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Early Astros Observations

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by MadMax, Apr 7, 2002.

  1. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    1. Still have a hard time leaving runners on base

    2. Still strike out way to much -- sorry, haven!! :) Put the damn ball in play!!! STOP SWINGING FOR THE FENCES AT EVERY AB!!

    3. Ensberg is incapable of picking up on a bunt down the third base line...I think we've seen around 4 bunt base hits down the third base line in the first 5 games.

    4. Berkman is NOT a centerfielder..particularly not in the biggest CF in all of baseball -- but God bless him..he's trying!

    5. Biggio is off to a slow start at the plate

    6. Everett appears to me to be the real deal...his bat, so far, isn't as bad as i feared

    7. Jeff Bagwell is just an amazing hitter

    8. Darryl Ward hits the ball REAL hard! :)

    9. When Shane Reynolds bunted home a run the other day, I think it was the first squeeze bunt I've seen in 5 years from the Astros -- I love you, Jimy!! :)

    10. The new day uniforms worn last Wednesday look good

    11. Why do I get the feeling Hidalgo will NEVER be the player we were told he would become?

    12. I absolutely despise the St. Louis Cardinals...put them on the list with the Cowboys and the Jazz of my least favorite franchises in pro sports

    13. Man, Drayton has good seats!!

    14. Nothing new, but concessions are overpriced. My wife and I split a coke the other night...she had nachos..i had a hotdog...we paid $15 for those crap cakes!

    15. Astros Field is amazing...what a great place to watch the game. So if you're b****ing like I just did in #14..stop it!! Once you're in, the park is just great!
     
  2. BobFinn*

    BobFinn* Contributing Member

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    Did someone forget to tell Biggio the season has started? Biggio is no leadoff hitter. He swings at anything in the same area code as home plate. He has left a ton of guys on base. Bring up Ginter...Please!
     
  3. haven

    haven Member

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    Bobfinn: Biggio hasn't been taking pitches, eh? That's strange for him... I wonder if his physical eye is going...

    http://www.astrosconnection.com/html/crunchtime.cfm?id=248


    I don't think I've posted this one before in relation...

    let me put it this way: some things are unresolved about baseball. Others, one can make a case that they can't be proven statistically... but there's no way in hell that a case can even be made for the position that high-team-strikeouts are bad. It's like insisting that the world is flat at this point.

    You may not like watching them... but this is one that's settled.
     
  4. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    haven -- this team has a propensity to leave lots of runners on by striking out in key situations. again...if you put the ball in play something good MIGHT happen. When you strike out, nothing good happens. It's simply the opportunity...make the other team field the ball cleanly..make them make a sharp throw to get you out...but don't give them an out by swinging for the fences when a base hit would score a run. Post all the numbers you want...I'll never disagree with the assertion above.
     
  5. RunninRaven

    RunninRaven Contributing Member
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    I would say they have a pretty easy time leaving runners on base. ;)

    I have only been to Astros field twice now, but I have to agree. The whole look of the field gives you this historic vibe that makes you feel like you are watching a team that has been around a lot longer than the Stros. I wish I still lived in Houston, I would go to more games.
     
  6. Timing

    Timing Member

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    There's a difference in swinging for the fences on every swing against scrub trash like Ruben Quevedo and doing so against Matt Morris. You need to make contact against Morris or he's going to make you look stupid. Morris doesn't give up home runs so trying to get them on every swing just plays right into his hands. Put that into your Bill James calculator. :)
     
  7. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    Timing, I couldn't have said it better. The Astros face great pitcing the playoffs, and that's why they look like an entirely different team than the one we see in the regular season. At some point you just have to shorten up your swing and make contact. Again, I think Bagwell finally realized that...thus, he hit safely (all singles) in the playoffs.

    Berkman is killing me right now...don't get me wrong, I'm a big Berkman fan...but you should NOT swing at the first pitch in EVERY at bat!!! That seems to be a growing trend for him...one of the marks he had last year that really impressed me was his patience at the plate. In a very limited sample size so far this year, I don't see that patience.
     
