Houston Astros 2016: Seventy-Nine Opportunities to Improve


The Astros record in 2015 was 86-76 and including the post-season they were 89-79. That means there are 79 opportunities for improvement for the team entering 2016.

Some overall numbers relative to their 2015 season, including the post-season:

  • Road record. 35-50 even though they outscored the opposition 376-351
  • Home record. 54-29 outscoring the opposition 377-292
  • One run games. 21-30
  • Blowouts (won by 5+). 21-13
  • Extra inning games. 8-6
  • Interleague games. 16-4
  • The Astros had a winning record against 13 teams, .500 record against 2 teams and a losing record against 4 teams
  • They were 6-13 record against the Rangers

The road numbers, the one run games and the games against the Rangers stand out as areas where they need to improve to take the next steps in their development. Even a .500 record on the road would be a nice boost at this point.

An interesting way to look at how the offense and the pitching performed last season is to look at how the team fared when scoring a certain amount of runs and allowing a certain amount of runs.

RUNS SCORED IN A GAME           RECORD               W-L

 

RUNS ALLOWED IN A GAME            RECORD                 W-L

 

0 0-10 0 15-0
1 0-20 1 12-2
2 2-17 2 18-9
3 16-15 3 14-13
4 14-6 4 13-13
5 9-5 5 10-9
6 18-4 6 4-14
7 5-0 7 1-7
8 8-0 8 2-5
9 5-2 9 0-3
10+ 12-0 10+ 0-4

A number of things fall out of reviewing the year this way.

  • The pitching staff was absolutely nails when getting enough support. They were 71-17 when the team scored 4 or more runs last season. That is impressive.
  • The offense had a lot of games with good run support, but way too many games scoring between 0 and 2 runs – 49 games which resulted in a 2-47 record in those games.
  • The Astros record when the pitching staff gave up 3 runs in a game (14-13) and 4 runs in a game (13-13) would seem to point to the offense not coming through when just average support could have ruled the day. Even the 18-9 record when they only allowed 2 runs would seem to be an area that could be improved.

Most of this data backs up what loyal fans saw with their own eyes last season. The inconsistent offense by the Astros was one of the few things holding the team back. It was a team that tended to pile runs on when they were not needed and struggle to score more than a couple runs when many games were begging to be won.

A few questions for you to ponder:

  1. Is there anything that sticks out to you in the information above?
  2. Where should the Astros put an emphasis this season to avoid some of those 79 losses?
  3. What have the Astros done this off-season to address the problems that led to the losses?
  4. What decisions are critical in Spring Training to have a more successful season?

 

 

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66 comments on “Houston Astros 2016: Seventy-Nine Opportunities to Improve

  1. As I recall it, the offensive woes seemed to break down as follows:

    1. not enough baserunners [poor team OBP]
    2. Far too many Ks [over-swinging plus horrible approach with 2 strikes]
    3. Pitiful BARISP – especially at positions 4-7 in the order..
    4. Inability to score with the bases loaded.
    5. after April, too high a rate of pickoffs and caught-stealings.
    6. runners being sent home when they should have been held at 3rd.

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    • Mr. Bill, I too, was very disappointed with the baserunning in general. Who’s the main Astro coach for that? I feel the Astros ran themselves out of several innings and what especially hurt was being picked off second. I wish they could get Bagwell to spend some time with the players this March on baserunning skills

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  2. I hope the Astro coaches spend a little more time concerning baserunning skills this March. Bring Bagwell in to discuss common sense on base skills.

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    • Larry, I’m not sure if common sense is teachable. If a guy does not have great instincts on the bases by the time he’s reached the majors, chances are he’s not going to become a real good base runner.

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  3. I knew the record against Arlington was horrible but I didn’t realize just how abysmal it was! They must get better in games against the rangers. I do think with the addition of Giles we are going to have a better record in 1 run games. I think of all the games down the stretch where we gave up leads late in the game because our bullpen was either tired or just flat struggling. I appreciate reading everyone’s comments! 1Oldpro I always appreciate your thoughts. I’m ready for another fun season rooting for the Astros!

