By isolated power (ISO), only four teams have posted a lower rate than the Astros at .133.
- Reds: .131
- Tigers: .121
- Guardians: .113
- Nationals: .110
For a defending World Series champion, that list isn’t exactly where you’d like to be more than one month into the season. The power that served Houston well last season (.176 ISO, .424 SLG) has noticeably evaporated (.133 ISO, .377 SLG), even with Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker doing a lot of the heavy lifting offensively. Remove one of those hitters for a prolonged stretch, and this lineup would look increasingly desperate.
There are a couple of reasons why the Astros are struggling to generate power this season. One is due to some regression across the board, with Alvarez, Tucker, Jeremy Peña, Alex Bregman, and company all seeing a power decline by ISO compared to last season at roughly the same time. The overall numbers will struggle when multiple hitters are experiencing a power decline, especially for the individuals scuffling at the plate. Injuries have also hampered the power output, mainly with Jose Altuve being out with a fractured right thumb. Until this weekend, that is.
Will Altuve solve all of the Astros' offensive issues overnight? Honestly, I don’t think so. There is the matter of José Abreu looms large as his struggles are approaching a point where something will break, one way or another. Bregman has appeared to turn the corner again in recent games, but I will wait longer this time before declaring he is out of his slump. However, Altuve will at least help alleviate some of the power issues at play. Namely, the lineup has sorely lacked the thump needed to make opposing pitchers pay, especially in the instances when Alvarez’s and Tucker’s offensive contributions are minimized. Excluding the 2020 season for obvious reasons, Altuve has maintained an ISO of at least .211 since 2019, finishing last season at .233. Only Alvarez had a higher rate in the lineup last season. Altuve’s replacement at second base, Mauricio Dubón, has filled in admirably, but his lack of power limits his offensive ceiling, even when hitting above league-average in other regards. On a side note, who do you think will hit his first home run in 2023: Abreu or Dubón?
Ultimately, Altuve’s return against the A’s this weekend provides a boost to the lineup in more ways than one. His return will strengthen the lineup and provide a bit more pop atop the order in front of Bregman, Alvarez, and Tucker. For a club that has lacked power to start the season, his earlier-than-anticipated return couldn’t have come at a better time.