Are the Astros a fluke?


38 games into the 2015 MLB season, the Houston Astros own the league’s best record. At 25-13, they’ve tied their best 38-game start in franchise history, matching their record from 2003, in which they finished 102-60. The Astros pitching staff has been off to a stellar start. Their 3.46 team ERA ranks fourth amongst AL teams, and their 90 walks allowed is the best amongst AL teams as well. The Astros are led by Dallas Keuchel, who’s followed a 12-9 season with a 5-0 start with a 1.87 ERA through eight starts. Collin McHugh has been strong at the two-spot as well, posting a 5-1 record with a 3.38 ERA through eight starts. Perhaps the biggest reason for the Astros early-season pitching success is the strength of their bullpen. Offseason acquisitions Luke Gregorson and Pat Neshek have really been anchors at the back of the pen. Gregorson’s ten saves puts him in a small group at the top of the AL ranks.

The Astros have also had early season success on the offensive end. The Astros are in the middle of the pack when it comes to the number of runs and RBIs they have. However, they’ve found a unique mix of power and speed through the early going, leading the AL in both stolen bases and home runs, with 38 and 57 home runs. The fact that the Astros have been so successful on the base paths is kind of surprising considering that their .229 batting average and .302 on-base percentage sit in the cellar of    the AL ranks.  This can be interpreted two ways. The first is that the team is in a hitting slump, and that the three guys with six-plus homers that are hitting under .200 will each be able to get their averages up. Thus, the team’s average will be raised from .229. This will also benefit the team’s already strong stolen base numbers because hitting for a higher average will give the base stealers more opportunities to run. The other situation is that the power is a fluke, and that the team is getting lucky because they are hitting home runs every time they make contact, instead of hitting singles or fly balls. The reason the average is so concerning is because the overwhelming majority of playoff teams hit at least .250. Only two teams since 2012, the 2013 Pirates and the 2012 Athletics hit under .250. The A’s hit .238 and made the playoffs, yet .229 is still .009 less than that .238 number. Thus, the Astros better pick up the pace, or else they could end up like their fellow teams who hit under .230.

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