In 2016, the Astros were a very right-centric hitting team. Except for Luis Valbuena, who missed a large chunk of the season injured, the Astros best hitters – Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Evan Gattis and in a smaller sample Alex Bregman were all right handed batters.
The Astros big off-season sea change on the offense was purposely aimed towards giving Manager AJ Hinch a more even-handed lineup and more options as they added three lefty bats in Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki, plus switch hitter Carlos Beltran. The best guess is that these four will take up about 1500 ABs that were filled by poor to abominably poor hitters in 2016 – Jason Castro, Carlos Gomez, Colby Rasmus who are gone and probable reduced or deleted roles for Jake Marisnick, AJ Reed, Preston Tucker and Tony Kemp.
One interesting fact is that while the Astros had much stronger right handed hitters in 2016 — they hit pretty poorly against left handed pitching as a team — .240 BA (14th in the AL) / .731 OPS (11th in the AL). Most of their best righty hitters hit worse against lefties than righties – Altuve (.348 BA/.942 OPS against RHP vs. .306/.885 against LHP), Correa (.287/.839 vs. .236/.730), Yulieski Gurriel (.281/.739 vs. .220/.537), and Bregman (.269/.813 vs. .250/.735). This is totally counterintuitive, but the facts are the facts.
So, the following should make this a much better hitting team this season:
- Not giving 1300 ABs to Castro, Rasmus, Gomez and JFSF and filling those ABs with professional hitters.
- Having their good right handed hitters trend back towards frenzy feeding on LHPs.
- Having their batters benefit from the depth and quality of the lineup. A pitcher who in 2016 fed Correa poor pitches with Rasmus behind him in the lineup will have to think twice with Beltran waiting in the on-deck circle.
- Having the benefit of hitting with others on base – this team looks to be one of the best OBP teams out there and the ability to flip the lineup is going to result in many more runs.
What do you think of this team and where its offense is headed?