The Houston Astros Are Winning in an Unusual Way


The Houston Astros have an impressive 27-14 record right now, tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the most wins in Major League Baseball. After years of bottom feeding and trading away Major League talent for prospects, the Astros time to shine is now. While they showed some growth last year, no one besides Jeff Luhnow saw the Astros succeeding how they are right now. How are they doing it? In a most interesting way.

Batting Average

When a random baseball fan looks at the Astros’ record, they probably expect a balanced team with hitting, pitching, and defense. The Astros must have a high batting average, but their lineup has a baseball worst .229 batting average. The .229 batting average is not a misprint, and the MLB average is .252, which the Astros fall far below. Let’s look at the regular players hitting below .252 for the Astros. (All team stats were from before Wednesday’s game versus the Athletics.)

Chris Carter (.167)

George Springer (0.195)

Evan Gattis (.196)

Luis Valbuena (.211)

Jason Castro (.217)

Marwin Gonzalez (.241)

Colby Rasmus (.246)

With the Astros, you have to look past the batting average stat, and look at the overall production of the player. The Astros do have a few players who know how to maintain a decent average; such as Jose Altuve ( .310), Jake Marisnick (.299), and rookie Preston Tucker (.286). Baseball experts have preached for years that batting average is not a real good gauge of a player’s ability, but you should look rather at the on-base percentage. The Astros on-base average is .304, which ranks 24th in MLB while the average teams on-base average is .316. Can you win with a low team batting average? The Astros are proving you can.

Home Runs

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Last year, the Astros finished fourth in baseball with 163 homers, which the Astros appear to be on a pace to shatter with 243 this season. So far this season, the Astros have hit 61 homers after Evan Gattis’ crucial game-winning blast in the sixth inning to give the Astros the lead versus the Athletics for good. The 61 home runs has the Astros ranked number one in baseball, followed by the Seatle Mariners with 51 homers. The Mariners must have a winning record because they hit so many home runs like the Astros do, but they are 18-21.

The Astros leaders in home runs are Valbuena (10), Gattis and Rasmus (8), Carter (7), Springer (6), and Castro and Altuve (5). That’s a very well spread out power team, unlike any team that has Nelson Cruz on it. So the Astros must score a lot of runs by hitting so many home runs, yet they only rank ninth in runs scored with 176. The team that the Astros controlled last week was the Toronto Blue Jays, who have scored 212 runs to lead all of MLB. Why don’t the Astros have more runs scored with 61 home runs?

Why don’t the Astros have more runs scored with the 61 home runs? Because to score more than one with a home run, you have to be on base when a home run is hit. The Astros have the worst batting average and the 24th best on-base percentage. Most of the Astros homers are solo shots, but if the on-base percentage can increase more, more runs should follow.

Stolen Bases

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The Astros running game has slowed a little recently, but they were leading in stolen bases for a while earlier in the season. Since then, the Cincinnati Reds and Billy Hamilton have overtaken the Astros 43 to 39. So the Reds have more stolen bases than the Astros, so they should have a better record right? Not quite so fast, they have an 18-22 record, and rumors are flying that they might look into trading Johnny Cueto.

Jake Marisnick went on a stolen base streak but has slowed lately, but he has nine stolen bases. The speedy Altuve has 14 stolen bases while after disappointing 2014 for Springer in the running game, he has ten stolen bases.


The Astros are leading (or close too) in three categories that do not generally lead to success. The Astros rank at the bottom of the league with batting average, and rank in the top of the league in homers and stolen bases. I haven’t mentioned the big category either, which is the direct result of the players on the team. This category is strikeouts, which they are near the top of the league with 363 strikeouts, trailing the Cubs, who have 377.

Jeff Luhnow had a theory that he used to build this team, and he followed through with his plan. His goal was to get all the power hitters in the lineup, and made a sacrifice with strikeouts. Yes, they would strikeout, but sometimes they are generated by power hitters trying to crush the ball. The Astros may not always get a hit, but when they do, it’s normally an extra base hit.

According to an article from Jayson Stark, “In the entire expansion era, just one team has ever homered, whiffed and burglarized more than any team in its league — and it was a pretty memorable team: The 1976 edition of the Big Red Machine.” 

Astros fans would be happy to know that the 1976 Reds won 102 games that year. I know some teams are starting to catch up to the Astros in stolen bases and strikeouts, but the could still win a possible 100+ games, and lead the league in strikeouts. The Astros seem to use their decent pitching and get the big hit in the games where they are needed. In my next post, I will focus on the bullpen.

Next: Lance McCullers and the Trade Deadline Decisions for Astros

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