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. Tucker has looked great so far, but it is still early in his big league career and once scouts find a weakness let’s see if Tucker will be able to adjust. I remember many Astros fans livid when they traded Kike Hernandez last year (I am not saying Kike is the player Tucker is, but just comparing the starts). The Astros have a ton of OF depth in the minors and if trading Tucker lands us someone like Cueto I think the Astros need to take a hard look at it. I absolutely would not trade Tucker for a MOR starter, but if he helps land us a #1 or #2 I would understand trading him.


    • Tim, I don’t see the same outfield depth you make mention of. If Tucker was to get traded, our immediate options are guys like Hoes and Grossman. I’ve seen enough of both. And right now, Marisnick might be stuck in a slump, or he might be correcting back to his historical stats. If the real Marisnick is exposing himself, that leaves us thin in the outfield and very thin if Tucker was to get moved too.


    • The encouraging thing about Tucker is that he is showing the same tendencies in the Majors as he did in the Minors. Decent K rate, good eye at the plate, hits the ball to all fields, power and hitting for average. His home runs came on a fastball up and out and he hit it to LF, and a changeup down and in hit to RF. He’s lost two singles to the extreme Ausmus shift.
      Tim, you might be right about a trade of him for a TOR pitcher, but if it happens it will be a big deal because Tucker is one of the guys that Luhnow drafted to carry out the Luhnow plan, and that plan has always seemed to me to be one of keeping the guys he saw as the future and shipping out the guys that others saw as the future.


    • I was talking more about prospects for future years, but I think Rasmus, Presley, Hoes, etal can hold the fort for this season if we added a TOR. Let’s face it, we aren’t getting a TOR by trading Carter, Grossman and Hoes so if we want a TOR then we have to give up talent. You add someone like Cueto to this rotation and we become legit contenders, in my opinion. I don’t want to trade Tucker unless we get a TOR. I like the kid and think he will be a good major leaguer, but he isn’t a strong defender in the OF and I could live with trading him if it returned a TOR. Please don’t take my comments as ‘let’s dump the kid’, but I also can see the benefit of selling high on him (I think most of us wish we did that with Carter last year, but I am not comparing Carter to Tucker as I think Tucker is a much better prospect/future major leaguer).


      • Tim, Cueto would indeed make the rotation one of the best in the business. No argument there. If I had a choice though, I think I’d rather give up Santana. And we’d be giving up at least two other top ballplayers to make that deal happen. Then we’d be committing something in the 200 million range for one guy. I don’t care about the money itself, but how does a guy like Keuchel end up feeling about a deal like that? I’m not sure if a Cueto deal adds to the harmony of this group. Admittedly, I’m getting closer to thinking that we might be a legit contender, at least to the point where we’ll be playing relevant games in September. So, I guess I’m on the fence about a Cueto or similar deal.


      • I would much rather trade Santana over Tucker, but I am not sure how much trade value he has. Cueto is a free agent at the end of the year so Cincy won’t get the haul Philly would for Hamels. If we could get Cueto for Santana and someone like Teoscar Hernandez I would do it, but I don’t think that will do it.


  2. While we are on the subject of potential trade targets what would you be willing to give up for someone like Aroldis Chapman? I am not comfortable with Gregerson as the closer, especially in the playoffs (if we make it). I would like the Astros to acquire a shut-down closer and I want nothing to do with Papelbon as I don’t see him as a shut-down closer any more.


    • Tim, if the team were to acquire a TOR guy, that would give them Dallas, Doc and the new guy for the playoffs. With LMJ getting some good major league time, learning the hitters and learning what works against them, he and Gregerson might make a heckuva closer combo in the playoffs.
      If he were to remain with the team for the rest of the year, he would be a seasoned guy with two dynamite pitches who could be a closer in the playoffs if they get there.
      And they wouldn’t have to give up anything to get someone and next season he is back in the starting rotation.


