One of the many problems that has plagued the Astros over the past few seasons has been their inability to get on base. While different players have come and gone, the Astros ability to reach base has continuously been limited and is one of the causes for their poor offensive output. So one of Jeff Luhnow’s first objectives was to find players that could reach 1st base at a much higher clip. Just looking at the three newest position players he has obtained over his short time as GM, I’d say he has done a good job of adding that skill. Jed Lowrie, Jack Cust and Chris Snyder are all players with the ability to draw walks and reach base without having to get a hit. My thought is that Luhnow will make that skill a priority when addressing needs and make sure it remains a focus.
While Jed Lowrie’s 2011 OBP might not look all that great, looking at his healthy 2010 it shows a different picture. In 2010, Lowrie had an OBP of .383 and through his minor league career he established a nice OBP of .381. Jack Cust, while a strikeout machine, does draws a ton of walks and his career .374 OBP is again very impressive. Cust and Lowrie provide the additional element of power, something the Astros also sorely lacked over the past few seasons. Chris Snyder’s OBP doesn’t quite reach those levels but certainly isn’t horrible for the position he plays. He has a career OBP of .333, consistently falling between .330 and .350 with very few exceptions during his big league career. That is a substantial upgrade over Humberto Quintero, the Astros everyday catcher from 2011, who had a career OBP of .268 and an even lower mark last season. Jason Castro, who is still considered to be the Astros catcher of the future, is also someone who should be able to get on base with regularity, his career minor league OBP is .376.
So we can safely assume with the recent acquisitions and getting Jason Castro back on the field that it will help the Astros team OBP considerably. Honestly, it was pretty hard to get worse for the Stros last season. The Astros had a .311 team OBP making them one of the worst in the NL and to no surprise they also ranked near the bottom in runs scored. As an example of how much better the Astros OBP might be this upcoming season, Jed Lowrie will replace Clint Barmes who had a good 2011 season for the Stros but only had an OBP of .312 and a career number of .302. With the two players who had the best OBP stats now in Philadelphia and Atlanta, the Stros badly needed to upgrade or possibly suffer an even worse statistical season in 2012.
It has become apparent that while adding more power to the lineup will be a key to improving a stagnant offense, Jeff Luhnow plans to add the skill of getting on base and justify it’s importance. Adding Lowrie, Cust and Snyder illustrates how the Astros have done a complete 180 in philosophy and are doing everything they can to improve the club in any aspect they see fit. On base percentage is just the first key step in rebuilding the Astros offense back to what it once was with Biggio, Bagwell and Berkman.