Houston's all-time single-season team
HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell (1994 in the National League) and Jose Altuve (2017 in the American League) are the only two Astros players to win Most Valuable Player Awards in franchise history, though others have posted seasons that have been MVP-worthy.
In 2019, Alex Bregman finished a close second in the AL MVP Award race to Mike Trout. Lance Berkman finished third in 2002 and '06, with Bagwell finishing second in 1999 and third in '97. Other top-five MVP Award finishes include Jimmy Wynn in 1974, Biggio in '97-98 and Moises Alou in '98.
Then there are those great seasons by players whose careers weren’t as accomplished -- one-hit wonders, if you will -- such as Carl Everett in 1999, Morgan Ensberg in 2005 and Marwin Gonzalez in '17. Still, those terrific seasons wound up being just as memorable as some of the best ones put up by Bagwell, Biggio and Berkman.
We ranked the best seasons at each position in Astros history. Here they are.
Catcher: Jason Castro, 2013
Before he was carving a Hall of Fame career as a second baseman, Craig Biggio broke into the big leagues as a catcher and won a Silver Slugger in 1989 and made the All-Star team in '91. Despite those accomplishments, the best season by a catcher in Astros history belongs to Castro, who hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs on Houston’s 111-loss team. An All-Star in '13, Castro’s 211 total bases are a club single-season record for a catcher, and his .835 OPS ranks second at catcher behind Mitch Meluskey (.888), who put up big numbers on a 2000 team that featured a star-studded lineup and benefited from the first year of hitter-friendly Enron Field.
First base: Jeff Bagwell, 1994
A unanimous choice for the NL MVP Award, Bagwell was the first player to finish first or second in his league in batting average (.368), runs (104), RBIs (116) and home runs (39) since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and the first player to lead the NL in runs and RBIs since Mike Schmidt in ’81. Bagwell also won a Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award and made his first All-Star team. Bagwell led the NL in slugging (.750), OPS (1.201), OPS+ (213) and total bases (300). He had 147 hits and scored 104 runs in 110 games before breaking his hand when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 10 -- just two days before a work stoppage ended the season.
Second base: Jose Altuve, 2017
Altuve led all of baseball in 2017 with a .346 batting average, while his 204 hits were tops in the AL. He set or tied career highs in home runs (24), on-base percentage (.410), slugging percentage (.547) and OPS (.957). Altuve, who drove in 81 runs and stole 32 bases, led the AL in multi-hit games (59) and led the Majors in games with at least three hits (23). He also ranked first in the AL in infield hits (35), tied for second in runs scored (112), third in on-base percentage, third in stolen bases and third in OPS. In balloting for the AL MVP Award by the BBWAA, Altuve garnered 27 of a possible 30 first-place votes for a runaway win over Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who was the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner.
Third base: Alex Bregman, 2019
Bregman, who finished a close second to Trout in the AL MVP Award race, was the driving force behind the best lineup in baseball, hitting .296 with 41 homers, 112 RBIs, 122 runs scored, 119 walks and 83 strikeouts. Among AL players, he ranked first in bWAR (9.1) and walks, ranked second in OBP (.423), third in slugging (.592) and OPS (1.015), tied for third in homers, fourth in runs and fifth in RBIs. After the All-Star break, Bregman ranked second in the Majors in OPS (1.134) and first in OBP (.463), hitting .338 in that span. He set a club record with a 1.122 OPS in the second half, while also making 65 starts at shortstop when Carlos Correa was injured.
Shortstop: Carlos Correa, 2021
Correa hit .279 and posted career highs with 26 homers, 104 runs scored and 34 doubles to go along with 92 RBIs, 75 walks and an .850 OPS in 148 games. He was also named to his second All-Star team. Correa was second among all position players in bWAR (7.2), just behind Marcus Semien (7.3). The Astros' shortstop also had a Major League-best 2.9 defensive WAR en route to winning his first Gold Glove and later taking home the Platinum Glove as the best overall defensive player in the AL. In the postseason, he hit .283 with 10 runs, four doubles, one home run, nine RBIs and six walks.
