Ferguson: Astros could prove to be historically bad

Scott Ferguson
4/8/2013 12:33:15 PM
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No one expected the Houston Astros to be contenders in their first year in the American League. Fourth or fifth place in the American League West would have been a pretty safe bet.

If the first week of the season is any indication, the Astros could be in for an historically bad season. After opening the season at home last Sunday night with an 8-2 victory over state-rival Texas, they were wiped out in five straight to close out their first homestand.

The numbers are staggering. They struck out 74 times in six games. It's the first time that has happened since 1921. Worse than that they fanned at least 13 times in five of the six games.

Individually, Rick Ankiel struck out 10 times in 12 at-bats, Chris Carter 11 times in 22 at-bats and ex-Jay Brett Wallace 13 strikeouts in 17 at-bats.

As a team Houston is hitting .199 with just two homers and two stolen bases. The only two regulars who look to have a long term future are centre fielder Justin Maxwell and second baseman Jose Altuve.

Things could get even worse over the next 10 days as Houston embarks on a nine-game road swing through Seattle, Orange County to take on the Angels, and Oakland.

There is no immediate promise for Houston to get any better, meaning their four divisional opponents get to fatten up their records against them playing the Astros 18 times apiece this season. The Blue Jays on the other hand only play Houston seven times, four at home and three away.

Even an injury-racked Yankees team is going to put up more of a fight than Houston on most nights. So the AL West teams have a decided advantage in schedule especially when it comes to the Wild Cards. It's possible both Wild Card teams could come out of the West, or one West, and one Central, if the White Sox and Royals are for real.

Major League Baseball doesn't have a salary cap, and has survived, even thrived very well. But neither does baseball has a salary floor. Houston's opening day payroll was just a little less than $25 million. Their highest-paid player was pitcher Bud Norris at $3 million for this season. The Jays number five starter J.A Happ makes more than that, and Jose Bautista and Josh Johnson together make more money than the entire Astros team. Even the lowly Miami Marlins' payroll is just over $44 million.

Every year there are going to be bad teams. It's not about that. It's about at least trying to be better, and the Houston Astros are failing miserably and are compromising the integrity of the 2013 season.

Early Returns
The Blue Jays are only six games into their season, but a couple of numbers are already sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. Their on-base percentage, which Alex Anthopoulos was endeavouring to improve in the off-season, is only .295 and the team is only hitting .223. They have only stolen three bases as well, despite the increase in team speed.
Once again, albeit early, the Jays are living by the home run with 11. They have only earned 19 walks while striking out 54 times. Granted they haven't had the rehabbing Brett Lawrie for a single game and Jose Bautista has missed the last three with a sprained right ankle. But these trends can't continue.
The surprise team in the Majors, one week in, is Colorado. The Rockies, coming off a horrible season in 2012, are 5-1 under new skipper Walt Weiss - who was managing his son's high school team a year ago. All nine players in Colorado's line-up Sunday, including pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, were hitting above .313 and Troy Tulowitzki had the day off to boot. The man who filled in for him at shortstop, Jonathan Herrara, had three hits and knocked in two runs.

That's when you know things are going right.

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