AL East predicted standings

American League East Preview and Predictions

The TB Rays won 40 of their 60 games in 2020 to win the AL East. They did it behind 3 start pitchers Morton, Snell, and Glasnow. They were the number #1 seed in the AL and went on to play LAD in the World Series. A lot has changed since the end of the season.

The New York Yankees are the favorites to not only win the East, but they are also the favorites to win the American League. NYY is +250 to win the AL Pennant and -175 to win the AL EAST. They are the 2nd favorite to win the World Series at +600 (LAD +450).  Using BaseRuns standings NYY would have finished only 1 game back of TB last season instead of 7. BaseRuns are projected wins and losses determined by how many runs are scored and allowed. It helps gauge where teams are via their play both offensively and defensively. NYY thus has only one game to make up against TB versus the 7 you might think. The point is that NYY is better than their record showed.

This season will be about pitching depth not only 1-5, but more like 1-9. The NYY have the deepest 1-9 in the AL. They have Garret Cole who is a true ACE and will not be an underdog in any game this season. NYY is questionable after him, but they have so many arms that they all will not fail. Former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber looks great. Jameson Taillon former PIT #1 starter. Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German are likely the 5 to start the season. Deivi Garcia and Luis Severino make 6 and 7. Then add in their prospects Clarke Schmidt and Michael King. This staff can go 9 deep! They also are loaded with prospects to land another frontline starter like a Luis Castillo from CIN. They have offense as well. As usual with this team over the past few seasons health is always an issue. However, you can not assume people will not play. NYY projects with the best pitching in all of MLB and the 3rd best offense. They are the team to beat in the AL and American League.

The TOR Blue Jays have surpassed the TB Rays for the 2nd spot in the East. Again, looking at BaseRuns, TOR was 6 games behind TB in 2020. They need to make up ground and they did! The Blue Jays are the 5th ranked offense for 2021 and their pitching ranks above TB as well. They added OF George Springer to an offense ranked 13th in 2020. Along with another year of growth from Bichette, Guerrero Jr, and Biggio, this offense is top 5 in MLB. They also brought in 2B Marcus Semien who was recently (2019) in the MVP discussion. They do not have the pitching NYY have, but Ryu is a quality #1 starter. After him they will need some bounce back seasons. Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Steven Matz and Ross Stripling are needed to better. Nate Pearson has potential, but he will need to prove how good he can be as last year was not a great debut. They did sure up the bullpen adding Kirby Yates.

I like BOS to battle TB for the 3rd and 4th spots in the division. In my opinion, BOS is highly undervalued. Las Vegas has an 80.5-win total for them and an 85 for TB. It would not surprise me to see those reversed. BOS projected WAR is 35.1 and TB is 34.9. Let’s not forget BOS can hit. BOS gets back Eduardo Rodriguez for the full season and they get Chris Sale for half the season. They also signed Garret Richards, so their pitching is much better than 2020 when they started 16 different pitchers. They will also have prospects Tanner Houck give them quality innings. TB loses 2 od their 3 ACES in Morton and Snell. Yes, they are still good in pitching, but they lose ground to everyone else in the division because of it. Glasnow is their only ACE and when facing team like NYY, Yarbrough, Archer, Wacha, and Hill will all be underdogs in their matchups. They are also not championship quality on offense. They do not have a single player projecting at All-Star levels or in double digits OFF WAR. In this division, you must have offense. NYY, TOR lead the way, and BOS can hit so unless there are ACES on the mound, you will need to score runs.

BAL is improving. They might improve yet again in 2021 but due to the 162-game season, their weaknesses will get exposed. BAL finishes 2020 1 game ahead of BOS but do not expect them to win more than 65 games in 2021.

Day 1 Spring Training Games

Fans stand above the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen before a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, March 24, 2010 in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Spring Training Game Oddities   03/01

WSH @ STL

STL P Flaherty throws 25 pitches in the 1st inning has bases loaded with only 1 out and the inning gets called. No Runs scored for WSH.

