It is harder than you think for the Astros to actually play their best nine position players. What can they do instead?
What if the Astros could play their best nine hitters as defined by OPS or wRC+? How good would THAT lineup be?
If the Astros were able to play their best nine hitters, it would likely look like this:
This lineup would be a significant upgrade. One would project the OPS of this lineup to be 0.786 which would be fifth in the MLB. Not bad for a team that is currently twentieth. From a wRC+ projection prospective, this 119 wRC+ lineup would be third. The current team is fourteenth.
THIS is the drag that playing Abreu and Maldonado so much and the Altuve injury have on the Astros offense. The Astros have plenty of good hitters everyday, and they play two atrocious hitters among them.
You will notice to make this work I put Yordan at first base. He hasn't ever played there in the MLB and has only a handful of games there in the minors. If the Astros start talking about seriously working out Yordan at 1B, you will know why.
So, if we admit that Yordan cannot play at 1B, what is the practical best nine that the Astros could deploy nightly?
It is mindboggling to think that as poor as Maldonado has been, he is a better option to play daily than Abreu is. In this scenario, Diaz starts at 1B. Not a bad option; he started at 1B 46 times in the minors.
Even this lineup would be an upgrade. One would project the OPS of this lineup to be 0.772 which would STILL be fifth in the MLB. From a wRC+ projection prospective, this 115 wRC+ lineup would be tied for third.
The other good news is EVEN if the Astros just play Madonado and Abreu with the best seven, the production could get marginally better because of Altuve.
Whether it's Maldy or Abreu in the lineup daily the KEY to REAL improvement is to NOT have both.
If the Astros could and would play the best nine however, they would have one of the best offenses again. At least it is fun to dream about.
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