Astros 2022: Suggestions for hitting improvements

No one knows when the 2022 Spring Training and the season will begin.  But we know that every player should be taking this uncertain time to work on areas of their game.

And here at Chipalatta, we are always happy to give our unwanted advice on which areas each of the prime hitters for the Astros should be working…..

Martin MaldonadoMaldonado, coming off a season where he slashed a very poor .172 BA/ .272 OBP/ .573 OPS hardly has an area that does not need improvement.  Bad at home, bad on the road, bad against lefties, ghastly against righties and so on.  So, let’s take one positive and ask him to apply it elsewhere.  In 94 plate appearances leading off innings, he slashed a solid .256 BA/ .351 OBP/ .815 OPS.  Check out the film of those ABs and whatever you were doing positively there – apply it elsewhere, Martin.

Yuli GurrielYuli had an amazing season last season, kind of the anti-Maldonado.  Great against lefties, very good against righties, excellent at home and on the road.  Really difficult to pick a spot for his improvement.  So, your assignment Mr. Gurriel is to study what you did last year, including your much-improved knowledge of the strike zone and your climb up the on-base percentage rankings and hit the repeat button.

Jose AltuveThis one is straightforward, Jose.  Unless you want to get accused of “IT” again, pick up the pace a bit when on the road.  You slashed an excellent .296 BA/ .374 OBP/ .932 OPS at home and a very pedestrian .261 BA / .327 OBP/ .750 OPS on the road with 19 of your 31 HRs at home. Now, this could be because Minute Maid with the short left-field porch suits you better, but it could also be emotional as you may be trying too hard (still) in front of the jeering road fans.

Alex BregmanThe biggest thing with Alex may be just being healthy, having solid legs beneath him, and a good wrist to bring back the power that was missing for much of last season.  He also needs to work on hitting better against righties (.254 BA/ .332 OBP/ .754 OPS) since he gets about 2/3 of his ABs against them.  And unlike Altuve, Bregman hit pedestrian at home (.244/ .333/ .725) vs. on the road (.297/.377/.830). Plenty to work on Alex.

Michael BrantleyIn his career, Brantley has been solidly better against righties than lefties, but probably never did he have as big of a split as he did in 2021.  He hit righties like he was George Brett (.363 BA/ .418 OBP/ 924 OPS) while being much more Maldonado-esque against lefties (.219 BA/.261 OBP/ .575 OPS).  He’s too much of a great fundamental hitter to not bounce back a bit from that in 2022.

Chas McCormick / Jake MeyersThis is a twofer as these two hitters have the same challenge and the same spot for improvement.  McCormick struck out on 32.5% of his plate appearances and walked 7.8% of the time.  Meyers struck out on 30.7% of his plate appearances and walked 6.1% of the time.  The MLB average was 23.2% for Ks and 8.7% for BBs.  They need to make a big step up on the strikeouts and a small step up on the walks in their second time around the majors.

Kyle TuckerMaybe the first thing Tucker should do is tutor Brantley on hitting left-handed pitchers as he is almost as good against portsiders (.287 BA/.332 OBP/ .910 OPS)  as right handers (.299 BA/.376 OBP/ .920 OPS).  His numbers on the road are good (.259/ .330/ .832), though dwarfed by his home numbers (.332/.392/1.006).  Maybe he could pull those up just a bit….

Yordan AlvarezAlvarez has outstanding and similar numbers against right handers and lefthanders, and similarly, he is about as good on the road as he is at home.  To take the next step, one spot that Tucker improved and that Alvarez needs to address is K%.  For strikeout percentage, Tucker has gone from 27.8% in 2019 to 20.2% in 2020 to 15.9% in 2021.  Yordan comes off a 2021 where he struck out in 24.3% of his ABs.  Improvement in his K% could make him elite.

There are others that I could have critiqued here, but I’ll leave that to you folks if you’d like….

