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||Second||Reddick Bregman Altuve||.318||.367||.878||124||46||24||91|
|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|
|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.