This will be a little bit stream of conscious—just warning you.
Somewhere around the first week of December, probably, I was sure that our dismal, dismal off season maneuvering was going to relegate us to the bottom of the basement. A solid ninety loss season is about all I could wrap my mind around. To be totally honest, part of me still jumps to that conclusion when nay saying begins about the 2009 season.
Then came the Community Projection Project. I wasn't really excited to do it because I thought it was going to be super, super depressing. Then, I filled it out, you gave some input, I tweaked it, some outsiders suggested tweaks in the methodology, and there we were: a .500 team.
A .500 season is nothing to brag about. Part of me would rather us be a basement dwelling team on a budget, with an eye on pouring money into player development, than a .500 team at nine figures, but .500 can make a season exciting. Maybe not exciting, but worth watching at least. Some statistical noise—luck, if you will—pushing us in the positive direction, and suddenly I might need to wake up early (for me) every morning during September and post play off odds again.
With Spring Training coming into full swing, prognostications about the impending season become the topic du jour. Lately, I've read, heard, and discussed a lot of negative opinions in regards to the 2009 Astros. It strikes me as ood too. This is the exact same team as last year, only we don't have Ty Wigginton, who missed 1/3 of the season in 2008, at 3B. Most cite Pythag-records as their claim, which is valid, but those methods are crude,and can't quite capture the value of high-caliber defense.
Dismissing those qualifiers and thinking about how lucky the 2008 Astros were to out perform their Pythag-record that much, doesn't it make sense to think about how unlucky the Astros were in 2008?
In the interest of front page space, I'm now going to make you have click the link to jump...so JUMP.
Here's a quick list, off the top of my head, at 3:30 AM (don't worry dad, I have nothing of importance to do tomorrow) of the unlucky things which befell the Astros in 2008:
- Roy Oswalt was terrible for two and half months. Whether he was pitching through an injury, which I know clack and I think is the case, or just plain unlucky/ineffective—we were a team without an ace for half a season.
- Wandy Rodriguez missed a significant portion of time due to a groin strain. So there was a solid six weeks we were a team without an ace, or a number two.
- Carlos Lee got his pinkie shattered and missed the last month of the season.
- Hunter Pence had to adjust to a league that adjusted to him, and was dismal for the first few months.
- Kaz Matsui missed the first few weeks of the season with a freak (I hope) injury.
If the Astros really were lucky in 2008, imagine how much better they could have been if their luck was ALL good?
Pence seemed to have rounded into form by the seasons end, and most projection systems agree that he'll see a pretty sizable set-up in 2009 from 2008. Hopefully Carlos Lee won't have another digit shattered again, and although I know Kaz will go down with some injury this year, Drew Sutton looks like a more than serviceable replacement. In 2009 we also have Brian Bogusevic waiting in the wings to take a crack and wrenching CF from being an offensive void, and clack has managed to demonstrate that if Coop is smart about it, CF doesn't have to be very void like regardless.
Sure, Roy Oswalt and LaTroy Hawkins pitching in the WBC is iffy from a regular season effectiveness standpoint, but we only have one year's worth of data to make judgments about, so we're not even sure if that's a real issue of concern. Yes, Wandy is already tweaking muscles, but Spring Training is also replete with muscle tweaks that seem ominous. I am also aware that Moehler, Hampton, and Ortiz would seem like a formidable way to stock a rotation circa 2001, but we really only need one of them to perform well, one of them to perform not terrible, and the other one can ride the pine or head to Round Rock. I don't think it's out of the question to expect that at any point in the season those circumstances can't be existence, so that doesn't seem overly dire either.
I know this reads like a fan's exuberance clouded judgment trying to paint some rose tinted gloss on our prospects, but I think the above points are fairly fair...right?
Now comes the audience participation part: