We are days away from having regular-season baseball among us again! Every stats geek out there might be wondering what to expect from a shortened, unprecedented 60-game regular season. If that’s you, then keep reading!
In terms of pitching, at least in 2020, you obviously won’t see 300 strikeouts, 20 wins, 250 innings, or any of those kind of numbers. That’s why we went through every season from 1962 to 2019 and checked out who have been the best performers in the first 60 games of any campaign for the Astros. Let’s take a look...
1999: José Lima, 11
As unbelievable as it seems, José Lima won 11 of his 13 starts in 1999, completing three games. How about that? In his only All-Star season, the Dominican had an 11-2 record, with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP across 97.
It’s true the Astros are going to have a healthy Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Lance McCullers Jr. But since 1999, only three pitchers have gotten close to Lima: Verlander in ‘19, Dallas Keuchel in ‘17, and Roger Clemens in ‘04, each with nine wins.
In these times, you will only have something around 12-13 starts during a 60-game season, assuming you pitch every fifth day. You have to be almost perfect, go long when it comes to innings, and—yes—be lucky. With this in mind, the rotation guys will be fun to watch.
5 tied with 16
It all started Dave Smith, piling up 16 saves in 1986. Billy Wagner followed him with the same mark 13 years later (1999) and repeated it in 2003. Brad Lidge and José Valverde began the 2005 and 2008 seasons, respectively, with the same quantity. Lastly, Astros’ current closer Roberto Osuna also got 16 saves during the first 60 games of 2019.
Can Osuna set a new record this year? The Astros are expected to win lots of games, but the thing is they will have to give the Mexican plenty of chances and he needs to be almost perfect, as he was last year: 1.98 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, .450 OPS in that span.
1986: Mike Scott, 122
Astros’ legend Mike Scott punched out 122 hitters in his first 113 2⁄3 frames in 1986, a mark no one else has reached despite having Cy Young winners and 300-strikeout pitchers. That year, the righty notched at least nine strikeouts in eight of his 16 starts.
Both in 2018 and 2019, Gerrit Cole struck out 116 batters, but didn’t throw as many innings as Scott, who went eight episodes in eight of his outings.
Last season, Verlander averaged 12.1 K/9, the second-best number of his career. He’s been off the charts since joining Houston, but would have to enjoy a BRILLIANT season beginning to break Scott’s record.
Best ERA and WHIP (50 innings minimum)
2018: Justin Verlander, 1.24 ERA and 0.72 WHIP
Verlander was as dominant as anyone in his first complete season as a member of the team. As a matter of fact, he registered a 1.24 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP in his first 87 1⁄3 frames of 2018. In 13 starts, the future Hall of Famer allowed three or more runs only once.
This isn’t impossible to break, at least in terms of WHIP. JV has led the American League for the last two years, but at 37, he needs to be even better to break or match his own records and—why not?—go after his third Cy Young award.