As the calendar turns to June the Astros find themselves comfortably 11 games up in the AL West, but even more impressively they currently sit six games up in the AL as a whole and hold a comfortable four game lead on Washington for the MLB’s best record. At 38-16 the Astros are off to the best start in franchise history (by a healthy margin at this point) behind a 22 win May that tied the franchise record for any month. On pace for 114 wins and in the middle of a seven game streak with 10 or more hits (one game shy of another club record) saying this team is fun to watch would be an understatement.
While the Astros need to keep their foot on the gas and keep looking forward, nothing says we as fans can’t sit back and admire what a truly special month it has been in Houston. So, lets take a look at the numbers and how the Astros performance compares to the rest of the league for the month of May*.
*One quick note: all charts represent data through May 30th, so the 17 run, six home run performance from the final day of the month will not be included below.
First, let’s take a look at the offensive production. Even excluding their monster final game in Minneapolis, the Astros pace the league in runs and sit just off the league lead in home runs with 46, two behind the Tampa Bay Rays and one behind the Toronto Blue Jays. One interesting tidbit in the AL West is how power happy Oakland has been in May. The Athletics somehow managed to slug 43 home runs, six above the AL average and still produce a substantially below average run total.
Now taking a quick peak at plate discipline the Astros outdid the league again with 40 fewer strikeouts than the AL average. Even the NL, with pitchers consistently taking at bats, racked up 33 more strikeouts on average than Houston.
Once again, Tampa Bay paced the majors with 314 Ks and 115 BBs. Have the Rays become a three true outcomes hitter, as a team? The month of May sure seems to point toward that, but as the sixth best run producing offense over the course of the month it seems to be working.
Finally, lets take a look at a couple of base running stats. Here we find a category that the Astros rank below league average in, or do they. Looking at the caught stealing number as well, shows that Houston put up an 81.25% success rate in the month good for a tie for the fourth best rate in the league with Miami.
Cincinnati and Los Angels both stand out on this chart for their high volume of stolen bases, but perhaps more impressive is the fact that they both held 80% success rates on the month. Going forward, Los Angeles may come down a bit with Mike Trout being on the shelf for the next 6-8 weeks, so look for Cincinnati to further distance themselves from the pack in June.
Alright, so the offense put up some impressive numbers across the board. How about the pitching staff? Even with some rotation shuffling the Astros excelled here as well. With a 3.51 ERA on the month, Houston was more than .75 runs better than league average and more than a full run better than division opponents Texas, Seattle and Oakland, who all sat above 4.5 as a staff.
Looking at the extremes, the Los Angeles Dodgers anchored Clayton Kershaw just tore the league apart during May for a 2.96 ERA as a team. On the sadder side of the scale, Philadelphia posted a depressingly high 5.3 ERA.
Breaking down the numbers a little further, let’s take a quick look at how the pitching staffs stacked up in strikeouts and walks. Houston ran away with this one, posting 285 Ks or to be more exact 299 if you add in the 14 Ks from Wednesday’s series finale against Minnesota. In a distant second Boston came in with 264, but that only includes one David Price start, so the Red Sox may make a run for the top spot in June.
Looking at the division both Texas and Seattle posted well below average strikeout numbers, but no one quite measures up to Miami on the negative side. Miami posted 125 walks to 205 strikeouts, adding up for an anemic 1.64 K/BB rate. For comparison, the Astros rolled to a 3.28 rate.
Now, while all these charts are fun and watching the other team strike out instead of Houston has been a nice change in 2017, is this sustainable? The short answer is probably not. Their 114 win pace would be one of the best records in MLB history behind only the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners.
So 114 may not be in the cards, but looking at how this team has performed, some level of sustainability, say a 100+ win season definitely is still in play. When team play well above their heads often times it is because a couple of guys set the world on fire a la Mike Trout or some of the early season Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy), but looking at the breakdown of team War below the Astros have been surprisingly balanced in 2017 with Carlos Correa the only player claiming a greater than 10% slice of the team WAR pie and Mike Fiers the only real black hole at -0.8 WAR through May. So, sit back and enjoy the ride because it sure looks like the Astros may only be getting started.