Monday, October 10, 2016

Evidence of Witchcraft: 2016 Astros/Rangers edition

The Astros finished the season series against the Rangers 4-15, which is unbelievable. Let's take a closer look inside the numbers. 

First, a recap. Over the past four years - since the Astros joined the AL - the Rangers are 53-23 against the Astros. 

Astros record vs. Rangers:
2013: 2-17
2014: 11-8
2015: 6-13
2016: 4-15

No idea what happened in 2014.

But since this is about 2016...Overall in 2016, Astros batters have hit: .246/.321/.422 with a 2.58 K:BB ratio on a .298 BABIP. Against the 2016 Rangers, Astros batters hit: .219/.297/.365 with 164K:64BB (2.56 K:BB) on a .267 BABIP.

The culprits: 
George Springer: .165/.267/.342, 27K:10BB
Carlos Correa: .159/.266/.188, 16K:10BB
Jason Castro: .179/.273/.333, 15K:5BB
Marwin Gonzalez: .224/.224/.347, 13K:0BB
Tyler White: .184/.225/.342, 7K:2BB

The Rangers own Springer and Correa. And when two of your top three hitters can't hit against a team, you're going to lose some games.

Collin McHugh: 8IP, 14H/9ER, 9K:3BB, 10.12 ERA/2.12 WHIP
Dallas Keuchel: 28.1IP, 35H/17ER, 26K:3BB, 5.40 ERA/1.34 WHIP
Doug Fister: 26.2IP, 37H/14ER, 11K:9BB, 4.72 ERA/1.73 WHIP
Joe Musgrove: 17.2IP, 18H/9ER, 16K:4BB, 4.58 ERA/1.25 WHIP
Mike Fiers: 12.1IP, 14H/6ER, 8K:1BB, 4.38 ERA/1.22 WHIP

Everyone knows that the Rangers lineup is strong top-to-bottom and it doesn't matter who is pitching for the Astros, no starter is going to fare terribly well.

But we all know the real culprit for the Rangers' dominance is witchery. Let's look at the individual series in 2016:

April 19-21, at Dallas: 0-3, 10 runs scored / 16 against
May 20-22, at Houston: 0-3, 4 runs scored / 13 against
June 6-9, at Dallas: 1-3, 14 runs scored / 16 against
August 5-7, at Houston: 1-2, 10 runs scored / 8 against
September 2-4, at Ft Worth: 1-2, 19 runs scored / 28 against
September 12-14, at Houston: 1-2, 13 runs scored / 11 against

In two of these series the Astros were a combined 2-4, outscoring the Rangers 23-19. In 1-run games the Rangers went 8-1. In games where the margin of victory was 1-2 runs the Rangers went 12-2. The Rangers scored 5+ runs in nine games. The Astros scored 5+ runs in six games. But in those six games in which the Astros scored 5+ runs, they went 3-3. When the Rangers scored 5+ runs they went 8-1. This is simply unreal. Witchery.

So let's rank the 15 losses on a scale of evidence of Witchery:

One Witch: June 9, 5-3 Rangers
One night after the Astros beat the Rangers for the first time in 2016, the Rangers were up to their old tricks. The Astros scored two runs in the top of the 3rd, but the Rangers answered with three in the bottom half and then added one in the 4th. The Astros got one in the top of the 7th to cut it to 4-3, but the Rangers scored in the bottom of the 8th.

A bad Collin McHugh start is not evidence of Witchery. Collin McHugh failed to make it out of the 4th, with 7H/4ER, 6K:1BB. Here was his 3rd inning, after retiring the first six batters: Walk, double, single, single, strikeout, single, strikeout, strikeout. In the 4th he allowed a leadoff homer to Prince Fielder (RIP), flyball, double, strikeout, single and was pulled before getting to face Desmond with runners on the corners.

Two Witches: September 3, 12-4 Rangers
The Astros again took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 2nd, gave it back in the bottom of the inning and then the Rangers scored two in the 4th, two in the 5th, two in the 7th, five in the 8th (off Brady Rodgers in his MLB debut). No one could pitch effectively.

This was in the stretch where the starters couldn't make it through the fifth inning, setting up the mid- to late-September collapse when the bullpen was gassed. The Rangers steamrolling through the pitching staff, and putting up five on a guy making his debut is not evidence of witchery.

Three Witches: May 22, 9-2 Rangers
The Rangers scored five runs in the top of the 3rd and the Astros couldn't come close to recovering. Altuve/Springer/Correa went a combined 0x11 with 5K:1BB.

Another Cole Hamels gem against the Astros, another Dallas Keuchel disaster. Keuchel allowed 9H/7ER, 6K:1BB in 6IP. Neshek allowed two runs of his own. Here's Keuchel's 5-run 3rd inning: HBP, Double, Strikeout, Strikeout, Single, Passed Ball, Walk, Double, Single, Strikeout. The ugliest side-striking-out I've seen in a while.

