Astros 2020: Areas to sustain and to improve, position players

Just for fun let’s look at some of the expected main position player’s stats for 2019 and decide what we would want them to sustain from last season and what to improve.

1B Yuli Gurriel

  • Sustain – We would love Yuli to repeat career highs of 85 runs, 31 HRs, 104 RBIs, .298 BA, .343 OBP and .884 OPS
  • Improve – Maybe talk to mentor Carlos Beltran earlier in the season? Not likely to happen with Beltran’s new gig as Mets manager. How about bringing that 6.1% walk rate up to the 8.2% MLB average.

2B Jose Altuve

  • Sustain – The diminutive All Star’s 31 HRs over only 124 games is the equivalent of about 40 dingers over a full season. That .903 OPS was a strong number, too.
  • Improve – His 15% strikeout rate was the highest of his career, his 7.5% walk rate was the lowest in 4 seasons. His .298 BA was the lowest since the dark days of 2013.

SS Carlos Correa

  • Sustain – His 6.5% HR rate, his 11.8% extra base hit rate and his 18.8% HR per fly ball rate were all the best of his career.
  • Improve – Home run and extra base rates are pretty meaningless, when a talent like this only puts up 280 at bats on the season. He has to play in more than 140 games this season after only suiting up 75 times last season.

3B Alex Bregman

  • Sustain – He led the Astros with 122 runs, 41 HRs, 112 RBIs and a sparkling .423 on base pct.
  • Improve – His batting average with runners in scoring position (.250), 2 outs and runners in scoring position (.241) and in late and close situations (.197) all need to improve. He may have expanded his strike zone a bit in these situations, but hopefully with some health around him he won’t have to do that again.

LF Michael Brantley

  • Sustain – Brantley continued a late surge to his career with his 3rd All Star season in a row. I think the Astros would take a repeat of his .313 BA/ .372 OBP/ .875 OPS slash and 22 HR and 90 RBIs and not think twice.
  • Improve – It is a product of how often and how hard he hits the ball with men on base, but 21 is by far the most double plays he has grounded into. That would be a nice number to reduce.

CF George Springer 

  • Sustain –  His slash of .292 BA/ .383 OBP / .974 OPS and his 39 HRs and 96 RBIs were all career highs in only 122 games.
  • Improve – Obviously, stay a little healthier would be the prime goal. Work on getting that strikeout rate below 20% again.

RF Josh Reddick (if he is still here and starting) 

  • Sustain – His .275 BA/ .319 OBP/ .728 OPS were all improvements over a down 2018. He is also the type of defender who makes game changing plays often during the season.
  • Improve – With two outs and RISP he was a pitiful .192 BA/ .288 OBP/ .557 OPS. Also his bat fell off the planet in the second half of the season compared to the first half.

DH Yordan Alvarez 

  • Sustain – Pick a category – .313 BA/ .412 OBP/ 1.067 OPS or 58 runs / 27 HRs/ 78 RBIs in only 87 games. Extending any of that over a whole season would make any fan’s mouth water.
  • Improve – His 25.5% K rate is high. But if you told us that he could repeat all the other categories over a whole season, we could live with it.

C Martin Maldonado

  • Sustain – They are not bringing him back for his bat and it is not a sure thing that he will be the #1 catcher, but…. he did hit 6 HRs in 27 games with the Astros, which is the equivalent of 36 HRs over a season and they sure would take that again.
  • Improve – He’s a 33 year old defense first catcher. He’s not likely to improve, except….he might knock in a fair amount of runs with this lineup in front of him.

OF Kyle Tucker (Starting OF in waiting)

  • Sustain – After a miserable 72 plate appearances in his rookie debut in 2018, Tucker put up solid numbers in the 72 PAs he made in 2019. His .269 BA / .857 OPS / 15 runs and 5 SBs in only 22 games stand out.
  • Improve – His 27.8% K rate is too high and his 5.6% walk rate (resulting in a .319 OBP) is too low. He needs to work on that batting eye.

