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The Astros Just Won Seven Straight. But Let’s Not Go Overboard.

It’s been a nice run. But hopefully the old sayings are still true: It’s better to be lucky than good. And defense wins championships.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a nice run. And hopefully the Astros can extend their seven game winning streak against Carlos Correa and the Twins tonight on the road. You cant win seven in a row without being good. But let’s not overdo it. The Astros have been good during this stretch, but they have been far from dominant.

Just for comparison’s sake last year the Astros had an 11 game win streak. During that streak the team scored 8.4 runs per game while allowing just 1.8. That’s about a six and a half run differential per game. That’s what dominance looks like.

During this seven game stretch the Astros haven’t scored eight runs even once, averaging four runs per game, while allowing just 1.1. During an extended winning streak, the Astros averaged less runs per game than their season average last year - cold spells and all.

Of course, this is 2022, 1968 redux; hitting is down everywhere. During the streak the Astros hitting compared favorably with the rest of the league, but still not at the top. The 130 wRC+ ranked 3rd in MLB for the week in question. And that despite a .245 BABIP during the stretch.

However, this scoring was heavily dependent on undependable home run production (11), most in MLB for the week. The team batting average was only .225, 17th in MLB for the week. And one of the homers, accounting for 1/7th of the Astros’ overall run production for the seven games, came from an Aledmys Diaz homer that would have been an out in every other park in baseball other than Minute Maid.

Including last week the Astros have a 106 wRC+ with a 29th ranked BABIP of .249 for the season. So better luck did not account for the improved hitting last week, and the Astros’ luck at the bat is still overdue.

Still, long winning streaks are not usually built on four runs per game, or three out of seven wins by one run.

Pitching made this streak happen. The team ERA during the streak was an even 1.00. But peripherals were not so kind, although still good. Team xFIP was 3.10, 5th in the league, and SIERA was 3.11, rated 7th. If the pitching had given up three runs a game instead of one, its unlikely their seven game streak would have held up.

The pitching did benefit from some luck. BABIP against was .219, 29th in the league, and the LOB% (left on base) was 89.2%, second in the league. Furthermore, four of the wins came against the Detroit Tigers, one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball. And the other team beaten during the streak, the Mariners, have continued their slump since leaving Houston.

Overall, we shouldn’t expect that if this kind of performance were to continue that the winning streak would go much further. On the other hand, if you concede that pitching should regress in a negative way, we should also expect hitting to regress in the positive direction.

So the Astros came out of the recent home stand sweeping struggling teams, when conceivably they maybe should have won only five or six of those games. That’s ok. You take your luck when you can get it. Being a little lucky is better than being a little unlucky. For the season the Astros are 18-11. Their Pythagorean won-loss is only one game worse, at 17-12.

There is one big factor that I think is being overlooked. According to Fangraphs, the Astros’ overall DEF rating is 11.7. That is not only first in MLB, but it is almost twice as high as the second best team. So maybe the low BABIP against and the ERA beating peripherals is sustainable to some extent if that kind of defense remains.

The Astros have not hit on even close to all cylinders so far this season and are still only one game behind in the AL West. There’s more horsepower under the hood. Time to step on the gas.