Houston Astros' Sobering Salary Story: Grading Ten Players

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Carlos Lee: Helping others in the grading curve.
I recently saw some sort of metric that indicated that the top five percent richest Americans combined had amassed more wealth than the other 95 percent combined. Don't quote me on that, but it was one of those "look how woefully disproportionate (and yet totally believable)" that statistic is.

Baseball rosters are somewhat similar. The upper, upper tier of player (from a salary standpoint) makes as much as a majority of the roster combined. Such is the nature of the beast in Major League Baseball.

For some teams, it doesn't really matter how the upper tier performs because they've got enough money to spend comparatively extravagantly on the middle and even lower tiers. To a team like the Astros, who in 2011 are working on (to quote Jerry Seinfeld's Uncle Leo) "a very fixed income!!!"...well, it matters greatly.

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Hunter Pence kinda has a reason to smile
So today, let's do some salary forensics on the fiscal reasons why the Astros suck as badly as they do this season (as opposed to the physical reasons like "some of their players shouldn't be playing big league baseball" and "their closer tops out at 89 miles per hour.")

Let's start with this -- the top forty percent of the Astros' roster (10 players, $59,875,00) make 86 percent of the Astros total "wealth" ($69,969,000). That mix is not uncommon for a big league roster where many of them stash the bench and the bullpen with minimum salary guys and/or very young players.

However, if you buy into a team only going as far as its star players, or more accurately those paid like stars, will taken it, then the following breakdown will be awfully disturbing to you:

1. Carlos Lee, $19,000,000. Highest paid Astro of all time, just saw his batting average creep over .200 for the season on Sunday before Angel Sanchez collided with him in the outfield, bruising Carlos' ribs, an injury to which Carlos may or may not have applied a chipotle rub to ease the some of the pain. Of the Astros' regular starters, only Chris Johnson's OPS is lower than Lee's .608. VALUE GRADE: Biggest, fattest F-

2. Brett Myers, $8,000,000. After going at least six innings in every start but one last season, the Astros gave Myers a multi-year extension in the offseason with the hope that he would be the staff ace. The bad news: After a solid first four games, he is now starting to look very mortal (1-2, 4.47 ERA on the season). The worse news: This is still good enough to make him the staff ace. VALUE GRADE: C-

3. Wandy Rodriguez, $7,500,000. Not to be denied in the "multi-year extension for average starting pitcher sweepstakes," Wandy got his own three-year deal done during the offseason. Apparently, a solid 2009 and a second half full of spectacular, meaningless games was enough to convince Ed Wade that Wandy needed to be locked up. He has responded in classic Wandy fashion, showing the steady consistency of Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers -- in his six starts, his earned runs allowed have gone 7, 1, 5, 1, 4, 0. VALUE GRADE: C+

4. Hunter Pence, $6,900,000. Hunter is still not the most selective hitter in the world, but at least the balls he's hacking at wildly this year are finding holes (.294 batting average) and driving in runs (team-leading 25 RBI). Hunter will always have a value floor of about a "C" because of his highly entertaining, "gravity challenged arms" running style. VALUE GRADE: A-


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5 comments
Xtian139
Xtian139

Phirst, Oswalt. Now, Pence! It's beginning to look a lot like an annual Philly Phuckphest of the Astros! Phor real...

Eric S
Eric S

Sad as it may seem, both Myers and Wandy's contracts are market correct or even a little on the low side when you look at what pitchers with similar numbers are getting as free agents. The Astros could probably trade either one of them if someone decided to blow the roster up completely and start from scratch.

What's harder to understand, and what I ultimately think will get Ed Wade fired when a new owner comes in, are the crappy 7 figure contracts to aging veterans of questionable ability. On a team that's barely going to win 70 games, there's no reason to lock up a mediocre closer at $15mil for 3 years or a bench guy/super sub/strikeout machine like Bill Hall for $3mil. Wade should be finding younger, cheaper players that will grow with the team for roles like that.

While I'm here, is there anything more ridiculous than Bill Hall getting ejected for arguing with an umpire after a strike out? Bill Hall is 3rd in the NL in strikeouts. He should be used to it by now. What's to argue about?

Jim C
Jim C

yeah, but he sure can throw a lot of money at a guy who EATS groceries.

Hill
Hill

Not gonna dispute what you have to say about Bill Hall, but he had every right to be pissed for getting tossed by Tom Hallion. Hallion had no business ejecting Hall in that situation. Typical ump trying to insert himself into the game. Uhm Tom, the 4,500 people at the Reds game didn't by a ticket to watch you.

Jared
Jared

Eats? More like "inhales." And how does Bill Hall get a passing grade? He's not our WORST albatross, but then again, Kareem Jackson wasn't the Texans' worst draft pick ever. (Or so says John McClain)

Side note regarding McClain: I don't care how bad the Texans' history has been, David Carr in the top twenty of that list is a joke. The Texans could suck for another 50 years (actually, they probably will), and he'd still be the measuring stick.

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