Former Astros outfielder Moises Alou’s brilliant 2000 campaign was underappreciated.
When you look at Moises Alou‘s tenure with the Houston Astros, the numbers are eye-popping. In three seasons, he compiled a .331/.403/.585 batting line with 93 doubles, 95 homers and more walks than strikeouts. He was in his prime and one of the best pure hitters of his day.
His 2000 season was simply incredible. Alou hit .355/.416/.623, all of which were career highs for him. He chipped in 30 homers and 114 RBIs despite playing in just 126 games. In what seems like a stat from a bygone era, he struck out only 45 times.
His 1.039 OPS was less than a tick behind Jeff Bagwell for the best on the team, and is actually the sixth-best single season mark in Astros history. Only Bagwell and Lance Berkman have put up better seasons in terms of OPS. So how is it that Alou’s brilliant campaign is underappreciated?
For one, Alou was part of a stout offense in the first year out of the Astrodome. Bagwell had one of his best seasons in 2000, hitting 47 homers and scoring a ridiculous 152 times. Richard Hidalgo had his monster breakout, popping 42 doubles, 44 homers and 122 RBIs to go with a 1.028 OPS, which stands as the seventh-best in club history.
Berkman emerged to put up a .949 OPS in 114 games, and Mitch Meluskey hit .300/.401/.487 in his one big season in the majors. Even 37-year-old Ken Caminiti managed a 1.001 OPS in 59 games. Alou was one of a few big boppers in his own lineup, while his team’s overall performance was hampered by an awful pitching staff.
The team’s best pitcher was Scott Elarton, who won 17 games despite a 4.81 ERA. The rest of the rotation was just plain bad, as was the bullpen, with Billy Wagner injured and thus surprisingly ineffective whenever he did pitch. So while they scored 938 runs, which was second-most in the NL, they allowed a league-high 944, leading them to just a 72-90 record. You’re less likely to get noticed if you play on a bad team.
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Still, Alou wasn’t even an All-Star, which seems unfathomable considering he was hitting .359/.420/.657 at the All-Star break. How does that not even get you on the team? Well, it was 2000, and home runs were the name of the game. And there were plenty of them to go around.
The starting outfield for the NL All-Stars consisted of Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Edmonds and Sammy Sosa. They would all go on to hit more than 40 homers apiece. Barry Bonds, who only made the team as a reserve, would go on to hit 49, one shy of Sosa’s league-leading 50.
Other reserves included Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Sheffield, who would both hit 40 or more, as well as Steve Finley, Brian Giles and Andruw Jones, who all would hit 35 or more. Every one of those players hit more homers than Alou, though Alou had a higher OPS than Finley, Giles, Jones, Edmonds and Griffey. But All-Star snubs were common for the Astros that year.
Bagwell didn’t even make the team, while Andres Galarraga was voted the starter at first base. He had a nice season, but was nowhere close to what Bagwell did that year. Hidalgo didn’t make the team either. In fact, the Astros only All-Star in 2000 was Shane Reynolds, who finished the season with a 5.22 ERA in 22 starts. So on a team that had the second-best offense and the worst pitching staff, a pitcher having a bad year was its only All-Star. Makes perfect sense.
In many seasons, Alou would have won the batting title with his .355 average, but in this offensive environment, he finished a distant second to Todd Helton‘s .372 mark. So despite finishing second in the league in batting and in the top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and adjusted OPS, he only tied with his teammate Hidalgo for 20th in the MVP voting.
So Alou’s brilliant season was simply lost in the shuffle in this era of inflated home run totals and on this Astros team that couldn’t find any decent pitching. But it was one of the best seasons we’ve seen in Houston — his .355 average is second-best in club history, and his .623 slugging is third-best. Though he only played with the Astros for three seasons, Alou has to be considered one of the best hitters in club history.