Using the major league product put on the field this season as a guide, those championship aspirations appear light years away. At the heart of an overmatched offense that ranked 27th in wRC+ (86) and 28th in wOBA (.298) was a lineup that struck out a major-league record 1,535 times. The 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks held the previous single-season mark for strikeouts, and for the Astros to eclipse that standard without being hamstrung by pitchers fanning more than one third of their plate appearances is galling.
Arizona struck out in 24.7 percent of its plate appearances three years ago. The Astros did so 25.5 percent of the time this season, setting a mark for futilely unproductive at-bats that will be nearly impossible for another American League team to surpass.
Incredibly, their pitching was worse. The Astros ranked last in FIP (4.67), WHIP (1.49) and walk rate (9.7 percent) while finishing 29th in strikeout rate (17 percent) and 28th in opponents’ batting average (.268). Their bullpen was the laughingstock of the majors, finishing dead last in home runs/nine innings (1.43) and WAR (-5.4) while producing a FIP (5.04) 16.9 percent higher than the Chicago Cubs’ second-worst bullpen in the league.
... Luhnow has done it before and, even with an accelerated timeline brought about by three consecutive 100-loss seasons, he seems assured that sustained success is achievable in Houston.
“There are a lot of similarities in what we did in St. Louis in terms of developing players to what we’re doing here in Houston,” Luhnow says. “The difference is we’re trying to do here in Houston in three years whereas it took eight or nine years in St. Louis to accomplish. We’re picking at the top of the draft — St. Louis was picking at the bottom of the draft, so we have a little bit of an advantage. But in terms of being able to find guys like Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Matt Adams, Lance Lynn, all those players that are contributing members of the current Cardinal team, that’s our goal.
“We hope that we’ve already found a bunch of those and we hope that we continue to find players like that.”