Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros 70 Wins: Dream or Realistic?


The Houston Astros swept a 3-game series on the road. After that series sweep of their in-state rivals in Arlington, I could not sleep. Each win was accomplished with the bats coming alive and the pitching staff limiting damage. Those things gave me a high and I could not sleep. After a 7-game skid against some of the two best teams in the American League, the 3-game sweep was very nice. But most folks are going to still attribute them as “not very good.” With the first half of the season nearly over, I have computed final win-loss predictions for the club, albeit using less-than-sophisticated methods of data crunching.

There are three primary routes that I took to get to each final record for the Houston Astros; each using 2014 data.

  1. Astros Home/Away Winning Percentages
  2. Winning Percentages vs. sub-.500 teams, > .500 teams
  3. Season Series vs. teams left on the schedule

Now since the first half of the season is not over I had to operate on an assumption that most readers might not like. But I wanted to be as objective as possible in creating these predictions. The Boston Red Sox are coming into Houston with a 41-51 record. Despite being 10 games under .500 I am assuming the Red Sox win 2 out of the 3 games.

The conclusion of the series in Arlington gave the Astros a 39-54 record. So if they were to win 1 and lose 2, their first-half record would sit at 40-56. In comparison to their position heading into the All Star Break in 2013 that would be a 7-game improvement. Overall their win pace is 67.5 but a half win is not possible. Again, being objective, I credited the Astros with a 67-95 win pace.

Houston Astros make a pitching change

Lucas Harrell being removed from a ballgame
(Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston Astros Home/Away Winning %

So far during the 2014 season Minute Maid Park has given the Astros a slight advantage. This is reflected in their winning percentage at home. Through 46 home games this season their record is 20-26 (.435) with a 19-28 record through 47 games on the road. In the second half the Astros will play 31 games at home. That total was multiplied by the home winning % to get a win expectancy of 13.91 for the remainder of the season at home.  I went ahead and rounded that number down to 13.

On the road the Astros are just 7 games under .500. However their winning percentage is a bit lower at .404. Using the 34 games left to be played on the road gave a road win expectancy of 13.74. Again, rounding down, the Astros could win 13 more games on the road this season.

Final Prediction, Home/Away Winning % Method: 66-96

Jarred Cosart is one key piece for the Houston Astros future

Jarred Cosart
(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Contender vs. Non-Contender

Some things really go without saying. A bad team is more likely to lose to a good team. The Astros, through the first half of 2014, have struggled against winning ballclubs. Their 24-43 (.358) record is, as expected, one of the worst in MLB, with only the Chicago Cubs posting a worse record against good teams. I was really surprised in that the Astros have posted a 15-11 (.576) record against teams with a sub-.500 record. Last season they performed to a 33-35 record against non-contenders. Just a shade under .500 ball against bad teams.

There are a few teams, however, that are on the bubble of being a winning team or not. The Yankees are just a game over even, the Blue Jays are slipping, and the Marlins have fallen under .500. It is very likely that there will be some changes to these teams by the time the Astros play them, so this method might not be the best indicator of second-half successes.

For this study I used these teams as >.500 teams: Athletics, Blue Jays, Yankees, Angels, Mariners.

As far as sub .500 teams I used the White Sox, Marlins, Phillies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, Indians, and Mets.

That would be 36 games against non-contenders while playing 30 games against good teams. The Oakland Athletics will play 12 games against the Astros with a much better team than they faced earlier in the season. In 2014 the Astros are 2-5 against the A’s. The Angels and Mariners also recently swept the Astros for 7 games of losses.

Overall this approach led to having 20 wins against sub-.500 clubs and just 10 wins against the teams vying for a postseason berth.

Final Prediction, +/- .500 Method: 70-92

 

Houston Astros Season Series From First Half

The second half of 2014 will see the Astros play 13 different teams. Nine of those the Astros have already played a series with while 4 of the teams the Astros have not faced so far this season. This is another method where the results could be slightly skewed because of assumptions I had to make that could be false.

Of those 9 teams the Astros have already played, 10 games are against the Texas Rangers. 6 of those games will be home at Minute Maid Park. But the Astros will also have to face the Athletics 12 times. For these two conclusions of the season series, the numbers led to 9 losses against the A’s and just 3 losses against the Rangers.

The 4 teams that the Astros have not played, as of right now, are not playoff contenders. So I used the sub-.500 winning percentage. They will play 16 games which includes 7 against the Indians, 3 against the Phillies, 3 against the Mets, and 3 games against the Marlins. Last season the Indians made an impressive late-season run to a wild-card berth. So far the 2014 Marlins have surprised a lot of people and might even be a contender down the stretch. I decided to assume they were a non-contender.

It would take a while to reveal the W-L against each team. But I am sure that using the good team-bad team approach will give an idea of what to expect against certain teams.

Final Prediction, Season Series Method: 71-91

Chad Qualls, Astros Celebrate win (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

So what can we expect?

Looking through these methods is fairly tedious and time-consuming. Most of these numbers were calculated using assumptions of a teams’ current standing and just the Houston Astros W-L vs certain types of teams. I am a firm believer in ballpark factors which leads me to believe that the first method is probably going to end up being the most accurate.

It would also be noteworthy to calculate these estimates and see how they correlate to the expected 67 win pace. That is, of course, still assuming the Astros lose the series to the Red Sox. So collectively 66-96, 70-92, and 71-91 is 207 wins and 279 losses. Taking the average of these would be a record of 69-93.

A 51-111 season to a 69-93 season. Not quite .500 but it would be closer to respectability again. Astros fans should certainly not celebrate too much as 93 losses would tie for the 10th worst season in Astros franchise history. However an 18 game improvement would be welcomed, especially given the injuries in the bullpen this season.

Jose Altuve is the Houston Astros MVP

Jose Altuve (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

My calculations above consisted of really raw data and are likely inaccurate. The true results will depend on the continued success of Jose Altuve (3.3), Dallas Keuchel (3.1), George Springer (1.9), and Collin McHugh (1.7) whose WAR numbers are in parentheses. As the rest of the team matures perhaps the team can even outperform their first-half numbers as their April record was 9-19, May 15-14, and an 11-14 figure in June.

It is time for the 100-loss seasons to appear in the rear view mirror. This appears to be that season. Management still has a tall task ahead of them but this ballclub is definitely making strides toward rapid improvement.

 

 

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Tags: Dallas Keuchel Houston Astros Jose Altuve

  • 1oldpro

    You did a lot of work here and it is interesting. Using data based on first half history is one way of doing it.
    The real question will be: Are the Astros going to continue to have a terrible bullpen for the rest of their games? If the answer to that question is no, they could surprise us.
    The Rangers played as bad as I have ever seen them, and certainly as bad as the Astros have been for the last three years, so we will find out a lot when we play the Red Sox this weekend. When I looked yesterday both the Astros and the Red Sox were 3-7 for their last ten games. It should be fun in MMP this weekend.

    • Kennon Riley

      I think that is a very accurate question. I also wonder if we can see Singleton and Springer really transition and become the pieces that everyone expects them to be. Getting Fowler healthy again will be interesting to see if Hernandez gets enough playing time to keep making an impact.

      This weekend series with the Red Sox I have been anticipating for a while. Oberholtzer has been announced for Saturday’s game.. almost guessed that