Astros: wRC+ indicates elite offense, with one caveat
Last month, I wrote about the slumping Houston Astros, and why I wasn’t too concerned as I perused their wRC+ numbers. Post All-Star Break, the team is starting to come around and over the last two days have had contributions from multiple players that are filling in for injured teammates.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the recent trends in batting averages and then take the larger, season-long view of the wRC+.
Batting averages since the All-Star Break:
The Astros’ offense, even with recent slumps, is shaping out to be a top three one in the league, and it isn’t fully healthy.
I also mentioned taking a 10,000 foot view of the season and realizing slumps will come and go for every player and team over the course of 162 games and six months of a season. In the moment it’s frustrating and difficult to understand losses to teams the Astros “should” beat, but sometimes it’s better for your mental health to take the long term view rather than vent with every loss.
That’s where our old friend, the wRC+ metric will help us regain focus. As a refresher, the basic Runs Created metric estimates a player’s offensive contribution in terms of total runs by combining a player’s ability to get on base and hit for extra bases.
Runs Created + (wRC+) takes the Runs Created metric and adjusts the number to account for other factors like ballparks, for example. It’s also adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average. This makes it easier to compare player vs. player than say just a raw number.
Given that background, let’s take a look where the Astros are in wRC+ as of today:
Over the course of the season this offense is unmatched and If healthy the Astros trot out a lineup with 8 of 9 batters at 113 or above in wRC+.
Back in July the easy answer was to get healthy and I still think that’s the answer, though it hasn’t been so easy. Bregman has only played 59 games and is headed for another rehab, Brantley seems continually nicked up, while Yuli Gurriel’s sore neck is a concern. Even super utility player Aledmys Diaz missed extended time with a broken hand and everyone has been bumped, battered and bruised throughout the season.
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All that and the Astros are still in first place. All that and guess which team leads the MLB in wRC+? The Houston Astros (118). Guess which team has scored the most runs in MLB this year? The Houston Astros (18 more than the Dodgers).
Which leads me to this: I’d argue that given the number of games missed by some of their best players this team has shown remarkable resilience and if they can get healthy you’ll see the American League’s best offense in the latter part of August, into September and in the postseason.
That said, time is ticking and the games in August are important, too. If the Astros are healthy I’m not worried about this offense. Right now that appears a huge if and it gets bigger and bigger with each missed game.
A healthy Houston Astros equals a comfortable margin in the AL West and a legitimate shot at a World Series title, otherwise this team will have a difficult time advancing.