Season Record: 35-22. First in AL West, leading the Seattle Mariners by 1 game. Third in AL behind Boston and New York, 4.5 games behind the Red Sox.
Pythagorean won/loss record: 42-15, best in MLB. Run differential: +123 Record in 1 run games: 4-11. Record in Extra innings games: 1-4
Baseball Reference SRS: 2.1, best in MLB
The Big Trends: Astros hitting continued to surpass league average this week, but fell off slightly from the week prior. However the slight pitching regression noted last week has accelerated exponentially this week, as the staff which was on pace to break all-time season records, pitched at or below league average for the week May 24-30.
Week Record: 3-4. The Astros just completed what may have been the toughest road trip of the year, taking on the Indians for four games in Cleveland, and then travelling to New York for three with the Yankees. They managed to split in Cleveland, but lost two out of three to the Yanks.
The series in Cleveland started with promise, the Astros taking the first two games, winning 8-2 and 11-2. However the Indians turned the tables in games 3 and 4, beating up on Astros pitching and walking off with game four in 14 innings, winning both games, 8-6 and 10-9 respectively.
The Astros sent Justin Verlander to New York to stop the madness, which he did, taking game one of the three game series 5-1. But the Yanks took the next two, winning game 2 of the series 6-5 in 10 innings, and 5-3 in the rubber match, thanks to a shutdown performance by Yankees ace Luis Severino.
Season Hitting: The Astros currently rank 7th in MLB in OPS at .746, the same rank as last week, but .006 higher. Using Fangraph’s WRC+ rating, they are 4th, at 107, advancing from 6th last week. They are 3rd in runs at 283 (they have played at least one more game than their near competitors), advancing two places in rank from last week. They are 12th in home runs at 65, advancing 16 spots. They are 12th in strikeouts, improving 2 places.
The radical home/away splits of the early season have narrowed somewhat. Recently they were first in away OPS and last in the league at home. Today their away OPS is third at .790, just a hair behind the Yankees and Angels, and their home OPS is 17th at .689
Last Week’s Batting: The Astros had 115 wRC+, which ranked 13th in MLB, quite a turnaround from two weeks’ ago 70, 26th in the league but a slight drop from last week’s 127 WRC+. The Astros scored 47 runs last week, (allowing 34) tied for first, and had a .778 OPS, 13th. The Stros hit 12 home runs, tied for 2nd. Below are individual statistics for all position players last week.
For comparison purposes here are individual Astros hitting and pitching statistics for the season.
Who’s Hot/ Who’s Not: At the top of the OPS board....He’s baaaaaaaack. Jose Altuve, hitting almost 1.300 with 2 home runs this week, doubling his season total. At one point he had ten straight hits!
Just behind Altuve, and continuing his hot hitting for the third week, Evan Gattis, who topped the Astros with 3 home runs, and is now 3rd on the team with 7 for the season.
Another name that won’t go away, and is starting to attract national attention, is Max Stassi, again hitting over 1.000 with 2 home runs this week. He leads the team in OPS, BA and has 5 home runs while platooning at catcher. Probably due some regression, Stassi has a .426 BABIP.
Kudos to J. D. Davis for his home run that provided the margin of error in the victory in New York.
Who’s Not: Returning to Earth somewhat, last week’s hero, Tony Kemp, whose OPS for the week was .644. Just behind him were Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, and at the bottom, and for the second week in a row on our Who’s Not list, Carlos Correa. Correa is ice cold, hitting .474 for the week, with his season OPS dropping below .800 for the first time this season.
The Week’s Pitching: While still ranking first in most major categories for the season, last week the Astros were near or in the bottom half in most categories, including ERA (4.66, 21st), WOBA (.329, 15th), FIP, (3.95, 11th) The staff allowed the 6th most earned runs. (34) With all these problems, the staff still led the league in strikeouts for the week with 74.
Individually, Justin Verlander alone among starters remained stellar, pitching 6.2 innings of one run ball, although his K rate and whiff rate were down somewhat.
Charlie Morton pitched two games and Gerrit Cole pitched one, both of whom had ERA’s for the week approaching 4.
Dallas Keuchel pitched twice this week, with an ERA approaching 5.
But the biggest starting pitcher meltdown was by Lance McCullers, who went 4.1 innings and surrendered 7 runs, an ERA well north of 14.
