Fun with numbers! Astros Edition

Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9!

Yes, somewhere deep in my bowels (it left my brain years ago) is a math nerd just waiting to be freed. It’s why I believe in the Luhnow Plan.

So, here the Astros are at at 27-15 with 120 games left. If they go .500 the rest of the way … let’s see, divide by 2, add to the wins and loses. Somewhere there’s got to be a “1” to carry. Yep, the Astros would be 87-75. Probably not in the playoffs.

To go .500 on the season, Houston would need to go 54-66 (a winning percentage of .450) the rest of the way.

Remember when you thought .500 would be a successful season? Still think that way now? Yeah, me neither. And when I’m done having fun with numbers, you’ll feel even more like anything less than the playoffs is a bust.

So, here we go. Fun with numbers. Volume 1 (Volume 2 comes later this week):

The Offense
Right now, the Astros have scored 187 runs in 42 games. As Jonas Hill’s character pointed out in “Moneyball,” you don’t win the game with players or batting averages. You win with runs. The Astros have 187, they have given up 159.

We’ll look more at the 159 next time. But for now, the Astros score 4.45 runs per game. Can they keep that up? Can they do even better?

Well, I would argue that the answers are “Probably” and “Probably.” But the answer is complex. Which is why we’re having Fun with Numbers. And for our purposes, that fun will start with three players: Evan Gattis, Chris Carter and George Springer.

Gattis: It would be easy to say Gattis is not pulling his lumbering weight for the Astros. After all, his OPS of .626 is a long way away from his career OPS before this season of about .791. Is Gattis just that much worse of a player? Well, I don’t think so. You see, Gattis, in many ways, is the same hitter now that he was in Atlanta. His Line Drive % is a tiny bit low. His K rate is a tiny bit high. But in one major area, Gattis is just missing the ball. Literally. His BAbip is really low. Right now he’s at .196 vs. his previous total of .276. That’s 0.080 off. So either defenses have really REALLY figured Gattis out, or he’s finding a lot of fielders and just not putting enough balls in play to bring up his average.

There’s a stat called Runs Created/Game. It means if you had nine Evan Gattises, how many runs would they score. Right now, it’s 2.5. Back in his Atlanta days, it was 4.9.

Springer: If you watched or listened to Thursday’s game — I did both, so I forget which announcer said this — there was a bit of disappointment expressed in Springer. Basically — and it may have been Alan Ashby — the thought was that Springer is better than this, so the Springer we’re seeing needs to become the Springer the tools and talent would indicate he can be.

OK, that’s fair. He was a first-round draft pick. Much is expected of him. Last season, Springer had an OPS of .804. Right now, at .729, he’s .075 off the pace. But maybe why is .804 George the real version and not .729 George? We could look at this minor league numbers, but if those were worth anything, Brett Wallace would be an All-Star.

So, what’s the problem? Well, in many ways, there doesn’t seem to be one. His K rate is down, 33.0% to 27.8%. His walk rate is up, 11.3% to 17.2%. And the percentage of extra-base hits — per plate appearance or per hit total — is up. Even Springer’s LD% is up, 21% to 25%.

Sure, we could point to the BAbip again, which is down .060. Even his percentage of balls in play is up. So once BAbip  comes around …

But Springer’s ratio of ground outs to all outs has jumped, meaning he’s got a lot of all-or-nothing going on. The drop in his home runs/fly ball are a good indicator of this. That number is almost half of 2014. So it seems like his power is down not just because of BAbip, but because he’s just not squaring up as well. Of course, that again could be related to BAbip. His BAbip isn’t down because of dumb bad luck. His bad luck has a name. He’s not squaring up.

But is that the George Springer we all believe is real? Watch that BAbip number. If it’s still .234 at the end of June, I’ll be worried. If it’s creeping up past .250, I think we’re seeing Springer get his grove back.

