I was thinking of writing a story on Chris Johnson's resurgence, but that got me thinking about the offense as a whole. There's some good stuff to mine from in there, so I thought I'd put together a post with some short thoughts on where we're at with the Houston hitters.
- The aforementioned Johnson is now projected by ZiPS to hit 17 home runs with 54 runs scored, 74 RBIs with a .250/.288/.414 line for the season. That's pretty remarkable in a way, as it'd mean Johnson would set a personal best for home runs in a season. How many players hit more home runs in the majors than they ever did in the minors?
- Johnson still has a problem with his rate stats. He's striking out almost a quarter of the time he's at the plate, meaning he's on pace for 128 strikeouts this season. And, he's only walking four percent of the time, which means he'll walk just 21 times by the end of the year. Still, Johnson is in the lineup for his power, not his on-base skills. He's second on the team in isolated power average, behind only Hunter Pence.
- In May, though, Johnson's batting has skyrocketed. He's hitting .296/.332/.537 this month with a .241 ISO and a batting average on balls in play of .342. His line drive rate has spiked from 17 percent in April to 29 percent in May so far, which most likely accounts for the rise in his BABiP. The biggest difference so far in his pitch types seen have been in the changeups and the cutters. His four-seam percentage has risen since April and is up to 44 percent now. Johnson is a good fastball hitter and it appears he's adjusted enough on the breaking stuff to see a few more.
- Speaking of Pence, while he's fallen off the pace to get to 25 home runs, he's still on track to set career highs in both RBIs and batting average. His .295/.341/.466 is fueled some by his .357 BABiP, so some regression is likely. The amazing thing about Pence is that his rate stats on batted ball types are incredibly consistent. For his entire time in the majors, his line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates have been within a couple points each and every season.
- I know I said Johnson was second to Pence in ISO, but that was out of regular players. Do you know who leads the team in ISO? Would you have guessed Matt Downs? The utility infielder has a .269 ISO in 27 games over 59 plate appearances. He also walks more than Johnson and his slash line of .269/.339/.538 has been suppressed a little by an unlucky BABiP. If Johnson does get hurt, expect Matt Downs to play and play well at third base for Houston.
- The biggest problem with Brett Wallace this month? Ground balls. His line drive rate has stayed fairly solid, but he had an inordinate number of fly balls in that first month, fueling his high batting average and that number has plummeted as his ground ball rate has spiked to over 60 percent. His ground ball/fly ball ratio is over four for the month. On the plus side, when he does hit a fly ball, it's much more likely to be a home run...
- Clint Barmes looks good right now. No, not via his batting average, which is still low. But, his OBP is solid and his walk rate is up to 13 percent. I would be more excited if there was any chance he'd sustain that rate all season. Considering he's walked 5.2 percent of the time in his career and his highest previous rate was 8 percent, expect a decline there.
- Only five players have higher speed scores than Michael Bourn's 8.0, according to Fan Graphs. And that's in the entire major leagues. If we look just at the National League, that number drops to four. If Jason Bourgeois was eligible, he'd rank higher and would only have Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez and Washington's Ian Desmond ahead of him.
- Looking ahead to the All-Star Game, Hunter Pence has the 24th-highest WAR right now in the National League at 1.3. Michael Bourn is right behind at 1.2 and both have gaudy, league-leading numbers (Bourn with steals, Pences with RBIs). The problem is, of those 24 or 25 guys, 11 of them are outfielders, so it's going to be very hard for either of these two to make the game ahead of Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp or Drew Stubbs. Which means we're looking at Wandy, Bud or another pitcher in the game and a fifth different Astros All-Star in as many years. The Astros haven't had multiple All-Stars since 2007 when Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt both made the game.