The Astros have clinched the AL West for the fifth straight full season. (Yes 2020 doesn't count.)
Now that we KNOW they are in, who should be on the Astros postseason roster? This article will focus on the batting. We discussed the pitching staff on 9/20 here.
We are going to consider several things and use our heat maps to guide our decisions.
- Who is Hot?- Looking at performances since 8/1 and since 9/1. This will give us an idea of who has been hot lately. This published 9/30.
- Platoon Splits- Proposed lineup vs. RHSP and lineup vs. LHSP.
- The possible starting pitcher matchups and who that would indicate should start- we are waiting for the two possible ALDS opponents for this part three
We are going to try to stay focused on just a few numbers and I hope not to overwhelm you with data; but frankly, this is a data intensive article.
Platoon Splits- Proposed lineup vs. RHSP
Here is my lineup vs. most RHP. We will get into matchup changes from this in part 3.
The statistics shown here are vs. RHP.
In general, I have tried to make a lineup without significant platoon changes.
Altuve, Bregman, Alvarez, and Tucker are great and form the core of this lineup. The real question is how do we supplement the others in to surround and support them.
Pena has been up and down but consider these time spans
4/7 - 6/13 before injury (Left thumb) - 129 wRC+
6/28 - 7/27 after no rehab moved to #2 generally - 97 wRC+
7/28- 8/27 (Dusty decided to put Gurriel #2) - 31 wRC+
since 8/28/22 when moved back to #2 - 113 wRC+
Pena's issues have been injury related and then NOT being used in the spot he was delivering great performance AS A ROOKIE. Pena has a 134 wRC+ as a 2-hole hitter. Pena is 10th in the LEAGUE in wRC+ from a #2 hitter (200 PA min). His 134 is BETTER than Brantley was as a #2 hitter. Pena NEEDS to be batting #2. Keeping Pena batting in the #2 hole is the best way to lengthen this lineup. Even while he has an overall wRC+ of 91 vs. RHP; as a #2 hitter, Pena has a 115 wRC+. Are you convinced yet that Pena should be the #2 batter yet?
I have boldly shown above once again why Gurriel and Maldonado should NOT start vs. most RHSP. The data shows you why.
If a RH pitcher is not a heavy change-up pitcher, Gurriel has no business starting. Gurriel has a xwOBA of 0.223 on breaking pitches (sliders and curveballs). He has a xwOBA of 0.273 against all fastball types. With Diaz a viable option, there is no reason to play Gurriel vs. most RHP.
Here is how the viable 1B/ DHs compare vs. RHP
xwOBA vs. RHP- 1B/DH
Diaz has had his own struggles vs. RHP Breaking pitches. The sample size on Hensley is just too small to comment. If the Astros have additional data on Hensley from the minors that indicate he excels vs. breaking pitches maybe he is a DH option.
Similarly, Mancini SHOULD NOT start vs. a RH Offspeed dominant pitcher.
Is there a similar dynamic with the catchers?
xwOBA vs. RHP- C
The difference here is there is no pitch group that Maldy is better than Vazquez vs. RHP. The cutter is the only pitch from a RHP that Maldonado has a higher xwOBA against than Vazquel. The data gets pretty limited for some secondary pitches. If a RH pitcher throws a ton of Cutters, perhaps Maldonado should start.
McCormick is fairly limited vs. RHP but is a better option than the other CF options. If the Astros TRULY believe Meyers is healthy and an option for the postseason and based on his time in AAA, there may be a conversation to have Meyers start vs. a cutter dominant pitcher. The sample size is so small here that I am not sure their relative 2022 performance justifies this sort of move. The data shown here is for BOTH 2021 and 2022 combined.
Platoon Splits- Proposed lineup vs. LHSP
Here is my lineup vs. most LHP. We will get into matchup changes from this in part 3.
The statistics shown here are vs. LHP. Overall the dominant RHH team not surprisingly rakes against LHP.
As I stated in the RHP section, I have tried to make a lineup without significant platoon changes. Only two spots in this lineup change from the RHP lineup.