STL P Genesis Cabrera throws 25 pitchers in the 7th inning has runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and the inning gets called. WSH scored 1 run.

BOS @ MIN

BOS P Caleb Simpson throws 25 pitches in relief of Nathan Eovaldi who left two runners on (1st and 2nd) with 1 out. Simpson gets 0 outs, and with runners on 2nd and 3rd with still 1 out, the inning gets called. MIN scored 5 runs.

PHI @ DET

PHI P Jonathan Hennigan replaces Ivan Nova with the bases loaded in the 1st Inning with 1 out. He throws 25 pitches while only getting 1 more out, yet the inning gets cancelled with again the bases loaded and only 2 outs. DET scored 6 runs.

ATL @ TB

ATL P Sean Newcomb throws 25 pitches in the 3rd inning. He has runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs and the inning gets called. TB scored 1 run.

ATL P Patrick Weigel throws 18 pitches in the 5th inning. He has runners on 3rd and 1st with 2 outs and the inning gets cancelled. TB scored 2 runs.

LAA @ SF

SF P Tyler Cyr throws 24 pitches in the 7th inning. He has 2 outs and the bases loaded when the inning is cancelled. LAA scored 1 run.

TEX @ KC

TEX P Nick Vincent throws 10 pitches in 2nd inning. He has bases loaded and 2 outs when the inning is cancelled. KC scored 1 run.

TEX P Joe Gatto throws 16 pitches in the 5th inning. He has bases loaded and 2 outs when the inning is cancelled. KC scored 1 run.

How good is MLB pitching?

Baseball Reference has some specific stats referring to situational hitting. The results of these indicate how good the pitchers in MLB are. First, let’s go over the stats. PrdOut is Productive out. It refers to 3 possible situations. 1. Successful SAC for a pitcher with one out. 2. Advancing any runner with 0 outs. 3. Driving in a baserunner with the 2nd out of the inning. 2020 saw 5953 opportunities to have productive outs. There were only 1505 successful productive outs for a 25.3% attainment rate. It is better to reflect this the opposite way. When a pitcher is facing key spots to help himself in an inning, he reduced the opponent’s successful productive outs (moving the baserunner) 74.7% of the time!

BaseRunners is another stat they have which is quite simple. It counts any baserunners then counts how many baserunners scored and divides them to get a baserunner score percent. The MLB average is 14.5%! Offenses need to get on base, but they need to do a better job of moving the runners into positions to score. This indicates nearly a 1 in 7 chance to score when a team has a baserunner, so the pitcher is successful 6 out of 7 times!

They have stats indicating Advances of runners. This is the one where you can really see how good pitchers are. <2,3B = Plate Appearances with less than two out, and a runner on third. They count opportunities and scores and divide the two to get a success rate. The average success rate is 49.3%. This means the pitchers win 50.7% of the time with 0 outs and a man on 3rd base! 0,2B = Plate appearances with a runner on 2B with 0 outs. They count the opportunities and the scores, then divide the two to get a success rate. The MLB average is 50.7%. Again, offenses are struggling to get runs home. This one illustrates all the metrics. There is a man on 2B with 0 outs. The MLB avg was 25.3% to move him over. The MLB avg is roughly 50% that he would score. When pitchers win 50% – 75% of the time, it is apparent how difficult it is to score runs.

It take roughly 2 hits to score 1 run in MLB. The average fluctuates from a low 1.87 to high of 2.08. Offenses have to work hard to get 2 hits strung together in the right sequence to score. What has changed the game, is the idea of the Home Run. Offenses are willing to give up the struggle with the pitcher (they are losing) to hit the ball over the fence. It is easier to score and work less hard to get their runs. This has created the strikeout and Homerun game we see today.

