All Things Astros and a whole lot more
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.
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.
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.