Can the Astros’ George Springer Walk His Way To Success?

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Last year George Springer exploded onto the Major League scene and excited Astro fans with 20 home runs in his first action as a rookie. In the 78 games before he was shut down because of a quad injury he displayed the power that had fans seeing the next great Houston slugger.

So far in 2015, Springer has not been able to harness that power and produce the home run numbers from his rookie season. And that might not be such a bad thing for him or the team. Despite the dip in Springer Dingers, he has been drawing walks at a rate that is his best as a professional. He has walked 26 times so far this year which accounts for 17.2 % of his at bats. Along with walking more than he has in his career, he is successfully stealing bases at a better rate. He has stolen ten bases so far and has only been caught once, compared that to the five steals he had as a rookie in 2014.

Springer’s minor league numbers indicated the potential for speed and power in his game. He was nearly a 40/40 player in 2013 splitting time between AA and AAA. The potential is still there, and he is stealing his way closer every time he gets on first.

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Some may wonder if this newfound patience at the plate is the cause for the drop in home runs and slugging percentage. So far, he’s hit six home runs while slugging .398, which would be a career low if it continued. Even at this rate, if he stays healthy and gets 600 ABs, he’s on pace to hit 20 plus homers. But a couple of factors might be in his favor, and they might be ready to help jumpstart the power numbers even more.

First, if he continues walking at this pace, pitchers are going to have to adjust to the fact that he is now willing to take a base and then steal second. That should lead to more pitches in the strike zone that he should be able to drive. Tied to this increase in walks is a decrease in strikeouts. Throughout his minor league career, Springer had a lot of swing and miss in his approach to hitting and that showed up during his rookie season to the tune of 33% of his ABs ending in strikeouts. This season, he has dropped it down to 27.8%. That six percent has transferred itself from strikeouts directly into walks. One is down six percent, and the other is up six percent.

The second factor that could be in his favor is; his batting average on balls in play is the lowest of his career to this point. His BABIP is .234, which is 60 points lower than it was last year. This seems to indicate he’s hit into some tough luck and balls haven’t been finding holes in the defense. He has had several games where he has hit balls into the hole only to have shortstops make great plays throw him out. While other at bats where he has lined balls into the outfield gaps where fielders are positioned directly in front of them. His history suggests that sooner or later those balls will start finding ways to become hits.

Along the way, his numbers could also get a boost from whoever is hitting behind him starting to heat up. Since coming off the disabled list, Springer has been hitting third in the lineup with Evan Gattis getting the majority of the starts behind him in the cleanup spot. If Gattis, who is currently hitting .196 with eight home runs, can bump his average up to the .263 he hit last year in Atlanta, Springer could possibly see a rise in pitches he can drive out of Minute Maid.

Going into the season, most predictions for this lineup included the potential for power and plenty of strikeouts. And the Astros have obliged those predictions by leading the leading the game in home runs and being second in strikeouts. But, to the surprise of most, they’re tied with the Cubs for second in steals with 39. And Springer is a big part of that. His slugging percentage may be down so far this season, but he is still ending up on second base.

With a quarter of the season gone Springer’s numbers aren’t where fans wanted or expected them to be, but there is still plenty of time for him to turn them around.

Next: Astros Are Winning in an Unusual Way

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