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Astros fans would kill to have Craig Biggio playing again
As bad as the Astros pitching is, a team does not accomplish something so abysmal as a 100-loss season on poor defense alone. Many a team has salvaged 70 or 75 wins with hardly a semblance of a competent pitcher by smacking the hell out of the ball.
Not so for these Astros. Last season, they finished dead last in the majors in runs scored with 583. They also finished in the cellar in both SLG and OBP, tallying .302 and .371, respectively. That says they can't hit for power, can't get on base, and cannot find ANY way to manufacture runs. At least not to the level needed to win, oh...70 games. An offense that atrocious could have Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens, all in their primes, and still lose 100 games (okay, a bit hyperbolic, but you get the picture).
Last year the Astros shopped their aging star outfielder Carlos Lee to the Miami Marlins for prospect Fernando Martinez, who showed little promise in his first significant big league action, batting .237, mustering a .300 OBP, and slugging .466 in 118 at-bats with the Astros last season. Granted, that is a small sample size, and the kid showed some pop, but if that is the kind of middle of the order bat they hope will replace Lee, there is little reason for optimism.
The Astros did try and get some pop in the middle of the order by signing designated hitter Carlos Pena to a one-year deal, but Pena is a player who has already seen his best days. He has failed to eclipse a .200 average in two of the past three seasons, and while he still has pop in his bat, his home run total dipped from 28 in 2011 to 19 in 2012. He might be a decent bat to have in an already good lineup, but not a great difference maker in a terrible one.
The only other offensive players of note are shortstop Jed Lowrie and second baseman Jose Altuve. Lowrie, who came over from the Boston Red Sox before the 2012 season, flourished in limited time in Houston, clocking 16 home runs, 18 doubles, and 42 RBI in only 97 games. But, as in Boston, injuries have always haunted Lowrie, so as solid as he is, he can't help much if he isn't on the field.
Altuve was outstanding in his first full big league season. His BA/OBP/SLG was .290/.340/.399, and he stole 33 bases, en route to his selection, as the only Houston Astros player, to the 2012 NL All Star team.
The rest of the bunch on offense is hardly even worth noting. A bunch of players who are below average at best, and glorified bench players at worst. With such an offense, it is quite difficult to fathom a dramatic one-year turnaround in Houston's run production.