This certainly has not been the kind of season Houston envisioned after making the playoffs a year ago. Those betting baseball who liked the Astros are also taking it on the chin thus far.
As of the morning this morning, Houston was the fifth-worst bet in baseball at -9.4 units, hanging out with the like of Minnesota, Atlanta and Cincinnati, hardly the kind of company you keep if you expect to return to postseason.
The Astros had given the appearance they were ready to make a real run in winning 11 of 13, but have lost two of three to Texas since.
Collin McHugh (5-4, 4.97 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) has been a portion of the problem with Houston this year, as he’s been much more hittable. In his career, the right-hander has allowed a .261 batting average, but this season the number has ballooned to .297. McHugh might want alter his pregame warm-up pattern as this is where bad outings have manifested for him. Opposing batters are at .302 and their on-base percentage is .345 during his initial 30 pitches. He’s gotten himself into trouble with walks, as eight of his 17 have occurred in the first 15 pitches of any start.
After a 1-4 start, Martin Perez has rattled off three consecutive victories to square his record at 4-4, with a 3.24 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. The lefty has gotten the sinking action back on his low 90′s fastball. His secondary pitches can be effective and he’s starting to regain command after walking 30 batters in just 60 innings, with only two free passes in last 12. He’s averaged 13 groundball outs in his last five starts, which is what Perez does best.
The Chicago Cubs and Houston were thought to be on similar paths after last season, but the Astros have regressed. Offensively, Houston is 4.3 runs per game compared to 4.5 last season and that is attributable to falling from second in baseball in home runs to eighth.
The other major factor is pitching. After finishing sixth in ERA (3.57) and seventh in on-base percentage (.299) last year, the Astros have fallen dramatically 22nd in ERA (4.68) and to 23rd in OBP (.337).