NEW YORK -- The Astros' offense, one of baseball's most dangerous all year long -- including in their American League Division Series win over the Red Sox -- has gone quiet in the AL Championship Series. They have scored just nine runs against the Yankees in five games in the ALCS, and were shut out, 5-0, in Game 5 on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. They now head back to Houston trailing 3-2 in the series.
"We've lost a little bit of our offensive adjustments and a little of our offensive mojo," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's rare, because of how much offense we put up through the first six months of the season and even in the Division Series. We've swung the bats very well, and I believe we're one good game from coming out of it."
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The good news for Houston is that, according to Statcast™, there are, in fact, reasons to believe the Astros' bats are due to break out.
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Statcast™ defines a "hard-hit ball" as one that has an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. On those batted balls, the overall Major League batting average this season was .558. Hit the ball hard, and more likely than not, it will turn into a hit.
But in the ALCS presented by Camping World alone, the Astros have hit into 25 outs on hard-hit balls, including eight in their Game 5 loss. That's the most hard-hit outs of any of the four teams in the two League Championship Series. Houston's batting average on hard contact in the ALCS is just .297, the lowest of the four teams and a far cry from the 2017 MLB average. The Astros went 2-for-10 on hard-hit balls in Game 5, including a pair of consecutive hard-hit outs to end the game, with third baseman Alex Bregman lining out to center field on a rocket off the bat at 98.9 mph.
In addition, Houston has come up completely empty when it has made the most dangerous type of contact: "barrels," which are batted balls with optimal combinations of exit velocity and launch angle. Barreled balls, in general, produce a batting average of at least .500 and a slugging percentage of at least 1.500. They're the kind of batted ball most likely to both be a hit and do damage.
The Astros have barreled six balls in the ALCS -- and not one has gone for a hit. They are the only team in either LCS without a hit on a barreled ball.
"It's gonna take one swing for a lot of people in this lineup," Bregman said. "One swing, and we'll be right back where we need to be."
It's a stark contrast from Houston's ALDS win over Boston. In that series, the Astros went a perfect 10-for-10 when they barreled the ball. Seven of those barrels went for home runs (three by Altuve, two by Bregman and one each by Springer and Correa).
For another point of comparison: In the ALCS, the Yanks have hit nine barrels, and six of them have gone for hits. Not just hits, however. New York's barrels include Greg Bird's home run, Aaron Judge's two home runs and Gary Sanchez's Game 5 home run.
All this is to say, Houston's bats might be scuffling, but they could be closer to their dangerous selves than the box scores make them appear, and maybe the Astros can expect better in Games 6 and Game 7.
"We've responded all year long," said Houston catcher Brian McCann. "We'll regroup. … We'll turn the page and get ready. And we will be ready."