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Is It Time for Astros to Play Small Ball?

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Yordan Alvarez is headed to the 10-day IL. The Astros offense is 14th in the MLB in R/G at 4.5. The Astros have a 99 wRC+ so far this season. It you take Alvarez out of the group of the Astros hitters, the rest of the lineup hits to a 92 wRC+. That would rank the Astros offense 25th in offense.

The Astros are five games behind the Rangers 63 games into the Astros season.

What are the Astros going to do to replace Alvarez's production? How can they score runs to win and stay close in the AL West?

The Astros are not going to out slug teams. Maybe it is time the Astros play small ball. I JUST WATCHED Maldonado sacrifice bunt. It led to a run on a fielder's choice. Scoring with minimal hits is what small ball is all about.

What is small ball? Small ball, to me at least, is a version of the 1980's St. Louis Cardinals that focused on speed and scoring without relying on home runs. Their offenses emphasized stolen bases, sacrifice flies, sacrifice bunts, and staying out of the double play. I have put the per game stats for all of the MLB teams at the table at the bottom. Here are the Astros stats and their relative rank to the league.

Astros Averages per game and ranks

Given the tenuous Astros offensive situation should they play may more small ball?

MLB and Astros Stolen Bases per Game data

Compared to the 2021-2022 MLB average, there are 48% more SB per game in 2023, The Astros are flat vs. last year and up only 21% since the 2021- 2022 average for the team.

The game has changed relative to stolen bases, and the Astros are 29% below league average.

When the Astros were a HR hitting team they didn't need to steal bases and it was counterproductive to play small ball.

Astros Small Ball Metrics

This year, the HRs were already down 17% before losing Alvarez. The walks are down, and the strikeouts are up as this team has seemed to be trying too hard to hit five run HRs. There have been less sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts. The team is grounding into more double plays. As shown previously while the SB are up, they are not up nearly as much as the rest of the league.

MLB and Astros Runs per Game data

In a league that has seen its runs per game increase 3% over 2021-2022, the Astros have decreased 9%. The team that was 18% above league average in runs/game in 2021 is now running one percent below league average.

Frankly, the Astros HAVE to do something different. Their approach this year has not been working and Alvarez is out now.

I say yes, try more small ball. Especially at the sixth through ninth spots in the lineup steal more, bunt more, STAY OUT of rally destroying double plays.

PLAY SMALL BALL ASTROS! It may be your only hope while Alvarez is out.

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