Astros 2018 vs. 2017: Lineup pluses and minuses


The Astros had the best offense in the majors in 2017 and while their pitching soared to the top in 2018, their offense sank back towards the pack due to injuries and some lesser performances.

There is always synergy at work in a lineup. An injury in one spot can not only negatively affect that spot, but also affect the spots around it. Here is a look at how each lineup spot (1-9) ended up in the last two seasons and some thoughts for 2019.

Season Lineup # Main Hitters BA OBP OPS Runs 2Bs HRs RBIs
2017 First Springer .288 .372 .892 133 36 38 103
2018 First Springer .253 .334 .742 117 30 24 78
2017 Second Reddick Bregman Altuve .318 .367 .878 124 46 24 91
2018 Second Bregman Altuve .288 .378 .903 118 46 34 114
2017 Third Altuve Correa Reddick .315 .380 .904 115 41 29 101
2018 Third Altuve Correa Bregman .298 .377 .857 93 38 24 87
2017 Fourth Correa Gurriel Gattis .284 .343 .827 102 35 30 115
2018 Fourth Gurriel Correa .250 .305 .691 83 28 18 96
2017 Fifth Beltran Gonzalez Gattis .249 .307 .697 79 36 18 111
2018 Fifth Gurriel Reddick Gonzalez .263 .330 .772 88 34 24 96
2017 Sixth Gurriel Beltran Gonzalez .271 .351 .790 78 45 18 82
2018 Sixth Gonzalez Gattis Reddick .250 .331 .755 74 29 23 92
2017 Seventh Gurriel Gonzalez McCann .267 .324 .816 86 43 29 93
2018 Seventh Gonzalez Gattis Reddick .222 .290 .684 75 28 23 68
2017 Eighth Bregman Gurriel Centeno .295 .354 .862 93 38 27 89
2018 Eighth Stassi McCann Maldonado .226 .311 .677 73 19 19 72
2017 Ninth Marisnick Aoki     Fisher .242 .302 .726 86 26 25 69
2018 Ninth Kemp Marisnick Fisher .236 .293 .681 76 26 16 59

As my old boss at Arkansas Power & Light used to say, “It don’t take long to look at this horseshoe”. In general, the offense was worse in 2018, because so many of the positions in the lineup were down in 2018. One other observation, it is funny when reality meets memory. Does it seem like Josh Reddick had the most ABs in the 2nd spot in 2017 or that Alex Bregman had the most ABs in the 8th spot in 2017? It didn’t for me.

Here’s a quick look at each spot in the lineup.

First Spot. Unlike any other position in the lineup, the leadoff spot was dominated both seasons by one player, George Springer, who had more than 10 times the at bats of the next player in that spot. His production was down in 2018 with a worse BA/OBP/OPS slash due to a prolonged slump followed by an injured thumb that really did not heal until the playoffs. One of the things that affected him was how much the production of the seventh, eighth and ninth place hitters sunk in 2018. Less guys on base gave him less good balls to hit and less RBIs when he did hit them. A healthier Springer with a deeper lineup in front of him could be a big boost in 2019.

Second Spot. This was a very productive spot in the lineup both seasons with Reddick leading the way in 2017 and Bregman/Altuve producing both seasons. The home runs and RBIs were up in 2018 due to Bregman’s increased presence in this spot in the lineup. The question may be whether Bregman stays in this spot or slides back to the third spot in the lineup in 2019.

Third Spot. The third spot in the lineup was solid both seasons while mainly being manned by Jose Altuve. The numbers were down a bit in 2018, but certainly acceptable numbers as Altuve spent the last 1/2 of the season playing through a knee injury. A tick up to 2017 numbers would not be out of the question depending on who is filling this spot (Altuve? Bregman?)

Fourth Spot. Though Yuli Gurriel got more ABs in the cleanup spot than Carlos Correa, it was Correa’s bad back that led to much of the precipitous dip in production in the four spot last season. The cleanup spot produced the second least (behind the 9 spot) HRs in the lineup in 2018 and was fifth in runs scored. A healthy Correa could turn this spot from a lowlight to a highlight quickly.

Fifth Spot. There may be a little addition by subtraction here as Carlos Beltran, who had the most ABs in the 5th spot in 2017 and who did not have a good farewell, left and Gurriel and company put up better numbers in 2018. That is except for RBIs, though that undoubtedly was suppressed by having a poor 4th spot hitting in front of them in 2018. Is this the spot that Michael Brantley appears in the 2019 lineup? If it is, this could be an uplifted lineup spot for the team.