Carter: The problem with Carter is that many of his numbers are not far out of line with his career totals. K rate, 2.5% up. But his BB rate is 1.5% up too. LD% is just off by one percentage point. GB/FB is up from .45 to .54, so he’s not getting it off the ground as much. And his HR%, while not horrid, it’s off from last year’s mark. And again, he BAbip is off by .060.

So, what’s the good news here?  Well, BABip really doesn’t fluctuate that much over time. Eventually it stabilizes.  And when that happens, the guys who as supposed to be the real run producers — not Jake Marisnick or even Luis Valbuena — will start driving in more runs.

Valbuena is a great example here. His OPS right now of .738 is a bit high for his career average of .690. But if you look at just the past couple of years since Valbuena has matured and become an every day player, he’s right on target.

Rasmus is another player who we can expect to keep contributing — though maybe not quite as high as he has been. His current .842 OPS is quite high for his career average of .755. But he’s had seasons where his OPS was as high (.840 in 2013) as it is now. So if he regresses down to an OPS of .800, I’m OK with that. The pick up from Gattis, Carter and Springer will more than make up the difference.

In the end, I look at the Astros offense like a hot rod car you bought that needs a tuneup. Sure, you’re not driving that Pacer anymore. So this new Mustang really moves. But it could be running so much better.

Here’s some questions to ponder:

1. During any season, players ebb and flow. Will the Astros see more overall positive regression (progression) for the remainder of the season offensively, or will the offense drop off?

2. Who do you see as the biggest candidate for progression for the remainder of the season?

3. Who do you see as the biggest candidate for regression for the remainder of the season?

4. Carlos Correa Day can’t be far off. What impact will his bat have on this offense?

5. I didn’t really mention Jason Castro. Right now, his OPS is .694, just .020 below his career OPS. It’s not the .835 from two years ago, but it’s progress. With his improved defense, is a .700 or so OPS good enough from Jason Castro?

6. I’ve relied heavily on OPS here. To me, it’s a good, accessible stat. Right now, Houston’s team OPS is .722. Last year it was .692. If Houston stays around .720, will the pitching … no wait. That’s the topic for next time when we have … Fun with Numbers.


119 comments on “Fun with numbers! Astros Edition

  1. BT, a question, do you have access to any stats that show with the current trend of shifts, is the overall BABIP down league wise? I heard the Springer comment but took it as he expected improvement. In the same telecast (I think) they showed that Rasmus has hit 8 balls to left field this year. So I would think the shift would lower his BABIP (and other stats).


  2. I haven’t even begun to digest this. I am just amazed at the time , energy, and research you 3 put into this blog site. Half the time this ol Baseball man gets so lost in all the numbers and saber-metrics, but I thoroughly enjoy the thought provoking material.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wasn’t a .700 OPS for our lineup the dream scenario for 2014?

    Springer is trending up, but only has 4 RBI this month. Part of that is time missed, part is being pitched around, but a big part is that Jose Altuve is trending down. Since Springer returned, Altuve is 8 for 40. You’ll have to all forgive me, but this is where OBP becomes more important than SLG or HR. OTBG will tell you that pitchers throwing from the stretch generally lose velocity, control, or movement on their pitches when holding runners. OTBG will tell you that hitters get fewer sliders in the dirt when a speed threat is standing on first. OTBG will tell you the pitch that travels the furthest is a hanging slider. Actually, that last one is what MLB pitching coaches say.


    • But OTBG also says that if some of our hitters don’t start hitting all the fastballs they have been missing at an alarming rate the winning percentage could start to tumble.


  4. The problem with BABIP is that it is completely separate stat from Ks and if you have a big majority of players with high K rate and low BABIP you are eventually going to have problems scoring runs over a large sample size.
    The one thing about BABIP is that somebody like Altuve is always going to have a higher BABIP than the norm because he is a good hitter, and somebody like Carter is going to have a lower BABIP because he’s not a good hitter.
    The three players you mention have given no indication that they are going to become better at making contact or striking out at a significantly lower rate, and they are the #3,4.5 in the batting order.
    Honestly, the batting averages we are parading up to the plate, combined with #3-5 starting pitchers we have, make our record the most amazing thing I have seen in baseball in a long time and I would vote Hinch for manager of the century if I could right now.
    and the MVP of this team is every guy in the bullpen, because they have even saved Keuchel a bunch of games.
    The Astros have shown that there is even more luck in baseball than is reflected in BABIP, that’s for sure.


