Let's see...50th anniversary season. 25th game. Why not talk about the 25th anniversary season, way back in 1987?
Back then, Houston was coming off a massively exciting season in '86, but one that ended on a pretty bleak note. So, they started the '87 season having most of their starting lineup intact from that magical '86 season.
Things quickly changed, though. How does a team go from the NLCS and being a step away from the World Series to a sub-.500 squad? Well, let's look at just that:
- Bob Knepper, who was brilliant in '86, posted a much, much worse ERA in 31 starts, going 8-17 over that stretch. Knepper was 17-12 with a 3.14 ERA in '86.
- Charlie Kerfeld also regressed, along with Jim DeShaies and a couple other Astros pitchers. That's why they allowed 109 more runs in '87 than the previous season. Since their runs scored total didn't deviate much, their record did.
- Dickie Thon came back for a run as the starting shortstop for a time in May and June, but didn't play again with Houston after July 2. He was released in the offseason.
- Terry Puhl and Jose Cruz both did very poorly at the plate and were marginalized by younger guys like Gerald Young.
Other than that, Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan both had decent seasons, Glenn Davis hit home runs, Denny Walling posted decent numbers, Alan Ashby did the same thing he had done the last few years. The team just couldn't catch any breaks.
But, that doesn't mean things weren't looking up. As I mentioned above, Gerald Young had a huge season in limited time, hitting .321/.380/.380 in 303 plate appearances as a 22-year old. Ken Caminiti made his big-league debut, showing little power and less plate discipline (44 Ks in 218 PAs), but hitting two fewer home runs than Walling did in about 150 more plate appearances.
Oh, and the best news may have come in June, when Houston drafted a kid out of Seton Hall who would eventually lead this team back to the postseason. They also drafted Darryl Kile, so it was a pretty productive season from that aspect.
However, they said goodbye to a lot of club icons. In addition to Thon, '87 was the final season for Phil Garner and Jose Cruz, as Garner was traded to the Dodgers in the middle of the season and Cruz signed with the Yankees in the offseason.
Nolan Ryan had a somewhat famous season here, leading the league in ERA at 2.79 but only winning 8 games. Because pitching wins tell us so much about how successful a season the team had.
All in all, the '87 campaign was more a year of transition than the club may have wanted. In that way, it's got something in common with the 50th anniversary campaign.