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Everystros LXXI

In the 71st edition of Everystros, we revisit seven Houston Astros alumni between 1.9 and 2.1 bWAR.

Championship Series - Texas Rangers v. Houston Astros - Game Seven
Martín Maldonado
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

In today’s chapter, we take another look at seven players in Houston Astros lore.

Today’s group of seven features players who combined to net 14.1 bWAR during the Astros part of their careers.

189. Rick Williams (Bagwell score 31.68) is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Merced, CA. Born on November 9, 1952, he got to the major leagues for the first time with the Houston Astros in 1978.

Williams pitched in 17 games for Houston in 1978, all but one in relief. He gave up 19 runs, 18 earned, on 10 walks and 43 hits over 34 23 innings. He struck out 17, posted a 1-2 record with a 4.67 ERA, a 1.529 WHIP, and a .301/.342/.399 opposing slashline, pitching with a 0.70 aLI and stranding five of his eight inherited runners.

In 1979, Williams made 16 starts and came out of the pen an additional 15 times, going 4-7 with a 3.26 ERA, a 1.253 WHIP, and a .261/.307/.341 opposing line. He allowed 45 runs, 44 earned, on 122 hits and 30 walks, striking out 37. He pitched with a 0.92 aLI and allowed eight-of-17 inherited runners to cross the plate.

On May 20, in the first half of a doubleheader against the Padres, Williams held San Diego scoreless on five hits and a walk, while collecting two strikeouts in a 1-0 Houston victory. On May 31, he pitched another shutout, holding the Reds to seven hits and three walks while striking four out in a 3-0 win against Cincinnati. On June 23, he kept the Padres to three hits and two walks for two runs over eight innings, earning a no-decision and striking out five in a 3-2 win over San Diego. As a hitter, he was eight-for-36 over parts of two seasons, with a double, two sacrifice hits, and three walks.

That was the conclusion of his time in the majors, but he did spend the next three seasons playing minor-league baseball. In 1985, he was the Triple-A pitching coach for the Montreal Expos, with the Indianapolis Indians.

188. Eric Brunlett (Bagwell score 41.61) is a six-foot right-handed infielder/outfielder from Lafayette, IN. Born on March 29, 1978, he was initially a 72nd-round choice in 1996 by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school. Instead of signing for what would have been a pittance, Bruntlett attended Stanford University for four years, and became Houston’s ninth-round choice in 2000.

Bruntlett reached the bigs with the Astros in 2003, and appeared in 31 games, slashing .259/.255/.370. He was 14-for-54 with three doubles and one home run. He struck out 10 times, scored three runs, and drove in four. Defensively, he started five games at shortstop (63 13 innings, .963) and three games at second base (41 13 innings, 1.000). He also played 2 13 innings in left, two innings in center, and one at third base without a fielding chance. On September 28, in Houston’s final game of the season, Bruntlett had his first two-hit game with a pair of singles in an 8-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 2004, Bruntlett hit .250/.328/.519 in 45 games, starting 10 games at shortstop (127 innings, .938), one at second base (14 innings, 1.000), and one game in center (nine innings, 1.000), also appearing for one inning in left field. He was 13-for-52 with two doubles, four homers, and four stolen bases without getting caught, and drew seven walks with 13 strikeouts, 14 runs scored, and eight RBI. On August 19, he hit a two-out, three-run go-ahead home run in the seventh-inning of an eventual 12-10 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 2005, Bruntlett appeared in 91 games for Houston, and hit 24-for-109 with five doubles, two triples, four home runs, and seven steals in nine attempts. He slashed .220/.292/.413 with 10 walks, 25 strikeouts, 19 walks, and 14 RBI. As a defender, he played everywhere except for pitcher and catcher, appearing at centerfield (95 innings), second base (79 23 innings, two errors), shortstop (49 innings), left field (28 23 innings), third base (13 innings), right field (two innings), and first base (one inning).

