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Astros 2011 Offense VS. Opposing Starting Pitchers

In an effort to distance ourselves from the depressing news of the Astros relocation to the AL West I decided to write about the Astros 2011 offense, which depending on your outlook could be equally as depressing. There were not a whole lot of high expectations placed on the Astros offense going into the 2011 season. After all, their biggest offseason acquisition was Clint Barmes who wasn’t exactly known as the saving grace at the plate. The Astros did what most expected and finished in the bottom half of the majors in most of the offense related categories. While the Astros did finish 10th out of the 30 teams in batting average, they also managed to finish 26th in runs scored which means that even though the Astros saw a lot of traffic they had trouble bringing their base runners across home plate. If you are interested to see how the Astros ranked in other offense related categories then you can follow this link to MLB's team stats. Instead of delving into these stats to see where the Astros offense underachieved this past season I decided to take a different approach.


There were many times this past season it seemed like if the Astros were facing a top-notch starter then you could pencil in the offense to be shutdown. It also seemed like the Astros offense would struggle against starters that you would expect them to have success against. With this in mind I decided to take the approach of looking at how the Astros offense performed against only starting pitching for the 2011 season. Each starter that the Astros faced was grouped according to their FIP (fielding independent pitching) totals for the 2011 season. The following ranges were used to classify the effectiveness of the different starters that the Astros faced this past season:

1.) Pitcher’s who posted a season FIP between 2.00 and 3.00

2.) Pitcher’s who posted a season FIP between 3.01 and 3.50

3.) Pitcher’s who posted a season FIP between 3.51 and 4.00

4.) Pitcher’s who posted a season FIP between 4.01 and 4.50

5.) Pitcher’s who posted a season FIP between 4.51 and 5.00

6.) Pitcher’s who posted a season FIP of 5.01 and higher

7.) Pitcher’s who pitched a total of less than 50 innings in the majors this past season

The decision to include an additional group of pitchers who pitched less than 50 innings was made for two reasons. One is that it kept pitchers who had a small body of work this past season separate to keep from influencing the overall results. The second reason is that this group is largely comprised of rookies and therefore shows how the Astros offense performed against pitchers that they were seeing for the first time.


The charts below give a detailed description of how the Astros offense performed against the various groups of starters. The first chart shows the overall totals in each category while the second chart measures these totals per nine innings in order to more easily compare them to each other.

2.00 - 3.00 86 71 24 23 17 78 6
3.01 - 3.50 120.1 135 69 62 28 94 10
3.51 - 4.00 327 300 126 113 84 260 18
4.01 - 4.50 202.1 196 81 74 49 138 15
4.51 - 5.00 139.2 146 59 56 34 101 7
5.01 And Higher 60 59 26 24 23 40 4
Less Than 50 IP 62 73 37 37 16 51 6

FIP Range H/9 R/9 BB/9 SO/9 HR/9 ERA
2.00 - 3.00 7.43 2.52 1.78 8.16 0.63 2.41
3.01 - 3.50 10.12 5.17 2.10 7.04 0.75 4.65
3.51 - 4.00 8.26 3.47 2.31 7.16 0.50 3.11
4.01 - 4.50 8.73 3.61 2.18 6.15 0.67 3.30
4.51 - 5.00 9.44 3.81 2.20 6.53 0.45 3.62
5.01 And Higher 8.85 3.90 3.45 6.00 0.60 3.60
Less Than 50 IP 10.59 5.37 2.32 7.40 0.87 5.37


Listed below are some thoughts on the charts above:


• It’s no surprise that the Astros offense struggled against the top starters (FIP 2.00 – 3.00) in the majors as they were not a very patient team, and this group of pitcher’s exposed that weakness the most.


• The only time that the Astros averaged more than 3 walks per nine innings was against pitchers who posted and FIP greater than 5.00. Even then the average BB/9 rate of this group was 3.80, so the 3.45 rate that the Astros posted was still below average.


