Houston Astros: 50 Greatest All-Time Players, Part 5 of 10
The Houston Astros recently completed their 50th Major League season. Originally, the team was known as the Houston Colt .45s, from their inaugural season in 1962 through 1964. In 1965, however, the team adopted the moniker, "Astros."
Since then, 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, but the Astros did not make it past the first series. Until 1986, the Astros did not return as contenders. In that season, they were once more 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.
30. Mike Hampton (1994-1999, 2009, WAR: 13.8)
Hampton made the jump to pro ball in 1990, signing a contract with the Seattle Mariners after his sixth round draft selection. He made his first Major League appearance with the Mariners in 1993. A trade then sent him to Houston after his first season.
During his first year with the Astros, Hampton was a setup man, appearing in 44 games. Starting from 1995, Hampton would make 172 starts for the team.
1999 was Hampton's best year in the Majors, as he posted a 22-4 record and a 2.90 ERA in 239 innings. He made his first All-Star team, while earning his first of five consecutive Silver Slugger awards. Hampton finished second in the AL Cy Young award ballot.
In two tours with the Astros, Hampton finished with a 76-50 record and a 3.59 ERA in 216 games.
29. Steve Finley (1991-1994, WAR: 14.0)
Finley, a left-handed center fielder, was selected in the 13th round of the 1987 amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He made his first appearance in 1989, and would spend two seasons with the team.
After a trade, Finley was the starting center fielder for the Astros in 1991.
Finley's 44 stolen bases in 1992 was the third most in the NL. In 1993, Finley led the NL with 13 triples.
In 557 games with the Astros over four seasons, Finley hit .281 with 32 home runs, 186 RBI's and 110 stolen bases.
28. Dickie Thon (1981-1987, WAR: 14.4)
Thon, a shortstop, signed an amateur free agent contract with the California Angels in 1975, and made his Major League debut with the club in 1979.
He was traded to the Astros in 1981, and in his first year with the team filled in where needed, second base, third base and shortstop. He hit .274 in 49 games.
In 1982, Thon stole 37 bases, good for ninth most in the NL. 1983 was his best Major League season, when he hit .286, setting career highs with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs, also stealing 34 bases. He earned an invitation to the NL All-Star team and a Silver Slugger.
On April 8, 1984, Thon was drilled in the face with a fastball thrown by pitcher Mike Torrez. He missed the rest of the season and had trouble with depth perception from that point forward.
Thon stayed with the club through 1987, hitting .270 with 33 home runs and 172 RBIs, stealing 94 bases.
27. Roger Clemens (2004-2006, WAR: 15.4)
Clemens' legal problems are well documented, so I won't go into them.
Known as "Rocket," Clemens was drafted in the first round of the 1983 draft by the Boston Red Sox. He would pitch for Boston for 13 seasons, winning 192 games, three AL Cy Young Awards and one AL MVP. He joined the Toronto Blue Jays for two seasons, winning two more AL Cy Young awards. He then pitched five seasons for the New York Yankees, taking home his sixth AL Cy Young award.
Clemens had a career record of 310-160 when he joined the Astros at the age of 41.
In 2004, Clemens finished with a record of 18-4, an ERA of 2.98, 218 strikeouts and his first NL Cy Young award. 2005 saw Clemens put up a league leading ERA of 1.87, going 13-8 with a 1.008 WHIP.
In three seasons with Houston, Clemens posted a 38-18 record and a 2.40 ERA. He rejoined the New York Yankees for one season in 2007.
26. Mike Cuellar (1965-1968, WAR:15.4)
Cuellar signed with the Cincinnati Redlegs as an amateur free agent in 1957. He made his first appearance for the parent club in 1959. He wouldn't make it back to the big leagues until 1964 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
He was traded to Houston in 1965, where he went 1-4 in his first season with the club.
1967 was his best season with the club, as he made the All-Star team by posting a 16-11 record with a career high 202 strikeouts and a 3.03 ERA.
In four seasons with the Astros, Cuellar went 37-36 with a 2.74 ERA.
He joined the Baltimore Orioles in 1969, winning a Cy Young award. He stayed with the team for eight seasons, four times collecting 20 or more victories. He finished his career with the California Angels.