YIE: But pitching is ahead of offense

Towards the beginning of the Astros’ Renaissance, we at Chipalatta added a new acronym to the American writing palette..

YIE — or, Yes, It’s Early.

And so today, a few things to talk about after this first week of “The Kids are Back” baseball. The pitching is ahead of the offense so far in 2020. In doing some research, one stat caught my eye as I was looking at how bad the Astros batting averages are. Yes, George Springer (.048), Abraham Toro (.167), Jose Altuve (.174), Alex Bregman (.174), Josh Reddick (.182), and Kyle Tucker (.188) are all trailing Old Man Mendoza, while Myles Straw (.200) is nose to nose with him. And yes, the Astros team batting average (.236) is terrible. But it is also 4th best in the AL at this point.

This is a harbinger of what is starting off as a “down” offensive year.

  • The runs per game in all of baseball are down from 4.83 to 4.56 runs per game. And remember this is with the NL using the DH in all games.
  • After Thursday’s games, all of MLB was slashing a fairly bad average of .230 BA/ .312 OBP/ .707 OPS. That compares unfavorably to 2019 when the majors slashed at .252 BA/ .323 OBP/ .758 OPS.
  • In 2019, the Astros were one of the best hitting teams in all of baseball – slashing at .274 BA/ .352 OBP/ .848 OPS and scoring 5.68 runs/game. This season they are far below last season, but still above MLB average. So far they are slashing .236 BA/ .335 OBP/ .734 OPS and 5.50 runs/game.

Note: Normally the NL trails the AL in runs/game because of the DH. It was 0.1 fewer runs per game in 2019 and 0.16 fewer runs per game in 2018. This season with both leagues using the DH they are almost even. The NL is at 4.57 runs/game. The AL is at 4.55 runs/game. 

So, what is happening here? Here are several theories…..

  • Neither pitchers nor batters had enough reps to ramp up to full speed before the regular season. One of the differences is that now that the regular season has begun, the hitters regularly play the whole game while the pitchers leave when they run out of gas.
  • The expanded rosters fall more in the pitchers’ favor. The teams have 10 man bullpens to pull from, so no one is getting overworked.
  • And as the Astros have seen the young pitchers have had the other teams struggling against them having not scouted them or in some cases even knowing they were suddenly going to join the team and pitch immediately.
  • The lack of fans may even assist the pitchers more than the hitters, especially the newbies. They don’t have to debut in front of a vast crowd, and they seem to be doing an excellent job of focusing on their work.

Or it could be just YIE or small sample syndrome.

The bottom line for the Astros is they have to get more of their hitters rolling. Perhaps in their case, they have several guys pressing to show they don’t need to know which pitch is coming to succeed. But to date, they have made a weak case for themselves.

20 comments on “YIE: But pitching is ahead of offense

  1. I agree the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions, but of course that’s not how we do things anymore. I’d put forth a few theories. Looking at our small sample:
    The Astros scoring numbers over the first 10 games of 2019:
    6, 6, 3, 1, 1, 0, 3, 4, 8, 1 (3.33 per game)
    and over 6 games in 2020:
    8, 7, 6, 8, 2, 2 (5.5 per game)

    Next, pitchers are fresh. We probably need to see a few of those games where it is getting out of control but the manager has to conserve his bullpen so a few guys get thrown to the wolves to push the offensive numbers higher league wide. But let’s not forget the baseballs were said to be different across the last few seasons. It’s possible the manufacturing has become more similar to the time before the 2017 World Series. Finally, consider there was something that happened in the offseason you may have heard about in passing where Houston got penalized for stealing signs. Every team in the league has now been warned and unless you play in NY you likely have to abandon the different schemes you were using in favor of the ones that don’t employ technology at all. I may have predicted a few times in the offseason we’d see pitchers’ performance bounce back this year relative to the past few…we’ll see how that looks if the season is able to be completed before another cancellation.

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  2. Go Stros had posted this on the previous post a few moments ago and I think this is worth folks seeing it. Sad to lose this young man. Very sad that there are other youngsters in similar situations who cannot be seen and touched and hugged by their heroes.

    “Thought I’d post this back here, a little off the beaten path for those who wanted to see some of the best this country is made of.
    Hopefully for you too, this will bring a tear and a smile. And to count this day — this is the day.”