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  4. The Astros had the best team ERA in the American League, but had the fifth best record.
    The Astros need to split with their biggest rival. Instead, they got clobbered. They need to man up against the Rangers, and especially against Colby Lewis.
    They need to hit the ball a lot better and strike out a lot less.
    They need to avoid thinking that the addition of one big reliever is going to make a difference. Instead, they need to replace the players who hurt them the most last year with players who won’t hurt them the most this year. specifically at 1B, DH, Catcher and Back of the Rotation starters.
    They need to improve their bullpen some more by making sure that they put the best guys out there now, not the guys who were best last year. They can’t have a guy out there that is good today and lousy tomorrow or a guy who is hurt and doesn’t say anything. They can’t afford to keep the eighth best reliever and send the seventh best down because of money or options.
    They have made four good subtractions in Carter, Villar, Kazmir and Conger. They need to upgrade at first base with someone who can hit major league pitching.
    The most critical decisions in spring training to be winners are to decide to go with what didn’t work last year or to be bold and try some youth. Do you stick with last year’s success and hope to be luckier, or do you follow the plan and continue to build through the system and add players who will hit better and get on base?

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  5. Looked up a few things relative to last year’s team.
    – OBP – they were slightly below average (.315 vs. .318 for the AL)
    – Surprisingly they struck out about the same in their wins (8.6/game) vs. their losses (8.7 / game) but that does not necessarily matter as you can sabotage lots of rallies when you strike out at the wrong time. Bound to catch up with them
    – They were 13th in BA with runners in scoring position
    – With RISP, guys like Gattis (.241), Rasmus (.258), Valbuena (.212) and Carter (.237) were basically mediocre and worse. Castro (.141) was insanely bad. Springer was poor (.207) while Correa was good (.284)
    – It is hard to judge them on hitting with the bases loaded – they had the least opportunities (87 ABs) in the league – average was 117 ABs. That has to tie to there meh OBP number. They hit middle of the pack with the bases loaded – .287 BA and .807 OPS
    – I’m also surprised that they are basically at league average for SB% (72% success rate) and for total number of runners thrown out on the bases (56) – but I bet you are right that if you could break it down you would find that the base running got worse and worse during the season.

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      • If they continue to field a lineup of hitters with low BAs, they will continue to be at the bottom of the league in BA with RISP.

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      • I remembered our BARISP being bad – but that is ABYSMAL. 13th out of 15 in the league in which we play? We have to improve upon that. And sense we had a below league average OBP to start with [fewer opportunities], the effect of the poor BARISP was compounded significantly. We had fewer chances, and could not take advantage of the ones we had. That, I suspect, is a big reason why we lost so many one-run games.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I would like to throw out some info and thoughts about their bad season against the Rangers:
    – They were 6-14. 3 of their wins were started by Keuchel and 3 were started by McHugh.
    – On the bright side, 6 of their losses were started by pitchers we will not see (or likely not see) pitch for them this season – Kazmir (3), Deduno, Hernandez and Straily. In addition 2 other losses were started by Feldman who may not be in the rotation this season.
    – On the darker side they handed Keuchel (9 runs in 4.2 IP) and McCullers (6 runs in 0.1 IP) their worse outings of the season
    – Qualls and Perez – both gone – lost a couple games late for them
    – I think early in the season, the law of averages struck. The Astros were coming off a 10 game winning streak and the Rangers were underperforming at 8-16. The Rangers finally broke loose and swept 3 games from the Astros.
    – I think later in the season the Astros just choked. At one point their record was 4-5 against the Rangers and then in the heat of the pennant race they lost 8 straight games to the Rangers. A young team feeling the heat for the first time.
    – Colby Lewis – He was 4-1 against the Astros. He was good to very good in 3 of the games (6 IP / 2R; 8 IP / 1R; 7.1 IP / 2 R). He was also lucky that he won one game where he gave up 7R in 6 IP and the fact that the Rangers scored 8, 11, 7 and 12 runs in his 4 wins. Nothing like getting big leads to relax a fellow.

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    • Colby Lewis was 4-0 against the Astros last year. He left his first start trailing Houston in the 8th inning, but Qualls blew the save letting Lewis off the hook. Springer saved the game in the tenth and Conger homered in the 14th off of Verrett. He beat the Astros in the other four starts against them.

