In their first four games, Houston Astros batters have been fooled at the plate all too many times, striking out in nearly 42% of their combined plate appearances. Oh, and they don't have a pitcher due up to bat in case you forgot the Astros transitioned to the American League.
But if you compare the strikeout rates between pitchers and Astros batters, it would be hard to tell the difference. Pitchers have went down on three strikes in 42.0% of plate appearances compared to 41.8% of Houston batters. The kicker is those same pitchers have managed to walk in 4.2% of plate appearances versus Houston's 3.7% walk rate.
Believe it or not, the Astros won their first game handily over the Texas Rangers by the score of 8-2. They sent 35 batters to the plate that game, and 13 went down on strikes, or 37%.
After an off-day on Monday, the Houston Astros were given the task of facing Yu Darvish. They didn't do particularly well in any phase besides the category of ''breaking up perfect games with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning''. 14 of the 27 batters became strikeout victims against Darvish and 15 of 29 overall.
Alexi Ogando and Rangers relievers that followed had similar success, striking out 15 of 33 Houston Astros batters.
Relatively speaking, Houston did better on Friday against Dan Straily and the Oakland Athletics relievers, managing to limit the strikeouts to 13 times in 37 plate appearances. Clearly, the A's weren't impressed, sending Straily down immediately after the game.
Are the Astros lacking aggressiveness at the plate? Do they need to swing more often in hopes avoiding two-strike counts? What the hell is going on?
For one, the Astros are seeing just 42% of total pitches inside the strike zone; a slightly higher rate than the Diamondbacks (41.1%) and Marlins (39.6%). But it doesn't matter whether the pitch is in the strike zone or not as Astros batters make contact with just 63.3% (dead last) of pitches, regardless of pitch location. It also doesn't help the Astros are swinging-and-missing on 19.20% of pitches. No one is in their neighborhood. Or zip code, city, county, state, etc. with the Angels' 13.10% a very, very distant second.
Usually when teams are whiffing at this alarming rate, some positive consequences would be power and walking.
As mentioned above, pitchers are walking more often than the Astros batters. Entering Saturday's slate of games, only the Rays are walking less frequently. As for the power, the Astros entered Saturday's games ranking 26th in ISO (Isolated Power). So even when one of Houston's batters are recording a hit, it's basically always a single (17 singles, 25 hits).