UT Aledmys Diaz 

  • Sustain – After a slow start to the season, Diaz hit very well before missing a lot of time with injury. A repeat of .271 BA/ .356 OBP/ .823 OPS would be great as would the 9 HRs and 40 RBIs in only 69 games.
  • Improve – Aledmys probably needs a bit of improvement on the fielding side. Beyond that, he needs to be available.

So, that is a look at the main bats for the Astros, the guys who will get 90% of the bats this season. What do you think?





39 comments on “Astros 2020: Areas to sustain and to improve, position players

  1. -I think it would help if Bregman and Altuve stole more bases in 2020. They both need this addition to their games if they want to keep up with Trout in the MVP race and the team needs them to do it to avoid more double plays.
    -Make better contact w/RISP.
    -Be smarter on the base paths.
    -Forget about using trash cans and go back to recognizing spin and avoid swinging at low outside sliders.
    -Make better use of the Crawford Boxes, from both sides of the plate.
    -Don’t give as many at-bats to Marisnick, Stassi and White.
    -Get club-approved massage people. Better yet, don’t let massage people go anywhere near your rib cage. Period.
    -Do more hamstring stretches pre-game.


  2. Luhnow told former Reds GM, Jim Bowden, last Winter that teams would start catching up on the analytics side. Elias showed that by shifting even more than the Astros in 2019, but the real rub is how expert the coordination between hitting to contact, and being well-positioned is!

    Dan, you write about football. What happens when you punt the ball with great hangtime in the 5 second range, and then further, you land it in the corner near the sideline? The runner has nowhere to go, because the defense has them cornered.

    Since the Astros worked hard on launch angle, knowing the strike zone and only swinging at strikes, teams are forced to pitch to inner 3rd of the plate, and get our guys to “turn over hands” GIDP. There’s no room to expand and hit opposite field with an “inside-out” swing when the pitch is placed so well. Reddick, like McCann worked very hard on that in the offseason, swung at anything they could extend on and showed well early in the season, but eventually fell back into pull-happy habits. Same with Brantley.

    The American League champions became the first club in history to lead the Majors in strikeouts by its pitchers (1,671) while having its hitters strike out the fewest times (1,166) in baseball in the same season.

    Teams simply figured out ways to buckle down when we had RISP. The two guys who led the league in 2018 were Brantley (CLE) and Gurriel, so we know they were capable of elite production. Teams figured out how to advance scout us, or pitch around the danger. We had trouble with small ball teams, and we have such heavy guns that we went away from aggressive on basepaths, and toward better quality bat contact.

    This season we will see more Straw and Tucker, who are much more opportunistic baserunners.


    • I feel like other teams did do better on positioning on us, GoStros.
      What I can’t figure out is why that positioning did not keep us from getting folks on in the first place. I really feel like the guys were. pressing a bit – aware that we were not doing so well with RISP and two outs and RISP.
      It would help if Correa played more than 75 games and Altuve and Springer more than 120. I think folks were forcing things along with the opponent positioned to take advantage of them forcing things


      • We definitely played “second rate” players for half the season (Stassi, Kemp White out of options), then the injury bugs that allowed the AAA players in; Mayfield, Straw, Martin, etc. I can buy the theory that these are less capable of handling pressure.

        Since we were projecting to run away with the division, there was no rush on Alvarez/Tucker, and it allowed the prospects to cut their teeth a little. As frustrating as GIDP are, it really goes to show how good we did to get so many runners on. I try to see the silver linings, since some things are out of our players’ control once they perform their best.

        Advanced scouting departments are the new wave of importance that not many talk about, and safeguarding those tactics just as crucial. Similar to stealing signs, or in football, sitting in on other team practices. Knowing your opponent tendencies (and the Astros can be very intractable when it comes to pitching philosophy) is half the battle. I don’t think much is going to change, even after punishment is handed down to HOU. Teams are still going to try to ascertain the other team’s signs.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. On the over/under of sustain, would like to see “over”. On the improve, would be happy if the sustain of “over” happens. Also with these contact hitters, we will see more GIDP % while not getting a high Walk %. It boils down to – if the pitcher makes any of the first 4 pitches in the strike zone or close, these guys are swinging.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When you scroll down the list, “Wow.” We have no reason to complain if they just do the same in 2020. Pitching still have JV and Greinke for 2 of 5 starts. Looks like a solid team bound for first place in the division again.

