Houston Astros: 50 Greatest All-Time Players, Part 7 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 NLCS. Until 1986, the Astros did not return as contenders. In that season, they were once more eliminated in the NLCS.
From 1997 through 2005, the Astros reached 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, and 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 only 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.
20. Turk Farrell (1962-1967, WAR: 18.2)
Farrell originally signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1953, first appearing with the club in 1956. He enjoyed an All-Star season in 1958, and was selected by Houston in the "Premium" phase of the expansion draft in 1961.
Despite compiling a woeful 10-20 record in the inaugural 1962 Houston Colt .45 season, Farrell led the team in several pitching categories. His 241.2 innings pitched, his 203 strikeouts and his 3.02 ERA led all Houston starters. He was selected to the All-Star game, appearing as Houston's lone representative.
Farrell appeared in two more All-Star games for Houston over the next three seasons, and compiled a career record of 53-64 with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.142 WHIP over six seasons as a starter.
The Phillies purchased his contract in May of 1967, and Farrell pitched the final three seasons of his Major League career with Philadalphia.
It was once said of Farrell by a teammate, "When he loses, he loses his temper, but when he wins he's the life of the party."
19. Glenn Davis (1984-1990, WAR: 19.1)
Davis was selected by Houston in the first round of the 1981 January secondary amateur draft out of the University of Georgia.
In a limited appearance in 1984, Davis hit .213 in 18 games for Houston. In his official rookie season of 1985, Davis finished the year fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .271 with 20 home runs and 64 RBI in 100 games.
1986 saw Davis collect a Silver Slugger award and his first invitation to the All-Star game by hitting 31 home runs and 101 RBI. He placed second in the year end balloting for NL MVP.
Davis made the All-Star team twice more in his final four seasons with Houston. He hit .262 with 166 home runs and 518 RBI during his Astros years. He played with the Baltimore Orioles for his final three Major League seasons, retiring after 1993.
He currently serves as an elected city councilman for the city of Columbus, Georgia.
18. Doug Rader (1967-1975, WAR: 19.5)
Rader was initially signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 1965. Throughout his career, he was known as "the Red Rooster" for the signature mop of red hair which protruded from under his cap.
He debuted with the Astros in 1967, hitting .333 in 47 games. Over nine Houston seasons, Rader hit 128 home runs and 600 RBI, but was mainly known for his defensive prowess.
From 1970 through 1974, Rader won five consecutive Gold Glove awards by finishing in the NL top five in putouts and assists in each of the five seasons. Oddly, he did not lead the league in fielding percentage at the position until 1975, the first year in six in which he did not receive the award.
17. Ken Forsch (1980-1990, WAR: 20.7)
Forsch was selected in the 18th round of the 1968 amateur draft by Houston out of Oregon State University.
Forsch joined the parent club in 1970, posting a 1-2 record in four starts. When he rejoined the club in 1971, he was used both as a starter and as a reliever, delivering an 8-8 record and a 2.53 ERA.
He continued to work as a spot starter and reliever for the next two seasons. Starting in 1974, his primary use was as a long reliever. For the next five seasons, a typical game for Forsch lasted just over two innings. He collected 46 saves over this time with a 2.73 ERA.
He was selected as an NL All-Star in 1976, and was second in the NL with 19 saves.
Forsch then rejoined the rotation for two more seasons. On April 7, 1979, Forsch no-hit the Atlanta Braves, walking two and striking out three.
He collected a 78-81 record and a 3.18 ERA in 421 games over 11 seasons with the club. He was traded to the California Angels just prior to the 1981 season, and would spend five years with the club before retiring.
16. J.R. Richard (1971-1980, WAR: 22.4)
Richard was selected with the second pick in the first round of the 1969 amateur draft by the Astros.
He was used sparingly as a spot starter and an occasional reliever through his first four seasons with the club, appearing in 39 games and posting an 11-6 record during this time. He struck out 8.5 batters per nine innings during this time.
In 1975, Richard joined the regular rotation, posting a 12-10 record while leading the league with 20 wild pitches and 138 walks.
1976 was better for Richard. Even though he again led the NL in walks, with 151, he posted a 20-15 record with a 2.75 ERA and an NL leading 6.9 hits allowed per nine innings.
His control never really got better, as he continued to rank amongst the NL leaders in walks. His strikeout rate also increased. He led the NL in strikeouts in 1978 with 303, and again in 1979 with 313.
1980 was shaping up to be a career year for Richard, as he had a 10-4 record and a career best 1.79 ERA. He had allowed 65 hits in 113.2 innings and struck out 119 when on July 30, a massive stroke sidelined him with a career ending injury.
He had amassed a 107-71 record with a 3.15 ERA and 1,493 strikeouts.