  8. Timing

    Timing Member

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    Oh those mighty Brewers. 17k's and 1 hit off of Curt Schilling today. So who got the hit? Was it slugger Sexson? Mighty Geoff Jenkins? Jose "the whopper" Hernandez? Nope, try light hitting catcher Raul Casanova. Of course they'll beat up on some crap pitcher soon to "average" those numbers out.
     
  9. DieHard Rocket

    DieHard Rocket Contributing Member

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    Adam Everett is awesome. As much as I like Carl Everett while he was here (not now though), that trade is working for us. Adam makes me realize how badly Julio Lugo <b>sucks</b>. Thinking of all the games Lugo screwed up last year just sickens me now that I see Everett playing such great defense out there. Can anyone tell me why defense is so underrated in baseball?

    About the outfield, I believe Jason Lane is primarily a CF, so maybe once he's ready one of our OF's will be traded. My guess would be Hidalgo, since Hunsicker would be killed if he traded Berkman and they have waited so long on Ward. Problem is, we really have no major weaknesses to trade for...which isn't really a problem. Looks like Jason Lane will just have to wait his turn like Ward did, and Berkman will have to stay in CF.

    And I MUST add one more number to your list...

    16. The umpires thus far have been absolutely terrible. I am not one to ridicule umps a lot, but I am seeing a lot more this year than in years past. Just watching the game today, I've seen Kile's curveball getting called for a strike as it goes across the "Astros" lettering on the uniform, and Lance Berkman just got robbed on a DP when he clearly beat Pujols to the bag at 3rd. Also, Wade Miller didn't touch the plate at home earlier and got called safe, but that helps us of course.
     
  10. red

    red Contributing Member

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    alou who?....aahahahhhahah ward walk off homerun...sweet...
     
  11. kidrock8

    kidrock8 Member

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    Stros must find a way to put the ball in play.

    The situational hitting was horrible. Anytime you have a runner on 3rd, with 1 out or less, you must must must drive him in. Too many DPs and strikeouts kill our scoring chances. Need more sac flys.
     
  12. PhiSlammaJamma

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    Truby threw one into the stands yesterday. Thank god that's over.
     
  13. bobrek

    bobrek Politics belong in the D & D

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    Lane is NOT a CF. He is a converted outfielder. His defense is probably akin to Ward's right now.
     
  14. Timing

    Timing Member

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    Did anyone see the execution on the bases in the 2nd or 3rd inning? Ensberg dumps a single into center, steals second, goes to third on a sac fly, and comes in on a Vizcaino double. That was beautiful!
     
  15. NewRoxFan

    NewRoxFan Contributing Member

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    But gee, blowing not one but TWO sacrifice opportunities in extra innings. Williams will probably have them bunting all night after that!
     
  16. Buck Turgidson

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    The Astros have the 12th most K's out of 30 MLB teams. This is not a problem - they lead the majors w/ a .401 team OBP.

    Bullpen is only concern of mine right now.

    STL threw their 1-2-3 starters against our 4-5-1; they were supposed to win 2 outta 3.

    There are 156 games left.
     
  17. PhiSlammaJamma

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    I'm not that worried either. Things are starting to shake out. We are trailing Pittsburgh so what does that tell you. The Bullpen looks shaky, but the worst case scenario is that we are forced to find a one inning pitcher for the stretch run. That's not very difficult to do these days.
     
  18. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    this is what i've tried to explain to haven before...it's not the sheer number of strikeouts that concern me...it's when they strike out that concerns me. their situational hitting sucks. keep in mind, they may only be 12th right now in sheer numbers...but they've only faced the Cards (not a high strikeout rotation) and the Brewers so far.

    I'm with you...these are just early observations...way too early to make a real judgment call on the team's chances this year based on what we've seen.
     
  19. Major

    Major Member

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    let me put it this way: some things are unresolved about baseball. Others, one can make a case that they can't be proven statistically... but there's no way in hell that a case can even be made for the position that high-team-strikeouts are bad.