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  7. *What decisions are critical in Spring Training to have a more successful season?*

    We should have good pitching again, and the top three in our order should have excellent OBP again. That places the onus for improvement on situational hitting from 4-9. We have to put the most clutch hitter we have [other than Altuve] at Position 4, and he has to have a BA of at least .275. We have to get a minimum of .240 in BA, above .325 in OBP, and .260 in BARISP from positions 5 and 6. We need some occasional power [20 or more HR] with good 2-strike hitting from positions 7-8. And we need someone who at least makes contact at 9 [presumably our catcher].

    Put those goals up on the bulletin board in the locker room under a sign saying: “Here is what we need from anyone who wants to play DH, 1B, 3B, LF, or CF the following positions for the Houston Astros in 2016. Be the best of delivering that in ST, while playing your positions well, and you get the position”.

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    • Man I would love to have a top 3 of Altuve, White (His OBP the last 3 seasons has been .406, .410 and .442 respectively), Springer and then your most clutch hitter Correa in the cleanup spot. Late season Colby Rasmus would slide nicely into 5th spot and then Gomez (from 2013 or 2014) into the 6th spot. After that we stink until Reed and Moran come take Singleton and Valbuena’s spot. If Castro could repeat 2013 in his contract year…..

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      • Head to head last year at Fresno we had two guys not named Tyler White who play 1B:

        Player 1:
        BA – .300
        OBP – .366
        RBI – 103
        HR – 20
        K – 90 in 490 ABs

        Player 2:
        BA – .254
        OBP – .359
        RBI – 83
        HR- 22
        K – 99 in 379 ABs

        Player #2 is Singleton. Why on earth would player #2 be given the bag?

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      • Dan, I’ve thought about the eventuality of White hitting second, but he’s not the quickest guy. Might keep Springer from taking an extra base. But if he continues to be a high OBP guy, I’d take the trade off.

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      • If Singleton doesn’t improve during ST he needs to be replaced before the season starts. Letting money control who gets the job will never produce a championship.
        Same goes for Valbuena and Gattis.

        Just read the Astros and Gattis have a deal.

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      • Duffy was not primarily a first baseman. Singleton walked 64 times to Duffy’s 48 in 109 fewer PA. Singleton has more games and at bats under his belt at the MLB level AND is three years younger. Starting spring training as the first teamer does not mean the job has been given to him. It means he is in the pole position.

        Also, his stats were much better before a horrid slump in August. Take that for what you will.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I echo what Devin said. SIngleton hasn’t been given the bag, but he is the pole sitter starting this week. He will have S.T. to keep that position, but White or Duffy could supplant him. Also, they could move Valbuena there and play Duffy at 3B (or Moran if he really shines in S.T.).

        Liked by 1 person

  8. There is so much to learn this spring.
    Is Kemp a major league player? Can he hit for average and walk like he has in the minors? If he is what he has shown, he is a leadoff hitter.
    Does Jake Marisnick have the fifth tool? He is very fast, has a terrific glove and fabulous routes. He has a great arm. He hit nine home runs making almost no contact, stat-wise, last season. If he can develop the fifth tool, hitting, which he said he worked on the entire off-season, the home runs could double because he will make more contact and get more ABs.
    Is Colby Rasmus the old Colby Rasmus, or the one we saw in the playoffs, who was one of the best players on the field?
    Is Tyler White the hitting machine he has been, or a great AAA player?
    Are Doug Fister, Pat Neshek, Carlos Gomez, Luis Valbuena, Brad Peacock and Scott Feldman healthy? if they are healthy, will they play like the players they were when they were healthy or not?
    Will we see the Preston Tucker we saw in the minors? You know, the guy who was average, at first, in every level of the minors, but kicked ass the second time around?
    Is George Springer a great player like we hoped he would be and he showed in the minors?
    Is AJ Reed the real deal?

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    • I really want to know if Castro, Singleton, Valbuena, or Gattis done anything to be better hitters – changed anything – made any adjustments – something – anything in the offseason.

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    • I was thinking that this violates the hard stance “file and trial” that the Astros were taking on arbitration – that they would not negotiate a deal once numbers were exchanged. But I noticed in the previous language that they would not negotiate one year deals. This is basically a two year deal where the second year is at the Astros’ option. Not really a bad deal either way you look at it.