    Not sure if this link will work – we will see

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  3. Can’t stop watching it, and reacting the same way every time. Dang, that hurts!
    I know it’s a sensitive subject, and thanks for bearing with me.

    Astros are 500. It’s early, and hopefully a Trout-less Angels team garners us a sweep to get back into position. That’s the plan, anyway.

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  4. All of the bullet points above are sound, logical reasons why the pitching is ahead of the offense, so of course the Astro bats wake up and score 9 runs since baseball is not always logical.

    Tucker hit a 103 mph double in the 2nd inning, a 109 mph single in the 4th and a 94 mph single in the 7th, so I don’t think the ball has any less juice than last year.

    Those 3 hits now have Tucker batting .286. Straw was 1 for 2 and also at .286. Springer had 2 hits and more than doubled his average; now at .120. I don’t expect any Astro starter to remain below the Mendoza line after 60 games; hopefully we can play that many (and more).

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  5. Well, the other teams are trying fastballs up and breaking pitches down, and it has worked pretty well on our hitters. Because the Astros have such a good lineup, we have been able to overcome that with hot hitters. Against Seattle Maldonado was able to get to the high fastballs and against the Angels Tucker got to the low curve.
    The pitching of the Dodgers overwhelmed us and that is why we are only 4-3.
    The whole lack of practice thingee is why pitching and hitting and fielding league-wide is so ragged.

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  6. Random thoughts

    Who’d a thunk it? The nine rookies have a cumulative ERA of 1.26 in 28 innings.

    A recent poll among some pretty smart people rated the Astros as the 2nd best run team — in terms of development, draft and execution of gameplan.

    Relating to Op’s comment about the Keystone Cops defense of LAA, the Astros were way ahead with Stearns Luhnow and Elias being the drivers of the “Astros Plan” of centralizing operations, and reducing MiLB teams as inefficient. With a state of the art facility in WPB, and their Latin hub in Dominican, the Astros continue to attract top talent for these reasons. A few examples are Pedro Leon, and Cionel Perez chose Astros for less money over BAL. Practicing fundamentals, documenting and tracking them throughout the layoff will make a difference.

    Sure, our defense isn’t quite as crisp early on (some of those errors were on tattoo’d pitches), but where we excel is an internal communication system that let’s everyone know each player’s data and goals. Many suggest what this is, few talk about it specifically as a trade secret.

    With Crane the adage of pitching pitching pitching is bringing home the roost. These young kids are standing toe-to-toe with former MVP’s and league champions, and it’s exciting to see them not back down.

    Lastly, I *really* liked LMJ’s post-game comment last night. He’s been available for all these young starters, as is Osuna for the bullpen guys. That seems like a marked improvement on making fun of our top prospect as “daddy.” One of the criticisms of Astros, and one Crane has denied is a bad culture within. The players themselves can change that. I’m hoping Lance stays for the H, because I think his best days are ahead.

    A taste?

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  7. For those of you who couldn’t watch last night’s game til the end:
    -LMJ looked like all the rookie pitchers. Nervous as hell and no idea where the ball was going.
    -Astros pitchers gave the Angels 12 bases on balls and still won the game.
    -Jose Altuve got an RBI on a hard hit ground ball to SS that was perfectly turned by the SS and 2B and should have been an inning-ending DP. But Altuve went down theline as fast as I have ever seen him and literally outran the ball to 1B. it was a run that would mean a lot to Astros rookie pitchers.
    -Andre Scrubb must have sweated 10 pounds between warming up in the top of the 9th and pitching the bottom of the ninth. I haven’t seen anyone that nervous to pitch since James Hoyt was called up. Scrubb struggled with control , but also had strikes called balls by the ump to three of the Angels hitters in the bottom of the ninth. The missed strikes were astounding. It was almost like that ump wanted Scrubb to fail. Fortunately, Scrubb refused to fail and got his 1st MLB save.
    The first batter Scrubb faced was Upton and the first pitch was a 95 mph fastball that Gameday shows half of the ball inside the zone at the knees. Scrubb went full on him and Upton flew out.
    The next batter was La Stella and the ump called the first pitch to him a strike and it was clearly inside. Scrubb had a K that was called ball three when the ump missed the sixth pitch, which 96mph at the knees. La Stella then singled.
    The next hitter was Castro and Maldonado had the plan. He called four straight curves and Castro looked at all four. The first curve was high and the next 3 curves dropped right into the middle of the zone and Castro took them all and walked back to the dugout.
    Walsh comes to the plate and Scrubb’s first pitch is a beautiful curve that Gameday has inside the zone and it is called a ball. The next pitch is a 94mph cutter that is high and tight and is weekly grounded to Correa, who is shifted behind 2B and he makes a nice play on it to end the game.
    I was exhausted, but happy. Astros win a four and a half hour game on the west coast, with their starter throwing 91 pitches in 4 innings. Bielak, Abreu, Paredes and Scrubb finished it up, allowing two hits and 8 BBs in 5 relief innings.

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    • The calling of balls and strikes is astoundingly terrible this year. I thought it was horrible in the past but this is a new high level.

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  8. I would think that Abreu would be placed on the 10 day injured list because of his torn thumb nail last last. Anyone seen anything about it? It was bleeding when he was taken out of the game.

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    • Sarge, it’s a total guess, but it looked like the blood was down the seam of his thumbnail, possibly caused by sharpness of the nail and not a blister. Give him 3 days to resume pitching.

      With so many arms, that might open the way for guys already up (Sneed, Nivaldo), but it could also get us a sneak peak at Carlos Sanabria, who pitched poorly in AZFL, but who has a lot of under-radar promise.

      As my mind is apt to wander, here is a short list of those we can expect next year, should this weekend be the last of 2020 baseball.

      Forgot to post this earlier

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  9. With all the injuries to pitchers on the Astros as well as baseball-wide, I would think offenses will start scoring more runs.

    Osuna with arm discomfort and is getting an MRI.
    Pressly had a cut on the cuticle above his thumbnail.
    Devenski goes on IL; Sanabria activated.
    Whitley with arm soreness won’t be called up anytime soon.
    Urquidy needs at least 2 more weeks to build up arm strength.

    Springer, Altuve, Yuli and Reddick each had 2 hits on Saturday; hopefully are starting to heat up. Need Bregman to follow suit.
    Dusty says Yordan is about 10 days to two weeks from being ready.

    https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/astros-rally-in-ninth-but-lose-in-extras-to-angels

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  10. I’m not even going to comment on multiple terrible at bats late. Or our cursed pitching staff. But I think our outfield cost us the game this time. Tucker, with his mediocre arm had no business going to the plate in the 6th. We end up with a guy on second who also scores. Big run.

    Reddick should know by now that you go to the wall and come back for the ball. He played a fly ball into three bases. And his flat footed flat out bad throw ended what should have been a different outcome last night.

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    • His arm is weak…which is why we slide him to LF next year and find a new CF or RF depending on Springer. He made the right throw there, though. I think letting the ball bounce twice was the real problem. Also, he should have caught a ball in the corner earlier in the game. He probably needs more corner outfield innings. It’s an adjustment from the CF we had him playing in milb earlier in his career.

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      • Devin, if he made the correct throw, the lead run is still on first. Pujols would have scored from third on that play. But I agree with you. The only place in the outfield for him is left field. Which I think is kind of a shame for such a highly touted 23 year old kid. I just wish Tucker would get a real opportunity……like the rest of this season to play almost everyday. I want to like the guy, but I just don’t see enough often enough.

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      • TBH, Tuck shared CF mostly with Wrenn and Ferguson. Kyle played quite a few innings over the yrs in the corners. His grades as prospect were 55 arm, and that obviously is too high if it represents better than average. I’d have him at 50 as an everyday avg arm. His FV is still around 55, which is All-Star potential (not perenniel). I do too think Tucker is going to develop into a fine player, and vindicate Luhnow’s decision to keep him.

        Reddick would make that catch most of the time.

        We had a bad day, especially if Osuna is done. Hated to see him in pain, biting glove.

        Someone suggested entertaining offers on Springer, trading him with knowledge we re-sign after becoming a better team. Pretty ingenius if another team is in that kind of position to fall for it.

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  11. In my head, this is still an exhibition exercise. It’s not and won’t be a real season to me. And if MLB gets that far, a .500 record might get us into the final 16. We can do that. I sure don’t want the club in the towel, and they won’t, but I want to see the new guys get reps. To me it remains all about preparing for 2021.

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