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Astros Trending: Bi-Weekly Review

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Every two weeks let’s update the performance of the Astros; who’s hot, who’s not, and how they compare to the league

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros
The joy of the Astros is contagious
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Last year I wrote Astros Trending as a weekly update for Astros fans to keep track of the statistical trends of our favorite team. I wanted to have a place where fans could go, not just to find basic individual and team statistics, but to see how the team was trending. And not just against itself, but also in comparison to the rest of the American League. As an analytically oriented Astros website, this column is designed to provide periodic statistical ballast to our opinions, and thereby help us guard against false impressions.

This year I’ve decided that a weekly update is too often, that a longer period of study reveals more meaningful trends; more than one starting appearance, a better mix of home and away games, etc.

This is the first installment of Astros Trending for 2019, and after two weeks the Astros have a .615 winning percentage, not far off season expectations, and therefore a pretty good baseline.

Record:

W-L 8-5, 2nd in AL West, 4 games behind Seattle Mariners

Pythagorean W-L 7-6, 51 Runs, 44 runs allowed

Team Hitting:

Astros Hitting through 4-11

Team OPS/rank wRC+/rank runs/rank k%/rank HR/rank BABIP
Team OPS/rank wRC+/rank runs/rank k%/rank HR/rank BABIP
Astros .819/4th 129/2nd 51/9th 20.0%/3rd 17/4th 0.326

Despite a very weak opening road trip, the Astros have finished this two-week period near the top in most hitting categories, except runs. That’s because they remain near the bottom in batting average with runners in scoring position, 14th in the AL at .187. The Mariners are tops, at .305.

The Mariners are tops in most other hitting categories as well: runs (110), Home runs (34), wRC+ (157), ISO (.263), about .80 higher than the Astros.

Individual Hitting:

Although I wouldn’t have been able to say this last Thursday, if you’re an opposing pitcher, this is a scary lineup. Five starting players are hitting over .300. Three players have OPS over .900 and three more over .800. Those six batters happen to be hitting 1-6 in the batting order, followed by Yuli Gurriel, .758, and Josh Reddick, .303 BA.

And if Jake Marisnick gets in, he has started out red-hot as well. He leads the team in OPS at 1.087, although in only 21 PA’s. He is showing much better contact skills so far this year, making contact 74% of the time, compared to last year’s 67%. He is also displaying far more plate discipline. His first strike percentage is 47.6%, down from 60.4% last year and best on the team. His swinging strike percentage is 12.8%, down from 16.8% last year. Standard small sample disclaimer applies.

For all the Jake skeptics out there, I must mention his unrealistic BABIP; .500. Expect some regression, of course.

Another pleasant surprise thus far is new starting catcher Robinson Chirinos, who, besides being a warrior, has a .894 OPS.

Among players who qualify, Alex Bregman leads the team in BA, .341, and OBP, .440. Jose Altuve leads the team in home runs with five, which is third in the AL, tied with Mike Trout, and OPS at 1.015.

Disappointments so far: DH Tyler White, OPS .593 and C Max Stassi, .205

Team Pitching:

Astros Pitching until 4-11

Pitchers ERA/rank xFIP/rank SIERA/rank BB%/rank k%/rank
Pitchers ERA/rank xFIP/rank SIERA/rank BB%/rank k%/rank
overall 3.29/5th 3.39/2nd 3.38/3rd 6.4%/1st 27.4%/4th
starter 3.42/5th 3.49/4th 3.58/4th 6.4%/3rd 26.3%/5th
relief 3.03/5th 3.20/1st 2.92/1st 6.4%/1st 30.0%/2nd

Astros pitching is not as phenomenal at this stage of the season as it was at this stage last season, when it was challenging for breaking records in team ERA. But it is good, in the top fourth in the league in most categories.

The bullpen is fifth in ERA, but by peripherals it is league leading in xFIP and SIERA.

Overall, the best staff in the AL is the Rays’ by ERA, but peripherals are very close to those of the Astros. The Indians have the best rotation.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot: Ryan Pressly, not just no runs allowed, but only half a base runner per inning, 35% K%, no walks, an xFIP below 1, (far less than Josh Hader) and SIERA just above 1.

Will Harris, no runs allowed, 33% K%, FIP and xFIP 1.60.

Collin McHugh, 2.65 ERA with a 33.3% K rate and 0.88 WHIP in 17 IP. His record is 2-1.

Overachiever: Wade Miley has a 2.31 ERA but peripherals very close to 4. His BAA is .255.

Worrisome: Justin Verlander so far looks like the not so hot pitcher we got from Detroit the year he came to the Astros instead of perhaps the best pitcher in the AL that he has been with the Astros since then. His ERA is 4.24, with peripherals to match. It’s early, but in three games he’s been about as good as Dallas Keuchel was last year, pretty average. Mostly he has had command issues, so perhaps he will find his spots as the season progresses.

Not: Rookies Framber Valdez and Josh James, with ERA’s of 6.00 and 7.88 respectively. Both are having control problems, especially Josh James, who walked 17.7% of batters. They have WHIPs of 1.67 and 1.50 respectively, although Valdez’ BABIP is a ridiculous .444. To be fair both pitchers have much better peripherals that ERA.

This first two week period justifies this column as a bi-weekly. If I had written about week one, when the team was 2-5, it would have been a terrible tale of gloom and doom. Followed by a week two report about the triumph of a perfect team, 6-0, and comeback monsters.

I’ll be back in two Fridays with another bi-weekly update. For now, on to Seattle to put those upstarts back in their place.

Go Stros

Note: Framber Valdez was optioned since this writing and replaced with Reymin Guduan.