Can Houston Win 55 Games?

After this afternoon’s loss to the Rangers, the Astros are 37-80 (.316), with 45 games left on their schedule. Back in May, I said they look like they’re on their way to a 3rd consecutive 100-loss season, which would be only the 21st time any team was that bad for (at least) that long. To avoid that, they’ll need to turn into a .577 team (like the Rangers are) and go 26-19 to finish the year.

Obviously, that’s not going to happen even if they improve the team with some of their fine young minor leaguers in September. So the real question about the Astros is — can they win more than 54 games?

Since MLB instituted the free agent amateur draft in 1965, few teams have been so bad as to win only 1/3 of their games in a season. In the 20 seasons previous to that draft, 11 clubs failed to win more than one-third of their games in a season. Even if you discount those horrible early-60’s Mets teams, there were still 7 other teams this bad (’46 A’s, ’49 Senators, ’52 Tigers, ’52 Pirates, ’53 Pirates, 1954 A’s, & the ’61 Phillies). In the 47 years since that first draft, only 8 clubs have been that bad.

Worst Teams Since The Draft (ordered by WP)
Club W L %
2003 Tigers 41 119 .265
2004 Diamondbacks 51 111 .315
1969 Expos & 1969 Padres 52 110 .321
1996 Tigers & 1979 Blue Jays 53 109 .327
1979 A’s & 1998 Marlins 54 108 .333

If Houston’s going to avoid joining that small list, they must go 18-27 (.400) for the rest of this year. That might sound easy, but, this is a team that’s been playing .222 baseball since June 17th, good for a 10-35 record in their last 45 games.

The Astros are packed with minor league talent though, which could help the team reach 55+ W’s once the September call-ups arrive in Houston. The organization’s got teams in 1st place right now in AAA, AA, advanced A, A, and short season A. That’s really pretty incredible, and gives fans a lot of hope no matter what happens in Houston right now.

I’m guessing the September call-ups are the only way Houston could do better than a .333 season. Still, that only works if they’re major league ready, and we just don’t know how far along in their development they are. So, we’ll have to wait and see, but I think they’ll come in at 53 or 54 wins.