Friday, August 9, 2019

Trust the Process

On June 28th, the Rangers won 5-0 over the Rays for their 6th game in a row, and cut the division lead at that moment to 4 games.

And as part of the aftermath of East Mineral Wells victory, I got into a twitter spat with longtime Houston journalist Moisekapenda Bower of
I have a personal vow not to "yell" at sports journalists on Twitter (I do a lot of yelling at political journalists on Twitter for their indifference to the President's racism--sports should be an escape and the consequences of a bad game or riduculous hot take are never as large as in politics), so this was not a particularly proud moment for me.

But even in my annoyed state, I still try to rely on objective and analytic methods to make baseball commentary. So I looked up the Astros and Rangers win projections on Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, Five Thirty Eight, and Baseball Prospectus.  Here is what I found:

If we can, let's not focus on the snarky conclusion to my tweet, but on the the data I looked up back at the end of June. It indicated that the Astros would remain one of the best teams in baseball and that the Rangers would fade back to a .500 team. Despite the narrowed division lead, objects in the mirror were not getting closer.

Good news for us Astros fans. My trust in the numbers turned out to be a useful strategy.

June 28 turned out to the be the highwater mark of the season for North Waxahachie. They lost the next day, and their final game in June before going 8-16 in the month of July.  And while you hate to see it, you should have expected to see it. Because now the Rangers are 2 games over .500 and seem to be destined to win 83 projected.

As for the Astros, the June 28th game against Seattle was frustrating. Pinch runner Myles Straw missed 3rd base in the 7th inning, dooming the Astros to remain scoreless. But a Josh Reddick homer in the 8th tied it, and a Yuli Gurriel home run in the 10th gave the Astros the win.

And the frustration of the first seven innings of the June 28th game only compounded the frustration of the rough stretch the Astros had been going though that month. The team had won only 9 of their previous 23 games. That included the 7-game losing streak which took up all but one game of a road trip to Cincinnati and New York. And the Astros had been blow out in their 2 previous games against the lowly Pirates by a combined score of 24-2.  Not great, Bob.

But June 28th marked a turning point. The walkoff victory allayed the anxieties of Astros fans relayed in the Bower tweet above. Another game winning RBI in the 10th inning off the bat of Yuli Gurriel the next night gave the Astros back-to-back wins, and propelled the team to a 5 game winning streak.

In fact, since that June 28th "low point," the Astros have gone 24-8, and have lost consecutive games on only one occasion (the first two games after the All-Star break in Anaheim).  With the team headed to play bottom dwellers Baltimore and Chicago over the next six games, there is every reason to think the wins will keep coming.

The Astros are now 10 games up on the As in the AL West (and 16.5 games up on Southwest Bohham). Their chances of winning the division are 100% according to Fangraphs.

What is the lesson here?  Trust the process.

We cheer for a good team with lots of really good baseball players. They are winning lots of baseball games.  But like all good teams, sometimes they go through rough stretches.  We should all calm down when these happen during the regular season.  It's likely the Astros will go through another rough patch between now and the end of the season, but it will likely have little impact on the AL West race or keep the team from winning 100 games...again.

Baseball is a long game, and the advantages that one team has over another may not manifest itself in one game or even a short series. But over the long haul, the best team usually wins.  The .500 team usually returns to .500.  And the bad teams get chopped up by the good ones.

We saw too often how much the bad team gets chopped up by the good teams when our boys lost 100 games three seasons in a row.  That should only make us enjoy the fact that upon the burned down ash heap, Jeff Luhnow has build a glittering palace filled with 3 straight 100 win seasons (and more to come, we can reasonably hope).  Enjoy the good times, even on the days when they are not as good as we would like.