Other elements are the shift. Shifting has decreased the offense ability to string multiple hits together. The shift makes sense in that it applies a player to where the batter hits the ball the most. Since the hitters do not want to hit the ball where the fielders aren’t, they make more outs and hit for less average.

The game has many degrees of complication. It is hard to hit a round ball with a round bat thrown at 95mphs. However, when your skilled to do that and you are the best in the world at doing so, I would expect a better outcome. It is NOT ok to continue letter pitcher win without better fight from hitters. It is NOT ok to strikeout as much as they do. The game will be better when the hitters work together as a lineup to make a pitcher work hard. They are too lazy. Working each batters unique strengths against the pitchers weaknesses, the offenses can make progress. Let’s see if 2021 is a year where the offenses start getting smart. They are smart, they just play dumb!

What to look for as Spring Training games begin

Fans stand above the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen before a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, March 24, 2010 in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Spring Training is an exhibition for MLB players. The games don’t count. The stats don’t count. The teams’ records are meaningless. The Texas Rangers were 12-10 in 2020 with 2nd most run differential (+17) in the Cactus League. They were 22-38 in the season finishing as the worst team in the American League. Teams have different goals than winning. Yes, they like to win, but most players are working on specific adjustments to make themselves better for the season ahead. So what do we want to pay attention to if we are not going to look at the won-lost records?

The primary objective for our research on the players is pitchers. It does not have to be just starting pitchers but they are the most important to us. We are looking for one thing specifically and will carry forward for their first several starts of the new season too. It is velocity. We need to measure the velocity change from this season compared with last season. Velocity drops and gains will indicate more wagering opportunities for us. These changes will take the market longer to catch up with so we have an early edge over the books.

Refer to the chart above. The left side is the batting average and the bottom is the velocity. It is very apparent to see the harder a pitcher throws, the less the hitter has success. It is also true to the opposite. The softer a pitcher throws, the more successful the hitter will be. We can use this to our advantage. The MLB batting AVG middle ground was .244 last season. The chart shows that is what a hitter bats against 95-96 mph fastballs. Look for jumps or large variances in small mph changes. The batters AVG against a 93 mph fastball rises up to .275 for example. They hit soft tossers at nearly .300! This is what we are looking for from Spring Training games! How hard is the pitcher throwing and is there a variance from his previous year?

Veteran pitchers often lose velocity as they are getting older. You have heard a phrase similar to “he has learned to pitch now since he can’t throw the ball past hitters anymore”. We want to find these guys. Make a list of them. We are looking to bet against them. I have found that losing 1 mph does not affect a pitcher’s performance. He seems to be able to disguise the velocity drop and appear to the batter much as he has in the past. It takes 2-3 mph drops. These pitchers do overcome their drop as their pitches are now much easier for the batter. We do need to define that though. If a pitcher goes from 98mph to 96mph, then his result velocity is still in the area where batters do not succeed, so this pitcher even though he dropped in velocity is not on our list. We want the guys who drop from 94mph to 91mph! Those guys get roughed up!

Pitchers who are recovery from injury also fit into this mold. The most common injury for pitchers today is “Tommy John” elbow surgery. This injury then recovery period is 12-18 months! However, do not just assume these pitchers are losing velocity. If fact, they rehab so well they will gain velocity sometimes. We are wanting to find guys with shoulder issues. They are the ones who will not be able to gain velocity and will suffer a reduced spin in the ball, thus causing less movement. The less movement equals easier for batters.

Currently, as the players are reporting to camp, we should be identifying pitchers who spent their off-season with third-party pitching analysis places like Driveline. A perfect example of this is Clayton Kershaw.

The chart above is Kershaw’s velocity and usage over his many seasons. He spent his off-season with Driveline after the 2019 season. The result was gaining velocity he hadn’t seen since 2018. His velocity went up on all of his pitchers. An ACE quality pitcher can make the most of small velocity gains and you can also see his usage was marginally different. Usage is a different topic and does not apply that often to what we are doing. The harder a pitcher throws a breaking ball, the more it breaks. Kershaw saw the highest GB% of his career and an ERA of 2.16! Yes, pitchers can gain velocity and we need them on a different list as we are going to look to support them. Often team beat writers will disclose some of these pitchers.

