It is time to revisit a post from November 2013……
The following chart shows how the 5 teams that made the playoffs in 2014 fared when it came to scoring runs / giving up runs and run differential. Also, shown are the same stats for the Astros for both 2013 and 2014.
|Team||Runs Scored/ Game||AL rank||Runs Allowed / Game||AL Rank||Run Differ. / Game||AL Rank|
|LA – Anaheim||4.77||1||3.89||6||0.88||2|
|Houston – 2013||3.77||14||5.23||15||-1.46||15|
|Houston – 2014||3.88||14||4.46||12||-0.58||13|
It is really not surprising that the Astros improved much more on the pitching side of the ledger compared to the modest gains on the hitting side. If they had the same kind of improvement in run differential (0.88 runs / game) heading to 2015…. Well they would be better off than KC and right around where Detroit is. However, don’t expect the same amount of improvement this next season. It is a whole lot easier when your team ERA is over 5 to show a big improvement in one season.
Offense. A quick look at what I consider a key stat for the offense and then some discussion.
OPS. This stat which is simply on-base-percentage plus slugging percentage closely follows the run scored stat. The league average is .706 (down from .725 in 2013). The five playoff teams range from the Royals at 10th with .690 to the top rated Tigers at .757. The Astros improved from last in 2013 (.674) to 9th in 2014 (.690). This 2% improvement in OPS ended up with an approximate 2% increase in runs scored. Better than dropping, but not much better.
Potential improvement. No special science here – they need a full healthy season from George Springer, much better production at 1B and 3B whether from Singleton and Dominguez or their replacements and maybe some better numbers at SS and C.
Goal. A reasonable goal for 2015 would be to raise up their OPS from .692 to the league average – speculating that to be around .710. This might boost their runs / game to near the league average around 4.2 runs/game.
Note. I pointed out last season that the Astros really needed to address their horrid stolen base % of 64% and mostly on the back of Jose Altuve they brought that up to a much more acceptable 77% for the season.
Pitching. It is hard to picture the Astros making more significant improvements in the starting pitching side of the staff. It is hard to picture them not making significant improvements on the relief pitching side of the staff.
Bullpen ERA. The Astros bullpen ERA was almost a whole run worse than the starting staff – 4.80 vs. 3.82 ERA. The next biggest gap in the AL is Detroit, whose pen put up a 4.29 ERA vs. the starters 3.89.
Potential Improvement. In the area of starting pitching, the hope is that Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh both return to the excellence they showed in 2014, Scott Feldman is solid again and that the 4th and 5th spots filled by Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock, Nick Tropeano, Asher Wojciechowski or a starter to be obtained later give improved performance in 2015 at the end of the rotation.
60% of the relief innings thrown for the Astros in 2014 were for relievers with ERAs above 4.40 and 37% of the total innings were thrown by relievers with ERA’s over 5.10. The Astros bullpen’s ERA was 0.42 runs more than the next worse White Sox and 2.21 runs more than the insanely good Mariners (2.59).
Goal. The goal for the Astros has to be make a big improvement up to that 3.70 – 3.80 ERA league average range for the bullpen. I think they need to bring in two arms that actually pitch the whole season and have a sub-3 ERA for them and pair that up with returnees like Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp and possibly Jose Veras. They also need to have a couple of the younger guys like Mike Foltyniewicz and Josh Fields or Kevin Chapman step their game up a notch or so.
The ERA is not the low hanging fruit it was for the whole staff in 2013 – improving the bullpen a whole run while the starting pitching is holding the same would only drop the staff ERA by 0.2 or 0.3 runs this season. The majority of their improvement as a team should be from the offensive side, maybe a 0.5 run improvement for the year.
So, is it possible for the Astros to put up more than a 0.6 run/game differential improvement which would put them on the plus side (more runs scored than given up) and lead them to a winning record for the first time since 2006?
Is this a pipe dream or a real possibility?