Why Can’t the Houston Astros Win on the Road?

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Why Can’t the Houston Astros Win on the Road?

Sep 17, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Astros second baseman

Jose Altuve

(27) watches from the dugout during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers won 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

This year, as well as being shockingly successful for the Houston Astros, has been one of a multitude of statistical anomalies. Houston has a +94 run differential (4th-best in the majors), yet sit behind the Texas Rangers and their -5 run differential in the AL West. The Astros are a statistical carbon copy of the Chicago Cubs, so statistically speaking, they should be at least where the Cubs are — running away with the second wildcard spot.

They cling to playoff hope on the strength of the league’s best home record (51-26) but teeter on the brink of late-season implosion with the league’s worst road record (29-46).

It has been an issue for the Astros all year: Why can’t they win on the road? These aren’t the Astros of 2010-2014. They are clearly very capable of winning, but you would not know it to watch them on the road.

To be sure, there is a human element at work, but just saying,”they’re more comfortable at home” does not get them any closer to solving the problem moving forward. There is a conceivable statistical explanation for the reason the Astros are very close to becoming the team with the worst road record to make the playoffs since the 1987 Minnesota Twins (who managed to win the World Series despite posting a .358 road win percentage).

Looking back over the last few years (going back to 2008), Houston shares two statistical similarities with other teams that have had the worst road records in their respective leagues — on-base percentage and save percentage.

The Astros have much better numbers than the others since every other team (as you would expect) finished last or second-to-last in their divisions. None of the others came anywhere close to posting a winning record. The next closest to this year’s Astros, in fact, was the 2014 Astros, who finished 12 games below .500.

But what sets them apart in this case isn’t as important as what makes them the same. What the Astros have in common with those other losing teams may hold the key to improving their chances for future success.

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Next: On-Base Percentage