Houston Astros: 50 Greatest All-Time Players, Part 3 of 10
The Houston Astros recently completed their 50th Major League season. The team was known as the Houston Colt .45's from their inaugural season in 1962 through 1964. In 1965 the team adopted the moniker "Astros."
The Astros have been to the postseason nine times, winning the National League pennant in 2005. Houston only hit .500 once in its first 10 seasons, and did not post a winning record until 1972. Their first postseason appearance was in 1980, as the team took home their first NL West title.
They again made the playoffs in the following season, the strike-shortened 1981 campaign. Again, the Astros did not make it past the first series. Until 1986, the Astros did not repeat as contenders. In that season, they again were eliminated in the first round.
From 1997 through 2005, the Astros made the postseason six times. They won their first ever series in 2004, against the Atlanta Braves before losing the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2005, the team advanced to the World Series by first beating the Atlanta Braves then the St. Louis Cardinals. The team was defeated in four games by the Chicago White Sox.
In the six seasons since that time, Houston has posted a winning record twice, and in 2011 finished 50 games under .500, their worst season ever. The Astros can only go up from here. As we reflect on what next season may hold, let's take a look back at the Astros Top 50 players of all-time.
This list was compiled with resources available at www.baseball-reference.com, namely the "Wins Above Replacement" statistic.
40. Art Howe (1976-1982, WAR: 11.9)
Howe was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent in 1971 and made his debut with the club in 1974.
In 1976, he joined the Astros, and would play there for the next seven seasons.
Howe was the ultimate utility infielder, playing all four positions. In 1977, he compiled a .986 fielding average playing at second, third and short.
In 706 games, Howe hit .269 with 39 home runs and 266 RBI's for Houston.
He finished out his playing career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
39. Jim Deshaies (1985-1991, WAR: 12.0)
Deshaies was selected in the 21st round of the 1982 amateur draft by the New York Yankees. After a cup of coffee call up in 1984, he joined the Astros in a trade for Joe Niekro.
In 1986, Deshaies had a great rookie season, going 12-5 with a 3.25 ERA and finishing seventh in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. In a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he struck out the first eight batters in the game, setting a Major League record.
In 1988 and 1989, Deshaies compiled a 26-24 record with a 2.95 ERA and a WHIP of 1.144. He held his opponents to a .218 batting average over the span.
In seven seasons for Houston, Deshaies went 61-59 with a 3.67 ERA.
38. Bob Bruce (1962-1966, WAR: 12.2)
Bruce was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a free agent in 1953.
For Houston, Bruce was a right handed starter. He was part of the original Houston Colt .45's rotation.
In five years with the Astros/Colt .45's, Bruce posted a 42-58 record with a respectable 3.78 ERA. He struck out 609 in 907 innings, walking 242.
He finished out his career in 1967 with the Atlanta Braves.
37. Morgan Ensberg (2000-2007, WAR: 12.2)
Ensberg, a third baseman, was chosen by Houston in the ninth round of the 1998 amateur draft.
His first four seasons established Ensberg as a quality everyday infielder. He posted a .277 batting average with 38 home runs and 145 RBI's in 311 games.
He put together a career season in 2005, earning an All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger. He hit 36 home runs with 101 RBI's and a .283 batting average.
He was traded to the San Diego Padres during the 2007 season and played with the New York Yankees in 2008. After no Major League teams showed any interest, he retired after the 2009 season. He recently started a public blog and announced his intent to transition into a broadcasting career.
36. Denny LeMaster (1968-1971, WAR: 12.4)
LeMaster signed an amateur free agent contract with the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. He would make his Major League debut in 1962 with the Braves, and would spend his first six seasons with the franchise.
LeMaster played for the Astros for four seasons, compiling a 30-46 record with a 3.40 ERA. He struck out 450 in 690 innings.
He finished out his Major League career by playing the 1972 season with the Montreal Expos.
Check back tomorrow for part four of the All-Time Greatest Astros