Four Witches: April 21, 7-4 Rangers
The Astros took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and then the Rangers answered with three in the bottom half and added a run in the 2nd and 3rd. Dallas Keuchel's day ended with 6IP, 13H/6ER, 5K:0BB.

The Astros went 1x6 w/RISP, meaning that the first series ended with the Astros going 5x30 w/RISP. Colby Rasmus hit two homers. This was perhaps the first point at which we wondered if Dallas Keuchel had accidentally had relations with a witch in the offseason, setting him up for a terrible post-Cy Young season.

Five Witches: April 19, 7-5 Rangers:
The Astros never had the lead. The Rangers scored three in the bottom of the 1st, the Astros answered with two in the top of the 2nd but the Rangers scored three unanswered runs. The Astros did get two in the top of the 7th (the Rangers got one back in the bottom half) and one in the 9th, but the Rangers scored often enough.

The Astros were 2x12 w/RISP. Josh Fields allowed the first four batters he faced in the 6th to reach base. In the 6th, Tyler White hit a leadoff double, but couldn't get him in.

Six Witches: September 2, 10-8 Rangers
Wow this game was stupid. The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the 1st. The Rangers scored seven runs in the bottom of the 4th inning to give them a 9-2 lead. The Astros fought back with three in the 7th, two in the know the drill.

The Rangers got their first two runs (and the margin of victory) in the 2nd on a throwing error. And I haven't looked too closely (yet) but this was Peak Fister. Here's his 4th inning: Single, Single, Double, Sac Fly, Groundout, Home run, Walk, Home run. Michael Feliz came in and gave up a home run to Lucroy. 9-2. Then he walked in a run in the 5th (an inning in which he walked three batters). The Astros scored eight runs on seven hits and six walks. But Fister's/Feliz's problems couldn't be overcome. This game rated this highly because it was Carlos Gomez's first game against the Astros since getting DFAd and he went 2x3 with a double, walk and three runs scored, raising his season OPS by 12 points in a single game.

Seven Witches: May 20, 2-1 Rangers
The Rangers scored two in the top of the 3rd. The Astros answered with one in the bottom of the 9th, but couldn't get the tying run. This was the 2nd loss in which the Astros out-hit the Rangers - this time it was 7-6 in favor of the Astros.

Colby Lewis dominated, throwing 7IP, 4H/0ER, 6K:0BB. In the 4th, the Astros had Correa on 2nd with one out and couldn't bring him home. Altuve doubled to lead off the 9th, but two groundouts by Springer and Correa brought up Rasmus, who singled him home. Evan Gattis struck out to end the game. The Astros had five 1-2-3 innings.

Eight Witches: April 20, 2-1 Rangers:
The Rangers scored two runs in the bottom of the 2nd, and that was it. The Astros scratched one across in the 6th, but couldn't get the tying run in.

The Astros' early-season RISP struggles continued as they follow up the 2x12 with a 1x12 on the 20th. Cole Hamels hit the first two batters he faced, but a strikeout followed by a strikeout/throwout ended that inning. In the top of the 2nd the Astros loaded the bases with nobody out but Marwin's flyout to right wasn't deep enough to allow Rasmus to score. Jason Castro grounded out to end the inning. Correa doubled to right to lead off the 8th inning but the Astros folololololwed that up with a groundout, strikeout looking, strikeout looking to end the threat.

Nine Witches: June 7, 4-3 Rangers
The Astros and Rangers were tied 2-2 heading into the bottom of the 8th. Rangers scored two in the bottom half, Astros got one in the top of the 9th, but couldn't get any more.

Springer/Altuve/Correa/Gattis combine for an 0x13, 4K:3BB day. Dallas Keuchel was inexplicably sent back out for the 8th inning and promptly allowed a 2-run Ian Desmond homer. And once again, Cole Hamels outshines Keuchel. Springer had runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs in the 5th and grounded out to end the inning. Rasmus led off the 9th inning with a double and Carlos Gomez drew a (gasp!) walk. Luis Valbuena singled in Rasmus and sent Gomez to third base with one out. Sam Dyson - the Gingerbeard Man - struck out Tony Kemp and George Springer to end the game.

Ten Witches: May 21, 2-1 Rangers
Love those 1-run losses! The Rangers scored one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd. The Astros got one back in the 3rd, and then got nothing as they were out-hit 6-3.

Cesar Ramos retired the first six Astros batters, allowed a Marwin homer, and then faced the minimum 12 batters over the next four innings. Tyler White grounded out to end the 7th inning with Gattis on third. The next six Astros were set down in order to end the game. It ranks so highly on the Witch Factor because Cesar Ramos has only started 14 games in an 8-year career, and this day's 67 Game Score was the highest of them all. His 2016 season ended in July with a 6.04 ERA.

