THE PALLILOG

How one Astros player specifically is playing at a blistering, unsustainable pace

How one Astros player specifically is playing at a blistering, unsustainable pace
Yordan Alvarez has been fantastic. Photo by Getty Images.
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The Astros’ slog on mediocrity road has them in Chicago for the weekend with their record at 19 wins and 18 losses. No time like the present to switch roads. Losing two of three in Seattle then winning two of three in Anaheim means it’s a winning road trip if they can take at least two of three from the woeful White Sox.

The schedule is favorable the rest of May if the Astros are good enough to take advantage. After the White Sox it’s three at Minute Maid Park against the sub-.500 Cubs followed by three at home vs. the sub .250 Athletics who look like one of the worst teams of all-time. Then it’s back on the road for three at decent Milwaukee, three at those woebegone A’s, then back home to close the month against the middling Minnesota Twins (for whom Carlos Correa is batting below .200 and been booed by the home fans).

The Astros lineup continues to scuffle overall. They open play in the Windy City ranked eighth among the 15 American League teams in runs per game, but third worst in OPS. It’s not hard to explain with only two lineup regulars having good seasons at the plate to this point. Yordan Alvarez is Yordan Alvarez, meaning offensive superstar. Kyle Tucker has solid numbers, but nothing remotely elite. Tucker’s .789 OPS is lower than he’s finished with in any of his three seasons as an everyday player.

Jeremy Pena has been all right, he’s tied with Alvarez for the team lead with 15 extra base hits but has not made a leap from his rookie season. If Pena is to become a very good offensive player, he simply has to develop better plate discipline. Pena is up to 146 at bats with just six walks drawn. That paltry walks number is more troubling than his 38 strikeouts.

Jose Abreu still shows no signs of getting going. Abreu is still sitting on zero home runs, his OPS has sagged below Martin Maldonado’s. Alex Bregman is still batting just .207 with a weak .663 OPS. The season is six weeks old. Altuve’s return within maybe three weeks is a nearly absolute notable boost to the lineup. Brantley, we’ll see. It’s definitely troubling that after a week of minor league games Brantley’s surgically repaired shoulder is bothering him again, and he is at least temporarily shut down.

It’s not like the Astros have been buried by any means, certainly not in the AL West. Four games out in May is no big deal. However, it is time to start taking the Texas Rangers at least somewhat seriously. They are 22-14 heading into a four game weekend series against the garbage A’s. This shouldn’t hold up but the Rangers have been better than the Astros at every position but left field. The Rangers’ pitching has proving to do over the long haul, but the Astros’ pitching while still good overall is not nearly what it was last year. The Rangers’ farm system is also clearly better than the Astros’ system, so the Rangers are among the many teams that can make stronger offers than the Astros in pursuing upgrades.

Four and a half months of the season remain, but that the Astros are already nine and a half games behind the Tampa Bay Rays already does make the Astros repeating with the best record in the AL fairly unlikely.

Elite run production

Yordan Alvarez has played 31 of the Astros’ 37 games so far this season. In those 31 games he has 34 runs batted in. That is almost certainly an unsustainable pace, but neither of the guys most often ahead of Alvarez in the lineup this season have been good at getting on base. Mauricio Dubon’s .306 on base percentage is poor for a leadoff hitter, Alex Bregman’s sits at a meh .327. When Altuve gets in the lineup and if Brantley’s return ever actually happens, Yordan certainly should have more ducks on the pond to bring around than Dubon and Bregman have provided. Definitely unsustainable is Yordan’s absurd .520 batting average with runners in scoring position. With RISP Yordan is 13 for 25 with 29 of his 31 RBI.

The last player to average more than one RBI per game for a season? In 1999 Manny Ramirez knocked in 165 runs in 147 games played. The last player to knock in 150 in a season? Alex Rodriguez with 156 in 2007. The all-time record for RBI in a season has stood since 1930. Chicago Cubs center fielder Hack Wilson drove in 116 runs that year. In just his home games at Wrigley Field. Overall Wilson amassed a whopping 191 RBI. He also led the world with 56 home runs. Hack Wilson’s listed height was the same as Jose Altuve’s: five feet six inches. Wilson’s batting average in 1930 was .356, but that was nowhere close to what he needed to win the Triple Crown. The Giants’ Bill Terry hit .401, the last National Leaguer to hit .400. 1930 was a freak show offensive season. The batting average for the entire NL in 1930 was .303. The Giants led the league, batting .319 as a team.

Looking for even more Astros content?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it goes up at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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