Baseball Musings Previews the NL Central: Houston Astros

Jason CardwellCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 11:  Members of the St. Louis police and fire departments display a U.S. flag in center field as the national anthem is played on the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks before the start of the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros on September 11, 2006 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

This is easily the best prediction for the NL Central I have encountered so far. Here is what he has for Houston and where each team will finish:

Houston Astros

  • Position player WAR: 20.5
  • Starters WAR: 7.3
  • Closer WAR: 0.8
  • Total WAR: 28.6
Icon SMI

Lance Berkman carries the big bat for the Astros. Photo: Icon SMI

The Astros tie up a good chunk of their core value wins in two players, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. Together they combine for 10.6 of the 28.6 value wins from 2008. Berkman is more than twice as good as the next nearest position player, beating Carlos Lee 6.9 to 3.4 in value wins. Oswalt isn’t quite that far ahead of Wandy Rodriguez, 3.7 to 2.7, but Wandy hasn’t been consistent through this career. If anything major happens to Lance or Roy, the Astros are in big trouble.

There is some upside in two of the younger hitters, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Both posted very strong on-base averages in the minors, which neither of them have come close to in the majors. Pence adds power to that equation. If the two can get on base at around a .360 rate, they should bring this offense a bit closer to the Cubs. I just don’t believe there’s enough at the back of the rotation, however, to catch Chicago.

Pretty much nails it. Hopefully this Berkman shoulder injury is a short-term deal and Oswalt can stay healthy. I have a feeling Bourn is going to get on base more this season and Hunter Pence is going to be more productive offensively, so maybe, just maybe, Houston can compete with Chi-town. I’m banking on the wild card if anything, though.

Baseball Musings’ predictions for the end of the year:

Prediction

Here’s how I see the six teams finishing, with my chance of their winning the division:

  1. Cubs, 55%
  2. Cardinals, 15%
  3. Astros, 12%
  4. Brewers, 10%
  5. Reds, 7%
  6. Pirates, 1%

The Cubs should win this division easily provided they stay healthy. Even with a couple of injuries they have enough depth to put together a very good season. The Cardinals should challenge for the wild card, but for the Astros, Brewers and Reds, they need unexpected players to post career years or some youngsters to really improve. It seems to me the excitement in the central this season will once again come from the wild card race rather than a close battle with the Chicago.

I agree with his slotting the Astros third. I think that it is definitely going to be between them and St. Louis for the second spot in the division and the possible wild card in the NL.

You can read the rest of David’s post here.