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):
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.