Every offseason needs a gimmick or two. I've rolled out a couple already, but right now this is what's caught my fancy. Let's break down the best Astros at each position around the diamond through spring training. Once or twice a week, I'll post on the Top 5 lists until we get our all-time team. I'm looking at games played and the overall team contribution, with bonus points awarded for playing in the 'Dome, excellence over a short time (The Randy Johnson Rule), etc. First up? Right Field.
The fifth-best Astros right fielder of all time is...Derek Bell. Let's see what his stats weigh in at:
- 608 games played in right
- .284/.341/.430 career line with Houston
- 770 hits as an Astro
- 153 doubles, 10 triples, 74 home runs
- 444 RBIs and 386 runs scored. RBI total ranks third on the list of Houston right-fielders
Bell is hurt by playing in the Astrodome for half his games. That's evident by his paltry 104 OPS+ he put up with Houston, which was the lowest on my six-person list. He did have the second-highest batting average, behind only Hunter Pence. His WAR total was the second-lowest on the list, according to Baseball Reference, and I think Bell was hurt by his defensive reputation. In Houston, Bell's Total Zone rating meant that his dWAR bounced from -1.9 to 1.5 and everywhere in between. Though he finished his career with a negative dWAR, he had a positive 2.6 while in Houston.
Despite posting seasons over 2.0 oWAR while in San Diego, the only real season that Bell excelled in Houston was in 1998, when he went .314/.364/.490 with 22 home runs, 41 doubles, 108 RBIs and 111 runs scored. He also led the league in sacrifice flies despite batting third for most of the season. He was also successful on 13 of 16 stolen base attempts.
Come to think of it, Bell's 1998 season doesn't sound like a bad peak for Hunter Pence. Both players profile similarly, as they both rely on batting average to support higher on-base percentages. They both strike out at a similar rate and hit for similar power, though Pence is probably aided by playing in a ballpark that isn't underground. Bell played the 1998 season at 29, which is one year older than Pence will be in 2011. Of course, the biggest difference between the two is injuries. Bell only played in more than 150 games twice in an 11-year career. Pence has already done that three times in his first four seasons.
I remember being frustrated with Bell more than I cheered for him. He always seemed like he should be playing better than he was. Coupled with his occasional lapses in the field, and my teenaged opinion of him wasn't very high. Still, Bell does hold up as one of the better, more tenured right fielders in Astros history. I'm sure Pence will catch him for this spot in a year or two,but for now, let's give Derek his due.