The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
What's up with the Astros?

What’s up with the Astros’ offense? Perhaps it’s more relevant to ask, “What’s down with the Astros?” The answer’s pretty clear—their offense this year has been struggling.

If it weren’t for the Houston Astros’ pitching, the team might well be “singing the blues” this year, after winning the World Series last season.

For the first time in a long time, the Astros are below average offensively, as measured by OPS+. In 58 games played through Saturday, they were tied for eighth in the AL in runs scored (266), nearly 100 runs behind division rival Texas Rangers. That’s over 1 ½ runs scored per game less than the Rangers.

As a team, their slash line is .248/.319/.398, certainly not in keeping with a world championship team.

For a team that usually is at the top of the league in home runs, the team has hit 62 home runs this season, seventh from the bottom of the league. The Tampa Bay Rays lead the league with 103 (which is actually unusual for them).

With roughly one-third of the season completed, the Astros project to hit 173 for the season if they maintain their current pace. That’s 41 fewer home runs than in 2022.

Designated hitter Yordan Alvarez is carrying the team offensively at the moment, as he is the only Astros player with double-digit home runs (15) so far. He also leads the team with 51 RBIs.

So, where are the Astros underperforming?

To begin with, the Astros’ big acquisition over the winter, Jose Abreu, looks like he’s turning out to be a bust. While he averaged 27 home runs per season with the White Sox over nine seasons, he hit his first homer of the season last week. His slugging percentage is a pathetic .264.

The Astros’ four outfielders have only 21 home runs between them. Kyle Tucker is usually more productive; but he has only seven so far, when he’s averaged 30 during his first two full seasons. But then the others--Corey Julks, Jake Myers, and Chas McCormick--have never known for their slugging.

Jose Altuve didn’t begin his season until May 19, because he broke a finger during the World Baseball Classic games in March. His replacement, Mauricio Dubon, has performed admirably as his backfill at second base, leading the team in batting average (.295). But Dubon has provided virtually no help in the slugging category. He has only one homer. Based on past history, Altuve would have hit 9 or 10 homers by now had he been playing full-time since the start of the season. It’s no coincidence that the Astros are 9-2 with Altuve in the lineup.

The players from the Astros bench haven’t been much help. They are no strangers to the “Mendoza Line.” There are no Bronx Bomber-types in that group.

Besides Alvarez, only Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena are on pace with last year from a slugging standpoint.

With an offense that has been anemic, how can the Astros still have the fourth-best record in the American League and trail the Texas Rangers by only 2 ½ games in the AL West? Aside from Alvarez, it’s been all about their pitching.

While losing two of their starters in the rotation (Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia), Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier have been phenomenal. Newcomers in the rotation, Hunter Brown, Brandon Bielak, and J.P. France, have picked up the slack. The bullpen has been productive, behind Ryan Pressly, Phil Maton, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek. The relief staff is fourth in the league in Wins Above Average.

Overall, the Astros lead the American League in ERA (3.24), Runs Allowed per Game (3.57), Strikeouts per 9 Innings (9.9), and ERA+ (131).

If the Astros’ offense fully kicks in, they could overtake a Rangers team that has been overperforming. In any case, they will give the Rangers a run for the money for the balance of the season, and I fully expect to see the Astros in the post-season.

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