    We should be HAPPY and EXCITED. But to borrow from Roseanne Roseannadanna, “It just goes to show, it is always something.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m convinced that if I take too long to think out a post on my iPad, it simply disappears. I guess that goes to show I shouldn’t be thinking too much.

    Yuli might have had a career year. Brantley might step back a bit and play a few less games too.

    Reddick/Tucker whomever should show an improvement in right field.

    Bregman still wants to get better. He might. He’ll hit better when it’s important.

    We’ll get more games out of Jose, George and Carlos won’t we? If they play they will produce.

    Martin is cheap and sustainable.

    Diaz and Straw will improve the bench.

    I don’t think we’re going to try to become a running club again, especially with guys like Jose. But Straw will be help create some havoc and Tucker is a smart base stealer..

    My one big focus would be to get more. RISP in. And I don’t care how they do it, but it sure would be nice to see a few more hits going the other way.

    We’ve got a heck of an offense/defense. I’m not concerned about this area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I forgot about our DH. What if he sophomore slumps his way down to a 1.000 OPS? I think that’s realistic. Yordan provides us with something we’ve never had. And he’s going to learn pitchers. And at some point he’ll have to get at least a bit of respect from the umpires.


  6. Stealing a bit from oldpro and gostros, the logical next step for Luhnow and Hinch to take is to create offense on the bases. Our players can’t bunt so we can strike that from our repertoire. However, almost everyone in the lineup can handle the bat and make contact when they want to do so. We have some speed. If teams are going to shift when we have runners on base we should take the time to make them pay. Put a runner in first in motion and see which field is going to be covering the bag when Altuve is at the dish. File that away and use it to your advantage the next time you play that team.


    • Just connecting some dots here, based on Tim’s tweet about Tal Smith saying Hinch would get a year, max fines and draft picks. I’m thinking Joe Espada becomes an integral figure, and thinking now it makes sense he didn’t take/get the Giants job.

      Espada seems like a “no rock unturned” guy. I recall the game Mayfield played and made a game-saving dive at SS. He credited Espada with working out hours before game time, and said they didn’t even think he’d play, but they wanted to go over every game scenario, “just in case.”

      He may handle the team differently in this event.


      • But, I thought you were kidding, you said…

        If this goes down as described, there’s going to be such a wonderful whirlwind of ticked off fans, that nobody will even notice the Angels management was complicit, having at least 6 guys on drugs (tip of iceberg); or that any casual fan could see the baseball was juiced in AAA/MLB until the playoffs. Nobody will seem to care that MLB threatened MiLB with pulling the plug, or that other teams by “industry standard” stole signs and used the information. Manford will forever taint any accomplishment by the Astros, and drive a wedge between its fans and the team.

        Well done, Rob ManFraud!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve said this from the start. If Hinch really embraced this whole “cheating” concept in his own dugout and is proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, and if he were to get suspended for a year, then I think he should simply be terminated. He’s been pretty vocal about some claims being preposterous. That said, I want to hear what MLB has to say before jumping to conclusions. And let’s face it, Tal Smith is surely delighted to see the Astros in the middle of this mess. I’d hate for Hinch to be the only fall guy, because if there was a deliberate and lengthy coordinated effort at cheating, I can’t fathom Luhnow not being totally aware of any transgressions.


      • Not sure AC, but I think maybe the Tim I used to argue with on this blog.
        He said good bye and moved on last year.


      • It’s just hearsay, but Tim had someone claim that Tal Smith reportedly knows the punishment, and it would be handed down in January.

        Who knows what is true yet?

        The way it’s been handled without any comments, except these little leaks, like Manfred saying what *could be* possible, it reminds me of how bits and pieces are revealed to test the court of public opinion.

        Nowadays, being able to face your accuser is pretty much thrown out the window apparently.


