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The Bimodal Astros Offense - How Good They Can Be

As this season closes there is a lot of attention of the lost opportunities of the hitting production and debate about how much impact key decisions in the lineup have had.

First, I want to repeat something you see daily from me at this point on Twitter. since the All-Star break, the entire Astros offense has been hot. They have scored 5.87 runs per game in the 68 games since the July 14- second only to Atlanta. Since 8/16/23, the Astros LEAD the league in runs scored at 6.03 in 38 games.

However, the offense has slowed down in September. In general folks, the offense has been inconsistent but good in the second half. There is something I really want Astros fans to understand, however.

The Astros offense for the 2023 season is very bimodal in that there are a lot of players at the top of the league offensively and there have been many players at the bottom of production. We have showed this in the Total Bat Index articles. I will update this on October 1st for the final TBI. This is illustrated on this data sorted by TBI.

Here are the Astros players this season with more than 300 PA and Michael Brantley with his combined 2022-2023 stats.

Immediately you can see what I mean by Bimodal. The heat map for each column is set where the league average would be white and red is above and blue is below.

I have the data in the table sorted on TBI to illustrate the combined impact of performance (wRC+) and opportunity (PA). You can see the Astros have SEVEN players not only above average in wRC+ but 20% higher than average! The combined wRC+ of this group

(without Brantley) is 142 with 3029 PA!

When one looks at the wRC+ stats in Fangraphs where MOST of the numbers come from, they see the entire Astros TEAM has a 112 wRC+. How is this even possible?

The answer is the bimodality of the non-top producers generally shaded in blue above. The combined wRC+ of these six is 87 over 2726 PA.

In addition, the bench contributions have been seriously bad this year.

The combined 38 wRC+ in 265 PA is atrocious. There was not anyone in the minors ready to upgrade these players as all of them spent time in AAA also and were the arguably the best the Astros had there.

Put these three groups together and to get the Astros team performance.

You may be thinking isn't this true of every team- they have stars and bad bench players?

Not really. there is arguably only one other team that has as many good players and bad players. Let's first look at the WAR contributions of players with more than 300 PA.

The Astros are

- the only team with FIVE players with more than 300 PA with more than 4 WAR

- the only team with NINE players with more than 300 PA with 1.64 or more WAR

- the ONLY team in the MLB with TWO players with more than 300 PA with less than -0.9 WAR

Yes, the Astros have been very uniquely bimodal. Among the other contenders, only the Dodgers have a similarly bimodal nature.

In the 2H, most of the players have stepped up significantly.

As a result of this performance surge, after the All-Star game the Astros have been somewhat more consistent. Here is similar data since the ASG.

The same stars have been stars in the 2H.

Among the "Non-stars" several players have created more a middle tier of performance in the 2H.

- Dubon has increased his power significantly in the 2H (ISO 0.118 to 0.159) and performed above average in wRC+

- Pena has done almost the exact opposite with good results. Pena has not hit a HR in the 2H. He did increase his walks from 5.0% to 8.1%, dropped his strikeouts from 22.1% to 18.7%, and increase his average from 0.246 to 0.285. In the 2H, Pena has also improved to being slightly above average at the plate.

- Abreu has gone from being one of the worst players at the plate in the MLB to being slightly above average too in the 2H. He has basically done both of what Dubon and Pena have done.

Abreu as it has been written here is not only better lately. He is performing close to non-MVP year Abreu. That is to say he has been really really good since returning from the IL.

Even Maldonado, whose performance has been chronicled here multiple times has improved significantly in the 2H.

If the Astros can get 86 wRC+ 2H Maldy in the postseason, the Astros offense is extremely strong.

Here is how the 1H vs. 2H offense compares in runs scored per game.

Extending this thought to entire 2H Astros performance grid, the top 13 players on the table below will be on an Astros postseason roster.

This group has had a 133 wRC+ in the 2H of the season. The 1927 Yankees had a 125 wRC+. Yes, the 2023 postseason Astros could be THAT good. I know people want to discuss the Astros offense in detail. I think the likely starters in the postseason will be doing fine. IF the team puts Diaz in at catcher, it could be a magical run, but more on that later.

Statistics referenced are sourced from and through 9/26/23 games generally.

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