols certainly has hit a bunch of HRs (40) against the Astros (4th most versus any team), but he is, after all, a three time MVP in the NL. Some Astros fans will be surprised to know that the Astros have been relatively effective at holding Pujols in check (if we can use a term like that in talking about Pujols)--- his .994 OPS is below his 1.049 career OPS.
The Braves have been a leading playoff nemesis against the Astros, going back to the 90's. And Chipper Jones' career is right up there as an Astros-killer. For teams with over 100 games against, Chipper Jones has posted his 5th highest OPS .(949) against the Astros, which is slightly above his career overall OPS (.942). He had a big game in the 1997 playoffs against the Astros (1.458 OPS). But he doesn't share the same kind of defensive plays against the Astros that we saw from Edmonds.
With a 66 WAR career, an interesting case can be made for Jim Edmonds as a Hall of Famer. I don't have any trouble labeling Edmonds as the leading Astros-killer of recent years. In his radio interview on the Astros' broadcast Saturday, Edmonds admitted that he always wanted to have Minute Maid Park as a home field at some point in his career, but he said that this series will likely be his last games played at Minute Maid.
Who do you think is the biggest Astros-killer?