On July 24, Bruntlett entered in the 10th inning of a 1-1 tie with the Washington Nationals as a defensive replacement, then stuck around long enough to hit a three-run, 14th inning homer in a 4-1 win against the Astros. On July 31, he hit a first-inning solo homer, a fourth-inning bases-loaded go-ahead RBI-single, and added another go-ahead RBI-single in the sixth inning of a 9-4 loss to the New York Mets.

In 2006, Bruntlett hit .277/.351/.345 in 73 games, going 33-for-119 with eight doubles and three stolen bases in four attempts. He drew 13 walks and struck out 21 ties, scoring 11 runs and driving in 10. He started 13 games at shortstop (144 23 innings, .951), three games at second base (48 innings, .938), four games in center (39 innings, 1.000), one game in right field (13 23 innings, .833), and one game at third (10 innings, 1.000), also appearing in left field (18 13 innings, 1.000).

Bruntlett played 80 games for the 2007 Astros, hitting .246/.346/.283, going 34-for-138 with five doubles and six stolen bases in nine attempts. He drew 20 walks, struck out 27 times, scored 16 runs, and drove in 14. Defensively, he finally stuck at mostly one position, starting 34 times at shortstop (348 23 innings, .961). He also played 12 23 innings in center, nine innings at third base, 8 13 innings in left field, and two innings in right field one error in one chance. On August 3, he hit a fifth-inning single, a seventh-inning go-ahead two-run double, and an eighth-inning two-run double in an 8-2 win over the Florida Marlins.

On November 7, 2007, the Astros traded Bruntlett with Brad Lidge to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, Mike Costanzo, and Geoff Geary. In 16 postseason games for Houston, Bruntlett collected one hit, a single. After the trade, he spent two seasons with the Phils (192 games, .202/.273/.278, two home runs, 22 RBI).

187. Jack Billingham (Bagwell score 10.32) is a six-foot-four right-handed pitcher from Orlando, FL. Born on February 21, 1943, he reached the major leagues for the first time with the 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers (3-0, eight saves, 2.14, 71 13 innings, 46 K). On October 14, the Montreal Expos acquired Bellingham in the expansion draft. Montreal flipped him to the Astros on April 8.

In 1969, Billingham worked out of Houston’s bullpen, making 48 relief appearances and four spot starts. He was 6-7 with a 4.25 ERA, a 1.464 WHIP, and a .289/.356/.450 opposing slashline. He gave up 45 runs, 39 earned, on 92 hits and 29 walks. He struck out 71 and saved a pair of games. He pitched with a 1.14 aLI and allowed 18-of-47 inherited runners to score.

On April 8, Billingham struck out three over two shutout innings in a 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. In the second game of a doubleheader on May 30, he struck out Bill Mazeroski with a runner on base in fourth inning relief against the Pirates, then struck out seven in total over 4 13 innings of one-run relief to earn a 9-6 victory over Pittsburgh.

On July 6, Billingham took the loss after holding the Padres to one run on four hits over 8 23 innings, striking out six in a 1-0 loss to San Diego. On September 7, he struck out two batters over three scoreless innings of relief against the San Francisco Giants, in a 7-6 victory.

In 1970, Billingham made 24 starts and 22 relief appearances, going 13-9 with a 3.98 ERA, a 1.348 WHIP, and a .259/.325/.351 opposing slashline. He gave up 102 runs (83 earned) on 63 walks and 190 hits over 187 23 innings, with 134 strikeouts. He had a 1.02 aLI and stranded 16-of-20 inherited runners.

On May 31, Billingham struck out three over 3 13 scoreless innings in a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets. On June 3, he struck out 10 and pitched a shutout on eight hits in a 5-0 win over the Expos. On June 23, he did the exact same thing in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres, striking out 10 and allowing eight hits and only an unearned run.

On July 23, he earned a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out seven over a complete game, giving up six hits. On September 11, he struck out eight and pitched a six-hitter in a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves. On September 28, he struck out a season-high 12 Giants and pitched a six-hitter to defeat San Francisco, 3-0.

