It’s official. The once mighty Astros lineup is below average. According to Fangraphs on this Sunday evening, the team wRC+ is 98, league average being 100. That’s good for 18th in MLB. With almost the same cast of characters, the Astros were first last year, with a 125 rating. From 25% better than average, the Astros have gone to 2% worse in one year.
Let’s look at some of the superstars’ last year’s wRC+ versus this year.
Jose Altuve 2019: 138. 2020: 71
Alex Bregman 2019: 168. 2020: 116
Yuli Gurriel 2019: 132. 2020: 95
Carlos Correa 2019: 143, 2020: 99
George Springer 2019: 156, 2020: 126
Of course “professional hitter” Michael Brantley is on the same track as last year, And Kyle Tucker has been a welcome new contributor in the absence of Yordan Alvarez. But overall, after 53 games the Astros bats are snow cold at the same time almost all of last year’s pitching staff has either left or is injured.
And it’s getting worse.
In the last seven games the wRC+ is 49, 28th in the MLB, just as the Astros are trying to wrap up a playoff berth and presumably compete in them. That’s with Springer on a tear. The offensive WAR is -0.8. That means that replacement players would produce more offense than the current cast of All Stars. Maybe Toro, Straw and Mayfield should be starting in place of Bregman, Correa and Gurriel.
But wait. It gets worse still.
This hitting drought is against some of the worst pitchers in the league. In the last five games the Astros have faced only one starting pitcher with an ERA less than 6.00. The average ERA of the last five starters the Astros have faced is 6.10 for the year at the time they faced the Stros. In 32.1 innings against the Astros these pitchers allowed 8 runs, a 2.23 ERA.
The Astros have turned a group of starters who shouldn’t be in a big league rotation into Cy Young winners. They were no better against the mediocre bullpens, as well. The Astros have scored 11 runs in these last five games with 26 hits, about five per game. What happens when they have to face a playoff quality staff?
And yet, somehow in the recent home stand the Astros were 4-2, thanks to exceptional pitching. Except that the two teams they faced in that time are rated 27th and 30th in the league in batting wRC+. Against two of the worst teams in baseball mostly using their worst pitchers the Astros actually had a negative run differential in their last five games.
The Astros are better than this. But they only have seven more games to find their mojo. Otherwise, expect a quick exit from the playoffs. And they’d better show up in Seattle.