MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 24: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros runs the bases after hitting a home run during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 24, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Another stunning week for Jose Altuve.
It is a shame that no-one thought to ask Joe Morgan, in his hilariously uninformative chats last decade what he thought of the Pythagorean win-loss record, coming from the man who once asserted that Billy Beane wrote Moneyball, and that all five baseball tools had equal importance.
Like WAR these days, you can overuse Pythag and actually devalue what it actually proves. Last season WAR showed Carlos Lee as one of the best defenders in the game of baseball and we all knew that to be patently untrue. Now we look at the fact that we have outscored our opponents this season and feel rather hard done by at an early 8-13 record (I'm writing this during the Cincinnati game so bear with me).
These things are not gospel. At least not without qualifying. Yes, the Astros have lost an awful lot of close games. Five by one-run margins, three by two-run margins, and three by a three-run margin. Although we have also won two massive blowouts, one against the Dodgers 12-0 and one against the Nationals 11-4. Yet until last night, when Jonny Cueto absolutely dominated in a 6-0 win for the Reds, you felt that the Astros were right in every game they played.
The solid offense, fourth in runs and third in walks, may continue at this pace, and the pitching may even get better. Going into today they hold a 3.00 ERA at home and a 4.86 ERA on the road. Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez have had scorching Aprils, but apart from Wandy Rodriguez the rotation has been so-so. The back of the bullpen has not exactly been stellar so there is room for improvement.
Most teams that score more runs than they allow win more games than they lose. Statistical fact. Yet what do you put the Astros current record down to? A bullpen that wilts in tight situations and players that are just coming up short in key situations?
Today's game is quite a nice example. Two key spots when Brad Mills could have deployed lefties, one against Joey Votto and one against Jay Bruce. Both Fernando Abad and Wesley Wright were available but both have had poor starts to the season (Abad has already been sent down, albeit for a position player when the Astros carried 13 pitchers out of spring training before Jed Lowrie came back).
While the Astros do have some exciting young talent that has and will dazzle this season, there are still some big and small pieces missing from this club that will put a brake on this club winning half of its games this season (i.e. reaching .500).
Finally, while baseball is filled with good teams, the Astros have played a lot of streaky teams so far in this early season, including the Dodgers and Nationals, and were unlucky in the Marlins series. Perhaps as we turn the calender into May the breaks will start falling their way.
To finish off the week, crazy things that jump out at me: J.A. Happ currently has a 9.2 K/9, two up from his major league career 7.3. It would help Happ if he could get more strikeouts and walk far less batters (4.1 BB/9 over his career). Actually there are a lot of things Happ needs to do, one of which is coaxing more groundballs. Wandy has yet to allow a home run in his first five starts and along with his four un-earned runs may be a reason for his minuscule ERA. I do not expect that to continue.