Is the Astros offense really in a slump? If so, how much of one?

McTaggart and others have pointed to a lack of offense in recent games.

">August 7, 2021

While it's somewhat conjectural to pinpoint where the bats allegedly went cold, some might point to the Yankees series at Minute Maid Park when the Astros were shut out in consecutive games July 9-10.

In the 22 games from July 9th, the Astros have scored 103 runs for 4.7 RS/G, which is below their season mark of 5.4 RS/G. Still, that's been good for a team wRC+ of 105 (12th in MLB). To reach that level of production, Houston hitters have had to endure the headwind of a .269 BABIP, well below the MLB BABIP of .290 over the same period. In fact, only four teams had worse batted ball luck than the Astros: the Rangers, White Sox, Royals, and Orioles.

Starting with that first shutout loss against NY on July 9th, here's how the Astros have hit individually:

Tucker 191 wRC+ .304 BABIP

Diaz 165 .286

Gurriel 159 .412

Brantley 151 .339

Maldonado 126 .267

Altuve 113 .229

Toro 98 .125 (now a Mariner)

Alvarez 83 .200

Correa 69 .262

McCormick 57 .333

Straw 29 .258 (now a... Guardian)

Castro 3 .111

Robel Garcia -1 .167 (now a Skeeter)

All of which suggests at first glance --

  • Tucker, Diaz, Brantley, and Maldonado (!) are all hitting well even during this supposed 'rough patch' with fairly sustainable batted ball luck.
  • Losing Gurriel to injury has meant losing a key offensive piece, but one which was due for a bit of negative regression anyway
  • Toro was already primed for a breakout before he was traded to Seattle and now he's, well, breaking out.
  • Straw and Robel were dragging the offense down and their departure will probably help boost run production once/if clubhouse chemistry finds a new equilibrium.
  • Alvarez was getting BABIP'd something horrible over the supposed rough stretch and we can expect him to get back to at least 120 wRC+ over the next few weeks. Likewise, Altuve is due for positive regression but as some have noted, he may be sacrificing too much OBP in a quest to hit HR's.
  • Correa is probably the biggest player of concern as he's been striking out almost 50% more than normal and making some uncharacteristic defensive errors.
  • McCormick will probably produce better now that he's starting every day.

Overall I have to be optimistic about the Astros offense. With 3 hitters (Alvarez, Altuve, McCormick) due for better numbers and Gurriel's injury seemingly only a minor one, the RS/G should rise a few ticks as August wears on.

If Correa's struggles are due to injury, it would be best to rest him now and get him ready for the final pennant campaign against Oakland. If he's a healthy player enduring a flukey slump, he ought to rebound shortly. Moving him as low as seventh in the batting order might be a good idea until he can get his K% under control. If Correa does need an IL stint, Aledmys Diaz could conceivably hold down the shortstop position upon Alex Bregman's return.

Conclusion: If 105 wRC+ is how a team hits during a "slump", that is a very good team. As the Astros escape the jaws of the BABIP dragon and get used to a new outfield contingent that lacks old friend Myles Straw, we should see offensive production from here on out exceed 110 wRC+, which likely makes the Astros a Top 5 Offense over the remainder of the season.

Prediction: Astros finish August with a record of 15-12, scoring 137 runs