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Astros Can Win with Home Runs and Strikeouts

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This past offseason, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow made some moves that made Astros fans scratch their heads trying to figure out why. In 2014, the Astros had 1,442 strikeouts, leading the American League in strikeouts and fell short to the Chicago Cubs in all of MLB. This season, the Astros are leading the majors in strikeouts with 222 strikeouts on the young season. I tabbed these Astros players Generation K earlier in the offseason, here is Part 1 and Part II.  Generation K was not present in last night’s game because the Astros struck out only four times in an 11-4 blowout win.

Luhnow’s theory is that yes strikeouts are bad, but you can still win with the right type of power production. The Astros are off to one of the best starts in the history of the organization with a 17-7 record, while on a nine-game winning streak. While the pitching is one of the major reasons the Astros have strived in 2015, the power of the team has provided the necessary support to win. How much power? Try tied for the Major League-best power team, and tops in the American League.

The Astros have hit 37 homers in 24 games to this point of the season. While this is a highly unlikely pace, the Astros are projected to hit 250 homers in 2015. The team finished fourth in home runs in the MLB with 163 last season, behind the Orioles who hit 211 in 2015. Nelson Cruz led baseball in home runs in 2014, helping the O’s finish on top. The Astros are loaded top to bottom with players who can hit for power, and some of them haven’t even heated up so far this season.

I know that some of the Astros won’t continue to hit the home runs at the same rate for the rest of season, but let’s look at the Astros home run per at bat rates, strikeout percentages, and mathematical projections for the rest of the season.

The Astros are succeeding with low batting averages from seven out of the nine normal starting players. Four of the middle-of-the-order hitters have above a 30% strikeout percentage, and the Astros are still finding ways to win. Despite the perceived Astros hitters power abilities, only two of them are mathematically on pace to hit more than 30 homers (Rasmus and Valbuena). The Astros flexed their muscles last night by hitting five home runs, including back-to-back shots twice.

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Can Marisnick and Altuve keep up their pace of hitting 20 home runs this season? History would say no, but these two have been the best hitters on the team all season. On the other side of the coin, the odds that Chris Carter will finish the season with 14 homers is also highly unlikely. Carter is a streaky hitter who can slug home runs left and right for a certain time, but then will strike out four times in a game the rest of the time.

The Astros tend to leave some runners on base, but are also more likely to hit a home run in most games. The Astros have 30 homers on the year, in 758 plate appearances in 2015. These numbers lead to the Astros hitting a home run every 25 plate appearances. The Astros average about 32 plate appearances per game.

The national media will be forced to pay attention to the first place Houston Astros before long. Jeff Luhnow’s theory will be examined and probably repeated by another team some time in the future if the Astros are successful this season.

Can you live with the strikeouts if they are still winning games?

Next: Will the Astros Make the Playoffs in 2015?

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