  5. Nice post Brian – good post yesterday Chip – just got a chance to read it – commenting on the run.
    Here is an interesting stat. In 2012 the Astros were led by Justin Maxwell 18 HR and JD Martinez 55 RBIs (give yourself a big pat on the back if you knew that). This year 7 guys are on pace for more homers than that and 6 guys for more RBIs. That is the joy this year – many hands make light work. You don’t know who will be the offensive stars in any game.


  6. The offense almost has to get better. I think the guys we might expect real regression from could be Marisnick and maybe Rasmus. But who else? Castro will remain about where he is. Same with Conger, Villar, Gonzalez. Tucker is an unknown to a degree. But I am confident that both he and Correa will provide a lift to the offense. Altuve will come out of his present slump and be Altuve again. Valbuena, Carter, Gattis, and Springer will all improve their batting averages. Springer will at some point start hitting homers.

    Springer will eventually progress the most. He’s got more raw talent than any of the other current underacheivers.

    Marisnick is still a bit unproven. So he’s the guy that still gets the title of most likely to regress. Who else is really overacheiving at this point? That’s why I remain so optimistic about ths wacky club.

    Carlos Correa will play and hit at a major league level from the start. I don’t expect .300, but he’ll more than hold his own and build from there.

    On this club, I’d tke the Castro we are seeing right now.

    I expect the OPS to improve.


  7. Holy cow! Correa and Singleton hit homers in a Fresno win over Barry Zito’s Nashville club last night, but Lancaster scored 22 runs to upstage them.


  8. Whew! I finally have a chance to respond.

    No shift numbers. I’m sure they are out there, but I didn’t find them.

    OP, I realize BABIP is K independent. That’s why I included K rates.

    Springer is the real riddle here. Is he just Small Sample Size underperforming? Or is he lost and last season is a fluke? The stats would indicate … I don’t know. Several indicators show improvement. Yet … I’m thinking once his BABIP normalizes he’ll be fine.


  9. Just call me clueless. This team has far exceeded any expectations I have had so far. I see it with my eyes, but my brain still cannot process what has actually happened so far this season. So my brain has decided not to try and predict what happens next. I’ll just watch and hang on for the ride. Go ‘Stros!


    • I think it’s a matter of effort. Like yesterday, the team kept playing until the end. Last year, they go down 5-0 and that was it.


  10. interesting post brian. i think all this number crunching, shifts et al are here to stay. i do think that there will need to be refinement of the way they are used, but heck if its there and can help, why not use em. sometimes for me it becomes overload.

    HAL what is the teams record? their babip is, no HAL the record. team OPS is, HAL please the record. projections for the season based on, HAL %#$%$#%$ what is the most important stat. Team record rj. Thank you HAL. HAL why are you purging the atmosphere from the ship? Hal HAL! HAAAL!!!!


  11. When my wife and I retired and moved here, we saw that the average annual rainfall for our area is about 23-25 inches. In the last four years I think we have actually gotten about half of that every year. But we have had over 20 inches of rain this week.
    It’s kinda like the Astros. I have been waiting for years for a winning team and now they are winning more than they are supposed to and I don’t hardly know what to do or say. I’m glad you all are here to share this because it’s hard to believe.
    I really don’t want the rain to stop because I’ve missed it so much and I really don’t want the Astros to stop winning because I’ve missed it so much.


