Ok, it’s that time of year where coaches, sport fans, and bloggers will evaluate this year’s talent and compare them with the rest of the league. Coaches will usually hold player meetings (Although Porter is going the informal route, but that’s ok) to tell their prospects and roster players what they need to work on so they can compete for a position next year or to simply put it, just get better.
From a fan’s point of view, I like to view the box score after every game (because I don’t get CSN) to see how my favorite players and the rest of team are doing statistically-wise. I like the games where we just blow the opponent out and we get like 15 hits, but that’s neither here nor there. One stat, among others, catches my eye frequently. I see how many times our offense K’d and walked that particular night. I hate strike outs because they are non-productive and I’m an advocate of the BB and OBP. Average is great, but you’re definitely doing your team a great service when you walk and get on base. Walks, whether you’re on defense or offense, eventually = RUNS!! I evaluate a player on this stat like this: A player is doing well at taking the free pass when his OBP is .50 higher than his AVG and great when his OBP is .100 points higher than his AVG. That makes Nolan Fontana a legend!!
Our team OBP through 159 games is .301. It’s OK for a young team, but personally I would be happy with it at .333. Just to compare, the Tigers have a team OBP of .348 and that tops the league (because they have veteran hitters). I think we are a few years away from that, but I think we will see a steady improvement over the next couple of years as our players (HOPEFULLY) become more disciplined, grind out more at-bats, see more pitches, etc. I know this is a bold statement and it is way too early in their young careers, but I can’t wait until the day the Astros turn into the Red Sox hitters of today, modeling themselves after one in particular, Dustin Pedroia. I’m sure there are other teams and players to compare to, but that pesky Boston team and 2nd baseman stick out to me. He and they grind out at-bats, work pitch counts, see a lot of pitches, walk, and hit for a high average. There is a big advantage to seeing a lot of pitches and grinding out at-bats. There is actually a trickle down effect in doing so. Stay with me on this, as I may jump all over the place. The more pitches you see, the higher the pitcher’s pitch count goes up; when it goes up, he gets tired and starts making mistakes; these mistakes result in wildness or ineffectiveness, leading to walks or leaving a fat pitch over the plate for Springer to crush over the train tracks; which ultimately leads to more runs being scored and more W’s! Also, when a pitcher exits the game with a high pitch count we get to see the bullpen, which the earlier the better. I hope you got through that!
Being a young team, I don’t expect us to be at the same level as the Red Sox or Tigers (which again have veteran hitters and are playoff teams). But I think Porter, Mallee, etc. need to keep drilling into the player’s minds a good approach at the plate. I don’t expect the Astros’ hitters to quite be at the Tigers or Red Sox’s level next year by any means, but I think we will be approaching that era in the next 2-3 years. In my opinion, our K % must be cut down. Comparisons in a minute. It’s not helping the cause. I know we have young hitters who will develop and I think our K’s will be reduced, but breaking strikeout records is not what we need. I tell you why I’m not worried; Thanks to someone at TCB I saw a stat about how our MiLB teams compare to others in walk rate and strike out rate. It showed that our minor league teams, combined, leads all MiLB in OBP. That’s clutch. We are also good at not striking out, compared to other teams in the minors. So fear not Astros fans, help is on the way. Don’t let the major league team discourage you this year. The FO and Lunhowian ideals they follow have definitely made an impact in the minor leagues. Give it 2-4 years and we’ll be at the top of the league in OBP. Just to show you how close we are to the successful teams I did a little calculation. The Astros currently walk 2.6 times a game and strikeout 9.4 times per game. Compare that to the Red Sox, who walk 3.6 times/game and strike out 8.0 times/game. All we have to do is average one walk more time a game and K one less time a game and we’ll see ourselves scoring more runs and that will lead to more notches in the win column. We are just a few tweaks away from matching them, although it may take a couple years for that to change. There is hope for our future!
The same is true for pitching. I really won’t dive into that right now but I’ll give you a comparison to good pitching teams and the Astros. Our pitchers give up on average 3.8 BB per game and only strikeout 6.6 opposing batters per game. The Braves, who currently have the best pitching staff, statistically, only walk 2.5 batters/game and K 7.5 batters a game. Then again, we are only one off in each category. You might say, “That’s not fair, they are in the NL and have throw against weak hitting pitchers.” Ok then, let’s look at the A’s to satisfy your ruffled feathers. They only walk 2.6 batters/ per game and strikeout 7.2 hitters a game. That’s pretty close to the Braves. That’s what good teams do. When they are on offense they walk a lot, when on defense they don’t walk people. My point of this article is to say that walks can be your best friend on O and worst enemy on D. I guess I could have stated that at the beginning and not have made you read my long lecture! The ‘Stros are only, in my opinion, approximately 2 years away from seeing improvement in this category. Our MiLB players are consistently proving themselves in this BB category on both sides of the ball. Our future is bright!
What do ya'll think? God Bless and a big salute!