How to Fix Astros Generation K: Part Deux

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The Astros will not only have the TV money rolling in during the 2015 season, but they are going to be able to save some money in air conditioning at Minute Maid Park. Jim Crane comes out of his office when he gets hot and will ask “Where is Chris Carter‘s air conditioning from his big swings and misses?”

All kidding aside, 2015 will be known as Astros Generation K, due to the large number of players who have high strikeout percentages.

2014 Team Stats

Looking at the improvement the Astros were able to make last year, they did so by leading the American League in strikeouts as a team in 2014. The Astros had 1,442 strikeouts in 6,055 plate appearances, which led to a 23.8 strikeout percentage in 2014. This inspired me to write How to Fix Astros Generation K about a week ago. With the most recent trades and signings, I have decided that Generation K: Part Deux was due.

The 2013 Astros set a MLB historical record for strikeouts with 1,535 strikeouts that season. While the 2014 Astros did cut back their strikeouts numbers, they still finished with 1,442 K’s in 2014, which gave them the 5th highest strikeouts in a season.

The 2014 Astros, as it were, had the 5th most strikeouts in major league history, 1,442.

Jeff Luhnow is Aware of The Strikeouts Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is very aware of the type of players that he has on his team. In an article by Evan Drellich titled “Astros willing to sacrifice strikeouts for run production,” Luhnow joked about the issue facing his team. Luhnow: “We probably will have a few strikeouts” http://t.co/QqntjIJwUq

From Drellich’s article, Luhnow said “We probably will have a few strikeouts because of the types of players that we have, but the flipside of that equation is we’re going to produce a lot of runs with those types of players. It’s up to our hitting coach to work on them to figure out when’s the right time to go for it and when to put the ball in play, and (manager A.J. Hinch) to figure out the lineup, so we don’t kill rallies by stacking up more than two or three of these guys at a time.”

Speaking of lineups, A.J. Hinch will feel like he is creating a batting order for Little League Machine Pitch team. This is because as a little league coach, you have to keep in mind the players who will make contact, and those who would just strikeout. If you have too many strikeout hitters in same spot in batting order, this cuts down on your ability to have big innings.

“(manager A.J. Hinch) to figure out the lineup, so we don’t kill rallies by stacking up more than two or three of these guys at a time.”-Jeff Luhnow

The biggest difference between setting the Astros lineup and League City’s Little League lineup is that Evan Gattis won’t be in the outfield picking flowers or wearing his glove on his head (presumably).

Who’s New to Generation K?

Let’s look at the transactions that have been made since publication of the first Generation K post.

Astros traded RHP Michael Foltynewicz, IF Rio Ruiz, and Andrew Thurman to the Braves for OF Evan Gattis and RHP James Hoyt last Wednesday.

The Astros traded OF Dexter Fowler to the Cubs for IF Luis Valbuena and RHP Dan Straily on Monday.

The Astros signed OF Colby Rasmus to 1-year $8 million contract yesterday.

The table below is from Fangraphs, looking at strikeout percentages and walk percentages. This table will help us decide which of our new members qualifies for membership in Generation K.

Current members of Generation K include Chris Carter (Awful), George Springer (Awful), Jon Singleton (Awful), and Jason Castro (Poor).

HOU’s projected lineup has 5 of top 19 MLB hitters in K pct. from 2014:Singleton 1st, Springer 7th, Rasmus 9th, Carter 14th, Castro 19th.

Jose Altuve (Excellent) and Jed Lowrie (Great) are not members of Generation K.

Below is a projected lineup, so let’s look to see where Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, and Luis Valbeuna fit into Generation K. The stats below are from the Steamer Projections located at Fan Graphs.

Does Evan Gattis have what it takes to fit in Generation K?

He doesn’t have the highest or lowest strikeout percentages, striking out in 22.2% of his total plate appearances. However, he is projected to have the 3rd highest batting average on the team. Projections also showing him with 28 home runs and an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of 0.754.

Gattis’s strikeout percentage rates as below average, so he is an official member of Generation K. Welcome to the club!

Does Colby Rasmus have what it takes to fit in Generation K?