51 comments on “Astros 2022: Suggestions for hitting improvements

  1. 1. Maldonado: .212 career hitter with 73 OPS+. I don’t see a lot of upside to expect. Maybe bring in Castro to hit in runaway games but then it will not be needed. 2. Yuli: Wash, Rinse, and Repeat. 3. Altuve has moved into a power hitter. His K’s were up but so was his BBs. His TBs was 294. Apparently this is how the team wants him to hit. 4. Alex: Let’s hope it is a correctable health issue. (Pssst: See Correa in 2021)

    Liked by 1 person

    • 5. Brantley: His OPS and OPS+ was right on his career numbers but his power and TBs were down. Partly probably due to health and also he is on the back side of 34 now. 6. Double M: Altuve swings at 34% of pitches outside the zone and makes contact 77% of those balls. Chas Mc – 28% with 50% contact. Jake – 31% with 57% contact on those balls. (They need more plate discipline but Altuve and Yuli get away with swinging at bad pitches and fouling them off.) 7. KTuck: Sit him until May 1st? 8. Yordan: Get him to understand that umps make bad calls on the outside corners sometimes. Ignore that and learn from it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brantley has a lifetime .692 OPS against lefty pitching. We all love the guy, but he just does not hit lefties like he hits righties. He should also get more rest. If Siri is around, this is where he can be given starts, along with McCormick. I’d love to see some of Yuli rub off on Jose. Yuli reinvented himself at 37.

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  2. Been out all evening. Will sleep on this tonight and offer in the morning.
    Thanks for the blog, Dan.
    Cougars stomped Cincy on the road and will move up in the rankings tomorrow.
    Jordan Spieth blew a good chance at Pebble Beach today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect improvement from any of the guys listed. While I don’t want to advocate overpaying a SS, this might be the best reason to do it. What happens if we roll the dice on Pena and he’s another .225/.300/.675 hitter in the lineup? How do you space out him, our CFer, whichever catcher, and possibly Bregman without causing the offensive production to plummet? Quite frankly, Tucker put up solid numbers against LHP, but he was overmatched by Atlanta’s bullpen. Not to kick anyone while they’re down, but right now this feels a lot like those Texans teams from a few years back. You knew they should win an awful division…but then were going to get sent home in the playoffs by all the superior teams. At this point, the lockout is possibly hurting Houston more than anyone else, in my opinion, because Click won’t be able to address our needs in the offseason and we don’t have a ton of trade capital to make major upgrades during the season.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A few thoughts back at y’all…

    AC45 – yeah the best way to improve Maldonado may be to give more ABs against rightys to Castro

    Dave B – Yeah Brantley’s OPS against leftys in his career is .692 and if he had done that last year I would not have said anything, but .575 OPS is really bad

    OP – UH went into Cincy and played their normal hard defense, rebounding, play as a team game and won their 12th straight. Jordan Spieth had played great most of the day and in fact he had made up 11 shots since Friday, But he had one shot that landed about one foot short of the green in the bunker that probably cost him 2 shots and he missed a fairly short putt that hurt him bad (only the second one less than 10 feet that he missed all week). But the other guy, Hoge, played brilliant down the stretch and it is always great to see a 32 year old guy finally win a tournament and get all the great things (exemptions, Master invites, etc.) that that begins.

    Devin – I’m a little more half full than you are. I think Brantley can hit leftys better than he did in 2021 – he has hit them better before. I believe Bregman being healthy could be a huge lift. And I really want to see more of McCormick, but especially Meyers. And I believe that Tucker and Alvarez have not peaked out at 24 years old

    Becky – I just saw that GoStros answered your question about players working out in the previous “Open letter” post if you want to go back and look at that

