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Astros: Does Who Catches Matter?

Since the end of last season, I have tried to show people the truth with regard to the 2023 Astros.


I have written MULTIPLE articles that have showed the challenges the Astros have with the catching position. As we wait for the final three games of the Astros season and HOPE for a run in the postseason in which we are likely to see one catcher in close to 80 percent of the games, I wanted to deliver one final review of the Astros catcher with a goal of answering one very basic question:


Does Who Catches the Astros in the postseason matter?


To answer this question, I am NOT going to dive into the normal avalanche of data which CLEARLY shows Diaz is a better player than Maldonado in every aspect of the game.


Today, we are simply going to show the season to date results.


Let's start with a comparative histogram. This graph shows the percentage of games that the Astros scored the number of runs with each catcher starting. For example, the Astros scored 6 runs in 16.7 percent of the games Diaz started and 10.6 percent of the games Maldonado started.

Then can then group these into categories:

- Low scoring games

- High scoring games

- In between games


I compiled the Astros record this season for each category two different ways to see if there would be any significant differences.

Obviously with more runs scored, the win probability increases.


I also went through the schedule and documented for each game who started. That is how I got the data on the graph above. I can also classify each catcher's starts by the runs scored.


This is how that data looks by the categories I set above. For example, in 52% of Diaz's starts at catcher the Astros scored 6 or more runs.

The projected win percentage is simply the product of the percentage of games and the win probability of that category.


In summary, depending which categories you use:

  • The Astros would project to have won 90-93 games this year if Diaz had started in all games at any position.

  • The Astros would project to have won 102-107 games this year if Diaz had started in all games at Catcher.

  • The Astros would project to have won 84-86 games this year if Maldonado had started in all games at Catcher.

  • Therefore, starting Diaz at catcher would project to have added 15-20 wins to the Astros record this year.

Yes, I know there are other factors including how well do the Astros PREVENT runs from being scored with either player behind the plate.


Let me give you the direct calculation as well.


When Diaz catches the Astros GIVE UP less runs too.



I blew the font up on that so people would have to notice it.


Bill James invented a formula (called the Pythagorean Formula) for estimating win percentage based on run differential. It has been adjusted to fit results by Baseball Reference like this.


Runs Scored ^ 1,87

-------------------------------------

(Runs Scored ^ 1,87 + Runs Allowed ^ 1,87)


By the Pythagorean method

  • The Astros would project to have won 90 games this year if Diaz had started in all games at any position.

  • The Astros would project to have won 107 games this year if Diaz had started in all games at Catcher.

  • The Astros would project to have won 87 games this year if Maldonado had started in all games at Catcher.

  • The results here align to the previous conclusion. Starting Diaz at catcher would project to have added 15-20 wins to the Astros record this year.

  • Both methods indicate that starting Diaz over Maldy at catcher increases the odds of winning by about 13%. This is a HUGE difference.

Maldonado has EXCLUSIVELY caught the two Aces for the Astros and 95% of Javier's starts too. This result CAN NOT be explained away by who was pitching.


This may be the point where one says "I just don't think this difference is true." Here is the ACTUAL record this season with Maldonado and Diaz catching.

The ACTUAL difference this season is 9.7%. Over 162 games in a season that difference would be 15.7 games.


I understand that this difference is so huge that it seems like ANY rational human being would have made Diaz at LEAST an equal split catcher. You assume I am spinning some numerical tale about the Astros catchers. I am not. This data is just that- data. I have analyzed it with different methods and ALL of them reach very similar conclusions.


The fact that Dusty Baker has REFUSED to have Diaz be the primary catcher in the second half of this season HAS cost the Astros wins and many many more wins than you probably believe.


This is a FACT. Whether or not you can accept that fact say more about you than it does about the Astros, me, or the catchers themselves.


Does Who Catches the Astros team matter in 2023? Yes! Yes it does!


Here is the issue as the team hopes to make the postseason.


The postseason opposition is going to be better than these regular season splits. What if the opposing pitchers can hold the Astros to on average 0.5 runs per game less and the opposing batters can score on average 0.5 runs per game more. Then the Pythagorean table would look like this.

The choice at catcher would then determine if the Astros win or lose in the postseason.


I have TRIED to show the world all season long that the Astros NEEDED to play Diaz more. Now, while I do not expect Dusty will start Diaz more than one out of four games this postseason, this decision will likely doom the Astros playoff run.


Tomorrow, I am going to flip the script and give you the Astros not so secret weapon that can help the team overcome the catcher doomsday scenario I just laid out. Stay tuned here.


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