Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Teams apparently are nervous about playing the Astros

In Buster Olney's (Insider-only) column this morning there is a mention of the Astros, and not about their offensive explosion last night. No...apparently other teams are going to press when they play the Astros because they're supposed to be so bad.

Some rivals playing the Astros say the games present a special kind of tension, because as the presumed worst team in the American League West, the expectation is that you're going to beat them -- and if you fall behind or don't grab the advantage within the games, there is anxiety that opportunity could be missed. "I think the winner of the division might come down to who wins the most games against the Astros," said a rival evaluator. "If you lose five or six games against them, you'll look back with a lot of regret."

As one who appreciates the history of baseball, this is reminiscent of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (on whom we're Ironically keeping an eye in our Futility Watch section). The 1899 Spiders went 20-134, scoring 529 runs and allowing 1252 runs (for a Pythagorean Record of 26-128). They hit .253/.299/.305 with a 74 OPS+, gave up 10+ runs in 50 of their 154 games, and are generally considered to be the worst team ever. So bad, in fact, that they were contracted at the end of the season.

What does this have to do with the 2013 Astros? Look again at what "a rival evaluator" said about the Astros.

Reading through some of the history of the 1899 Spiders, there was a double-header against Baltimore on July 17. Orioles starting pitcher Jerry Nops showed up hungover to pitch the first game, and the Spiders won 7-2. Future Hall of Fame manager John McGraw fined and suspended Nops, and a newly-inspired Baltimore won the second game 21-6.

Writer David Fleitz wrote (and the link is in the preceding paragraph):
Word around the league was that teams worked extra hard to beat the Spiders to avoid losing to the worst team in baseball history. 

Are other teams going to do this against the Astros? Probably. The AL playoff picture looks like it'll be tight, and teams are going to have to take advantage of the Astros (for now) and Twins. I don't disagree with what Olney/Rival Evaluator said. I don't like it, because I'm a sensitive fella, and I almost cried last night when the Astros got up on the Mariners. For a variety of reasons I hope the Astros out-perform their expectations, but the fact that there may be a sense of urgency from other teams can be a benefit to Houston.