The high-flying Houston Astros: Observations at the quarter pole


The Houston Astros are playing at such a high and consistent level that wins, no matter the situation are no longer a surprise. Go on a road trip and the only question about the 6-1 record is why they coughed up the one loss late in the game. Play a game after the greatest franchise in the history of baseball honors one of their modern legends? Just kick the crap out of them. Trail by 5 runs early in the game? Come rushing back. Three times. The South Denton Rangers go on a 7-3 streak? Frustrate them by matching and then seeing their run with a 9-1 run of your own.

29-12 is in a stratosphere this team has never flown. They are 8 games up in their division. They are 3.5 games up on the next best team in the AL and 3 games up on the next best team in the majors. They’ve won close games and romps. Extra innings and in regulation. They played come from behind early in the season, but lately have run away and hidden from the competition in games. So how have they done it? Well it has not been by smoke and mirrors.

Offense

A lot has been made about the Astros not having offensive players among the league leaders in the sexier offensive stats. Jose Altuve is 3rd in SBs with 11 and Carlos Correa is tied for 4th in runs scored. In BA, OBP, SLG and OPS they have no one in the top 10. Brian McCann is tied for 14th in RBIs and George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez are tied for 10th in HRs. But consider this, the league averages for BA/OBP/SLG/OPS are .247/.321/.407/.727. After Tuesday’s game, when looking at the Astros top 12 position players – Altuve, Correa, McCann, Springer, Gonzalez, Yulieski Gurriel, Nori Aoki, Josh Reddick, Alex Bregman, Carlos Beltran, Evan Gattis, and Jake Marisnick – the Astros look very good against the league averages. BA? All 12 are above the league average, most well above. OBP? Only Beltran is under the league average. SLG? Only Bregman, Aoki and Beltran are under the league average. OPS? The same three are under the league average.

And while a very few of the guys are under the league average in a category or so – there is no one close to the Mendoza line in BA or the .500 OPS’s that were floating around in previous years. And that consistency is why the team is 2nd in runs/game in the AL. They have 3 players (Altuve, Correa and Springer) on track for 100+ runs scored. They have 6 players (McCann, Altuve, Correa, Springer, Gonzalez and Reddick) on track for 20+ HRs. And they have four players (McCann, Springer, Gonzalez and Correa) on track for 85+ RBIs. They are a formidable offensive team with no I in team.

Pitching

None of the pitchers on the staff have a losing record. Both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton project to 20 or more wins with DK pro rated at 28-0. Keuchel is first in wins and innings pitched in the AL and 3rd in ERA and WHIP. Lance McCullers is projected out to a 16-4 record for the season. Even though, Joseph Musgrove and Mike Fiers have been roughed up more than the top 3 pitchers in the rotation, they have hung tough and do not have losing records and they have both pitched through some tough spots to get more innings than was believed possible the way some of their starts have begun. Even with struggles at the end of the rotation, the Astros have the 2nd best starting rotation ERA in the AL.

The bullpen has had a few hiccups in the late innings, but these have usually been in games where they were far ahead. Luke Gregerson has struggled the most and a few bad outings have Ken Giles ERA higher than a closer’s should be. But he is 3rd in the league with 11 saves and a lot of his compadre’s in the pen have been excellent. Michael Feliz, Brad Peacock, and James Hoyt (who is striking out batters at a rate of 20.3/ 9 IP) all have ERAs well under 2. A couple poor outings have pushed Chris Devenski‘s ERA over 3, but he has been critical in many of the Astros’ wins this season. Will Harris continues to be his solid self and there has been a Tony Sipp (circa 2015) siting in the last few weeks.

Can the Astros continue winning at this pace and be one of those 110 win miracle teams? Maybe not, but right now they don’t enter any game thinking they are going to lose and frankly their fans feel the same way.

 

 

 

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154 comments on “The high-flying Houston Astros: Observations at the quarter pole

  1. Building a rotation and keeping it intact is difficult. Look at the Mets. A year ago they were set up with a young group many in the game thought was the best in baseball. Today they have the worst performing rotation in MLB.