The velocity drop is an issue that will carry forward as well. We should monitor velocity from start to start during the season. We can sometimes see a variance that indicates a pitcher is “off” which could mean he is trying to pitch trough an injury. Teams will not disclose that kind of information, but we can gather it if we know what we are looking for.

Pitchers will often work on improving specific pitches in the spring. We don’t need to get too involved with this at this point. Once the season starts, a pitcher will either use what he has developed or he will discard it altogether, hence we don’t need to jump the gun trying to look at usage changes because there might not be any.

Batters will work on their swings and swing paths. They might hit for a miserable batting average in the spring. Do not play into that as the batter could be changing his stance, his grip on the bat, or trying to keep his head still. Who knows, the point is, all the players are working on something. The only ones who are not are the players trying to make the team as rookies or older players making their last stand to maintain a career.

We do not care about Spring Training wins and losses. We do care about specific changes that will affect a player’s result thus give us wagering opportunities. Don’t spend your time trying to figure out what team will win these games, the teams themselves really don’t care. It is WAY more important to pick up on a couple of situational edges that you can use once the season starts!

2021 Tampa Bay Rays Preview

   Tampa Bay Rays 2021

BAL 6-4 | BOS 7-3 | NYY 8-2 | TOR 6-4

            The defending American League champs are the TB Rays. TB is one of the most Sabermetric teams in MLB. They use their analytics to get matchup advantages and build their roster to allow a variety of options. They are team deep in pitching with timely hitting, so let us see how they were the best in 2020.

Strengths

  • #8 OFF WAR 32.1
  • #5 BsR 5.6, Base Running component of WAR, means TB was 5 runs better than average offense.
  • #8 wRC+ 110
  • #4 BB% 10.7%
  • #6 Stolen Baes 48
  • #9 ISO .187
  • #1 DEF 16.8
  • #5 DFS 24, Defense Runs Saved
  • Starting Pitching: #4 K/9 10.08
  • Starting Pitching: #9 BB/9 2.83
  • Starting Pitching: #2 LOB% 81.1%
  • Starting Pitching: #3 SIERA 3.92 | FIP 4.25, interesting as FIP is affected by #14 AVG. .241 where SIERA likes how TB pitched while giving up an average number of hits. SIERA like the LOB%.
  • Relief Pitching: #1 3.7 WAR
  • Relief Pitching: #4 FIP | # 8 SIERA
  • Relief Pitching: #2 BB/9 2.90
  • Relief Pitching: #2 HR/9 0.87
  • Relief Pitching: #2 Wins 25, nearly half of the wins from the bullpen.
  • Relief Pitching: #9 LOB% 73.6%
  • Relief Pitching: #3 GB% 46.0%
  • Relief Pitching: #4 WHIP 1.19

Interesting stuff in here. Offensively they are in the middle of the pack. However, their good base running and efficient led to a top 10 wRC+ 110 which means they are 10% better than an average offense. Not bad at all for a team that was 29th in K% (coming in weakness). It is fair to say they maximized their opportunities to score. Another area was starting pitching. TB ranks #16 3.7 WAR. They made teams earn their way on base with a low BB/9. Once they were on base, TB was great keeping them there (LOB 81.1%). This LOB% is not sustainable going forward. Where they sealed the deal was their #1 bullpen! Timely hitting, and quality starting pitching and a #1 defense behind them, then bring in the best bullpen was the recipe for 2020.

Weakness

  • #29 K% 26.9%, more than one out of every at bats as a strikeout.
  • #21 AVG. .238, amazing to see how even with these detrimental to getting on base batting stats, TB was #8 wRC+ 110.
  • Starting Pitching: #22 HR/9 1.53
  • Starting Pitching: #26 Innings 258
  • Starting Pitching: #30 HR/FB% 19.6%, nearly 1 out of every 5 flyballs were Home Runs.
  • Relief Pitching: #25 K/9 8.87, again, amazing that the #1 bullpen ranked 25th.

