This year has been an exciting year to be an Astros fan since the 2005 World Series run season. Let’s face it, since then we bottomed out, walked through purgatory, and have finally started to climb back up to the status of a team that can play. We went through an ownership and league change, hit rock bottom, and started building a new team from scratch. Today, 10 years after our first and only World Series appearance, we are posed to get back into the playoff race.
Unfortunately, with every road game we’ve had in September, that dream has slowly eroded. Last night, in the walk-off heart-breaking loss to the Rangers, we lost our top spot in the American League West, as well as the Silver Boot. We’ve had what looks like the worst start for a month since the season began (although that’s only half-true), and we’re now looking at the Minnesota Twins as our direct competition for a spot in the post season (currently, the Twins stand 1.5 behind the Astros for the 2nd Wildcard spot).
If you compare our W/L stats for the first and second half of the season, we’ve actually remained pretty consistent – slipping only marginally. In the first half, before the All-Star break, we had a total of 49 wins and 42 losses, which put our winning percentage at 53.8%. In the second half, we’ve had 28 wins and 27 losses, which puts our wins at 51%. That slight slide, unfortunately, has been the difference of remaining the top team in the American League West, and stepping down to second place.
That slight slide has only cost us a single game, but a single game (at this point) is all it took to dethrone our reign at the top of the American League West. The Astros have remained pretty consistent in their overall W/L ratio, but the Rangers have picked up speed. Their first half gave them 42 wins and 46 losses, with a winning percentage of 47.7%, but the second half has given them 35 wins and 21 losses, with a winning percentage of 62.5%.
If both teams keep going at the same pace, well, I’m sorry folks, but it looks like we’ll have to settle for #2 in the AL West, but we’ll still have a shot at the wildcard. It’s not the glory we’d hoped for, but I’m really not sure that anyone expected us to be here to begin with. After all, we started the season with only a 14% chance to play in the post-season, at now we’re sitting at 85%. We were dead last in our division to get there April 6th, and 5 months later, we’ve got the best chance in the division (but the gap is closing).
Now, the big question is, will we be able to pull off a comeback in September? After all, this is a young, inexperienced team and, as a team, we have never been anywhere near a playoff push in the American League. The Rangers are old pros. Even the Angels are. In fact, everyone in our division has a range of experience in the September playoff push but the Astros. Is that particularly meaningful? Yes and no.
We have 2 teams literally battling it out to get to the post-season, and 1 team that is still on the cusp, but not probable. Nobody has been mathematically eliminated yet, but there isn’t a world that exists that I can see the Athletics winning 90% of their remaining games, while everyone else loses out in the season. It’s not likely for the Mariners, either. So, we have 3 teams that could make it, 2 that are probable, and 1 that will be the shoo-in.
Given all the statistical information up top, I predict the Rangers taking the AL West, and the Astros taking the 2nd wildcard spot. Which, if I can recall correctly, is where we were sitting in 2005. No, I’m not getting crazy and insinuating that we’re gonna make it to the Pennant Championship this year, but we’ll bring some playoff action to the Astros (and maybe to Houston) after a 10 year hiatus. And I will tell you why.
Remember when I said that it was only half-true that we’ve had the worst start of a month that we’ve had all season, in September? Well, that’s because September shares that designation with July of this season. In both months, the Astros won only 4 of their first 13 games. In July, though, we came back strong and won 7 of 10 games in the second half of the month. I know that doesn’t prove that we’ll have an identical month, but the Astros also started slow in the months of June and August, both with only 5 wins in the first 13, and a strong finish of 10 of 6 and 10 of 5 games won in the second half of the month, respectively.
So why is that? Well, for the months of June and August, the first half of the month had more road games than the second half (much like September). In July? We lost Springer and had to re-group. In May, our road/home games were evenly distributed, so we had a pretty consistent month. In April, we had quite a few away games, but the Astros started out hot with something to prove. Interestingly enough, we actually had a better winning percentage on the road than we did at home in April. There’s always an anomaly, though.
I know there’s been a lot of talk about the Astros sliding off in September, especially since it’s the last full month of baseball before the playoffs. However, as you’ve seen above, this isn’t necessarily true. The Astros are simply on the same trend they’ve been on, with a slow start of the month and a strong finish, that they’ve been on since June. If we’re doomed to repeat our recent history, we’ll finish out the season with 11-12 wins. I predict that will keep us just ahead of the Twins (although it could come down to half a game) to secure the last wildcard spot of the season.
Bold prediction for tonight? We’ll finally get some veteran HRs in this series, as well as a comeback HR from Springer (who hasn’t hit a HR since his injury), and a win that will put us back into the #1 spot in the AL West one final time. Tonight, our comeback begins.