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Astros: What SHOULD Happen when McCormick and Brantley Return

Today, we will take a deep dive into the xwOBA pool to determine how the Astros should divide playing time when Chas McCormick and Michael Brantley return.

First, let's not bury the lead. I would send down Bannon and Salazar upon McCormick's and Brantley's return. It is possible it will be Hensley sent down to give him playing time in AAA. We will watch that.

I give this to you because I think, after studying lineup choices and xwOBA data for over a year, I truly believe the Astros analytical department uses a very similar methodology to determine lineup recommendations to Dusty. Dusty has sometimes referenced a high level version of this kind of data.

Normally, I do not look at xwOBA data for a season until the season is over. For this exercise, I am choosing to use 2021-2023 xwOBA data by pitch type to build a grid of choices. For the rookies and part time players (Diaz, Julks, and others), this data is preliminary in nature and should be validated with human scout's thoughts. For some of the tertiary pitches (Splitter, Knuckle Curve, Sweeper, Slurve) there is just not enough data to be highly confident even for some starters.

The goal here is to answer the question who should play tonight given that ____ is the starting pitcher. For that starter one needs to know what their pitch repertoire is and what they excel at the most.

These tables show the xwOBA for the Astros players by the decision positions by pitch type vs. RHP (green) and LHP (yellow).

Catcher vs. RHP

Catcher vs. LHP

First Base vs. RHP

First Base vs. LHP

Left Field vs. RHP

Left Field vs. LHP

Center Field vs. RHP

Center Field vs. LHP

Here is how I would summarize that data into a starter grid.

Starter Grid vs. RHSP

Starter Grid vs. LHSP

Let's apply these grids to the Angels Series

Monday- Patrick Sandoval

Sandoval is a LHP who seems to have a GREAT Changeup and Slider and not such a great 4-seam Fastball.

The grid would say the starters SHOULD be if Brantley and McCormick were available:

Catcher- Diaz vs. the Changeup plus it is Brown day

First Base- Abreu- good vs. Changeup, Slider, and 4-seam

Center Field- Meyers- not good vs. Changeup but good vs. 4-seam and Slider

Left Field- Alvarez or McCormick

DH- McCormick or Alvarez

Do you also see with the LHSP why Brantley IS NOT being activated tonight?

Tuesday- Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani the Great is a tough RHP who we have to consider his Sweeper and Split. Unfortunately, those two pitches have some of the least data. We also need to look at some of the other pitches.

The grid would say the starters SHOULD be if Brantley and McCormick were available:

Catcher- it is kind of a toss-up. Diaz is likely the better option, but it will be Maldonado.

First Base- IF the Astros are serious about Brantley at 1B, this might be the night to try it. Best against Cutter and 4-Seam. It's kind of a toss-up too.

Center Field- Meyers is probably the best choice here, better vs. Sweeper and Cutter.

Left Field- Alvarez is the best option vs. the top 3 pitches

DH- probably Brantley if not at 1B

Wednesday- Griffin Canning

I suspect most of the batters will want in this game vs. RHP Canning and his 4-seam and Changeup. We also have a good slider here.

The grid would say the starters SHOULD be if Brantley and McCormick were available:

Catcher- Maldy does one thing decently at the plate. Hit fastballs (cutters, 4-seam, sinkers). He will start here. He is terrible vs. the Slider and I would start Diaz.

First Base- Abreu is a good matchup here

Center Field- IF there was another viable option at 2B (there isn't), THIS could be a Dubon start in CF. It should be McCormick over Meyers.

Left Field- Alvarez or Brantley are the best matchups

DH- Brantley or Alvarez are the best matchups

So, what do you all think?

Here are my predictions for the lineups in this series

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