Bill Gilbert: April 2017 Astros Report

Long time invaluable SABR analyst and guest columnist for The Pecan Park Eagle checks in today with his post-April, first monthly report on how the 2017 season is playing out for our Houston Astros.  Thanks to the club’s new big rally dynamic, the first two games of May aren’t looking too bad either.

 

What a Difference a Year Makes

By Bill Gilbert

billcgilbert@sbcglobal.net

In 2016, the Houston Astros posted a record of 7-17 in April, from which they never fully recovered, finishing at 84-78, missing the playoffs by 5 games. In April 2017, the Astros were 16-9 and in first place in the American League West Division, 3 games ahead of the second place Los Angeles Angels. The 16 wins are the most in the American League and only the Washington Nationals with 17 wins in the National League East Division have more.

While the Astros have not done anything spectacular, they have played very consistently and rank in the top half in most important batting and pitching categories. It is a different team than what we have seen in recent years. For the last several seasons, Astros batters have ranked near the top of the 30 major league teams in home runs, stolen bases and strikeouts but near the bottom in batting average and on-base percentage. In 2017, it is pretty much the opposite. They rank 12th among major league teams in home runs, 14th in stolen bases and 24th in striking out.

On the other hand, the Astros rank second in batting average at .272 behind only the Washington Nationals at .295 and well above the MLB average of .247. On-base percentage is similar with the Astros ranking third at .340 compared to the MLB average of .317. Last year, the team batting average was .247 and the on-base percentage was .319. Their OPS (on base plus slugging average) is .765, fifth in MLB and second in the American League, behind only the New York Yankees.

In their 25 games, the team has averaged 4.48 runs per game while holding opponents to 3.56 runs per game. In 2016, the figures were 4.50 and 4.33. The runs scored were expected to be higher with the addition of several players to the offense in the off-season, so there is room for improvement.

Both the starting and relief pitching have been considerably better than the MLB average. Overall, the staff ranks third in ERA at 3.38 vs. the MLB average of 4.08. The starters ERA is 3.63 vs. the MLB average of 4.06 and the relievers are at 2.91 vs. the MLB average of 4.20.

Much of the improvement is due to the outstanding performance of Dallas Keuchel who is pitching even better than he did in his Cy Young year of 2015. All six of Keuchel’s starts in April were quality starts with a record of 5-0 and an ERA of 1.21. One of the keys if the Astros are to succeed in 2017 is a return to health and success of their two top pitchers, Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. Keuchel has been better than expected and McCullers is healthy but has been inconsistent with 3 good starts and 2 bad ones and an ERA of 4.34. The remainder of the rotation, Charlie Morton (4.50 ERA), Joe Musgrove (4.88) and Mike Fiers (5.12) have been up and down. With Collin McHugh still out with arm problems, the Astros are likely to need an upgrade in the rotation at some point.

The bullpen is deep and strong, led by Ken Giles who has converted all 6 of his save opportunities and Chris Devenski with a 2.16 ERA and 2 walks and 32 strikeouts. Lefthander, Tony Sipp after a bad year in 2016, continues to struggle with an ERA of 5.79 in 8 appearances.

On the offensive side, Jose Altuve had a bad first week before coming on strong with a streak of 12 straight times on base to raise his batting average to .326. Leadoff man, George Springer, leads the club with 7 home runs including 4 in the first inning but is hitting only .230. Carlos Correa has started slowly, batting only .233 in April but Yuli Gurriel and Evan Gattis both hit over.320 and the four newcomers the Astros brought in to strengthen the offense had productive months.

A big test for the Astros will come at the beginning of May with a four-game series in Houston with the Texas Rangers, a team that has beaten them repeatedly in the last few years. Another essential in Houston’s chances of success this year is the need to win more games against the Rangers. Unfortunately, Keuchel’s turn in the rotation will not come up in the Ranger series.

5/2/17

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Bill Gilbert: April 2017 Astros Report”

  1. Fred Soland Says:

    After the first two games against the Rangers, the comedic side of me wants to shout “We don’t need no stinking Keuchel to beat the Rangers!!”

    I know it is early, but it is good to finally have something to cheer about. One thing I have seen is the “never say die” attitude is back and it is working. In both Ranger games, we trailed late in both games, only to mount late inning come backs and closing out the wins. If they believe they can win, they will win…and win often.

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