The Astros are now the sixth team in baseball history to achieve 100 or more wins in three straight seasons, but let us not forget how it started.
In 2011 we all know the Astros started the painful rebuilding of the entire organization from the ground up under the guidance of the newly appointed General Manager, Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow was hired after the team went on to lose a league worse 106 games, often times fielding a team that even avid fans could not recognize.
It was obvious that somebody needed to steer this sinking ship. Luhnow’s extensive background, as not only a progressive thinking baseball man but an entrepreneur and consultant for companies like McKinsey and Company, gave him a different perspective on how to go about righting the ship.
The Worst of the Worst
Somehow, 2011 was not as bad as it was going to get though. Enter the 2013 season for your Houston Astros. This time, a league worse 111 losses, which only eight teams in baseball have amassed more since 1900. A daily lineup of recycled players and hopeful future stars, that were years away from figuring out the players they may one day become.
On September 20th, 2013 the Astros were 51-102 and 39 games back in the division. Where on the same date in 2019 the Astros are 100-53 and eight games up in the division.
Their lineup that day in 2013 had Trevor Crowe and his career 0.1 WAR batting in the three-hole. Marc Krauss (-1.7 career WAR) batting clean-up and a young catcher in his only career major league season named Cody Clark (-0.3 WAR).
Some players did play this day that even the average fan might recognize; Jonathan Villar, Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Carter, Brett Wallace, and Dallas Keuchel. But of these players, only Chris Carter would put up a season that was considered to even be average. This was long before Altuve learned how to hit his pitch and slug. Or before Marwin would be a World Series hero. Or even before Dallas would become a Cy Young Award pitcher.
The 2013 Astros had two average hitters, Jason Castro and Carter. Only one starting pitcher was considered to be average or better that was a mainstay, Bud Norris. And two relief pitchers would qualify as above average as well, Jose Veras and Wesley Wright.
All told, the 2013 Astros would finish 51-111 and 45 games back of the A’s. Their team offense would rank 14% below league average while their pitching would be 15% below league average.
The conversations have gone from wondering if the players will ever become stars, to now pondering if we can keep all of our stars. The best hitter on the 2013 roster would be the ninth-best hitter on the 2019 team.
We have gone from two league average or better hitters to eleven in 2019. A team OPS of .674 to .847 (the 11th best mark in the history of baseball) present day. On offense alone, the Astros are 33% better than 2013 in regards to relative team OPS compared to their league averages.
As for pitching, the 2013 staff was lead in innings by a young Dallas Kuechel in his first full major league season. Yes, one day he would go on to win a Cy Young, but this was long before he experienced that kind of success as evidenced by his 5.15 ERA.
Your current 2019 Astros have two guys that have already won a Cy Young, and a third with a legit chance to win his first this season.
No starters from the 2013 team would crack this year’s five man rotation when healthy. Only a reliever or two would even have a chance filling in somewhere in the back of the bullpen. All in all, the 2019 staff is 39% better than the 2013 staff in league adjusted ERA.
Obviously, it is a night and day difference between the two teams. It has been a seemingly long road to get here for most. I feel, being an avid fan even during the down years allows for even more appreciation for this team. It’s tough to get too worked up over individual losses when they have so few of them. Even more so, when you think back to feeling like you were one of the few thousands of people watching 111 of them just six years ago.