Two things happened at the nearly the same time to destroy the Astros offense right now. Ninety-nine percent of Astros fans will point to one of these two. Is that what REALLY happened or was it really something else?
Here are the two things that may have destroyed the Astros offense. Both happened at basically the same time.
Yordan Alvarez got hurt on 6/8
Jeremy Pena was moved out of batting second on 6/7
Let's deep dive into these.
Alvarez got hurt on 6/8
Since Alverez got hurt on 6/8 the team is 3-7. They have scored only 3.9 runs per game. Here is how it compares to before Alvarez got hurt.
The offense is obviously worse without Alvarez, but not as bad as one might have expected. The team without Alvarez was hitting 0.683 OPS before his injury. The overall team was hitting 0.713 OPS on 6/8/23.
The team is hitting 0.706 OPS since the injury. That is NOT a significant drop off. Players like Tucker, Altuve, Diaz, and YES Jose Abreu have stepped up to Alvarez being out.
Without Alvarez in front of him and Tucker behind him Bregman has tanked the last ten games. Dubon has looked like 2022 Dubon lately. Meyers is in a terrible slump too.
The REAL problem is without Alvarez the team is batting 0.554 OPS when runners are on base. There are fewer people to drive in the runs!
Let me be extremely clear. Abreu has NOT been the biggest problem or even A PROBLEM overall for the last ten games. Yes, he has had a few bad games in that time. He has also been MVP like in several games. In other words, he has been Jose Abreu or at least the non-2020 version of Jose Abreu.
There is something else that happened at nearly this same time.
Pena moved from batting second
Pena had been consistently batting second behind Altuve from May 27th until June 7th. On June 3rd Altuve had tweaked his oblique and was out for a few days and the Astros had Dubon #1 and Pena #2. Dusty became so enamored with Dubon #1 that he put Altuve #2 and Pena #6/#7.
You can see the lineup choices for all three of these and the end result for the period of time so far for Dusty's strategic play.
Altuve is a future Hall-of-Famer and has been largely unaffected and marginally improved moving to second.
Pena has been consistently one player batting second and a different worse player NOT batting second. The move tanked Pena.
Dubon being thrust into batting first tanked Dubon as well. Batting 0.270 OBP is less than ideal for a leadoff hitter. Dusty Baker is incapable of objectively managing two players- Dubon and Maldonado- and it hurts this team.
Let's look at the Pena being moved from the two hole from an overall team offensive productivity standpoint.
You may want to pause here and see what I said about Pena batting second on 6/6/23 here.
I know the Astros don't care what I write. I know no one 0n the Astros is monitoring this site, but there are days it FEELS like the Astros (Dusty) do stupid things just to prove me wrong and their failure rate is high.
The glorious eleven game stretch where the Astros batted Pena second from May 27th to June 6th, they scored 5.5 runs per game. 5.5!!
Since moving him from the two hole the team has scored 3.5 runs per game. Yes, this time period overlaps the Alvarez injury period we already covered. But let's review some OPS numbers:
Team OPS BEFORE Alvarez Injury - 0.713
Team OPS without Alvarez - 0.706
Non- Pena Team OPS with Pena NOT batting second - 0.694
Pena not batting second OPS since 6/7 - 0.648
IF you REALLY want to help the Alvarez-less Astros offense STOP overthinking #2 in the lineup. Write Pena in that spot.
To be fair batting Pena #7 is the second-best choice for him. I covered that in detail in the article linked above. If the Astros refuse to bat Pena #2, then bat him #7. No other answer has proven to work in his short career.
A fair criticism of this concern is that the sample size is too small. I have attached a table to the right which shows the career numbers for these three players where they have more than 90 PA at the spots in the order that are relevant to this conversation.
Altuve can bat anywhere but first is his BEST spot.
Pena should bat second or possibly seventh but NEVER first or sixth.
Dubon should bat ninth. If you need him to bat first or eighth it would not be horrible.
This is the background that went into me tweeting this yesterday.
Why not this?
1. Altuve- 2B/DH
2. Pena- SS
3. Tucker- RF
4. Bregman- 3B
5. Abreu- 1B/DH
6. Diaz- C/ 1B/ DH
7. McCormick- LF/ CF/ DH
8. Meyers- CF
9. Dubon- 2B/ SS/ LF
Julks- LF/ DH
Maldonado- C 5:38 PM · Jun 19, 2023 · 2,723 Views
You may be thinking does ANY of this really matter. Here is what I will say to that.
Baseball is a funny sport. If you do ten little things wrong the combined negative impact is worse than the sum of each wrong thing. If you do ten little things right the combined positive impact is better than sum of each right thing. Hitting is contagious. Not hitting is contagious too.
Losing Alvarez hurt
Making Pena into a suboptimal player instead an All-Star batting second hurt
Forcing Dubon into roles he has never succeed in hurt
In this time period the Astros multiplied one problem into three.
Add these factors to the other underperformance of several struggling players and you get what Astros fans are experiencing now- a terrible version of the Astros batting.
So, what do you think? What destroyed the Astros offense right now? What do you think can be done about it?
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