The May Renaissance of the Astros (funny how a .500 record is a Renaissance) brings to mind many questions. Is this the real Astros or was April the real Astros? Is this team really better than the 2013 skunk-fest? Is Bopert on suicide watch as the Astros actually improve? Why did the Sopranos finale end in such an open ended way?
I’m not sure I can answer any of the questions completely – but I did want to dig into some of the stats and talk about what I think they mean. Note – all numbers are through the 3-0 shutout on Tuesday night.
2013 vs. 2014 (so far)
Fielding – The Astros have only recorded 30 errors so far this season which is 6th best in the AL. At this pace they would commit 92 errors on the season which is far less than the AL worst 125 errors they put up in 2013. In fielding % they were last in 2013 (.979) while this season they are tied for 4th (.985). In 2013 they gave up 82 unearned runs – more than 1/2 a run per game. This season they have given up 18 unearned runs which would equate to 55 runs over a whole season. On top of this the defense definitely meets the eye test. They are covering so much more ground out there and it shows.
Hitting – At first glance the hitting is just slightly better in 2014 than in 2013. BA down from .240 to .238, while OBP/ SLG / OPS which were 15th/last in the league in 2014 (.299 / .375 / .674) are now a bit improved (.308 – 13th / .387 – 10th / .695 – 11th). The Astros actually scored slightly more runs / game in 2013 than they have so far in 2014 (3.77 vs. 3.72). But if we look at what has happened in May…. well we will look at that a little farther down.
Starting Pitching – The starters have been dramatically better – overall in 2014 than in 2013. ERA has gone from 4.72 (13th) to 3.96 (7th), WHIP from 1.47 (14th) to 1.30 (6th), OPS against from .778 (13th) to .699 (4th) and they have the best ground ball out ratio by far at 1.40 in the league.
Relief Pitching – The bullpen is still lagging last season’s pen – but not by much and frankly considering the bullpen ERA was over 6 at one point – it is coming on strong lately. It was last in most important categories in 2014 and it is again in 2013 – but changes they have been a-coming here in the last month.
April Showers Bring May Flowers???
There are some players that have fallen off in May – Jonathan Villar has fallen off the map, Castro has been struggling, Feldman has slowed down from an unsustainable pace as has Collin McHugh (but you have to love those starts going to him over, say, Lucas Harrell) and Matt Dominguez has almost identical numbers in April as in May. But when you look at what is driving the latest insurgency – here are the players behind it.
Chad Qualls – Qualls struggled through April (5.40 ERA / 2.160 WHIP / .967 OPS against) but has been tough as nails in May (0.00 ERA / .429 WHIP / .310 OPS against).
Tony Sipp – Was not here in April, but ever since being picked up as a freebie – all he has done is put up a 0.00 ERA while allowing only one walk and one hit in 9.2 innings.
Dallas Keuchel – Did a solid job in April (3.56 ERA / 1.286 WHIP) – but nothing like May (1.79 ERA / 0.744 WHIP). Most significantly he averaged 6 innings per start in April and a great 8 innings per start in May.
Jarred Cosart – He still struggles with Bud Norris disease (too many pitches to pitch deep into games) but his results have been towards improvement. His ERA was 5.52 in April and 2.96 in May – but the most important stat for him was going from 5 HR in April to 0 in May. Note – this does not include today’s game.
Josh Fields – Cheating a little here – I will compare the Josh Fields before being sent down on May 6th (12.00 ERA / 2.08 WHIP) and the Josh Fields after his May 17th call-up (0.00 ERA / 0.500 WHIP). As they would say… that would be better.
George Springer – OK – hid him down here to make you read a bit – but the guy has been insanely good in May (.322 BA / .404 OBP / 1.071 OPS – 8 HR and 21 RBI) after being an over-swinging rookie in April (.182 BA / .262 OBP / .480 OPS with 0 HR and 4 RBI). The kid is the real deal and the whole team seems to be feeding off it.
Jose Altuve – In April – Altuve (.276 BA / .325 OBP / .696 OPS) looked like he was repeating the mediocrity of 2013. In May he has looked like the guy who came up from AA not that long ago (.367 BA / .402 OBP / .906 OPS). I’m guessing he is loving seeing George Springer on the lineup card right below his name.
Dexter Fowler – April (.231 BA .307 OBP / .670 OPS) was making us wish to cancel the trade that sent Jordan Lyles to the Rockies. May (.300 BA / .447 OBP / .825 OPS) has been much more palatable to our tastes.
The Astros are not nearly as putrid as April and probably not (yet) as mediocre as May. If I were a betting man – I would say they are closer to the May version of the team. I do believe they are significantly better than 2013. The most significant thing that May has brought them is the knowledge that they can avoid an extended losing streak and that there is talent lurking on this team that was either struggling in April or playing elsewhere.