As the Astros take some time off from meaningful games for the majority of the week, let’s look at a few points of interest.
With no games of particular interest (sorry, All-Star Game) taking place until Friday, it is a going to be a slow week on the field. Off the field with the trade deadline nearing is another story. But let’s examine some curious points about the Astros‘ 2018 season.
Point #1: Win projections
- Based on the current projections housed at FanGraphs, the Astros are projected to finish the 2018 season with 103 wins. The only team projected to finish higher than the Astros is the Red Sox with a whopping 106 wins. Of course, projected win totals are not set in stone. Remember the 2017 Dodgers? At one point, Los Angeles was on pace to win 114 games last year based on their win percentage nearly one calendar year ago. That win total obviously didn’t happen. But with a 64-35 record, Houston has a decent chance to eclipse the 100-win mark for the third time overall and in consecutive seasons for the first time in club history.
Point #2: All hail, Alex Bregman!
- The 2018 season may be remembered as Alex Bregman’s breakout season. Over 434 plate appearances, the LSU product leads the position players in home runs (20), runs (67), isolated power (.251), wRC+ (159), and fWAR (4.5). He has put himself into the conversation as one of the best third baseman in baseball today. Bregman’s performance has been much-needed during the up-and-down seasons from Carlos Correa and George Springer.
Point #3: High spin rates are a favorite of the Astros
- Measuring a pitcher’s spin rate is one of the more interesting products of the Statcast era. Spin rate is one way how the Astros’ front office uncovered a market inefficiency, which is what attracted the organization to pitchers like Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton. Currently, the Astros have four starting pitchers in the top-25 in spin rate: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, and Morton. While a higher spin rate doesn’t necessarily translate into automatic success in the major leagues, it does add another wrinkle to a pitcher’s repertoire. Somewhat similar to hurlers who generate high velocity on their pitches, it seems to be were pitchers with now-quantified high spin rates are starting to be valued highly in baseball.
Point #4: And all hail, Tony Kemp!
While Tony Kemp has only 141 plate appearances on the season, the age-26 utility player has a 131 wRC+. If the season ended today, Kemp’s 131 wRC+ would the third-highest on the team out of all hitters with at least 50 plate appearances. Kemp has done some exciting things since his call up earlier in the season, especially with the spectacular grabs in the outfield. And while he won’t hit for a lot of power, his .127 ISO is not the lowest on the team. Kemp’s .317 BABIP also inspires confidence as this mark is below his BABIP historically in the minors. Time will tell how Kemp’s major league career evolves, but his recent play for Houston has been a needed jolt to the system.
In lieu of meaningful games, the Astros are well-represented in the All-Star Game. Six players along with coaches hopefully have a wonderful time in Washington D.C. as the rest of us deal with Saharan dust and hot weather. Oh, joy.