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The Astros have built something that we’ve rarely seen before

The offense is putting up unbelievable numbers.

MLB: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Last June, I wrote about how the 2018 Astros might be the greatest in the history of modern baseball based off their run differential at the time, which was pacing record breaking standards. They ended up finishing second in that regard to the 1969 Orioles, but the point of them dominating still stood.

That point has carried over into the 2019 season. Through 49 games, they are outscoring their opponents by an average of 2.02 runs. Their run differential (+98) is by far the best in baseball, already ahead of the second place Twins by 18 runs. Looking at BaseRuns, this becomes all the more ridiculous. Their BaseRuns run differential currently stands at +118, far ahead of the second place Dodgers at +78. That forty-run gap between the Astros and second place is larger than the difference between second place Dodgers and fifth place Cubs. The Astros have undisputedly been the best team in baseball this season.

Most of this success has stemmed from their offense, more recently in particular. While the pitching staff has still been very good (starters rank fifth in fWAR, relievers rank third), the offense has been out-of-this-world good. They’ve already been worth 69.9 offensive runs above average. Once again, they’ve separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

Just for historical perspective, here’s how their pace of 231.1 runs above average would stack up among 2,542 teams since the 1901 season. They are pacing to be better than the Yankees of the late-20’s/early-30’s, the 1976 Reds, and the 2001 Mariners. Not even close, to be more specific, so they have some breathing room in order to top the 1931 Yankees.

Top 10 Offensive Runs Above Average Since 1901

Season Team Off
Season Team Off
2019 Astros (pace) 231.1
1931 Yankees 206.4
1930 Yankees 204.3
1927 Yankees 203.7
2007 Yankees 168.4
2017 Astros 167.9
2003 Red Sox 167.2
1976 Reds 166.6
1932 Yankees 150.7
1982 Brewers 147.6

A large part of the reason the Astros have gotten to this level has been their lineup’s dominance through the month of May. For the month, the team has a 146 wRC+, way higher than the second place Twins, who have a 128 wRC+ for the month. Going back to 2002, the only team to have a higher wRC+ in a month is... the June of 2017 Astros, who were at 153. They did that with a .352 BABIP, while the May of 2019 Astros BABIP currently stands at .298.

There’s a fair argument to be had about this hot stretch by the Astros being better than their one back in 2017. They’re hitting for more power (.264 ISO vs .245), striking out less (16.3 percent vs 17.1 percent), and walking more (9.8 percent vs 8.0 percent). Breaking this down to the 3,120 months teams have compiled since 2002, here’s where this May’s Astros stand.

Top 10 ISO’s in a month since 2002

Season Month Tm PA ISO
Season Month Tm PA ISO
2019 May HOU 738 0.264
2018 Jun LAD 995 0.247
2003 May ATL 1123 0.245
2017 Jul HOU 976 0.245
2006 Jul ATL 962 0.243
2003 Jun BOS 1114 0.241
2003 Jul BOS 1097 0.241
2019 Mar/Apr MIN 1009 0.238
2010 May TOR 1099 0.235
2019 May TEX 700 0.233

The Astros dominance this month has been mostly centered around power. That .264 ISO I mentioned is absurd. Since 2002, the closest thing to that has been June of 2018 Dodgers, who were at .247.

Add the contact numbers to the power numbers and it becomes even more impressive. Out of 1,500+ teams since 1960, the 2019 Astros have the 13th best K%+ and the 20th best ISO+. Their combination of contact and power is almost unmatched in the history of modern baseball.

It remains to be seen to what extent the Astros can sustain these unbelievable offensive numbers. But with the weather warming up and the fact remaining that their lineup could still improve, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if at the conclusion of the season we’re mentioning the 2019 Astros as one of the all time great offenses.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.