Math and baseball? How this formula is propelling the Astros to victory

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In their run to be World Series Champions, the Houston Astros focus on more than just winning and they're using math to do it.

"You can get an advantage," said Jimmy Disch, Associate Professor in the Department of Sport Management at Rice University.

Disch teaches the "Moneyball" class at Rice University, named after the movie about sabermetrics in baseball. Sabermetrics is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the statistical analysis of baseball data.

Disch explains it this way: "To look at probable models of what can occur during a game and use things that occur in a game to predict future events. And from a business side, who to draft, who to trade for, how much to pay them."

In sport, there is a statistic for everything, but baseball takes it to another level. There is batting average, stolen bases, RBI, home runs and strikeouts -- to name a few.

But there is also this statistic.

"In the third inning on Wednesday nights at home when the temperature is 70 degrees," John Eliot, clinical associate professor in sport management at Texas A & M University said with a smile.

The Astros have used data to help produce wins.

"You know what the plan is and you've got to keep executing it," Disch said.

For example, managers and coaches can look at where hitters most often hit the ball to shift their players That's why you might see second baseman Jose Altuve playing closer to where shortstop Carlos Correa normally plays.

They can also pull data on what pitches opposing hitters like to hit and switch out pitchers accordingly.

The Astros clubhouse have become masters at this but Eliot, who researches the behavioral and brain science of athletes and works for teams , says numbers can take you only so far.

"You watch these guys play and you see how loose and relaxed they are," he said.

Eliot says that's because the Astros have been focused on culture and not just wins in this new era. They've invested in young players who mesh and put them in a positive environment.

"What the Astros are doing is that stuff that creates winning. If you've got a great culture and you're focused on day-to-day executing, that culture, the guys, the locker room, they go there not to win a ball game but to help each other play great and to play great baseball. That's one step removed from winning," he explained.

The Astros are one of only a handful of ball clubs using both schools of thought -- math and mind -- to take them farther than they've ever been.

"You've got to have the numbers and you've got to have the players and you've got to have the baseball gods on your side," Disch joked.

A 10-foot tall rooster, free hot dogs, head-shaving and pumpkin carvings: We've got all the World Series bases covered.

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