Look, the Astros are a good baseball team. But all baseball teams, no matter how talented, do not play at 100% all the time.
Entering Friday, the Astros are currently 24-15. The team possesses the largest run differential in baseball at plus-82 runs. The Yankees with a plus-65 runs are second in this category. Of course, the Yankees and the Red Sox are the best teams in terms of the overall records, but I digress.
Looking back on the first 39 games, the Astros obviously are a solid club. A winning record tends to validate such statements. The pitching staff, in particular, has been tremendous. For example, the Astros’ pitching staff leads baseball with a 8.5 fWAR. And the starting rotation has been a key reason behind this successful start to the 2018 season.
Starting rotation numbers
2.35 ERA – leads baseball
3.02 FIP – leads baseball
3.19 xFIP – leads baseball
30.0% strikeout rate – leads baseball
6.9 fWAR – leads baseball
Key word of the day: leads baseball.
The bullpen has been quite good in its own right. Sure, in terms of fWAR, the Astros’ bullpen is the sixth-best at 1.5. But the group still strikes out plenty of batters (26.7% strikeout rate) and it maintains a 3.23 ERA and 2.94 FIP. All are respectable numbers despite a noticeable hiccup in the closer role.
Let’s take our attention to the lineup, which has been consistent or inconsistent depending on the context. For example, the Astros have scored 190 runs this season. That is good enough for fifth-place in baseball entering Friday. Only the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, and Angels have scored more up to this point in the season. And like I previously mentioned, Houston currently possesses the largest run differential at plus-82 runs.
However, the context of the games matter.
For example, the Astros’ offense has been held to two or fewer runs in 12 games. Out of those 12 games, the Astros have only won two. That is not surprising when you consider how unlikely for a team to win a game when scoring two or fewer runs. The goal of the game is to score runs and prevent runs. In those two wins when scoring two or fewer runs, Houston’s pitching staff and defense accomplished their goal of preventing runs.
Here is another reason why the total amount of runs scored may be a bit faulty: blowout wins. The Astros are 11-1 on the season in what Baseball-Reference defines as a blowout. A blowout is defined as the final result being determined by five-plus runs in terms of winning or losing. The only blowout the Astros lost was a 8-1 defeat by the hands of the Oakland Athletics. The run differential in blowouts for the Astros: plus-81 runs.
As you can see, the Astros’ lineup has been either consistent or inconsistent. I know this is a strange way to categorize the team’s offense, but this is the best way I know to describe the situation. In 24 games, the Astros have either scored plenty of runs or not enough to win ballgames. There are games when the lineup looks to be perfectly in tune. In others, well, they are not in tune. Inconsistently consistent or consistently inconsistent?
Thanks to a superb pitching staff, the early inconsistencies of the lineup have been somewhat masked. If the pitching staff begins to falter, though, the lineup will have to pick up the slack. At this point in time, this is rather risky bet to place.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs**