One of my favorite crazy Astros stats for the past three years has been their record in one-run games. Teams win about half of these games on average. There's some fluctuation year to year, but usually, it's around half. The league average? Half. Duh. Don't you know anything about statistics?
Neither do I. Which is why I can't explain why the Astros haven't come close to winning 50 percent of those games in the past three years. How bad has it been?
In 2013, they won 33 percent of their 54 one-run games. Understandable, right? That bullpen was a dumpster fire wrapped in a burning tire set afloat of a gasoline ocean of flames.
In 2014, they won 37 percent of their 45 one-run games. Again, the bullpen was better, but still a disaster waiting to happen. Chad Qualls was the closer for a period of time. Chad Qualls!
Then, Astros GM went out and signed a bunch of sneaky good relievers. He got Luke Gregerson on a nice deal and he's been a good closer. He got Pat Neshek's funky deliver on a very reasonable deal to bolster the back end. He picked Will Harris off waivers and got one of the best reliever seasons in baseball out of him.
But, you say, the Astros bullpen has been horrible. They've lost so, so, so many games down the stretch. The bullpen lost all those road games, too. You can blame the road record, the loss of the division lead and world famine directly on the bullpen.
Except, well, you can't. The bullpen overall has been quite good. They're sixth in all of baseball in FIP and second in xFIP. If Run Expectancy 24 is more your thing, the Astros' bullpen has been quite good there too. They're fourth in baseball, behind the Royals, Pirates and Cardinals. All of those teams have very good bullpens. So we should probably think the Astros bullpen is very good too.
But we don't, because it's not.
That very good bullpen has still not helped the Astros win any more one-run games. Oh, maybe one or two. But they're still not anywhere close to 50 percent.
This year, the Astros have gone 19-28 in one-run games. That's good for a .404 winning percentage, up three percent from last year, but not anywhere near .500. Over the past three seasons, the Astros have won just 37 percent of their 146 one-run games.
Maybe the Astros Nerd Cave knows what's going on here, but I sure don't. I'm also not willing to pin it on the Luck Dragons, since it's happened for a full three years. It does show why Luhnow went after big-ticket relievers, but it doesn't explain why his good-performing bullpen hasn't helped even the odds in these close games.
If there's any consolation, it's that the American League champion Royals of last year went 22-25 in one-run games with one of the most dominant bullpens in recent history. The 2013 World Series champion Red Sox were 21-21 in one-run games while the 93-win Tigers that year were 20-26. Just because they can't win one-run games doesn't mean the Astros can't win in the postseason.
Sometimes, weird things happen in baseball, even over a three-year period. But, just in case, bring as many rabbits feet and horse shoes and lucky pennies as you can to the ballpark down the stretch. Also, be rooting for that Craig Kimbrel trade this winter. You can't be too careful.