HOUSTON - As we slide into a new baseball season, it's no secret what Astros fans truly want.
"The win," said one fan.
"It's going to be winning. Just that attitude about winning," said another fan.
"More winnings on the road as well as at home," said Margaret Cuevas, also a fan.
With no big names on the roster and a losing record, even hardcore fans have become disengaged.
An Astros season ticket holder for the past 19 years, last year Marc Campos did something he never thought he'd do.
"Because of poor performance, it was the first time I ever put my tickets for sale online around 30 or 40 times. It was the most games i ever missed since Minute Maid Park opened," said Campos.
The team is on a mission to win him and so many others back, using a different kind of strategy by putting their faith in the science of numbers.
"You look at the history of what happened and you try to look at that to predict what is going to happen in the future," Astros data analyst Mike Fast said.
A new breed of baseball thinkers have taken over the front office. These behind-the-scenes heavy-hitters include a handful of Ivy League graduates, an engineer, even a rocket scientist who used to work for NASA. They could hold the key to making the Astros a winning team.
"We kind of quantify it as it's 60 percent subjective, 40 percent data -- it's the blend that gets you the full benefit," Astros President and Chief Executive Officer George Postolos said.
The equation hasn't changed: Landing better players will lead to more wins, which will ultimately re-energize the fan base. The difference is this formula calls for a greater emphasis on number crunching. Think of the movie "Moneyball."
"That's going to help us create processes that lead to better decisions and, in the long run, we'd expect that to lead to wins," said Sig Mejdal, the Astros' director of Decision Sciences.
Using data to assemble a competitive baseball team is, by no means, a new strategy, but the Astros believe it's a critical component in the quest to earn back the loyalty of disappointed fans. But is all of this enough to lure back diehards who've lost that loving feeling?
"I'm hoping and that's why we're here. That's why we're picking up the gear for this new season," said Campos.
Numbers aren't the only way the team is trying to win back hearts. The Astros are also focusing more resources on the team's three charities: the military, cancer research and youth baseball and softball. It appears the Astros have their work cut out for them. Out of all 30 major league baseball teams, Astros fans ranked dead last on the loyalty index.
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