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Entries in Houston Astros (16)


Selling High

The Houston Astros may have traded Michael Bourn of the Atlanta Braves and Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies at just the right time.  Bourn ranks third in the majors and Pence seventh in batting average on balls in play (BABIP).  That measures the ability of batters to get hits when they don't strike out or hit the ball out of the park.  In other words, the ability to get a ball past fielders.

Extreme BABIPs tend to settle back to the .300 range.  Look at both these players during the last four seasons:


BABIPMichael BournHunter Pence
2008 .290 .301
2009 .366 .308
2010 .329 .304
2011 .377 .368


Pence's 2011 represents a big outlier.  Bourn reached this rare atmosphere before, in 2009.  A high BABIP helps to lead to a high batting average, and helped make this pair look desirable to other teams.  Don't trust this to last past this season, however.    This season, among batting qualifiers, the spread of BABIP is .200 to .387.  If you look at the last four seasons, however, that spread is down to .253 to .355.  The extremes just don't hold up.  The Astros did a good job of selling their players when they looked their best.


Another Leadoff HR for Bloomquist

When I saw that Arizona Diamondback Willie Bloomquist hit a leadoff HR against the Astros yesterday, the first thing I thought was that it had to be a pitch up and in.  Back on April 4th, Bloomquist hit a leadoff HR against the Cubs at Wrigley, and I analyzed how the Diamondback outfielder does well on inside high pitches, particularly fastballs.

Well sure enough, Astros' starter Henry Sosa threw Bloomquist a high inside fastball that he promptly deposited into the left center field stands.  Here's his slugging heat map with his HR pitch sequence:

Willie Bloomquist vs. Henry Sosa (Bot. 1st, 8/10/2011)
Heat map data from 2011 season (click image to enlarge)

And here's a look at the location of pitches that Bloomquist has taken deep since the beginning of the 2009 season (11 total HRs):

(click image to enlarge)

It's a wonder opposing pitchers are still throwing him inside; it's really the only area of the zone that he can do significant damage.


Fielder Launching Rockets

Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers hit his fifth home run of the season against the Houston Astros Sunday afternoon.  He came into the game 19 for 43 against the Astros with ten extra base hits.  What are the Astros doing wrong against the first baseman?

Most teams work Fielder away.

Prince Fielder, pitch frequency, 2011.They also tend to work him up and in, which is good for limiting his power:

Prince Fielder, in-play slugging, 2011.The Astros follow a similar pattern:

Prince Fielder, pitch frequency against the Astros, 2011.Again, they work him up and in, which should be good, and away, which should be good.  They do put  too many pitches down in the middle of the strike zone. 

Prince Fielder, slugging vs. the Astros, 2011.It looks like the Astros pitchers are leaving too many pitches up and in the middle of the plate.  When pitchers go after Prince up and in, they really need as much in as up.

The other problem comes from the slider.  Overall in 2011, Prince's worst production comes against the slider, with a .267/.360/.480 slash line.  (You get an idea of how well Fielder hits when that is his worst slash line against a pitch.)  Against Astros sliders, however, Fielder is 4 for 5 and the one non-hit resulted in an error.  Most teams work sliders away from Prince, but Houston used it up and in.  That was a mistake, as Prince pounded the pitch.