In baseball teams that win can pitch, hit and field. Teams that don't win enough are usually deficient in one or more of those qualities. The Astros after eleven games have had some good batting averages, kept the fielding errors to a minimum and have had pretty good pitching. But they are still three games under .500. Why?
Mostly it is because while the batting averages are good enough, the timeliness of many of the hits has not been. Before Chris Johnson hit a two run single against Washington on Monday the club had been 0-13 when hitting with the bases loaded. They have had 146 runners in scoring position and have only scored 44 runs. They have left nine or more runners on base in six of their first eleven games. Obviously, that must improve if the Astros are going to improve.
Defensively the Astros have averaged an error per game. That is too many, but it is the number of un- earned runs involved that hurts the most. Wandy Rodriguez dropped his earned run average under 2.00 following his outingand 1-0 loss on Tuesday. His record is 0-2 and of the eight runs he has allowed, only half have been earned.
On Tuesday the one run he allowed was an unearned earned run. What is that you ask? You can't find the stat anywhere in the myriad kept on major league baseball. What it means is that the run Washington scored should not have had the Astros made plays they should have.
I coined a term- planoma- a few years back that stands for plays not made. It is those plays that a good and winning team will make, but others may not be able to pull off. They are not errors, in fact many are scored as hits. But they are hits that could have been stopped with good defense.
A planoma may also be a double play not completed. It could be a ground ball or fly ball that with normal range would be handled.
On Tuesday night the only run the Nationals scored was on two planomas. The first a very high fly ball to center field that was not caught. Justin Maxwell said he was running hard all the way before his diving attempt failed. Admittedly he was playing deep, but the ball should not have been the hit that official scorers are forced to grant. The play was simply not made.
Worse that lucky hitter, Jayson Werth, was driven in on a pop fly to short left field that outfielder J.D. Martinez and shortstop Jed Lowrie mis communicated on and that fell safely for an undeserved RBI by Adam LaRoche.
Two planomas equaled one run. That was all that the Nationals needed with Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard and Brad Lidge keeping the Astros out of the run column.
The Astros are 4-7 and have lost three in a row. They have not been dominated. There have been scoring chances not taken. There have been some errors and planomas that have cost runs. Tuesday was another of them. The club is not bereft of talent, just experience.