As part of our preview series, Eye on Baseball will be picking and choosing some "likes" and "dislikes" for all 30 MLB teams heading into the 2014 season. For this installment, we'll run down what we like and don't like about the Houston Astros, who last season endured a 111-loss campaign ...
Jeff Luhnow: The Astros' GM has been at the switch since December of 2011. While obviously it remains to be seen how his bottom-up reconstruction of the Astros pans out, there's much to like about Luhnow. As the Cardinals' vice-president of scouting and player procurement, he built the exceptional talent pipeline that's still benefitting the NL champs today. Luhnow is one of the best in the business at leveraging data and advanced metrics and balancing those with traditional methods of performance assessment. It says here that he'll get the job done in Houston.
The rebuilding process: The Astros are a bit of rarity in that they fully and wholly embraced the rebuilding process. That is, they stripped the talent base down to a minimum in the service of getting better in the future. While that absolutely exacted a cost in the standings, it was sorely needed, and it shows an organization-wide commitment to the cause. With top-end talents like Carlos Correa, George Springer, Mark Appel and Jonathan Singleton in the fold and the first overall pick in the upcoming June draft, the future is beginning to take shape. That future is potentially a bright one.
Chances of being better than last year: In part, it's that 111 losses is almost necessarily the bottom. “Dead cat bounce” and all that. As well, the Astros' 2013 run differential suggests they were a bit better than their actual record suggests. There are also the offseason additions of Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman and a couple of useful relievers, and those should help the bottom line. The high-ceiling young talent may also start to trickle in over the course of the season to come. A good team? Absolutely not. A better team than last year? Yes.
You know, the Astros lost 111 games last season. As such, our complaints are going to be broad and somewhat boilerplate in nature. Let's fill in the blanks!
Pitching: Last season the Astros' PITCHING was very bad. They ranked last in the AL in ERA and RUNS ALLOWED. While those numbers figure to get better in 2014, they won't be drastically better.
Hitting: Last season the Astros' HITTING was very bad. They ranked last in the AL in OBP and SLG. While those numbers figure to get better in 2014, they won't be drastically better.
Defense: Last season the Astros' DEFENSE was very bad. They ranked last in the AL in FIELDING PERCENTAGE and DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY. While those numbers figure to get better in 2014, they won't be drastically better.