Astros’ offense: Under-the-radar heroes

Heading into the 2020 season, the Big 3 of the Astros’ offense would have been Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer. If you were going to throw a fourth person into the mix,

the next man up would have been Yordan Alvarez, who tore up major league pitching after his call-up in 2019. Carlos Correa used to be considered in this bunch, but his struggles to stay on the field have relegated him a step below. Michael Brantley was probably one of the three best offensive players in 2019 but is so much the quiet professional he was rarely mentioned in the same breath as the top three or four.

So, 2020 comes along with all its weirdness and what has happened? Altuve, the king of multiple-hit games, does not put up consecutive multiple-hit games until the last two in Colorado, which still leaves him way south (.190 BA) of the Mendoza line. Springer starts very slowly, improves a bit and then misses some time with a hand injury. Bregman is the best of those three, but just as he is hitting his stride he pulls a hamstring and is placed on the IL. Yordan missed the beginning of the season with COVID and knee problems, came back for two games and then was gone for the season.  Brantley started the season way above the .400 BA mark, tried to play through a hurt leg and finally was put on the IL. Aledmys Diaz their top super-sub played one game and was put on the IL. Even through this the Astros are 1st in the AL at 5.44 runs/ game. How?

There are a number of under the radar folks who are keeping this train rolling while those who were expected to lead the offense are underperforming or hurt.

Martin Maldonado. Maldonado has always been known as more of a defensive force than an offensive one at the catcher position and was brought back for his handling of pitchers and ability to throw our runners. In 2019 he knocked in 27 runs in 322 at bats. So far in 2020, he shares the club lead with 17 RBIs in only 62 ABs. A man whose career slash has been a meager .219 BA/ .292 OBP/ .648 OPS is slashing at a much improved .245 BA/ .365 OBP/ .784 OPS level. Even if he falls off down the road, he has helped ease the pain of others’ early season failings.

Kyle Tucker. The kid needs to draw walks (only 4 for the season). The kid needs to continue the recent hot streak that has buoyed him from below the Mendoza line up to his current .239 average. But even before this streak, which was fueled by his walk-off HR against the Mariners, he was doing a good job of run-producing both in runs scored and runs knocked in. Currently he leads the team in runs scored (21), tied for the lead in RBIs (17), leads in triples (4), and second in SBs (3). On the run-producing side that is the equivalent of 136 runs scored and 110 RBIs over 162 games. The encouraging thing is seeing him start to hit to the opposite field. If he can also develop a more discerning batting eye, he is a top package of power and sneaky speed.

Yuli Gurriel. Yuli tends to be a forgotten man in the Astros offense. The early part of his career he hit for a good average, but was poor at drawing walks and was below average in power for a corner infielder. In 2019, he jacked up both the power and the walks and became much more of a force. Heading into 2020 the Astros most interestingly reworked his contract so that he would not have a couple seasons of arbitration, but would become a free agent after 2020. So far in 2020, he has improved his OBP to .364 (a career high). He also leads the team in HRs (5), hits (29), OPS (.904) and is second in runs scored (17). Can they bring him back in 2021 at a reasonable rate or do they begin the Taylor Jones era at 1B?

Carlos Correa. The talent has always been there. The dependability has not. Even in a disappointing 2019 season where he only played 75 games, he was on a pace for a very impressive 45 HRs and 127 RBIs. Ah, but there is the rub. Only in 2016 (153 games) has he played in more than 110 games in the last 5 seasons. So knock on your nearest oak table, but so far in 2020 Carlos has been healthy and when the dude is healthy he produces. He has been playing the very best SS of his life, some of the highlight-reel plays he has produced have been truly impressive.  At the plate, he leads the team in hitting (.315 BA), and in OBP (.398). He might be higher in runs scored (10) and RBIs (14) except for the fact he has hit 6th, 7th or 8th in the order in 19 of 25 games.  But for someone everyone was wondering about heading into 2020, he has been an under the radar solid performer.

There you have four players who have kept this offense rolling, and who have probably exceeded hype headed into 2020. What are your thoughts?

40 comments on “Astros’ offense: Under-the-radar heroes

  1. Dan, not a whole lot more to add. Tucker, while always a productive minor league hitter, has never been a great on base guy, with a lifetime minor league .356. That’s good, but unremarkable. Correa posted a .387, George a .399 during their minor league careers. And in their first ML seasons, George managed a .336 in spite of hitting just .231 and striking out a ton. Carlos a .345. Kyle sits at .274 right now over small parts of three ML seasons. He’s got to stop swinging at crappy stuff off the plate or else he won’t see many more fastballs. But yes, he certainly has contributed.

