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Astros: Brantley's Impact

Michael Brantley is BACK!! It will be his first game since 6/26/22. What will Brantley's impact be to the overall Astros offense?


Before we answer let's review where the Astros have been this year offensively by month.

Astros batting by month

The Astros offense has gotten better month by month. August has been an EPICALLY good month especially vs. LHP. Overall, the Astros have a wRC+ of 133 in August and an insane 177 wRC+ as a team vs. LHP.


These numbers are pulled from the MLB Baseball Savant site and from fangraphs.com.


The season performance of 126 vs. LHP and 102 vs. RHP illustrates how a LHH like Brantley COULD help vs. RHH.


What do I THINK the Astros lineups will be with Brantley?

Dusty's lineups

To evaluate Brantley's impact, I have used the tables I have been using for the optimal lineups.


Here are the optimal lineups before and after Brantley for LHSP.

Optimal Astros lineups vs. LHP

The projected xwOBA for each is 0.373 mainly because Brantley is ONLY a preferred start vs. Off-Speed LHSP. In short, Brantley makes almost no difference in expected performance vs. LHSP. Given where that performance has been in August vs. LHSP, that is not too surprising.


Here are the OPTIMAL lineups before and after Brantley for RHSP.

Astros Optimal lineups vs. RHP

The projected xwOBA vs. RHSP goes from 0.366 to 0.375 for the optimal lineup. Understand this is a comparison of OPTIMAL lineups. This would equate to about 0.3 runs/game.


IF the Astros used the optimal lineup vs. RHP this model would predict the offense would be as productive, actually slightly more productive, vs. RHP than it would be vs. LHP.


One of the big challenges the Astros lineup has is the stubbornness of playing Maldonado vs. RHSP.

Maldy vs. RHP lineup

Adding Brantley and by CONTINUING TO PLAY MALDONADO DROPS the xwOBA for this less-than-optimal lineup to 0.360. Playing Maldy vs. RHP is more detrimental than adding Brantley because it is a HUGE step back from the optimal lineup.


FYI, before Brantley, the Maldy at catcher sub-optimal lineup has a xwOBA of 0.357.


Here are two data tables which show the differences.

lineup impact data

I know you may be lost in all of the numbers. Let me try to simplify by focusing on the runs predicted by the xwOBA models that my optimal lineups show.

Lineup run impacts with Brantley

The Astros offense has been close to optimal lineups vs. LHP lately and the results have shown this in August. The Astros lineups have also been good vs. RHP in August. Adding Brantley adds probably 0.2 to 0.4 runs per game. Not insignificant but probably not as much as you expect.


However, and this is the biggest issue I do not think most in this fan base will get nor probably accept. The optimal lineups for the Astros is a nightly decision. THIS is why I am producing the optimal lineup analysis daily.


Warning


As I showed you, I suspect Dusty is going to become very stagnant in his lineups. He is going to play Brantley and Abreu daily. Most of this fan base will cheer. As I showed you above Brantley is NOT likely the optimal choice vs. many LHP. Maldy is NEVER the right choice vs. RHP. Unless the Astros KNOW that Abreu is fixed - i.e. he had Lasik surgery and is seeing the rotation far better than he was, Abreu is NOT the right choice over Diaz vs. any RHP. Yet I suspect Dusty Baker will play all three a vast majority of the time. To reset with those lineups now adding the xwOBA data:

xwOBA of Dusty's lineups

If you remember the optimal xwOBAs above, you will see that these are a lot lower. Most of you won't care and assume I am wrong.


Let me show you the predicted runs per game impact.

Dusty's lineups vs. optimal

The lineups I THINK Dusty will use going forward will be better than year to date but not better than in August at producing runs. They are like to produce 0.6 to 1.0 runs per game LESS than what is possible now with the optimal lineup.


We shall see how it all goes. I will adjust this based on what Dusty ACTUALLY does.


Some disclaimers:

  1. The data set for some of the players does not have sufficient data to project some of the xwOBAs. I have been very cautious and have substituting longer term data in these situations.

  2. I will adjust the Singleton data set as it evolves. I think his data may still be fluid.

  3. The data I am using for Brantley is the average of his 2021-2022 xwOBA data. Let's hope he can maintain that level.

  4. Is Abreu fixed vs. breaking pitches and offspeed pitches? I am monitoring but my eyes tell me he is taking MUCH better swings.


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