  12. Really enjoy this site. Very good blogs and for the most part, comments, in my humble opinion.

    As we’ve been told by others and Springer, the Astros are trying to change his batting style and approach. Terrible idea, especially during the season. The young man has hit since he was probably five years old the same way, and we saw what the can do batting that way while he was in the minors and during his brief time with the Astros last year. He’s way off fast balls (pulling out and tilting back toward catcher) and thus, when he does hit them, he’s on top and hits ground balls. With this approach he’s also, when he does strike the ball, hitting to the right side and center more often than seemingly before, with his head pulling and his right shoulder dipping that is natural.

    I don’t know why they are messing with him, but they are, and he’s seemingly totally without confidence or an idea of what to do when he’s at the plate. Maybe, likely, wrong about this, but sure looks that way to me. I saw him hit the ball too hard last year to think if they let him be he wouldn’t get back to the Springer we know and love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some people just cannot handle the success of others and work to change those means of success in order to say their “stamp” is on the product. The changing of Springers’ batting style is at the forefront here in my rant.


  13. Relative to the question about BAbip – a quick look shows that it has been on a slope down over the last decade ( like a lot of offensive stats).
    The league average was at .305 in 2006 and is currenty at .291. Not sure if that is all shift related but some of it must be.


  14. I’m kinda like Nance………I don’t care HOW they win, I’m just enjoying THAT they win!! There really is soooo much talent on this team, I can’t help thinking when they get to play with Correa they will ALL start clicking on all cylinders! And……I can’t WAIT to see that kid at short this year!!

    P.S. Thank you Hinch for the lineup today!


    • This actually makes a lot of sense. Other teams want guys who can hit and he can hit. Other teams won’t give us anything for guys who can’t hit.
      But seriously, why, all of a sudden is a guy with power and potential high batting average, and a propensity to walk not a fit in a lineup like ours, especially when he is making major league minimum and we have control over him for years. It’s nuts.
      Why can’t other teams want guys who hit home runs, hit for low averages and strike out a lot?


    • I don’t want to pick on our best hitter, but he has got to have a bit more plate discipline. I know he is a bad ball hitter, but he is swinging at pitches that are clearly out of the strike zone, sometimes with 3 balls in the count. We need him to pick up his hitting again.


  15. Can you imagine how scary the Tigers would be this year with a healthy Verlander, and Scherzer in the rotation?? I hade to shut the T.V. off when I heard Qualls was coming in to pitch. I just listened to the radio, because I just had the feeling he was skating on thin ice. I’m not picking on Chad, but he was REALLY good in 2005……but this is 2015. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him gone by the end of July.
    And………Altuve and Carter need some days off ASAP. A lot of things to think about
    glad I’m not the GM.


  16. Brady Rodgers getting hit hard by Nashville. Fresno only has one hit. That shortstop has gone to the plate three times and has drawn 3 BB. But nobody else can hit or walk tonight, so far.
    Appel got bombed tonight but Corpus Christi still has the lead late.
    Quad Cities won easily tonight with home runs from four different guys and 4 hits from Nottingham and great pitching from Mengden. QC is now 32-10 and had over 7,000 fans in their ballpark tonight.


  17. I’m on the road two days and the Astros lose 2. Y’all will have to start doing a better job because it can’t have anything to do with me…


    • It really is crazy. They are last in the AL in BA, 13th in OBP but 4th in runs scored. They are 5th in SLG and 7th in OPS and of course 1 in HRs and are somehow holding on.


  18. Well…… McCullars will get another start, and he SHOULD! Glad to see his pitch count was fairly low going into the 6th., but that’s where he started to fight himself. I’d love to have heard that clubhouse after todays game…..LOUD AND PROUD!!! Good going kiddo!
    And the only thing that saved Villar’s a$$ today was that he got a couple of hits.
    His new name Villerror.


  19. Good job y’all – getting that win with me out of town. Could not watch – but could picture Mr McCullers trying to put a death grip on a rotation spot.


    • Dan, the difference today was his curve. His hand was staying on top of it and it stayed flat as it came out of his hand, making it harder to pick up. Then, as it got 2/3 of the way to the plate it just dropped off the table. He was throwing his pitches for strikes and not getting near as many long counts, so he wasn’t behind and made the batters guess and lunge.
      McCullers struck Cabrera out on a curve and Cabrera stared back at him on the way back to the dugout.
      And Anthony Gose looks like he has arrived!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks old pro – that sounds more light the highlight curve we’ve seen in snippets on video. First start he was throwing spinners up and flat.


