Data proves Astros’ surprise ace Ronel Blanco is not a fluke

The Astros might have something special.
Houston Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco
Houston Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

Houston Astros starter Ronel Blanco was on the verge of doing something that baseball hadn't seen since the summer of 1938. Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer was the last player to throw back-to-back no-hitters. Blanco got close, but Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia snuck a base hit up the middle during the sixth inning.

Garcia broke up Blanco's no-no and the right-hander was lifted in favor of Rafael Montero in the seventh inning. Blanco completed 14.2 innings of work this season before allowing a hit.

A lot of fans and experts are confused by Blanco's success. Some might even call it a fluke. But there's some strong numbers that back up the 30-year-old's performance through the first two games of the 2024 season.

Data proves Astros’ surprise ace Ronel Blanco is not a fluke

Chandler Rome of The Athletic cited that through the first 12 innings this season, Blanco allowed five balls in play hit harder than 90 mph. Evan Carter and Marcus Semien made that number jump up to seven through 15 innings, but even Garcia's base hit came off the bat at just 80 mph per Baseball Savant.

The top-3 pitchers from last season in terms of hard hit rate (with over 500 batted ball events) were Corbin Burnes, Chris Bassitt, and Pablo Lopez. Others such as Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole, and Aaron Nola were among the top-15 in that category. In short, if the opposition doesn't hit the ball hard, it usually yields positive results.

It has to be said that Blanco is only in the Astros rotation because of the absence of so many injured starters. Houston is without Justin Verlander, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, and Lance McCullers Jr. As the Astros rotation begins to get healthy, it'll be very intriguing to see how manager Joe Espada and the Houston front office handle such a predicament.

But for now, Astros fans can just sit back and enjoy watching Blanco throw zeroes up on the scoreboard. If the rotation holds, Blanco will get another chance to face this same Rangers team that he shut down on Sunday night. Texas makes the trip to Minute Maid Park for a three-game series next weekend.

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