FanGraphs Audio: More Like “Best” Anderson

Episode Twenty-One
In which the panel turns their respective guns around.

Brett Anderson? More Like Best Anderson.
Houston: Bad or Superbad?
Colby Lewis: America’s Sweetheart.
… and other busted moves!

Dave Cameron, Full-Time Employee
Matt Klaassen, Full-Time Enemy

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Audio on the flip-flop.

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Looking at the Astros, it’s muy importante to take their situation during those first eight games into account:

-Lance Berkman was out of the lineup. In a top-loaded offense like Houston’s (Berkman had the twelfth-best wOBA among MLB hitters in 2009–and it was a down year for him), that is critically important. He’s back now, and there’s a real (though not likely) chance that he will not miss another game all season.

It wasn’t just Berkman being out that caused Pedro Feliz to be the #3 hitter… it was also because…

-Three of Houston’s most important players picked those nine games to have horrific small-sample-size slumps which are extremely unlikely to continue. Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, and Wandy Rodriguez. All three were terrible to start the season. Hunter Pence was batting third, but he and Carlos Lee were slumping so badly that this was why Mills moved Feliz to the third spot–not because there were no better hitters for the spot in the long run.

-Houston faced perhaps the most difficult series of pitching matchups of any team in all of MLB to start the season. Lincecum, Halladay, Wainwright, Cain… and they faced two of the best teams in the NL in the Phillies and Cardinals. Furthermore, facing a Giants team which runs Lincecum and Cain out there is a completely different animal from facing them when you only get one of those two guys. If they could run those guys out there 2/3 of the year they’d be a lock for the postseason.

Now, I realize you weren’t saying that Houston is bad *because* of their start, but its use as such is implied: “oh, this is to be expected, they’re a terrible team”.

And I don’t think they’re the worst in baseball. Not with that starting rotation; when your #4 and #5 starters are Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino, I’d say your pitching is in pretty reasonable shape. The Houston defense also figures to be average to above average; Bourn and Pence make up for Carlos Lee’s shortcomings and then some, Feliz is a good defensive third baseman, and Manzella is likely to be somewhere around ML average at shortstop. Berkman and Matsui are about average as well.

It’s the offense that is bad, and even then, it shouldn’t be the worst in baseball under normal circumstances (Berkman in the lineup, Lee and Pence hitting up to their projections, etc).

Are they going to the postseason? No. But I don’t think 75-80 wins is an unreasonable expectation, even with this kind of start in the books. That’s not anywhere close to “historically bad”.