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Astros Trending Bi-Weekly Review. April 26th - May 10th. Pitching.

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Pitching remains steady, if not quite league leading

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we covered the last two weeks of Astros Batting. Today we cover the pitching stats. With yesterday’s victory over the Rangers the Astros are now 24-15 for the season, a .615 winning percentage.

Team Pitching

Overall Pitching Stats through May 10th, 2019

Pitchers ERA/rank xFIP/rank SIERA/rank K%/rank WHIP/rank earned runs
Pitchers ERA/rank xFIP/rank SIERA/rank K%/rank WHIP/rank earned runs
overall 3.59/2nd 3.74/2nd 3.63/2nd 26.3/2nd 1.03/1st 136/4th*
starters 4.01/6th 3.76/2nd 3.71/2nd 26.7/3rd 1.05/2nd 101/7th
relievers 2.76/1st 3.71/1st 3.48/1st 25.6/4th 1.00/1st 35/1st

The Astros’ team ERA dropped slightly from last period although the peripherals were almost unchanged. But with the slight drop in ERA came a significant drop in ranking, from 6th in the majors to 2nd, again behind the Rays, consistently the best pitching team in the AL this season.

The Astros starters were sixth in the league in ERA but second in most peripherals. The discrepancy is mostly due, as we shall see, to the troubles of Collin McHugh, whose ERA has ballooned in recent starts, but whose xFIP and SIERA are not nearly as bad.

Believe it or not, the Astros bullpen is by far the best in the AL so far this season, and has improved from the last two week period.

Here is how the AL West teams compare to the Astros: Athletics 4.31 ERA, Mariners 4.64 ERA, Angels 4.90 ERA, Rangers 5.14 ERA. But coming into the series with the Astros for the last two weeks the Rangers’ team ERA was only 3.48. The Twins, Indians and Yankees are ranked 3, 4, and 5 behind the Astros in ERA. The Red Sox are eighth.

*Played at least two more games than any other team ahead of the Astros on the list

Pitching April 26-May 10

Pitchers ERA/rank xFIP/rank SIERA/rank K%/rank WHIP/rank earned runs
Pitchers ERA/rank xFIP/rank SIERA/rank K%/rank WHIP/rank earned runs
overall 3.37/4th 3.91/4th 3.79/4th 24.7/4th 1.00/4th 43/5th
starters 4.03/7th 3.95/5th 3.83/5th 26.1/6th 1.04/3rd 34/10th*
relievers 2.08/2nd 3.82/4th 3.65/7th 22.1/12th 0.92/2nd 9/1st (tied)

Even though the team ERA for the two weeks was slightly lower than the season ERA, the rank dropped due to the great success in the last two weeks of possible post season contenders the Twins and Red Sox. The Twins even out-pitched the Rays for the last two weeks, and the Red Sox were just ahead of the Astros. AL West rival Mariners had a pitching meltdown, with a 5.92 ERA for the two week period.

The team pitching in all areas was much better in the last two weeks than it was in the previous two week period in terms of ERA, overall down to 3.37 from 4.13, although the two week ranking has actually dropped due to the success of the aforementioned teams.

Although relievers significantly outperformed starters in terms of ERA and league rank, keep in mind that the starters under-performed peripherals, and the relievers significantly out-performed them. Regression would indicate slight improvement from the starters, and significantly worse performance from the bullpen.

Astros individual Pitching, Season

Analysis: Bullpen

Ryan Pressly continues to amaze. With 36 innings straight without allowing a run there is little more to say. Roberto Osuna has allowed only one run this year in a similar to Pressly seventeen inning stretch. But peripherals indicate a good deal more luck for him, as we have seen recently in the last two Rangers games, when miraculous ninth innings catches saved him from blown saves or losses.

Will Harris has been a reliable sixth inning type reliever, with peripherals similar to Osuna’s. May fans appear nervous about Hector Rondon, with some reason. Although his ERA is solid, his peripherals in the low to mid-four range are less so. Chris Devenski, with a higher ERA than Rondon, actually has slightly better peripherals.

On the back end of the bullpen are Framber Valdez and Josh James, although like Devenski possessing peripherals not unlike Rondon’s, and peripherals significantly better than their own ERA’s.

Starters

Justin Verlander leads starters in ERA at 2.51 and a 6-1 record, but arguably the best starter has really been Gerrit Cole, (3-4, 4.17 ERA) Although Verlander’s peripherals are about a run higher than ERA, Cole’s are a good run and a half lower than his ERA, and lower than Verlander’s peripherals. For example, Cole’s xFIP is 2.54, Verlander’s is 3.57. Verlander is beneficiary of a .183 BABIP, Cole a more normal .284.

Not a criticism of Verlander, he’s doing great and All Star bound again, but expect better results in terms of wins and ERA from Cole based on regression. It would be interesting if a better statistician than me deducted the anomalistic worst start in his career from these numbers (8 earned runs), and tell us what these Cole stats would look like without that one hot mess.

Wade Miley has been a pleasant surprise with a Dallas Keuchel like 3.18 ERA. Peripherals suggest regression to the mid-four range. Brad Peacock has had ups and downs, but has a respectable 4.30 ERA with better peripherals. Collin McHugh has been the story of two seasons, one day, the other dark night. More on that later.

For traditional season stats go here

Individual Pitching Performances, Last 14 Days.

Astros Cy Young winner for the last two weeks is.......Tyler White, 0.00 ERA.

Seriously, we saw serious improvement from Josh James, and a collapse of Collin McHugh. We’ve discussed this already here at TCB. Go here and here.

Here’s one more breakdown of before and after stats on McHugh relying on Fangraphs.

McHugh Stats, first four games and last four games

Time Period ERA xFIP SIERA BAA BABIP contact % K% whiff% HR's
Time Period ERA xFIP SIERA BAA BABIP contact % K% whiff% HR's
first four games 1.96 3.06 3.35 .152 .216 72.6 31.4 12.0 1
last four games 12.00 5.70 5.04 .304 .286 76.4 16.9 10.5 6

Whether the differences here indicate a real problem with McHugh or are just a small sample anomaly is the question we’ve been going back and forth about. His batting average against is exactly doubled, his K rate is almost half. Peripherals indicate he wasn’t as good as the 1.96 ERA he had to start the year, with a .216 BABIP, but they also indicate he is nowhere near as bad as the 12 ERA he has since his last four games. Time will tell which is the real McHugh, or if something in the middle is good enough.

Editor’s note: Just after this was published the Astros announced that McHugh was going to the bullpen, and Corbin Martin was going to the rotation from AAA.