2012 MLB Handicapping: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros took a major step backwards last season in the National League Central with a dismal record of 56-106, which was twenty wins less than in 2010.
MLB 2012 Betting Previews – Houston Astros
Odds to Win the NL Central: +2000
Odds to Win the National League Pennant: +4500
Odds to Win the World Series: +10000
2012 Projected Win Total: 62.5
It is easy to see why the Astros have fallen to the bottom of the 30-team MLB food chain with the departure of players such as Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Michael Bourne, and Hunter Pence over the past few seasons, but there should still be enough talent to win more than 60 games this year.
The starting rotation will be anchored by the likes of Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers and rounded out by J.A. Happ and a solid prospect in Bud Norris.
Another emerging talent on this staff could be right-hander Jordan Lyles, who was pressed into service last season as a 20-year old. He will probably start the year in the minors, but should be back in the rotation by summer.
The bullpen added Kyle Weiland but lost Mark Melancon as part of a trade with Boston and look for Brandon Lyon to get the nod as the Astros’ closer. As a whole, this group has nowhere to go but up after posting a team ERA of 4.51 in 2011, which was the third-highest in the Majors.
The only real stud in the batting lineup is first baseman Carlos Lee. He led the team with 94 RBI and 18 homeruns in 2011 while averaging .275 at the plate. Short stop Jed Lowrie also came over in the trade with Red Sox and should be able to add some depth to the order.
Rounding-out the lineup will be second baseman Jose Altuve and outfielder J.D. Martinez, but overall there are still some major gaps that have not been filled from top to bottom.
Houston did a good job of putting the ball in play last season with 1442 hits and a .258 team batting average that was the fifth-best in the National League, but this did not translate to consistent scoring as the Astros only managed an average of 3.8 runs per game, which ranked near the bottom of the league.
The NL Central took a major hit talent-wise with the departure of Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels and Prince Fielder to Detroit, but the gap between Houston and the rest of the teams in the division is still pretty wide.
Everything would have to go right to keep this team in contention past the All-Star break given its current roster, but the Astros are still more than capable of improving on last season’s disaster.
Look for Houston to once again bring up the rear in the Central, but definitely take the ‘over’ on its 62.5-game win total.
Prediction: 65-97 and 6th in the NL Central