Sixth Spot. The sixth spot in 2017 led by Gurriel, Beltran and Marwin Gonzalez and that of 2018 led by Gonzalez, Evan Gattis and Reddick is kind of a wash. 2017 featured a little higher BA/OBP/OPS slash, while 2018 featured a little more power and RBIs. This spot will likely feature Gurriel and Reddick in 2019 and perhaps a little better overall numbers than in 2018.

Seventh Spot. One of the driving forces to the terrific offense of 2017 for the Astros was the strength at the end of the lineup, especially for the seventh and eighth spots. Gurriel, Marwin and Brian McCann stood out with an OPS above .800, 29 HRs and 93 RBIs. There was a big dropoff in 2018 driven especially by drop-offs by Gonzalez, Gattis and Reddick. Perhaps DH Tyler White steps in here and helps to flip the lineup with good performance at the 7th spot.

Eighth Spot. There is no doubt that Bregman’s renaissance after a bad start to the season is what drove this eighth spot to outstanding numbers in 2017: .295 BA/ .354 OBP/ .862 OPS look like middle of the lineup numbers, not tail end numbers. This became mostly a catcher spot in 2018 and these catchers were not really very good. Could Robinson Chirinos drive this to bigger numbers or could this be White or Reddick with Chirinos in the ninth spot?

Ninth Spot. The ninth spot in 2018 under Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick and Derek Fisher was worse than in 2017 under Marisnick, Nori Aoki and Fisher, but not disastrous. If they could get a little improvement here it would translate to more ducks on the pond when the lineup flips over to Springer and it would help justify putting one of your best power hitters in the leadoff spot.

Bottom line. Even a trend toward the 2017 numbers in some of these categories would seem to point to a much better 2019 season offensively for the Astros. With some of the starting pitching questions headed into this season, that would be a comfort.

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68 comments on “Astros 2018 vs. 2017: Lineup pluses and minuses

  1. I hope that the 2018 back-slide was a fluke and we return to the 2017 hit parade and even better. The pieces are all there. They just have to perform.

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  2. George Springer is a career .265 hitter who hit .283 in 2017 and .265 in 2018.
    Jose Altuve is a career .316 hitter who hit .346 in 2017 and .316 in 2018.
    Carlos Correa is a career .277 hitter who hit .315 in 2017 and .239 in 2018.
    Gurriel is a career .291 hitter who hit .299 in 2017 and .291 in 2018 with 10 additional GIDP.
    Marwin is a career .264 hitter who hit .303 in 2017 and .246 in 2018.
    Reddick is a career .262 hitter who hit .314 in 2017 and .242 in 2018.
    Basically every one of these hitters had a career year in 2017 and a down year in 2018. Their job and the job of the hitting instructors is find out what in the hell happened to all these players and fix it. If it was health, fix it. If it was attitude, fix it. If it was age, replace it. If it was lousy coaching, fix it.
    Alex Bregman, Tony Kemp and Tyler White got better. Everyone else needs fixing.

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    • We know that Altuve, Springer and Correa all were injured last season and tried to play through it too. And while Altuve’s career BA was .316 – his BA over the previous 4 seasons was in the high .330’s. Springer’s BA went back towards career norms, but his OPS went way below his career norm (about .820). Carlos fell off the table period in all stats from his career norm
      Marwin is gone.
      So we need the first 3 to be healthy in my mind and then we do need some fixin’ on Reddick and Gurriel.
      Having Brantley in the lineup will boost one of the positions and make this lineup longer. A full season of Tyler White should help another position.
      I can see 5 positions better just from better health and the addition of Brantley and a full season of White. We will see what Chirinos does to the catcher’s very poor 2018.

