Alex Bregman is an interesting case study. For a two-year stretch, he was arguably the best hitter in the game. Every other year of his career, he’s been a borderline All-Star talent.
He’s a slower starter, posting a .766 OPS for his career in March/April and at least an .835 OPS every other month. But this year has been a wildly slow start even for Bregman’s standards.
He’s hitting .240 with a below-average .719 OPS and 99 OPS+. Both of those numbers have come up in the last couple of weeks with a .333 average and .868 OPS in his last 12 games.
While it’s safe to anticipate Bregman has a big second-half as he usually does, is there a way to jumpstart his production this year?
Dusty Baker may have already found it. Baker has toyed with his line throughout the season, but the recent iteration he’s found seems to be the best solution. Jeremy Peña is back doing damage in the two-hole and Alex Bregman is back to giving opposing pitchers fits while batting cleanup.
Bregman has hit this season in exclusively the second and fourth spots. As a two-hitter, Bregman is hitting .231 with a .699 OPS. When batting cleanup, Bregman is hitting .282 with an .804 OPS. His slugging jumps from .361 to .487 in the-four hole.
Teams are forced to pitch to Bregman when he’s sandwiched between Alvarez and Tucker. When Abreu was batting cleanup, teams could nibble around Bregman and Alvarez. Bregman took his walks, but rarely did damage.
These averages are in line with his career splits. For his career, Bregman is a .318 hitter with a .990 OPS. Some of those numbers came in his MVP-caliber 2019 season, but just last year Bregman hit .293 with an .896 OPS hitting cleanup compared to a .226 average and .738 OPS anywhere else in the lineup.
In order to get the best version of Alex Bregman, and as a byproduct the best version of the Astros, Alex Bregman needs to be the cleanup hitter.