Eye got it: Gattis' strike zone work paying off

Walks reflect catcher/DH's effort to improve judgment at plate

Eye got it: Gattis' strike zone work paying off

SEATTLE -- Through one week of the regular season, catcher/designated hitter Evan Gattis led the Astros in walks and on-base percentage, and it's not by accident. Gattis has been working for quite some time in better strike-zone judgment.

Gattis drew a career-high three walks on Sunday, including the game-winner with the bases loaded in the 12th inning to push his total to five walks this season.

"Just being aware of how you do in the zone versus out of the zone, and just do your best to locate an area that you really want the ball and anything that kind of deviates from that, do your best to shut it down," Gattis said while explaining his approach.

With the additions of Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, there were some questions about how much playing time Gattis would get, but he's started five of the team's first eight games. Gattis did lead the club in home runs (32) last year and was second to only Jose Altuve in OPS, so he's proven he can be an impact bat in the lineup.

And if Gattis can keep drawing walks, he'll make a bigger impact.

Gattis gets doused after game

"It's nice to see him take it into the games a little bit and be selective," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "As his maturity happens, he can do so much damage. We've seen him hit a ton of bad balls for homers or doubles or triples, so he gets rewarded sometimes by just swinging. As a productive overall hitter, he's shown that he can be a little more disciplined. ... Getting the at-bat to the next guy will be key for us, so when we have to take a walk, we take a walk."

Gattis had five hits in his first 14 at-bats, which is a far cry from the 4-for-26 start he got off to last year after missing the first week following offseason hernia surgery. Two years ago, he got off to a 5-for-42 start with 17 strikeouts.

"I felt healthy this year," he said. "Two years ago, I was healthy. I had a really tough start. I didn't want that to happen. It's important. I want to have a better start, better year than last year."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.