The Pallilog

This Astros streak could last a while

Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Astros roll into the weekend on a six game winning streak. Their road trip begins with three games at the atrocious Orioles then three at the faded White Sox. Check my calculation, but if they win all six that would make for a 12 game winning streak. It's not likely but it's a darn decent possibility. Fun with math: if the Astros are 85 (a very high number) percent likely to win each game, it's a 38 percent likelihood they win all six. Bump it up to 90 percent likely to win each game and winning all six becomes a better than 50/50 shot.

Three times in their history the Astros have ripped off 12 consecutive wins. The first came in September of 1999, the final season of the Astrodome. As it played out they needed all 12 wins as the Astros won the National League Central by one game, with Mike Hampton winning his franchise record 22nd game of the season on the final day of the regular season.

12 game winning streak number two came in 2004, straddling August and September. The Astros began the stretch at 64-63, seven games out of the NL Wild Card (only one per league back then). At streak's end they were tied for the Wild Card spot, and would go on to win the last seven games of the regular season schedule to edge out the Giants by one game.

The most recent 12 gamer goes all the way back to…last season. At 37-25 the defending World Series Champions weren't struggling, but a dozen wins later they were nearly halfway to their ultimate win total: the single season franchise record of 103.

The 2019 juggernaut Astros are on pace to win 105 games. To win "only" 100 the Astros can struggle to the finish with a 25-22 record. Bet the over. Never assume, but…

No franchise in MLB history has ever strung together four consecutive 100 win seasons. It doesn't take 20/20 vision to see that as in play for the 2020 Astros. As I put it in a video earlier this week, this Astros' squad is stacked like Pamela Anderson in the 90s.

Still, for all the Astros' awesomeness, they enter the weekend trailing the Yankees (winners of nine in a row) and Dodgers (winners of five straight) by one game in the race for homefield advantage in prospective American League Championship Series and World Series matchups. So the Astros need to keep winning. And winning. And winning. And they probably will.

Giant streak

One of my favorite baseball factoids is about the winning streaks of the 1916 New York Giants. They started the season 2-13, then racked up 17 straight wins. Toward the end of the season the Giants won the still standing record of 26 in a row. 26! The 1916 New York Giants finished fourth. Combining the two streaks the Giants went 43-0. The rest of the season they went 43-66.

Adding a Duke

Thursday night's Texans preseason opener at Green Bay was, well, a football game. Kind of. Four preseason games are not necessary evils. What they are, are annual rip-offs of season ticket holders. Commissioner Babble pays lip service every year to "we know it's not what the fans want and above all else we care about the fans (well, other than maybe player safety)." The owners will get rid of two easy profits preseason games per year just as soon as the players agree to an 18 game regular season schedule.

The Texans' General Manager-less braintrust made a nice little acquisition in running back Duke Johnson from Cleveland. As long as he isn't a malcontent. The Texans have never before had a quality third down pass catching complementary back. Arian Foster was an all-around beast for a few years, which probably contributed to his short shelf life of excellence. Lamar Miller is a solid starting running back, but not good enough to be an unquestioned every down back. Last season Miller caught 25 passes at a lackluster 6.5 yards per reception. Johnson caught his career low in four seasons with the Browns, 47. In 2017 he caught 74 passes and for his career Johnson is over nine yards per reception. If the Texans are good and Johnson is one reason why, trading a low third round pick for a guy under contract for this season and two more is a good deal. Add in the track record of Texans' third round picks and it looks fantastic!

You bet...

Saturday September 7: LSU at Texas is a pick 'em, Clemson is an 18 ½ point home favorite over A&M. If forced to play one of the four teams, Gig 'Em!

Buzzer Beaters

1. The 2016 Reds gave up a record 258 home runs. The 2019 Orioles are on pace to give up 332. Even with the juiced balls, that's ridiculous. 2. Keke Coutee injured? Go figure. 3. Best salad dressings: Bronze-blue cheese Silver-balsamic vinaigrette Gold-honey lime

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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