Wednesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about projections, projections and more...projections...

Some things to talk about while I despair at the state of humanity...

1) Cool Standings projections

Houston's run in its last 32 games has had me curious. I devoted Monday's Three Things to looking at how the team has played over that stretch. Today, I'd like to look at a few projections for the season and see if they've improved in the past month.

First up, a stop by coolstandings.com, which projects out the records of teams to the end of the season based on a host of factors. The Astros are supposed to finish with a record of 63-99, just shy of 100 losses. That's not remarkable, but it is when you consider that on May 15th, when this crazy streak began, Houston was projected to end the season with a record of 53-109.

A 10 game swing in projected record is nothing to sneeze at, and it shows not only how good the Astros have been lately, but how bad they were to start the season. Oh, and for those wondering, Houston officially has a 0.2 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Wooohoo!

Also, in case you were wondering, the Baseball Prospectus playoff odds page has Houston finishing with a record of 64-98, so the two systems aren't far off right now. Both also would have the Astros finishing with the second-worst record in the league.

2) Home run projections

At the beginning of the season, I speculated that the Astros were trying to build their team around ground ball pitchers and home runs. Turns out I was just half right, which is actually pretty good for me.

Back then, I looked at the projections and saw Houston hitting somewhere around 175 home runs this year. That'd be a big increase over their 2012 total and put them squarely in the middle of the majors in terms of power production.

So far, so good. Through 73 games, the Astros have hit 73 home runs. That's a pace less than we expected at the beginning of the season, but those 73 homers put the Astros 13th in the majors, right with Detroit, Cincinnati and the Yankees.

The projections still don't love some of the Astros hitters, as both Matt Dominguez and Jason Castro aren't doing great in the old updated projection games over at FanGraphs. ZiPS, for instance, only has Castro hitting six more home runs for the rest of the season, which seems unlikely. I'd say there's a very good chance he tops 20 homers this season.

Again, my point before the season is that Houston's offense would be better than national folks expected. Through 73 games, it has been more powerful than expected and just a tad under average for run scoring. Add in good pitching and you can see how a team like that could put together a fine four or five weeks.

3) Home run force...projections...

Yeah, this last one didn't fit, but I found it fascinating how the Astros Analytics Twitter account was talking about home run angles and velocities off the bat last night. They sent a link to this article, talking about the best angle to hit a home run. Can you guess what it is?

A study shown by Sawicki et al. (2003) a number of parameters were varied and the results showed that the optimum release angles from the optimally batted balls varied slightly from 26.3 to 24.3 degrees.

So, using the data over at ESPN's Home Run Tracker, I checked on some things. They provide both velocity off the bat and launch angle, BTW. Did you know that J.D. Martinez has hit the ninth-longest home run in the majors this season?

His blast off the Tigers' Max Scherzer came off the bat at 111 mph at a launch angle of 26.8. That's just slightly over the optimal angle mentioned above, so it's no wonder the ball traveled a true distance of 464 feet.

We looked at Jason Castro's home runs a while back, comparing his velocities off the bat in the past to this season. That trend of a rise in velocity has continued, as Castro topped 111 mph on a home run off Freddy Garcia in that Orioles blowout. His launch angle there wasn't nearly as optimal, but that didn't keep the ball from finding the bullpen pretty quickly.

I'm officially fascinated by this. I can't wait until we get publicly available Hit F/X data.

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