    On an unrelated note, minimal tropical storm Laura will be passing over us tonight and forecasts indicate she’ll be a hurricane in the gulf next week. Not so unusual, but a second storm is heading through the southern Caribbean right now on a track to hit the Texas coast on Wednesday, after becoming a hurricane on Monday. Apparently, there is no record of two hurricanes ever existing at the same time in the Gulf of Mexico. Times are weird. It’s my turn to tell you guys to stay dry.

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    • Thanks daveb
      Yes the second storm popped up suddenly south of the Yucatan and the “Cone of Uncertainty” has it centered on the Houston area – though that can and will probably change by early next week. They think it will be a Cat 1 or less because of wind shear aloft, because the Gulf waters are hot right now.
      The other one is headed towards Mobile, Al (give or take a 100 miles or so either side) and may be side by side with the one headed our way.
      I had never seen this in my lifetime and now I know why – because it has never happened apparently.
      We will hunker down and pray for the best.

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      • Dan, clearly, you are on top of the weather too! For you guys, I worry more about a stalled system dropping too much rain in your vicinity. Wherever those storms hit land, I hope they keep moving and dissipate.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. -Maldanado is now the main catcher and is acting like it. The batting average is expected. The RBIs are a blessing and the walks are a direct result of the RBIs.
    -Correa did not get better. He got healthy. This is the guy we saw in the minors. He is now able to complete his swing to the end and the MPH off the bat is the result. Previously, he had to slow down his swing in order to stop it early so he didn’t twist at the waist, which resulted in pain. The bat
    speed is back!
    -Tucker. I’ll say it again: Look at Yellich’s first couple of seasons. Tucker is still very young and his major league career has been a series of starts and stops. The only reason he is playing regularly is because of injuries. Given the chance, he is starting to hit. The guy is only 23.
    -Gurriel was told what he was doing wrong last summer and fixed it and has been a force since then. Thank goodness he found his way to freedom, so the world could see his talent.
    Can’t wait to get Brantley back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is way off the subject, but I will completely lose the idea if I don’t say it now.
    The Astros had a list of pitchers they could have used or tried to retain for 2020 from the 2019 WS team. Here is how that list looks in retrospect:
    Gerrit Cole- Uh! 9 years $330 million. Would he have stayed in Houston for that?
    Collin McHugh- opted out of 2020
    Joe Smith- resigned with Astros and then opted out.
    Wade Miley- has made two appearances and has gotten bombed in both. 3.1 innings for the Reds, 7 runs, 6 of them earned
    Robero Osuna- hardly has pitched and is injured
    Chris Devenski- hardly pitched, did not do well and is injured.
    Brad Peacock- Has not pitched, injured
    Will Harris- signed with Nats and has totaled 4.1 innings giving up 7 hits and 4 walks.
    Jose Urquidy- has not pitched, injured
    Josh James- Worst ERA on the team, injured.
    Rogelio Armenteros- Had surgery, has not pitched.
    Joe Biagini- Was hurt, now getting hit.
    Cionel Perez- was injured, has not pitched yet.
    Hector Rondon- Signed by D’backs, has been terrible against everyone but one outing against us.
    Aaron Sanchez-Non-tendered, sitting out 2020 injured.
    Holy Toledo!

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    • Wow that is nasty OP though I do note that you did not say that Cole is 4-0 with a 2.75 ERA

      Apparently what they call the “American Model” projecting the hurricanes shows one swerving south of Houston and the other swerving right at us – we could have two hit Texas hours apart

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    • For years I’ve been saying appearing in the postseason hurts the pitchers in the beginning of the next year and they should be brought back slower through spring training. I’m not sure if 2020 has proven me wrong or can even be considered relevant given players had to sit on the shelf for months and then ramp it up quickly, but the injury totals should be concerning regardless.

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  4. James Paxton to the IL with a forearm flexor strain.
    Gleybar Torres to the IL with a strained quad and strained hamstring.
    Stephen Strasberg to the IL with carpel tunnel syndrome in his throwing hand.
    The beat goes on.

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    • How long did the core of the Big Red Machine play together unscathed? Is my memory failing, because it seemed like forever compared to these days.

