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These Astros Can Hit Without Trash Cans

Guessing is harder than knowing, right?

MLB: Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros are now 65 games into their 2021 season and the results have generally been positive. On the pitching side of things, the rotation is currently viewed as a strength while the bullpen remains a work in progress. Such is life in Major League Baseball for plenty of clubs, at least for contenders. The staff’s overall 4.5 fWAR figure (19th in baseball) figures to improve as key pitchers continue to round into form. Or, you know, James Click trades for some relief help.

But pitching isn’t the point of my post today. No, it is rather to provide some information about the primary drive behind Houston’s .569 winning percentage thus far. Yes, the offense, which is currently one of the top, if not the best, in baseball. Here are some fun stats for you today to digest, excluding pitchers for all 30 clubs.

  • 1st in wRC+ (122)
  • 1st in fWAR (15.0)
  • 2nd in OBP (.344)
  • 2nd in BABIP (.310)
  • 1st in runs scored (358)
  • 1st in contact rate (81.5 percent)
  • Lowest swinging strike rate (8.4 percent)
  • 2nd lowest CSW% (26.0 percent)
  • Lowest strikeout rate (18.3 percent)

With multiple qualified regulars with a wRC+ higher than 125 — seven in total — the Astros have a lineup with barely a weakness, when healthy. The only positions in the lineup to feature a below average hitter on the season is in center field and catcher. That said, Myles Straw, who has started to turn it around following an abysmal April. Plus, Jason Castro can provide — when he is actually used — a nice change of pace as a hitter compared to Martin Maldonado’s numbers, but this roster isn’t built to rely on the catcher’s offensive production. It also helps when Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel hit as they’ve shown historically along with a healthy Yordan Alvarez. Combine those factors with the ever-consistent Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman, it is no wonder why this group is producing at this level. Lastly, aren’t we glad that Kyle Tucker was never traded?

The interesting aspect about this offensive production is that it isn’t driven by plenty of moonshots or an eye-popping amount of walks. In fact, they’ll work pitchers early and often with tremendous plate discipline. Or, in other words, opposing pitchers have probably found that it is extremely difficult to fool this lineup on a consistent basis. They don’t chase often, but when they do it usually ends with contact.

The question is whether this lineup can continue at this torrid pace for another 97 games. Considering how quick I am to throw out the numbers from 2020, which was only 60 games, I also need to apply that logic to these numbers thus far. But what probably makes it more sustainable for these Astros — outside of health — is their best asset, which is plate discipline. If they can continue to practice what brought them to this point, there are surely to be more peaks in valleys for the remainder of the season.

Guessing is harder than knowing, right?