Houston Astros and a shortcut to competitiveness in 2012

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Houston Astros and a shortcut to competitiveness in 2012
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Competing may seem like a pipe dream now, but there are shortcuts that are within their reach.

Most fans and analysts believe the Houston Astros will be bringing up the rear in the NL Central again in 2012. Honestly, the odds weigh heavier there than in a rebound. However, there are some things the Astros can do within their budget to compete sooner than you think. In fact, they are already on the right track with many of the moves they've already made. 

However, before we can move onto the slides we have a few things to iron out. The Astros have had four bad seasons in five years. The mistake they made earlier was believing that 2008 was a promising campaign. It was a mirage in more ways than one. For a team with a $60 million payroll, big arms and big bats are probably out of reach. However, there are a few small things they can do to improve their odds. First, let me throw in some stats.

Year DER Rank ERA Rank

2007 .685   11   4.68    12

2008 .697     4   4.36     8  

2009 .677   16   4.54    13

2010 .680   14   4.09    10

2011 .681   15   4.49    16

For the uninitiated, DER stands for defense efficiency rating. It is the inverse of batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Unlike some other advanced metrics, it is not doctored at all. It is a simple percentage of the balls in play (not home runs, strikeouts, or walks) that turn into outs. It cannot be manipulated. As the kids say, it is what it is.

Well, the last five years have demonstrated that the Astros are not good at fielding. If their fielding were even league average, they would be better than average in terms of team ERA. So, if you want an average pitching staff, then get to more balls. Well, let's see how next year stacks up.

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