Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Failure to Launch

I was glancing through our archives and came across my piece on young Ryan O’Malley’s excellent Major League debut, which featured a 6:00 am limo ride from Round Rock to Houston so he could get to the yard in time for the 1:00 pm game.

Jiminy jillikers, I thought. If the Astros could have won that one game (well, actually, any of the games that series), they might be playing the Mets instead of the Cardinals.

But then I thought, it’s a gross oversimplification to say that any one game (or three game series) ruined any particular season. Instead of playing those “what if?” games, it would be more useful to look at more substantial causes for the Astros’ inability to reach the postseason. Here are a few I found after a quick perusal of stats:

** Did the Astros really expect to win with nearly-automatic outs like Brad Ausmus (.308 OBP) and Adam Everett (.290 OBP) in the lineup? Include the pitcher’s spot and 700-odd plate appearances wasted on Jason Lane (.318 OBP) and Preston Wilson (.309 OBP with the Astros), and that’s almost half the lineup that’s a complete waste.

** Come to think of it, more than half the lineup was a complete waste. Craig Biggio posted a Neifi-riffic .306 OBP, but still managed to get 352 of his 548 ABs in the leadoff spot (where he did slightly better, with a .310 OBP). The other leadoff guy was Willy Taveras. Despite the flashy hitting streak, he wasn’t a good leadoff man, but he was better than Biggio (.326 OBP in the leadoff spot). Teams with leadoff hitters that can’t get on base don’t usually win much. For further proof, look at these guys.

** If you must play “What If,” the question to ask just might be “What if Roger Clemens didn’t take half the year off?”

Because the Rocket didn’t decide to come back until July, the Astros had to give starts to Wandy Rodriguez (24 starts, 5.64 ERA, 1.60 WHIP), Taylor Buchholz (19 starts, 5.89 ERA, 1.25 WHIP), Jason Hirsh (9 starts, 6.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), and Matt Albers (2 starts, 6.00 ERA, 1.60 WHIP).

I think it’s safe to say that if Clemens had been in the rotation all year, he may have taken some of these 54 starts. Could those 15 or so starts made the difference between a playoff spot and October tee times?

Maybe, maybe not. But you’d have to figure that Clemens would have given his team a better chance of winning than any of those other guys.

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