Random Astros’ stats on a passing scene

The Astros’ front office is all about the advanced metrics. And I get it. Numbers can explain a lot. Sure, you can’t play the games on paper. But without the real world, those numbers wouldn’t exist.

Kinda existential, huh?

Anyway, there’s a bunch of numbers that explain why the Astros are where they are. Here are a few good examples:

BAbip: Batting average on balls in play. In other words, if you hit it between the foul (fowl?) lines, what is your batting average? When you remove Ks and foul outs, it stands to reason that your BAbip will be higher than your normal batting average. In fact, it’s a statistical certainty. For an elite hitter, say Melky Cabrera, his BAbip is nearly .382. Mike Trout: .369.

For the Astros as a team, their BAbip is .251. That’s pathetic. So bad, in fact, that the Astros’ BAbip is actually lower than the league average batting average of .252.

Average hitter have BAbips in the .320s or so. Houston’s best BAbip belongs to Jose Altuve, who holds a .309 BAbip, the only one over .300 for the team.

Perhaps the Astros just need to put more balls in play, right? Well, this is the team that whiffed at a record pace last year. So, how they doing in 2014? Well, that’s our next stat.

K: Here’s the good news. Houston is not the worst whiffing team in the majors in 2014. Of course, the only two teams worse are in the NL where pitchers probably add to the total a bit. Houston has 229 Ks thus far. Not good but not horrible. After all, you have to go to Cincinnati at No. 18 on the list to get below 200.

That low BAbip by the way gives Houston the lowest batting average in baseball at .210. But there’s also good news. Houston’s OPS is far from the worst at .646. Why?

SLG: Houston’s slugging percentage is nearly in the top 20. Houston is slugging at .365, which isn’t great, but it’s far from the bottom and only .010 from No. 20. This is mainly because Houston is tied for sixth in homers and second in triples.

Yep, that’s how bad things are. Our best bit of good news on offense is that we’re within striking distance of the top 20 in a category. Yeah, I feel like sticking my head in the oven too.

Maybe things are better from our pitching, right?

WHIP: That’s walks and hits per inning pitched. Houston’s staff is ranked 25th with a WHIP of 1.44. That’s somewhere south of average. But the starters — and this includes starts from Lucas Harrell — are managing a WHIP of 1.29, which ain’t half bad. Naturally, it’s the relievers that are dragging down (or up) the average with a 1.69. Man, it’d be nice to get Jesse Crain and the rest of our relievers healthy.

BAbip Against: So, BAbip isn’t just an offensive measure. It also shows how well your defense (not just the pitching but the guys with the gloves too) is working. From the pitchers’ point of view it’s about inducing weak grounders vs. allowing solid line drives. Houston’s team pitching BAbip is .299. That’s how well other teams are doing against us. Houston’s only hurlers holding opponents below league average are McHugh (duh), Feldman, Bass, Cosart and, believe it or not, Clemens.

OPS Against: While Houston’s power offensively is on the rise, it’s pitching staff is handing out the extra-base hits like they’re Friday night giveaways. Houston’s staff allows a .410 SLG overall, just a little north of middle of the pack in the majors. But the relievers are worst in baseball with a .470 SLG, ruining the days of our starters who are among the best 10 in the league with a .371 SLG.

So, with all these passing stats, here are some things to consider:

  • Our offense has been horrid. And, unfortunately, Springer hasn’t put a spring in our step. That said, we’ve been improving and the key word is “regression.” What will Houston’s BAbip look like at the End of May instead of the Beginning?
  • So much runs off of BAbip. If we’re getting better contact, those balls in play will start falling for hits. Some of those hits will be doubles or triples … or home runs. If that BAbip goes up, what else will improve?
  • If the Astros can put more balls in play — fewer strikeouts — that’ll help too. But even if the Astros bring up Singleton or Santana, that’s just more strikeouts. How can Houston cure its whiff problem? Is it even something that we need to worry about with all the offense’s other problems?
  • When it comes to the stats, whether it’s BAbip, WHIP or SLG, the rotation is holding up its end of bargain but the bullpen is once again the weak link for the pitching staff. Between banged up arms and Crain’s stint on the DL, the bullpen is a little thin. Is this a problem that corrects itself by next month, or are we looking at another long season of blown saves and eighth inning melt downs?
  • My last question has nothing to do with stats, or at least little to do with stats. But All-Star voting has begun, and Houston will have at least one representative. Who should it be? Altuve? McHugh? Feldman? Castro? Villar? If we had to make the decision today, who would you pick?

27 comments on “Random Astros’ stats on a passing scene

  1. Our starting pitching has been far better than I’d expected. I fear for a regression to the mean.

    I don’t understand how a team can collectively strike out so often AND fail to get hits when they put the ball in play. The logical assumption is that players are not still taking monster hacks with two strikes. However, in some cases I have seen really feeble attempts at contact result in Ks.


  2. Springer, somewhat unsurprisingly, has been a whiff machine. But he’s also been a BABiP nightmare. Just watching him, it’s obvious he’s pressing and over swinging.

    I think this comes down to coaching, which is suspect in my opinion.

    I think the bullpen will regress to better numbers. I think the rotation will regress slightly worse (as good as they’ve been, the rotation still isn’t exactly the Braves in the 90s).

    But the hitting — and what is available in the minors — concerns me.


    • The last thing to do with Springer is mess with him already. He’s hit at every level, and he’ll hit here. Give him time. Leave him be.


      • I think they’ve already messed with him. He has changed his approach and possibly his swing. Thank you Porter and Malley for screwing him up. Leave him alone for goodness sakes.