The weaknesses on offense are a problem. It is hard to imagine the same level of productivity from ancillary data points that will allow them the same success without actually getting hits to get on base. I am not concerned about the homer runs as they are not likely to be a carryover stat.

Narrative

            This is a projected offense to not have one player with double digit offense WAR. 2B Brandon Lowe come the closest with 9.0 OFF WAR. He projects with 26 HRs to lead the team, 11 wRC+ and .332 wOBA. In two partial seasons, he produced 15.8 OFF WAR (82 games 2019) and 16.8 OFF WAR (56 games in 2020) so he is in a regression projection. His total WAR projection is 2.7 which is in line with his production career to date. Lowe is likely their best position player. SS Willie Adames is 2nd in WAR at 2.3 projected but his OFF WAR is 0.0. It means he contributes defensively. 2020 saw him with his best OFF WAR 8.2 and defense step back. He had a K% of 36.1%! He projects with 99 wRC+ and .315 wOBA which is a tick under average. In theory, he will be the next Ray to bait for a trade partner. The #1 prospect in all MLB could make his debut at some pint this season if he gets off to a good start in the minors. SS Wander Franco (20 yrs. old) has power and speed. He is on the way, so it is only matter of when. The Rays also have the #4 ranked prospect in Randy Arozarena. Yes, he saw action in 2020, only 23 games regular season with 7 HRs and an OFF WAR 7.9 so he is still considered a prospect. He was a postseason superstar. He played 20 games hitting 10 HRs batting .377! His projection is 24 HRs, 109 wRC+ and .330 wOBA. OF Kevin Kiermaier is a defensive asset. His offense is projected at -8.9 OFF WAR, but his DEF WAR is 7.3 (2nd in MLB of OFs). His overall WAR is 1.5 because of it which ranks 4th on the team. 1B/DH Yandy Diaz and OF Austin Meadows have 5.4 OFF WAR and 5.3 OFF WAR. Both project into double digit HRs, positive wRC+ and wOBA numbers. Diaz 110 wRC+ with .331 wOBA and Meadows 109 wRC+ with .330 wOBA. They will contribute on offense. Diaz is inline with his career production. Meadows is off a poor 2020 season, so his projection is a progression but not as good as his outlier breakout season of 2019 (31.3 OFF WAR with 33 HRs). TB could really use another great season from Meadows in this lineup. The offense fills in with OF Manuel Margot, 1B/DH Ji-Man Choi, C Mike Zunino, Utility IF Joey Wendle and OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.

            The rotation will look different in 2021. Gone is Blake Snell and Charlie Morton so the ACE is Tyler Glasnow. He projects with a 3.6 WAR, 3.57 FIP and 1.20 WHIP. All particularly good numbers. He led the team in 2020 with 1.2 WAR and 57.1 innings (11 starts so an avg just over 5 innings per start). His 3.6 WAR projection would be his best season of his career. He has only thrown over 100+ innings once. He projects at 163 inning and the Rays will need that from him. TB has 3 new starters in the rotation. Newly acquired Rich Hill is a veteran with good stuff. He is 41 yrs. old yet projects with 114 innings. He made 8 starts with MIN in 2020 throwing 38.2 innings so not averaging 5 innings a start. His projection is 4.92 FIP which is almost 1 full run worse than his 2020 season and would be the highest of his career. TB is having a reunion with Chris Archer. He projects 2nd on the team with 1.7 WAR. He is now 32 yrs. old and did not pitch at all in 2020. He will be yet another pitcher that will be around 5 innings per start. His FIP projection is 4.44 above his career avg. 3.65. Michael Wacha is the 3rd ne starter.  His last two seasons have not been kind with FIP of 6.61 in 2019 and 5.25 in 2020. He made 7 starts for NYM last season throwing 34 innings (yet another less than 5 innings per start guy). He does project at 4.91 FIP but he will likely throw 5th in the rotation so he might have some favorable spots. Ryan Yarbrough pitched well but did not have a good record to show for it in 2020 (1-4). His FIP was 4.33 but projects at 4.81 which is again a full run higher than his career. He should be a look to bet on pitcher in 2021. He will matchup with the 4th starter in the rotation and will not be over matched in many o f those. Look for Luis Patino to be used later in the season. He is young (acquired in the Snell deal) with great stuff! He throws 97mph with a good slider. He needs to work on command. He will be limited on innings as his highest total is 87 innings in the minors. He is the #3 prospect for TB and #10 overall!