Left field: Lance Berkman, 2001
In his second full season in the big leagues, Berkman posted a 1.051 OPS, which is the second highest in franchise history behind Bagwell’s 1.201 in 1994, and he was named the team’s MVP. He hit .331./430/.620 with 110 runs scored, 34 homers, 126 RBIs and led the Majors with 55 doubles, becoming the first switch-hitter in history to have 50 doubles and 30 homers in a season. Berkman also set single-season records for a switch-hitter in doubles and extra-base hits (94). He made the All-Star team for the first time and finished fifth in the NL MVP Award voting.
Center field: Cesar Cedeno, 1972
Compared to Willie Mays early in his career before injuries took their toll, Cedeño lived up to that billing in 1972 when -- at 21 years old -- he hit .320/.385/.537 with 22 homers, 82 RBIs and 55 stolen bases for the Astros. He made the All-Star team for the first time and won the first of his five consecutive Gold Glove Awards in center field. Cedeño led the Majors with 39 doubles, had eight triples and had 179 hits and 300 total bases, both of which are the club's single-season record by a center fielder. He posted an 8.0 bWAR, which is the fourth highest in club history at any position, and he became the second player in Major League history (after Lou Brock in 1967) to hit 20 homers and steal 50 bases in one season.
Right field: Kyle Tucker, 2021
Tucker enjoyed a breakout year as the Astros’ starting right fielder in 2021, hitting .294 with 24 homers, 92 RBIs, 37 doubles, three triples, 83 runs scored, 15 stolen bases and a .917 OPS in 140 games. He was the third Astros player to reach 30 homers prior to his age-25 season, joining Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. Tucker hit .320 after May 1 and led the AL in slugging, on-base percentage and OPS in that span. He was named AL Player of the Month for September. A Gold Glove finalist in right field, Tucker also led the Majors with 15 RBIs in the postseason, hitting four homers and four doubles.
Designated hitter: Yordan Alvarez, 2019
Called up on June 9, Alvarez hit .313 with 27 homers, 78 RBIs and set a Major League rookie record with a 1.067 OPS in 87 games, winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award unanimously. Alvarez, 22, homered in his second Major League at-bat and didn’t slow down. He hit seven homers in his first 12 games, which is a club record, and set a Major League record by posting 51 RBIs in his first 45 games. Alvarez led all MLB rookies in extra-base hits (53), on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.655). Alvarez’s 178 weighted runs created plus was tied for second among rookies in the live-ball era (since 1920), trailing Willie McCovey’s 185 in 1959.
Starting pitcher: Mike Scott, 1986
Having picked up a split-fingered fastball, Scott put himself on the map when he came out of nowhere and went 18-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 1985, but no one could have imagined what he did in '86 en route to being Houston’s first Cy Young Award winner in the NL. Scott went 18-10 and led the Majors in strikeouts (306), ERA (2.22) and innings (275 1/3), while leading the NL with five shutouts. Scott helped the Astros clinch the NL West division title by throwing a no-hitter against the Giants in the Astrodome. In the playoffs, he threw two complete games, allowing one run in 18 innings, to beat the vaunted Mets twice in the NLCS; he was set to start Game 7 before the Mets rallied to win Game 6 in 16 innings. Still, Scott was named the MVP of the NLCS.
Relief pitcher: Billy Wagner, 1999
The club’s all-time saves leader, Wagner was at his best in 1999, when he had more saves (39) than hits allowed (35) and posted a 1.57 ERA in 66 appearances. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award race and made the first of his seven career All-Star teams. Wagner averaged 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings and limited opponents to a .135 batting average against, which were both the best single-season marks in Major League history at the time. In 74 2/3 innings, he struck out 124 batters. Wagner struck out the side 15 times and allowed one earned run from Aug. 1 through the end of the season. He finished with a 287 ERA+ and 0.777 WHIP.