Statistically speaking, what can we glean from a snapshot glance of the lone National League team that Terry Collins previously managed, the 1994 to 1996 Houston Astros?
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of his offenses then because the Mets offense has been an issue since the team moved to Citi Field, and at least has the potential to change for the better if Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran can both give the Mets full, healthy seasons.
Collins has done the big ballpark thing before
The Astrodome, for those who remember it, was a cavern much like the 2009-2010 versions of Citi Field, so a common bond exists in how Collins could try to do things.
In Collins’ three years as Astros manager, there were 325 home runs hit there. The only ballpark with fewer was Dodger Stadium with 317. The Astros hit the third-fewest home runs at home (158) of any team and allowed the second-fewest (167).
The Astrodome park factor (meaning teams played there as compared to the road) rated in the low-to-mid-90s in all three seasons with Collins managing, an indication of a park that was highly pitcher-friendly.
Houston Astros 1994-1996
NL Ranks Under Terry Collins
And his teams managed to score runs
Even in a big ballpark, the Astros put runs on the board. Under Collins, Houston scored the third-most runs in the National League in total over those three seasons, and the third-most runs of any team in its home ballpark. This is something that the Mets could benefit from. How’d the Astros do that? Keep reading …
Speed was a factor
To counter the size of the ballpark, the Astros were heavily reliant on stolen bases, just as the Mets have been the last two years. The last major league team to have five players with 20 or more steals? Collins’ 1996 Astros, and the last before them was Collins’ 1995 team.
It’s also important to note that Collins’ teams weren’t reckless in their base stealing. All five players with 20+ steals on the 1995 Astros were successful 75 percent of the time or more. On the 1996 squad, that was true for all but James Mouton (21 steals, 70 percent successful). For those three years under Collins, the Astros were the third-most successful stealing team in baseball, swiping a tied-for-major-league best 480 bases at a 74.1 percent rate.
So was bunting, at least sometimes
Collins acknowledged a willingness to bunt in his introductory press conference, which probably caught some Mets fans, who figure the “Moneyball Mets” won’t bunt as often as last year’s team (which had the fifth-most in the NL), by surprise.
The Astros successfully sacrificed 219 times under Collins, third-most in the National League, though it appears Collins eschewed the bunt over time.
The Astros had 73 sacrifice bunts in the shortened 1994 season, the most in baseball (they were on pace for 103). The next season, they finished with 78 in a 144-game season (full-season pace of 88), which rated fourth-most. In 1996, it looks like there may have been an adjustment. The Astros finished 10th in the NL with 68 sacrifices.
And walks mean something
The bunting notes may run counter to what we surmise Sandy Alderson’s team philosophy will be, but he’ll like the importance that Collins’ teams placed on the walk in those three seasons. The Mets ranked 12th in the National League in walks last year, so there’s room for improvement.
The Astros ranked first in the NL in total walks and second in the league in unintentional walks from 1994 to 1996. That allowed a team like the 1996 Astros to finish seventh in the NL in batting average, but third in on-base percentage.
That was partly a product of the high walk totals (and ridiculously good offensive seasons) for Jeff Bagwell, but also due to the performance of role players like ex-Met outfielders Kevin Bass (28 walks, 235 PA, .393 OBP in 1994) and John Cangelosi (48 walks, 256 PA .457 OBP in 1995; 44 walks, 313 PA, .378 OBP in 1996).
Collins spoke a lot of how he changed on Thursday, and that was mostly related to his personality and attitude. Will it apply to his National League managing philosophy as well? We won’t know that for another five months.