This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
The most shocking statistic the Houston Astros posted in 2013, is that they actually had a six-game winning streak. The least shocking statistic the Houston Astros posted in 2013 is that they ended their season on a 15-game losing streak. To put it bluntly, the 2013 Houston Astros sucked!
Granted, it wasn’t like the Astros were any good in previous years. In 2011, the Astros finished with a record of 56-106. In 2012, the Astros continued to play terrible baseball by going 55-107. But the Astros achieved the impossible in 2013. They were even worse than in the previous two seasons, finishing with a pathetic record of 51-111, the worst record in franchise history.
The main reason why the Astros were so brutal was pitching, or lack thereof. The Astros had the highest ERA in the Majors, with a 4.79 ERA. They surrendered the most runs, as 848 opposing base runners touched home plate. The pitching didn’t get much help from its defense either, as the Astros led the majors by committing 125 errors in the field. The Astros would have lost an arms race to Grenada.
No pitcher had more than six wins and only one starter, Bud Norris had an ERA under 4.00. Norris wasn’t awful, posting a 6-9 record with a 3.93 ERA in 21 games. He also gave up the fewest home runs on the staff, allowing 11 round trippers. Norris also walked the fewest batters, allowing 43 base on balls. He was a bright spot, in an otherwise feeble Astros rotation. Because of that, he was dealt to Baltimore at the trade deadline. No pitcher was allowed to be decent in the Astros rotation.
Erik Bedard led the Astros pitchers with 138 strikeouts, but he sometimes tried to be too fine with his pitches, thus allowing 75 walks. The free passes led Bedard to a measly 4-12 record with a 4.59 ERA.
Lucas Harrell was nearly even in strikeouts and walks recorded. The 28-year-old right-hander stuck out 89 batters, but walked 88 men as well. Combine the fact that Harrell shared the lead with 20 home runs surrendered, you get a pitcher with a 6-17 record with a 5.86 ERA. Harrell also led the team with 8 wild pitches. I’ve seen better control from a five-year-old at a candy store.
The bullpen wasn’t much better. Tied for the lowest amount saves (32) the Astros didn’t have much opportunity to take the lead into the ninth inning, but when they did, they found ways to lose. The Astros shared the lead with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the most blown saves with 29. To put all these numbers into perspective, 19 individual pitchers had more saves than the Astros as a team.
Jose Veras did lead the team with 19 saves, and did an admirable job as the closer. But again, anyone who was good, was going to leave town. Veras did his job, and was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the trade deadline.
With Veras gone, the Astros went with a bullpen by committee. The results were disastrous. Josh Fields did record 5 saves but his ERA ballooned to 4.97 while he surrendered 8 home runs in relief.
Hector Ambriz did manage 2 saves but managed to blow 3 saves. His ERA paid the price as it soared to 5.70.
Wesley Wright should not take up a career as a firefighter once his baseball career ends. Wright did not record a save while he blew 4 saves in the closer’s spot. Wright was dealt to Tampa Bay, to save Houston from burning down with all those fires he failed to put out.
The Astros home field, Minute Maid Park, is definitely a hitter friendly park, which is why pitching struggled, while the offense wasn’t so bad. But it wasn’t great either. No Astros hitter had a batting average over .300 for the season.
First baseman Chris Carter led the team with 29 home runs and 82 RBIs, but he struck out 212 times, which dropped his average to .223. When Carter put the ball into play, it left the yard. Otherwise, he would strike out worse than me in the 1990s.
Second baseman Jose Altuve did bat .283 and led the team with 35 stolen bases. But he also grounded into a team high 24 double plays. Speed usually helps out in avoiding double plays, but Altuve and the Astros were a special breed.
Catcher Jason Castro had his moments, belting 18 home runs while driving in 56 runs. But like Carter, he was all-or-nothing. Castro struck out 130 times which left 84% of the base runners stranded when he was at the plate. Fidel Castro had better moments in 2013 than the Houston Astros.
In the end, the Astros finished a whopping 45 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the American League West. But there is hope for Houston. GM Jeff Luhnow has finally embraced building the farm system, by trading aging veterans for young prospects. Gone are the likes of Carlos Pena, Bud Norris, Jose Veras and Brandon Barnes. Young players such as L.J. Hoes, Domingo Santana, Jonathan Singleton and Luis Cruz are fresh faces full of talent but short on experience. Luhnow didn’t panic with his manager either, as he decided to retain the services of Bo Porter for another season. There will be growing pains, but there is hope for the future in Houston.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973