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    • Some stats in baseball are mostly team dependent – like RBI. Some people would tell you that OBP and SLG are more isolated to individual performance. That’s true, but it’s always a little more complicated. Lots of people will tell you that BABIP is a flukey stat that players don’t control but it also misses something. If Jose Altuve comes up with George Springer on second base he’s a lot more likely to try to line a single to center. If he comes up with the bases loaded he’s probably trying to drive the ball into the gap. If Josh Reddick comes up with a man on first base, he now has better options for getting a ground ball through that side of the infield. Even strikeouts are influenced by this as players now are purposely trying to hit home runs with no one or to hit the ball over the shift rather than trying to just get on base. It’s a lower percentage play for the individual, but people believe the odds of stringing together multiple singles/walks to score runs are low enough to justify it. Of course, we can look at pretty much every postseason in history to show which approach is actually more effective, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lewis Brinson is projected to be in the Marlins opening day lineup and has 5 HRs this spring.
    The nine guys who make up the Astros projected opening day lineup have a TOTAL of 2 HRs this spring, one each by Bregman and Springer

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  4. Unsurprisingly Brady Rodgers along with Erasmo Pinales, Ryan Hartman and Lorenzo Quintana were reassigned to minor league camp today….

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  5. The lineup today for the Astros looks like an actual possible lineup….
    CF Springer
    DH Altuve
    3B Bregman
    LF Brantley
    SS Correa
    1B Gurriel
    RF Reddick
    C Chirinos
    2B Diaz

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So Brad Peacock has gone thru 2 innings on just 9 pitches (8 strikes).
    In the Astros first inning, Springer and Altuve struck out on 3 pitches each, Bregman walked on 4 pitches and Brantley made an out on his first pitch.
    I’m not sure what it all means.

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  7. And then the Marlins pitcher gets through the 2nd on 3 pitches – a fly out by Correa, a double by Yuli and a double play lineout by Reddick. Is there a storm coming in causing so much first pitch swinging?

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    • – Well that “old” 27 year old JFSF has two runs scored and an RBI
      – That AAAA first basemen AJ Reed has two hits, scored a run and knocked in 3
      – The Texans’ mascot Toro has a run scored and 2 knocked in
      – 2B “Cookie” Rojas has a hit and run scored
      – Old Astro Franklin Stubbs has been reincarnated as a catcher and has a dinger today
      – Carrie Fisher scored a run
      – Robinson Chimichanga has a solo shot
      – Bo Diaz changed his first name to something unspellable and had a hit and a run scored and an RBI
      – Forrest Tucker is in F Troop reruns and scored a run
      – Andruw Jones is now a tailor and scored a run

      Now I’m being just silly

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hardly any family has not been affected by this Billy C – my dad and brother were very luck to live through an incident where their car was totaled by a drunk driver.

      My uncle was in a car with a drunk driver (he was drunk too) and died at 17 on Thanksgiving morning 1965. Hearing my mother screaming into the phone after being awoken by her sister has stayed with me for 50+ years.

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      • Just my own personal opinion but there needs to be a higher penalty by MLB for something like this than ,say, suspending players for smoking weed in the off-season.* This type of behavior puts people’s lives in jeopardy

        * That was indeed referring to Singleton who wasn’t harming anybody but his own career .

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  8. The 2019 team is going to be *AWESOME*!!
    Astros are still in talks with Keuchel.
    Verlander said he didn’t want to go a lot of years when he goes to free agency.
    Time to get with it Crane and offer him a 2yr deal! Two year $50 million would get it done. Cole might price us out of offering him a 2-3 yr deal. I have to think he wants a 4-5 deal, with a price tag in the $250 million. But…….I really do think this is a better team than 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. * I believe there is a 0% chance the Astros will sign Dallas Keuchel as a free agent. I believe they will trade for a pitcher or even two pitchers at the deadline, if they need them.
    * I believe Reymin Guduan is running out of chances to pitch for the Astros.
    * I would seriously consider not watching the Astros if they signed Tony Sipp. I have had all I can take of Tony Sipp.
    * Cionel Perez is nearing Kyle Weiland status. I watched Survivor and he isn’t there.
    * I couldn’t hear the game today but I read over at TCB that Chirinos hit two balls out of the park foul before he hit his home run to dead center field into a very strong wind. Anybody have any confirmation on that?
    * Garrett Stubbs, Derek Fisher and Nick Tanielu lead the Astros in HRs this spring with two each. Our catchers are leading the way in power.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Come on Dallas, we’ll give you 20 million for a year. Have a great season and you’ll get someone to give 3 or 4 years in 2020. You’ve obviously been given bad advice by your agent.

