The Houston Astros are 19-32 which is bad, but perhaps not as bad as people thought they might be. Its a pace to win 60 games, so that kind of record should be pretty familiar to long-time Royals fans. Still, many around baseball agree the Astros are losing the right way, tearing down the organization down completely and rebuilding from the ground up with a sabermetric philosophy in mind. The early returns haven't translated to wins, but by every indication, the franchise is headed in the right direction.
The Royals swept the Astros down in Texas back in mid-April, and another sweep would be a nice outcome this week. The Astros will be the last team with a losing record the Royals will face for the next two weeks, as the Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Yankees all loom on the Royals schedule.
The Astros offense is bad, the one offense in the league that is worse at scoring runs than the Royals. As a team they are hitting just .231/.301/.380. For those that might think home runs are a panacea, the Astros actually hit the ball out of the ballpark at a steady rate, they are fourth in the league in dingers. They're also eighth in the league in walks, around the league average, having drawn 28 more walks as a team than the Royals. But their batting average is so low, their on-base percentage is second-to-last in the league, despite the plate discipline.
Five Astros hitters have more home runs than anyone on the Royals, including rookie George Springer, the uberprospect who has come out of the game hitting well. Springer is an exciting five-tool player, but he strikes out nearly a third of the time. That hitting philosophy is shared by designated hitter Chris Carter, who led the league in strikeouts last year, and is third in the league this year.
The Astros are quite terrible defensively according to fielding runs, with outfielders Dexter Fowler, Alex Presley and Springer serving as liabilities, although Crawfish Boxes challenges those numbers. The Astros employ dramatic defensive shifts, which they say has caused them to lead the league in "extra outs collected on defense."
Pitcher Scott Feldman was the Astros big free agent splash this past winter, and the groundball artist has paid off well thus far. Collin McHugh was a waiver wire pickup who has suddenly struck out over a hitter per inning in six starts thus far. The Royals will miss Dallas Keuchel, the 26-year old lefty who has been the Astros' best pitcher this year.
The Astros as a team are a better pitching team on the road, with a 4.02 ERA as opposed to a 4.99 ERA in the bandbox they play their home games in. The bullpen is a mess, with a league-worst 5.17 ERA, and nearly four walks per nine innings. Lefty-specialists Tony Sipp and Darin Downs have pitched well in limited action, but Jerome Williams and Josh Fields have struggled from the right side and the club recently picked up our old pal Professor Kyle Farnsworth to add some depth. Chad Qualls will probably see closer duties if the Royals are in that unfortunate position.