While the Astros have a 17-9 record on the season, they are still waiting on a few players to break out with the power stick.
In statistics, whenever there’s an extreme outlier, the process of that outlier moving back to its expected average is called regression to the mean.
It’s important we don’t stumble over the term “regression” here, which, by itself, means a reduction in quality. In baseball terms, players can regress, and it’s never a good thing. Regression to the mean, however, goes both ways – up or down. It focuses on a standard baseline and refers to a player getting better or worse to arrive at that expected baseline.
To use a rather silly but straightforward example, if a batter averages .300 and starts the season two for 20; they will regress to their mean of .300 by going ten for their next 20.
It’s never that clean and simple, of course – but that’s the basic concept behind regression to the mean.
The offense is not clicking on all cylinders.
The Astros’ offense hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations set by the 2017 squad. In some regard, this is not terribly surprising and is unlikely to change as 2017 saw a variety of things fall neatly into place that will undoubtedly prove difficult to replicate.
Yeah, about that…
Last year, the trio of Altuve, Bregman, and Springer combined to slug .514. They hammered 107 doubles and 77 home runs.
So far this year, the trio is slugging .395. Altuve and Bregman have combined to hit just two home runs (one each after Altuve clocked his first dinger of the year Wednesday), one less than Jake Marisnick – yes, Jake Marisnick, who is currently striking out at a rate of 53%. (Please note: that is not an exaggeration; I ran the numbers through a sophisticated computer called a “calculator” and verified it.) He has more home runs than Altuve and Bregman combined.
Sooner rather than later, Altuve, Bregman, and Springer are going to start punishing the ball to push that collective slugging percentage up, and that regression to the mean should be a glorious one for Astros fans.
How glorious, you might be asking yourself?
Altuve actually had a remarkably similar slow start in 2017. Though his first 17 games, he was slugging just .364 with zero home runs. Then, on back-to-back nights in late April, he collected his first two dingers. He then added one more before the end of April to boost his percentage to .472. And that’s when the fun started.
In May, he hit four home runs and nine doubles while slugging .530. In June, he was even better, hitting four more home runs and ten doubles as he slugged .576.
It all led to a remarkable run in July in which Altuve slashed .485/.523/.727 for the month. His pedestrian start buried deep beneath a rubble of awesome.
We’d probably be wise to set our expectations accordingly; it’s doubtful Altuve will be *that* good again (I mean, seriously – look at those July numbers) – but an extended stretch of greatness from all three is almost certain.
And it should be a lot of fun to watch.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and my calculator***