When we look back at 2019, Alex Bregman was among baseball’s best players. He was playing on a star level to the point he was the runner-up for the American League MVP, won by Mike Trout. However, that status has changed due to underperformance and injuries, something he would love to change entering 2022, which is a must for the Astros.
Between 2020 and 2021, Bregman swatted 18 home runs along with 29 doubles across 133 games and 580 plate appearances. Although he maintained his excellent plate discipline and low strikeout numbers, he posted an unimpressive .261/.353/.431 slash line. The good thing is he struck out only 79 times.
But in order to win, the Astros need Bregman to be at his best, especially considering they haven’t re-signed Carlos Correa. Fortunately, there’s more hope than negativity right now. Bregman is healthy, fully rested, and is only 27 years old. But what needs to happen to believe Bregs can be the old Bregs?
First, he needs to stop hitting so many grounders. His ground ball rate went from 31.7% in 2019 to 33.6% in 2020 to 41.5% in 2021, which might be a reason for his .286 BABIP. At the same time, his launch angle in 2021 was a career-low of 15.8 degrees. These two factors seem to be the cause for his power decline, but this should be fixable.
The most important thing for the Astros’ third baseman is that he hasn’t changed dramatically. He keeps his regular levels of average exit velocity, his ability to recognize pitches is still intact, and his contact stayed at elite levels throughout 2021 (87.7%).
Second, Bregman could be a bit more aggressive. I know some of the reasons for his success in his career have been to take long at-bats, to have the ability to choose the pitch he wants, and get walks. That’s fine. But pay attention to what I’m gonna say in the following paragraph…
This year, Bregman saw an increment in his first pitch swinging percentage from 13.7% to 25.3%. That’s certainly a lot. And guess what? He nailed it. Bregs was a .450/.463/.800 hitter in at-bats that ended with the first pitch, an environment in which he compiled 18 hits across 40 trips to the plate with five doubles, three home runs, and 15 RBI’s.
The Astros should be optimistic about Bregman and what could be his 2022 season. If he manages to stay off the injured list, Alex is talented enough to become a force in the lineup once again.