Bill Gilbert: Astros Win AL West by 21 Games

Bill Gilbert’s Final Report
on the
2017 Houston Astros Regular Season



Our special Astro analyst and writer, the inimitable Bill Gilbert,  takes a hopeful look at the end of the 2017 MLB season. He plans another report on the season at the conclusion of the playoffs.

Before anything else – there’s Game One of the Red Sox and Astros Series that starts tomorrow. – Chris Sale of the Red Sox versus Justin Verlander of the Astros are having a go at it at Minute Maid Park at 3 PM – just for starters. Let’s stay on “one game at a time” until there is a World Series to consider – and then, if we get that far,  it will still be “one game at a time” until the deed is either done in a dance of joy – or not.

Thanks to good luck and a smile from the baseball gods, my good friend and SABR buddy, Sam Quintero, received an invitation to be one of the Astro fans who were asked to help carry the giant American flag onto the field for the playing of the national anthem prior to Game One tomorrow. In turn, Sam then got the invitation extended to include me as another flag-bearer. I didn’t solicit the invitation, but I accepted in a heart beat.

Good God! ~ What a huge honor! ~ Thanks, Astros!

Now let’s move on to the Gilbert Report.

~Bill McCurdy, The Pecan Park Eagle


Houston Astros Win AL West Division by 21 Games

By Bill Gilbert

The Houston Astros finished strong in the season’s final month with a 13-8 record, clinching the Division Championship with 13 games left to play. The 101-61 record for the season was the second best behind the 1998 team that finished 102-60. Both teams were aided greatly by trade acquisitions late in the season. In 1998, Randy Johnson went 10-1 in the last two months of the season and in 2017, Justin Verlander was 5-0 in the month after he was acquired from Detroit.

Unfortunately, the Astros fell one game short of the Cleveland Indians in the race for the best record in the American League. The Indians recorded a 22-game winning streak in September on the way to a record of 26-4 in the final month. Thus, the Indians will have home field advantage if the teams meet in the AL Championship Series.

The Astros led the West Division from start to finish as the other four teams were unable to mount a serious threat and all finished with losing records. The Astros led the major leagues in most offensive categories, batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346), slugging average (.478) and runs per game (5.53). They were second in home runs to the Yankees (241 to 238) and the batters had the fewest strikeouts of all the major league teams.

The pitching was a little better than the MLB average but not among the leaders. ERA was 4.12 compared to the MLB average of 4.35. The starters ERA was better than the MLB average (4.03 vs. 4.50) but the relievers ERA was worse (4.27 vs. 4.14). The Astros outscored their opponents by 196 runs (896-700).

The team was put together in various ways. The heart of the team, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer were all signed and developed through the farm system. However they couldn’t do it alone. Two other players signed by the Astros, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel made rapid progress through the farm system and were brought up to the Astros late in the 2016 season. They continued to improve and were vital parts of the lineup. In the off-season, the Astros acquired Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to give the team a strong lineup from top to bottom. Winning teams are generally successful because a number of players have excellent seasons at the same time. All of the Astro regulars, except Beltran, but including both catchers and utility man, Marwin Gonzalez, produced offensively better than the major league average in 2017.

The Astros had four players that batted over .300, Altuve (.346), Correa (.315), Reddick (.314) and Gonzalez (.303) and Gurriel hit .299. Altuve led the majors in batting average and also compiled an on-base percentage of .410. Correa had the highest slugging average (.550) and three others were also over .500, Altuve (.547), Gonzalez (.530), and Springer (.522). The Astros had eleven players with 12 or more home runs led by Springer with 34. Gonzalez led the club in RBIs with 90. Altuve and Springer both scored 112 runs and Altuve had 204 hits and 32 stolen bases.

The pitching staff was not as successful as the starters were beset by injuries. Dallas Keuchel had a good year, 14-5 with an ERA of 2.90 but he was on the disabled list twice and started only 23 games. No. 2 starter, Lance McCullers (7-4, 4.25) spent even more time on the disabled list and failed to recover the effectiveness he showed early in the season. Collin McHugh (5-2, 3.55) started the season on the disabled list with arm problems and didn’t pitch until July. The gap was capably filled by Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62), signed as a free agent before the season and Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00) who started the season in the bullpen but came on to start 21 games.

The bullpen was inconsistent. Closer Ken Giles converted 34 of 38 save opportunities with an ERA of 2.30 and Chris Devenski (8-5, 2.68) was also effective pitching 80 innings. The other 20 pitchers used by the Astros in relief had their ups and downs but Joe Musgrove, originally a starter, pitched effectively in relief late in the season. The Astros made two trades for relief pitchers, Francisco Liriano and Tyler Clippard, in July but neither was successful as they combined for four losses without a win.

The acquisition of Justin Verlander (5-0, 1.06) has significantly improved the Astros chances of success in the playoffs where anything can happen in a short series. In the Division Series, the Astros have the home field advantage against the Boston Red Sox and appear to be the favorite. However, in the League Championship Series, they will be the underdog if they play the Cleveland Indians. If they get by that round they will become the first team to play in a World Series as both a National and an American League team. It should be a very interesting post-season.

Bill Gilbert




Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle




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