Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about analytics and the draft, winning streaks and Justin Maxwell back in center field (soon)...

Some things to talk about while I try to hide my rampant Adderall usage...

1) Astros using analytics in the draft

Nice piece from Brian T. Smith on how the Astros have been using bright, analytical thinkers in the draft process. It's behind the Chronicle's paywall, but it's worth reading. Some talking points from it:

  • Houston has been scouting the top picks in the draft all year, with most of the staff seeing top candidates every time they've played this year.
  • Sig Mejdal's group isn't just crunching the statistical numbers. They're taking scouting evaluations and plugging them into data to couple with historical success rates.
  • What that means is Houston is still doing traditional scouting, but may have a way to rank players objectively on a board based on all those subjective and statistical evaluations.
  • That process led to Carlos Correa being the pick last year and might lead to Moran as the top pick here.

Like I said, there's some fascinating stuff in there, so I encourage you to check it out.

2) What does the winning streak mean?

In another Smith piece, we find out a little about this improbable streak the Astros are on and how the Astros under Bo Porter never really counted themselves out of it. Here's the best Porter quote:

"I said it back a month ago. I said, ‘We’re going to hit our stride and we’re going to start to win a lot of these games in which we’ve been finding a way to lose.’ And now we’re starting to find a way to win those games because the guys are maturing, they’re understanding what it takes to win games and they’re really locking in to the different situations that are taking place during the course of a game."

It's always an interesting narrative when someone close to the success tries to tell you why it's happening. Yes, the players might be maturing, but the biggest reason Houston is winning now and wasn't winning much before the streak is pitching.

In the last week, Houston had an ERA of 2.43 and an FIP of 4.08. Overall for the season, those numbers are 5.06 and 5.02, respectively, so they could be worse than that without the last week's excellent performance.

The offense has been pretty good all season, despite the strikeouts, only needing to be bolstered by the excellent pitching of late. Smith's narrative in the story above is Houston is playing National League ball to win games. Pitching well, stealing bases, scrapping out wins. That may be true, but the collection of one and two run games the Astros have played lately also might correct itself.

Sure, teams can sustain positive records in one-run games for a time, maybe even an entire season. But, those games have a tendency to go away at some point. For the Astros, maybe that point isn't here yet. Lord knows this team could use some luck this season.

3) Maxwell back in center field

In yet third Smith piece, we find out that Justin Maxwell will soon return from the disabled list right back into the starting lineup. Brandon Barnes will then compete for playing time with Jimmy Paredes in right field.

Though Maxwell wasn't hitting well to start the season, he's a great defender and can only help Houston's outfield defense by anchoring center field. If Houston opts to play Barnes more in right, the Astros will have a very solid outfield in two-thirds of those positions.

For those wondering about the effect batting average on balls in play can have on a player's stat line, look no further than Jimmy Paredes. His peripheral stats, like walk rate, strikeout rate and isolated power average this season are almost identical to his brief run as the starting third baseman in 2011. Yet, his averages in the slash line are much, much worse. Why? Nearly 100 point difference in his BABiP.

That means Paredes isn't quite as bad at the plate as he's showing right now, but he hasn't shown much signs of progress, either. It'll be interesting to see how much rope the Astros give him.

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