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The Astros' Beane Count

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Rob Neyer came up with a team statistic called the "Beane Count," which he named in honor of Billy Beane, the A's GM and subject of the book, Moneyball.  This stat falls more in the "interesting" category, as opposed to "predictive."  The concept behind this path to winning is: hit more HRs than your opponents and accept more bases on balls then your pitchers hand out.  That's a pretty simple proposition and it makes some sense.

The Beane Count sums each team's league rankings in offensive walks, pitching walks, hitting HRs, and HRs allowed.  A lower sum is good.  The teams in each league can then be ranked best to worst on the Beane Count.  The results so far for 2008 are here .  The Astros are ranked 11th in the NL, with only the Pirates, Rockies, Brewers, Nats, and Giants worse.  In case you're interested, the Astros were ranked 9th on the Beane Count at the end of last season.  In 2005, when the Astros went to World Series, the team ranked 9th on the Beane Count.  The best teams in the NL, based on this measure, are the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Cardinals, and Cubs.

If you look at the nets of HRs for / against and walks for / against, you can see that the HR category is the problem area for the Astros, as opposed to net walks.

Astros HRs and Walks (Net For / Against)

Results Expressed as Positive or Negative Outcome

Net HRs

-21

Net Walks

+4

People have different views about the significance of strike outs.  As a general matter, strike outs are good outcomes for pitchers and bad outcomes for hitters.  I suspect that strike outs are not included in the Beane Count because strike outs, from the offensive side, are often associated with hitting HRs, which is viewed as the more positive outcome.  But, in any event, if you are wondering about the team's net strike outs: the Astros have struck out 9 more batters than the opposing pitchers against the Astros' hitters.

What made me look up the Beane Count?  The three HRs allowed last night by Brandon Backe made me think about a major problem which plagues the Astros: giving up HRs.  Zachary Levine, the stats columnist for the Houston Chronicle, pointed out that the Astros' pitching staff is on a pace to possibly set the NL record for home runs allowed.   If they did so, that would be outrageous, since the record is held by the 2001 Rockies, dating back to when Coors Field was a rocket launch pad like baseball had never seen.  Roy Oswalt and Brandon Backe are No. 1 and No. 3 in the NL for HRs allowed (with Brett Myers in between the two Astros).  Shawn Chacon is tied with tomorrow night's Brewers' starting pitcher, Dave Bush, for 7th in HRs allowed.  Perhaps Oscar Villareal deserves a special award on the Astros staff for HRs per innings pitched.  The reliever has allowed 3.29 HR/9, while Backe and Oswalt have both allowed almost 2 HRs per 9 innings (1.86 and 1.89). 

Chacon and Backe have been better than Oswalt at holding down the damage from HRs.  8 of Chacon's 12 HRs allowed have been solo jobs. 8 of Backe's 14 HRs are solo. Only 7 of Oswalt's 16 HRs have scored only one run. 

Memo to Astros' Pitchers: Cut it out, guys.  Quit giving up so many HRs.