Some things to talk about while Robbie Grossman decides to bat leadoff...
1) Do teams that see more pitches score more runs?
There's a good study over at Beyond the Box Score today about whether teams seeing more pitches win more games and score more runs. The gist of the article?
I'm inclined to believe that the results we're seeing do indicate there's something worthwhile about seeing more pitches overall but we must remember that there's more that goes into winning or losing then the number of pitches you see or how many runs you score. The other side of this, which this study isn't looking at, is pitching. But if you have an adequate pitching staff than the one or two win increase you could see utilizing this strategy could very well be meaningful.
After looking at the league average for pitches seen (which is about 3.75 pitches per plate appearance), the author then looks at teams in the upper half of the league, or teams that see at least 3.85 pitches per PA. He finds that those teams strike out more and walk more, but also have higher wOBAs and score more runs.
Why is this important for the Astros? After seeing a general decline in pitches seen per PA from 2007 to 2011, Houston jumped from 3.73 in 2011 to 3.82 pitches per PA in 2012. So far in 2013, that number is even higher at 3.89.
That puts Houston squarely that first group that looks so promising. It's not a guarantee Houston's offensive stats will improve, but it does show that Houston is moving in the right direction, and may explain why we've heard more about taking pitches this season.
2) Jesus Montero's monster home run
I don't know whether this is an illuminating study or a depressing one, given that it's about a massive home run that Jesus Montero hit on Monday night. But, FanGraphs writer Jack Moore breaks down just how many home runs get hit to center field in MMP.
This is all despite the Herculean nature of hitting a home run out of Houston’s center field. As you can see in the graphic, there is a dearth of home runs to dead-center field. There have been just 38 home runs hit with a horizontal angle within five degrees of center field since 2006 — and just two within one degree of center, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker. For reference, the league has already hit 18 home runs within one degree of center field in more than 10% of the 2013 season (entering play Tuesday).
He also brings up one of the longest triples I ever saw, when Richie Sexson dented the flag pole on a triple back in 2003. That was impressive.
3) Astros still teaching
Brian T. Smith has an article up about this year's Astros and teaching baseball, something that this young club still needs from time to time:
I find myself thinking about this constantly, especially as Houston plays more one-run games. Heading into this season, Porter talked extensively about how many one-run games Houston lost last season due to poor execution. They've already gone 2-3 in one-run contests, losing a couple of heartbreakers to the Angels in that way.
Were there moments in those games that could have led to wins with better execution? Did the Astros need to teach the team how to win in those games as well? There's a fair amount of luck in one-run game records, but it'll be interesting to track how Houston evolves there.