Back in March we lambasted the Washington Post’s Cameron Smith for suggesting that Pudge Rodriguez represented a huge step forward for the Astros. (Frankly, I’m still a little shocked he wrote that post. Maybe he lost a bet?)
Today, I’m here to gloat.
Because Pudge did not make the Astros a contender, as Smith suggested he would. Houston is two games under .500, and seven games back in both the NL Central and NL Wild Card.
How can this be?
Quite simply, Houston was never as good as their 2008 record indicated. When you’re 11 games over .500 but you surrender 31 more runs than you score, there is a certain amount of luck involved.
Pudge hasn’t been a total disaster, as he’s been worth .6 wins above replacement. But he hasn’t been nearly good enough to keep the ‘Stros in contention, and that was incredibly easy to predict.
Moreover, you have to wonder if J.R. Towles would have been a better choice at catcher, seeing as how Pudge is currently sporting a .277 OBP and Towles has a .400 OBP in triple-A.
Of course, there’s no way to know of Towles’ minor league success would have translated to the big leagues. He certainly didn’t have any luck hitting major league pitching in 2008. But it’s clear the cash-strapped Astros would have been better off rolling the dice with Towles and spending $1.5 million on a bullpen arm or utility player instead of on Pudge.