2013 American League Preview: Houston Astros

Christian Petersen

Let's Go Tribe's look at the Indians' competition around the American League continues with the Houston Astros, the junior circuit's newest member, and quite possibly its worst.

Houston Astros

2012 Record: 55-107 (6th in N.L. Central), 2-1 vs. Cleveland

583 runs scored (16th of 16 in N.L.), 794 runs allowed (15th of 16 in N.L.)

The Astros had their worst season in franchise history in 2012, at least by wins and losses. Through June 27 they were bad, but not in any particularly dramatic way. They were sitting on a 32-43 record at that point. Then Houston went on the worst 50-game stretch by any MLB team since 1937, going 7-43 over the next eight weeks. They stabilized some over the final four weeks of the season, but still ended up at 55-107, the worst record by any team since the 2004 Diamondbacks.

Jose Altuve was the only Astro to collect 500 PA with the team and no one on the team hit more than 16 home runs or drove in more than 55 runs. Lucas Harrell qualifies as the "ace" of their staff last year, but only an Indians fan could envy an ace with an ERA+ of 106 and a K/BB ratio of 1.79.

Houston's reward for finishing with such a poor record? They get moved to the American League, where the competition is even tougher. They also further stripped down their already weak roster, trading away Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and others during the second half last year, then Jed Lowrie and others in the offseason. Not that those guys were world beaters, or that the goal of any of Houston's recent moves was short term success, but things might be about to get even worse for them.

Key off-season additions:

Erk Bedard (SP), Chris Carter (1B), Philip Humber (SP), Carlos Pena (1B/DH), Jose Veras (RP), Alex White (SP/RP)

Key off-season departures:

Brian Bogusevic (OF), Wilton Lopez (RP), Jed Lowrie (SS), Fernando Rodriguez (RP)

2013 Payroll: ~$25 million (would you rather have the Astros' entire roster or Felix Hernandez???)

Projected 2013 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Jason Castro

1

1B

Brett Wallace

0

2B

Jose Altuve

3

3B

Matt Dominguez

2

SS

Tyler Greene

2

LF

Chris Carter

2

CF

Justin Maxwell

1

RF

Fernando Martinez

1

DH

Carlos Pena

2

TOTAL

14

Indian Killer:

Carlos Pena - 372 PA, .242/.363/.542, .905 OPS, 26 HR, 55 R, 54 RBI

That is excellent power and a better batting average than his overall career number. He's also the only one of Houston's projected starters who has even 30 PA against the Tribe, so he was going to win this spot no matter what.

Projected 2013 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Bud Norris

2

2

Lucas Harrell

1

3

Jordan Lyles

1

4

Erik Bedard

1

5

Philip Humber

0

RP

Bullpen

0

TOTAL

5

Those are grim player projections, as are the team ones you'll see below. Houston is almost certainly going to be one of the two or three worst teams in baseball in 2013. Their presence in the American League should help Seattle move itself out of the basement and gives the other A.L. West teams a better chance of winning one of the two wildcard spots, should they fall short of the division crown. It wasn't so long ago that Houston made the playoffs six times in nine years (1997-2005). Playing in one of the largest markets in the country, with time the Astros should be able to rebound... but it won't happen in 2013.

PECOTA Projection: 65-97 (5th in West), 671 runs scored, 841 runs allowed

Cairo Projection: 58-104 (5th in West), 647 runs scored, 894 runs allowed

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