This isn't George Springer's first rodeo on the world stage. Fans outside of Texas were introduced to the Astros' leadoff man and center fielder two years ago, when he was Houston's catalyst during its epic seven-game victory over the Dodgers. In that World Series, Springer overcame a four-strikeout showing in
This isn't George Springer's first rodeo on the world stage. Fans outside of Texas were introduced to the Astros' leadoff man and center fielder two years ago, when he was Houston's catalyst during its epic seven-game victory over the Dodgers. In that World Series, Springer overcame a four-strikeout showing in Game 1 to earn World Series MVP honors after slashing .379/.471/1.000 -- even with the Golden Sombrero early -- with a whopping five homers.
Over his six seasons in the Majors, Springer's most notable highlights away from his tape-measure homers have been the camera shots capturing his infectious smile and regular turns to the dugout flashing thumbs up to teammates. These trademark attributes are why Springer has become one of the most personable stars in a league that has put a premium on marketing its young talent.
Fans may already have an idea of who Springer is. Here are some reasons why many love him.
A native of Avon, Conn., and an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Springer was selected by the Astros during the first round of the 2011 Draft. He debuted three years later and crushed 20 homers in just 78 games as a rookie, setting the stage for a promising career. And now with a sample size of six seasons, Springer has been a far better hitter than average by both OPS+ (131) and wRC+ (133), park-neutral metrics where league average is 100.
The first thing we think of
His power -- particularly atop the lineup. Springer hit a career-high 39 homers in 2019, two shy of Alex Bregman's team high, and Springer reached that level despite missing 40 games due to injuries. A cause for the career benchmark might be related to Springer becoming better at creating more optimum contact. Statcast's barrels metric helps illuminate Springer's improvement in this area, as he ballooned his barrel rate by more than 60% and ranked among the Majors' leaders in the category.
For all of these reasons, Springer is arguably the most potent threat at the top of any lineup in the Majors. Among big league hitters batting leadoff -- where he hit in all 119 of his starts -- Springer led them all in just about every significant statistical category. His numbers are more reflective of a middle-of-the-order threat on most other clubs, which is all the more impressive given that Springer missed 40 games in 2019 due to injuries.
Springer's ranks among leadoff hitters
Min. 150 PAs batting leadoff (44 hitters)
HR: 39 (1st)
RBIs: 98 (1st)
SLG: .596 (1st)
OPS: .981 (1st)
wRC+: 158 (1st)
Barrels: 53 (2nd)
To be sure, the Astros have a bevy of sluggers, which allows manager AJ Hinch to utilize Springer in the one-hole. And other clubs are becoming more progressive in putting pop at the top -- notably, the Braves with Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Dodgers with Joc Pederson. But among all leadoff men, Springer provided more power than any.
"He's the heart and soul of our lineup," Correa said. "He gets going, and we get going."
Something you may not know
Despite his strong frame, Springer actually has quality range and speed. Springer is one of the game's burlier center fielders, though that certainly doesn't affect his speed or range. He ranks among the Majors' top defensive outfielders by most advanced metrics, including Outs Above Average by Statcast. Among 50 outfielders that logged at least 900 innings in '19, Springer's 11 Defensive Runs Saved ranked eighth best and his 8.8 Ultimate Zone Rating was seventh.
And even though he's had just six stolen bases in each of the past two seasons, his speed is well above average. Springer averaged 28.3 feet per second on his top-end runs (MLB average is 27.0), which was good for fourth highest on the Astros among players with at least 100 tracked runs.
What big leaguers say
Ask any of his teammates to describe Springer, and their assessments all mirror each other.
"He's always happy," Astros second baseman José Altuve said. "He's always having fun. He's always playing for the team. He's really good. It's fun to watch him play. It's fun to watch him inside and outside the clubhouse. I'm happy to be his teammate."
"He's the same guy every day," Bregman said. "He has a lot of fun playing the game that we all love. Just like Altuve, he sets the tone at the top of the order for us and he's always having fun, playing the game hard."
"What makes him fun is that he's fun," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "He's a guy that's always happy. He's a guy that's always playing music. He's a guy that loves his teammates, cares about his teammates. ... He can be a little clown sometimes which is fun. He's outgoing. He's a great teammate."
Springer is a three-time All-Star and a practical joker on the field -- sometimes all at once, as he showed during the 2018 Midsummer Classic at Nationals Park:
Anything else you should know?
Springer has a stutter in his speech that he's dealt with since he was a child, but one wouldn't necessarily know it now. And, perhaps reflective of his confident personality, he refuses to acknowledge his stutter as an impediment.
"I've never seen it as an issue," Springer said shortly after making his MLB debut in 2014. "I understand it makes me who I am. I've always had that mentality, even from a young age, when you're in school and a little more self-conscious of it then. But it didn't prohibit it me from being a kid and doing the stuff I wanted to do."
Nonetheless, Springer understands that he might have been something of an outlier during his adolescence. A speech stutter can be the root of cruelty among a child's peers, which is in part why Springer established the George Springer Kids Fund, an arm of the Stuttering Association of the Young (SAY).
In addition to hosting an annual bowling benefit for dozens of kids that experience a stutter in the Houston area, Springer is the spokesman for Camp SAY, a life-changing summer camp that provides a welcoming atmosphere to help children experiencing a stutter develop the skills needed to communicate more effectively, build self-confidence and forge friendships to last a lifetime.
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.