One of the wonders of the Houston Astros wonderful 2017 offense was the strength up and down the lineup. Even the weak link, DH Carlos Beltran put the ball in play and moved the runners over or hit a sacrifice fly once in a while. The Astros were first in almost everything (Runs, hits, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS) and were a true juggernaut. This season…..not so much.
One of the biggest differences in 2017 from 2016 was the “length” of the lineup. In 2016, there was not much behind the top three players for the Astros (Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer). Carlos Gomez (.210 BA.594 OPS), Colby Rasmus (.206/.641), Jason Castro (.210/.684), Marwin Gonzalez (.254/.694) and Jake Marisnick (.210/.588) were all rally killers. 3B/1B Luis Valbuena was decent but only played 90 games and DH Evan Gattis did good things intertwined with interminable slumps. It seemed as if the team did not do something involving the top three, they were just as likely to do nothing in the games.
Sounds familiar. Even though the Astros are still number three in the AL in runs scored and top two to four in BA/OBP/SLG/OPS – there are serious underlying issues with their lineup.
- George Springer. Was in a swamp deep slump for 6+ weeks of the season. Though his BA is slowly climbing now he is not coming near the .889 OPS he put up last season.
- Jose Altuve. It feels wrong to complain about a guy hitting .329, but he is obviously down in HRs and RBIs and has not been good with 2 outs RISP. It feels like he is pressing to replace the injured Carlos Correa. Now he will miss some time with his own injured knee and that will knock his cumulative numbers down even more.
- Carlos Correa. Correa was struggling for him in the first half of the season – down in all the major areas (.268 BA/.832 OPS), which would have been great numbers for an Astros SS in about 50 of the previous seasons. He is now in the midst of a one month and counting stint on the DL with a bad back. His numbers will be down for the year.
- The black hole. The end of the lineup has been a mess, especially lately with inconsistent Evan Gattis, slumping Gonzalez and Max Stassi, overmatched Kyle Tucker and Tim Federowicz, and a fairly ineffective Josh Reddick. For a few weeks, the end of the lineup was pretty decent between a blazing Gattis, a fairly hot MarGo and a solid Tony Kemp. But lately the lineup has not been able to turn over and with the problems with Springer, Altuve and Correa it was no sure thing when they did.
Now a couple positives have been Yuli Gurriel with a good BA especially with RISP and the breakout season of Alex Bregman. Bregman is first or second on the team in Runs, doubles, HRs, RBIs, OBP, SLG and OPS. Where they would be without him? In deep doo-doo.
So is there any hope here for improvement? It was predicted here that Reddick and MarGo would regress this season. But not this much. They could get on a roll some time down the stretch. The returns of Correa, Altuve and to a lesser extent McCann could help a bunch. Another hot streak by Gattis and Stassi would be welcome. And if Jeff Luhnow went out and got some hitting help in the next couple days that might do something for this lineup too.
- Where are you on this lineup and the black hole?
- Will they get their hitting mojo back?
- What do they need to do that?
- Is this black hole expanding? Controllable?
- Will the hitting be this team’s undoing?