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      • I never saw or heard anyone affiliated with the Astros use the term file and trial. . There was a “source familiar with the situation” who supposedly mentioned it to someone in the media and it made the rounds in many articles, all based on that one leak.
        The Astros may have taken that stance in one instance with Castro but that doesn’t mean they adopted it for everyone. Stearns handled arbitration previously and was good at it. But things change and that was one of them. The Astros are not in the same place with arbitration as they were in the previous three off seasons, so they now have different responsibilities and angles, as they should have.
        There is one beat writer covering the Astros who stabs them every chance he gets and he sure stirs up the pot. I sure wish he would pack up his sack of manure and go back to his old trench, where everything and everyone is perfect, even when they finish in last place.

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  9. Gattis must think he won the lottery! He’s getting married soon, so I would imagine he is walking on cloud 9 right now! I believe( and that’s just me talking) Singelton will do everything he can to win the spot at 1st base. BUT I think White will get the job when the guys break camp. Kemp is an interesting player, he can’t play short or 3rd so he’s limited off the bench. He can play left, if we think he’s still a keeper. If Marisnick has a better approach at the plate this year, as he has alluded to, then he becomes a REAL asset in the outfield. I’m hoping he has. Musgrove will get more than a few looks this spring, because everyone is whose seen him, is waiting for the other shoe to drop…..I don’t think it will, he’s a that good. Fresno is gonna be loaded with talent this year, and IF one of those guys you rattled off do get hurt, we have a guy who can slip right in that spot, without missing a beat!! Oh what problems we have!!!
    5 down 3 to go. I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear Becky – is chemo once a week? When do you finish? I said a Chaplet of the Divine Mercy for you yesterday on the bus.
      I like Marisnick so much – we saw how much value he has when he did hit well a couple times last season. But he was really bad in between. I hope he found his JDM swing.
      I’ve never seen Musgrove pitch but I am betting I get to before this season is over.
      If we could just see improvement from Gattis, Valbuena, Castro, Singleton, and a healthy Gomez that would help a bunch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Dan. I see my oncologist next Thursday, and if everything is still going well I should be done by the third week in March. I am going to Houma Louisiana for Easter….and you can take that to the bank! We always have a huge CRAWFISH boil on good Friday, and I will NOT miss that!! Becky⚾

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  10. A few interesting numbers – The Astros:
    – Scored 6.3 runs average in their wins
    – Scored 2.4 runs average in their losses
    – Gave up 2.7 runs average in their wins
    – Gave up 5.1 runs average in their losses

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  11. The Astros’ website gives the following as the projected 4-7 of our line-up next year:

    4. DH Evan Gattis:
    .246 BA, .285 OBP, .463 SLG, 27 HR, 88 RBIs, 11 3B
    5. CF Gomez:
    .255 BA, .314 OBP, .409 SLG, 12 HR, 56 RBIs, 17 SB
    6. LF Colby Rasmus:
    .238 BA, .314 OBP, .475 SLG, 25 HR, 61 RBIs
    7. 3B Luis Valbuena:
    .224 BA, .310 OBP, .438 SLG, 25 HR, 56 RBIs
    8. 1B Jon Singleton:
    .191 BA, .328 OBP, .298 SLG, 1 HR, 6 RBIs
    9. C Jason Castro:
    .211 BA, .283 OBP, .365 SLG, 11 HR, 31 RBIs

    If that is the line-up we play with in 2016 – and if last years’ numbers are anywhere close to the numbers the named players put up for us – we will definitely be looking up at the Rangers again – and probably the Mariners and/or Angels as well.

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    • McTaggart has five RH batters in a row, followed by four lefties in a row. Talk about making things easy for opposing managers and their bullpens!
      I can’t wait until our hitters get here next year.

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      • I think, when he return, Gattis will be moved down in the lineup and Rasmus moved up to help offset the lineup. Maybe a lineup of Altuve, Gomez, Correa, Rasmus, Springer, Valbuena, Gattis (White to start the season), Singleton, Castro. Thoughts? Personally, I hope White earns the 1B job and Marisnick plays the OF with Rasmus the DH until Gattis is back.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Here is how our projected 4-9 guys did with runners on last year:

    Gattis – .260
    Gomez – .322
    Rasmus – .256
    Valbuena – .208
    Singleton – .111
    Castro – .172

    Here is how our projected 4-9 guys did with runners in scoring position last year:

    Gattis – .241
    Gomez – .340
    Rasmus – .258
    Valbuena – .212
    Singleton – .167
    Castro – .141

    Out of these guys, Gomez did well enough with runners on to belong in a 4-7 position. And all of them, including Gomez, were absolutely atrocious with two strikes against them.

