How Do Astros Fix Generation “K”?


Welcome to Generation K! No I don’t mean the trio of young stud pitchers in the New York Mets organization in 1995, consisting of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson. I’m talking about the young Astros habit of striking out–a lot. The future success of the Astros will depend on cutting out the K’s.

Out of the projected 2015 lineup, George Springer, Chris Carter, Jon Singleton, and Jason Castro have a high percentage of strikeouts. As the Adam Dunn‘s of the world realize, with exception of Mike Trout, most people with high strikeouts also have a low batting average.

Jose Altuve‘s game is not one of power, but rather one of making contact. New addition at shortstop Jed Lowrie also is a good example of someone who puts the ball in play with a low strikeout rate.

Looking at the ZiPS Projections for the Astros, I am going to analyze the potential starting lineups batting averages versus their strikeout percentages.

Robbie Grossman (0.235/26.9%) or Jake Marisnick (0.239 /26.7%)

Jose Altuve (0.310/10.2%)

George Springer (0.238/32.5%)

Chris Carter (0.228/33.3%)

Dexter Fowler (0.258/24.7%)

Jed Lowrie (0.256/15.6%)

Jason Castro (0.242/27.2%)

Matt Dominguez (0.239/18.2%)

Jon Singleton (0.218/32.5%)

If Marisnick gets the left field job, I see Fowler moving to lead off with his high on-base percentage.

The table below is from Fangraphs, looking at strikeout percentages and walk percentages.

Looking at this table, we see that George Springer, Chris Carter, Jon Singleton, and Jason Castro show that they have an awful strikeout percentages. Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman have a poor strikeout percentages, while Dexter Fowler represents the below average category. Matt Dominguez would be considered major league average player, while Jed Lowrie is great and Jose Altuve represents excellent strikeout rate.

More info from Fangraphs:

” Power hitters tend to have high strikeout and walk rates, since they may swing and miss often, yet are pitched around by pitchers. Contact hitters are the opposite; they tend to have low strikeout and walk rates. The more a player strikes out, the tougher it is for them to maintain a high batting average since they are putting fewer balls in play.”

Another interesting note about the Astros is that they led the American League with 1442 strikeouts. They were second in MLB to the free swinging Chicago Cubs who are about to add another free swinger in Kris Bryant. The Astros strikeout percentage in 2014 was 23.8% which ranks as below average. The Astros also finished third in the American League in home runs with 163 finishing behind Baltimore and Toronto respectively.

Chicks dig the long ball, and so do baseball owners. The Astros have drafted or traded for a few prospects with huge power potential, but with the power comes the swing and miss as well.

That’s why adding someone like Colin Moran could help the Astros with his ability to make contact at third base. Maybe Luhnow saw how much the Astros were striking out and wanted Moran to help balance the K-madness in the upcoming seasons.

George Springer has a long swing, but when he makes contact, it goes far. Jon Singleton got signed to an extension before he took an at-bat in the majors. Maybe the pressure to earn that contract led to him swinging a little harder. Jason Castro was hitting in the 3rd spot most of the year, so he might have felt the pressure to make something happen as one of the leaders on the team. Carter hit 37 home runs last year, but had only 78 other hits. If Carter does not hit that rough patch early in 2014, maybe he wouldn’t have struckout as much.

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The Astros are a young team, and most of the high strikeout guys were in their first year in the majors. They will adjust to major league pitching, or others will replace them. Ryan Howard is one of the examples of a major league hitter who had a high strikeout percentage, but was able to hit for a somewhat decent average at times during his career. Maybe new hitting coach Dave Hudgens will be able to help the young guys shorten their swings.

Would you rather the young players go for more contact or continue to go for the long ball?

Next: Astros in Your Fantasy: George Springer