If you are thinking this is the type of post, Dan P does when he is bored writing about an off-season that is moving slower than a soap opera plot…..you would be right.
In putting this list together, there were considerations to both the regular season and post-season performance of these teams. There was also some consideration of precedent too. Did a particular team do something no other team before it in Astros history had done?
And of course, this allows for lots of debate. So, without further ado – the Astros top 6 thru 10 teams of all time.
#10 2015 Astros. An 86-76 record does not seem that impressive and truthfully would not make the playoffs in most seasons. But this season taken in context was a huge step on the way to the 2017 WS Championship. The 2015 team was 16 games improved over the 2014 team, which was 19 games improved over the 51-111 2013 team. After the only three 100+ loss seasons in the history of the team, this season with its play-in win over the Yankees on the road and the oh-so-close loss to the eventual World Champion KC Royals allowed the team to breathe in the fresh air of success and to imagine what was to come in another two seasons.
Top Everyday Player. This is Jose Altuve, though Carlos Correa in only 99 games came close to eclipsing his DP mate. Altuve put up .313 BA / .353 OBP / .812 OPS / 86 runs / 15 HRs / 40 Dbls / 66 RBIs and led his team into the playoffs.
#9 2001 Astros. After a crash and burn (72-90) in their first season in “Ten Run” Field, Larry Dierker led this team to a 93-69 record the next season and their 4th playoff appearance in 5 seasons. Unfortunately, the Astros lost another first round series in an Atlanta Braves sweep and Dierk was gone to never manage another game in the majors.
Top Pitcher. Runner-up Rookie of the Year candidate Roy Oswalt hit the ground running with a 14-3 record and a 2.73 ERA after debuting on May 6th.
#8 1999 Astros. The Astros went 97-65 in their last season in the Astrodome, a season that included the scary collapse of Larry Dierker in the dugout with a grand mal seizure in June. He would miss 27 games (managed by Matt Galante) while recovering from brain surgery. The Astros would win the first game of the NLDS and then lose the next three games to Atlanta, including a 12 inning heart breaker where they loaded the bases with no outs in the 10th and had two runners forced at home including the Walt Weiss miracle play that turned them back.
Top Everyday Player. Jeff Bagwell was a monster in the regular season (.304 BA / .454 OBP / 1.045 OPS / 143 runs / 42 HRs/ 126 RBIs) for H-Town.
Top Pitcher. Mike Hampton was the ace with a 22-4 record and a 2.90 ERA, which got him traded to the Mets after the season leading into his last year before free agency. Billy Wagner and his 4-1 record, 39 saves, 1.57 ERA and unbelievable 14.9 Ks/9 IP over 74.2 IP would be an acceptable answer here, also.
#7 2004 Astros. The Astros were 92-70 during the regular season, but the most important facet to this season was that it marked the first time in their (then) 43 year history where they won a playoff series. They took out the Braves in the NLDS behind Roy Oswalt in a series that went to five games. Against the Cards in the NLCS – they battled back from a 2-0 deficit to take a series lead 3-2 on Jeff Kent‘s 3 run walk-off HR and then lost twice on the road thanks to a 12th inning Jim Edmonds dinger in game six and a big Scott Rolen 2 run homer to break a tie against Roger Clemens in Game 7. This was the playoffs where Carlos Beltran did everything but levitate with 8 HRs in 12 games a BA over .400 and an OPS over 1.500.
Top Everyday Player. The Big Puma Lance Berkman (.316 BA/ .450 OBP/ 1.016 OPS/ 104 runs/ 30 HRs/ 106 RBIs) was a tad better than Kent and the last real hurrahs of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
Top Pitcher. At 41 years old, Clemens toted up an 18-4 record with a 2.98 ERA beating out 20 game winner Oswalt.
#6 1998 Astros. This team gets brownie points for putting up a then-record 102 wins during the regular season. But they miss the Top 5 due to another early failure in the playoffs, falling 3-1 to the Padres in the NLDS, when they scored one run in each of the three losses. The trade deadline addition of Randy Johnson had a similar effect as that of Justin Verlander almost 20 years later….in the regular season. But the Astros fell short at the hands of Kevin Brown, Sterling Hitchcock and Jim Leyritz.
Top Everyday Player. Tie between Moises Alou (.312 BA/ .399 OBP/ .981 OPS / 104 runs / 38 HRs / 124 RBIs) and Jeff Bagwell (.304 BA / .424 OBP / .981 OPS/ 124 runs/ 34 HRs/ 111 RBIs).
Top Pitcher. The Big Unit was a ridiculous 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA after arriving in Houston on July 31st.
I know its hard to judge this without seeing the top 5 seasons, but as a hint the seasons that did not make either list included 1994 (strike shortened 66-49), 1981 (strike shortened 61-49), 1997 (84-78, but a playoff year), and 1979 (89-73, lost a 10.5 game lead in the 2nd half of the season over the Reds).
So how do you feel about this list?
Would you move any out for one of the ones that didn’t make the list?
Do you think any of these were top 5 caliber in the Astros’ history?