The Reality of the Astros Series

No baseball fan needs to be reminded of the reasons why people say the Houston Astros are not a very good baseball team so here is the high-level summary:

·         Their $24.5 million TEAM payroll for 2013 is in the neighborhood of what an individual superstar player earns per year and while spending money is not everything, a payroll that low is certainly reflective of the competitive disadvantage the team was at before the season even began.

·         The Astros aren’t hitting – Among the 15 American League teams, the Astros rank 14th in OBP, 11th in SLG, 10th in runs scored, and 1st in strikeouts.

·         The Astros aren’t pitching – Among the 15 American League teams, the Astros rank 15th in runs allowed, 14th in strikeouts, 15th in homeruns, and 15th in hits.

So yea . . . I am not going to argue with anyone who wants to say that the 2013 Astros have been a bad team.

However, through all of that Houston has still managed to win 21 of their first 58 ball games, which puts them on pace for 59 wins.  That is not good by any means but that roughly means they are on pace to be the normal, annual “worst team in the league” rather than a ’62 Mets-like “historically bad” team.  Even more relevant to the matter at hand is that the Astros are winners of six straight games and seven of their last eight.  In their last eight games they have only once allowed more than four runs and that particular game took place in the hitter-friendly Coors Field.

In any given year, even the worst teams are generally not *that* bad.  The Astros are proof of that.  Even relatively bad teams can and will play stretches of good baseball.

Sports are results-driven though so we sometimes lose sight of that.  This sometimes leads us to believe that even in a professional league with as equal of competition as Major League Baseball that the good teams should ALWAYS beat the bad teams.  It is why some Orioles fans believe that anything less than a sweep of the Astros these next three days is a failure.

It is a foolish way to think.

The Astros are likely to win somewhere between 55 & 60 games.  There are really no teams worse than them in the Majors – maybe the Marlins – and are a few teams hovering around the same level (though those teams generally have more talent on paper).  Houston is going to win 55 or 60 games and more than half of those wins are going to come against teams that are or were expected to contend.  A win or two might even come against the Orioles.  It could even come this week.

If it does, step off the ledge and go back into your living room.  Everything will be alright.

While even the worst teams like the Astros generally win somewhere around 55 to 60 games, even the good teams lose as many as 60 games.  Not all of those losses are to other good teams, either.  That’s the nature of a 162-game MLB season. 

Houston has won 7 out of the 10 games they have played against the Anaheim Angels, despite the fact that the Angles have a payroll 5 ½ times larger than the Astros’ with a talent gap to match.  That’s baseball.  The Tigers, Yankees, Pirates, and Rangers – all contending teams – have dropped a game to the Astros this season.  The Rockies have dropped 3 out of 4.  There is an argument that good teams don’t lose to teams as bad as the Astros.  That is utterly false.  Good teams win a lot – regardless of who they are playing.  That is what the Orioles have done so far this season and last.  What separates good teams from middling ones is not wins over the Astros, but consistent winning regardless of the opponent.

It is possible that the Orioles will lose a game to the Astros this week and to label that a failure before it even happens is absurd.  All those fans are doing is setting themselves up for disappointment at worst if things don’t go well and an empty contented feeling if they do.

The Astros are pitching well and playing good baseball.  The Orioles players, coaches, and manager will undoubtedly view the series in Houston as they do every other.  They will take one game at a time and look for a series win versus another major league ball club.  The fans would be wise to view it similarly.  There will be a lot less angst that way.