Looking at this Astros roster, there's one thing that keeps jumping out at you. It goes a little something like this, "If Player X puts it together..." or "If Player Y stays healthy..."
The most recent case of this kind of dreaming comes through Fernando Martinez, who showed off his power swing on Sunday against the Washington Nationals. How huge would it be for the Astros if Martinez hits and becomes the player Mets fans yearned for lo these many years? How huge would it be if he just stayed healthy enough to play regularly?
It's a big if, but it's one that's determined as much by "luck" as it is by anything else.
Luck doesn't just reside in those batting average on balls in play variances. It lives all over the place, from streakiness to player development. There will be a lot of factors this year about which of this multitude of players breaks out and has a good season. Maybe none of them will and maybe three or four pop.
How many will be determined, however slightly, by forces outside the control of this front office. It'll happen for luck, and that's something the Astros haven't had by the barrelful lately. After the jump, we'll look at just how many unlucky things have struck this franchise in the past 12 years.
In looking for unlucky outcomes, you could venture all the way back to 1999, when Moises Alou tore up his knee over the winter. But, for this purpose, we're cutting things off with the move to Minute Maid Park.
Let's list some unlucky occurrences:
Jeff Bagwell's arthritic shoulder
Lance Berkman's flag football injury
Andy Pettitte's elbow injury in 2004
Morgan Ensberg's wrist injury/career implosion
Brad Lidge's high-profile meltdown
The entire 2005 World Series (c'mon, Scott Podsednick going yard?? Give me a break, Luck!)
2006 first-round pick Max Sapp's illness/injury problems
Jason Castro's untimely knee injury
Hurricane Ike heading towards Houston during the 2008 pennant race (not Selig moving the games...just that the games had to be moved in the first place)
And those are just the ones off the top of my head. Sure, there were some lucky things thrown in there, like Vinny Castilla popping up for a half-season or that marathon game against the Braves. But, for the most part, there has been much more ill luck than has been balanced out by fortuitous happenstance.
Prospects don't pan out, but for Houston to go as long as it did without a successful first round pick is both bad luck and bad drafting. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, but Houston chose poorly (Chris Burke) and had a bad run of off-the-field things affecting players. Those things just happen sometimes.
What's more, Houston didn't find itself particularly lucky in the Rule 5 draft, finding itself on the wrong end of the Johan Santana pick to boot. There were a few under-the-radar guys who paid dividends, like Mike Lamb, Geoff Blum and Brandon Backe.
But, for the most part, no players were able to turn things around in Houston over the past decade and give the Astros value and production. There were too many Preston Wilsons or Mike Hamptons and not enough guys like Fernando Martinez could be.
Basically, Houston just needs to get lucky and soon. Maybe this new front office will change that luck. It seems to me that they're already going a ways towards that by bringing in all this competition and these former top prospects. If you're going to gamble, better to spread out your bets over a big pool and hope for one to hit than pin everything on one guy. Maybe this is the year Houston finally reaps some reward from a baseball-related risk.