Eleven Witches: June 6, 6-5 Rangers
The Rangers scored three in the bottom of the 1st, the Astros answered with an Altuve 3-run homer in the top of the 3rd. It went back and forth with the game tied 5-5 heading into the bottom of the 9th. Giles got Ian Desmond swinging for the first out, allowed a liner to left by Mazara, got a fielder's choice to force Mazara at 2nd before GD Rougned F. Odor doubled to deep left to end the game.

The Astros had Gattis on third in the top of the 2nd but a Gomez strikeout and a Marwin double play ended the threat. Then the Astros had the bases loaded in the top of the 6th, tied 4-4, before Springer popped up to short and Altuve popped up to 2nd, scoring a grand total of Zero runs. Beltre was able to beat out the throw to 1st in the bottom of the 9th to even allow Odor to end the game.

Twelve Witches: August 7, 5-3 Rangers (11 innings)
This one hurt. The Astros were down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th, got two in that inning, tied it up in the bottom of the 9th...before the Rangers got two in the top of the 11th to win the game. Daggum Rougned Odor had three hits. Desmond, Profar, Beltre, Lucroy, and Moreland all had two hits.

Joe Musgrove goes 7IP, 5H/1ER, 6K:0BB. Will Harris comes in for the 8th and walks Delino DeShields (Delino DeShields!) then hits Shin-Soo Choo. DeShields stole third and was then thrown out at home on a fielder's choice from Altuve. In came Giles, who gave up a two-run double on the 2nd pitch of the AB. Evan Gattis left Correa at 2B in the bottom of the 8th. Tony Kemp - who had three hits after coming in as a pinch-hitter and staying as a defensive replacement - scored Carlos Gomez, who had pinch-run for A.J. Reed - to tie the game. Pat Neshek loaded the bases with one out in the 10th but wriggled out of it. Devenski allowed a double, single, single, foul out, double to put the game just out of reach in the 11th. Springer couldn't deliver with Marisnick on third base. To fight back like that and lose in extras? Typical.

Thirteen Witches: August 6, 3-2 Rangers
 The Astros had a 1-0 lead going into the 6th, but gave up a single run in each of the next three innings to go down 3-1. A run in the bottom of the 9th made it 3-2, but Marwin couldn't get Bregman across, ensuring yet another 1-run loss to the Rangers.

This gets 13 Witches because of the Rangers' starting pitcher. He didn't last long enough to qualify for the win (3.2IP) but the Rangers beat the Astros in a game they started Lucas Harrell. Doug Fister pitched well-ish (6IP, 9H/1ER, 2K:2BB) but Devenski gave up a rare run. Tony Sipp gave up a not-so-rare run.

Fourteen Witches: September 12, 4-3 Rangers (12 innings)
The Rangers had a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the 7th when the Astros got one back, then tied it in the bottom of the 9th. The Rangers got the go-ahead run in the top of the 12th and of course the Astros couldn't overcome it.

The Astros hit into four double plays and were caught stealing twice. Gattis hit the game-tying homer in the 9th, but Roughed Odor accounted for three of the Rangers' four runs, including a broken-bat RBI single in which the barrel of the bat went farther than the ball did, as well as the 12th inning go-ahead homer off James Hoyt. But the biggest witchery came in the 7th, when Tony Kemp hit a ball to deep right field with two men on. Marwin came around to score and Rasmus was hustling from 1st, but the ball bounced over the wall, stranding Rasmus at 3rd and Kemp at 2nd. Rasmus surely would have scored to tie the game there. But with runners on 2nd/3rd with two outs, Springer predictably struck out swinging.

Fifteen Witches: September 13, 3-2 Rangers
Finally: Proof that witchcraft exists, and that the Rangers channel the dark lord to win games against the Astros. The Astros had a 2-1 lead going into the 9th, but the most typical/unbelievable series of events transpired to give the Rangers the 3-2 win.

The Astros had a 2-1 lead in a game in which they did not have a single at-bat with a runner in scoring position - both runs came on solo homers from Altuve and Castro. Brad Peacock went full Brandon Backe with 6IP, 3H/1ER, 5K:2BB. Harris and Gregerson threw scoreless innings, and in came Ken Giles. He got Beltre to ground out to short for the first out. He got Odor to strikeout swinging, but the ball got away from Castro and Odor made it to first before the throw could get him. Odor stole 2nd. Mitch Moreland struck out - the third out of the inning. Elvis Andrus tripled to score Odor, tying the game. Profar hit a single to left to score Andrus and give the Rangers the lead. The shell-shocked Astros only saw 10 pitches in the bottom of the 9th to finish the game. And this happened one day after the Fourteen Witches game?! The Rangers went to the clubhouse to sacrifice animals in order to uphold their end of the bargain.