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On the Astros: The 2013 season in review

It was bad, people. But, we are obligated to gaze back on it a day after the season ended to see just how bad it was.

Eric Christian Smith

The 2013 season is mercifully over. As the Astros finished on a 15-game losing streak, it was clear fans just needed a break. Now, they've got one through a long, cold winter with no baseball. That's sad, too.

None of you might want to revisit the season, but let's take a quick tour of the big-picture stuff on this 2013 team. We'll be starting a project this week, too, that looks back on individual players with more depth to see how they performed. But, for now, we get an overview on the mediocrity that was this season.

By the numbers

21 - That's the number of rookies that debuted for Houston this season. That includes 12 pitchers and nine position players getting a range of playing time. Twice before, Houston debuted 21 or more players. In 2011, they had 21 position players debut and had another 21 position players debut in 1991.

51 - That's the number of wins Houston managed this season. It was significantly less than I at least expected them to win but somehow more than they were projected to win by many preseason sources. It also marks the third straight season where Houston has seen a decrease in wins. Only one other time in franchise history has Houston had a similar streak.

It also means the Astros have failed to win 60 games for three straight seasons. To put that in better context, even the expansion Astros won 60 or more games in each of their first four seasons. Yep, these last three Astros teams were worse than the expansion era.


1,535 - That would be the number of strikeouts Houston had this season offensively. It set a major league record for whiffs in a season. Again, to put that into context, that is more strikeouts than the '79-'80 Astros had combined.

Double yikes.

Notable surprises

Let's start with the front office's biggest offseason addition. Jose Veras was a journeyman reliever with good stuff who had never really been given a chance to close. The Astros did that for him, he turned into a very good late-inning reliever and the Astros were able to flip him to the Tigers.

Then, there was the surprise of Jason Castro's production. After struggling through two injury-filled seasons, Castro finally got through a season (relatively) healthy. He also was entering his prime as a player and saw a boost in his power numbers. It wasn't a small boost, either, as Castro tied the team record for home runs by a catcher with 18.

His season earned him an All-Star nod and shored up one of two positions on the diamond for the Astros heading into 2013. He was also one of the few Astros players to total more than 4 fWAR in future seasons.

And...that was about it. You could make a case that the rotation became a mild surprise by the end of the season with all the young starters performing well, but they didn't play enough to really confirm themselves as "breakout" guys. Certainly, though, Brett Oberholtzer showed something in his late-season rotation spot and Dallas Keuchel improving his strikeout rate counts as a nice surprise.


Let's start with the free agent flops. Both Rick Ankiel and Philip Humber were fairly high-profile flops, as Ankiel hit.194/.231/.484 with five home runs and 35 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances. He opened the season as the starter in right field, but never locked that down and the position became a disappointment for the team all season.

As a whole, Astros right fielders hit .238/.284/.353 with a 75 wRC+, second-lowest in the majors. If that wasn't bad enough, Houston also had the sixth-lowest defensive totals in the majors at the position. I'm not sure we can call this a pure disappointment, though, since we expected Houston to be vulnerable at the position going into the offseason and then into spring training. Guess what? They were.

Philip Humber was also a bit of a disappointment as well. He was supposed to be an anchor for the rotation, bouncing back to that perfect game stuff, but instead, his confidence fell apart and he quickly blew up. Let's not revisit his numbers, because they made me sad.

Oh, and one more disappointment: Jose Altuve. Despite getting a nice, long contract extension for reasonable money, Altuve had a bit of a slump in his third season in the big leagues. In 672 plate appearances, Altuve saw regression in his batting average, his on-base percentage and his baserunning. His defense improved but his walk rate and strikeout rate both got worse.

It's not that Altuve was without value, but he could not be considered a league-average regular in 2013, based on his combination of numbers. He'll get there, I'm sure, since he is still just 23. But, Altuve did not thrill Astros fans with his numbers this season.

Questions about coaching staff

Here's one that will be interesting to watch this week. Jose Ortiz tweeted last night that there could be significant shifts in the coaching staff this week, according to his source. One of the reasons for this is because players didn't get better in Houston, went down to Oklahoma City and suddenly got better after they were called back up.

That should speak highly of Tony DiFrancesca at Triple-A and his staff, but it can't speak well for Houston's current set of coaches. What do they do with a guy like Brett Wallace, who worked with hitting coach John Mallee all offseason but still struggled out of the gate. Or what happens when the pitching staff burns out so spectacularly, with few pitchers taking a step forward at all?

Mallee, I think, is safe, since there was a noticeable improvement in Jason Castro's power swing that might be attributable to the work he did with Mallee, among other things.

But, everyone else could be on notice. Even someone like Eduardo Perez, who should be a big part of the coaching staff with his emphasis on the shift, might be in trouble since the team went away from shifting in the second half.

The team just lost 111 games, so it's safe to say that no one on the staff is safe. Bo Porter will still be there next year (probably), but everyone else is a question mark.

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