Houston Astros 2008 Review:
The 2008 Houston Astros finished the regular season 86-75, 11 games back of the eventual NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs. The Astros got healthy offensive contributions from Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Ty Wigginton, and 35-year-old (if that is his real age) Miguel Tejada.
Berkman was outstanding, hitting .312 to go along with 29 home runs and 106 RBI. What Berkman was to the offense, pitcher Roy Oswalt was to the starting rotation. Oswalt went 17-10 with a 3.54 ERA in 32 games started. Oswalt led the team in innings pitched with 208 2/3 and also led the team in strikeouts with 165. He also only walked 47 hitters. When the Astros needed to stop a losing streak, Oswalt always managed to come through. Oswalt had three complete games, two of them being shut-outs.
Jose Valverde, Doug Brocail, and LaTroy Hawkins led an efficient bullpen that combined with the starting pitchers to walk the third fewest batters in the league. Playing in a solid and balanced NL Central (with the exception of the Pittsburgh Pirates) and a severe lack of starting pitching outside of Roy Oswalt led to a third place finish and no postseason birth.
Houston Astros 2009 Preview:
Thanks in large part to approximately $62 million dollars being tied up in the contracts of the aging Tejada, Berkman, Oswalt, and Lee, and a depleted farm system (one of the worst in all of baseball), the Astros struggled to improve their roster heading into the 2009 season.
With an offense that features only one great hitter in Berkman, and a couple good hitters in Lee, Pence, and Tejada, the Astros could potentially struggle in that regard. Houston only featured one hitter with more than 40 walks last season (Berkman), and with an aging power core, that could prove devastating.
The pitching staff features a solid 1-2 punch of Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez (9-7, 3.54 ERA in 25 starts in 2008), but really lacks a back end to their starting five. Much like last year, the Astros will have an average bullpen, nothing to get excited about.
Ultimately their lack of depth both offensively and defensively will lead to yet another finish towards the bottom of the division. A few injuries to key players and this club could be really hurting. Don’t expect to see the Astros contending for anything in 2009, much less finishing anywhere near .500.