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Houston Astros Slump Busters: Finding Carter

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When you think of a great power hitter, you think of someone who can hit majestic home runs regularly. The Houston Astros are facing a big predicament early in the season with their sluggers struggling out of the gate. Yesterday I wrote about Evan Gattis here; now I am going to write about Chris Carter to try and reverse his slump. The Astros need to find Chris Carter. The one who finished second in home runs and outhit AL MVP Mike Trout in the second half of 2014. Where is the gentle giant that wowed baseball last year with his power surge?

Carter’s Slow Start is Nothing New

The Astros understand who Chris Carter is right now: he is a player who has no feel for the ball at the moment. Carter can’t seem to get into the grove of things early in the season, but has he always been this way? He can’t seem to make contact the same way he did in 2014 through his dominating second-half stretch. Is there relief in sight for the Astros struggling cleanup hitter? Let’s look at his stats from April in the last few seasons.

Stats are from MLB.com.

Looking at his stats in April for the past two years, I was shocked to see that Carter’s numbers in April of 2013 were not that bad. Why has he performed so bad the past two years in April? While the batting average will always be an issue for someone who strikeouts as much as Carter does, the power numbers have dropped in April since 2013.

It was after April in 2014 that Bo Porter sat a perplexed Carter for three games to help him gather his thoughts. Following this removal from the lineup, things started clicking for Carter, who ended up hitting 37 home runs for the year.

Free Swinging Carter in 2015

Let’s go deep into why Carter’s strikeout percentage increased from 31.8% in 2014 to 40.6% so far in 2015.

According to FanGraphs

  • Carter’s O-Swing% (Number of pitches swung at outside the strike zone) increased from 31.8% in 2014 to 35.9% so far in 2015. The O-Swing% means that he is swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone in 2015.
  • Carter’s Z-Swing% (Number of pitches swung at inside the strike the strike zone) increased from 72.5% in 2014 to 80% in 2015. The Z-Swing% means he is swinging at more pitches in the strike zone, or that he is not able to catch up with the pitches inside the strike zone.
  • Carter’s Swing% (Number of swings at pitches) has increased from 49.5% in 2014 to 57.39% in 2015.

All of these percentages are much higher than they normally were in previous years. As an Astros fan who watches almost all the games every season, I have seen Carter swing at most of the pitches thrown to him these days, and the numbers above prove it. He is not exhibiting the same patience that he demonstrated at times last year. He is out of wack, and the numbers show that.

Wherefore Art Thou Power Carter?

The thing that boggles Astros fans is the lack of power from Chris Carter so early in the season. I bought a shirt during the offseason that said “All He Does is Hit Homeruns.” The lack of power from Carter is very surprising to start the season while the drop in batting average is anything but.

While he has played decent first base this year so far, he is not on the team because of his glove. Carter has zero extra base hits. Let that sink in for a second. Like Gattis, Carter’s time is coming. He has to start being more selective when swinging and just try to make contact versus trying to crush the ball all the time.

The Astros management might be tired of having to wait for Chris Carter to find his swing, which could be why the Astros traded for Evan Gattis. I did a podcast last night with Andy Podillo for the site, and we discussed the possibility of Carter becoming trade bait because Jon Singleton should be ready soon. However, Carter’s not making it easy for them by hitting the way he is. The Astros will give him a chance to build up his stats to try to get greatest value for Carter via trade.

While the Astros are 4-5 this season, it is not because of the bats of George Springer, Evan Gattis, or Chris Carter. They all have a strikeout percentage of over 40% in the early going. If the Astros are staying close to .500 with the with the heart of the order striking out a little less that half the time what will happen when they start hitting?

Time to break out of the slump Chris, we don’t like calling you “Khris Karter!”

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