Back in the preseason, I was of the mind that given the loss of Carlos Correa in the lineup the Houston Astros were in need of the 2019 version of Alex Bregman in order to successfully defend their American League West and American League crowns.
I look up in late May to find the Astros in first place, playing .600 ball, without that version of Alex Bregman in sight.
In 2019 Bregman slashed .296/.423/.592 with 41 home runs, 112 RBI, 119 walks and a 162 OPS+. Maybe it’s a little much to ask for that Bregman in 2022, but the Astros need something at least approaching that level to be a postseason contender.
Bregman’s currently slashing .231/.350/.410 with five home runs and twenty-two RBI, with an OPS+ of 126 and his plate discipline is still impressive. Normally, I see an OPS+ of 120 or higher as a good sign, well above average, and someone contributing significantly on offense.
I’m a numbers driven guy and rely on numbers often in baseball, as the sport lends itself to analysis in that manner. Yet somehow, it feels like something’s off with Bregman.
Digging into Bregman’s advanced metrics, it becomes clear he’s not barreling the ball up or hitting it hard, at least not very often, with Max Exit Velocity and Hard Hit% in the 29th and 28th percentiles, respectively, and Expected Slugging sitting in the 48th percentile.
Bregman’s expected slash numbers are better — .253/.354/.449 — but still not overly impressive.
Back in 2019, Bregman slashed .309/.278/.593 on fastballs, lighting them up for 23 home runs in 324 at-bats, a rate of a home run every 14.1 at bats on the pitch. In 2022, the numbers on that pitch pale in comparison are .215/.245/.376 and a home run for every 31 at-bats (3-for-93).
Simply put, Bregman is not hitting the fastball the way he did in 2019.
The season is 25% done and there’s plenty of baseball left. Back in 2019, Bregman hit 12 home runs in May on his way to that 41 number, but that’s about all he did as he totaled 27 hits for the month.
Bregman found his stride in August and September that year, entering the month slashing .259/.393/.516. After hitting .404 that August and .333 in September, Bregman finished second in the MVP race and won the Silver Slugger Award.
It’s a long season and three-fourths of it remain, but on May 21, 2019, Bregman was slashing 265/.388/.554 with 13 home runs and 33 RBI, and he would go on to hit three more long balls before the month ended.
If anyone can turn it around, it’s Bregman, but there’s work to do if he’s going to approach those 2019 numbers.