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Astros: Robinson Chirinos exceeding expectations

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 06: Robinson Chirinos #28 of the Houston Astros laps the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning during their game at T-Mobile Park on June 06, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 06: Robinson Chirinos #28 of the Houston Astros laps the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning during their game at T-Mobile Park on June 06, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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The Astros‘ shrewd signing of catcher Robinson Chirinos is paying dividends.

When news broke in early December that the Astros had signed Robinson Chirinos to a one-year deal, it was met with little fanfare. The catcher, who was 34 at the time, was coming off a season with the Rangers that was decent, but unspectacular.

The Rangers declined his $4.5 million option for 2019, and the Astros promptly gave him $5.75 million on a one-year deal. He posted a career-high 18 homers and 65 RBIs in 2018, but his OPS+ was 99. For reference, an OPS+ of 100 is exactly league average.

Essentially he was expected to provide a decent bat for his position, although he did not have a reputation as a strong defender. Thus far, he’s proving to be a sound investment.

Better with the Bat

Through 49 games, Chirinos is hitting .247 with what would be a career-best .383 on-base percentage and .520 slugging percentage. This equates to a .903 OPS, which is seventh among MLB catchers who’ve played at least 30 games.

His OPS+ of 141 indicates he’s been much better than league average with the bat. He’s also been more patient at the plate and is on pace to blow past his career high in walks. This performance has already been worth 2.5 WAR.

Defense as Advertised

While his impact offensively has been stellar, defensively he has been about as expected. He’s throwing out just 13 percent of base stealers, which is better than the 10 percent rate he posted last year but still well below average.

He’s also been a below average pitch framer, according to Baseball Prospectus. One area he has excelled in, however, is blocking. BP ranks him third in the majors in blocking runs.

So while he’s not going to win any Gold Glove awards, he also wasn’t signed with that expectation in mind. He plays a competent defense, handles the pitching staff, and is an above-average hitter for his position.

Overall Bargain

For just one year and $5.75 million, Chirinos is proving to be an excellent signing. The Astros paid Brian McCann $17 million in 2018 to post a WAR total of 1.0. Jonathan Lucroy made $6.5 million in 2018 and was worth -0.7 WAR for Oakland.

dark. Next. Astros: Where has the bullpen gone?

As with the signing of Michael Brantley, the Astros are proving to have made some excellent moves this past offseason. Time will tell if those will lead them to another championship.

***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus***

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