Myles Straw is surging offensively. Following a disastrous April that saw the Astros’ center fielder hit .212/.289/.259, he’s raised his average to .270 for the season and is sporting a quality .343 OBP. The 26-year-old is on pace to be a solid three-win player in terms of fWAR and has seemingly righted the ship in a big way. Such a significant turnaround is largely due to a miraculous slash line of .342/.413/.456 in June.
While no one expects Straw to maintain a .400 OBP, there are valid questions as to how substantial his regression will be.
It’s a concern that could’ve been quelled by legitimate progression, which would help validate Dusty Baker’s confidence in Straw as upstart rookie outfielder Chas McCormick and his superior 110 wRC+ pushes the Astros’ skipper for more playing time.
One stat that looks particularly anomalous amid Straw’s torrid stretch is a .390 BABIP, well above the speedster’s career mark of .322 in just over 500 plate appearances. Discovering anomalies isn’t uncommon when assessing a meager sample size of 92 plate appearances, but therein lies the problem with Straw’s recent output, as it’s boosted by metrics with implausible data, such as a near-.400 BABIP.
Making contact has been a strength of the former 12th-round pick, as evidenced by his 97th percentile whiff rate, though it’s not resulted in a similarly elite strikeout rate. Putting the ball in play a lot is paramount for a hitter like Straw who is 2nd percentile in Hard-hit rate.
In April and May, his K rate was 19.5 percent. In June, it’s remained roughly the same at 17.4 percent. Concurrently, there’s been only a mild increase in his average exit velocity. Lastly, for good measure, Straw’s Sweet Spot percentage (SwSp%) has dipped the last four weeks, going from nearly 45 percent the first two months to below 40 percent in June. Batted balls that are designated in the “sweet spot” — between 8 and 32 degrees — typically yield premium results, and Straw is no exception (.439 batting average).
In short, slight refinements have been made and a suboptimal change in launch angle has occurred. Here’s the bottom line: There is no clear, marked improvement to legitimize Straw’s outburst with the stick this month, meaning it’s more than likely based on excessive batted ball luck.
As doom and gloom as this all may seem, the key point here is context. Straw isn’t likely to stay on the track he’s currently on, but nor is he likely to revert back to his dreadful early-season form either.
What could help the Astros’ light-hitting center fielder is Major League Baseball’s controversial mid-season crackdown on sticky stuff, which has led to notably worse pitching. The decrease in quality on the mound could ultimately be drastic.
Straw has been on either side of the production spectrum in two of the season’s first three months, and though the middle ground appears to be fairly vast, perhaps recent developments and results — however unconvincing — warrant as much optimism as there arguably is pessimism.
The data in this article was compiled via Baseball Savant