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    • The second link worked for me – I just had to wait for his article to flip up on the screen. Thanks Becky. This article was written by Carlos and you get a glimpse into a pretty well balanced humble guy. Crazy that back in Puerto Rico people come out just to watch him work out and practice. Sounds like a really good person.

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  13. Article about Colby Jack this morning in Chron. He’s in Kissimmee early because
    “the wife” wanted to come and get things ready. He says he wants to “love on everybody” and he’s ready to play some baseball, that his mind is more focused than before. His bonding with Marisnick and Springer was the basis for his commitment to staying with Astros.

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    • Diane – the cynical side of me wants to say the $15.8 million salary for 2016 did not hurt. But he seems like a sincere aw shucks country guy and it does not surprise me that he stayed for reasons other than money. When he decided to come here the way he talked you would have sworn the main reason he chose Houston over Toronto where he was – was because of having a big garage to park his truck.
      I look forward to him ripping the ball like he did during the stretch run last season.

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      • Yes, Dan, I sometimes forget about the money angle. What’s wrong with me anyway? I live in a time warp and a space gap — which is even worse than a mineshaft gap. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • So you are caught between a Rocky Horror “time warp”, a Star Wars “space gap” and a Jeff Luhnow “extreme fielding shift” – no wonder you are all out of whack.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Callis is about the third guy that has put Freeman in our bullpen sometime this season. Good to know we might have some lefty help close by. And I’d love to see Bregman work at third. I don’t feel real good about any of our other in house options looking down the road. I know I’m in the minority there. But Bregman has got a real pedigree. I’m envisioning one heck of an infield next year if he progresses. At the same time, I hope Callis is just like everyone else so far as it applies to White. Our man is still flying under the radar. And did he really say that maybe Singleton has been trying too hard?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well there could just be a difference in opinion on the definition of try hard. I would assume he means Singleton tries to hard in the box – and I tend to agree with that assessment. He is scared of the result every time he steps in, and isn’t a “relaxed focused.”

        That said, I would also agree with the assessment that he isn’t trying hard enough out of the batters box – he isn’t bringing the lunch pail to work everyday and putting the time in the film room, the weight room, on the treadmill, and in batting practice.

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  14. When I look at those high number of games below two runs, and the high number of games over 6 runs by our offense – it just hammers the point to me that we have that swing big and mostly miss mentality. We have very few scratchers, we can kill mediocre pitching, but more times than not good pitchers can contain us and great pitchers will blank us.

    Carter being gone will help that, unless they let Singleton have all his ABs and Singleton continues to do what Singleton does.

    I think the end of this years chart will look pretty similar to last year – because the offense is still predicated on the success of Gattis, Valbuena, Rasmus, Castro, Springer, Singleton, etc. There are still a ton of strikeouts coming. That’s why resigning Rasmus still has me bewildered.

    My hope is the Astros can remedy some of this in house and give guys like Kemp and White, two mid-20s prospects that should be ready to contribute now, opportunities to help shift those numbers in a way that we get more competitive against great pitching.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Steven, I partially agree with paragraph one. He might be scared of failure at this point, but I also have not seen him really battle too many of his at bats. He’s .119 lifetime after a 2-2 count. .089 after a 1-2 count.

    I totally agree with paragraph two.

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  16. Interesting comment in the Gattis article: He (JL speaking) also said that we don’t need to believe everything that Drellich, Ortiz, or McTaggart write about. “We don’t go and talk to those guys until after the ink is dry on the deal.”

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  17. With Gattis’s salary set, the Astros now have a payroll sitting just above $89 million, which is currently 22nd in the league. That is for the 15 players currently under contract.
    Spotrac has the Astros’ 2014 total payroll for the entire year at $53.8
    Though the Astros aren’t throwing big chunks of money around, they will be close to doubling it in a two year period and I don’t think I have seen anyone predicting the Astros to miss the playoffs this season. Of course, anything can happen. This is baseball. In 2014, Scott Feldman was the highest paid Astro at $12 million, followed by Fowler at $7.85 million.
    The five highest paid players on the Angels add up to $89 million, by the way. Trout is their fourth highest paid player. Pujols, Wilson and Weaver will be paid more than Trout this season.

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