Can Altuve Fix the Astros Batting?
Talk to any Astros fan for more than five minutes and you are going to hear one take.
Just wait until Altuve gets back. The offense will be better then.
You know how we are here. We tend to question everything. Today's question is how much can Altuve- by himself- fix the Astros batting.
It would be fair to object and say Altuve's presence will help Bregman and Abreu. We THINK this is true. It should be. However, no one seems to know what is wrong with Abreu and Bregman, so it is unclear how much Altuve's presence fixes an unknowable problem.
Today let's just focus on how much help Altuve is to the whole of the Astros batting BY HIMSELF. What does substituting Altuve in and Dubon (or Meyers) out mean for the Astros offense?
Before I published this, I wanted to know what Astros fans THINK the answer is. I ran a poll on my twitter feed and in a couple of Astros Facebook groups. We will see what those say.
Where are the Astros in scoring runs now?
The Astros are currently 28th in OPS (0.672). With RISP that shoots up to 8th (0.793.) Their ability to produce with RISP makes them the 21st team in runs scored- 4.28 runs per game- while being so anemic overall.
To show how the individual Astros are doing with RISP vs. all PA, see the table to the right. It is early and the sample size is really small here.
Here is how all the MLB teams are doing at scoring runs.
To project how the Astros would do if Altuve substituted in for Dubon, we can use a tool we have discussed before- Lineup Analysis (baseballmusings.com). This is a very simplistic too where one enters the players OBP and SLG in the order of the lineup and the tool projects the number of runs that team would score.
The tool projects that the standard Astros lineup would score 4.10 runs per game. Given the 4.28 actual runs per game, you can see the impact of the elevated RISP stats.
For this analysis I used 2021-2022 averages for Altuve. The tool projects that if Altuve was substituted for Dubon, the Astros would be projected to score 4.40 runs per game. If 0.30 runs per game is disappointing to you, think of it as almost 50 runs a year or the difference of a player having 120 runs or RBIs and a player having 70 runs or RBIs. Adding ~0.3 runs per game moves this offense from being 21st to being 14th to 16th.
The Table shows the results.
The early Twitter poll results indicate what I suspected. A plurality of folks believes the impact is likely to be more than double what it really is likely to be.
One commenter on Facebook opined that Altuve would make the clubhouse better and that would add more that 1 run per game. I reflected to him that adding 1 run per game would likely mean EVERYONE in the lineup would have to have a 100 point OPS gain. I just don't think a happy clubhouse causes that kind of gain.
What if I told you a different line up would get 2/3 of the Altuve gain and could be done TODAY? Would you be interested?
If the Astros used the lineup shaded in yellow below it would be projected to gain 0.21 runs per game.
Will Baker ever do that lineup? No
Are the Astros fans screaming for Tucker to lead off right? Yes
IF the Astros used the green shaded lineup when Altuve returns the team would be projected to score 0.53 more runs per game than now. This would move them to 9-11th in runs/game. The 106-win Astros were 8th in runs per game in 2022.
1. Yes, Altuve helps this team significantly upon his return.
2. Just not as much as you think.
3. A more creative lineup could be deployed NOW to get 2/3rds of that improvement.
I invite you to play with the Lineup Analysis (baseballmusings.com) tool too. You will see there are even slightly better answers for the lineup according to the tool, but those require options that Dusty simply will not use.