Is Ed Wade Unlucky?

added 6/14/2011 by Bob Hulsey

There's a small internet industry that thrives on bashing Ed Wade reflexively and mercilessly as if he were Sarah Palin. It was evident even before Wade became the Astros' General Manager. Some would point to his trades of Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling while he was running the Phillies. Some point to his disasterous free agent signing of David Bell as the cause.

But, while running the Astros, Wade seems to have almost a reverse Midas Touch when it comes to player acquisitions. And yet some of his moves seemed justified after the first year but blew up spectacularly after that.

Here are some player results for the first year after Wade brought them to Houston:

.293, .781 OPS, 106 OPS+
.276, .672 OPS, 78 OPS+
.240, .705 OPS, 84 OPS+
2-3, 2.53 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 167 ERA+
7-5, 3.93 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 108 ERA+
14-8, 3.14 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 123 ERA+
6-6, 3.12 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 125 ERA+

Not terrible numbers, right? But here's how those same players performed the next year:

.250, .659 OPS, 75 OPS+
.194, .597 OPS, 58 OPS+
.247, .681 OPS, 81 OPS+
1-3, 8.10 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 52 ERA+
1-0, 4.58 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 92 ERA+
2-6, 5.03 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 72 ERA+
3-3, 11.48 ERA, 2.40 WHIP, 33 ERA+

Would you like some names to go with those numbers? They are (in order) Kaz Matsui, Darin Erstad, Geoff Blum, Geoff Geary, Doug Brocail, Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon.

Certainly, some of this you can blame on Wade's attempts in 2008 and 2009 to squeeze production out of aging veterans. And there were definitely others that didn't need even one year to tell us they were done: Pedro Feliz, Bill Hall, Aaron Boone, Oscar Villarreal, Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, Ryan Rowland-Smith.

And this is not to say that every Wade acquisition has been a disaster. Michael Bourn turned out great. LaTroy Hawkins gave us a good 1-1/2 seasons. Jeff Keppinger has exceeded expectations. I would argue the trades for Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde were overall positive ones.

Yet, there does seem to be a black cloud over some of Wade's signings, particularly the ones who got multi-year deals to come to Houston. There are some who will claim they predicted it all or that their stat formula predicted it all, but I don't know how they can predict fall-off-a-cliff bad results from one season to the next.

No doubt, part of Wade's misfortune was to come in at a time when the Astros had an aging ballclub with a lack of farm talent. Toss in an ownership that expects to contend now while reducing payroll and you're going to find any GM will make some reaches and bad deals. One wonders how differently Wade might do running a team that's willing to spend big like the Yankees or Mets or Cubs.

However, living in the bargain basement has certainly bitten Wade badly a few times (not to mention once infamously taking him by the throat) and one suspects he might have had some food poisoning at the winter meetings more than once to come up with some of the deals he signed onto.

Wade deserves more credit than he'll get for putting the farm system back on its feet while trying to keep a competitive team on the field during a transition from old to new. Some of his wounds are self-inflicted but there are some contracts that just make you scratch your head and wonder if Wade needs to seek an exorcist to get rid of the bad karma that follows his signings.

Hindsight is 20/20. Most of us wish we had some "do-overs" in life. Sometimes, even good decisions can yield bad results. As Craig Biggio would say, "That's baseball". Sometimes a hanging slider becomes a called third strike and other times your best pitch in the perfect spot gets yanked over the fence. It happens.

As new ownership decides the fate of the present management, it makes you wonder if a team psychic might not be the best acquisition. Only, please don't hire the one that sent the Liberty County cops on that search for 30 non-existent corpses last week. Her crystal ball definitely needs some better Windex.