    I disagree with this. It may work out this way statistically because of the fact that, on average, high-strikeout hitters tend to be power-hitters as well, but if you had a choice between two 0.300, 30HR, 0.400 OBP hitters, and one strikes out 100 times a year, and the other 20 times a year, you'd be crazy to pick the former. A high-strikeout team vs. low-strikeout team may generate the same number of runs, but I'm betting the low-strikeout team is far more consistent (because it is also more likely a low-power / high-average team). Consistently scoring 5 runs a game will win you more games than scoring 12 then 0 then 12 then 0, etc, even though the latter averaged more runs.

    We look at a pitcher's "dominance" partially with strikeouts -- and rightfully so, because it eliminates the need for fielders. The opposite then has to be true as well. If a batter strikes out a lot, he's being dominated a lot. A player who strikes out less has better bat control, and better ability to put the bat on the ball. This has a number of advantages.

    For one, it means the batter can force pitchers to throw more pitches by fouling things off. Second, it makes the batter more versatile. When necessary, he will be more likely to be able to execute a hit-and-run, bunt, squeeze, sac fly, etc. You also can't force an error unless you can put the ball in play. In yesterday's game, there were two plays the defense messed up -- those don't happen as much if your team strikes out instead of shooting the ball into the infield or whatever.

    The downside to this is the double-play, but I don't believe the risk of a double play negates all the positives. When striking out often, you put less pressure on the defense. When constantly putting the ball in play, you force the issue and put the pressure on the defense to make the plays. That's ALWAYS a plus for the offensive team, in my mind.
     
  20. Buck Turgidson

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    Regarding the Great Strikeout Debate, I'm not sure if anyone's posted this yet, but if they have I apologize. Stat-geek Neyer did a very good analysis of the effects of K's on an offense. I don't always agree with the pure sabermetric analysis of baseball, but in this case he's pretty much dead on.

    Both of these articles are in his February Archive here:
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/s/2002/0206/1323868.html

    ===========================================
    I've been thinking about strikeouts quite a lot lately.

    A few days ago, I talked to Brewers GM Dean Taylor about Eric Young. It was a pleasant conversation, significantly more fun than my recent chat with another famous Milwaukeean. We spent most of our time discussing what Young brings to the Brewers. He'll bring some speed to the lineup, of course, and by all accounts he'll also be a positive influence in the clubhouse. And if he can get his on-base percentage back above .350 ... well, all the better.

    Eric Young brings something else to the table, though: contact. The Brewers struck out 1,399 times last year, absolutely destroying the single-season record previously held by the 1996 Tigers (1,268). Jeromy Burnitz contributed 150 of those strikeouts, which is one of the reasons he's no longer a Brewer. Meanwhile, Eric Young is one of the most difficult players in the league to strike out; last year, only 45 times in 603 at-bats. The Brewers also picked up Lenny Harris, who can't really hit but does have the virtue of a low strikeout rate.

    I pointed out to Taylor that strikeouts really aren't a big deal, and he agreed with me ... to a point. He agreed that for most teams they're not that important, but that an immense number of strikeouts affects run production in a fundamentally different way. And never having studied the issue, I had to allow for the possibility that he's right.

    But if Dean Taylor is right, if massive strikeouts have some sort of multiplicative (my word, not his) effect, wouldn't that show up somewhere?

    I made two lists: one list contained high-strikeout teams, and the other contained low-strikeout teams. The list of high-strikeout teams includes the last 12 major-league teams that struck out more than 1,175 times in a single season. The list of low-strikeout teams contains the last 10 major-league teams that struck out between 800 and 850 teams in a 162-game season.

    The high-strikeout teams averaged 1,202 strikeouts.
    The low-strikeouts teams averaged 832 strikeouts.

    Clearly, there's a big difference between the teams in the two groups.

    Next, I plugged the stats for all of those teams into the Runs Created formula. For those of you who don't know, Runs Created is a method with which we can closely estimate the number of runs that a team will score, given its hitting statistics. The original formula was quite simple and accurate, even though it didn't consider strikeouts at all. The inventor of Runs Created, Bill James, did eventually incorporate strikeouts, but the formula only works with strikeouts if strikeouts are given a very small negative value; so small, in fact, that it's really not worth the trouble of including them in the equation.

    Nevertheless, if we assume that Runs Created is generally accurate -- and I can assure you that the method works -- but that for some reason it doesn't work for high-strikeout teams, then we would expect to see high-strikeout teams score fewer runs than predicted by the formula, right?

    Further, we might expect to see a difference in the formula's accuracy when predicting the runs scored by the high-strikeout teams and the low-strikeout teams.

    Runs
    K's Expected Actual
    Low-K 832 779 764
    High-K 1207 772 773


    In a study of 13 high-strikeout teams, the Runs Created formula predicted the group's run production almost perfectly. And as you can see, for all practical purposes the formula worked equally well for groups of teams at both ends of the strikeout spectrum. There simply isn't any evidence, at least not here, to think that there's some subtle interactive effect of multiple strikeouts.

    One thing I didn't mention earlier: I left the 2001 Brewers out of the study, because they were so far off the charts. So it's possible that Taylor is right, and that the Brewers are simply the first team in history that's racked up enough strikeouts to actually make them important.

    Well, the Runs Created formula looks at the Brewers' statistics and, using the same (tiny) value for strikeouts that it uses for every other team, predicts that the Brewers would score 732 runs.

    They scored 740.

    And they scored only 740 runs not because they struck out too often; they scored only 740 runs because they didn't walk often enough. The Brewers finished 12th in the National League in walks ... and 11th in the National League in runs scored. And if you don't think there's a relationship between walks and runs, you're probably reading the wrong column.

    So why are strikeouts such a boogieman in the minds of baseball men (and broadcasters, and fans)?

    The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings, because they're memorable. I remember very few specific things about my unspectacular career as a Little Leaguer, but one thing I do remember is striking out to end my team's season. If Tony Lazzeri had flied to right field with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series, nobody would remember. But he struck out, so we do remember.

    A general manager will watch nearly all of his team's games, either at the ballpark or on TV (the manager, of course, sees all of them). You see enough strikeouts, they'll make you crazy, and Dean Taylor saw nearly 1400 strikeouts last year. If he hadn't witnessed the strikeouts, but instead simply saw the 1399 in a line of type on a stat sheet, he probably wouldn't be worried nearly so much about them.

    The Brewers traded Jeromy Burnitz, who walked 80 times last year. That's not good. But they did sign Matt Stairs, who walked 52 times in a part-time role. That's good. Unfortunately, the Brewers have also added Eric Young and Alex Ochoa and Lenny Harris, none of whom walk much. But those guys don't strike out often, either. And sometimes I wonder if baseball men would be better off if they didn't watch so much baseball.


    This week, a number of readers have commented, "Rob, I understand that strikeouts for hitters aren't really so bad. But if they're not bad for hitters, then why are they so good for pitchers?" Next Monday, I'll attempt to answer that question.


    AND:

    As you might remember, last time I left you with the following fake (though representative) missive:


    "Rob, I understand that strikeouts for hitters aren't really so bad. But if they're not bad for hitters, then why are they so good for pitchers?"


    Well, as it turned out, a number of readers weren't actually convinced that strikeouts aren't really so bad. The following is just one of many I received in the same vein ...


    "Rob,

    Reading your column on strikeouts and the Milwaukee Brewers got me thinking ... I agree with you that strikeouts probably aren't as important as many general managers think they are. But I can't help thinking that they're a little more important than you think they are. You say the Brewers didn't score many runs because they had very few walks. This may be naivete on my part, but doesn't a large number of strikeouts suggest a lack of strike-zone judgement? And further, doesn't a lack of strike-zone judgement result in very few walks? And if so, are these not just two sides of the same coin?"

    Jonathon Jongsma


    There are days, I must admit, when I wonder if I've done all I can do, that anyone who wants to know the basics already knows them, and anyone who doesn't isn't ever going to.

    And then I read a bunch of e-mails like this one, and I realize that there are still plenty of fans with open minds out there, but somehow they just haven't gotten the word yet.

