After meeting Bill Brown, Jose Altuve, Brett Wallace, and J.R. Richard on Friday, I was intoxicated by the small taste of that which I have been craving since the end of last season. Baseball. It was my first experience meeting major league personnel in any capacity, (other than running in to Larry Dierker at Larry's Big Bamboo), and it left an impression on me to say the least.
Bill Brown asked my name and I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear like a 10 year old. It brought back the nostalgia of walking into the Astrodome when I was a kid, memories of orange folding chairs with huge cushions, and up close views of Kevin Bass and Jose Cruz at the plate seen through binoculars. I was young and simply enjoyed being there; a fan of the spectacle not yet involved in the love affair to come. It reminded me of an innocence that I will never have again. But part of that innocence lives on every season in positivity of possibility. It had me so ready for the season to begin that it was hard for me to look back at last year, a year that was the lowest of lows in the Astros' franchise relative to the major league club. But I did look back, and with an eye to the average player.
Recently I came across the numbers of the league average slash line of batting average/on base percentage/and slugging for every defensive position aside from pitcher from the 2012 season. Most people hear the word average and think not very good, but in the baseball world average is actually pretty good. These numbers are a compilation of at bats from anyone who played the position and swung the bat. Some of the numbers I have put together are slightly skewed by the fact I could no locate a position per at bat break down. So I had to lump in some players total at bats for one position, even though they contributed at multiple spots. However, the biggest chunks of AB's for each position were accounted for accurately, so that the numbers should only be slightly skewed.
The catching platoon of Snyder and Castro were fairly close to league average last season. However, Snyder hit a lowly .176 compared to a .257 average from Jason Castro and a .269 average from limited ab's from Carlos Corporan. So if Castro can have more plate appearances this year and Corporan can provide as a serviceable back up, Houston should have a better showing at the catching position in 2013.
Although I was not able to identify every AB at every position, I was able to only include the Houston at bats from players who were traded during the season. Carlos Lee, B. Wallace, and Scott Moore made up the majority of the AB's I used for the 1B position. Moore out slugged and got on base at a higher clip than Wallace and Lee but Lee hit for a better average than the Wallace and Moore. Wallace and Moore had similar averages and each out slugged Caballo. Overall probably a similar showing at the 1B position in 2013, depending on how much 1B Pena plays and if and when Singleton is called up. Probably higher slugging, similar OBP, and lower average.
The majority of AB's came from Jose Altuve at the 2 bagger spot last year, but not all as Altuve did miss some time due to injury last year. These numbers are below average and well below average in the slugging department. If Altuve can stay healthy, these numbers probably look better.
Surprisingly solid numbers at the 3b position last year. Between Chris Johnson's .276/.329/.428 and Matt Dominguez's .273/.310/.477 lines, the numbers look pretty good. But when you include the lines of Steve Pearce and Brandon Laird the average and slugging dip. Though Dominguez will likely not slug at a rate of .477 the 3rd base position could have another nice showing in 2013.
The only category where Houston' short stops performed above league average was in the slugging department, and a healthy Jed Lowrie, yes healthy, means the possibility of a similar result from the SS position in 2013.
The 3 outfield positions were where Houston really suffered last year, in all categories. It is pretty brutal to look at. The main silver lining I can see is the possibility of a higher slugging percentage provided by a full season of JMax and Fernando Martinez, who slugged 427 and 466 respectively. Take away Brian Bogusevics slash line of 203/310/229 and things are already looking better. A repeat of productivity from the outfield in 2013 would be tragic.
Here's to pitchers and catchers reporting in 2 weeks and to positivity of possibility.