  3. You don’t get to 9-17 without problems but I don’t blame any one person for that record. This is a team game and the players feed or starve off of each other. To expect Springer to come up from OKC and hit when none of his teammates are hitting is not fair. They beat the first place team two times in a row after losing two horrible games.
    Right now I’m ready to see if Carter, Hoes Guzman, Castro, and Dominguez can get going because they are the ones that aren’t in their rookie first month. Then when they get going Springer can relax and play his kind of baseball.
    Cosart, Ober and McHugh don’t have a full season in the majors combined and Keuchel is young too. Getting Feldman back will settle youngsters down and Albers coming back along with the experience Fields is acquiring will get the bullpen in shape. I think they may be better from here on out.


  4. I think Springer will relax and break out when his teammates relax and break out.
    When BABIP improves, BA w/ RISP will improve and we will see more runs and GIDP will lessen.
    I’m not sure Singleton replacing Krauss and Guzman will increase strikeouts. Those two have combined for a 32% rate of K and that is what I would expect from Jon. He will give better defense and more run production and if he hits .240 that’s 50 points higher than we’re getting now. Heck, even if he hits like they do it still gives him a look at major league pitching and life so he is more ready for next year. He is supposed to be the 1B of our future. It’s ok to start working on that future right now, unless the team thinks Krauss is more important than Jon is.
    We can help the bullpen if we have another McHugh down there we can call up to throw in relief.
    All Star as of today: Altuve is in the top five in the American league in almost every offensive stat and is in the top 3 in several. He is also errorless in the field and his RF in the field is higher than in the past. Right now he is our best player. If Feldman continued his pitching at the same pace he is a real good candidate.


  5. – I would expect the BABIP to trend higher – I mean there is some luck tied to this stat as it tells you how many balls actually find a hole (though the problem may be the number of pop-ups and weakly hit balls being caught up with).
    – I think the team’s offense as a whole will improve with the BABIP – there is a lot of psychology involved here and bad hitting or good hitting can both be contagious.
    – In their last 7 games they are 4-3 and have averaged 4.71 runs per game.
    – Before that – they were 5-13 and averaged 2.74 runs per game.
    – I don’t see the K’s changing much – that just seems to be who they are.
    – I think the starting rotation will stick around the same numbers for awhile. With Harrell gone – they will not have that hideousness going on and so even if others slow down a bit – I think the overall effect will be the same.
    – The bullpen is a bigger disappointment ot me than the offense, because I expected a lot better from folks. Hopefully a couple of the injured return and others relax and contribute.
    – Have to agree that Altuve is making the best AS showing to date. That is good because I was afraid his 2013 regression meant he was going the wrong way.


  6. I’m curious what the breakdown on BaBIP is by count thus far. After that, I’d like to know the distribution of balls in play for each hitter (left,center,right,ground,line,fly) compared to their career averages. I’m inclined to think this is largely due to sample size and going against Oakland 7 times as well as being dominated by shields, Ventura, Darvish, etc.


  7. The bullpen is too short to send Fields back to OKC………but I doubt he will be in any more high stakes innings. Like I said earlier……….send for Singelton.


  8. Lo is pitching well at CC. I doubt he can be worse than Fields right now. Porter said he is going to keep throwing him out there. I just hope it is not in situations than can cost us the game. Get Fields in there with a sizable lead or deficit to see if he can correct his issues.


  9. Was at the game last night so I got to see first hand what this team looks like. It looks bad. I was overjoyed to see Springer get the big two out hit in the third but in every other at bat he was badly overmatched. The pattern was distressingly consistent – off speed pitch for strike one and then hard stuff he seemed unable to catch up with. I actually think he would be better off batting third with a more veteran Castro giving him some protection and decreasing the pressure on him to be the primary run producer in the lineup. Also he has committed more errors (4) in his brief stint in the majors than in his minor league career! And before anyone says he is playing right instead of center field, his errors have come on ground balls and throws that have no bearing on which field you’re playing.

    Cosart impressed me with his competitiveness; he really gutted it out in the sixth inning but its telling that it took him 105 pitches to get there. Bass looked good and I wish Porter would have gotten lost in the clubhouse in the eighth. I thought it was good that Bass opened the 8th but when Jayson Werth singled Porter knee-jerked brought in Valdez who promptly confounded the strategy by giving up a double to Adam LaRoche. Qualls did a good job of dousing the flames but Porter couldn’t resist the urge to over manage by intentionally walking Nate McLouth who is hitting a robust .111. If Chad Qualls can’t get out Nate McLouth we ought to give him his release. Fields was horrible and his velocity was down significantly. Did not see a single fast ball above 93 and his curve command was nonexistent. He was lucky things weren’t worse.

    Dominguez looked competent at the plate. Why is he hitting after Carter and Hoes? Carter is pathetic and IMO complete dead weight. Krauss was also horrible, taking a very hitable fastball for strike two and then swinging at a ball up and in that he had no shot at.

    Altuve has to be the All Star designate. I think he has improved a lot, especially in the field. He showed me a mental awareness I didn’t think was in him when he threw out Jose Lobaton at third on a routine ground ball.

    My final impression which I find the most distressing is that for the most part the team seems to be going through the motions, especially the marginal players. It was a beautiful night for baseball if only both teams had shown up ready to play all out.


  10. Problem, besides talent level (or lack thereof), is Bo Porter and John Malley. Porter destroys every kid’s confidence, and Malley destroys his hitting. Does anyone know any reason why Malley is still here? I liked Bagwell’s approach, after scouting reports, which is what we learned from day one in our baseball lives – see the ball hit the ball. Sounds simple. That’s how hitting should be. You don’t have time to process all other information when the pitch is on the way. Just swing at the ball and hit it.


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