    There just are not enough good pitchers to go around. We’ve at least got a couple of options in house. Maybe Peacock will earn a slot. It’s all up to him. Maybe we’ll find it necessary at some point to put Devenski on the mound to start a game. Maybe Jankowski will do what McCullers did a couple of years ago.

    We are certainly not in a desperate position right now. We need to get better defensively. I think we will. Our corner infielders are learning new positions on the fly. Our left fielder will get less and less playing time as the season wears on. Correa and Altuve will get sharper. Neither one has played their positions as we’ve seen them before.

    And as 1OP has already noted, I think we will hit better overall, even when Marisnick and Gonzalez correct down a bit.

    In the meantime, I think we lead our division by a handful of games.
    Did anyone expect that would be the case when the season started?

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  2. Andrew Aplin has been DFA’d
    I remember him and all those 2012 college draftees on that Tri City team. He and Tucker, Fontana, Cokinos, Dineen, Heineman, Lance Day, Catfish Elkins, Kenny Long, Jobduan Morales, Juan Minaya, Rodgers, Sclafani, Aaron West, Tommy Shirley, Brian Holmes, Dan Gulbransen, Travis Ballew and Vincent Velasquez.
    That was a fun team to follow and they lost in the Championship series to Hudson Valley after most of their best players moved up.
    All the hopes we had for that Draft class ended up with Correa and LMJ and PTuck.
    Fontana was recalled by the Angels today.

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    • I’m going to step out of character and say that even ignoring Correa, McCullers, and PTuck that the 2012 draft class was successful. I say this because the system really needed an influx of players who could compete. Many reached their ceiling and it wasn’t high enough to proceed. Others never reached the ceiling, but I agree that those were fun teams to follow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, he was, but he didn’t ever pitch for Tri City. He pitched for Greeneville after he was drafted in 2012.
        Jankowski was drafted in the 34th round by the Astros as a high school senior and was drafted in the 34th round by the Astros as a college senior. How many people can make a claim like that?

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      • And you can add Jankowski to the list of guys who made it to the Astros. What a great accomplishment for a 34th round pick who ended up as a reliever in AAA. What a great night for him!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. TEN STRIKEOUTS through six scoreless innings for Cionel Perez. Just one walk allowed. Bandits lead 2-0, mid 6. #Astros @MiLB

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  4. After going against an insanely good Indian’s bullpen – here’s a Tigers reliever with a 1.35 ERA. But most of their pen is not that good.

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  5. As I had mentioned before every great team is going to go through offensive slumps, but the great teams find a way to grind out wins even when the offense isn’t clicking. This was one of those nights for the Astros and the kind of win a team that hopes to win its division needs. You really appreciate a win like this when the team is not playing anywhere close to its best.

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  6. Here’s one thing in the Keith Law book I agree with. He states that the way wins and losses are assigned to a pitcher don’t always make a whole lot of sense. Both Peacock and Devenski pitched excellent ball last night. Peacock for 4.1 innings, Devenski 2.2 innings. Of course we all know that the starter has to go 5 innings to qualify for the win. Why is that the rule though? Peacock contributed more to the win. He left with the lead. Devenski gets the win, because a long, long time ago someone decided that should be the rule.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Looking through the Astros top 30 prospects, I noticed that Reymin Guduan was gone. Apparently, the guys who rank the prospects have gotten tired of the 25 year old’s walks and inconsistencies.
    You hope that a young lefty who throws in the high 90’s can somehow harness his stuff and develop into a major league pitcher.
    I assume that when a guy gets sent back down to the minors in spring training, the boss sits down with him and tells him what he needs to do, learn, add, change, adjust, whatever to get better. Then the player tries to make those changes which make him less consistent at first, and then, hopefully, the light comes on and he is suddenly a better pitcher.
    So, I present Reymin Guduan’s splits from 2017, which point out the differences in his pitching in April, and his pitching in May:http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?player_id=594056#/splits/R/pitching/2017/MINORS. Maybe the Astros have had enough patience to wait this guy out and come up with a legit LH reliever for the future.

