Thursday, May 15, 2014

The 2014 Astros at 41 games

We are now a little over 25% of the way through the season (even if you count the Astros impending Wild Card Play-in Game). I think we can all agree - if you have had a chance to watch any Astros games this season - that the team looks better than they did in 2013. But let's take a look at the numbers, anyway.

2014 Astros, after G41: 14-27, 11.0 GB
2013 Astros, after G41: 11-30, 15.5 GB

Dashboard offensive stats:

YearSlash LineK:BBSB%

We've been talking about this for a couple of weeks now but it's obvious that, while the plate discipline is better, the offense is worse than 2013. It is worth noting, however, that the gap is closing. Cast your mind back to April 21. The Astros headed into Seattle on a seven-game losing streak. The Astros, as a team, were hitting .192/.265/.338. Then the Astros beat King Felix and Seattle, 7-2. And then won the next game! I mean, it's an arbitrary endpoint, but from that 7-2 win (22 of the 41 games this season) through last night, the Astros are hitting .258/.327/.418. At no point last season, save after G1, did the Astros have an OPS over .745.

I hate paragraphs that begin, "If you take out [significant stretch of time in which stats actually went to hell], then they...." But I'm about to do just that. Keeping in mind that the second half of the young season so far, the Astros have a .745 OPS, the AL is hitting .253/.323/.396 (Astros included) collectively. What we can hope from this is that the first three weeks of the season were so unsustainably bad that, while we can't just ignore those losses, things should* get better.

*while also remembering that this is Houston, and the cosmos will find away - it always finds a way - to destroy us.

Dashboard pitching stats:


Starting pitching is clearly better for the 2014 Astros than the 2013 Astros. The pitching staff collectively has allowed 21 fewer home runs, and 49 fewer extra-base hits. .

Astros starters have a 4.10 ERA (7th in the AL), 4.15 FIP (12th), 3.97 xFIP (10th), 1.32 WHIP (7th). They're stranding 72.6% of runners on base (5th). Their 50.2% groundball rate and 31.6% flyball rate is the best in the American League. They're getting hitters to chase 30.5% of their pitches outside the strike zone (2nd). Basically, the starters are solid. Their 5.73 ERA is far worse than their 4.63 FIP and 4.13 xFIP, and they've been collectively worth -0.6 WAR (the Rays are at -0.9 WAR). But still, opponents are hitting .286/.360/.452 off the bullpen in 2014, right in line with 2013, but with a .332 BABIP, whereas the 2013 BABIP through 41 games was right around .300.

Are things great? Well, taking two out of three from the Rangers feels pretty great, but while FanGraphs is still projecting a 15-game improvement from 2013 to 2014, the Astros would still wrap up their back-to-back-to-back-to-back #1 Overall Pick Pennant. But at least they can avoid 100 losses.