Did the Astros turn the corner in May?


The following is a guest post penned by Bill Gilbert. A SABR member since 1984, Bill has attended 15 SABR Conventions and has given presentations at 13 of them. He has also written articles for The National Pastime and The Baseball Research Journal, as well as other publications and web sites. He was the leader of SABR’s Larry Dierker Chapter in Houston for over 10 years and, after relocating to Austin, founded the Rogers Hornsby Chapter in Central Texas.

Did the Astros turn the corner in May?

by Bill Gilbert

Led by George Springer, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel and Chad Qualls, the Houston Astros posted a record of 15-14 in May, their first winning full month since September, 2010.  Included was a 7-game winning streak in which the Astros outscored the opposition 39-12.  The first 6 games in the streak were started by 6 different pitchers who all pitched well.  Springer carried the offense with 7 home runs in 7 games and an eleven game hitting streak.

The highlight of the streak was Major League Baseball’s 8th annual Civil Rights Game played in Houston this year before a crowd of 38,482, the largest home crowd since opening day.  Included were Commissioner Bud Selig, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Jim Brown, George Foreman, Dave Winfield and Bob Watson among others as the Astros won their 7th straight game, 2-1, with an improbable 2-run rally in the 7th inning featuring two baserunning blunders and four clutch hits by the bottom of the batting order, Matt Dominguez, Alex Presley, Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar.

The Astros batted .251 in May which was 5th highest in the American League.  The on-base average of .335 was third highest in the AL.  The pitchers had a 3.42 ERA for the month, second only to Oakland.  These numbers were a sharp contrast to April when the batting average was .210, the on-base percentage was .282 and the pitchers’ ERA was 4.87.  In May, the Astros averaged 4.27 runs per game and allowed only 3.79 runs per game.

Jose Altuve leads the A.L. in stolen bases (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

There were several strong individual performances in May.  Jose Altuve batted .357 and stole 11 bases.  He leads the American League in hits and steals. Dexter Fowler posted a .420 on-base percentage for the month and Springer hit 10 home runs with 25 RBIs and a batting average of .294.

On the pitching side, Dallas Keuchel won 4 games with an ERA of 2.14 and Jarred Cosart won 3 games with an ERA of 2.76.  Chad Qualls converted all 4 of his save opportunities and did not allow a run in his 10 appearances.  Lefty Tony Sipp, picked up at the end of April, appeared in 9 games and didn’t allow a run.

All four of the Astros full-season minor clubs have winning records for the season and are contenders in their leagues.  The Astros farm system is regarded as one of the best and a number of top prospects are being developed, although probably not as quickly as long-suffering Astro fans would like.  Springer’s arrival and success is an example of what Astros management has been promising and the fan base is anxious to see more of the same.

After two months, it’s probably safe to say that the Astros aren’t as bad as they appeared in April but probably not as strong as they appeared in the last part of May. At the moment, they don’t have the worst record in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs all having worse records than the Astros.  It would be premature to say that they have turned the corner but there is at least a ray of hope that has been missing for so long.  The string of 100 loss seasons should be a thing of the past.