When you’ve seen as many losses as I have this season, you really have to dig to find any positives. If you can watch an Astros game without caring about the overall outcome of the game, instead focusing on individual plays during the course of the game… then it’s still pretty bad actually. But I have noticed some slight improvement in several areas that are at least somewhat encouraging.
If you compare the first and second half offensive numbers for the Astros, there is very little improvement on the surface. They had a .235/.293/.374 line for the first half and have a .236/.298.380 line thus far for the second half. Houston has also managed to increase its already gaudy strikeout numbers, and they’ve had very little improvement in the BB category. The team’s isolated power numbers have risen from .139 to .144, but perhaps their greatest offensive progress has come on the bases. The Astros had a negative 6.5 BsR (Base Runs) value during the first half of the season. During their last 39 games, they have a +3.1 BsR. When you add young guys like Jonathan Villar, Robbie Grossman and Brandon Barnes as full-time players, and subtract guys like J.D. Martinez and Carlos Pena, you’re bound to improve on the bases. Over the second half of the season, the Astros lead the American League in stolen bases with 33.
When you look at the Astros’ starting pitching from the first half of the season compared to the second half, there is improvement in nearly every aspect. We have seen an increase in strikeouts per nine innings (6.39 to 7.08), and decreases in base-on-balls and homeruns per nine. During the first half of the season, Houston’s starters were 26th in ERA and FIP. Each of those numbers have improved by nearly a half run, and the rotation currently ranks 10th in the MLB in ERA during the second half. Of course, that could all be due to removing Lucas Harrell from the rotation.
Now that Lucas Harrell is in the bullpen, we can thank him for the team’s relief corp stats that went from horrible to atrocious (only if atrocious < horrible does that makes sense). They are on pace to more than double their NEGATIVE 2.6 WAR from the first half, and have managed to worsen the following stats: K/9, BB/9, HR/9, ERA and FIP. In fact, their ERA has gone from a 4.95 during the first half, to a 6.78 over the past 39 games. Now that Jose Veras, Wesley Wright and Travis Blackley are gone, we will at least get a chance to see whether or not the young guys can cut it.
I hope to see the team continue to progress, and I truly believe that if the Astros can figure out a way to turn their bullpen into even a substandard ‘pen, you will start to see improvement where it counts — the win/loss column. Until then, I will try to find a way to blame the team’s offensive struggles on Lucas Harrell as well.