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Astros: What If It Was 5/16/23 Again?

Let's pretend it is 5/16/23 again. I ask you to go on this journey with me to show how decisions can impact each other and to see possible opportunities lost. The difference between success and failure is often driven by decisions that have little to do with an athlete's talent.

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Now let's continue.

The Astros are 23-19 - three games behind the Rangers. Astros fans are supremely confident and just know the Rangers will "choke."

Jose Altuve has been hurt but just played in his fourth rehab game and the rumors say he will be back any day.

Korey Lee has hit himself to a 97 wRC+ in AAA. He seems to have "found it" and his confidence is growing. From 4/26/23 to 5/16/23, he has a 161 wRC+ over 68 PA. He is SURE the Astros will be calling for his help due to the issues in the MLB.

Martin Maldonado has gotten off to an atrocious start and was hitting 54 wRC+ has already delivered -0.5 WAR and is terrible defensively behind the plate. His only saving grace is that his train wreck of a start is overshadowed by his teammate Jose Abreu (47 wRC+, -1.0 WAR). Diaz and Lee have shown they could play a little 1B if needed.

Yanier Diaz has only 52 PA and 9 starts at catcher out of the 42 games. He has played only once in the last eight days - at first base. His stats are not good (57 wRC+ and -0.2 WAR.) His wOBA is 0.253 but his xwOBA is 0.313. No one pays attention to those stupid projected stats except the front office which is getting increasingly more frustrated how the catching situation is being managed.

Dana Brown has already said THESE THINGS

“I don’t think he’s losing development time. I think, at some point, he’ll get over the 300 at-bats that I think we need him to get. I don’t think his development will be hindered at all, but sooner he’ll get in more games, hopefully.” About Yainer Diaz

"He's our future. He's done well & learning under Maldy. I'm hoping we get him more ABs. He threw two guys out last night with bullet throws. He's a bright light."

He will soon be lobbying harder for more playing time for Diaz.

Imagine an alternate world on 5/16/23. What SHOULD the Astros do?

  • Is Dusty TRYING to force the team to send him Lee and send down Diaz by playing Diaz sparingly?

  • Is Lee going insane with anger at being stuck in the minors while doing better than both catchers in the MLB? Did this distraction lead him to slump?

  • Is Diaz begging for a chance to play regularly?

They basically do nothing for 12 more days until May 28th.

From 5/17 to 5/27

  • Diaz gets NINE PA

  • Lee continues to rake in 37 PA- 98 wRC+

  • Maldonado goes CRAZY in 25 PA- 152 wRC+

After May 28th

  • Diaz hits 142 wRC+, 0.897 OPS in 316 PA delivering 2.3 WAR

  • Lee (fueled by being passed up and then traded?) tanks 48 wRC+, 0.604 OPS in AAA in 175 PA

  • Maldonado is Maldonado hitting 63 wRC+, 0.605 OPS in 272 PA and delivering -0.9 WAR - yes, another MINUS 0.9

  • Abreu hits 109 wRC+, 0.768 OPS in 386 PA delivering 0.6 WAR

Diaz Starts at Catcher

Before 5/28- 51 Games- 11 starts at catcher-22%

5/28 and beyond- 111 Games- 31 starts at catcher- 28%

Diaz went from starting every fifth day at catcher to every fourth day.

Diaz Overall Starts

Before 5/28- 51 Games- 15 starts-29%

5/28 and beyond- 111 Games- 70 starts- 63%

Diaz starts more and more.

What if Dusty was not managing the Astros? Would the Astros have made other decisions?

Could another manager have convinced Maldonado to assume a true backup role? How would have Maldy responded? How would have the clubhouse responded?

Could the Astros front office have cut Maldonado?

Cleveland released Zunnio on 6/21/23

  • On 6/21/23

  • Maldonado- 193 PA, 58 wRC+, -3.5 Defensive WAR, -0.8 WAR

  • Zunino- 140 PA, 64 wRC+, 1.4 Defensive WAR, -0.2 WAR

  • By almost any metric Maldy was worse than Zunnio. His agent/ propaganda people were better.

Could the history have been different for these players?

  • Would Lee still have tanked in the MLB? Then what? It could have been chaos as the Astros would have had no backup. Although, with all of the catchers DFAd last year, maybe not. For example, Gary Sanchez was DFAd on 5/25/23. See article from August.

  • Would Diaz have thrived as he did offensively, or would he have been overwhelmed being a starting catcher?

  • If Lee was on the team as the backup catcher, would Diaz and Lee have spent more time at first base? Would this have hurt Abreu?

  • Would the Astros have traded Lee in July for Graveman?

  • Would Victor Caratini be on the Astros right now?

What If It Was 5/16/23 Again?

The truth is we will never know. Other decisions might have not worked out for the Astros. They could have missed the postseason. They might have won the World Series.

The Astros were at a crossroads on 5/16/23, even if they did not know it at the time.

This is one of the untold stories of the 2023 Astros season. What if the team made different moves starting on 5/16/23?


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