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The Forgotten Astro, Still Elite: Alex Bregman

Even in a down year he’s still one of the best

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros are having an off year. Only 1.5 games in front of the AL West pack. On track to win only something like 90-95 games.

Damn.

Astros fans expect the Astros to win 100 games every season and to run away with the AL West flag. Woe is we that out team has to struggle to win its sixth straight division title (in a real season.)

And while wallowing in disappointment in a season that has produced less than expected results, Astros fans seem to have overlooked how good their third baseman is. Just as we as fans have taken team excellence for granted, we seem to have taken the excellence of Alex Bregman for granted as well.

Alex Bregman is quietly having arguably the best season of any American League third baseman. At least, he’s right up there with the elite.

Using fWAR as a our only, albeit flawed, metric for overall performance evaluation, Bregman ranks fourth in MLB among third basemen, and third in the AL, at 4.3. That’s just a razor’s edge below No. 1, Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez at 4.7, and Baltimore’s Gunnar Hendrickson at 4.4. Close behind Bregman is Tampa Bay’s Isaac Paredes at 4.2.

If you subtract baserunning from the WAR algorithm, Bregman may have the edge. Bregman and Henderson are tied in wRC+ at 127 (27% better than the league-average hitter) and Ramirez is below the leaders at 123. Paredes, who has only played in 130 games, is ahead in this statistic at 137.

wRC+ is a statistic based on WOBA. (Weighted On Base Average) with adjustments for the fields these players perform on. xWOBA (expected WOBA) adjusts WOBA based on batted ball characteristics to determine what WOBA should be based on the quality of contact and at bats. In terms of xWOBA not much differentiates Ramirez, .357, Henderson, .347, or Bregman, at .345. Paredes, who leads in WOBA and wRC+, is last in xWOBA among these four at .311.

Of course, wRC+, WOBA and xWOBA don’t win games, runs do. And when it comes to scoring runs, Bregman is king.

Bregman............RBI: 95...............Runs: 96.............HR: 23

Ramirez.............RBI: 76................Runs: 82.............HR: 23

Henderson........RBI: 79................Runs: 91..............HR: 27

Paredes.............RBI: 89................Runs: 65.............HR: 29

And one reason for this advantage is Bregman is clutch. Yes, officially so according to Fangraph’s Clutch rating. Bregman is second in MLB for third basemen at 0.90, just ahead of Ramirez, 3rd at 0.65, both way ahead of Henderson and Paredes who are -0.15 and -1.28 respectively.

Ramirez does edge out Bregman in WPA (Wins Probability Added), 3.08 to 2.28. And Henderson is right there in this stat at 2.04. Paredes comes in at 1.34.

Defensively, Bregman is also tied with Henderson among these four with a Fangraphs overall DEF rating of 3.1. Ramirez and Paredes lag slightly at 1.8 and 1.3 respectively.

Let’s compare the AL Big Four, 2023, in terms of advanced defensive stats.

Bregman.............DRS; 6..................UZR/150; 4.0.................OAA; 3

Ramirez..............DRS; 2...................UZR/150; 1.6..................OAA; 5

Henderson.........DRS; 10..................UZR/150; 13.3................OAA; 1

Paredes..............DRS; 8...................UZR/150; -2.7..................OAA; 1

These stats give widely divergent results, and I’m of the school that advanced defensive statistics still can’t be fully trusted. When it comes to the eye test, maybe I haven’t seen these other third basemen much this year, but I have seen Bregs, and he looks Gold Glove to me.

One more consideration. Alex Bregman is a second half player. He has been every season of his career. Since this year’s All Star break, Bregman leads all third basemen with 2.8 fWAR and a 163 wRC+. He’s slashing .316/.408/.539. At this rate, with twelve more games remaining, his fast finish could be enough to set Bregman apart among the American League third base elite.

Yes, Bregman’s totals and averages this year are a little below his career averages, and no where near his career year of 2019. But keep in mind, no third baseman has a higher average wRC+ since 2017 (139) than Alex Bregman. Yet, even in a slightly down year, Alex Bregman is still among the best third basemen in baseball. Indeed, his 127 wRC+ ranks 21st among all qualified major-leaguers.

It feels to me like Alex Bregman is the forgotten Astro. Newer Astros like Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker with gaudier power numbers get more adulation. But Bregman’s also forgotten because he is so consistently good, year after year, that we just take his excellence for granted. Kind of like we do the Astros.

So here’s to Alex Bregman. Still elite, since 2017.