Yordan still has work to do. Composite photo by Brandon Strange.
With the Astros coming off of an off day to start the back half of June with a 32nd consecutive game against a team with a losing record, it’s a nice pause point to consider Yordan Alvarez and his shot at putting together the most awesome individual offensive month in franchise history. To do so, as Chef Emeril would say, he’ll have to kick it up a notch. Pretty amazing considering the spectacular run Yordan is on, thus far in June batting a cool .468 with an on base percentage of .552 and a slugging percentage of .787 for an eye-exploding OPS of 1.339.
Alvarez set an extremely high bar with the production he put forth in unanimously winning American League Rookie of the Year in 2019. A .327 batting average, .412 OBP, and .655 slugging percentage, OPS 1.067 over 87 games was historic stuff. Those numbers are better than Yordan’s totals so far this season, but three years ago the balls were juiced so relative to the rest of Major League Baseball 2022 Alvarez is superior. After missing all but two games of the shortened 2020 season due to knee problems, Yordan was excellent last year, but nothing like his rookie season or this. His plate discipline has improved dramatically. Alvarez’s strikeout rate is down by a third and his walk rate is up by half, a phenomenal combo. The six year 115 million dollar contract extension he signed last week sounds like a great bargain for the Astros, and of course generations of financial security for Alvarez. He turns only 25 years old June 27.
Add this log on the Alvarez inferno: if indeed MLB bans shifts next season perhaps not only mandating two infielders on either side of second base but requiring all to have at least one foot on the infield dirt, Alvarez’s batting average should get an easy 20 or so point boost. His screamers to a second baseman thirty or forty feet out in right field that become an out now? Hits in 2023. Kyle Tucker stands to benefit as well. All left-handed hitters will, the Astros happen to have the best tandem of young lefty mashers in the game.
The Astros have a fine lineage of individual offensive powerhouses. In five guesses, can you name the Astro who put up the greatest raw month-long stats? We’ll get to that answer shortly.
Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman have the two greatest career offensive resumes posted by Astros. Bagwell did it here longer, but Lance was basically his equal. Bagwell’s career batting average finished at .297 with an OPS of .948. Berkman hit .293 for his career with a .943 OPS, but as an Astro the numbers are .296 and .959. That’s one way of explaining how ridiculous it was that Berkman didn’t even draw five percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame, which resulted in his name being dropped from future ballots. Anyway…
Yordan’s OPS for June to date is the ridiculous 1.339. In 1994 Bagwell was better than what Yordan is doing this month, for two months in a row. Baggy racked up a 1.354 OPS in June ’94 and topped that with 1.374 in July. Alvarez has hit “only” three home runs so far this month. 28 (!) years ago Bagwell hit 13 in June and another 11 in July. With the Astrodome as his home park no less, as opposed to the vastly more home run friendly Minute Maid Park.
Still, it’s not Bagwell with the greatest raw data month in Astro archives. Or Berkman. Or Moises Alou. Or Cesar Cedeno. Or Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, or Carlos Correa. Cry uncle?
Turn back the clock
Enron Field opened in 2000 as a hitter’s haven better than any other not in Denver. Add in it was peak steroid era baseball and it was a joke how easily homers were hit, 266 of them in 81 games. It led to playing field modifications. Outfielder Richard Hidalgo took advantage, though oddly enough Hidalgo hit 28 of his career high 44 homers on the road (Hidalgo never again topped 28 homers for a season). Hidalgo entered September having a strong year batting .275 with 33 homers. He began September going just four for 16 but then…
Over the final 25 games (including the season finale October 1) Hidalgo smashed to a .517 average (47 for 91!), his OBP was .574, and 25 extra base hits in those 25 games (12 doubles, two triples, and 11 homers) made for a 1.055 slugging percentage. Nutso numbers. For the full month (plus October 1) Hidalgo hit .477, OBP .532, slugging .953. OPS 1.486, the greatest monthly tally any Astro has ever posted. That’s a whopping 147 points higher OPS than Alvarez is so far this month. Crank it up Yordan!
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.