The latest disrespect shown to the Astros is truly laughable
Earlier today we ran a piece on MLB.com’s prediction of Cristian Javier as the 2023 AL Cy Young winner. We alluded to the Astros finally being given the respect they deserve from the national media. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to respect Houston.
Well, you can’t win them all. Bradford Doolittle of ESPN is the latest to display a laughable level of disrespect towards the Astros, ranking them the sixth best team in the MLB, trailing the Rays, Braves, Yankees, Padres and Mets. The only time "Astros" and "sixth" should be mentioned in the same breath is when you're mentioning how many consecutive trips to the ALCS 2022 made for.
He projects them at 93 wins with 8% title odds.
I have to break the rules of journalism here, because the only acceptable response to this load of crock is “LOL!”
I mean how can one not laugh? Houston just won 106 games and won the World Series. They bring back their entire bullpen, upgraded at their only position of need and have two of the four best left-handed hitters in the game (not to mention a returning Michael Brantley) with the shift getting eliminated and they are, wait for it…13 games worse?
Sure, Justin Verlander is gone. But their rotation is still six deep. And have you forgotten that Lance McCullers made only eight starts last year? LMJ finished seventh in Cy Young voting in 2021, his last fully healthy season. Framber Valdez was fifth last year! Cristian Javier just got predicted to win the Cy Young this season and had a 1.79 ERA in the second half of the season firmly established as a starter! You’re telling me Verlander alone makes the difference in 13 wins?
But that's not all. Here is where the article truly gets to be hysterical. He gave each team an “aggression rank” score and an “improvement rank” score.
Now, he gives the Astros an aggression score of 22. Which, sure, they haven’t been overly aggressive. But they also haven’t needed to be. Were 21 teams more aggressive? Doubtful, but that’s splitting hairs.
What is truly comical is his “improvement rank” score for the Astros. Doolittle ranked them 19th. Apparently 18 teams are more improved than Houston.
What about those pesky Yankees? The ones the Astros dog walk each October, you ask. Well Doolittle calls them the fourth most-improved. He points out that re-signing Aaron Judge doesn’t technically improve them, but goes on to say:
"“On the other hand, New York's successful pursuit of free agent ace Carlos Rodon is the kind of move that makes a club's offseason. There is no better way to improve a club's projection than to add a four-to-five-win player, and if Rodon stays healthy, that's what he is.”"- Bradford Doolittle
Care to guess Jose Abreu’s bWAR from 2022? 4.2. “There is no better way to improve a club’s projection than to add a four-to five win player.” Houston did just that. Yuli Gurriel was a -0.3 bWAR in 2022. So Houston improved at first base by 4.5 wins at first base alone, but 18 teams are more improved.
Forgot the disclaimer there: there is no better way to improve a Yankees' projection than adding a four-win player. There is no better way to regress by 13 wins than by adding a four-win player if you're the Houston Astros.
A truly laughable lapse in logic. He gives the Yankees a projection of 99 wins and 16% title odds. Doolittle must not have had cable or internet to see the Astros sweep New York, all the while with absolutely zero contribution from Jose Altuve or Yordan Alvarez.
And as of this writing, Aaron Hicks is still their starting left fielder. Aaron Hicks hit .216 with a .642 OPS last season. Josh Donaldson is still their third baseman. Their lineup is littered with holes. But sure, they’re magically six wins better than Houston now with twice as high of title odds.
They also won 99 games last year, so his projection of 99 wins is an "improvement" of exactly….0%.
It’s hard to argue with the Mets or Padres being projected more wins. Both lineups are loaded. And both times the Astros have won the World Series, they’ve not carried the best record into October. That’s not what matters most.
But Houston did exactly what Doolittle asked, landing a four-to-five win player at their only area of need, and are somehow markedly worse.
Worse than Tampa Bay. The 86-win Rays, who traded away their starting first baseman and added Zach Eflin and his 4.04 ERA/0.6 bWAR to their rotation. Apparently that is grounds for eight more wins and surpassing the dynasty that has made six straight trips to the ALCS and won four of the last six AL pennants.
It’s not even the rankings and order that are bad. It’s the logic, or lack thereof.
"“Yet if there is one thing that the head-scratching departure of GM James Click accomplished, it was to cast a question mark over this Houston offseason.”"- Bradford Doolittle
If there is a question mark over Houston’s offseason, it’s at the end of this statement: does bringing back the entire bullpen and six members of the starting rotation, upgrading at your only weakness and re-signing a walking .300 hitter to a bargain contract make Houston’s offseason a success?
The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.
At this point, we’re used to it. The Astros are the bad guys. They will be for the foreseeable future. But you know what else they will be for the foreseeable future? Class of the American League. Better than your Yankees. Better than your Rays. And better than Doolittle's “projections.”