            The bullpen backend is dynamite. They have 3 potential closers in Pete Fairbanks, Nick Anderson, and Diego Castillo. This trio are flamethrowers! Each one projects into double digit K/9 with Anderson 12.15 the most. These guys allow the Rays to have multiple options based on usage to close out games. They could throw all three or more likely to see 2 working the 8th and 9th innings. The starters will struggle to get the ball past the 5th, the backend is no issue for the 8th and the 9th. They need to bridge the 6th and 7th to complete games. There is a multitude of guys at their disposal for this purpose. Ryan Thompson, Ryan Sheriff, John Curtiss, and Cody Reed will be those guys. I like their ability to get those couple of innings handled so they just need the starters to get them there. The recipe for success is there.

Outlook

            The Rays were the best in the AL East a season ago and showed that in their ability to beat good teams. They went 21-9 against >.500 opponents. They do not have the same offensive threats as do NYY or TOR. They do not have the depth of starting pitching NYY, but they do have an avenue of success. A 162-game season will mean TB must have someone or maybe some people have career seasons to be able to repeat what they did in 2020. They are projected to win 84 games with TOR at 86. NYY is projected as the best team in the AL but health could get them to fall back. There is a way for them to compete for the division, but if all teams play as they should, a 2nd place with a Wild Card shot is a fair assessment.

GOOD BETS

            They have a 20% chance to make the playoffs. TB is not a good wager for the division due to TOR surge. Finding a make the playoffs “Yes or No” type wager might be the best choice if your odds are good. You will need to find a +184 or better line.

PECOTA & FanGraphs Projected 2021 Standings

On this day 02/09/2021, PECOTA released its first run of projected standings. FanGraphs has already had theirs out for some time. This is an indication of the coming season win totals from the sportsbooks across the country. Analysis should be done right away so the opportunities to get the best season win lines can be had.

Jul 19, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a baseball on the field prior to a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
PECOTA 2021 Standings
FanGraphs 2021 AL
FanGraphs 2021 NL

Looking at them, for the American League, both models have the same division winners. AL East NYY, AL Central MIN, and AL West HOU. The using PECOTA the largest division winner is the NYY and the tightest is the MIN., and would have TB and LAA as the Wild Card teams. FanGraphs like NYY as the best team as well, but has TOR and BOS as the Wild Card teams.

It is interesting to see that neither liked the emerging CHW to over take MIN. PECOTA doesn’t even think CHW will surpass CLE. Fangraphs likes BOS not TB. PECOTA likes TB not BOS. My opinion is NYY are the best in the American League. Their depth is not equaled from any team. I like LAA in the AL West. My opinion last year has carried over into this year of the Astros. Until they can prove they can hit, they are the most overrated team in the AL. I had OAK last year and think LAA has done enough to surpass both OAK and HOU this season.

