The Astros have had seven rookie pitchers in 2023 according to Fangraphs.com. The rookies have made 82 appearances in games and delivered 2.5 WAR. Without context, we as Astros fans may not appreciate how remarkable this is.
Let's deep dive into the impact and value of the Astros rookie pitchers, and I think you will conclude too that the kids are alright.
First, let's compare the Astros to other teams through 7/5/23 games.
Please don't get lost in all of the numbers and focus mainly on the data on the right.
Astros rookie pitchers have delivered the third highest WAR in the MLB- 2.5
Astros rookie pitchers have made 22% of the appearances this year (16th)
Astros rookie pitchers have made 38% of the starts (and rising- 4th)
Astros rookie pitchers have pitched 32% of the innings (4th)
Astros rookie pitchers have delivered 24% of the team pitching WAR (5th among positive WAR teams)
Putting this much of your pitching success on rookies is not normally the plan for a team trying to repeat their World Series championship.
How do the 2023 Astros rookie pitchers compare to the previous seasons in the dynastic run?
The 2023 stats 88 games into the season look more like the full season statistics during the previous six years. If one ratios the current stats to a full 162-game season, one can see how much more dependent the Astros are on rookie pitchers this year. It is probably easier to look at the ratios of the rookie pitchers to the entire team as well.
The Astros had a similar issue in 2020 which is easiest to see in the ratio data. Here are some highlights of this comparison:
Astros rookie pitchers are accounting for the second highest percent of team wins in this period.
The dependence has been more on starting pitchers than relief pitchers. The game start percent is barely second to 2020- a season the Astros were besieged by injuries.
Astros rookies are doing well overall with an ERA of 3.96 and a FIP of 4.38 considering league average for all pitchers is 4.30. League average for rookie pitchers is 4.77.
The Astros rookies delivering a quarter of the team pitching WAR is FAR above the impact of rookies in any season. They would project to deliver 4.7 WAR from rookie pitchers this year. Remarkable!
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In reality 80% of that WAR is coming from one player- Hunter Brown. Brown, France, and Martinez are all contributing in significant ways. Brown's 2.1 WAR YTD is 40% more than second on the list Senga's 1.5. Brown has been so good we sometimes forget he is a rookie.
I know you won't be able to read this graph. That is not really the point. Just look for the orange bars and especially focus on the tall orange bar on the left. That is Hunter Brown.
In case you are curious who Fangraphs says the Astros rookie pitchers were in 2017-2023, please consult this table. The players listed are sorted by innings pitched. I think the Fangraphs algorithm only bases this designation on career innings.
The players in red have been on the active roster in 2023.
You will notice that the number of rookie pitchers in 2023 is not out of line with most of the previous seasons. In 2020, SIXTEEN rookie pitchers were used.
Without Brown, the 2023 Astros rookie pitchers' contribution would look more like 2018 or 2019.
With Brown, the 2023 Astros Rookie pitchers are MORE than alright.
The Astros are trying to do something few contending teams have to do. They are relying a LOT on their rookie pitchers- many of whom were not considered top prospects even a year ago. A ton of credit should go to the pitching coaches for making this group of rookies alright for the job.