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    • I think the Astros won’t end up signing Keuchel because a $20 million one year deal puts them at the Luxury Tax mark, which would either eliminate any help at the deadline or would put them over the mark, which I don’t think they want to do.
      I know that I get in solid ruts with my thinking about Keuchel, but my gut tells me that the Astros don’t want a deal with Keuchel to put them over the limit. If he could lower his 2019 value in a deal with Houston and then get a higher annual amount in a deal for two more years, that would allow some flexibility for the Astros this season and get him what he wants for the next two years to make up for it.
      But why would he cut the Astros a deal? This guy wants to get paid big bucks. Boras wants big bucks for him. Are they just putting rumors out there to get somebody else to up their offer?
      Something tells me Keuchel is in a worse spot than Houston is and that spells “leverage” for the Astros in this deal.
      By the way, Philly is closer to the Luxury Tax limit than the Astros are. So, here is where we see if the Phillies owner’s “stupid money” talk is just talk or if it was for real.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They made a QO to Dallas, and he rejected. Plus, if the Astros sign him I assume they lose the compensation draft pick. So if I’m the Astros I deduct the value of the draft pick (whatever that may be) from what I’d be willing to pay Dallas. I agree with op that the only way to make a deal for all parties would be a 2-3 year back-end loaded deal. They will probably need him more next year than this year anyway.

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      • I still feel the same way I did about Keuchel a few days ago when I posted that Luhnow would not do anything to screw up his financial plan going forward. 20 for one year would keep us just under the tax cap. And that would not preclude a deal come summer if Luhnow really wanted an upgrade in any area, which I’m sure he will. If he gets taxed for for 2 or 3 months so be it.

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  10. Interesting item – Former Astro Martin Maldonado, who is still unsigned has just changed representation from Scott Boras (who he changed to only last August).
    Sounds like somebody who does not want to listen to his agent anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Its kind of unusual Mike – the Dodgers actually got good production out of Fields and were only on the hook for less than $3 million, if they kept him this season. I know we remember the two big HRs he gave up to us in extra innings in the World Series (who didn’t give those up in that relief pitching nightmare of a series) but in general his numbers were very good for the Dodgers.
      However, yes it looks like Alvarez will eventually make us forget Josh….

      Liked by 1 person

  11. According to the Athletic (as quoted in a fan chat on mlbtraderumors) the Astros have offered Keuchel both 1 yr and 2 yr contracts and been turned down

    Liked by 1 person

    • If there is any degree of accuracy there, and there may well be none, Keuchel is getting close to not being on an Opening Day roster. And again, if the Astros actually offered something for 1 or 2 years, then I’m glad Luhnow is thinking the way he is.

      Like

    • I have no issue with DK on a one or two year contract. Technically the Astros offered him one year with the QO, so it would stand to reason they would be willing to keep him.

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    • Just my opinion, but at this stage, don’t care one way or another if we sign Keuchel. Or as I stated in a previous post, I couldn’t care less. That cow has left the barn and it’s obvious that he was looking for the large payday (which he isn’t going to get). If there was a sense of loyalty he would have done an extension or signed a QO. I’m not privy to those discussions but I believe that he must have thought he was worth 5/125. Personally, I don’t think he’s worth 3/50 unless he can learn to throw a curve ball like Bob Knepper.

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  12. Tom Seaver has retired from public life with dementia. Only ten years older than me, he was the first professional baseball player that I ever really fully respected. A man of integrity and one of the greatest pitchers ever. Then he went on to grow some pretty good wines. I hope he’s still able to savour a sip of his work as he declines.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Things I have learned this morning:
    *Cionel Perez has been on an individualized throwing program only, geared to his becoming a reliever. He threw a live Batting Practice and is scheduled to pitch sometime next week.
    * The Astros offered Maldonado a two-year deal earlier this offseason and it was turned down.
    *Brad Peacock currently has the upper hand in winning the fifth starter spot.
    *Chris Devenski was hurt in the last half of the season last year, but I don’t know what his injury was. His offseason was dedicated to losing weight and getting in better physical condition. Add him to the list of Astros who were hurt last season.
    *The average MLB payroll for 2019 is down $8 million per team compared to what it was in 2016. But, it is $25 million higher per team than it was in 2011.

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  14. My opinion only, but I would be very surprised if Crane has not had a chat with Verlander about staying for the next 2yrs. They have become pretty good friends since he was aquired. Was there any doubt that Verlander would be the opening day starter?!!!! The choo-choo train called Garrett is on the bump tonight!

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  15. And catching up with the Tom Seaver dementia note above – very sad. Seaver reminded me a lot of Nolan Ryan. Really used his legs which helped him avoid arm injuries. One of the best of his generation.

    Like

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