30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — Houston Astros

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Houston Astros.

The Astros showed signs of improvement in 2014 with a 70-92 record following three straight seasons of at least 106 losses and moved out of last place in the American League West. Looking to improve the team and potentially add to the win total even more, the Astros traded for OF Evan Gattis to add to a young offensive core that includes 2B Jose Altuve and OF George Springer.

Last season, the Astros were one of those teams that has trouble getting on base, but when they hit the ball they hit it far. They ranked last in the American League with a .242 average — and had the most strikeouts with 1,442, including 182 from DH Chris Carter — but had the third-highest home run total in the league with 163 long balls. All those home runs didn’t do muc to help their run totals, though, as they had the second-lowest runs per game average in the league at 3.88. The team’s pitching didn’t help matters much; the staff’s 4.11 ERA was the fourth-worst in the league, though SPs Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh had good seasons, each having an ERA under 3.00..

Going into 2015, it looks like it’s going to be another home run-or-bust type of offense for the Astros. Gattis brings with him to Houston 43 home runs in his first two seasons in the majors, but he has also struck out 178 home runs over that time. Keuchel and McHugh are a solid foundation for the rotation, but if the other starters don’t have good seasons, just those two won’t be enough. And the bullpen is a question mark for the team. There is no definitive closer and the options aren’t the best around with the likes of Luke Gregerson and Chad Qualls competing for the position.

The Astros had a 19-win improvement from 2013 to 2014, going from 51 wins to 70. I expect them to add a few more wins this season, ending up with around 75 or 76 wins. Obviously that’s not enough to make the playoffs, but it’s a continued advancement in that direction as the rebuilding effort continues for the team that last made the postseason in 2005.

Source: http://www.astros.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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