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  5. I’ll start with Brantley because his problem is the easiest to solve. If he can’t hit lefties then you platoon him with someone who can.
    He is in the twilight of his career and his fielding isn’t what it was, so you make sure that the guy who you are platooning him with is real good against lefties and is one hell of a fielder.
    This solves several problems: 1. It provides the rest Brantley needs by having him play half the time.
    2. It gives you a real good lefty pinch hitter late in the game against righty relievers.
    3. It gives you a much better defender in LF for more innings.
    4. Brantley is rested at crunch time late in the year.
    5. It gives you a look at what you have for LF in the future after Brantley moves on.
    6. It keeps Yordan at the DH spot where he doesn’t have to worry about injury and keeps him rested by not running around in the OF.
    This would probably be the best scenario possible for the Astros, so, I guarantee you it won’t happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think this is spot on. Especially given that McCormick handles lefties better than he handles righties. IF Meyers can perform and hit at least .260 he seems to be the best option in CF when he gets back, Chas has earned his PT and LF against lefties, or Diaz playing some LF against lefties, could be an easy answer to keeping Brantleys legs under him for the playoffs.

      I feel like if I see one more ground ball to the shifted second baseman in RF by Brantley in a playoff game I may turn my TV off.

      I feel like part of Dusty’s problem (if it is a problem) is his sense of loyalty and trust in veterans, of course Uncle Mike is going to insist that last year was an aberration and he is fine and Dusty will keep on trotting him out there.

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  6. How do you help Tucker get better? Leave him alone! His own talent is what has gotten him here. don’t do anything. Let him continue to figure it out just like he has the last two years.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. How do you fix Maldonado? You can’t. He is the only guy who can fix his bat. Either he starts working to get better to help the team get better on offense or he doesn’t. If he could find the time and make the effort to raise his BA above .200 and eliminate the vortex at the bottom of the order, the team would score more runs for its pitching staff.
    He is the only one who can fix him. There is someone on the team who could ask him to work on that to make the team better and I don’t know who that is and I don’t know if they would do it anyway.
    He’s a career .212 hitter. All the team would need is for him to hit .200 instead of.172.

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  8. I think we can get a bit more offense out of the catchers position, as previously stated, simply by giving our starting catcher more rest.
    I think Bregman will hit. If he struggles again in 2022, then he’s probably damaged goods, or he really was the biggest benefactor of the scandal, but I’m not prepared to accept that yet.
    I think Altuve is a pretty sensitive guy and has almost certainly been affected on the road. Historically he’s very good away from home. Hopefully he’ll put blinders on.
    I don’t think our centerfielders will hit less in 2022.
    Yuli will not win another batting title, but if he continues to show his new found patience at the plate, we’ll be happy with the results.
    We already know what Dusty should do with Brantley.
    Yordan will remain our best DH ever and outside of Ohtani, the best DH in the game today.
    Tucker is a professional hitter. 2021 was no fluke.
    Who were the experts last week that ranked the Astros first in the league without Carlos Correa on the roster? Does not mean much now, it’s nice to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Joel Reuter wrote this about 2 weeks ago but I only read it a few days ago. This list ranks the top 25 contact hitters in MLB and the Astros have 5 of them. Hopefully Yordan, Alex & Kyle will improve while Yuli and Brantley will likely regress. The key is to keep them all healthy.

    https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2952756-mlb-skill-rankings-juan-soto-and-baseballs-best-contact-hitters

    I would try using Castro to get more ABs against rightys at 1B to give Yuli some days off, but I’m not Dusty so it probably won’t happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And Altuve is just off the list….. Based on there being 30 teams in the majors, you would expect each team to have one or two, but having 5 is pretty darn terrific, especially with a 6th at 28.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. If the Astros ever do start the season, they will be celebrating their 60th anniversary and have the 60 on their caps.
    There was a time when 60 years seemed so huge, but I’ve surged past that milestone a while back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now if they ask them to report to the major league camp and ask them to cross picket lines (where the players will no doubt hire folks to carry signs and tire irons for them) then it would be big news

