Last night, the Houston Astros put the following lineup on the field:
1. J. Bourgeois
2. J. Altuve
3. J. Martinez
4. C. Lee
5. J. Paredes
6. J. Michaels
7. C. Barmes
8. H. Quintero
9. B. Myers
How many of these guys’ first names do you know? I recognize Carlos Lee as probably one of the ten worst contracts in baseball history. I recognize Brett Myers as the guy who missed a start in Boston because he was arrested that day for beating his wife. I know Clint Barmes from his hot half-season in Colorado before he broke his collar bone carrying deer meat up a flight of stairs. And I think that might be Humberto Quintero, whom I recognize because, well, his name is Humberto Quintero.
That may also be Jason Michaels, the journeyman who took up a roster spot in Philadelphia and Cleveland years ago, with unmemorable results. As for the other four guys, I’ll just guess ‘Juan’ for all of them.
Myers was good last night (I’m sure he’s still intimidating), and the Astros built an early 5-1 lead against the surprisingly good Diamondbacks. Interestingly, it was a veteran, “closer” Mark Melancon, who surrendered the tying runs in the ninth, while two more guys you’ve never heard of- J. Fulchino and S. Escalona, according to the box score- gave up three runs in the tenth to clinch the team’s 80th loss.
That 80th loss wouldn’t be a big deal if it were September, but last night was August 11th. The Astros are 38-80. They’re on pace to finish 52-110. That pace doesn’t really do justice to the Astros’ futility, as they earned most of those 38 wins before their two best everyday players- Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence- were both traded for prospects.
The Astros were 35-72 at the trade deadline, a 53-win pace. They replaced nine hypothetical wins above replacement with true replacement players, which make the remaining roster a 44-win team (essentially a replacement-level squad). In theory, the 44-win Astros should win 15 of the 55 games they play after the deadline, giving them 50 wins, the 2nd worst record since the legendary 1962 Mets.
Now we all know baseball isn’t played on paper and wins above replacement aren’t perfect. The Astros were probably better than their 53-win pace before they traded Bourn and Pence, and as anonymous as they are, they’re probably better than a 44-win team now. Still, it’s hard to deny that they’re as bad a team as the National League has seen in decades.
The Phillies are chasing 110 wins this season, and deserve to be the biggest story of the remaining regular season. What’s amazing about the Astros is that they may lose more games than the Phillies win.