Growing pains are real, everyone. That applies even to a certain Astros star.
Yes, Carlos Correa is still the future of the Astros. Much of the Astros success in the coming years ride on the 21-year old shortstop despite there being twenty-four other players on a major league roster. But that doesn’t mean he is immune to slumps, even if they are nothing more than growing pains.
First off, though, Correa is still a fine shortstop. He is ranked in the top fifteen of all shortstops per WAR (0.7) and top eleven in wRC+ (110) before the win last night. While his defense hasn’t been Gold Glove quality, the 21-year old makes up for it with his bat. However, his bat hasn’t been quite as potent as we might have predicted for 2016.
For example, Correa has witnessed his power drop and his strikeouts rise. That is not a good combination. In fact, his 25.4% K% ranks second for all qualified shortstops entering Wednesday’s game, which only trailed Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies. His ISO has also dropped by a noticeable percentage from .233 in 2015 to .159 this year. Of course, you have to consider sample size between 387 at-bats last season compared to roughly 180 in 2016.
The increased strikeout totals though partly explain Correa’s lower productivity. For instance, the percentage of pitches he has swung at inside the zone rose by 2.3 %. But the more telling sign of concern is the percentage of pitches that he has made contact with inside the zone, which has dropped by 6.1%.
Not too bad in 2015. But 2016 doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
As you can see from above, Correa’s whiff per swing in 2016 compared to 2015 demonstrates why his strikeout rates have climbed so much. He is just clearly whiffing on a higher percentage of pitches inside the strike zone.
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And his lower ISO isn’t due to a lack of hitting the ball hard. In fact, Correa has been hitting the ball harder so far in 2016 than he did on average for 2015 by nearly five percent. And his line drive rate, ground balls, and fly ball numbers have all remain relatively similar compared to last season’s totals. In fact, his fly ball and line drive numbers have even increased from last season. And Correa’s BABIP is a decent .314.
So what could be the issue?
One explanation could very well be from a lack of pulling the ball. Correa has begun to hit the ball a bit more to straight center or the opposite field than he did last season. His overall pull% has dropped from 35.5% to 32.0%. And last season when Correa pulled the ball he was more likely to hit a home run or double.
But so far in 2016 that has yet to be the case.
Again, sample size matters, but this is still interesting to think about. That would explain in conjunction with his increased strikeout rate why Correa’s batting average is hovering around .250. A lot of his fly balls and line drives are now being hit more to center and right field that has led to outs, which in turn lowers his overall extra-base hit potential.
Needless to say that Correa seems to be scuffling the right now. While his talent level is through the roof, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year clearly has to adjust. But the good news is that adjusting, in relatively short order I mind you, is possible. Adjusting one’s approach is not uncommon in baseball. Neither is growing pains.
**Statistics provided by from Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball**