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.