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Reports of Astros 2015 strikeouts exaggerated

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The Astros' high-profile moves of the past week have once again put strikeouts in the forefront of the conversation. But back away from the ledge...it's not as bad as it once was.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to giving props to The Crawfish Boxes for breaking the Rasmus news -- a factoid for which we will obnoxiously crow over until we break another story in the year 2034 -- this linked article by Mike Oz of Yahoo! Sports raises a concern about the 2015 Astros that I have seen multiple times in the comments section.

In the article, Oz quotes Jeff Passan:

Astros could approach their 2013 K record of 1,535. Carter, Springer, Singleton all easily 150+. Rasmus, Gattis, Castro 125+. Valbuena 100+.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 20, 2015

Yes, the Astros are going to strike out at an appalling rate.  Yes, there is a good chance they will lead the major leagues in that stat.  But will they approach their 2013 record?  Their roster construction actually argues against it.  In the comparisons below, I'm using the Astros' 2014 stats as the "figure to beat" and the replacement players' career rates because they'll be more predictive of future performance than their own last year's stats.  You may quibble with the methodology, but hey, I'm the one writing the article, and I think the overall point stands strong no matter how you parse the data.

Catcher:

At the catcher position, Jason Castro figures to lose significant playing time to Hank Conger, a far superior defensive player, and Conger will already be replacing all of Carlos Corporan's plate appearances:

Castro:  30 K%
Corp:  20%
Conger:  21%
Advantage: Push because of the PA's taken from Castro and given to Conger.

First Base:

At first base, Jon Singleton struck out a ridiculous and happily unsustainable amount last season.  Given his career rates (high ones, but still...), along with normal and somewhat expected improvements at the plate, there's no doubt the Astros have gotten better here.

Singleton: 37% (2014)
Singleton: 29% (2015 - Steamer projection)
Advantage: 2015 Astros

Second Base:

At second base, there's actually no position change. 
Advantage: Push

Shortstop:

At short, there's absolutely no question that the Astros have improved in strikeouts, as Jed Lowrie replaces the Jonathan Villar / Marwin Gonzalez pseudo-tandem.

Villar: 28%
Marwin: 18%
Lowrie: 16%
Advantage: 2015 Astros

Third Base:

At third base, Luis Valbuena represents a slight improvement over Matt Dominguez.

Matty D: 21% (see, people? Not all lower-strikeout players are automatically better hitters)
Louie V:  19%
Advantage: 2015 Astros

Left Field:

At Left Field, we see another improvement.  Didn't expect that, did you?  Robbie Grossman is great at drawing walks.  He's not great at making contact on strike three.  Evan Gattis is an improvement in that department.

Bob: 25%
El Oso Blanco: 23%
Advantage: 2015 Astros (doesn't account for those games that 30% K king Chris Carter played in Left Field either)

Center Field:

In Center, Colby Rasmus is indeed a downgrade over Dexter Fowler in strikeouts.  But not by much.

Dexy: 22%
Colby: 25%
Advantage: 2014 Astros

Right Field:

In right field, the Astros will strike out more just because George Springer is healthy.  You would think.  But LJ Hoes, Jake Marisnick, and Domingo Santana played the position for almost half the season, and none of them were particularly wonderful at the whiff.  This one was so close to call I had to go to cumulative stats and compare it against Springer's 2015 projections.  Astros right fielders struck out a whopping 189 times...sadly that ranked only 3rd-worst among Astros' positions.

Springer: 33%
Marisnick: 26%
Grossman: 25%
Santana: 78% (typing that makes me laugh...it was only 18 plate appearances, but still!)

--Astros RF in 2014:  28% (cumulative)
--Springer: 29% (2015 Steamer projection)
Advantage: 2014 Astros, but only very barely.  I could call that a push, but I'll be sporting.

Designated Hitter:

At DH, the dragon man of the consummate V's does what he does.  Trogdor see ball, Trogdor burninate ball.  Oftimes, Trogdor whiff ball.
Advantage:  Push

And so:

Final Tally:

Advantage 2015 Astros:  4

Push:  3

Advantage 2014 Astros: 2

As you can see from this demonstrably irrefutable scientific study, the Astros are in no danger of breaking their 2014 strikeout total, much less their record-setting 2013 tally.