The Audacity of Hope

added 2/23/2009 by Scott Barzilla

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. The 2009 Baseball Prospectus was just like the 2008 Baseball Prospectus. The writers over at BP seem to enjoy themselves when they trash the Astros and their methodology. Who could blame them? When you aren't attached to a team in rooting interest it becomes fun to poke fun at them for their mistakes. Maybe that's why I rag on the Pirates so much.

In psychology, there is a term for people that take out their frustration on someone or something lower on the food chain. It is called displacement. For instance, an angry Indians fan might tell a joke about the Kansas City Royals. Astros fans can sometimes make fun of the Cubs or the Reds if the Cubs are too good to poke fun at. An angry kid might have to come home and kick the dog. You get the idea. Well, reading about the hometown nine in BP really makes it tempting to rag on the Bucs.

One of the questions I openly posited was why BP's projected standings have underestimated the Astros in recent years. I suppose the answer comes down to the audacity of hope. The Astros are still big believers in the old way of doing things. If a guy gets brought into the right situation he can perform better than he would have otherwise. Suggesting as such is enough to make a numbers cruncher chuckle. Yet, it seems to have worked for the Astros in some cases.

Will Mike Hampton be healthier in a return to Houston than he would anywhere else? I suppose one could argue that familiar surroundings could make someone happier and more productive. Maybe there is something to the healing power of laughter. Maybe being in a happy place will make Hampton healthy. The notion seems silly, but some silly things are true. We could tack on Russ Ortiz and Aaron Boone to this theory of happiness breeding health. At least that's what the Astros are hoping.

The folks at BP think differently. In order to provide the baseball public with accurate projections (individual and team) they must go with the percentages. Most pre-season publications try to use too much of the hope to factor in their projections. Then, you have to figure out which hope is false and which hope is real. This is the equivalent of sniffing the dirt to see when a storm is coming through.

As for myself, I tend to go with the percentages. Sometimes that means I underestimate certain guys. However, it also means I can be pleasantly surprised. Every year I say the Astros won't compete and every year they overcome the odds and find a way. I hope I'm wrong again this year. My most loyal fans always find a way to point it out to me when I am wrong.

The problem is that with the exception of a few moves, the Astros have been moving further and further away from reason since they appeared in the World Series. You can argue that they've gone into each passing season with less and less talent. Yet, with the exception of 2007, they've been in the hunt every year. This off-season has shown an amazing amount of hope mongering from the front office.

They hope Aaron Boone will come back to 2003 form. They hope Russ Ortiz will return to well, um 1999 form. They hope the same from Mike Hampton. Maybe Jason Michaels will return to his early 2000s form. We've already seen their hope in Toby Hall dashed. Now, their hope is in Lou Palmisano. Who in the heck is Lou Palmisano? If that's your question then hope has to be your answer. Of course, every team has to have some hope. We can hope that Hunter Pence will continue to develop patience at the plate. We can hope that Michael Bourn will be a passable leadoff guy. We can hope that J.R. Towles starts producing like he did in the minors. Some hope is plausible. Some hope is downright far-fetched.

If you are hoping for the 22 win Hampton you are an idiot. If you are hoping for Brandon Backe to put together 30 starts like his playoff outings you are ripe for the picking. If the people from those internet business commercials come calling then hang up the phone. Expecting a pennant out of this bunch is like expecting to make millions selling products you don't see, buy, or store. While you're at it, you might try the product that spray paints hair on your head.