Astros: Altuve, McHugh look to rebound from disappointing first halves

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 30: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros tosses his helmet after striking out in the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on June 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 30: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros tosses his helmet after striking out in the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on June 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Jose Altuve and Collin McHugh have had disappointing seasons so far, but look to turn things around for the Astros.

While we’re in the midst of looking at the Astros‘ best performances of the first half of the 2019 season, it’s also good to take a look at who could stand to improve. The team’s two biggest disappointments from the first half, Jose Altuve and Collin McHugh, look to get back on track and salvage their individual seasons.

Both have been hampered by injury, so a return to good health should provide a boost for each of them. If one or both can return to form down the stretch, it will make the Astros that much more dangerous for opposing teams.

No Batting Title This Year

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For a guy who’s posted no fewer than 4.8 WAR in each of the last five seasons, having only 0.5 WAR at this point in the season is sobering. Altuve’s chances of a winning fourth batting title this season are remote, as he sits at a .259/.325/.454 line through just 53 games played, thanks to a stint on the IL for a hamstring issue.

The good news is he seems to have gotten into a good rhythm lately. Shortly after coming off the IL, Altuve’s batting average dropped all the way to .235 coming into play on June 21. He’s posted five multi-hit games since then, so perhaps he’s turned things around.

Altuve was also displaying good power early in the season, so if he can recapture some of that, there’s no reason he can’t end up with a batting average close to .300 and roughly 20 homers by the time the season is done. Considering the injury issues, the Astros will gladly take that.

Walk Year Woes

McHugh excelled out of the bullpen in 2018, posting a 1.99 ERA in 72.1 innings, and was a reliable starter for the Astros from 2014-2017. It was expected that he would be the team’s third starter this year, and he actually had a 1.96 ERA through his first four starts. But then the wheels came off.

His next four starts were rough and his ERA ballooned to 6.37, causing him to be removed from the rotation. He spent more than a month on the IL and has pitched out of the bullpen since returning. The good news there is he’s made five scoreless appearances since coming off the IL, so perhaps he can pitch effectively as a reliever.

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The bad news for McHugh is he’s set to hit free agency after the season. A solid showing in the rotation could have boosted his earning power, but pitching effectively in the second half of the season, even out of the bullpen, should set him up for a solid payday.

***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***