  20. This is slightly off topic but ties into fun with numbers: Through his age 25 season Pete Rose had 723 hits in 2463 at bats. 44 games into his age 25 season Jose Altuve has 683 hits in 2263 at bats. THAT is a stunning start to any career.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Off topic here, too, but I have been reviewing the complete Astros Draft of 2012. Any college player taken and signed in that draft is eligible for rule v status this winter if they aren’t on the 40-man roster. Fontana, Heineman, Sclafani, Holmes and a few others would be included in that. Tucker would have been also. It will be interesting to see what happens.


    • Depending on the players age when they were first drafted the Astros should have another year or two on these guys.

      Per Wikipedia: “Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster and:

      – were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or

      – were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

      These exemption periods (one year longer than those in effect previously) went into effect as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in October 2006. The change took effect immediately, exempting many players from the 2006 Rule 5 draft even though they had been signed in some cases more than four years before the new agreement came into effect. Prior to the rule change, players were exempt from the first two or three Rule 5 drafts held after their signing (regardless of the year they were drafted), rather than from the first three or four Rule 5 drafts after their signing.


      • All the players I named meet that criteria. Aplin is another. They all were old enough and this upcoming Rule V is their fourth.


      • You are right – I was thinking 4 full seasons, not 4 rule 5 drafts. I wonder if the Astros will consider more multi-player trades to open up slots on the 40 man roster.


      • The nature of the relationship between Delino and the Astros, and the reasons for DDJ not being protected, will have to be revealed by someone other than the club. That is the way it has to be. I/We may never know the whole story.


  22. The Astros ridiculous outfield shift just cost them a run. They shifted Springer all the way to right center on Gose with a runner on first and two outs. Gose hit what should have been a routine line single to right but there wasn’t anyone to play right. The runner from first scored easily because it took forever for Springer to get to the ball. The next batter struck out.
    The pitch Gose hit was a high changeup on the inside part of the plate. Why would you shift the outfield the opposite way and then throw that pitch to a left handed batter. STUPID!


  23. Ok you RUBES let’s start this game ALL over again! Head scratcher why Hinch didn’t start Tucker today, as Rasmus didn’t hit for spit yesterday. Oh well……score
    is tied, so get to their bullpen you guys!


  24. Now we are starting to see why I have been talking about Tucker for two years. This is the Preston Tucker we saw in Lancaster, Corpus and Fresno.
    Like I said, forget about the body and pay attention to the bat.


      • Let’s face it, he got the bad body description from scouts before the draft and they kept using the same description for three years. They also said he had a weak arm and he doesn’t. He and Gattis are underrated when it comes to baserunning.


    • I was not sold on the kid, even having seen him in Corpus. But it’s pretty obvious that I was wrong. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and knows his way around a ball field. Not the quickest guy out there, but looks steady in left. And he sure does have good at bats. I’m starting to get excited, because I think McCullers is the real deal and I know Correa is. With Tucker, that’s three talented very young guys coming up in a very short period of time.


  25. No way they win this game last few seasons. 7-3 would have been a death knell. Love that they can win 3-2 and then 10-8. Huge pinch hit dinger by Tucker, big 2 run 2 out single by Castro and the bullpen held on good enough to get the win. Nice 4 game split.


  26. If this weekend proves anything, it’s that the experts who labeled the AL West as a week division were wrong. Except for the Angels, the AL West went east and did some damage to teams. It turns out that the AL West has teams with losing records because they are good enough to beat up on each other.
    New York would just as soon not see the Texas Rangers again. Detroit fans are grumbling about their manager because they thought they were going to trounce the Astros. Seattle held their own on the East Coast, too. Lets go to Baltimore and see what’s cookin’.

    Liked by 1 person

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