Houston Astros: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not — Volume 2

Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros reach June at 33-18 and are cruising atop the American League West. After a somewhat slow start out the gate, Houston put together a 21-8 record in May which included an 11-game win streak.

No one in the division has been able to keep up. The Los Angeles Angels, who looked incredible in April, are now compiling losses and injuries which have given the Astros a comfortable 6.5 lead in the division.

Astros’ Team Review: How are the Astros doing this? Defense and Pitching.

The Astros are now officially the No. 1 pitching team in Major League Baseball according to ERA (2.84 ERA). They are fourth in WHIP (1.12) and fourth in OBA (.220), while having the sixth-lowest walks (139) and third-lowest home runs allowed (40).

Everything is clicking for this pitching squad, as Justin Verlander looks to be a Cy Young candidate, Framber Valdez had a terrific May and guys like Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier have put together some impressive performances.

But, it’s not just the starters. The bullpen is the best in baseball with a 1.89 ERA. Ryan Pressly and Hector Neris have been terrific as the two veteran anchors in the ‘pen, but let’s not understate the impact of Rafael Montero.

The flame-throwing right-hander was designated for assignment by Seattle and was a last-minute throw-in for the Kendall Graveman trade last year. His career looked to be in question last year. This year, he’s looking like an All-Star. He’s posting career highs in whiffs, strikeout rates and career lows in WHIP and ERA. Kudos to general manager James Click for acquiring him.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Astros are an average offensive team. Its hard for me to believe a lineup with Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, AL Batting Champ Yuli Gurriel, Future ROY Jeremy Peña and Michael Brantley would not clean up night in and night out, but 50 games is a pretty large sample size.

The Astros are 25th in BA (.230) — nearly 10 points below the league average. They are 19th in OBP, 11th in slugging (.399) and 15th in OPS (.706). This time last year, the Astros were in the top 10 in all these categories and were considered the best lineup in baseball.

The most recent road trip has not done them favors. Houston could barely scrape together runs in Seattle and were a pretty-muted offense in their sweep of Oakland. This certainly isn’t the Astros we are used to. But maybe this is the team we need to get used to – “a non-elite” offensive team.