Astros News

Astros: Will pitchers make adjustments vs. Chas McCormick?

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 16: Chas McCormick #20 of the Houston Astros gestures to the crowd ahead of Jonah Heim #28 of the Texas Rangers after hitting a home run during the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park on June 16, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 16: Chas McCormick #20 of the Houston Astros gestures to the crowd ahead of Jonah Heim #28 of the Texas Rangers after hitting a home run during the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park on June 16, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /
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There are many reasons the Houston Astros reside in first place at the All-Star break.  Some of them you could have predicted reasonably easily, while others have seemingly come out of nowhere.

Back in spring training as the loss of George Springer started to hit home and questions about who would be the 4th outfielder swirled, one of the names I least expected to hear as a viable option was Chas McCormick.

Chas McCormick made the team out of spring and has never looked back, batting .250 with surprising power for someone who had one home run every 48.4 minor league at bats.

I had seen McCormick play before, back in 2019 in Corpus and Round Rock, but I can’t say that he stood out. The right-hander slashed .276 with 20 home runs and 143 RBI in 968 minor league at-bats, which, while not bad, doesn’t exactly scream big time prospect.

In 140 major league at-bats, McCormick has blasted 10 home runs and played stellar defense. While seeing time at all three outfield positions, the left-hander has played 161.1 innings in left, 126 in right and 70.1 in center.

McCormick appears to be benefiting from some amount of luck. The advanced stats show him batting .243 on fastballs, when his xBA on the pitch is only .198. The question for me is, how sustainable is this over the course of a season?  McCormick has seen fastballs 57.4% of the time, as they’ve accounted for six of his 10 long balls.

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The numbers are a bit confounding if you’re facing McCormick. With an expected batting average of .198 on the fastball, the lowest of any pitch, that’s the pitch you tend to throw. Yet, somehow he’s found a way to hit six of the 374 fastballs he’s seen out of the park. At some point the pitchers will adjust and force McCormick to hit offspeed more often, which he’s done at a .258 clip, but with less power (four HRs in 66 at bats).

Breaking that down, gives him a home run every 12.3 at-bats on the fastball and every 16.5 at-bats on other pitches.

I would expect McCormick to see less fastballs in the second half, especially against right-handed pitchers, who he faces the majority of the time. While there’s a fair chance his average remains in a similar range, my projection would be less power over the balance of the season as the league adjusts.

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That’s not a bad tradeoff, as I find it difficult to believe there were many that thought McCormick would enter the All-Star break with 10 long balls and a wRC+ of 124. Anything McCormick provides on offense is a bonus, especially when he’s a versatile outfielder with 6 outs above average and a sprint speed in the top 7% of the league.

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