With the baseball season at its unofficial halfway point, one UConn Huskies baseball great is in the midst of his best season as a professional.
Former UConn legend and current Houston Astros outfielder George Springer heads into the 2017 All-Star break as one of the best hitters in baseball. In his fourth season in the big leagues, Springer is hitting .310 with 27 home runs and a .380 on-base percentage for the Astros, who are currently atop the American League West by nearly 17 games.
Springer’s 27 home runs are the most by a leadoff hitter before the All-Star in the history of Major League Baseball, breaking Brady Anderson’s record of 26 set in 1996.
The New Britain, Connecticut native’s standout season did not go unnoticed by MLB fans, as Springer was selected as one of three starters in the outfield for the American League along side New York Yankees’ rookie sensation Aaron Judge and Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts with over 1.6 million votes. Springer’s first All-Star Game selection makes him the third UConn alumni to be receive the honor.
Walt Dropo was named an All-Star during his stellar rookie season in 1950, and reliever Charles Nagy received the honor in 1996. Springer will make his All-Star game debut Tuesday, July 11 at 8 p.m. at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida.
Aside from Springer, three Huskies have seen significant time in the big leagues; Matt Barnes, Nick Ahmed and Scott Oberg.
Barnes has had an up-and-down season out of the bullpen for the Boston Red Sox, throwing 40 innings out of the bullpen with a career-best 3.38 ERA and averaging over 11 strikeouts per nine innings. While Barnes has endured some minor rough patches throughout the first part of the season, the Bethel, Connecticut native has found success as of late due to a change in his delivery that reduced his leg kick.
In those seven appearances since changing his delivery, Barnes has thrown seven innings, striking out nine, walking three and allowing zero runs.
Ahmed saw time at shortstop regularly for the Arizona Diamondbacks before suffering a broken hand after being hit by a pitch in late June. The injury led to three pins being placed in his right hand, sidelining the 27-year-old for at least 6-8 weeks. Prior to his injury, Ahmed hit .251 with six home runs while providing his usual solid defense at shortstop.
Oberg has served as a workhorse out of the bullpen for the breakout Colorado Rockies, making a team-high 40 appearances and posting a 5.35 ERA while striking out nearly nine batters per nine innings. Despite the high ERA partially due to pitching primarily in the hitter-friendly environment of Coors Field, advanced stats show Oberg is pitching better than his ERA makes it seem, posting 0.5 WAR and a FIP of 3.55.