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Luis Valbuena playing well despite being unlucky

Luis Valbuena has produced very well so far despite being unlucky.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Back in January, the Astros acquired Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily for Dexter Fowler from the Cubs. The Cubs had a surplus of infield and prospect talent including that guy Kris Bryant, so trading Valbuena wasn't much of a shock. The Astros in return sent Dexter Fowler to the north side,  which gave the Cubs a veteran outfielder with a high on-base percentage to plug in at the top of a young lineup. The Astros then signed Colby Rasmus a few days later, to fill out an outfield showcasing George Springer and young prospect Jake Marisnick. Fowler only had one year of service left, and they picked up two years of control over Luis Valbuena, not to mention the addition of Dan Straily. It seemed like a good trade for both sides, but the Astros seemed to get a great deal here by improving their weakest position while cutting salary.

In 2014, third base was an absolute disaster for the Astros. Matt Dominguez and Gregorio Petit saw all of the playing time at the hot corner, with Dominguez being the regular. That sentence right there should be enough to make you cringe. The Astros sported the worst fWAR at the third base position in all of baseball with an overall fWAR of -1.6. Matt Dominguez himself produced an overall fWAR of -2.1. He was bad all around, but his offense was absolutely terrible.

Dominguez produced a .215/.256/.330 slash line. His plate discipline wasn't that bad, yet he produced a strikeout rate of 20.6 percent, while only walking 4.8 percent of the time. His RE24 of -34.96 was the worst in baseball, meaning he was absolutely destroying his team offensively in terms of overall run expectancy. We get it, Dominguez really struggled, but how much of an upgrade could Valbuena be?

Well, he's shown some serious pop at the plate. Valbuena has shown average power throughtout his career, and profiles as a guy who can hit around 15 home runs a season. Beware of the small sample size, but Valbuena currently holds a .319 ISO, .634 slugging percentage, and a wOBA of .394. Valbuena had an on-base percentage in 2014 of .341, yet even with his impressive power so far, he only has an OBP of .304 to start the season. His strikeout rate has improved thus far, but his walk rate has slightly decreased. His slash line currently stands at .244/.304/.634. By looking at his impressive advanced metric numbers so far, how is it that Valbuena is only hitting .244 with a .304 on-base percentage? Here's where the BABIP monster comes in to play. Valbuena currently holds a .179 BABIP. It's certainly should improve as the season goes on, and thus his average and OBP should see an increase as well.

That's really simple, so here's what's really crazy. According to ESPN's Mark Simon, Valbuena currently ranks in the top 20 in baseball in hard-hit rate. Hard-hit rate is a stat that "is a good guideline to gauge players who may be running into tough luck." Of those in the top 20, Valbuena has the lowest average and the lowest BABIP. In fact, Valbuena not only ranks in the top 20 in hard-hit rate, but he also ranks in the bottom 20 in BABIP. He's the only one who falls in that category. Seems a bit "unlucky" to me. Valbuena ranks fifth in ISO, but given his average power profile, it should regress. However, if he keeps making hard contact at the rate he currently is, Valbuena could be on the fast track to a career year, so long as the luck swings more in his favor.

All data courtesy of Fangraphs. Hard-hit rate courtesy of ESPN's Mark Simon.

Brandon Decker is a contributor for Beyond the Box Score, as well as BP Wrigleyville. You can find him on Twitter @bdeck02.