Here at the September History Watch, we'd like to thank the Houston Astros for supplying us so much rich, historic material these past three seasons, simply by, well, losing a lot. As in really, really a lot.
We're well aware that one of these years, given the monster farm system they're building, they're not going to be furnishing us these sorts of insane numbers anymore. So some day, when they win the AL West like eight years in a row, we promise we'll be jumping all over that historic development, too, naturally.
But for now, we take our History Watch developments however they come along. And suffice it to say that no team on the planet is making history like these Astros. So fasten your seat belts. Here we go:
• The 106-loss watch: At 51-105, they've already become the fifth team in the past half-century, and the 11th since 1900, to lose at least 100 games three seasons in a row. But next up is a milestone only Casey Stengel and Choo-Choo Coleman can truly appreciate. If the Astros lose just one more time this season, they'd become only the second team ever -- and first non-expansion team -- to lose at least 106 games three years in a row. The other was Casey and Choo-Choo's legendary 1962-65 Mets, who did that in the first four years of their existence. The Astros' magic number to avoid hanging out with that crew is six -- because they'd need to go 6-0 to finish with "only" 105 losses. The good news: They did win six in a row once this year (May 29-June 3). The bad news: That's their only six-game winning streak in their past 500 games.
• Crazy 108's: But here's an even bigger number to watch: If the Astros don't go at least 4-2, they'd carve out a niche in the history books all their own -- by not just losing 106-plus three years in a row, but by losing 106 the first year and then losing more games than that in each of the next two years. They went 56-106 two years ago. They went 55-107 last year. So this is a bigger week for this team than you realized. Right?
• Viva la (run) difference: Perhaps you've noticed this trend: When you lose in triple digits, you tend to give up a lot more runs than you score. And so, for the second straight year, the Astros are almost certainly going to have a run differential of over 200. (They're at minus-215 at the moment.) So barring a week of blowout wins, they're about to become just the fifth franchise to reach minus-200 in back-to-back seasons since the advent of the 162-game schedule. The others: Dmitri Young's 2002-03 Tigers, Runelvys Hernandez's 2005-06 Royals, Johnny Grubb's 1973-74 Padres and (here they come again) those 1962-63-64-65 Mets.
• Attention Kmart shoppers: It has been another sweltering summer in Houston, but hey, at least there's a breeze. And for that, Houstonians can thank the Astros, who already have struck out 1,468 times this season. One thing that has meant is: They broke the American League record for most whiffs (1,387, by the 2012 A's) with more than two weeks left in the season. And next up, there can't possibly be a more dramatic record chase anywhere this week than the Astros' "pursuit" of the major league record for most K's in a season. Mark Reynolds' 2010 Diamondbacks hold that one, with 1,529. The Astros' current pace: 1,524. The potential X factor: How many times will they punch out against Yu Darvish on Tuesday night?
• Play the percentages: Either way, here's one strikeout record these Astros are almost guaranteed to break: They're about to become the first team in history to strike out in more than 25 percent of their plate appearances in a season. They're currently at 25.3 percent. Those 2010 Diamondbacks whiffed in "only" 24.7 percent of their trips to the dish. Just to put that in perspective, only five qualifying starting pitchers in the entire AL have struck out 25 percent (or more) of the hitters they've faced this year: Darvish, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale. And the Astros do that, basically, every night. Against everybody.
• Don't walk this way: But maybe the Astros' most amazing strikeout feat of all is this: They're going to become the first team to punch out 1,000 more times than they walk (Current numbers: 1,468 strikeouts, 409 walks). And that, friends, is really tough to do. The old record (940) was held by -- who else? -- those 2010 Diamondbacks. But what about the AL record, you ask? These Astros look as though they're going to wipe out that one (845, by the 2011 Mariners) by more than 200. Crazy, huh?
In other news: Finally, here's one more barrage of funky Astros numbers to chew on, in no particular order:
• When the Indians swept them this weekend, it marked the 16th time the Astros have been swept in a series this year. For what it's worth, the A's have only been swept in three series all year -- just one of which has come in their past 120 games.
• Is it possible no pitcher on this team is even going to win seven games this season? Uh, yes it is. Their leading winners as we speak are Lucas Harrell (6-16) and Dallas Keuchel (6-9). A mere nine years ago, Roger Clemens had racked up seven wins for this team by May 11!
• And now, let's pour another bowl of Special K. Astros hitters are now up to 76 double-digit strikeout games. No AL team in history had ever even had 60 in one year. The previous major league record: 73 (by those 2010 Diamondbacks).
• A breakdown of this team's most prolific strikeout games: They've piled up 18 whiffs in one game, 16 in another, 15 in four games, 14 in six games, 13 in six more and 12 in 21 games. Their 12 games of 14 or more? That would be -- you guessed it -- yet another record. That's two more than those 2010 D-backs.
• And, finally, there's this: The Astros have gone 18-70 this season against teams that are .500 or better, according to baseball-reference.com. That comes out to a winning percentage of (yikes!) .205, a number that has been topped (or is that bottomed?) by only two other teams in the live ball era -- Fred Frankhouse's 1935 Boston Braves (14-73, .161) and Arnie Portocarrero's 1954 Philadelphia A's (13-53, .197). With six games left against the Rangers and Yankees, we're calculating these Astros only need to find a way to win one of them to avoid rising (or is that falling?) to second on that list. Can they do it? Of course they can. They've already lost nine games in a row. They've never lost 15 in a row in the history of the franchise. So there ya go.