Deserving of special commendation this week is Joe Smith, who pitched 3.1 innings of perfect ball. Especially memorable was his performance putting down the top of the Yankees order, yes, Aaron judge, which is mainly what he is here to do.
On the other hand there were some major bullpen malfunctions, for example a Chris Devenski home run that sent Tuesday’s game into extra innings, and two home runs surrendered by Brad Peacock, who lost two games this week.
Peacock and Will Harris both sported a 13.50 ERA for the week, and Ken Giles a 27. (in one inning pitched) Of course we all know the variability of relief pitchers’ stats in the short run.
Fair to say, the pitching problems were across the board, with the starters’ ERA for the week at 4.83, 21st in the league, and relief pitchers 4.38, 20th in the league.
This is the most important question for this week: is this regression a blip or is it a permanent trend. Of course only time will tell, but the regression for this week deserves a deeper dive for evidence that can at least yield some clues.
Looking at batted ball data the pitching was clearly less effective. For example, the hard contact rate was 37.6%, up about 9 points. The ground ball rate was 40%, down about 6 points. The K rate was 26.4%, down about 3 points. xFIP was 3.23, up about .1.
But some data suggests bad luck too. As just mentioned, xFIP, at 3.23, was considerably lower than the FIP (3.95) suggesting some bad home run luck. BABIP was .326, 25th in the league. And yes, the pitchers were giving up more hard hits, but it was not enough to fully account for this high BABIP.
On the other hand the Astros’ BABIP for the season is .260, the lowest in the league, so perhaps the pitchers have been benefiting from good luck all year up to this point. I would argue however, and have, that part of this low BABIP is outstanding defense, as the Astros have the highest Defense Efficiency Ratio and highest Fielding Percentage in the league.
So, is this weeks’ poor pitching a blip, or a harbinger of things to come? The cop out answer: a little bit of both. No way did any serious person think it likely that the Astros would continue the whole season with the 2.39 ERA that they started the first third of the season with. On the other hand the numbers suggest some bad luck this week, both with cheap hits and cheap home runs, which anyone who watched the games can attest to.
This week’s FIP numbers hold the key. It is higher than the season average, suggesting worse pitching, but less than the week’s ERA, suggesting bad luck. And xFIP is even lower than FIP, suggesting bad home run luck this week. But it is also higher than the season ERA, suggesting regression was due, but less than the week’s ERA, like the FIP number suggesting bad fielding luck this week. Again, both numbers suggest regression AND bad luck this week.
Season Pitching: The Astros still lead the league in most significant pitching categories. ERA: 2.68, 1st. Starting ERA: 2.54, 1st. Relief Pitchers, 3.02, 1st in AL. WOBA .265, 1st, K’s 591, 1st. K% 29.2%, 1st. BB% 6.9%, 2nd, FIP, 2.99, 1st. xFIP, 3.15, 1st.
The Astros still sport numerous leaders in various pitching categories. Of course Justin Verlander still leads the league in ERA at a record setting pace of 1.11. His ERA+ is an even more dominant 345, keeping him safely above the all time record (291) in that category. In the American League Gerrit Cole rates 3rd and Charlie Morton is 4th.
Verlander and Cole are 1 and 2 in WHIP. Cole is first in the AL in strikeouts with 109 and Verlander is 3rd with 98. Morton is 8th with 85.
Verlander is second in WAR for pitchers at 3.3.
Team ERA+ dropped to 143, which is still higher than the best in history. (131, 1997 Braves)
The Astros still lead the league in FPCT (.992) and Defense Efficiency Ratio (.724) although that number has dropped significantly from last week’s record setting pace of .733 Of special note, Carlos Correa broke the Astros record for most errorless games by a shortstop at 60. This record was previously held by Roger Metzger.
Team Leaders: Hitting
BA: Jose Altuve, .335
OPS: Jose Altuve, .849
Home Runs: George Springer, 11
RBI: Carlos Correa, 36
OBP: Alex Bregman, .382
Stolen Bases: Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, 6
Team Leaders: Pitching
Wins: Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, 7
ERA: Justin Verlander, 1.11
Strikeouts: Gerrit Cole. 109
Saves: Ken Giles, 9
Holds: Chris Devenski, 10.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.
Who is the most valuable player of the week June 14-June 20
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