Picking a Starting Nine of the Best Houston Astros in Franchise History
It has not been easy to be a Houston Astros fan over the past few seasons so sometimes it's good to remember the good times and why you became a fan of the organization. The Astros have had a great history and have had a number of great players play for their team.
When putting together the greatest lineup in the team's history it obviously starts with Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, but here is how the rest of the starting lineup would shape up.
Leadoff: Cesar Cedeno, Center Field
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Cesar Cedeno was one of the best players to man center field in Houston Astros history. Over his 17 year career, 12 of which were with Houston, he averaged 44 stolen bases and a .285 batting average per season.
He could even provide a little power in the leadoff spot for this team with an average of 16 home runs and 79 RBI per season. He was also no slouch in the field with four golden gloves in a five year span from 1972-1976.
2nd: Craig Biggio, Second Base
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Where do you start with arguably the greatest Houston Astro ever? Over 3,000 hits, seven All-Star appearances, five Silver Slugger awards over a twenty year career that he wore only one uniform. All very impressive stats.
He did whatever the organization asked of him, playing multiple positions over his career from catcher, to outfield to second base, where he spent the majority of his career. He had a little power, a little speed and is the perfect player for the two spot in this lineup.
3rd: Jeff Bagwell, First Base
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One of the weirdest hitting stances in baseball history, but one of the most effective hitters in Astros history, Jeff Bagwell would hit third in this lineup. Bagwell spent his entire career, 15 seasons, with the Houston Astros winning the Rookie of the Year in 1991 and the NL MVP in 1994.
Over his career he averaged 34 home runs, 115 RBI and a .297 batting average which would be impressive stats for just one year. He was consistently one of the top hitters in the game for over a decade and was one of the great Houston Astros.
4th: Ken Caminiti, Third Base
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Ken Caminiti is a name that is synonymous with the steroid era unfortunately, but he was a solid player during his time with the Astros. Houston also has been weak at third base through their history.
Caminiti had his best years with San Diego, but still was a productive hitter and a quality glove in the field for Houston. Over his 15 year career he averaged 22 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .272 batting average.
5th: Jose Cruz, Left Field
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Jose Cruz spent 13 seasons with Houston from 1975 to 1987 and had some of his best years in his career. He went to two All-Star games and won two Silver Slugger awards while with the Astros.
Cruz was consistent over his years, not great at one thing but not bad at one either, and hit .292 with 138 home runs and 942 RBI. He always hustled when he played and became one of the most popular Astros in team history.
6th: Jim Wynn, Right Field
This was the second toughest decision as it came down to Jim Wynn and Lance Berkman, but Wynn gets the nod today. Jim Wynn is a very underrated player and was one of the top outfielders ever to play for the Houston Astros.
He had power, averaged 25 home runs a season, speed, had 42 stolen bases one season, and had over 1200 walks in his 15 year career. Wynn was also a better fielder than Berkman and this is probably where he gets the edge.
7th: Dickie Thon, Shortstop
Along with third base, this was one of the weaker positions in Houston's history. Even though Dickie Thon gets the nod here, he had the potential to be great if it was not for a freak accident in 1984 when he was hit by a pitch in the head.
Thon was making a name for himself as one of the best shortstops in the game as he could play defense and really hit, something Astros' shortstops seem to lack. In 1983 he had hit best season when he hit 20 home runs and stole 34 bases.
Unfortunately, he was not the same after getting hit by that pitch and it begs the question of just how great he could of been if this accident didn't happen.
8th: Brad Ausmus, Catcher
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Brad Ausmus is not making this list because of his play at the plate, but rather for what he did behind the plate. He was one of the best defensive catchers the team has ever had and averaged only 6 errors per season.
He was the starting catcher for the only Astros team to make the World Series and caught for great pitchers like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt.
9th: J.R. Richard, Starting Pitcher
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Who would be the starting pitcher in this lineup was by far the toughest decision as Houston has had a rich history of great starting pitchers. Roger Clemens, Mike Scott, Joe Niekro, Larry Dieker, Roy Oswalt and let's not forget Nolan Ryan. However, in my opinion J.R. Richard was more dominant than all of these guys.
Unfortunately, Richard's career was cut too short due to a stroke he suffered during the 1980 season. The years leading up to that tragic event he was one of the best pitchers in the game. From 1976 to 1980 he won no less than 18 games each season and an ERA below three each season except one.
Before his stroke in 1980, he was 10-4 with an ERA of 1.90 and 119 strikeouts in only 113 innings of work. He looked like he was only getting more dominant and it seems like he was on his way to be one of the greatest ever.