Colby Rasmus could be the governor of Generation K with his results last year, according to the article Which hitters are responsible for the most and least free outs. In 2014 Rasmus took home one dubious award by leading the league in strikeout percentages (33%). He is on the list with fellow Astros’ slugger Chris Carter.

Rasmus’ predictions from Steamer shows an improved strikeout percentage of 28.1% in 2015. Last year he only hit 18 home runs, but has power potential along with a high chance of striking out.

Rasmus’s strikeout percentage rates as awful, so he is an official member of Generation K. 

Does Luis Valbuena have what it takes to fit in Generation K?

Sorry Luis Valbuena, you don’t quite meet the category of Generation K. Valbuena’s strikeout percentages are less than 20% coming in with a 19.6%. One thing that stands out looking at Valbuena, is he does not have near the power that the others do. Who knows, maybe strikeouts are contagious. Let’s hope that Valbuena does not catch the strikeout bug with Houston.

Valbuena’s strikeout percentage rates as average, so request is denied to join Generation K.

Welcome to our new charter members of Astros Generation K! The writers are sorry but Climbing Tal’s Hill couldn’t afford to book Kate Upton to welcome Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus. We did find this picture for you though. That counts for something, right? Looks like you will help cool the fans of Houston in 2015.

Welcome to Generation K. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The question is what causes the strikeouts?

Are Strikeouts All that Bad?

There is a reason why Astros hitters are striking out at an alarming rate, other than because “chicks dig the long ball.” Most of the current Astros are free swingers, meaning they try to crush the ball all the time, unlike Jose Altuve who aims to make contact and put the ball in play.

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

“We also have a very dangerous team with a lot of power threats, and that’s going to be good for our ballpark,” Luhnow said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to accumulate outs, whether it’s groundballs, fly balls or strikeouts. Pick your poison, but we’re happy with the guys we have. We think we’ve got a much more powerful offensive lineup going into 2015 than we did in 2014.”

“At the end of the day, we’re going to accumulate outs, whether it’s groundballs, fly balls or strikeouts. Pick your poison, but we’re happy with the guys we have.”-Jeff Luhnow

According to the Steamer projections in the table, the Astros’ starting lineup is projected to strikeout 23.4% of the time this year. The starting lineup alone is projected to strikeout 1,118 times while batting for an average of .241. The Astros hope they have some contact hitters coming up through the minors. Until then, Astros fans have to sit back and wait for the big fly.

More info from Fangraphs:

” Power hitters tend to have high strikeout and walk rates, since they may swing and miss often, yet are pitched around by pitchers. Contact hitters are the opposite; they tend to have low strikeout and walk rates. The more a player strikes out, the tougher it is for them to maintain a high batting average since they are putting fewer balls in play.”

“The more a player strikes out, the tougher it is for them to maintain a high batting average since they are putting fewer balls in play.”-Fangraphs.

What Can be Done to Have Hitters Strikeout Less

From Drellich’s article quoting Jeff Luhnow. “At the major leagues, you’re not going to significantly change a hitter’s style, (where) he’s going to go from being a high-strikeout, power guy to a low strikeout guy,” Luhnow said earlier in the winter. “Those changes have to be made on the margin. We work on making sure they’re making the right swing decisions, and then hopefully, once they make them, they’ve got the right swing mechanics to put the ball in play. It’s not something that changes without different profiles of players coming in and out. I do think we have players in the minor leagues that are making their way through the system that have a different profile than some of the guys we have in the big leagues, and it’ll be a mix. But it’s always, along with a negative of a strikeout, comes the positive of the doubles and the home runs.”

“But it’s always, along with a negative of a strikeout, comes the positive of the doubles and the home runs.”-Jeff Luhnow.

Luhnow’s beliefs, while they do have some players who strikeout often, it’s what they do when they put the ball in play that matters. The good players succeed 3 out of every 10 at-bats. The problem with Luhnow’s explanation, too many times all that is needed is a fly ball to get a sacrifice fly. However, there were many times in these situations where the Astros hitters would strikeout, taking away the option of the sacrifice fly.

Maybe as they get more experience, they will cut down on their strikeouts. Just back and watch those home runs leave MMP in 2015, especially when Gattis launches them into the “Bear Den”. Remember to “support” your Astros in 2015.

What are your thoughts?

Next: Astros in Your Fantasy Part 3: Evan Gattis

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