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What's Behind the Recent Success for Houston Astros Starting Pitchers?

Prior to the season beginning, most experts and fans projected the Houston Astros biggest weakness to be their starting pitching, while the lineup would be one of the best in baseball. As it has turned out, through one week the exact opposite has happened.

Many people have been screaming that the Astros must go get Jose Quintana, Sony Gray, or Chris Archer. That is the only way they will compete for a World Series this year.

Many believe Houston is lacking that sexy name in between Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers; that it is impossible to believe that Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, Collin McHugh, Francis Martes, or Mike Fiers can be solid 3-5 pitchers for this team.

Through eight games the Astros rotation has been one of the best in baseball, they are in the around the top ten in most major categories and in some cases top five

Starting pitching statistics:

#2 ERA : 2.39

#2 BA: .208

#9 BB/9: 2.76

#3 IP: 49

#3 WHIP: 1.06

These are your standard everyday statistics that everyone knows.

You may not understand some of the following pitching statistics; they may be unfamiliar to you, so below I will break them down for you some to better understand them

GB% - Ground Ball Percentage: The Astros rank #2 in the league in ground ball percentage. This means of batted balls off Astros starters, 88% of them are ground balls. A team with a high GB% will rely on the defense to convert an out.

BABIP% - Batting Average Balls in play: The Astros rank #3 in the league in this category at.213. It measures the Batting average for balls that are hit in play, meaning the Astros starters are not giving up a lot of hits.

ERA- - Earned Run Average Minus: for this category the League average is measured at 100, the lower the number, the better. For ever one point below 100 the pitcher (or in this case starting pitchers) is that many percentage points better than the league average. So the Astros with an ERA- of 62, are currently 38% better than the league average, making them #2 in the league in this category.

FIP - Fielding Independent Pitching: This takes the defense out of the equation and lets us know what a pitcher would look like if only discussing walks, strikeouts, home runs, and hit batsmen. This helps better measure what a pitcher would look like over the course of the season. So with this, the Astros currently rank 12th with a 4.09 FIP, this puts them above the league average.

XFIP - Expected Fielding Independent Pitching: This statistic is similar to FIP except it replaces pitchers home runs and replaces it with fly ball ratios. It takes into account the amount of home runs a pitcher should give up given league averages on fly balls that are home runs. It realizes that not all home runs are the same given different conditions and ballparks. The Astros come in 7th in this category at 3.59

So all of this is awesome right? The Astros must be sitting at 8-0; at the very least 6-2?

No. Currently your Houston Astros are 4-4, tied for second place in the AL West with the Oakland Athletics and 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Angels.

Look, it’s a long season with 154 more games to play, but what is going on that has caused the Astros to be sitting at .500 so early in the season?

It is easy to blame Luke Gregerson, Ken Giles, and Jandel Gustave, but I will say the same thing I say when people complain about a field-goal kicker missing a game-winning field goal in football, don’t put them in the position to lose the game for you.

In the scenario of a field-goal kicker missing the game winner, 99.9% of the time I will argue that the offense should have done more to not put them in that position. Sure, it hurts when they don’t deliver in the clutch, but its sports and that is what happens.

Same thing goes for baseball and especially the Astros offense in the early parts of the season. Inconsistent lineups and underwhelming hitting could put that Astros in a hole early if they are not careful.

If the time comes at the trade deadline and a move needs to be made, it will be for a pitcher, as I don’t think the starters will remain at the top of these categories for the next several months; and I also do not believe that the offense will sit at the bottom of their respective categories much longer.

But until that point, enjoy what Keuchel and company are doing on the mound; and patiently wait for the RBIs to start coming in.


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