Billingham joined the Astros rotation for the entire 1971 season, starting 33 times and going 10-16 with a 3.39 ERA, 139 strikeouts in 228 13 innings, a 1.196 WHIP, and a .243/.310/.315 opposing slashline.

On August 21, Billingham pitched a three-hitter, striking out five in a 3-0 win against the Chicago Cubs. On September 5, in the top half of a doubleheader against the Giants, he struck out 11 and allowed five hits for a 1-0 victory over San Francisco. Five days later, he defeated the Reds, 1-0 by striking out six and holding Cincinnati to two hits over a complete game. On September 21, he struck out six batters over a complete game five-hitter, a 3-1 win against the Giants.

186. Mark Loretta (Bagwell score 26.68) is a six-foot right-handed infielder from Santa Monica, CA. Born on August 14, 1971, he was a seventh-round choice of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993 out of Northwestern University.

Loretta reached the majors for the first time with the Brewers in 1995, and eventually totaled eight seasons with the Crew (796 games, .289/.355/.385, 29 home runs, 272 RBI). On August 31, 2002, Milwaukee sent him to Houston for PTBNLs Keith Ginter and Wayne Franklin.

Through the tail end of the season, Loretta slashed .424/.481/.576 in 21 games, starting 10 games at third base (78 innings, .944), five times at shortstop (43 innings, .957), and thrice at second base (22 innings, 1.000). He was 28-for-66 with four doubles, two triples, and one stolen base in two attempts. He drew nine walks, struck out five times, scored 10 runs, and drove eight in, with 10 multi-hit games.

On September 7, Loretta hit four singles with an RBI in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. On September 19, he hit a pair of singles and a double, also drawing a pair of walks to reach base five times in a 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. As soon as it started, it was over. Loretta walked following the season.

After his first hitch with Houston, Loretta played with the San Diego Padres for three seasons (413 games, .314/.377/.438, 32 home runs, 186 RBI, 2004 All-Star), and the Boston Red Sox in 2006 (155 games, .285/.345/.361, five home runs, 59 RBI, All-Star).

Preceding the 2007 season, Loretta rejoined Houston through free agency. He appeared in 133 games, hitting 132-for-460 and slashed .287/.352/.372 with 23 doubles, two triples, four home runs, and one stolen base in three attempts. He drew 44 walks, struck out 41 times, scored 52 runs and drove in 41. As a defender, Loretta started 58 times at shortstop (486 23 innings, .975), 18 times at second base (201 innings, 1.000), 18 games at first base (153 innings, (.994) and 17 at third base (141 13 innings, 1.000).

Loretta had 34 multiple-hit games, including seven three-hit games. On April 16, he hit a fifth-inning single, a sixth-inning two-run go-ahead single, and a ninth-inning walk, eventually scoring the walk-off game-winner for a 4-3 win over the Florida Marlins. On June 29, he was HBP and scored in the second, singled and scored in the fifth, and hit a walk-off come-from-behind two-run homer for a 9-8 victory against the Colorado Rockies.

In 2008, Loretta slashed .280/.350/.383 with 15 doubles and four home runs, with 29 walks, 30 strikeouts, 27 runs, and 38 RBI. He started 41 times at second base (368 innings, .995), 12 times at third base (110 23 innings, .974), four times at shortstop (36 innings, .913), and twice at first base (17 innings, 1.000). On June 6, he went four-for-four in a 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On July 5, in a 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, he hit three doubles with four RBI.

Loretta joined the Los Angeles Dodgers through free agency for the 2009 season (107 games, .232/.309/.276, 25 RBI). He joined the Padres as a special assistant in 2010 after retiring as a player, and later served as the bench coach for the Chicago Cubs in 2019.

185. Martín Maldonado (Bagwell score 15.60) is a six-foot right-handed catcher from Naguabo, PR. Born on August 16, 1986, he was a 27th-round choice of the Anaheim Angels in 2004 out of Dr Juan J Nunez High School.

