Heading into the COVID delayed 2020 season, Astro’s fans had many concerns ranging from how well the Astros were going to fill in behind Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, and Hector Rondon, to how Yordan Alvarez‘s knees were going to hold up, to whether they would make it through a whole season during the pandemic and would any fans actually see any games in person.
As it turned out, an area the fans were not that concerned about, the performance of their high octane infield of Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, turned out to be the biggest disappointment of 2020. The following table shows the huge drop off of each of the foursome. Note – the numbers for runs, doubles, homers and RBIs have all been factored up to 162 games worth for each season to give a better feel on the comparisons.
It is not clear what is more amazing here. That not one of those stats went up year to year or that the Astros somehow managed to get within one game of the World Series after all this occurred. It should be noted that after squeezing into the expanded playoffs two of the four (Altuve and Correa) produced closer to expectations in the playoffs.
The bottom line here is that there is a ton of room for all four of these players to swerve back to their norm.
Gurriel is by far the oldest of the infield foursome as he turns 37 in June. His performance in 2020 could be blamed on age, but frankly, he had been getting better with age and had his very best season in 2019. However, he may have been much more affected by the stop-start of the 2020 season as he was not in top shape, may have been dealing with an injury and was also dealing with the emotion of COVID with most of his family isolated from him. The Astros still believed in him and signed him for 2021 with an option for 2022.
Altuve had the worse season in his career. As we’ve been told he was dealing with a death or deaths in his family. We did not have to be told that he took the cheating scandal perhaps more personally than any of his teammates. It was like watching George Springer in one of his bad slumps for the whole season as he was swinging out of his shoes with little contact and lesser results. The “real” Jose appeared in the playoffs and told us that he still had the ability to be one of the most impactful players in the major leagues.
Correa slumped the least of the four players, though his power fell off steeply. The plus side for the season was that he had no little nicks, massaged broken ribs or mystery back injuries knocking him out of the lineup. The other plus side was that he stepped up verbally and with his performance in the playoffs. The focus will be on this possibly being his last year with the organization, but there should be additional focus on whether Correa can finally link a premier offensive performance with a season that he stays on the field.
Bregman’s 2020 season was mediocre for a normal hitter, but far below average for the man who was a runner up to Mike Trout for the AL MVP in 2019. It was a pretty sure thing that his hamstring injury hamstrung him in the batting box, especially late in the season and it is a concern that he starts spring training with a tweaked hammy. Alex turns 27 this season and should be entering his prime. A bounce-back season is a reasonable expectation for Bregman in 2021.
Will all four of these infielders come roaring back in 2021? Maybe not, but it sure is not a big reach to think that 3 of the 4 will get back to the norm in the new season.