Are we that bad? I have seen numerous baseball prognosticators/experts predictions of the NL Central. The Good Guys are anywhere from middle of the pack, behind Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati to arguably the worst team in baseball (fighting with the Giants for that dubious distinction). Now, I am a fan, and even I see that a NL Central Pennant is a reach. But it is not that far out of an idea, either.
What is the old adage to win in baseball? Something about pitching and defense. Let's look at pitching. Experts are underwhelmed at our starting pitching. Behind Roy O., 4 journeyman. If you believe the writings, Backe, Sampson, Rodriguez, and Chacon should refund their MLB salaries. Not so fast. Backe is returning from a serious injury/surgery, and it would be unrealistic to expect 20 wins and 225 innings. But is 15 wins and 180 innings out of the equation. If he made 34 to 35 starts, 5 to 6 innings per outing would get him there. I see 12 to 14 wins being reasonable. Wandy, I am not a fan of his, but he is a 4 or 5 starter in the Show. Problem is he is our 3 or 4 starter. But he can still get you 10 or 11 wins, even with a 5.00 ERA. Sampson and Chacon, yeah, they have JOURNEYMAN written all over them, but are 10 wins a piece really out of the question? Not in my eyes. Roy gives you 18 wins, then add up the other 4 starters and you are at a conservative 60 wins out of the starters. We lost depth in the bullpen, but have a bona fide closer. Any average bullben could get you 10 to 15 wins among 6 guys out there (say a couple to long reliever, a couple to the set up man who comes into tie games and does his job, and 4 or 5 to the closer). I am at a conservative 70 to 75 wins. One starter besides Roy gets hot, and we are in the 80s for wins, if not near 90.
Now defense, oops, there went my argument. Losing Everett at SS hurt. And Ausmus will not catch as much. But Kaz (and before anyone gets angry, I am a HUGE Biggio fan) is slightly better than what Biggio provided last year on both O and D. Pence in RF and Bourn in CF are solid, if not good defensive OFs. Lee is a DH playing LF, but at Enron/Minute Maid for 81 games, that is not too bad of a swap for his offense...
Nice transition...the offense should be much improved. Period. We have the opportunity to win a couple of 9-8 or 10-9 ball games with this line-up providing Bourn is a .280 average .390 or better OBS guy, setting the table for the rest of the line-up. Berkman and Lee are top 10% in the league, if not top 5%. Pence has the potential to be a stud if he can play 150 games. Wigginton and Matsui are better than average. Tejada at SS, with Loretta (an under-appreciated, under-utilized player) as the super sub for the infield, and we will score more runs.
We are expected to be bad. So were this year's Browns. But a couple of guys stepped up and had good seasons, and they were fighting for a playoff spot until the very end. My rose colored glasses leave me viewing the 'Stros in the same light.