Sometimes a reset button is needed for this crazy game called baseball. George Springer may have found his reset button during the All-Star break.
While the Astros sit comfortably with a 66-36 record, the team has underachieved by various degrees. BaseRuns calculates that the Astros should be 68-34 while the team’s Pythagorean record is 71-31. Take away the hypothetical records and go solely by your eyes, then you can probably come to the same conclusion. In that case, you had probably seen Houston’s bullpen falter upon occasion.
Underachievement, like overachievement, does not last forever, though. If the Astros were to start clicking anytime soon, the rest of baseball should watch out.
Observation #1: George Springer is heating up
It has been no secret that Springer has struggled to a certain extent in 2018. If the season ended today, Springer’s 115 wRC+ would be a career-low. But all of it has not been his own fault as bad luck has come into the equation. Seriously, how can you blame Springer for this catch by Randal Grichuk nearly one month ago?
For a while Springer couldn’t buy a hit. From June 12th until the All-Star break, the Astros’ outfielder slashed .145/.259/.188 with a 34 wRC+. But the All-Star Game, specifically a late inning home run with a different bat, may have broken him out of his slump as he had posted a 244 wRC+ in three games against the Angels this past weekend, including a grand slam Saturday evening.
This is where one would see warnings about small sample size, but you should be encouraged. For example, Springer had a 93 MPH average exit velocity against the Angels. His average exit velocity from June 12th until the break was 88 MPH. Again, please be take this optimistic view of three-game information with a grain of salt when compared to a month of data. But there are signs of Springer heating up.
Observation #2: Marwin Gonzalez turning the corner?
Like the point above, the mandatory note about small samples should be invoked with Gonzalez. During the three-game series against the Angels, he posted a 249 wRC+, which was the highest on the team this past weekend. He also had a 92.7 MPH average exit velocity in the last three games. Besides a few indicators though, there isn’t much to gather over the course of a single weekend series.
That said, Gonzalez been a better hitter since June despite a 90 wRC+ for the entire season.
wRC+ by month
Mar/Apr: 91 wRC+
May: 52 wRC+
June: 123 wRC+
July: 104 wRC+
While his July performance isn’t earth shattering, the fact that Gonzalez has been an average to above-average hitter since the start of June is encouraging, especially with the absence of Carlos Correa. We can strongly speculate that Gonzalez had a career season last year when he posted a 4.0 fWAR, but a team should be pleased with his production over the past two months.
Observation #3: Attendance at Minute Maid Park doing quite well
Entering Monday’s off day, the Astros have drawn 1,924,792 fans this season to Minute Maid Park. That total is good for the fifth-highest in the majors. The team’s 36,316 per game average is currently the eighth-highest. That’s solid for a team coming off a championship season.
Quite the turnaround from the franchise’s dark days, right?
Astros’ home attendance since 2012
Based on the current average of 36,316 fans per game, that would be an additional 1,016,871 fans over the remaining 28 homes games. If this estimate holds steady, the franchise will draw a grand total of roughly 2.9 million fan this season alone. That total would be the highest attendance for the Astros since the 2007 season when the team drew 3.02 million fans.
Unfortunately, the Astros may not reach three million fans for the season, which has only happened four times in franchise history. But as the postseason draws closer, we may see a noticeable increase in attendance to finish out the regular season.