Published on April 5, 2016 by Hunter Brock  

As the Yankees’ season came to a close with the 4-0 beating from the Astros last October, one thing remained: Money Isn’t Everything. Year after year, teams with the higher total payroll typically finish atop their divisions, while the teams with the lower total payroll finish near the bottom. This is not the case with the 2015 Houston Astros. Predicted to lose 90 games by Sports Illustrated at the start of the season, the Astros stunned the world with an unbelievable season.

With a mix of veterans and young stars, the Astros’ roster was average at best coming into the 2015 season. Completely written off as postseason contenders at the start, Houston proved its critics wrong. With a staggering 230 homeruns last season, they rank second in MLB only to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Criticized as a team of batters inexperienced and impatient at the plate, Houston has undoubtedly worked its way up from the bottom. Not only aggressive at the plate last year, the Astros also showed tremendous strength along the base paths. Houston ranked third in the league with 121 steals, sitting behind Cincinnati and Arizona, with a stolen base percentage at 71.60.

Who Needs Money to Build a Winning Team?

As much as the starting lineup should receive credit, it’s the pitching crew who carried this team. Led by Dallas Keuchel (20-8 with a 2.48 ERA) the Astros’ pitchers had an outstanding season. With a terrific lineup of pitchers like this, Houston must be paying them a fortune, right? Wrong. Outside of Scott Kazmir, Houston’s starters have a combined salary of just over $6 million. Keuchel only earned $524,500 in salary this season, while McHugh was paid $516,300. These stats reveal that teams do not necessarily need a $71 million pitching payroll, such as the Yankees, but can win in other ways.

Baseball Team Payrolls

Not only is money not everything, but size isn’t everything. Clearly the best player on Houston’s lineup is Jose Altuve. Altuve is ranked third in the AL with a .313 batting average, has 15 homeruns and 66 RBI on the year, and leads the league in steals with 38. He made his third consecutive All Star game this season, and will undoubtedly add to Houston’s postseason run.

The most impressive stat to Altuve’s name however, is that he comes in at a mere 5-foot-6, and weighs 165 pounds. Along with a smaller frame, comes a smaller strike zone. Altuve doesn’t strike out often, and has an exceptional on-base-percentage at .353. Jose Altuve has proven this season that size does not always matter when it comes to the game of baseball.

For years, the New York Yankees have dominated the game of baseball. If your team couldn’t pay for the most expensive players, your team didn’t stand a chance in the playoffs. The Houston Astros have proven this season that the highest payroll (2nd highest in the Yankees’ case) does not always mean guaranteed success.

What do you think, can the Astros repeat their success in 2016?

This blog post was written by Samford University student Hunter Brock.

References [link broken as of 3/4/2019]