Pitching Woes Killed the Houston Astros' Season

Richard ZowieCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

PHOENIX - AUGUST 30:  Starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez #51 of the Houston Astros reacts to a call during the major league baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 30, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Astros 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros, after 157 games this season, are 73-84, in fifth place in the NL Central, and 17 games back of the first place St. Louis Cardinals

The Astros' chances at the postseason are deader than...well, it would be in poor taste to give names, but deader than a certain environmentalist actor who died in his early 20s from a drug overdose.

Going into this season, I suspected the Astros were in trouble—even with their early flirtations with first place. In spring training, their pitchers were getting killed, and the season turned out to be no different. Take away Roy Oswalt (who's struggled with injuries) and Wandy Rodriguez, and the 'Stros have no decent starting rotation.

That's not good. At all.

People roll their eyes when they hear, "Offense wins games, defense wins championships," but it's true. Think of all the great teams that have won World Series, and they all have something in common: GREAT starting pitching.

I hope in the offseason Drayton McLane or somebody can recruit a few decent free agents to pitch for Houston. I'm also hoping Bud Norris further develops and becomes a solid starter. Sure, there's the short porch in left field to worry about, and the park's atmosphere isn't as homer-unfriendly as the Astrodome, but fly balls hit to deep left center, right center, or center tend to die.

Of the 22 pitchers currently on Houston's roster, only five have ERAs below 3.00. Only eight are below 4.00. Of all the starting pitchers, only three (Oswalt, Wandy, and Norris) have winning records.

Wandy Rodriguez is the classic study in frustration: 14-11 record, 2.97 ERA, 190 strikeouts. With more run support, he could've possibly been 20-5 and would be a Cy Young candidate.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20, and it really makes me cringe to think of how Houston guessed wrong and let Andy Pettitte and Randy Wolf go. It's as painful as John McMullen's disastrous decision to save money by letting Nolan Ryan go and replacing him with the unforgettably forgettable Jim Clancy.