While they struggled relative to the rest of the lineup, you can see how important these are vs. LHP. They were spaced where they could succeed in the RHP lineup because they will rake vs. the LHP here.
Pena has a 124 wRC+ vs. LHP and that is 167 when he is batting 2nd
Aledmys Diaz, a career better vs. RHP split hitter, has a significant LHP advantage this year. He is arguably the 4th best hitter vs. LHP for the Astros in 2022.
McCormick at 168 wRC+would be the 12 highest wRC+ hitter vs. LHP IN THE LEAGUE if he qualified. (His 110 PA are about 15 PAs short.) I move him to #7 vs. LHP. I do not think McCormick should platoon with Meyers vs. LHSP.
Vazquez is a 119 wRC+ hitter vs. LHP
Gurriel has actually been better vs. LHP than Mancini has. I move Mancini out and Gurriel in but he bats 9th.
The Astros have similar splits vs/ pitch types vs. the LHP as they did vs. RHP. Let's deep dive into a couple of the matchup possibilities vs. LHSP.
xwOBA vs. LHP- 1B/DH
This table shows that a one size fits all approach may simply not work when deciding who should start at 1B and DH and LF vs. a LHSP. All 3 CAN play and it will likely come down to zone preferences and more advanced data than I am willing to dig into here. It is curious that Gurriel thrives vs. offspeed pitches vs. RHP and is worst vs. offspeed pitches vs. LHP.
xwOBA vs. LHP- C
The direction with the catchers is fairly simple vs. LHP. If a LHSP pitcher is all fastball or all fastball/ off-speed, then Maldonado should probably start. If a LHSP has a viable slider or curveball, Vazquez NEEDS to start at catcher.
Final Roster Spots
As we went through the platoon splits and my proposed lineups you, will notice I have settled on a ALDS roster including
That is 13 Position players. This is the group I would expect for the ALCS.
As discussed in the Pitching roster article, I believe the Astros will carry 12 pitchers for the ALDS. Who is getting the last position roster spot for the ALDS then?
The choice comes down to Dubon, Matijevic, and Yainer Diaz.
The obvious answer is Dubon. Let's review what we said about Dubon in the Hot and Not article.
July wRC+ 55
August wRC+ 27
September wRC+ 48
Dubon has been poor offensively almost the entire time as an Astro. His playing time is NOT justified as his OF defense is below average too.
I believe Meyers was added to the roster on 9/29 because the AAA season was over and to see if his good AAA performance could be repeated back with the Astros. If Meyers has a few good games, I suspect that Dubon will NOT be on the ALDS roster.
Let me ask you. What role does Dubon have on the ALDS roster that he would not have as a taxi squad member? His role should be injury bench replacement. His bat has made him NOT viable as an ALDS starter. Despite what Dusty thinks every defensive metric indicates Dubon is the worst of the three potential CF players. If Meyers appears even semi-viable there really is no reason to have McCormick, Meyers, Diaz, Alvarez, Mancini, AND Dubon to cover two OF spots.
What I would do instead is have Matijevic available as a LH PH threat at least. There is no LHH PH available on this roster without Matijevic. That is a better value proposition to me than a seventh OF.
Here is my problem. I just gave you a very logical case to keep Dubon off the ALDS roster. The truth is we do not have a logical manager right now. I think if the decision is Click's, Dubon will be off. Since they have continued to play Dubon through September despite terrible results, I don't think the decision is Click's to make. THIS is the sort of reason I don't think Click wants back. The press is reporting this as if Click is being fired by the Astros. I think Click is firing the Astros and the dumb illogical managerial decisions that comes with this team.
If the Astros reach the ALCS, will they keep Dubon over Hensley? I would hope not but these illogical decisions are common with Dusty.
Well there you have it. My roster for the ALDS. The pitching is awesome. The batting CAN be awesome if deployed properly. In part three we will adjust the lineups based on who the possible starting pitchers are in the ALDS using what we have said here regarding strengths vs. specific pitch types.
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