2008 Houston Astros Baseball Preview
The Houston Astros (73- 89) made their first World Series appearance in 2005. Then they barely missed the post-season in 2006 and then in 2007 the “Stros” finished 12 games out of first. After that, Houston hired new GM Ed Wade, and he immediately started making deals, bringing in run producers and the best closer in the NL.
With a weak rotation, you have to wonder if this team can go anywhere? Roy Oswalt (14- 7, 3.18 ERA, 154 SO) is certainly a first-rate pitcher. But after that the Astors’ rotation is a conglomeration of third, fourth and fifth starters. Righty Brandon Backe (3- 1, 3.77 ERA, 11 S)) has potential to put double digits in the win column. But the “W’s” in the names of Wandy Rodriguez (9- 15, 4.58 ERA, 158 SO) and Woody Williams (8- 15, 5.27 ERA, 101 SO) do not stand for “wins.” Closer Jose Valverde (1-4, 2.66 ERA, 47 SV, 78 SO, .196 BAA), who led the majors with 47 saves, comes to Houston from Arizona. Setup man Doug Brocail is a good role player.
Look for more output from the improved Astro offense that includes former Oriole Miguel Tejada (.296 BA, 18 HR, 81 RBI) and former Rockie Kaz Matsui (.288 BA, 4 HR, 37 RBI). Mark Loretta (.287 BA, 4 HR, 41 RBI), a versatile fielder, has a good stroke. LF Carlos Lee (.303 BA, 32 HR, 119 RBI) is the guy you want at the plate when you need a big hit. 1B Lance Berkman, a switch, has power but strikes out a lot.
Fifteenth in double plays and eighth in overall fielding does not make a contender. Catcher J.R. Towles, who played 14 games last season and hit .375, gets the nod to start. He’s got good defensive skills. Third base and first are not very strong, short and second are better. Overall the outfield looks good.
Houston bench coach Cecil Cooper, who cut his managerial teeth in the minors, is the team’s new skipper. He got the job after serving as the interim manager the last part of the 2007 season after Phil Garner was canned. From player to minor league manager to major league coach, Cooper has always garnered respect. There’s reason for optimism in Houston.
For more info on Houston check out the MLB website for the Astros.