Most of the so-called baseball experts predicted the 2011 Astros would lose about 100 games. But a strong second half in 2010 gave Astros fans reason to be more optimistic. It turned out the experts were right. Houston suffered through the worst season in franchise history, going 56-106 and finishing last in the N.L. Central. What went wrong? Well… almost everything.
In an effort to improve the league’s worst offense, Astros G.M. Ed Wade traded for shortstop Clint Barmes and signed Bill Hall to play 2B. I didn’t like either move at the time. Hall turned out to be a bust and was released in early June. Barmes missed the first month of the season with a broken hand but turned out to be a pleasant surprise once he was healthy. Catcher Jason Castro missed the entire season due to an ACL injury suffered in Spring Training. Closer Brandon Lyon was never healthy and missed most of the year, but there were really no other significant injuries.
The offense was better than that of the 2010 team. Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence were putting up excellent numbers as the trade deadline approached. But the Astros pitching never got on track and the season was already lost. Both Bourn and Pence were traded for prospects in late July. The youth movement was now in full swing. J.D. Martinez and Jimmy Paredes were brought up from AA Corpus Christi and joined their former teammate Jose Altuve in the Astros starting lineup. Second year players Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace had regressed and were demoted to AAA. The team was a mess.
Unlike recent seasons the Astros were unable to mount a charge in the second half. The young position players were holding their own. Martinez was outstanding, driving in a run per game in his first month in the majors. The problem was the pitching staff. Opening Day starter Brett Myers was nowhere near as effective as he had been in 2010. Lefty Fernando Abad couldn’t keep the ball in the yard and was optioned to AAA. Rule 5 draftee Aneury Rodriguez was ineffective as a starter and was moved to the bullpen. Other mound casualties included J.A. Happ, Nelson Figueroa, and Jeff Fulchino. Happ eventually got things ironed out at AAA and returned to the Astros rotation.
Juan Abreu, David Carpenter, Xavier Cedeno, Jordan Lyles, Henry Sosa, and Jose Valdez all made their big league debut for a pitching staff that ranked last in the league in ERA, saves, and homeruns allowed. Lyles was regarded as the Astros top prospect and became the youngest player in the majors when he cracked the Astros rotation on the last day of May.
Although the team lost 106 games. the entire coaching staff was invited back for 2012. G.M. Ed Wade has also been retained to this point. If the pending sale of the team is approved it will be interesting to see if anyone gets the boot.