By MARK SIMON
Chas McCormick played 52 of the 220 games he played college baseball at Division II Millersville (Pa.) University in center field. In the minors, he played 270 games in the outfield and only 56 in center field.
But in the majors, the Astros have needed him to be adept at the position, particularly after trading away Myles Straw in 2021 and Jose Siri this season.
In 93 career regular season games in center field, McCormick has 2 Defensive Runs Saved. Within that small sample, he’s been a little above average.
But a slightly deeper dive on the 60 regular season games he played in center showed something that foreshadowed one of the biggest moments of the World Series. Of the 49 opportunities on fly balls that our system classified as “deep” McCormick caught 43 (an opportunity is a ball on which he has a >0% chance to record an out). But, based on the sum our generated out probabilities, he was only expected to catch 35.
In particular, McCormick showed a penchant for making the play and withstanding contact with the outfield wall, whether it was a light bump, like this catch against Riley Greene
None of those catches compared in terms of impact to the one McCormick made on J.T. Realmuto in Game 5 of the World Series. With the Astros holding a one-run lead, McCormick leapt into the Citizens Bank Park right center field scoreboard to take away a potential extra-base hit, particularly important with Bryce Harper up next for the Phillies.
The Astros won the game 3-2 and then won Game 6 to win the series. McCormick’s catch was the second big defensive play in two innings for the Astros in Game 5. First baseman Trey Mancini, filling in for injured Yuli Gurriel, made a lead-preserving, inning-ending snag of a groundball to keep the game tied in the eighth inning. Like McCormick, Mancini isn’t a star at the position he was playing. In 2,100 career innings at first base, he has 1 career Run Saved.
But the Astros made the defensive plays all season, and that rubbed off on the right players at the right times. In particular, their outfielders led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved. The team finished tied for fourth in Defensive Runs Saved overall.
The Astros also ranked fourth in the majors in home runs hit. So perhaps it’s appropriate that their season was punctuated by Yordan Alvarez hitting a ball that couldn’t be fielded (his go-ahead home run in Game 6) and McCormick’s and Mancini’s amazing plays on balls that could.