By the time he reached the majors, Maldonado was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers (355 games, .217/.299/.342, 28 home runs, 111 RBI), and later played with the Los Angeles Angels (216 games, .222/.279/.354, 19 home runs, 70 RBI). On July 26, 2018, the Angels traded Maldonado to the Astros for Patrick Sandoval and international slot money.

Maldonado played in 41 games to close out the season with the Astros, hitting .231/.257/.398 with four doubles, one triple, and four home runs, going 25-for-108 at bat. He drew three walks and struck out 25 times, scoring 15 runs and driving in 12. In 294 23 innings behind the plate, he made zero errors and threw out five-of-eight runners trying to steal, a 225 CS+.

Maldonado had six multiple-hit games, including two three-hit affairs. On August 19, he hit a double, a triple, and a home run in a 9-4 win against the Oakland Athletics. Three days later, he hit a single, a double, and a homer with three RBI in a 10-7 win against the Seattle Mariners.

Maldonado signed with the Kansas City Royals through free agency to start out the 2019 season (74 games, .227/.291/.366, six home runs, 17 RBI), then appeared in four games with the Chicago Cubs (0-for-11). On July 31, 2019, the Cubs traded him to the Astros for Tony Kemp.

Maldonado started his second hitch with the Astros with a 27-game sample to close out the 2019 season, with a .202/.316/.464 slashline. He was 17-for-84 with four doubles and six homers, with 13 walks and 26 strikeouts, with 20 runs and 10 RBI. In 209 innings catching, he fielded at .989 and threw out one-of-11 runners trying to steal for a 33 CS+. Maldonado had 11 multiple hit games to close out the season. On June 28, he hit two doubles and a homer in a 6-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 2020, Maldonado hit .215/.350/.378, going 29-for-135 with four doubles, six homers, and one stolen base in one attempt. He drew 27 walks, struck out 51 times, scored 19 times and finished with 24 RBI and eight multi-hit games. On September 5, he hit a go-ahead ninth-inning two-run single against the Angels, in an eventual 10-9 loss. In 392 innings at catcher, he fielded at .995 and threw out 32 percent of basestealers, a 123 CS+.

In 2021, Maldonado played in 125 games for Houston, the second most of his career behind his 138 games in 2017 for the Angels. He hit .172/.272/.300, going 64-for-373 with 10 doubles, one triples, and 12 homers. He drew 47 walks and struck out 127 times, with 40 runs, 36 RBI, and 12 multiple-hit games. He caught 1010 23 innings with a .993 fielding percentage and caught 19-of-48 runners trying to take a free base, a 174 CS+.

On May 20, Maldonado hit a game-tying third-inning RBI-double and scored, added a two-run fourth-inning homer in an 8-4 win over the Oakland Athletics. On June 4, he hit a sixth-inning grand slam and added an eighth-inning RBI-single in a 13-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Maldonado appeared in 113 games in 2022 and hit .186/.248/.352, going 64-for-344 with 12 doubles, 15 homers, 22 walks, 116 strikeouts, 40 runs, 45 RBI, and 14 multi-hit games. He caught 948 23 innings and fielded at .998 and caught 16 runners trying to steal out of 62 attempts, a 26 percent clip that translates to a 104 CS+.

On June 15, Maldonado hit a double and a home run with three RBI in a 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers. On July 2, he hit two solo home runs in a 9-1 win against the Angels. On September 18, he went four-for-four with a home run and four RBI in an 11-2 win over the A’s.

Maldonado appeared in 116 games in 2023 for Houston, and fielded at .994 in 1006 23 innings, and threw out 14 percent of baserunners trying to steal, a 67 CS+. He hit .191/.258/.348, going 69-for-362 with 12 doubles and 15 home runs. He drew 30 walks and struck out 139 times, with 33 runs, 36 RBI, and 15 multi-hit games. On September 5, he hit a pair of home runs and totaled four RBI in a 14-1 win over the Rangers.

Maldonado signed with the Chicago White Sox this offseason for one year and $4.5 million, with an option for 2025.

