Honestly, the Astros’ offense hasn’t been quite the same this season when compared to last year.
It is no secret that the Astros had a historically good offense in 2017. So, naturally, we all assumed that this trend would carry over into 2018. After all, most of the championship team was still together. Outside of Carlos Beltran retiring, most of the position players were returning.
Alas, life has other plans. Baseball is never that easy.
For example, the Astros have a wRC+ of 103 entering Thursday. That is good for ninth-best in baseball. If you recall, the Houston offense finished the 2017 season with a MLB-best 121 wRC+. While the team could rebound in this regard, it is also quite difficult to be historically good all the time. Thankfully for Houston, the pitching staff has been terrific in 2018.
That said, the Astros have shown more life with their bats in recent games. The lineup has scored 20 runs in their previous five games. Not historically great, but not bad either. One player that has contributed more to the cause: Evan Gattis.
Entering the 2018 season, Gattis was expected to catch less. This is true as he has only made two appearances as a catcher thus far in the still young season. This is quite a reversal of the 2016 and 2017 seasons when he made a combined 104 appearances as a catcher. Essentially, Gattis has been placed back into his 2015 role of being predominantly a designated hitter. And we all are familiar the splits about Gattis as a catcher and as a designated hitter throughout his career.
As a catcher: .270/.322/.537, 133 wRC+ in 944 plate appearances
As a DH: .234/.286/.421, 92 wRC+ in 1,093 plate appearances
In short, Gattis has been historically demonstrated to be a better hitter as a catcher than a designated hitter. But in recent games, Gattis has shown improvement while hitting as a designated hitter.
Since 5/7/18: .296/.321/.667, 166 wRC+ in 28 plate appearances
Small sample size exists, sure, but it is encouraging to see Gattis hit consistently over a multi-game period. Eight hits, four of which were extra-bases, has been a much-needed boost to the offense as the Astros took on their division rivals. This is the kind of production Houston needs from their designated hitter spot in the lineup. It has been pretty dreadful otherwise as only the Blue Jays have a lower OPS (.603) from their designated hitters than the Astros OPS (.612) by their group. The next closest team, the Orioles, have received a .653 OPS from their designated hitters. Quite the gap.
Anyway, Gattis has shown recent improvement, and the Astros need him to continue to play in such a manner. His current 79 wRC+ will not cut it all season long. Any improvement he makes has to stick. But this author is encouraged by this recent turn in performance.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs**