RJ includes a few bullet points from the latest installment of The Bill James Gold Mine:
• ''The Astros had the majors' best OPS from the cleanup spot, but the NL's worst OPS from both the #3 spot and the leadoff spot." They also scored only 712 runs in 2008, 22 below the National League average. Part of the problem was their lead-off hitters, who posted an on-base percentage of .290. That ranked 29th in the majors.
• Lance Berkman's improvement as a baserunner last year extended beyond his surprising 18-for-22 performance as a basestealer. "He also scored from second 16 times, after having done it only six times the year before, and was thrown out on the bases five fewer times."
• "Lance Berkman nearly doubled his doubles total last year, raising his total from 24 to 46." As a righthanded hitter, he hit exactly as many doubles as the year before (6), but from the left side he went from 18 to 40. Batting lefty, he hit 129 flyballs in both seasons; 21 of them went for doubles in 2008, compared to only six the year before.
• "Brandon Backe had the highest slugging percentage allowed among all major league pitchers last year." Opposing batters hit .302 with a .376 on-base percentage and a .544 slugging percentage. For comparison's sake, David Wright batted .302 with a .390 OBP and a .534 slugging percentage.
• "Did any team in 2008 accomplish as much, relative to expectations, as the Houston Astros? The team had won only 73 games in 2007. They signed no significant free agents, the team is getting older, and, as is well known, their farm system has fallen and cannot reach its life-alert bracelet. They are generally conceded to have had the weakest farm system in the majors in recent years, and were picked by many of us to finish last in the division. Yes, they did make a deal for Miguel Tejada, but at the time, the reaction of the press was 'What are they thinking of?' So what did they do? They competed into the last week of the season. I'm sure there are legitimate ways to explain that that would use words like 'courage' and 'determination,' but another thing we could point to is that the team was remarkably good at winning when they scored 3 or 4 runs. They were 25-18 in games when they scored three or four runs."
I really like the Backe comparison to Wright. I wonder what Cooper would think if someone presented that statistic to him?