Has Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman returned to MVP type?

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 player? Can Alex Bregman be the No. 1 option on a championship team? Is Alex Bregman elite?!

Happily for the Houston Astros, the distinction between a great Bregman and an excellent Bregman most likely gained’t have a dramatic influence on their place within the standings the remainder of the season. It is a workforce with the most effective 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 mentioned, 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 excellent workforce, or are we speaking about among the finest gamers within the league?

The second decide within the 2015 MLB Draft, Bregman raced to the large 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 referred to as at present, and he has been one of many faces of the franchise ever since.

In 2018 and ‘19, Bregman was one of the best players in baseball. His 16.2 fWAR was not just top among third basemen but also third overall behind some dudes named Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. His WAR was boosted significantly by the fact that he played a considerable amount of shortstop during Carlos Correa’s a number of harm absences, nevertheless it wasn’t nearly spectacular defensive metrics at difficult positions; Bregman’s 162 wRC+ ranked third behind solely Trout and Christian Yelich.

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 He was merely sensational, and at simply 25 years outdated, he was seemingly solely getting began.

Since 2019, nevertheless, it has been a a lot completely 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.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that the majority of Bregman’s underlying metrics have remained regular the previous 5 years. Normally when a participant ascends (or descends) to a brand new degree of efficiency, you may pinpoint one thing that modified dramatically inside his profile. Possibly a man begins hanging out approach much less or hitting the ball a lot tougher or getting it within the air extra usually.

However in the event you checked out solely Bregman’s batted ball knowledge 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 charge; 12.1% strikeout charge; 20% chase charge; 88.5% contact charge; 89.4 mph common exit velocity; 7.4% barrel charge; 39.8% hard-hit charge

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

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

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

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

Are you able to inform which season he hit 41 dwelling runs and which one he slugged solely .422? If I hadn’t instructed you the years, I’m not so positive you possibly can.

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

He won’t catch Derek Jeter’s ridiculous all-time mark of 734 postseason PA’s, however seeing as he’s simply 28 years outdated, Bregman may find yourself awfully excessive on that record when it’s all mentioned and achieved. 

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. After all, he has had his moments — all of us keep in mind his walk-off to win Sport 5 of the 2017 World Collection, one of the crucial chaotic video games in MLB postseason historical past. 

On the entire, although, Bregman within the ALCS and World Collection 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 Collection plate appearances. That does embody 5 Fall Basic dingers, together with three in opposition to the Nationals in 2019, however Bregman’s 2-for-21 in final yr’s World Collection in opposition to the Braves, together with an 0-for-10 with 5 strikeouts in three dwelling video games, left a bitter style getting into the winter.

That brings us to this yr. Two famous person campaigns in 2018 and ‘19 were followed by two merely solid seasons in 2020 and ‘21. After finishing 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 among the finest groups in baseball.

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

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

Since that Rangers collection, Bregman has hit .318/.406/.591 with 12 dwelling 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, but he’s beginning to look rather more just like the MVP candidate he was in these seasons.

Alex Bregman smacks seventeenth homer of the season

Alex Bregman smacks 17th homer of the season

Alex Bregman’s two-run dwelling run within the fourth inning Thursday helped the Houston Astros seize a 10-0 lead over the Chicago White Sox.

What’s extra, Bregman’s scorching-hot stretch has conveniently coincided with some severe regression from rookie standout Jeremy Peña. Since coming back from the injured record 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 the most effective 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 at the very least 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 corresponding to Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker and Yordan Álvarez, the Astros may afford to have Bregman wrestle for 2 months. Now they’re reaping the rewards of his return to type as one other vital 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 again in March 2019. Coming off a 2018 season through which he completed fifth in AL MVP voting, Bregman signed a five-year, $100 million extension that lined 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, which means he would make $11M in 2020-22 and $28.5M in 2023 and ‘24. At the time, it was the third-largest extension ever signed by a player between two and three years of service time, behind only those 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 chance, assuming they choose out of their present contracts — Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts and Correa. Even together with his current resurgence, it’s powerful 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 seemingly 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 current run of manufacturing is any indication, Houston will probably be more than pleased to pay him almost $30M yearly for his subsequent two seasons. Extra importantly, we’ll all get to observe the most effective 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 quite a lot of sleep. You possibly can comply with him on Twitter at @j_shusterman_.

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