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The Bats Have Caught Fire In May

April showers apparently lead to May offensive outbursts instead of flowers.

MLB: Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that the Astros were off to a slow start offensively this season, with a 94 wRC+ as a lineup through the season’s first two weeks. An offense that was six percent below average. Slow starts from multiple regulars were the key culprits behind this sluggish performance.

  • Kyle Tucker (70 wRC+)
  • Yuli Gurriel (69 wRC+)
  • Jose Altuve (64 wRC+)
  • Aledmys Díaz (62 wRC+)
  • Martín Maldonado (41 wRC+)

Even with the departure of Carlos Correa accounted for, it was unlikely that Houston’s bats would remain cold for too much longer. After all, this was mostly the same lineup that posted a league-high 117 wRC+, and Correa’s replacement, Jeremy Peña, has had an impressive start to his rookie campaign. Even if Peña’s bat averaged out to league average for the remainder of the season, his performance was a boon to the Astros.

Sooner or later, though, the rest of the regulars had to bounce back. And, sure enough, they did. Well, primarily if you exclude Maldonado’s 29 wRC+ since April 28.

  • Kyle Tucker (220 wRC+)
  • Yuli Gurriel (149 wRC+)
  • Jose Altuve (244 wRC+)
  • Aledmys Díaz (104 wRC+)

Thanks to some regulars heating up, and hitters already with a strong start, the Astros have caught fire at the plate in May. The lineup has a league-leading 141 wRC+ for the month entering Monday’s action, with only Maldonado and Chas McCormick posting a below-average wRC+ (less than 100) among Houston hitters with at least 30 plate appearances. The most significant contributors to this May surge have been the trio of Altuve, Peña, and Tucker, who have hit a combined .342/.441/.633 with nine home runs and 24 runs scored. All three have posted a wRC+ between 201 to 244 in the last two weeks.

While the pitching staff has been the headliner lately with their incredible stretch of positive results, the Astros’ lineup as a unit hasn’t been slouching in recent weeks following their cold start. Here is where the bats have been ranked among their peers for the past two weeks across various categories.

  • 2nd in home runs (23)
  • 5th in runs scored (71)
  • 3rd in walk rate (11.2 percent)
  • 21st in strikeout rate (21.2 percent)
  • 2nd in isolated power (.213)
  • 4th in on-base percentage (.338)

Will this type of offensive outburst continue? Most probably not, as regression will come to some degree. I’d doubt we will see three Astros maintain a wRC+ higher than 200 for the rest of the month as baseball doesn’t work like that, especially in today’s environment with the deadened ball. It is an encouragement to see the lineup operate at the level that we’ve become accustomed to. With a strong pitching staff in place, this type of offensive outburst bodes well for the remainder of the season.