  7. Good evening friends, I hope all of your Christmases were spent loving those that you cherish! I did!! I’ve been reading but haven’t had anything to add.
    I ordered a 2020 Astros calender before this *UGLY MESS* broke in the news.
    I see where someone has said they got a rumor about it. My mother had a saying, “don’t believe everything you hear, and only half of what you see”.
    I will wait until I see it in black and white before I comment on it…..BUT I wouldn’t believe ANYTHING Tal Smith said about it, because it’s not a secret that he despises Jim Crane and this organization. I’m done talking about it.
    I think every family knows a kid that went off the rails at some time in their lives…..mine was one of my daughters. No need to disguss who, what, why…..just let me hold you and tell you I love you more than life itself. She’s 41yrs old…but still loves to climb in my lap and rock her.
    God is a loving God….everything is in His time. I have thanked him over and over that she is here, and I can touch her. THAT was my Christmas miracle🙏
    I am thankful that this last decade is in my rear view mirror. May God continue to bless everyone of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow – great day hearing from Sandy and Becky. Are you out there Diane?
      Becky, having that kind of closeness with your daughter is what Christmas is all about and what makes life worth facing everyday.


      • I still read every day Dan.
        I just can’t think about this team’s future until the present is resolved.
        Yes, Becky, we all have someone like that in our lives. Glad you and yours had a wonderful Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Wishing all a Happy, safe, and prosperous New Year!
    As for the 2020 Astros as several have pointed out my improvements are as follows:
    * Learn to hit to beat the shift (Sure will open things up)
    * Learn how to bunt (Nothing wrong with small ball when it’s needed)
    * Steal more bases (opens things up also hit & run or run & hit)
    * Reduce the amount of hit into double plays (see 1st 3 suggestions)
    Lastly maybe a more “business-like” approach to playing baseball. Get it done and then celebrate. No hot-dogging, in your face stuff. We will already be the most hated organization in baseball. Just go out there and win and that will shut them up (at least I hope so).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Z – I have a little experience about how these things go as far as the “shut up” is concerned.
      Back in my early days I worked as an engineer on the South Texas Nuclear Plant. My company got sideways with HL&P and we were replaced on the project and there were lawsuits and settlements, etc. From then on every news story about my company in the chron (spit!!!) always said “XYZ company, failed contractor on the South Texas Project….” It was this way for years. Famously, I remember there was a person who had worked for our company 10 years before, who committed a horrendous murder. In the story, they said “Joe Shmo pleaded not guilty to the murder of XXXX. Schmo, who previously worked for XYZ company, failed contractor on the South Texas Project….”

      So, be prepared to read story after story of “Houston Astros traded Garrett Stubbs and Framber Valdez for Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani yesterday. The Astros, disgraced winners of the 2017 World Series…..” Well I wouldn’t actually mind that particular story, but you get the idea.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had hoped the Astros would get Harris signed and then concern themselves with the financial ramifications. He’d make me feel much better about our pen. I do wonder if maybe he’s decided to move on from Houston.


  9. The Twins aren’t letting grass grow under their feet…they signed Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. Daveb, maybe Will Harris has turned the Astros down, but I’m with you. I would like to keep him in our bullpen.


      • Correct.
        My estimate is Astros offer 2/$12MM
        He will get 3/$21MM, plus incentives.

        Too, Astros have a dozen relief pitchers that have nothing to prove in Round Rock.

        What we need is a solid Middle Rotation piece. We will be completely hamstrung at the trade deadline, if we don’t offload Reddick, or Brantley. This is priority #1.

        I suggest we go after Padres Lucchesi, or Lamet, since they have 6 prospect pitchers who are ML-ready. It would only cost us prospects.


  10. Happy New Year to all of you as well. Mctaggart says the verdict on stealing signs will be settled before spring training, pitchers and catchers report Feb 11th
    If the commissioner finds the Astros did cheat in 2017, that long arm of Manfred had better extend to Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran. The whole thing “might” (not pointing fingers) have been cooked up by one of these two guys.
    On a personal note I hope to never have a decade like the last one EVER again.

    Liked by 1 person

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