      Alright, here we go!
      Fun fact Padres 5-5 last 10
      Astros 9-1

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    • I’m sorry this is such a horrendous time for you Becky. I’m sure that not all your life has been horrific, but I hate that you are in such straits right now. We will all be praying that the Lord intercedes for you and helps you through this time.

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  5. Lord…..McCullers makes me wish I hadn’t gave up my one a week Bud light.
    He walks soo many guys by the 3rd inning he has 70 pitches, and he must have a guardian angel, because he left the game without giving up a homerun and gave these guys a chance to get back in this game. I’m going to bed in a few minutes so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if they won.
    More bad news: I have fractured 2 more vertebrae.
    T6-T7-T8-T9-T10-T11-L1 …ALL since April 11th. My surgeon won’t operate again. He wants a phone conference with the endocrinologist after I see him on Tuesday. I’ve had a horrific life….and I’m ready to go sit on the 59 freeway and wait for a LARGE 18 wheeler to end this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Becky, don’t go out on 59. Go back to having that Bud light once a week. God bless.

    Last night could have easily been different, but it’s a new world. 5,6,7,8 in the line up were all kids.

    My brightest spot last night was Tucker taking two walks.

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  7. Dusty Baker was responsible for that loss by having on of his best hitters sitting the game out instead of being in the lineup.
    There is no excuse for stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I really have not understood Baker sticking Reddick in the cleanup spot a couple times lately. He does not drive in runs. He is 9th on the team with 7 RBIs at this point. He is hitting .207 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and .100 with RISP and two outs. He has been pretty poor with RISP his whole career. If you want him around for his defense and his ability to get on base (when no one is on base) – fine. Stick him at the bottom of the lineup. But last night if you are sitting Yuli, both Tucker and Maldonado would have been better choices for the 4 spot in the lineup.
    Maybe Hinch used stats too much, but Baker may be using gut too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here’s what I don’t understand. Reddick was not only hitting cleanup, he was the DH. So you aren’t getting Reddick’s defense when he is DHing.
      Yuli was DHing in the finale of the Rockies series. Wouldn’t you be giving Yuli really good rest DHing him two games in a row and having him batting cleanup and coming up with all those guys on base?
      Who is leading the Astros in offense? wRC+ is the metric for offense and Yuli has the highest wRC+ on the team at 146. That means Yuli is 46% better than average.
      We had an 8 game winning streak on the line and lost a one-run game with 4 of 15 w/risp and our best hitter not injured, not sick and not playing. And we gave away a full game in the standings to Oakland.
      While Correa and Reddick and Toro were striking out with the bases juiced, the guy with the lowest K rate on the team was resting and probably pissed about not being in there.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Only positive yesterday may have been the continued re-emergance of Jose Altuve.
    Two hits the other way, one into deep left center. He looks balanced, he looks like he is using the whole field and he has gone from hitting in the .160s to .221 in a few days.

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  10. There was a bunch of Astros operating under the radar last night. I saw nothing on my screen.
    There were, however, bogeys flying everywhere.

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  11. The one thing we have had to worry about is that as the league gets a book on your young guys (Javier and Bielek) they must adjust or suffer as they have in their last starts.
    Greinke needs to go out and right the ship today.

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      • Though certainly we are getting some good experience for youngsters, I’m not giving up. We are adding an All Star Michael Brantley today. We have been adding back an All Star Jose Altuve (back from the statistical dead) the last few days. At some point we will add All Star Alex Bregman back in. If we can get Verlander back and Urquidy back we may have enough starting pitching to be a dangerous club heading into the playoffs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, I’m watching, I’m interested but for different reasons. 2020 baseball will always be something less than the real thing, for me anyway. So I don’t care about wins and losses nearly as much as I typically would. Last year getting blown out 13-2 would have offended me. This year, not at all.

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  12. Of course predicting baseball is like predicting two hurricanes. Come back on another day and you may get a totally different prediction. A day or day and a half ago we were going to have Marco drill us in Houston with Laura hitting around Alabama. Now Marco is headed for New Orleans and every update moves Laura closer to Houston.
    I guess in both cases we are just going to have to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. the A’s did a cool thing by recording introductions for their players by family members. the players were unaware until the announcements started. the players of course had big smiles as they watched. the Astros should do this for a homestand.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Didn’t watch much of the game today so I didn’t have to be frustrated like the trouncing we got last night. In looking at the standings I saw we are 0 and 8 against teams better than .500. That’s not good. You have to beat the under .500 teams but you have to hold your own against the >500 teams.

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