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  11. In other news – chron.com (spit!!) says the Texans will be announcing Lovie Smith as their new head coach, which makes me a lot more comfortable than a lot of the other names tossed around.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Dear Jose Altuve,
    Please ignore any advice you see here about hitting. Please just keep doing what you have always done, given 101% every game, don’t ever want to sit out a game. Run like hell every time you put the ball in play, give it your all out in the field. Laugh and joke and make everyone else happy. Kepp up the great work as a husband and father, stay with the Astros for your entire career and please remember us when you give that speech at Cooperstown.
    God bless you.
    1oldpro

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Everything about Maldy seemed to be in line with previous seasons – his K rates, BB rates, swing rates, LD %, exit velocities, he pretty much looked like the same suck hitter he has always been except suckier. I think he will return to previous seasons just suck and not suckier.

    Yuli – lots of good luck created by good LD rates, I don’t expect another batting title season but a very solid year. The peripherals look the same. Predictive stats suggest good production.

    Altuve is at the age where he is changing as a hitter, his eyes are slowing a little bit, but he is getting stronger. Fly ball rates going up, ground ball rates down, he isn’t hitting .340 anymore, but he isn’t going to hit only 10 HR anymore either. It’s a natural evolution.

    Bregman – just get healthy man. Be ready for the grind, don’t let a great season spoil you and make you think this is easy. Grind.

    Brantley – stay fresh. You aren’t 26 anymore.

    McCormick/Meyers/Siri – Cheat some on pitches, lean in more, guess better, watch more film, study the pitchers you are facing the next day. None of you are natural major league hitters, if you want to make millions over a career you are going to have to out work everyone else.

    Tucker – just keep working. No off days. You are on the cusp of superstardom, but superstars don’t work like they are superstars.

    Alvarez – a little tongue-in-cheek, get a wheelchair for running bases. Every time you gap one, you send my heart racing when you round 1st base. Lose 10 pounds, hit the trainers often, get those legs healthy and fresh under you and a MVP caliber season (if a DH can actually win it) is yours. When you are healthy you are one of the 5 most dangerous hitters on the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

      • And I have to add to Les Fleming. He was a player/manager for Beaumont in the 1950’s. The put up some metal posts and a hog wire fence out in Right Field. Planted some Zinnia seeds and called it “Les’s Garden.” I don’t know if anyone got some cheap home runs or not.

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      • Yep Nate Colbert who the Astros picked up in the Rule 5 from the Cards was picked by the Padres in the expansion draft.
        Freddy Garcia was traded by the Astros in the Randy Johnson rental
        Jason Jennings came to the Astros in the Willy Taveras trade with the Rockies, was awful and then released after one season
        Darin Erstad had his last two seasons with the Astros

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    • I can’t imagine Oakland would deal any of those players to Houston. After their group I’d say Odorizzi is probably the most desirable of the players MLBTR listed. Maybe that puts Click in a good position? Ultimately, I think we need a strong RH bat for the outfield and replacing all our catchers would make me happy, but I’m not chomping at the bit to move any of the starting pitchers just yet. My unresearched recollection is that history has shown teams that make deep runs into the postseason suffer a few more injuries the following year. Let’s keep our options open. The only name on there that scares me is Kiermaier though. He’s a great glove, but offensively he doesn’t bring anything to the table to justify the salary. He’s the kind of player working against the MLBPA’s bargaining objectives right now, imo.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I was looking at that saying, if he is used as a swing man, long reliever his attitude will make last year look like a picnic. He might be lucky to get to the first of those innings reward bonuses, much less more of them.

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  14. There is no reason whatsoever to think about trading a starting pitcher. with the messed up schedule caused by the lockout, there is going to be some injuries to pitching staffs during spring training and the team that has 6-7 starters on their staff is going to be in good shape for May and June.

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  15. It now takes a week for the owners, commissioner, or player’s association to read the other sides proposal. (Must be slow readers). So now it seems inevitable that ST is delayed. I long for the days of Ike and JFK. When a labor impasse happened, they called the two sides to the White House and told them to stay in the room until they worked it out. (That was what was reported at the time)

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