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  8. I’ll take May. I hope it’s the beginning of a pattern. Quality lefties seem to be more and more a rare commodity. And sometimes lefties just take longer to develop. Maybe that’s the case with Guduan.

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    • Guduan’s career has been a constant repeat. He finally conquers a level, then moves up and loses confidence and walks guys. Then he conquers that level and the next year loses confidence when he moves up and starts walking guys again.
      This is his eighth year in our organization and yet he is still young for a reliever.
      Can you imagine what it must be like for a young man from the Dominican Republic to spend so much time in the minor leagues and finally get close?
      You just have to root for a guy like this!

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    • Not that I don’t think it is too high, but here in the Houston area, Katy is building a $70 million high school football stadium.

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      • “Little over $70M…Was supposed to be 57M and the Board “found” some extra money to add on to it. Now they are trying to pass another bond so they can build and work on the schools they effed over.”

        -Note from a Katy tax payer.

        Didn’t the new ST facility cost $150M? It’s all relative..

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      • Hard to justify even though I lived in Houston for 20 years and went to high school there and was at every Friday night game. So I understand the culture. But I guarantee there are underfunded areas in KISD and others across the state where remarkable sums have been spent on football facilities.

        I’m almost getting into politics though, so I better back off!

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      • Devin – he looked or looks crisp, but not deceptive. Couple of balls hit on the screws, couple of dinks that find their way for (8) hits. He has the build and a nice delivery, free flow. Haven’t noticed any devastating breaking stuff. Not fooling anybody. As you know, he’s sporting a big ERA. [We’re getting rained on hard in the bottom of the 4th runners on 1st 2nd, but looks like we may resume? Yep.]

        Down 4-0. The Cards AA is well-coached, playing solid D – the triple Kent gave up, Ferguson in CF makes a diving miss, their kid on first running all the way scores easily.

        Stubbs shows promise behind the dish. Nobody is really hitting for us tonight, though, so far. We’ll see..

        McCullers Jr. is the first #Astros pitcher with four straight starts without allowing an earned run in a season since Nolan Ryan in 1984.

        Astros @kidkeuchy won P of month for April. @LMcCullers43 in 5 May starts: 2-0, 30.1 IP, 16 H, 2 ER, 0.59 ERA. could get win tonight.

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      • Yeah, he was a fastball/change guy with poor breaking stuff, but was still good enough to beat out Carlos Rodon for ACC pitcher of the year in a season both UNC and NCSU made it to Omaha. I was hoping someone could teach him to throw a quality breaking pitch.

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  9. Some Astros thoughts:
    The best thing about Peacock’s performance was that he proved he could be depended upon. It’s a long season and we are going to need guys we can depend on when someone else isn’t at their best.
    If I told you that LMJ only went five innings and Juan Centeno and Jake Marisnick were our best bats, would you be thinking WIN?
    They couldn’t hit Feliz’s fastball tonight. Why did he lay that slider in there with two strikes?
    It looks to me that Aoki has been beaten out of a job for the moment.
    Astros lead the Rangers and Angels by 7.0 games after the Ranger’s loss tonight.
    The Astros had twice as many hits(8) as K’s(4) tonight and continue to get great production at the plate from their catchers. Their catchers are third in the AL in OPS.
    The team leaders in OPS are Centeno, Gonzalez and Marisnick. Aoki and Beltran have the lowest OPS’s.
    The 1 thru 4 spots in the lineup tonight were 1 for 14 with a single and a walk, both of them by Reddick.

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  10. You know Dan, I think the best news is that they are not really rocking and rolling. Springer, Beltran, Bregman, even Altuve, none of those guys are are really hitting as I would expect. Jake and Marwin will correct down but I believe that overall, this club is still not hitting as they will.

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