Has Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman returned to MVP form?


By Jordan Shusterman
FOX Sports activities MLB Author

It appears extra like a debate you’d have about an NBA star or an NFL quarterback. 

“Is Alex Bregman a top-10 MLB participant? Can Alex Bregman be the No. 1 choice on a championship workforce? Is Alex Bregman elite?!

Happily for the Houston Astros, the distinction between a great Bregman and an awesome Bregman most likely gained’t have a dramatic affect on their place within the standings the remainder of the season. This can be a workforce with one of the best document within the AL that has maintained a double-digit-game lead within the AL West for almost two months. 

The Astros are a dominant drive, and Bregman is only a small a part of that — that is baseball, in spite of everything. One man can do solely a lot.

That stated, the trajectory of Bregman’s efficiency the previous 5 years has puzzled me sufficient to surprise: Simply how good is that this man, precisely?

To be clear, Bregman is excellent at baseball. That has been apparent since he stepped on LSU’s campus as a freshman 10 years in the past. However given how his efficiency has fluctuated, are we speaking a couple of actually good third baseman on an awesome workforce, or are we speaking about the most effective gamers within the league?

The second decide within the 2015 MLB Draft, Bregman raced to the massive leagues in a flash, enjoying in simply 146 minor-league video games earlier than he earned his first call-up in late July 2016. He joined the Astros proper as they have been ascending to the dominant drive they’re generally known as in the present day, and he has been one of many faces of the franchise ever since.

In 2018 and ‘19, Bregman was the most effective gamers in baseball. His 16.2 fWAR was not simply prime amongst third basemen but also third overall behind some dudes named Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. His WAR was boosted considerably by the truth that he performed a substantial quantity of shortstop throughout Carlos Correa’s a number of harm absences, but it surely wasn’t nearly spectacular defensive metrics at difficult positions; Bregman’s 162 wRC+ ranked third behind solely Trout and Christian Yelich.

He was the most effective hitters in baseball, full cease. He was merely sensational, and at simply 25 years outdated, he was seemingly solely getting began.

Since 2019, nonetheless, it has been a a lot totally different story. Bregman’s 7.0 fWAR ranks eighth amongst third basemen and nowhere close to the highest of the MLB chief board. His plate self-discipline has remained elite, however his energy has declined to a shocking diploma, as he slugged simply .439 the previous three seasons, in comparison with a .561 mark in 2018 and ‘19.

Including to the thriller is the truth that nearly all of Bregman’s underlying metrics have remained regular the previous 5 years. Normally when a participant ascends (or descends) to a brand new stage of efficiency, you possibly can pinpoint one thing that modified dramatically inside his profile. Possibly a man begins putting out manner much less or hitting the ball a lot more durable or getting it within the air extra typically.

However for those who checked out solely Bregman’s batted ball information or plate self-discipline metrics over the previous 5 years, it’d be troublesome to pick which seasons have been higher than others.

* 2018: 13.6% stroll price; 12.1% strikeout price; 20% chase price; 88.5% contact price; 89.4 mph common exit velocity; 7.4% barrel price; 39.8% hard-hit price

* 2019: 17.2% stroll price; 12.0% strikeout price; 18.8% chase price; 87.0% contact price; 89.3 mph common exit velocity; 4.6% barrel price; 37.2% hard-hit price

* 2020: 13.3% stroll price; 14.4% strikeout price; 21.1% chase price; 86.5% contact price; 88.9 mph common exit velocity; 3.9% barrel price; 33.6% hard-hit price

* 2021: 11.0% stroll price; 13.3% strikeout price; 21.0% chase price; 87.7% contact price; 89.0 mph common exit velocity; 6.4% barrel price; 38.1% hard-hit price

* 2022: 13.3% stroll price; 12.2% strikeout price; 20.8% chase price; 86.1% contact price; 89.2 mph common exit velocity; 7.6% barrel price; 38.0% hard-hit price

Are you able to inform which season he hit 41 residence runs and which one he slugged solely .422? If I hadn’t informed you the years, I’m not so certain you would.

Then there’s Bregman’s postseason résumé, which is a equally fascinating combined bag. Taking part in for the Astros the previous seven years has afforded him the chance to play loads of playoff baseball. Bregman has 319 profession postseason plate appearances, which is already seventeenth all time and sixth amongst energetic gamers, behind solely Yadier Molina (398), Jose Altuve (363), Albert Pujols (352), Justin Turner (352) and Correa (334). 

He may not catch Derek Jeter’s ridiculous all-time mark of 734 postseason PA’s, however seeing as he’s simply 28 years outdated, Bregman might find yourself awfully excessive on that listing when it’s all stated and accomplished. 

