What makes it so difficult to analyze the results of the 2012 Houston Astros was that this season was never really even about the 2012 Astros. The franchise spent this year with one eye on next year.
Sure, the schedule-makers had the Astros play, but despite a rather encouraging 22-23 start, they still managed to finish 55-107, the worst mark in franchise history.
So that's over with, but where do they stand? They already made the biggest decision of the offseason before the end of the regular season, hiring Nationals third base coach Bo Porter to be their new manager.
Porter will take over as soon as the Nationals are eliminated from the playoffs and will have a staff to put together. Foremost on his list is what becomes of current interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who reiterated on the season's final day that he would love to remain on the major league staff.
On the player-personnel side, there were some positive developments amid a bleak season. In addition to Jose Altuve's All-Star campaign in his first full year, Lucas Harrell emerged as the ace of the staff with a 3.76 ERA, filling the void left by Wandy Rodriguez, who was traded in July.
Those two will be part of a very difficult transition to the American League West next season, but there is certainly more needed. The outfield, which was the worst offensive unit in the National League this year, is in desperate need of improvement, and a designated hitter will either have to be discovered within or acquired.
"We've got some people for down the road," DeFrancesco said. "I know (general manager Jeff Luhnow) and (owner Jim Crane) will get some power for down the road to help in the American League."
There will be minor splashes in the free agent market to do so, but Luhnow has said on multiple occasions not to expect any action on the deep end of that market. Also, there are virtually no contracts of any heft left to trade. After six players, including the five highest-paid, were dealt at the trade deadline, any moves this offseason will be minor or just trades for major league talent at different positions.
So next year will be a continuation of the long road back to respectability. Rookies will develop further, the products of the multitude of trades of recent years -- the deals shipping out Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and this year's crop of six -- will trickle in, and another No. 1 overall draft pick can't hurt.
The 2012 season was just a transition year for the staff and for the ballclub amid another last-place finish.
"We're hoping this will be the turnaround season to get us back where we need to be," DeFrancesco said.