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Give Chas McCormick Some Credit

Chas McCormick’s playing time has grown this year—and he has responded with a career year

MLB: Houston Astros at Miami Marlins
Chas McCormick slides into home plate in Wednesday’s game in Miami.
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros’ offense was hurt earlier this season by injuries to key players. That makes Chas McCormick's offensive breakout even more important. At a time when the Astros were trying to stay afloat without Yordan Alvarez in the lineup, Chas McCormick was scorching hot in June and July.

Before the season started, I wrote that Chas McCormick is underrated by baseball writers. His performance this season has been even better than my pre-season article predicted. And, given his lofty offensive performance—5th best wRC+ among outfielders (>100 PA)—I think he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

There still are some doubters who think he is over-performing, but I will mention those skeptical views later in this article. I will start off with some statistical descriptions of how Chas has performed.

Among MLB outfielders (>100 PA), McCormick ranks: Sixth in wOBA (.392); Seventh in SLG% (.539); 13th in Isolated Power (.253); and 12th in WAR (3.6), despite playing about 30% fewer games than the players ranked higher. The outfielders ranked higher in wOBA have well-known names— Judge, Acuna, Betts, Alvarez, and Bellinger.

McCormick’s seasonal OPS slash line is very good, but it is terrific over the last month.


2023 Season .288, .278, .539, .917, OPS+149

Last 28 Days .295, .398, .551, .949, OPS+ 155

McCormick’s offense has been accompanied by generally good defense. Baseball Savant ranks him in the Top 13% for Outs Above Average. The DRS system attributes +3 defensive runs saved to McCormick. DRS seems to indicate that McCormick’s defense is better in CF than LF. It’s possible that his DRS ranking would be higher if he played more CF.

After last season, the knock on McCormick's hitting was that RHPs could get him out with fastballs inside. He was better at hitting balls with authority to the off-field rather than pulling. But he has worked on addressing that deficiency. Baseball Savant shows the spray chart of McCormick’s hits this year.

Baseball Savant

McCormick still hits with strong power to the off-field, but now occasionally hits HRs to LF. He more frequently hits singles and doubles when he pulls the ball, which is a risk RHPs face when they execute their game plan against him. Last year, McCormick was very good against LHPs but hit poorly against RHPs. This year, McCormick continues to hit well against LHPs but significantly improved his OPS against RHPs.

OPS Splits 2023

Vs. RHP .850 OPS+ 135

vs. LHP 1.068 OPS+ 187

In an interview on MLB Network, McCormick said that he cannot cover the whole plate, and focuses on the middle of the plate. According to Baseball Savant, McCormick creates the 12th-best (among all players) run value on pitches over the heart of the plate. He is the 15th best for all sectors.

McCormick has also been very good in clutch situations, with an OPS+ of 194 with runners on base. His OPS+ in high-leverage situations is 175.

McCormick’s average exit velocity and hard-hit percent are not particularly high (less than 40% percentile). However, he is good at barreling up the ball. His barrel percent, which reflects balls hit with optimal exit velocity and launch angle, is in the top 21% of hitters. I’m not sure I can reconcile the lower exit velocity and higher barrel rate. But barrel rate has the strongest predictive power for future home runs. Barrels can be expected to produce an average SLG% in the range of 2.59.

Regardless of one’s views about how sustainable this performance is, it’s undeniable that Chas McCormick made a critical contribution to the Astros’ offense this season.

As I noted earlier, there are some doubters. For instance, Baseball Prospectus indicates that McCormick’s “deserved runs above average” is negative. In a recent Fangraphs chat, Ben Clemens questioned whether McCormick’s “wild” HR/Fly ball rate could be sustained without more raw power. He said that BABIP and ISO regression are baked in. (Chat at 2:28 - 2:29)

I’m not sure if McCormick’s reliance on off-field power affects the view that his power is not sustainable. But the off-field power appears to be a natural part of his swing, which he exhibited in previous seasons. Hopefully, this will support continued ISO strength. Most likely McCormick’s BABIP is elevated at .363 and could be subject to some regression in the future. However, regression in BABIP does not necessarily cause a 1:1 regression in wOBA. While McCormick’s xwOBA of .345 is less than the actual wOBA of .392, the statcast “expected” version still represents fine, above-average offensive output.

And Now...A Few Words About the Playoff Race

Each week I continue to update you on the Astros’ playoff and division odds. As the Astros and Rangers continue to jockey for position in the AL West race, the Fangraphs division odds show erratic up-and-down movement based on the outcomes of games each day. Currently, the division odds are as close as possible. The Astros and Rangers have identical 47.9% odds of winning the division. Including the wild card, the Astros and Rangers both have odds higher than 90% of making the playoffs. The projected season-ending W-L record shows the Astros three-tenths of a win behind the Rangers.