184. Chris Sampson (Bagwell score 15.63) is a six-foot-one right-handed pitcher from Pasadena, TX. Born on May 23, 1978, he was originally drafted in the 41st round of the 1997 draft by the Kansas City Royals out of Lon Morris College. Instead of signing, he went to Texas Tech University. In 1999, the Astros chose him in the eighth round.

Sampson reached the bigs with the 2006 Astros and pitched in 12 games, including three starts. He gave up 10 runs, eight earned, on 25 hits and five walks, with 15 strikeouts in 34 innings. He went 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA and a 0.882 WHIP, along with a .205/.240/.295 opposing slashline. On June 7, he held the Cubs to three hits and a walk over seven scoreless innings, in a 1-0 victory over Chicago. On September 19, he relieved in the sixth-inning against the Reds, striking out four over three perfect innings.

Chris Sampson pitched in 24 games in 2007 for Houston, mostly as part of the rotation, with 19 starts. He was 7-8 with a 4.59 ERA, 51 strikeouts in 121 23 innings, a 1.381 WHIP, and a .292/.339/.480 opposing slashline. On April 28, he struck out eight over 6 13 innings, and allowed one run on five hits in a 10-1 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 2008, Sampson pitched in a career-high 54 games, starting 11 times and totaling 117 13 innings. He allowed 60 runs (55 earned) on 23 walks and 118 hits, striking out 61 and going 6-4 with a 4.22 ERA, a 1.202 WHIP, and a .266/.303/.394 opposing slashline. On May 10, in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sampson limited the opposition to three hits over seven innings.

Sampson relieved in 49 games for Houston in 2009, going 4-2 with a 5.04 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 55 13 innings. He allowed 34 runs, 31 earned on 21 walks and 66 hits for a 1.572 WHIP and an opposing line of .293/.352/.427. He pitched with a 1.18 aLI and let 16-of-28 inherited runners cross the plate.

In 2010, Sampson pitched 30 13 innings over 35 appearances. He struck out 16 batters and walked eight, and allowed 22 runs, 20 earned, on 43 hits, with a 1.681 WHIP, a 5.93 ERA, and a .336/.380/.570 slashline.

183. Rafael Landestoy (Bagwell score 23.02) is a five-foot-10 switch-hitting infielder from Bani, DR. Born on May 28, 1953, he reached the majors for the first time in 1977 with the Los Angeles Dodgers (15 games, .278/.381/.278).

Landestoy joined the Astros via trade in July 1978, and appeared in 59 games down the stretch, going 58-for-218 with five doubles, a triple, and seven stolen bases in 11 attempts. He drew eight walks and struck out 23 times with 18 runs and nine RBI, with 18 multi-hit games.

On July 24, he hit a single and a double with two walks and two RBI in a 6-5 win against the Montreal Expos. On September 1, he hit four singles with an RBI in a 14-11 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

In 1979, Landestoy slashed .270/.338/.344 in 129 games, going 76-for-282 with nine doubles, six triples, and 13 steals in 17 attempts. He drew 29 walks and struck out 24 times with 33 runs and 30 RBI, along with 15 multiple-hit games. On September 11, he had four singles and a double with two RBI in a 9-8 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

The 1980 campaign would see Landestoy slash .247/.306/.328 in 149 games, going 97-for-393 with 13 doubles, eight triples, a home run, and 23 stolen bases in 35 attempts. He drew 31 walks and struck out 37 times, with 42 runs, 25 multi-hit games, and 27 RBI. On June 3, he hit a two-run go-ahead triple in the eighth inning in a 3-2 win over the San Diego Padres. He started the 1981 season by hitting 11-for-74 with one double and one triples in 35 games for Houston.

On June 8, 1981 the Astros traded Landestoy to the Reds for Harry Spilman. Landestoy went on to play three seasons for Cincinnati (92 games, .181/.241./228, one home run, 10 RBI) and two for the Dodgers (132 games, .191/.231/.257, two home runs, three RBI).