The worst season in the Astros 50 year history is finally over. Their 56-106 record is the worst posted by any MLB team in the last five seasons. Surely someone had a good year. Let’s take a look at the candidates. Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence were both having career years but were dealt away at the trading deadline. This would have been a two horse race had they stayed with the team for the full season. But since they didn’t, I feel obliged to declare Bourn and Pence ineligible. I will however award both players with an honorable mention.
This year’s runner-up has to be Wandy Rodriguez. His 11-11 record was an outstanding accomplishment considering the team’s level of play. Despite missing a brief stint with tendinitis, Rodriguez made 30 starts and pretty much duplicated last season’s numbers. Wandy has achieved a level of consistency that seemed to elude him in years past. The lefty has dramatically improved his road numbers to the point that they are approaching his numbers at home.
My choice for this year’s Star Performer Award will not be a popular one with some fans. But the numbers do not lie. Carlos Lee was the most consistent run producer for Houston over the course of the season. Lee’s 94 RBIs ranked eleventh in the league. His 38 doubles ranked fourth. Fangraphs ranks Lee 34th in the N.L. with a 3.1 WAR. Opposing pitchers and managers still fear El Caballo. Lee drew 59 walks on the season and struck out only 60 times.
Lee also showed marked improvement on defense in left-field. El Caballo raised his level of hustle out there and is a master of playing the caroms off the scoreboard. Although Carlos played only 80 games in the outfield, his ten outfield assists ranked sixth in the league. Lee showed some versatility as well, moving to 1B in the middle of the year. His .992 fielding percentage at 1B matched that of two time Gold Glover Albert Pujols.
Lee doesn’t get much love from the majority of Astros fans. Some call him an overpaid slob. But I must give credit where credit is due. Lee has one year left on his contract and has said he may retire after next season. So for all of you haters, the end may be near. But expect to see Lee in an Astros uniform again next year.