Monday, May 5, 2014

Diagnosing the Astros Offense, Part II. They're Cured!

A couple of weeks ago, after a brutal stretch of games left the Astros team batting average at .189, I posted an article trying to find out what was wrong with the offense. I theorized that the Astros probably wouldn't end up with a .218 BABIP, lowest in the history of the majors by a wide margin. I predicted that when that number started to regress, which baseball history suggested it would inevitably do, we could get a better view of the true Astros offense. Amazingly, the next game after I posted that, Yodano Ventura shut the Astros down, thanks in part to a .176 BABIP. The team BABIP dropped even further, down to .215.

The response to my post was mixed. Some agreed the low BABIP was a sign the Astros' luck was due to change. Others posited the low BABIP was simply due to the Astros hitters just being really bad, and I was foolish to expect that to be any different.

Well, we are now a month into the season. Lets see where the Astros offense, and specifically their BABIP, has gone.

The Astros as a team are currently hitting .219. That's still pretty awful, but considering they raised it from .189 just two weeks ago, it actually represents significant improvement. Their line of .245/.315/.391 over that time frame is roughly league average. The last two weeks, which includes 12 games, is even better, as they've put up a .258/.329/.423 line in that time. That's good for a 111 wRC+, 10th in the league. Their 56 runs score during the time frame is also 10th in the league. Several things have changed during that time frame; their K rate has ticked down, and their walk rate has inched up.

The biggest difference? I think you know. That team BABIP has risen from a low of .215 to a much more reasonable .265. Over the last 14 days, its a robust .315. Villar, Dominguez and Castro, who all had BABIPs under .200 at the time of the post, all have a BABIP over .300 over the last 14 days. Their season BABIPs are already near their career averages.  

Will the Astros keep hitting like they have been over the last two weeks? Maybe, maybe not. If anything, that BABIP for that frame is a little high. Still, this is a much truer picture of the Astros offense than what we saw over the first two weeks of the season. 

Unfortunately, the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, has taken a nose dive the last two weeks. But don't worry, their FIP from that stretch is over a full run lower than their ERA. That is sure to regress.