• Minus the first group of starters the Astros were close to averaging 1 hit per nine innings. This is not that surprising though since the Astros finished the season with a respectable team batting average.


• Of the pitchers who pitched 50 innings or more this season the Astros had the most success at scoring runs against the second group (FIP 3.00 – 3.50) which is surprising considering that out of the 20 games the Astros faced against this group of starters these starters average a WAR of 3.92.


• The Astros did not do a very good job of beating up on the lower quality pitching that they faced this year.


The chart below shows how the Astros fared against these pitchers in terms of W/L record. Also added to the chart is the number of quality starts each group pitched against the Astros, and my made up term of "knockouts" which shows how many times the Astros were able to knock the opposing starter out of the game before the fifth inning.

FIP Range Games Wins Loses No Decisions Quality Starts Knockouts
2.00 - 3.00 12 1 6 5 11 0
3.01 - 3.50 20 8 7 5 8 2
3.51 - 4.00 50 12 27 11 30 3
4.01 - 4.50 34 5 20 9 22 4
4.51 - 5.00 23 3 10 10 14 2
5.01 And Higher 10 1 6 3 6 2
Less Than 50 IP 13 4 1 8 4 5


• 11 of the 12 games pitched against the Astros featuring starters with an FIP of 2.00-3.00 were of the quality variety.


• The only group of starters that the Astros posted a winning record against was the 3.01 – 3.50, which again shows that the team had the most success against these starters this past season.


• Out of the 162 games played the Astros were only able to send the opposing starter to the showers early 18 times.


The last thing that we will look at here is the overall totals of how the Astros offense performed against starters before the July 31st trade deadline compared to how they performed after the trade deadline. The reason I included this is because the Astros offense looked drastically different after the dust settled and the trade deadline passed. Gone were the mainstays of Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, and Jeff Keppinger. Other changes to that offense were the demotions of Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace. Arriving on the scene were youngsters Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, and Jimmy Paredes. There was also an increase in playing time for Brian Bogusevic, and Jordan Schafer joined the crew after returning from his stint on the disabled list.


Instead of breaking this down by starter FIP again I decided to just look at the overall totals against starters before the trade deadline and after the trade deadline due to the fact that the sample size after the deadline passed was already half as small as prior to the trade deadline.

Pre-Trade Deadline IP H R ER BB SO HR
665 648 272 256 166 526 41
H/9 R/9 ERA BB/9 S0/9 HR/9
8.77 3.68 3.46 2.25 7.12 0.55

Post-Trade Deadline IP H R ER BB SO HR
331.1 332 150 133 85 236 25
H/9 R/9 ERA BB/9 S0/9 HR/9
9.02 4.08 3.62 2.31 6.41 0.68

The charts above show that the Astros offense performed slightly better against starters in every category sampled after the trade deadline than they did prior to the trade deadline. One thing to keep in mind here is that even though 8 of the 12 games against a pitcher who posted an FIP between 2.00 – 3.00 came after the trade-deadline, so did 11 of the 13 games against a pitcher who pitched less than 50 innings in the majors this past season.


Final Thoughts


I'm sure that this type of excercise is somewhat flawed mainly due to the variance in sample size between the different groups of pitchers, but this is how the Astros offense performed against starters this past season. As expected the offense struggled against elite starters this past season, but surprisingly they did perform pretty well against some very good pitchers. They were also unable to beat up on the weaker pitching (5.00 FIP and higher) as much as you would like to see. If your a glass is half full person then maybe you can find comfort in the fact that most of the post trade-deadline team will be returning next year, and maybe the slight improvements seen will carry over into next season. On the other hand if your a half empty person then you will say that the sample size was significantly smaller, and on average the pitching faced was of lesser quality largely due to September callups. Either way you choose to look at it improvement upon last year's statistics against starters, mainly in the walk department and bringing baserunners across home plate, would be nice to see in 2012.