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Carlos Correa is struggling more than he ever has

The slugging shortstop played a major role in the Astros run to the top last year, so how crucial is this key piece for the next October run?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Months ago, I wrote about how I thought the 2018 Astros might be the greatest team in the history of modern baseball, referring to their absurdly high run differential throughout the article. While they haven’t quite sustained the pace they were running in June, they still are pacing to remain one of the best team in the modern-era in run differential, so some of that still holds weight.

Anyway, it would be asking a lot for that pitching staff to extrapolate its insane start throughout the duration of the season, while the offense has seen numerous players hit the disabled list/struggle in that time, such as George Springer, Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick, and Carlos Correa. Luckily, though, help from the unexpected in Tyler White, Max Stassi, and Tony Kemp, plus Alex Bregman just going completely nuts, have helped them hold off the surging Oakland A’s in the AL West.

But while everything looks fine at the moment, one player who would have seemed like an automatic write-in to help with any success this team has had in 2018 has severely struggled by his standards. As it stands at the time of me writing this, Carlos Correa owns a 102 wRC+. Normally, that’d be nothing to fret over, as positional value along with serviceable defense and baserunning have kept him at a more than fine 1.7 fWAR. But once you bring his numbers from previous seasons into play, especially last year, there is plenty of reason for concern.

Among 136 players with just as many plate appearances as Correa in 2017 and 2018, none have lost as much offensive value as Correa this year.

Looking across the board, the reason for the decrease in easy to determine. Among those mentioned 266 players, Correa has the seventh biggest decrease in BABIP, going right in line with the largest decrease in hard-hit rate.

Looking at this season in comparison with Correa’s career, which lines up perfectly with the Statcast-era, there is decline all over.

Carlos Correa Statcast Numbers

Season Exit Velocity Launch Angle xBA xSLG wOBA xwOBA Differential
Season Exit Velocity Launch Angle xBA xSLG wOBA xwOBA Differential
2015 90 8.3 0.276 0.474 0.365 0.353 -0.012
2016 90.9 7 0.278 0.471 0.349 0.362 0.013
2017 90.4 9.2 0.308 0.55 0.394 0.399 0.005
2018 88.6 11.1 0.235 0.4 0.315 0.319 0.004
Baseball Savant

A lot of these struggles can be attributed to the back issues he’s had since June, as coincidentally, the worst two months of his career have been the two months following his DL trip.

Correa has acknowledged these struggles, admitting that the injury has played a role in his offensive dip.

“I don’t want to say it’s affecting me, but it definitely has played a role in the way my swing has changed a little bit and some of the bad habits I’ve acquired,” Correa said. “I was playing a little hurt trying to swing where it wouldn’t hurt any more. I’m trying to get back to where I was before and help the team.”

The first thing I thought of was the injury simply hampering the speed of his bat, making it harder to catch up to higher velocities. Against fastballs in general, Correa’s struggles have been enhanced. Against pitches thrown 95 MPH or faster, he had a .367 xwOBA pre-DL. Since returning from the DL, it’s a putrid .149. Pre-DL, his swinging-strike rate on these pitches was 7.2 percent. Since returning, it’s been 14.3 percent. There’s a clear issue there.

Time well tell if the couple weeks between now and the playoffs is enough time to get Correa back to better health. A career .289/.324/.567 hitter in 24 postseason games, the Astros had a major reliance on his bat during the World Series run last year. With a deep lineup like they have, missing out on Correa’s bat won’t ruin them, as they’ve been playing fine without it, but getting a big boost like that in October could make a major difference.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.