In the grand scheme of things the Houston Astros have never been a “hot” team in April. In the 15 seasons prior to 2017 the Astros have a have had an extremely underwhelming .430 winning percentage in the month of April (157-208). That is an average of 10.5 wins and 14 losses in the month of April, per year over the last 15 seasons.
All months are not created equal, but there is something telling about getting off to a moderately hot start. In the month of April since 2002, The Astros have only had a winning percentage above .500 three times (04, 06, 15). In April of 2004, the Astros went 13-9.
There are some anomalies here; in 2005 the Astros started April 9-13, and eventually would start the season off 15-30 before the Houston Chronicle infamously posted the “Tombstone Article” that turned into somewhat of a joke when the Astros went on to win the National League and ultimately came up short in the World Series against the Chicago White Sox.
Another anomaly being in 2006, the Astros started April 16-8, but as the season progressed, the realization of the Astros entering a rebuilding period did as well, as they would eventually finish second in the National League Central behind the St. Louis Cardinals and miss out on a Wild Card spot to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Before this season, 2015 gave the Astros their best April of the last 15 seasons when they started 15-7, to go on to earn a Wild Card spot in the playoff and lose to the Kansas City Royals.
All of this to say, in 2004 and 2015 the Astros had their best winning percentages over the last 15 seasons during the month of April, and they went on to the playoffs. That is, until now.
The 2017 Difference
As it stands now the Astros are sitting at 13-6 with a three game lead in the AL West. With six games remaining in April, the Astros could make a little history in the 21st century for the organization.
A three game set in Cleveland against the reigning American League champion Indians followed by a three game series at home against the second place Oakland Athletics is all the stands in the way of the hottest start to an April for the current hottest team in baseball (The Astros are 8-2 over their last ten, tied with the Washington Nationals).
If the Astros can avoid going less than .500 over the next six games, they will match the 2006 win total of 16 for April, anything better than 3-3 is just icing on the cake.
What has gotten them to this point?
To put it simply, Dallas Keuchel has been untouchable. Whatever it was he lost in 2016, he found it to start this season.
Keuchel is 3-0 in four games, he boasts an ERA of 0.96, a WHIP of 0.79 and opponents certainly understand the mantra of “Fear the Beard” as they are only hitting .168 against him.
Despite one hiccup recently, Lance McCullers has been dominating. His 3.38 ERA and 1.17 WHIP are skewed slightly due to one poor outing while it still being early in the season. McCullers is leading the team in strikeouts with 31.
The Bullpen has been solid, but the one name that stands out above the rest is Chris Devenski. Devenski is making major league hitters look silly so far this season. In 13.1 innings worth of work, he has struck out 25 has an ERA of 1.35, a WHIP of 0.60 and opponents are batting just .149 against him.
I told everyone not to freak out when the season started and the bats were a little slow, plenty of texts from friends and tweets on twitter included: “What the hell is wrong with Altuve?”, “Gurriel sucks, should have signed Encarnacion.”, “Beltran is done.”… You get the picture.
Like the awakening of Godzilla, the offensive juggernaut that is the Houston lineup has not been able to be stopped once it got going.
The Astros currently have seven players hitting higher than .280, none of which are named George Springer (.216), Carlos Correa (.197), or Carlos Beltran (.257). Regardless of those three, the Astros are still hitting the ball all over the field, and getting quality at bats up and down the lineup; there are literally no guaranteed easy outs in this lineup.
If you think Springer (currently tied for the lead in the American League in Home Runs), Correa, and Beltran don’t want to be a part of this party then you are sorely mistaken, expect their bats to get going sooner rather than later.
The Astros currently have four players hitting above .300, Nori Aoki (.325), Jose Altuve (.324), Yuli Gurriel (.321), and Brian McCann (.313); Evan Gattis is just shy of .300 at .294.
Over the last seven games, Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman have really started making a splash in the lineup batting .300 and .292 respectively.
This is one of the most all around fun Astros teams I have had the pleasure to watch play. They have dug out of early four and five run deficits in games with confidence, holes that previous year’s teams would have seemingly given up on and looked towards the next day; Not this team, not this year.
Hold on to your seats boys and girls, because this April the Astros have put the rest of the MLB on notice. The youth is here, and it is good.
The veterans are leading the way and producing. Let’s enjoy the rest of the season and hope the 2017 Houston Astro continue to show that April is not going to be the only month they set team records.