Considering the injury situation, surprisingly good results. Can it be sustained?
Despite the staff having to deal without the presumed ace, Framber Valdez, and other cogs lost to injury such as Jake Odorizzi, Andre Scrubb, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor, Pedro Baez (oh yeah, the $30 million man Justin Verlander), and others, Astros pitching got above average results in April.
When looking at more advanced performance-oriented stats you have to conclude that the Astros staff benefited from some good fortune and looks more middle of the pack.
Here’s a chart of key result-oriented and more advanced performance and future-oriented stats and how the Astros compare to the American League.
Though the Astros were fourth in league ERA and second in WHIP, predictive stats like SIERA and xFIP rank the Astros at 8th and 10th respectively. The BABIP is a very low .266; only two other teams have a lower batting average on balls in play.
The Astros are 3rd in runs allowed at 101, and 8th in home runs, allowing 30. And herein may lie the luck factor.
The Astros’ HR/Fly % is 11.8, 10th lowest in the league. And yet their FB% is 39.4%, 2nd highest in the league. The GB% is 39.9%, the lowest in the AL.
In general, the Astros staff gets a lot of outs on fly balls, and so far those flies have been staying in the park at a fortunate rate. In particular, the 10th rated xFIP anticipates this regression of increasing rates of home runs allowed.
Let’s break down the team stats for starters and relief pitchers,
First, the starters.
So, with a staff full of guys with names that few outside Houston have heard of, names like Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, the Astros starters are second in the league in ERA. But as we noted about the staff in general, advanced stats predict negative regression.
Given the injury situation with the Astros staff in general, and the youth factor in the bullpen, it’s hard to complain about the merely average performance of the bullpen, and it looks sustainable based on the advanced stats.
There’s a lot of help on the way from players currently on IL, so we can hope for some improvement in the pen.
Individual performances: starters.
The Astros actually have five starters in the top 30 in ERA for pitchers with more than 20 innings. (if you count Luis Garcia, who has split time with the bullpen).
Luis Garcia………….14th (overall as starter, reliever)
But as we have already noted, all of these pitchers have benefited from BABIP luck to some degree, and xFIP and SIERA predict significant negative regression. The Statcast based statistic, xERA, is much kinder, however.
Individual performances: bullpen.
Ryan Pressly has appeared to re-capture his 2019 mojo, and of course, recent addition Ryne Stanek has proven reliable.
Two surprises, Brandon Bielak, but especially Kent Emanuel, both of whom have been successful and appear to have the advanced stats to say they could sustain that success.
Looking only at ERA Brooks Raley has looked bad so far, but underlying stats are more positive in every category. This was a pattern for Raley last year as well, as his ERA was one to two points higher than his advanced stats.
And of course, Joe Smith, who can only get better…or else. He should, but will it be good enough to be considered reliable?
Obviously, it’s only one month. Lots can change, and will. But I will try to bring you these statistical snapshots every month.
Editor’s note: The pitching stats include performances up to and including May 1, 2021.