The Astros Mercifully Fire Brad Mills

The Houston Astros miserable, awful season continued on Saturday afternoon, getting pounded by the Diamondbacks 12-4, while allowing a 9-run 5th inning. After the game concluded, Houston decided to give manager Brad Mills and a couple other coaches the boot, mercifully putting an end to one of the worst managerial stretches in Major League history.Brad Mills was hired as the manager of the Houston Astros before the 2010 season, with the franchise mired in mediocrity, having missed out on playoff baseball every season following their World Series loss to the Chicago White Sox in 2005. After a surprisingly successful, and somewhat statistically baffling, 76-86 opening season where a very bad Houston team won 8 games more than their Pythagorean record, the Astros have been on a historically bad run.

Mills will go down as one of the worst managers of all-time who oversaw a minimum of 320 games, or two modern seasons. Mills has a career win percentage of .385 (171-273), which ranks him 286th out of a possible 296 managers, which is astonishingly bad. Their are only a couple of modern comparisons, Alan Trammel’s awful 2003-2005 Tigers are perhaps the most similar/hilarious. In 2003 the Tigers were what is considered the worst team of the modern era, going 43-119, setting records for futility along the way, ranking last or 2nd to last in the AL in nearly every statistical category, both on the mound and at the plate.

Houston has been particularly bad over the last 2 months in particular, which isn’t surprising considering the team recently held a fire sale, chucking anything that wasn’t tied down. The Astros went a comical 4-34 over a stretch from June 28th until August 9th, losing 12 straight at one point during the dark stretch. They’ve been outscored by a Major League worst 154 runs this season, and their recent stretch of terrible play has drawn comparisons to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, roundly considered the worst team in history. Houston ranks 27th in baseball in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed, a dubious double-whammy. Their bullpen ERA ranks 3rd to last in baseball, and their starters are only getting worse, because they sensibly traded away Wandy Rodriguez, one of Houston’s two starters with a league average ERA+. This team was destined to be bad, and Mills was just the fall guy.

But there is hope. The team was purchased by Dayton Moore during the past offseason, and Moore has made it blatantly apparent that he is interested in rebuilding this rotten, woebegone franchise from the bottom up, and that means selling off every possible piece that won’t be on the next successful Astros team, which will probably occur sometime after 2015. Houston has ranked in the bottom 5 of Major League Baseball in most of the important minor league rankings for the past 5 seasons.

Their system has produced a few solid-to-excellent Major League players (Michael Bourne, Hunter Pence, Jose Altuve), but solid players have been few and far between. Moore has hired some of the smartest people in the business, stealing front office talent from St. Louis and looking into any available statistics they can get their hands on, but the new ownership inherited a shell of a team. And that takes time to rebuild. Houston made a gutsy #1 pick during the 2012 New Player Draft, picking a young 5-tool potential shortstop Carlos Correa. They feel like he has the potential to be a superstar from the middle of the infield, possessing big power potential, but he’s only 18 and even if he accelerates through the Minor Leagues, it will still be a couple seasons before he sees the show.

Moore, and General Manager Jeff Luhnow appear to be at ease with this process, and Astros fans should feel relieved even with the losses piling up. This franchise has a legitimate turnaround plan, and piling up losses in the short term has to happen, then so be it. Houston will be better because of it.

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