MLB Standings Ordered by Home Runs: Do The Astros Have a Long-Ball Problem?
By Alec Brown
The Houston Astros have been a powerhouse over the last six seasons with a combo every team dreams of: scoring runs in bunches while keeping the other team from scoring. Do both of those things and you'll win a lot of baseball games.
The Astros have been prolific home run hitters in that stretch. Players like Yordan Alvarez, George Springer and Alex Bregman have supplied big flies in bunches. While they haven't struck out nearly as often as teams built for the long ball like New York, they've never had a shortage of power.
Entering tonight's game, the Astros are 22nd in the MLB in home runs per game, averaging 0.96 per game. They are a full home run per game behind the first place Rays.
Now, the big fly isn't everything, but it sure does help. Last year Houston hit the fourth most home runs as a team with 1.32 per game after hitting 1.33 per game in 2021.
So what gives? Do the Astros have a power outage?
Well, yes and no. The Astros should be getting Jose Altuve back in about a month's time. Over the last five full seasons, Altuve has averaged 25 home runs per year. As admirably as Mauricio Dubón has filled in at the top of the order, he provides virtually no pop. Altuve's return alone should help.
More problematic may be the absolute loss of power from José Abreu. The first baseman was brought in to deepen Houston's lineup, and instead has only one home runs dating back to August 3 of last season. His 31st percentile xSLG doesn't provide much optimism that he's got a power surge right around the corner either.
He struggled mightily against the fastball last season, posting a -9 run value against a four-seamer, but still crushed every other pitch type he saw on the way to a .300 season with an .824 OPS.
This season he has been ok against the fastball. His .464 xSLG shows that he has made much better contact than his .276 slugging perentage against heat shows.
It's every other pitch that has given Abreu fits. He carries a .179 xBA and .201 xSLG against the slider, a .128 xBA and .170 xSLG against the curve and a .238 xBA and .285 xSLG against the sweeper. He has gone from tattooing breaking balls off-speed pitches last season to being a complete liability.
If Abreu can find his stroke, and maybe a Crawford Box shot will give him the confidence to do just that, then the Astros power issues will likely subside.
A healthy Chas McCormick returning and the swing tweaks from Jake Meyers should help as well.
At the moment, yes, Houston has a power problem. But with an Altuve return soon to come, a hopeful return to form for Abreu and the center field combination finding their strokes, Houston will likely be the Astros offense of old in no time.