The American League is hard, and I don't like it. I am convinced that if the Astros were still happily in their NL Central home they would be in sniffing distance of .500. The great thing about this belief is that you can't disprove it.
On to this week in Astros stats.
- Many people pegged Jason Castro as a mini-breakout candidate this year, based on his second half and his strong spring. The season didn't start out so hot, as he began the season hitless and walkless in his first 14 at bats of the season. However, since breaking through in game 4 in Oakland, he has hit .313/.352/.506, raising his season averages to .277/.313./.447, good for a 107 wRC+. During his current 9 game hitting streak, he is batting a robust .389/.450/.639. Combined with his defense, which both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference have credited with being above average, Castro has ranked as the second most valuable AL catcher in both fWAR (0.7) and bWAR (0.9), behind only Carlos Santana. (He's tied with Mauer on Baseball Reference). Its still early, but it seems the Astros might have their first 2+ win catcher since Mitch Melusky in 2000.
- One thing the Astros have done better than anyone in the league is managing double plays. They lead the league in double plays turned, by a wide margin. They have 39, and the next highest are the Pirates and Nationals at 32. They also lead the league with Double Play Runs with 1.8. Now, I don't know exactly how DPR is calculated, but it is not simply a matter of more double plays, more DPR, as the Pirates and Nationals are both middle of the pack in DPR. It seems the Astros pitchers and fielders are actually quite good at inducing, and completing, double plays. On the flip side, the Astros have ground into the fewest double plays on offense, with only 12. As they say, you can't turn two on a strikeout. Okay, so maybe nobody says that, but its undoubtedly true.
- In the last week, the Astros pitching staff was not the worst in the league. However, they still are the worst, by a lot, overall. I know it seems like its rubbing it in, but Astros opponents have an OPS of .867 against the pitching staff. Among qualified hitters, an .867 OPS for an individual player would rank 47th in the majors and 23rd in the AL, just ahead and Brandon Moss. It is higher than any Astros hitter except Brandon Barnes, who at this point does not qualify for the league leaders. If there is any good news, it is that I do not expect the majority of the pitchers who produced these numbers to continue to get the opportunity for too much longer.