Injuries have forced the Astros to win games without their biggest stars on offense in the second half, but it has opened the door for other hitters.
Tyler White‘s first stint with the Astros in 2018 didn’t last particularly long. Over the course of 40 plate appearances from June 16th through July 14th, the age-27 infielder slashed .219/.375/.438 with a 131 wRC+. Yes, you can run an above-average wRC+ while having a low batting average. In two of his last three games during that stint, White hit two home runs and delivered five RBI. It was a sign for things to come in his next stint with the Astros later in the summer.
White only spent roughly two weeks with the Fresno Grizzlies before being recalled to the major league roster. I’d doubt he is coming off the major league roster of his own accord anytime soon, with a .348/.394/.727 slash line with a 205 wRC+ in 71 plate appearances. He’s been a key driving force behind the offense with Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa missing time with injuries.
It’s been common knowledge for a while that White could hit the baseball well in the minor leagues. In 313 plate appearances for the Grizzlies this season, he posted a .569 slugging percentage and a 166 wRC+. The question is whether the bat could play long-term in the major leagues. We do not currently know what the long-term has in store, yet he has proven that he belongs in the short-term. For example, White’s 205 wRC+ since July 29th is the ninth-highest out of all hitters with more than 40 plate appearances. Names above him in this metric include Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez, Khris Davis, Justin Turner, Ronald Acuna, and Bryce Harper.
The improvement between his two stints are partially supported in his plate discipline profile.
Table 1. Tyler White plate discipline profile numbers
Dates – 6/16 – 7/14
O-Swing% – 22.0%
Z-Swing% – 66.7%
O-Contact% – 74.1%
Z-Contact% – 85.2%
Dates – 6/16 – 7/14
O-Swing% – 30.9%
Z-Swing% – 60.9%
O-Contact% – 72.7%
Z-Contact% – 93.8%
White’s plate discipline profile has obviously changed between the two stints. His outside swing rate has noticeably increased by nearly nine percent while his swing rate inside the strike zone has declined. However, his contact rate inside the strike zone has jumped by eight-and-a-half percent.
From what I can tell, White is shifting his hitting approach to include more of the outside portion of the strike zone, especially low-and-away when compared to his first stint. It also seems like White has become a bit more selective at which pitches he swings at inside the strike zone. When he does see a pitch he likes, then it is something he is more likely to handle. In short, White has has experienced better overall results based where he swings in the strike zone during his second stint when compared to his first stint. I am curious to see how opposing pitcher adjust in the coming weeks.
Overall, White’s production has helped the Astros’ offense stay afloat during a rough stretch of the season. With the team returning to full health, I’d expect the lineup to feature White quite a bit in the coming weeks. Some days he will be the DH, others he will be at first base. Either way, he needs to be in the team’s lineup based on the changes and the subsequent results that have occurred this season.