The National League has alignment in all three divisions as well. The NL East NYM, NL Central MIL, and NL West LAD. PECOTA has SD and CHC as the Wild Card teams, while Fangraphs has SD and ATL. Both models like LAD as the best team with NYM and SD the next tier below. PECOTA thinks ATL falls to 4th in the East with PHI moving past them. Neither model likes STL enough (Arenado signing) to move past MIL or even make the playoffs. It is interesting to see how the CHC are viewed. PECOTA thinks they are an 85 win team and Fangraphs thinks they are below .500 team. I can’t see them as good as STL so I will side with Fangraphs.

Peruse through the projections and fins some stuff that surprises you. Get clear in your head where you think the models are right or wrong, then bet accordingly.

Newly Added Telegram Page!

MLB Daily Telegram

I wanted to get some great conversations around MLB going. Seeing all the NBA chatter leads me to believe MLB has a lot going for it this season. Sabermetrics, teams, players, rumors, gambling edge, and more! The link to the channel is t.me/mlbdaily . If you don’t have Telegram, download it from your app store or use this link https://telegram.org/ .

Hope to see you there!

Revisiting the HOU Sign Stealing demise prediction

Last year I wrote an article predicting the demise of the HOU Astros offense. The basis was about being able to identify the single best pitcher’s “out pitch” in the game, the slider. The cheating scandal exposed the Astros ability to know what pitches were coming. In the year 2019, they were 39.1 runs above an average offense against the slider, but compared to true league average (-18.9), they were 58 runs better! Their offense was 10x better than the 3rd place MIN Twins. It is embarrassing at how much the advantage of knowing the pitch is worth. In this case, I am only referring to one pitch, the slider. I made the case the HOU Astros would suffer a large loss of productivity. If now you don’t know what pitch is coming, you are at the mercy of your hitters’ ability to pick up spin.

Let’s see if that forecast became reality or not. The Astros finished 2020 #17 in the league in OFF WAR at -0.3 WAR. This is average. However, in 2019, they were #1 in MLB with 201.6 OFF WAR and NYY were 2nd with 128.4. I had surmised the Astros would be at least 57 runs worse. I didn’t know anything about a pandemic imposed short season. Finishing 2020 with -0.3 OFF WAR indicates a drop of much more than 57, but the impact wasn’t noticed as much as if it were to be strung out over the full 162 games. Going from a shameful margin of being #1 to less than middle of the pack, is what I though would happen. This was a dismal season for Bregman, Correa, and Altuve.

The HOU batters are NOT as good as their representation due to their false numbers. Now having been level set, they produced a real number. The Astros were #17 in OFF WAR, #18 wOBA, and #17 in wRC+. They finished #20 in team batting average. An obvious strength in years past, has become a weakness. This does get reflected in their wins and losses. They won 29 games last year while losing 31. They were the only team in MLB to make the extended playoffs with a losing record! BaseRuns suggest that while they finished 2nd to OAK (7 games back), they should have finished 3rd behind the LA Angels as well. BaseRuns is a model indicating what a teams results should have been based on their OFF and DEF play on the field. Coinciding with the drop in offense, the Astros went from the 9th best defense to the 27th best! Maybe this is a sign of the constant pressure to perform under new circumstances, poor morale, or new culture.

Hiring Dusty Baker was a good idea due to his player friendly approach. He also has the ability to move the spotlight on himself so the players do not have to have uncomfortable in dealings with the media. The 2021 season should see a change in the media access to the team. Sure zoom calls will be prevalent to start, but as the season builds, the media will gain more and more access. Someone will bring this topic up and it will be interesting to hear the replies. I suspect, the league will also have more retaliation attempts this season. It was a common topic going into last year, so it was on the forefront in the public. A season later, the players are still upset over the scandal and might seek redemption as the public eye gets removed and put onto other things.

Case made! If a batter knows the pitch that is on the way, the results will be very good. Hence pitchers that tip their pitches get rocked. the HOU Astros are not the team of past World Series and the players are not the great quality assumed that they were. This season will be interesting to see as Correa wants a large deal. Maybe he just isn’t that good. He and Bregman, and Altuve all have something to prove….their worth as a non-cheater!

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