Is It Safe to Believe in the Houston Astros?

After years of futility Astros fans have to be happy with what they are seeing so far this season, but is it safe to believe in the team?

It seems like it has been more than decade since the Houston Astros were a World Series team, but that is all that it has been. After an incredibly slow start to the season, one that got the local newspaper to declare the season dead just 51 games into it, the Astros rebounded for an epic finish to the season culminating in the franchise’s first trip to the World Series.  

While it may seem like more than ten years that it is indeed all that it has been since the Chicago White Sox swept the Astros in the 2005 World Series. They didn’t play bad baseball during the series; the White Sox simply played better. However, since then the team has been the definition of bad baseball.

In the last nine seasons the team has finished above .500 just twice and not by much. From 2011-13 the team had a historically bad stretch that saw them lose more than 100 games a season (106,107, and 111).

Last season the team improved winning 70 games. It is still a long cry from respectability, but at least it ended the 100+ game losing streak. When Jim Crane bought the team he cautioned fans telling them it would take time; that the financial side of the team had to get in order before he could start bulking up the team salary.

Houston still has the lowest team salary in the league ($44.5 million; $24 million less than the next lowest, the Marlins), but the craziest thing has happened 51 games in to the season—they are winning. The Astros are 31-20 and sitting in first in the AL West by four games. In fact, Houston has sat on top of the division for much of the season.

How is that possible when the entire roster makes so little and there is no big name talent on it? The concept is simple—build from within, play and develop your young guys, and make the right free agent acquisitions; guys that can still play, but will not cost an arm and a leg.

No matter what you do it doesn't matter if the team does not perform, but Houston's is. The pitching staff has the third best ERA in the American League (3.54 ERA; seventh in MLB). The offense could still use some work, and is just one percentage point ahead of Seattle for dead last in the AL (with a .237 team batting average). However, what they do hit they tend to hit very well. Of their 404 hits 165 of them are extra base hits including an MLB best 68 home runs. Their fielding is not bad (8th in the AL with .985 and 16th overall).

So—how are they doing it? Can we believe in them yet?   The answer to the first is easy. They are playing good baseball. They are pitching well, fielding well, and hitting well enough to come out on top. The second question is a little tougher to answer. While it would be nice to say yes, the ’05 Astros showed us how a team’s fortune could take a dramatic turn.

So for now we just may have to watch and hope for the best.

 

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