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Matchup/Game Thread

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6 - 3, 3.39 1 - 1, 6.17

In talking about last night's game, Adam Everett suggested that the Astros hit into some bad luck, and that got my hopelessly Astro-distracted mind going more than a little bit, 'cause this is an issue that divides 'Stros fans. There are those in both camps on the issue: that the Astros have been unlucky, and those who think that the 'Stros (and I read this at Speedy's, though I'm not sure who wrote it) have "come by their suckitude honestly."

You think of Ausmus' line shot double play that instantaneously FOUND itself in Pujols' glove last night, and you might be persuaded Adam's right. Big play in the game, and BIG bad luck. But at the same time, think of all the strikeouts looking for Ensberg, all the strikeouts at balls in the dirt away for Biggio, and these are our better players! Think of all the weak ground balls to second by Lamb, . . .that stuff repeated over and over does not lie.

So what is it? Bad luck or "suckitude?"

Well, the people at The Hardball Times have a stat they hope will sway you one way or the other.

It's called Line Drive percentage, and while they're careful not to claim this particular stat's godhood, they do say that, "Baseball Info Solutions tracks the trajectory of each batted ball and categorizes it as a groundball, fly ball or line drive. LD% is the percent of batted balls that are line drives. Line drives are not necessarily the hardest hit balls, but they do fall for a hit around 75% of the time."

So what else could I do?

I made a chart:

LD% Astro
Mabry J. 0.277 1 Vizcaino J. 0.263
Luna H. 0.250 2 Berkman L. 0.239
Nunez A. 0.235 3 Palmeiro O. 0.226
Eckstein D. 0.233 4 Ausmus B. 0.223
Diaz E. 0.222 5 Bruntlett E. 0.222
Grudzielanek 0.212 6 Lamb M. 0.213
Taguchi S. 0.205 7 Lane J. 0.190
Pujols A. 0.180 8 Ensberg M. 0.183
Rolen S. 0.175 9 Burke C. 0.179
Seabol S. 0.167 10 Chavez R. 0.170
Molina Y. 0.161 11 Everett A. 0.167
Edmonds J. 0.145 12 Bagwell J. 0.151
Cedeno R. 0.120 13 Biggio C. 0.131
Sanders R. 0.109 14 Taveras W. 0.118
Walker L. 0.083 15 Self T. 0.118
16 Scott L. 0.077
Cardinal Pitcher LD% Astro Pitcher LD%
Marquis J. 0.296 P1 Backe B. 0.333
Mulder M. 0.267 P2 Clemens R. 0.214
Suppan J. 0.059 P3 Pettitte A. 0.167

Beyond the strangeness of pitchers leading both squads in this stat, I'm not sure what this all means. Like with the home/road splits I presented yesterday, this probably makes the gap between the two teams smaller than it really is. I can say that the NL leader in Line Drive Percentage wth over 100 plate appearances is Placido Polanco, with a .292, and the arithmetic mean over the entire league is .149. The median point is at .165, which is Jeff Cirillo/Desi Relaford territory. If that's the case, then the Astros reflect kind of well by this stat, seeing how more than half the team is above both numbers. But the arithmetic mean among all nonzero data is .195, and I'm thinking that might be your true benchmark.

All in all, I think the answer might be what the temperate minds among us have suspected: that the Astros are not by any stretch of the imagination an average-hitting ballclub, but even so, they have had a run of bad luck.

Opinions solicited . . . .