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Astros: Mike Lamb often overlooked despite key contributions

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Mike Lamb of the Houston Astros looks on from the field before batting during a Major League Baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 11, 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Mike Lamb of the Houston Astros looks on from the field before batting during a Major League Baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 11, 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /
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Mike Lamb is an often overlooked, but key piece to the mid-2000s Houston Astros.

When I’m waxing nostalgic and remembering those epic playoff runs by the Houston Astros in the mid-2000s, there are several key players who come to mind. Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Jeff Kent, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens…and the list goes on. But one name who should be right there with them, but often isn’t, is Mike Lamb.

Lamb was with the Astros from 2004 to 2007, serving as a part-time third baseman and first baseman and also a pinch-hitter extraordinaire. He got a good amount of playing time in those four years, but was never quite an everyday player, getting a career-best 422 plate appearances in 2006. But that doesn’t mean he was any less valuable than some of the players who got those 550-plus appearances at the dish.

In fact, he was a well above average hitter in three of his four seasons in Houston. He was just plain solid all around, hitting for a decent average and power and showing some patience. All told, he hit .281/.342/.464 with 49 homers and 196 RBIs in the regular season, providing a total of 4.3 WAR.

He was also, unfortunately, the victim of one of the greatest home run robberies we’ll ever see. Lamb was a single shy of the cycle at the time, and nearly added a second home run to his ledger that day. But it was not to be.

Postseason Heroics

Lamb really shined in the postseason as well. Despite only being with the team for two playoff runs (2004 and 2005), he hit five postseason home runs, more than Bagwell and Biggio combined. That worked out to a career 1.001 postseason OPS for Lamb.

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His first two homers came in the 2004 NLCS. His first was a pinch-hit solo shot in the ninth inning of Game One, and his second was a solo shot in the fourth inning of Game Six that cut the Astros deficit to one run. They would eventually lose that game in 12 innings.

Lamb started nine games at first base in the 2005 postseason when Bagwell was unable to play the field. He hit a solo homer in Game Three of the NLDS against the Braves, then added a two-run homer in Game Three of the NLCS off Matt Morris — the same pitcher he homered against in Game Six of the ’04 NLCS. Both homers also came in the fourth inning.

His final homer came off Jose Contreras in Game One of the World Series, tying the game at one apiece in the second inning. The Astros could’ve used a few more of those in that series, but unfortunately they couldn’t put it together against the White Sox.

Nonetheless, Lamb was able to be a key role player for those teams, sometimes playing on a semi-regular basis and sometimes serving as a pinch hitter and occasional spot starter. He didn’t have much success once he left Houston, but he will forever be one of the most important Astros from the mid-2000s whose name isn’t listed among the team’s all-time greats.

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