In this installment of the Players You Forgot Were Astros series, we look at the career of Robin Roberts.
Believe it or not, there’s another Hall of Fame player who spent a brief time with the Houston Astros that we haven’t covered in this series yet. Right-handed pitcher Robin Roberts, who made his name in Philadelphia, was an Astro for a short while.
The Astros picked him up as a free agent in Aug. 1965 after the Orioles released him. The 38-year-old made 10 starts for the club down the stretch and was brilliant, going 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 76 innings of work. He only struck out 34 batters, but he also only allowed one home run.
The team re-signed Roberts for the 1966 season, and he worked to a 3.82 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance before he was released in early July. He finished his brief Astros career with a total 2.77 ERA in 139.2 innings of work.
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Roberts broke into the majors with the Phillies in 1948. By 1950, he’d established himself as an All-Star. That was the first year of a six-year run in which he pitched at least 300 innings and won at least 20 games in each season. He was a seven-time All-Star and had five top-10 MVP finishes, as these years came before there was a Cy Young award.
He led the majors in starts six times, innings pitched five times, complete games five times, wins four times and strikeouts twice. All of these came in a seven-year span from 1950 to 1956. That 1956 season was the start of a decline, however, as he was mostly a below-average pitcher for the rest of his Phillies tenure. It ended with a 1961 season that saw him go 1-10 with a 5.85 ERA.
Roberts underwent a mid-30s renaissance after leaving Philadelphia for Baltimore, however. He posted sub-3.00 ERAs in three of the next four years, culminating in his brilliant half-season with the Astros. His final stint, with the Cubs in late 1966, was not successful, but it concluded a remarkable turnaround late in his career.
All told, Roberts went 286-245 in 19 seasons with a 3.41 ERA. Of the 609 starts he made, about half (305) were complete games. His best season, 1952, saw him go 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA and throw 30 complete games in 37 starts, totaling 330 innings. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.