HOUSTON -- While the Astros have unquestionably added a lot of power to their starting lineup in the last week with Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus, they've also added a pair of guys who strike out at a high clip to a team that already has a high whiff rate.
Adding that much punch to a lineup that needed it comes at a cost, and for the Astros it's the strikeout. It should be all worth it, general manager Jeff Luhnow said, if the Astros can produce more runs and put themselves in position to win more games in 2015.
"At the end of the day, we're going to produce 27 outs each game no matter what," he said. "There's a fixed number of outs, and we know we've got players that have powerful swings and do have some swing-and-miss potential. That's part of it. It's going to be up to [manager] A.J. [Hinch] and the hitting coaches to figure out how to minimize the negative effects and maximize the positive. The positive are guys that strike out a lot tend to drive the ball."
Five of the nine hitters in the Astros' 2015 lineup were among the top 20 in the Majors in strikeout percentage a year ago (minimum 300 plate appearances): Jon Singleton 37 percent (first), George Springer 33 percent (seventh), Rasmus 33 percent (ninth), Chris Carter 31.8 percent (14th) and Jason Castro 29.5 percent (19th).
The Astros struck out 1,442 times last year, which was the fourth-most in history. But it was an improvement over 2013, when they set a Major League record by striking out 1,535 times. The Astros ranked third in the American League with 163 homers last year, up from 148 in '13.
"Two years ago, we struck out a lot and didn't hit quite as many home runs and doubles as we should have given the strikeouts," Luhnow said. "Last year, we struck out a lot, but we did hit a lot more home runs. This year, we're going to strike out a lot, but we're probably going to increase our run production, and overall the net value to our wins should be there."
Carter, whose 212 strikeouts in '13 were the third-most in baseball history, last year led the Major Leagues with a homer every 13.7 at-bats, while dropping his strikeout rate from 36.2 percent in '13. He expects those numbers to keep trending in the right direction.
"We've got a lot more veterans in the lineup, and it will be good for the younger guys to feed off each other and there's more protection in the lineup," Carter said Thursday at an Astros Caravan stop in Friendswood, Texas. "It will be fun to watch this year."
When asked about the strikeout potential, Hinch quipped: "We haven't struck out yet."
Still, strikeouts are a price of doing business when a lineup is built for power.
"Talking about what these guys did in 2014 is relative to a point, but we're not going to obsess over it," Hinch said. "It's part of the game and part of the power production that can be on offense. It's something we're going to have to pay attention to, but in January I'm not too worried about it."
The bottom line for the Astros is their lineup has gotten more dangerous with the additions of Rasmus (19.22 at-bats per homer) and Gattis (16.77) to thumpers Carter (13.7), Springer (14.75) and Singleton (23.85).
"When I look at [the lineup], I think damage," Rasmus said.