In perusing BillJamesOn-Line (subscription only), I was momentarily taken with a number of unusual statistics. Or maybe I was just procrastinating on some non-baseball related analytic work I have to do this weekend. I used the label "hodge podge stats." Some may not be as charitable and call them junk stats. I won't be judgemental about the stats. With Mark Twain in mind, I show a hodge podge of Astros stats for 2010, and you decide if it's the "damned lies" version.
How the Astros can get a winning record
Pssst...Brad Mills, I've got a secret for you. You want the Astros to win, right? I'll bet you're all ears. Here it is. It's quite simple: hit home runs. Yes, it's true the Astros have a 11-9 record in games in which they hit a home run, and a 5-23 record when they don't hit home runs. At this point, Mills probably says, "thanks for nothing...if I could get them to hit home runs, I would have done it already." The problem is that the Astros are 25th out of 30 teams in hitting homers. I suppose this shows how badly the power outage by the 3-4-5-6 middle of the order hitters has hurt the Astros. The Astros are 8-7 if they hit 1 HR and 3-2 if they hit 2 HRs. Not overwhelming, but that's a heck of a lot better winning percentage for a team running last in the league. Of course, it's not unusual for a team to have a better record when it hits 1 or more HRs; the Astros had a winning record last year when they hit a HR, but last year's Astros were ranked 5 spots better (20th) in hitting HRs last season.
Astros like their runners on 2d and 3d
There are 24 base states, meaning the combinations of runners on specific bases and number of outs. Bill James shows the 24 base states for the Astros this year and the percentage of runners scored in each base state by the Astros and the MLB average.The "runs scored" is based on that point forward until that frame of the inning is over. In 19 of the base states, the Astros are worse than MLB average for that base state. The biggest exception is that the Astros were much better than the MLB average at scoring runs with runners on 2d and 3d, no matter the out.
Astros Avg. Runs Scored %, 2d and 3d, MLB Average in Parentheses
0 out 2.33 (1.9)
1 out 1.63 (1.40)
2 out .923 (.593)
So the next time that Brad Mills calls for a bunt to put runners at 2d and 3d, maybe there is a good reason. The Astros are really bad, compared to MLB average, when nobody is on base.
How good do the pitchers have to pitch to win?
Bill James invented a measure of a starting pitchers' performance, called "game score," which is widely used. The score is an index 0 to 100, with 50 considered roughly average. What kind of game score has to be posted by the pitcher to win the game? With a game score of 60 or more, the Astros' record is 9-7. The Astros didn't win a single game if the game score was below 40. That's not surprising with this offense. If the Astros' starter has a stinker game, the game is over. Last year's team won 4 games when the game score was below 40. That team also had a winning record if the game score was 50-60. But this year's team has a 3-5 record in that 50-60 game score range.
Who are the Astros best clutch hitters so far?
Bill James has a clutch hitting measure which is based on identifying clutch opportunities and hitters' performance in those opportunities. Bill James describes the factors which go into determining clutch situations as: "lateness of the inning, the closeness of the score, the number of outs and men on base, the stage of the season, and the importance of the opponent" Since I don't know how the statistic is calculated, I won't vouch for it; but I'll throw it out there for your interest. Also, I exclude Kevin Cash from the top of the list because he has had only 2 opportunities considered "clutch situations." The best Astros hitters in clutch situation, according to Bill James' stat:
Geoff Blum .500, .556, .688
Michael Bourn .417, .563, .500
Hunter Pence .357, .357, .571
Cory Sullivan .313, .313, .438