There has been something different all season about the Astros’ offense, which has solved Dodgers pitching well enough to stake the team to a 3-2 lead in the World Series going into Game 6 on Tuesday.
Like most of Major League Baseball, the Astros have powered up. Their 238 regular-season home runs were more than anyone but the Yankees (241).
But the Astros, who led the majors with 896 runs, have done it without sacrificing contact. Their .282 batting average led the majors. (The MLB average was .255.) The Rockies, who hit .273, were the only other playoff team above .270, and the Dodgers’ .249 trailed the 10-team postseason pack.
The Astros’ lineup is loaded with hitters who provided power and average. Shortstop Carlos Correa and second baseman Jose Altuve provided 24 homers each, with Correa hitting .315 and Altuve .326. Marwin Gonzalez, who played every infield position and left and right field, hit .303 with 23 homers, and center fielder George Springer hit 34 homers and batted .283.
Sometimes high batting averages come with an element of chance, aided by unusually high batting averages on balls in play. That appears to be a minor factor with the Astros, whose .309 BABiP was just a little higher than the major-league average (.300).
A bigger factor has been that the Astros put more balls in play than most teams. They struck out in only 17.3 percent of plate appearances, the lowest percentage in the majors. (The MLB average was 21.6 percent.) The Dodgers (22.3 percent) struck out a tad more than average.
The Astros also walked less than the average team. Major-league teams walked in an average of 8.5 percent of plate appearances, with the Dodgers leading the way at 10.5 percent and the Astros 21st at 8.1 percent.
The Astros walked 19 times fewer than an average team, but with more balls in play — and a lineup of very good hitters — they had 174 more hits.
Postseason play has been tougher on the Astros’ batting averages. They’re hitting .249 overall and .253 in the World Series, but they’re keeping a low strikeout rate at 18.4 percent. The drop in batting average is largely due to BABiP, where the Astros are at .246 this postseason.
The Astros have amped up the power, though. They have homered 25 times in the postseason, once per 21.6 at-bats. In the regular season, they homered once per 23.6 at-bats, ranking fourth in the majors behind the Rangers (22.9), Yankees (23.2) and Athletics (23.4).
In the World Series, the power surge has been even more prominent. Their 13 homers against the Dodgers represent one per 13.7 at-bats. Only three players in history — Mark McGwire (10.6 at-bats per homer), Babe Ruth (11.8) and Barry Bonds (12.9) — have career home-run rates higher than the Astros have against the Dodgers.
That’s an oddity fueled by small sample size, but tell that to the Dodgers, who sit one game from elimination.
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