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The Starting Nine’s Picks for Astros MVP and Most Pleasant Surprise at the Quarter Mark (see poll)

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A lot of valuable players, a lot of pleasant surprises as the Astros once again seem to be running away with the division flag

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it’s not exactly a starting nine, but at least we got an infield. So we asked our team of esteemed experts, Who is the MVP at the quarter mark? And who is the most pleasant surprise? Here is what they had to say.

mhatter106 (written 5/10/19):

The team MVP for me is Springer, easily. George has been killing it all season. He is the league leader in home runs, and top 5 in wRC+, SLG, OPS and RBI. To lead this team in RBI from the leadoff position when all of your team’s superstars bat after you? That is an accomplishment, and he is the spark that sets the tone for the rest of the MVP candidates who follow him in the order. Lost among Altuve’s 2017 MVP, Bregman’s breakout 2018 and Correa’s generational talents is the fact that George himself was a leading MVP candidate heading into the 2017 All Star Break. He looks to be that way again.

The most pleasant surprise for me has been Robinson Chirinos. I was not expecting much offensively from the catcher position this year. Chirinos’ hits in clutch moments, with an .894 OPS, 15 RBI’s and 4 home runs has been unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome. A lot of it does seem to be luck, (he ranks in the bottom 5% of the league in xBA, xSLG, and Exit Velocity, and sports the third highest differential between wOBA and xWOBA), but in a game where success and failure can be a matter of inches, I am never going to turn down luck.

bilbos (5/10/19)

My team MVP is Uncle Mike, Mr. Smooth, the quiet and unassuming Michael Brantley. It is true that Springer leads Brantley in home runs and RBI, (although nine homers and 28 RBI are nothing to sneeze at) but they are nearly identical in wOBA and wRC+ (169 to 168 wRC+) and its pretty hard to get RBI when there are 32 home runs at the quarter mark hitting right in front of you. But why are Springer and Bregman having the best starts in their careers? Maybe a small part is that left handed bat behind them “who never strikes out” that pitchers have to think about. Yes, the sixth best wRC+ in the AL, equal to Mike Trout, who has the league’s third best BA. Besides his own great but quiet contributions, Michael Brantley is making everyone else in the batting order just a little bit better.

Most surprising player is Josh Reddick. They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but Josh has rebounded from one of his worst seasons ever. This is what Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs predicted of Reddick in 2019: “his profile is not going to change...he’s boring and predictable.” Maybe by year end that will prove true, but for now Josh Reddick is pulling the ball 22% less, forcing the opposition to abandon the shifts. His BA is up almost .100 points, his OBP up almost .070, and even though he is behind last year’s pace in home runs, his SLG is up almost .50. He is fourth in the league in BA and his wRC+ of 130 is 31 points higher than his finish last year. So far, that is better than even his career year of 2017 when he was 29. He has 0.6 fWAR, more than half the total he had the entire year in 2018. In other words, he is on pace to more than double his 2018 WAR.

Brian Cohn (HH)

Man team MVP is going to be tough. Verlander is being Verlander, and Cole has actually been better than last year, and Osuna has been dominant, and Pressly’s 36 IP without giving up a run? Absurd! But Pitchers basically never win.

I’m going to go with Alex Bregman. I’ll admit I was unsure of how he was going to do going into the year as some of 2017 stats were luck driven. This year, his defense is matching the eye test, something you couldn’t say last year in his 7.8 WAR season. He’s racked up 1.8 WAR so far, and he’s on pace to basically replicate that WAR again. And I understand the argument that he’s very slightly trailing Springer in WAR (1.9) and both Springer and Brantley in wRC+, but he’s doing this with a .247 BABIP!!!

For most surprising, I am going to go with Gerrit Cole. This probably seems like an odd pick. Last year, Cole had a breakout season. Strom worked his magic once again and finally took a pitcher oozing with potential and made him into the Ace everyone believed he could be. Best K/Rate in his career? Check. Best xFIP in his career? Check. Best SIERA in his Career? Check. His K% 10.2% higher than ever before. His xwOBA? His best ever. Over the previous 5 years, he had averaged 3.04 WAR per season - his 2018? 6.0

Yea, so those are all last years stats, why do I care? Well because batters didn’t adjust, and while he’s had some fluky bad luck so far, he’s better in nearly every element. That massive K rate? Jumped another point from 12.41 to 13.41. His BB/9 is down 2.88->2.72. His xFIP? down from 3.14 -> 2.54. His SIERA? Improved as well 2.91 -> 2.76. His K% improved again 34.5 -> 37.2%. His xwOBA improved even further .272 -> .268

But wait, there’s more. His fastball? Now the fastest of his career averaging 96.7. Oh and the spin rate increased from 2,379. His Slider? Also increased the spin rate to the highest of his career. His Curve? Oh yep, same thing, best spin rate of his career. Change-up? Yep that spin rate improved as well.

Tyler Bauer’s head is going to explode.

Exile in Saint Louis

MVP is Springer. I just love him. He gets lost in the Core 4 arguments, but he’s so vital to the team. And so talented and good. But some guys are having great seasons right behind him. JV’s year has been quietly great, going deep in the games, and having 7 of 9 really good starts.

Most pleasant surprise for me is Reddick. We all know that he had it in him, but there was reason to question whether he was already in decline. The baserunning and defensive stats look off, but regardless of those numbers, he’s on a pace closer to his 3 WAR season of 2017 than his 1 WAR season of 2018.

CKuno

Like several others here I’m also going to have to go with Springer for MVP. Not only is he leading the team in a big chunk of offensive categories, he’s doing it from the lead off spot and setting the tone for each game. Springer has also done an excellent job driving in the runners who get on base in front of him, seeming to have really reached another step in his approach at the plate this season.

As for pleasant surprise of the season, for me that has to be Wade Miley. I know what he did last year in a prorated season, but the game is littered with the contracts of players who had hot half-seasons only to fade during the next. While I didn’t think he would be a complete disaster, I was wary of how he would pitch when he wasn’t playing with house money like the Brewers have been the past few years. Instead he’s been quietly reliable when he takes his turn and has kept the Astros competitive in each of his starts.

Poll

Who is Astros MVP at the quarter mark?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Jose Altuve
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Alex Bregman
    (21 votes)
  • 12%
    Michael Brantley
    (77 votes)
  • 0%
    Gerrit Cole
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Carlos Correa
    (10 votes)
  • 78%
    George Springer
    (466 votes)
  • 2%
    Justin Verlander
    (17 votes)
595 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who is the Astros most pleasant surprise for 2019

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Carlos Correa
    (36 votes)
  • 44%
    Robinson Chirinos
    (238 votes)
  • 18%
    Wade Miley
    (97 votes)
  • 30%
    Josh Reddick
    (159 votes)
530 votes total Vote Now