Season Record: 28-17. First in AL West, leading the California Angels by 2 games. Third in AL behind Yankees and Red Sox. 2.5 games behind Yankees.
Pythagorean won/loss record: 34-11, best in MLB.
Baseball Reference SRS: 1.8, best in AL, tied with Atlanta in MLB
Week Record: 4-2. The Astros played two 3 game series last week, the first at home with Texas, which they won 2-1. the other in Anaheim against the Angels, which they also stole, 2-1.
Season Hitting: The Astros currently rank 14th in MLB in OPS at .732. Using Fangraph’s WRC+ rating, they are 10th, at 103. They are 6th in runs at 210 (they have played at least 2 more games than their near competitors). They are 17th in home runs at 47. They are 13th in strikeouts.
For comparison purposes the Astros were nearly 100 points higher in OPS last year and at or near the top in every meaningful offensive category. They were last in strikeouts.
Last Week’s Batting: The Astros had 70 wRC+, which ranked 26 in MLB. Below are individual statistics for all position players last week.
For comparison purposes here are individual Astros hitting and pitching statistics for the season.
Noteworthy trends: Busting out this week; Evan Gattis, with six hits, 3 home runs, 6 RBI and a 1.192 OPS, leading the team in all those categories. He accounted for all the runs in the Wednesday night victory over the Angels. Also plus production from Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Although Correa only had three hits, 2 were home runs, to go with 6 walks.
On the debit side a very bad week for George Springer, who missed two games with injury, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Derek Fisher in limited appearances, and Marwin Gonzalez, who did not get on base legally in 17 plate appearances. Altuve did have a big game winning double on Tuesday, but at one point this week he went three games without getting on base.
Of course, Jake Marisnick, who was hitting .141 and striking out at a nearly 50% rate, was sent to AAA to work on his stroke. Tony Kemp is his replacement.
The team managed 36 hits in 6 games, of course averaging 6 per game. In all fairness, the Astros had demonstrably bad luck this week, with a .217 BABIP. The dragon roars.
It is amazing that a team hitting 30% below league average with nearly the worst production in baseball could win 67% of its games this week. And, in fact, achieve a run differential of 20-8.
Next, The Week’s Pitching: And here’s why.
Yes, eight runs allowed in six games! That’s a 1.36 ERA. FIP: 2.01, xFIP 2.3, WAR 2.2, K/9 11.55, BB/9 1.36. These all led the league.
Caveat: Just as the hitters suffered from BABIP misfortune, the dragon seemed to favor the pitchers a bit. It was tied for second lowest in the league at .248.
Two starters had scoreless appearances; Dallas Keuchel in seven innings, and Justin Verlander with a complete game shutout, his 8th career. He recorded his 2500th career strikeout on Wednesday. In his other appearance Verlander gave up a run, and was punished with the loss to Texas, as the Stros were one hit and shut out.
The bullpen only saw 14 innings of work, but surrendered just 1 run. Colin McHugh had 3.1 scoreless innings, but did surrender 4 hits. Brad Peacock had 2 perfect innings, and struck out 5 of the six hitters he faced. He seems to have figured out some of the problems he encountered earlier this year.
Gerrit Cole had the worst appearance for a starter this week, with the old home run bug catching up to him, surrendering 3 runs in 5 innings on 2 home runs allowed. It was also his worst appearance of the year. But the team, thanks to a Jose Altuve 3 run double, made a late inning comeback, and Colin McHugh recorded the win.
Season Pitching: Simply amazing. 2.44 ERA, almost a run below the next best team. ERA for starters: 2.24. 469 K’s, 0.97 WHIP, all league leading. At 109, they have given up one more walk than league leading Cleveland, but in three more games.
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton are #s 1, 2 and 3 in the AL in ERA, at 1.05, 1.75 and 2.03 respectively. Cole and Verlander lead MLB in pitcher WAR at 2.7. Cole leads the AL in K/9 at 13.57. Charlie Morton is 4th and Verlander 6th.
Honorable mention goes to Colin McHugh who, in 16.2 innings pitched, has allowed 1 run and has a .054 ERA. All star candidate from the bullpen?
The team ERA+ is an other-worldly 163. In other words, 63% better than league average. This is preliminary research, but the next closest team I could find to this (admittedly after a full season) is the 1997 Braves, at 131. The 66 Dodgers and the 69 Orioles were at 126. The best Astros team was the 81 edition, at 124. Keep in mind that none of these teams had to face a DH.
Bound to be some regression here, but I intend to watch this number as the season progresses. Last year’s team’s hitters were setting a record in OPS+ until their August slump. They were never anywhere near that much better than the historical competition. This team’s pitching staff has a very good chance of making even more history for the Houston Astros.
Thank you for your attention thus far. This is my first attempt at what I hope will be a weekly feature. It is a work in progress which I hope to improve with practice and a little more thought. I welcome any suggestions from you, esteemed readers, on how to improve the content and formatting.
All statistics as of afternoon, 5-17-18. Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.