2020 was a weird year for all of baseball, the Houston Astros in particular. On top of dealing with a global pandemic, they had to deal with the fallout from the revelation of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal. While there weren’t any booing fans in the stands, players across the league spoke out against them like never before. This clearly weighed on them throughout the season, and it was reflected in their performance.
For the first time in years, Houston’s offense in 2020 was just middle of the pack. They were seventh in the AL in runs scored with 279, and tenth in the AL in batting average at .240. The Astros finished the season at 29-31. Fortunately for Houston fans, there were expanded playoffs, so they still made the postseason. As soon as the postseason arrived, they woke up. Houston’s swagger returned and they came within a game of another World Series appearance. In 2021, the Astros lineup has returned to form and it is dominant once again.
In 2020, Houston had a lot of stars have career-worst seasons, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel were at the front of that line. Altuve slashed .219/.286/.344 with just five home runs. Gurriel wasn’t much better, slashing .232./274/.384 with six home runs. 2021 is a completely different story for these two. Altuve has fit in just fine in the leadoff spot, slashing .288/.358/.473 with 12 homers and 45 runs scored. Gurriel has put up MVP-like numbers, slashing .323/.392/.536 with 10 homers and 47 RBI. The 37-year-old is putting together his best season yet. Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa are also enjoying bounce-back seasons. Bregman has walked 29 times and scored 37 runs. Correa has 26 extra-base hits and has walked a team-leading 33 times.
Continuing to Rake
While several Astros had down seasons in 2020, there were some who played very well, and they are continuing to rake. Kyle Tucker was the big breakout for Houston last year, leading the team in most offensive categories. He has picked up right where he left off in 2021. He leads the team in homers with 13, extra-base hits with 30, and total bases: 121.
Michael Brantley hit .300 in the shortened 2020 season, right in line with what he does year after year. Few in the game are as consistent as he is, and the 34-year-old is as good as ever. After Sunday’s incredible performance, Brantley is slashing .337/.381/.497. He has been limited to 46 games this season due to injuries, but he still has 19 doubles.
Yordan Alvarez played only two games in 2020 with knee injuries, but he has continued what he began in his 2019 Rookie of the Year campaign. He’s slashing .302/.353/.520 with 25 extra-base hits and 35 RBI. The knock on him has been a low walk rate: 5% and a high strikeout rate: 26%.
Astros Lineup Dominance
Overall, Houston’s lineup is first in the majors with 358 runs scored. They are just middle of the AL pack in home runs, with 81. Homers are important, but good teams can score runs even when they don’t hit the ball into the stands. Through the first two and a half months of the 2021 season, the Astros lineup has been as dominant as ever. Houston begins a short but important home-stand on Tuesday where they face the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox.
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