Alex Bregman and the Astros Are Still Searching for Answers

The Astros and Alex Bregman Are Still Seeking Clarity

One of the Houston Astros’ most important problems heading into the 2024 season was what to do with Alex Bregman. After fifteen days, the problem remains the same despite significant changes.

The main discussion heading into the season was whether or not the organization should extend Bregman, who is scheduled to become a free agency at the end of the current campaign. Much more important questions are now in the air.

It seems like Bregman is older than he is because he has been such a fantastic player for so long—nine years, to be exact. In actuality, on March 30, the LSU third baseman celebrated his 30th birthday. Even in the years of baseball, that is far from old.

The Fundamental Numbers
A game of numbers is baseball. Wins and runs scored are always the most significant ones each day. You can then dissect anything into as many small or huge pieces as you’d like to examine.

Bregman’s performance this season has been remarkably poor. He is cutting after Sunday’s game in Detroit.201/.270/.264. With six doubles, one home run, and a 57 wRC+, he has only driven in 13 and scored eight runs. It’s astonishing that he has 159 plate appearances and two stolen bases (2) compared to one home run (1).

Analysis of Contacts
Those who have seen the film Major League may recall Willie Mays Hayes making consecutive pop-ups in an attempt to score home runs. Well, this season, Bregman has been really channeling Hayes.

Bregman’s pop-up rate has historically been in the single digits and has hovered around 10% over the last four seasons, according to his Baseball Savant profile. This year, it is at 18.4%; it was 8.6% percent last year.

This year, Bregman has also been hitting fewer line drives. Throughout his career, he has struck out at a rate of 25.8%. He is tearing line drives at a rate of 20.8% thus far in 2024.

Part of the problem with Bregman is that he doesn’t miss the baseball very often. Why is that a problem? It usually isn’t, but since his timing is off, he is making contact even if it is of the weak variety.

When digging into the numbers, one interesting fact is that Bregman is hitting well against both sinkers and (to a lesser extent) sliders: .324 and .250 batting averages, respectively. Along with his abnormally high pop-up rate, this suggests that he is really searching for the bottom of the ball and not focusing on squaring it up for a line drive.

Why Is Bregman Struggling?

As we all know, baseball is hard, and it can be difficult to pinpoint just one cause for either good or bad results. Historically, Bregman has been a slow starter in most seasons. His weakest overall numbers come in the first month or two. But the poor results this season are next-level struggling.

It is hard to think that a proven veteran like Bregman would be so strongly affected by his desire to have a fantastic walk year, but it happens. With the amount of money that is out there, perhaps he is simply pressing too much and not staying with what has always worked.

I have never done anything like Bregman is doing that had such massive financial implications, so I don’t know exactly how I would react. But I did have some sage advice given to me by an older gentleman out on the golf course several years ago.

He said, “You can’t play a money game in golf with one hand on your wallet.” Maybe that is unconsciously part of what Bregman is doing. In wanting to do so well in order to get paid, he is hurting his efforts.

A Rigorous Offseason Could Be Backfiring

Speaking of change, Bregman spent a ton of time in the cages this offseason looking for some additional pop or exit velo. He went to Arizona and hit more this offseason than he had in the past. He was healthy and was searching for something to unlock some more home runs.

Ironically, so far this season, he has done the opposite. However, an argument against his offseason adjustments being the culprit is his performance in spring training. Bregman had one of his best seasons in the Grapefruit League, hitting .383/.431/.596 with four doubles and two home runs in just 16 games.

Maybe he was just more relaxed during the spring and started to think too much in the regular season instead of just being a ball player and playing ball.

Let’s go back to the fact that Bregman spent so much time hitting this offseason. It was one of the first offseasons of his pro career in which he wasn’t rehabbing some sort of injury. Maybe the problem is as simple as he is tired and slightly burned out – probably mentally more than physically.

Rest is important, and it is important to step away from the game to not only give your body a break but your mind as well. He did the opposite and is having a hard time.

Plus, with the Astros making it to the ALCS or World Series in each of the last seven seasons, Bregman has been playing an extra month of high-stress baseball each year. He has logged an astounding 97 playoff games in his career. Maybe rest should have been his offseason focus, not trying to become something that he isn’t.

Where Do the Astros and Bregman Go From Here?

As of the end of play on Sunday, the Houston Astros are sitting ten games under .500 at 15-25. Nobody expected this dismal start to the season.

To be fair they have experienced a massive number of injuries to the pitching staff, but it goes beyond that. Several Astros like Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Peña, and Yordan Alvarez are producing, but so many others aren’t. And that goes for both position players and pitchers.

Can the Astros turn their season around? Absolutely they can. They haven’t created a dynasty by just giving up when things get tough. Additionally, they are getting healthier in their rotation, and that is going to help tremendously. But, if they are going to dig out of this hole, they need to grab a shovel, and quick.

Now, let’s just say that the Astros don’t pull off a 2019 Washington Nationals-style turnaround (they started the season 19-31 before making the playoffs and winning the World Series) and still find themselves under .500 at the trade deadline. Then what?

The Astros Wouldn’t Trade Bregman, Would They?

Would the Astros actually entertain the idea of trading someone like Bregman in order to start the rebuild? Publicly, no way would they admit that, but Dana Brown and his staff would have to at least kick it around.

A player with Bregman’s resume would be expected to pay a premium and strengthen an already thin farm system. But ultimately, all of this is currently just conjecture.

Personally, I’ll be stunned if the Astros don’t go on a scorching run this summer and, if nothing else, close the gap on the AL West leaders. Furthermore, Bregman is simply too skilled to be out injured for too long.

He only needs to change the narrative because momentum and streaks are key components of baseball. Bregman’s stats will improve once he resumes hitting line drives and controlling himself.

We have all seen Bregman shine for so many years that it is hard to believe that this is his new norm. He will most likely snap out of this funk soon, and when he does, opposing pitchers should watch out.

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