    What I'm getting at here is that strikeouts don't result in few walks, and in fact one can make the case that strikeouts are a necessary evil.

    There are three basic hitting skills: making contact, hitting for power, plate discipline. Very few hitters in the history of the game have been able to combine great degrees of all three skills. Just off the top of my head, Ted Williams is the only name that comes to mind. Mantle at his best. Babe Ruth hit for great power and drew a ton of walks, but he did strike out a lot (for his time). Ditto for Barry Bonds. Joe DiMaggio hardly ever struck out and had great power, but generally drew "only" 60 or 70 walks per season.

    I'm probably missing an exception or three, but it's generally true that hitters, even the great hitters, have to make compromises. Tony Gwynn probably could have hit 25 or 30 homers per season (rather than seven or eight), maybe drawn 75 walks per season (rather than 50 or 60) ... but then he probably wouldn't have won eight batting titles, would he?

    Last season, Sammy Sosa struck out 153 times. That was actually a good year for him, as he'd averaged 172 strikeouts per season from 1998 through 2000.

    And you know what? Only a lunatic would have told Sosa to stop striking out so damn often. He's turned into a superstar who hits 60 home runs and draws 100 walks per season, which makes him one of the great hitters of our time.

    Let's see, who else ... Jim Thome led the American League with 185 strikeouts last season ... and he also hit 49 homers and drew 111 walks. Most managers can live with the K's. Other hitters among the 2001 strikeout leaders were Troy Glaus, Mike Cameron, Jeromy Burnitz, and Richie Sexson; productive hitters, all.

    My point -- in case I haven't already hammered the thing to death -- is that while strikeouts certainly aren't good in themselves, they often come with the territory if you're going to be a good hitter. As hard as pitchers throw these days, and as much as the game is geared toward power, most productive hitters are going to 1) take pitches until they see one that looks good, and then they're going to 2) swing real hard. And so you get your walks (good), your home runs (better), and yes, your strikeouts (not nearly as bad as some people think).

    In response to last Friday's column, Dean Taylor -- who's been more civil to me lately than I deserve -- stressed to me that his biggest problem wasn't the strikeouts per se; he was concerned because the Brewers had four consecutive hitters -- Geoff Jenkins, Richie Sexson, Jeromy Burnitz, and Jose Hernandez -- who accounted for so many of the strikeouts.

    Here's the basic lineup the Brewers featured last season, with a relevant numbers:


    OBP Slug K/162
    White .343 .459 122
    Loretta .346 .352 73
    Jenkins .334 .474 185
    Sexson .342 .547 182
    Burnitz .347 .504 157
    Hernandez .300 .443 197
    Belliard .335 .453 104
    Blanco .290 .334 112


    This isn't perfect, because Belliard actually batted in the No. 1 and No. 2 slots more than anything else. But it's the best we can do. Anyway, what's striking here is how similar the Brewers were. No, I don't mean the strikeouts. I mean the on-base percentages, as six of the eight regulars finished with virtually identical OBP's. I still maintain that the problem wasn't strikeouts, but OBP. Because while it's true that only two Brewers had horrible OBP's, it's also true that no Brewer had an outstanding OBP. You can live with players in the middle, but you've got to have a couple of guys with great ones to bring up the average. And as I hope I demonstrated earlier, there are players who combine high strikeouts and high OBP.

    Also, if having those four high-strikeout guys batting consecutively made a difference, statistically, the Runs Created formula wouldn't work for the Brewers. But it did work. It worked almost perfectly.

    I should note, too, that since batting order isn't particularly important, the high-strikeout guys didn't have to bat consecutively; if all those strikeouts in a row were a problem, then manager Davey Lopes should have broken them up.

    And finally, it's been suggested -- not by Dean Taylor, but by readers -- that while a huge number of strikeouts might not have much discernible statistical impact, it might have a negative impact on the team's morale. Well, maybe. But in 1927, one free-swinging (or was it patient?) team led the American League with 605 strikeouts. They were the New York Yankees, and morale was probably pretty good as they won 110 games and swept the World Series.
     

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