The Astros should switch Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman in the lineup.
Jose Altuve is obviously a terrific leadoff hitter with the potential to start any game with a solo shot off the first pitch. This is less an indictment of his skills and more an indictment of Alex Bregman’s inability to create big innings in the three spot.
While Bregman’s batting average is nothing to write home about, he has a similar on-base percentage to Altuve — .341 to .352 respectively. While it’s great to draw bases-loaded walks, it would be better to see bases clearing doubles and grand slams.
Considering Altuve’s penchant for being clutch as well as his slugging percentage being light years ahead of Bregman’s — .528 to .380 respectively — it would be better to put the slugger at the three spot and the on-base guy at lead off.
Bregman has seen the most pitches of any Astros’ batter at 879 and is third in average pitches seen per plate appearance at 3.89. Altuve’s aggressive approach profiles more in the three spot and Bregman’s patient approach is better for the lead off spot.
Wasting a starter’s pitches and forcing him to show his secondary pitches in the first at-bat is something Bregman could do to help the hitters behind him. If he sees six or seven pitches and can work a walk for hitters like Brantley and Altuve, it would be better than having your three hole hitter working walks while your lead off hitter is cranking home runs. A three-run blast would be more productive than a one run blast.
And Altuve has experience in the three hole. Remember, he won his MVP award in 2017 batting third for a majority of his games and batted third primarily in 2018 before being moved to the two spot in the order in 2019.
Regardless it’s always been the rule of thumb in baseball to have your lead-off hitter be an on-base guy who sees a lot of pitches and to have more thump at the three spot in your lineup. Even if Bregman doesn’t get on-base, just wearing down the starter in the first plate appearance could help the guys behind him.
Bregman may not fit the prototypical lead off hitter lacking elite speed but remember we live in an era where Kyle Schwarber hits leadoff. It’s at least worth a try as Bregman has gotten clutch walks but not a lot of clutch hits and would be something to just shake up the lineup and see if it works.