    • I have always pegged LMJ as a future closer and, to be honest, I am a little concerned leaving him as a starter for the rest of the year and relying on him in the playoffs as a starter. He will far exceed any workload he has experienced in the past and I wouldn’t want to have him throw that many innings so early in his career. I would like to add a TOR and move LMJ to the pen, while gradually working him toward the closer role. I think that would be an ideal situation. I am comfortable with, let’s say, Cueto, Keuchel, McHugh and Feldman as a playoff starting rotation with a bullpen of LMJ, Gregerson, Neshek, Fields and Sipp (Qualls will be there, but he would be more of mop up duty in my opinion).


      • The great thing about the playoffs is that you go with a four-man rotation, it gives you an extra bullpen spot. All of the travel days allows you to go with four SP and eight RP and 13 position players, if you so desire.


  3. Springer leading off, and Conger behind the plate. AND…..Villerror is at short.
    On this day I want to thank ALL of you who have served our country, to keep me free. I have three living uncles who were in WW11, they are frail and not long for this earth. My brothers were in the Navy, and Coast Guard…….and my husband in the Air Force. Our oldest son is a Navy Commander, and the XO of a squadron of pilots in Norfork.. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for stepping up, and answering the call to serve our *GREAT* country. I was a young 20yr. old girl when I watched the flag drapped coffins of sweet young boys being brought back home from Viet Nam. A night mare I could never fully understand. So, I will be forever in your debt for keeping this wonderful country safe while we slept in our beds……..FREE.
    Thank you and may God bless you every single day. Fondly, Becky

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Boys you better watch out…….Bruce Dreckman is calling balls and strikes today, and he WILL throw you outta the game for arguing with him. Case in point Marisnick
    nearly got tossed for arguing with him. Hush up and play the game!


  5. I will take the hit on the loss today. I finally got back in radio range tuned in the game and Pearce hits the homer to win it. Sorry


  6. As far as Memorial Day goes – my middle name is Lee and I am named after my great uncle Leroy Klug who went down in the Pacific during WWII as the second man in an Avenger and was never found.
    There is nothing we can say or do to truly thank all those whose deeds give us the freedom to chat about baseball or whatever we choose to chat about.
    This is the greatest nation the world has ever known.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks rj – my like button worked so I liked Beckys comment above.
      We are so fortunate to live here under the umbrella held up by the lives and love of our armed forces.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t “signed” up for a word press account, but If I did, I would LIKE what you wrote DanP!! My family was VERY lucky. I had seven uncles who served in WW!!
      and they ALL came back. Just good old country boys who WANTED to go into the service…..kind of like what we see today, young men who want to fight them over there, and NOT over here.
      Viet Nam made me soooo sad, those kids were younger than me, and scared to death. It was AWFUL.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t have a like button, but your thoughts ARE appreciated by the one’s who have served.
      Yeah, I’m still around reading every day, still loving this blog and all you guys.


  7. Telvin Nash was released today, I wish him luck…..he could mash the heck outta the ball!! Luhnow says he “likes what he sees” in Fresno. Cross your fingers fellas!!


    • I never viewed him as a likely candidate for a spot on the big club, but his AA numbers are roughly equivalent to Gattis’ and Carter’s MLB production this year. Folty had a great start on Sunday and is 3-1 now for the Braves, BTW.


      • Devin, that was what I thought immediately about Nash. We already have the K and low BA cornered at the MLB level. Don’t need another rising K-Star. Just like Carter – when he connected, he could mash them.


  8. I see that Cueto has some elbow soreness and is having his elbow examined today. Scratch everything I said about trading for him. I am leery on trading for a guy with a sore elbow who will be a free agent at the end of the year. We don’t need another Jesse Crain/Matt Albers situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Final check on Telvin Nash’s stats. Stretched out to 520 plate appearances, Telvin was on a pace to strike out 196 times in AA ball this season, which was his seventh in the Astros organization. I think they gave him every chance to improve that they could.
    With the way White has been hitting, I think they have to focus on him and give Gregor regular play at first base. They have so many guys in High A they are going to have to move up to CC and so many guys in Low A that are going to move up.
    The draft is less than two weeks away.


  10. Ok boys and girls………just checking in on you. I hope everyone who lives in Houston is ok, and not flooded out! Houston is a MESS right now, and I’m praying they find those who have gone missing in the hill country. I was nervous with our guys playing in Baltimore this week, I hope they are safe and sound. Ya’ll stay safe!


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