So he has performed extra playoff baseball than the typical bear, however how has he been in that enormous October pattern? Within the division collection, he has been sensational, hitting .360/.455/.680 with six homers in 88 plate appearances. 

Within the later rounds? Eh, not a lot. In fact, he has had his moments — all of us keep in mind his walk-off to win Sport 5 of the 2017 World Sequence, probably the most chaotic video games in MLB postseason historical past. 

On the entire, although, Bregman within the ALCS and World Sequence has been markedly lackluster in comparison with his LDS dominance. He has hit .167/.323/.222 in 133 ALCS plate appearances and .188/.247/.400 in 89 World Sequence plate appearances. That does embrace 5 Fall Traditional dingers, together with three towards the Nationals in 2019, however Bregman’s 2-for-21 in final 12 months’s World Sequence towards the Braves, together with an 0-for-10 with 5 strikeouts in three residence video games, left a bitter style coming into the winter.

That brings us to this 12 months. Two famous person campaigns in 2018 and ‘19 have been adopted by two merely stable seasons in 2020 and ‘21. After ending second to Trout in 2019 AL MVP voting, Bregman wasn’t even near any award conversations the previous two seasons. So which Bregman would we get in 2022?

The primary few months, it wasn’t fairly. In a three-game collection at Texas in mid-June, Bregman went 0-for-11, dropping his season line to .214/.331/.363, a slash line hardly befitting a man batting third for the most effective groups in baseball.

At that time, I used to be pretty involved. What occurred to this man? It appeared truthful to surprise if we’d ever see the identical stage of brilliance from him once more.

However now, that 0-fer in Arlington seems just like the turning level. In his first at-bat of the Astros’ subsequent collection towards the White Sox, Bregman took Lucas Giolito deep to left area.

Since that Rangers collection, Bregman has hit .318/.406/.591 with 12 residence runs in 54 video games — together with two Thursday — elevating his season OPS to a way more respectable .839. In that point, he ranks seventh in MLB in each wRC+ (172) and fWAR (2.6). That’s extra prefer it! Bregman’s chilly begin will nonetheless forestall him from returning to the 8-WAR heights he reached in 2018 and ‘19, however he’s beginning to look rather more just like the MVP candidate he was in these seasons.

What’s extra, Bregman’s scorching-hot stretch has conveniently coincided with some severe regression from rookie standout Jeremy Peña. Since getting back from the injured listing following left thumb discomfort on June 26, the shortstop has hit simply .212/.236/.353 in 41 video games – a far cry from the bona fide Rookie of the 12 months numbers he put up within the season’s first two months. Bregman has picked up the slack after which some because the Astros have surged previous the Yankees for one of the best document within the AL.

That is a part of what makes Houston so harmful: When a workforce has that a lot expertise, it’s virtually assured to have a minimum of a handful of its greatest gamers performing like All-Stars at any given second. With the preliminary breakout of Peña and the large manufacturing from established guys reminiscent of Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez, the Astros might afford to have Bregman battle for 2 months. Now they’re reaping the rewards of his return to type as one other necessary a part of their workforce is struggling.

Bregman’s obvious return to All-Star type has additionally made me mirror on the extension he signed with Houston back in March 2019. Coming off a 2018 season by which he completed fifth in AL MVP voting, Bregman signed a five-year, $100 million extension that coated all three years of arbitration and two years of free company. He acquired a $10 million signing bonus up entrance, and the deal was backloaded, that means he would make $11M in 2020-22 and $28.5M in 2023 and ‘24. On the time, it was the third-largest extension ever signed by a participant between two and three years of service time, behind solely these of Buster Posey and Mike Trout.

Had he not signed the extension, Bregman would’ve hit free company this coming winter alongside a loaded infield class that includes Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson and — in all probability, assuming they decide out of their present contracts — Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts and Correa. Even together with his latest resurgence, it’s robust to say the place Bregman would rank on the open market relative to these different stars.

As it’s, Bregman stays in H-City and can probably proceed to rack up the postseason PA’s over the subsequent three Octobers. He has made it clear since early in his profession how a lot he appreciates enjoying in Houston, and it wouldn’t shock me in any respect to see him in an Astros uniform past 2024.

If his latest run of manufacturing is any indication, Houston will probably be very happy to pay him almost $30M yearly for his subsequent two seasons. Extra importantly, we’ll all get to observe one of the best model of Bregman once more — a model that’s hopefully right here to remain.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball author for FOX Sports activities. He lives in D.C. however is a big Seattle Mariners fan and loves watching the KBO, which implies he would not get loads of sleep. You possibly can comply with him on Twitter at @j_shusterman_.

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