Houston Astros: 50 Greatest All-Time Players, Part 10 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, and 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 round. It was not until 1986 that the Astros would 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 and then the St. Louis Cardinals. The team was defeated in four games by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
Since that 2005 World Series appearance, Houston has only 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.
5. Lance Berkman (1999-2010, WAR: 46.1)
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Berkman, also known as "Fat Elvis" and "the Big Puma," was a first round draft pick out of Rice University for Houston in 1997. He first appeared with the Astros in 1999, hitting .237 in 106 at bats.
In 2000, Berkman finished sixth in the Rookie-of-the-Year polls, belting 21 home runs and 67 RBI with a .297 average.
He was selected to five All-Star teams over the next eight seasons for Houston, each time getting enough MVP votes to finish in the NL top-five.
Berkman played all three outfield positions and first base, seeing extended time at each. Over 12 seasons with the Astros, he hit .296 with an OBP of .410. He also clubbed 326 home runs and collected 1,090 RBI.
He was traded to the New York Yankees midway through the 2010 season, and has since spent one season with the St. Louis Cardinals.
4. Jose Cruz (1975-1987, WAR: 49.0)
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Cruz originally signed a free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1966, and first appeared with the club in 1970. Over five seasons with the Cards he hit .247 in 445 games. Houston purchased his contract following the 1975 season.
For Houston, Cruz played each of the outfield positions. He was twice selected to represent Houston at the All-Star game, and won Silver Sluggers in 1983 and 1984, hitting .315 with 26 home runs and 187 RBIs. He also was a credible threat on the bases, swiping 288 bags over his 13 seasons in Houston, which he ranks third for the franchise all-time.
In total, Cruz hit .292 in 1,870 games for the Astros. He hit 138 home runs and 942 RBI.
Cruz finished out his career with the New York Yankees in 1988. The Astros retired jersey number 25 in his honor in 1992.
3. Cesar Cedeno (1970-1981, WAR: 49.4)
Cedeno came to the Astros as an amateur free agent in 1967, and first appeared with the club in 1970. He hit .310 and stole 17 bases in 90 games, and he finished fourth in the NL Rookie-of-the-Year voting.
From 1972 through 1977, Cedeno never failed to steal at least 50 bases per season. He also garnered four All-Star selections and five Gold Gloves in center field during the span.
In 1,512 games over 12 seasons with the Astros, Cedeno hit .289 with 163 home runs and 778 RBIs. He is Houston's all-time leader in stolen bases with 487.
2. Craig Biggio (1988-2007, WAR: 66.2)
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Houston selected Biggio out of Seton Hall in the first round of the 1987 draft.
Originally a catcher, Biggio later won four consecutive Gold Gloves at second base. He was also a seven time All-Star and won five Silver Slugger awards.
Durability was never an issue for Biggio, as he averaged 152 games per season (not counting his rookie season or the strike shortened 1994 campaign). He hit over 20 home runs eight times and stole over 20 bases on nine occasions, leading the NL with 39 in 1994.
In 2,850 games over 20 Major League seasons, all with the Astros, Biggio hit .281 with 291 home runs-good for third place all-time for Houston. He drove in 1,175 RBIs and had 414 stolen bases, both totals place him second on the all-time franchise list. With his 287 career HBP's, Biggio is second on the all-time list. His 53 leadoff home runs is a National League record.
The Astros retired his number jersey in 2008.
1. Jeff Bagwell (1991-2005, WAR: 79.9)
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Originally, Bagwell was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round of the 1989 draft. He was traded to the Astros system while still a minor leaguer in 1990.
Bagwell won the NL Rookie-of-the-Year award in 1991 by hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 82 RBIs.
In 1994, Bagwell took home the NL MVP award by hitting .368 with 39 home runs and a league leading 116 RBIs in only 110 games. He also won that year's Gold Glove award at first base.
He was a four time All-Star and a three time winner of the NL Silver Slugger award at first base.
Bagwell was an extremely patient hitter at the plate, resulting in 1,401 career walks helping him to a .408 career OBP. In 15 seasons with the Astros, Bagwell hit .297 in 2,150 games. He is the Astros all-time leader with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs.
Houston retired his number five jersey in 2007.