Originally written on Full Spectrum Baseball  |  Last updated 1/30/13
Spring Training is right around the corner and with the coming of Spring Training, comes hope. Yes, that’s right. Spring Training is where hope springs eternal. Everyone is preparing for the upcoming season. Fans can take a look at new players and old and see how they look going into the upcoming season. Every team is at square one, so to speak, and in theory, everyone has a fighting chance. Well that is what everyone likes to believe. True fans, enjoy the Spring Training and early season because, yeah, their respective teams are still in the race. Now while there is still hope, and in the words of Sayid Jarrah, “Hope is a very dangerous thing to lose.”,  there is that part of everyone’s brain that holds that tiny piece of realism in the back of their respective noggins. That part of the brain that tells you that, while hope is nice, realistically your team is not winning the World Series. Or, at least, realistically they should not have a shot at winning the World Series. But it never stops you from clinging to hope and hey, it worked out for Athletics’ and Orioles’ fans last season, right? I am sure there would have been plenty of reasons for those fan bases to have hope, but also those realistic thoughts that sure their team will probably not be in playoff contention down the stretch. So that right there is a good enough reason to keep your hopes up at the start of each season. At the very least, there is always something to look forward to. A big free-agent signing, a hot young phenom, a returning fan favorite, etc. So sure, every fan can find something to look forward to from their squad in the upcoming season, right?  Well, if you’re an Astros fan, it may just be really, really, really hard to find those ”somethings” . But Astros fans, fear not! I am here to help find those “somethings” for you! Now, this task is not going to be an easy one, that is for sure. After all the Astros were 55- 107, good for the worst record in baseball, albeit by only 6 games. See, Astros fans, silver linings already!  Six or seven more wins and the ’Stros would not have been the worst! And hey! They finished the season on a torrid .390 pace! Sure, that is not what one would consider a good winning percentage, per se, or, at all, but they were at winning at a .322 clip before that, so that is quite an improvement, right? See, things are looking up in Houston! Now sure Houston’s current payroll is listed as $17.5 million, which is quite easily the lowest payroll in baseball, but with many arbitration cases to go, who knows what to expect? Okay, okay, Astros fans, I realize I have really not given you much to look forward to just yet, but be patient, I’m getting there. I mean you’re Astros fans, you’re gonna to need to get used to being  patient. Sorry. Okay, here we go, let’s get down to it. Some glimmers of hope or silver linings or what-have-yous. First off, there really is not a lot this 2013 Astros team could do to be disappointing. Well, okay, in the grand scheme of things, sure they will be disappointing, so let me rephrase. It will be difficult for them to play below expectations, let’s put it that way. Think about it, they are 200-1 shots to win the World Series, the longest odds of any team. Basically no one is giving them anything resembling a chance to do anything this season, but be the absolute worst, which is great…in a way. Positive spin? They are expected to be the worst team in baseball, so if they are, okay no big deal. If they are not the worst team in baseball, if they are better than just one other team, boom, a successful season. Plus, if they lose a lot they will get a good draft pick and according to John Sickels their farm system is currently the 11th best in the majors, up from 25th last season. See?! Now we’re cookin’, Astros fans! Develop down on the farm and watch those prospects, like Chris Singleton, blossom! Singleton was a key piece in the deal with Philly for Hunter Pence and there’s a chance he is a late season call-up. That’s exciting! Right, Astros fans? No? Still not seeing something to pump you up about 2013? Okay, well what about Carlos Pena? That’s right Houston fans, the Astros landed the Haverhill Hammer himself, Carlos Felipe Pena! Sure, he won’t hit for average, ever, but he still manages a high OPS, cause he walks a bit and when he does make contact it goes far most of the time. Not as flashy of a signing as say, Josh Hamilton, but he is a name…of sorts. Plus his career OPS of .822 is higher than every Astros hitter, with more than two plate appearances, had last season. Now sure if you are a pessimist you could point out that the he did have a career low OPS last season, but hey that just means he is due to bounce back, right? Let’s assume it does for the purposes of this post, after all we are trying to give the Astros fans something to look forward to. Early projections have Pena hitting over 20 home runs in 2013. You know how many Astros clubbed more than 20 dingers last season? If you guessed zero, you’d be correct! Just glancing at player projections for some Astro regulars, he is expected to lead the team in home runs and be the only one to top 20 dingers! Get excited, Houston! A real, live, slugger at the Juice Box in 2013! Home runs are fun, Astros fans! I know you are on board now and already super pumped for 2013, but wait, there’s more! Do not forget about that deadly middle of the diamond! That’s right, Jed Lowrie and Jose Altuve! Altuve was an All-Star last season and is a real spark plug! Altuve was at least a top eight  second baseman in the National League last season and if he puts up similar numbers I have no doubt he will be top eight in the American League in 2013! That’s the top half of the league, sports fans! Sure, his odds of being an All-Star in 2013 are not great in a league with Cano, Kinsler, Pedroia and Zobrist, but, well, top half of the league! Huzzah! And Jed Lowrie? Are you kidding me?! He homered once every 21.25 at bats last season! Troy Tulowitzki last season only homered once every 22.63 at bats in 2012. I’m not saying Jed Lowrie is a better hitter than Tulo, because, well, he’s not. Sure, that HR rate is the highest for Jed at any professional level by some margin, and sure, he has yet to play more than 100 games in a major league season, but hey, let’s stay positive Houston! He stays healthy, he and Altuve will be darned fun to watch! I can feel Astros ticket sales skyrocketing at this very moment! But for those of you Houston fans not already online buying tickets, I present the coup de gras! Bud Norris. You betcha! Bud Norris. You want to venture to the Juice Box to see your beloved Astros play? Try and go when Bud Norris is on the bump! Now there will be a good chance these tickets ys get snatched up first and his starts will quickly sell out, but try Stub Hub or whatever you can to watch the Masterful Mr. Norris work. All Norris did at home last season was post an ERA of 1.71 and a WHIP of .96, while striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings! Do not adjust your monitors, those numbers are correct! Now Bud was only 4-1 at home, but had seven no decisions and went at least six innings in every home start. Dang! Now sure his road numbers were on the other end of the goodness spectrum, but that’s neither here nor there, for our purposes anyways. Well, there you go, Astros fans! There are at least several, yes several, things to look forward to this year in Houston. Honestly, if you are an Astros fan reading this and are not immediately pumped for the baseball season, then there may be something wrong with you. Seriously. Possible prospect call-up? Chris Singleton, anyone? Carlos Pena rocketing balls out of the Juice Box? An Altuve-Lowrie combo that is borderline, close to, electric, in the middle of your diamond and at the top of your order? Bud Norris dominating visiting hitters? Yep, the 2013 Astros…they have some things you can sort of, possibly, get excited about! Hmmm, I wonder if I can get that to be the team slogan for 2013? I’ll call their PR department right now!
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