Astros: Fans, get your hands off the panic button
Astros’ fans, put away the panic buttons… for now.
Your Astros are 13-7 and only half a game behind the Angels. Which thanks to the Red Hot Red Sox, dropped their last 3 by getting swept. After this weekend, The Astros will get a shot to take control of the AL West once and for all. And, we’ll worry about the Red Sox later. Okay? So take your hands off the panic button. Tuck it away. And lets discuss a few things.
Last year at this time the ‘Stros were 14-6. In fact, in the past 18 season the defending champions the season after started 13-7 or worse with the exception of the 2005 White Sox who started 14-6 after 20 games. So, despite a less than perfect start, things are looking up or at least on par.
The Astros scored a total of 88 runs thus far and allowed only 55. Last April they scored 112 runs allowing 89 after starting 16-9 after 25 games. The Astros are on pace to score 110 runs but allow only 69 runs after 25 games which in perspective is astonishing compared to last year.
FanGraphs still project the Astros to win 100 games and the Angels are projected to win 87. The Astros still have the best WAR, wins above replacement, at 46.6.
Tip your hat to the pitching staff!
I honestly couldn’t name you a better five man rotation consecutive starts in the history of the Astros. I tried looking it up. Lets look at these 5 consecutive starts.
Justin Verlander – 8 IP / 1 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 1 BB / 11 Ks / loss
Dallas Keuchel – 8 IP / 6 H / 2 R / 2 ER / 1 BB / 6 Ks / loss
Lance McCullers Jr. – 7 IP / 1 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 1 BB / 11 Ks / win
Gerrit Cole – 7 IP / 5 H / 1 R / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 Ks / win
Charlie Morton – 7 IP / 3 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 8 Ks / win
In a combined 37 innings pitched, the five arms allowed 16 total hits and five runs. Four of them being earned along with five walks and 41 total strikeouts. Forty-one. The Astros went 3-2 in that five consecutive game stretch. The staring pitching has been dominant. Can we agree? Cole, Verlander, and Morton have been absolutely stellar. Cole’s ERA is 0.96. Verlander’ s ERA is 1.35 and Morton’s ERA sits at 1.00. Despite the couple of poor outing by Keuchel and McCullers, numbers prove that they are slowly getting into form.
Defense wins championships.
Despite the lack of offense, the Astros are still the best defensive team in the Major League allowing only 2.75 runs per game which is the stingiest in the league. On the other hand, they score 4.40 runs per game, which is right in the middle of the pack. They are fielding at a .989 rate given the total chances to put outs. They also strike out the most batters. Opponents are striking out 11.17 times per 9 innings. That’s solid for a 30.6% strikeout rate against the Astros’ arms, the best in the league.
Earlier, I stated the Astros are on pace to give up 20 less runs after their first 25 games compared to last year. Their defense has been so much better this year after this small sample size.
Here’s some hope.
If the bats were to “wake up”, hypothetically, it should be soon. From the rest of April and all through May, the Astros play against teams who allow the most runs. The White Sox, who are next on the docket, allow the most runs per game at 6.20. They also play the Angles who allow 4.32 runs per game. They get to face the Yankees and Athletics who give up 5.29 and 5.21 runs per game, respectively.
With the pitching the way it as, and defensive efficiency so strong, the runs will be there for the taking. Despite the struggles of McCullers, Keuchel and the bullpen, the Astros STILL possess the best overall ERA in the league at 2.45.
Winning cures all, right?
Enough with the numbers for now. I think the Astros will have a better May. Despite losing five of seven games earlier, they’re on a three-game win streak. With a series against the White Sox, Angels and Athletics coming up they should be back to their winning ways before the fruitful month of May comes which rewards them with plenty of opportunities to score runs.
Last May, the Astros went 22-7 in and began to separate from the AL West. By the end of May, they were 38-16 with an 11-game division lead.
The key thing for the Astros this May will be winning series. It would be nice to sweep them all, but it’s not ideal. Next month will be a battle test for the Astros. In order to separate themselves and mirror last May’s dominate performance, they have to win these upcoming series.
Of their 28 games this coming May, the Astros play division foes nine times including a three game set with the Oakland Athletics. They have a short day off before a return to the Juice Box to host the Texas Rangers for a three game series before they travel out West again for a bout with the Los Angeles Angels. They also play the Yankees six times before they prepare to host the hottest team in the league, the Red Sox, for a four game set entering June.
Next: Astros observations: Offense inconsistencies and the mostly stellar starting rotation
So Astros’ fans, take your hand off the panic button. Close the lid. Tuck away. And let’s revisit said “panic button” again at the end of May.
*** Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and MLB.com***