Despite being seven games above .500 so far, the Houston Astros find themselves 5.5 games back of the Texas Rangers in the American League West. Not exactly what you want to see 75 games into the season, but things could be worse.
A big part of what has transpired has been due to what the Rangers have been doing. As of today, they have scored 153 more runs than their opponents in 2023 which is the highest run differential in all of baseball. That sort of production is going to be hard to keep pace with for any team and sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
However, that doesn't mean there aren't areas where the Astros could improve. The Houston pitching staff has done their part but for the first time in a long time, the offense has been the group that has lagged behind. In particular, the Astros' have been very mediocre when it comes to hitting for power which is very different from what we are used to from them.
To better understand why this matters, lets look at how teams across MLB stack up when it comes to hitting for power and where the Astros fit in.
MLB Standings sorted by slugging percentage: The Astros need more power
First, here is what the top 10 teams in baseball look like when we sort by slugging percentage. Slugging percentage is far from a perfect measure here, but stick with us for a moment.
1 - Atlanta Braves: .476
2 - Tampa Bay Rays: .464
3 - Texas Rangers: .456
4 - Los Angeles Dodgers: .443
5 - Arizona Diamondbacks: .437
6 - Los Angeles Angels: .433
7 - Boston Red Sox: .431
8 - Baltimore Orioles: .427
9 - St. Louis Cardinals: .425
10 - San Francisco Giants: .417
Again, slugging percentage isn't a fantastic predictor of team success. As the Cardinals have found out this season, you also have to have a pitching staff to win games. However, when you look at this list, there are a lot of first and second place teams in there including the four best teams in all of baseball in the top 5.
So where do the Astros' rank? Well, the news there is not great as Houston currently sits at 17th in baseball in team slugging percentage at .400. If you prefer ISO as a measure of power, the Astros still sit at only 16th with a .155 team ISO. For reference, the top team in MLB in ISO, the Atlanta Braves, have a .208 ISO this season.
This isn't entirely the team's fault as the Astros' best power hitter, Yordan Alvarez, has been out with an oblique injury that will also keep him out until at least early July. However, it is pretty clear that the Astros could use another power bat at the trade deadline especially when you look at how the AL West breaks down along the same lines.
American League West standings sorted by slugging percentage
1 - Texas Rangers: .456
2 - Los Angeles Angels: .433
3 - Houston Astros: .400
4 - Seattle Mariners - .382
5 - Oakland Athletics - .349
Having two of the top six team slugging percentages in MLB in their division is not going to make things easy no matter how good the Astros' pitching staff plays. That said, Houston has to do their part and at least close the 30+ point gap between them and second place a bit to have a chance in the division.
Again, for the ISO enthusiasts out there, things break down the same way with the Rangers and Angels leading the way at .184 and .180 with Houston tied with Seattle at .155 and Oakland lagging way behind near the bottom of MLB to the surprise of exactly no one.