The Astros as a team are doing extremely well but there are some issues that need to be addressed. Will these prevent them from a championship? It doesn't help. Let's start with the facts. Christian Vazquez is simply not producing as he did for the Red Sox for the past 3.5 plus seasons.
What has changed with Vazquez coming to the Astros?
First, it is still a small sample size. Vazquez has had ZERO power for the Astros. That will not sustain. So the first answer is luck. When he stops getting unlucky he will rake. Is he pressing? What else COULD be going on?
Alex Cora was extremely consistent with Vazquez's playing time. Every year Vazquez was starting almost exactly 75% of the team' s games. Cora even started Vazquez a hand full of times at 1B and DH to keep his bat in the lineup. Last season was a down year for Vazquez (still 0.086 OPS better than Maldonado), but he was remarkably consistent and an excellent batting catcher the other seasons and earlier this year.
One of the most disappointing things about the trade deadline for me was Dusty Baker sounding like a manager who had no idea who he was getting. He claimed and has backed it up by his actions that Vazquez might start only occasionally and pinch hit some.
On the day that Vazquez was traded he had an 0.759 OPS and Maldy was at 0.582 OPS. Almost EVERY advanced metric showed Vazquez was the superior defender behind the plate and better at throwing out potential base stealers. Assuming Maldy should be the primary catcher in the post season was ludicrous. So if the two catchers were at worst time sharing catchers what SHOULD have happened?
Vazquez should have been starting over half the time and paired with every one of the starting pitchers so that he can at least establish some confidence and trust on both sides of the pitching battery. Vazquez is catching Javier again today- 6IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 8K. Give him opportunities with the other pitchers too - immediately. The additional rest could help Maldy too.
Instead Vazquez's playing time was reduced from his norm of 75% of starts to 42% of starts. He STILL has not caught Verlander nor McCullers and Valdez only once. You treated him like he was no better than Maldonado, Dusty. You are getting Maldonado-like batting results now. What is clear now six weeks later is that Dusty's utilization of Vazquez has turned him into a poor hitting clone of Maldonado.
People will state that Maldonado was "hot" in July before the trade. For anyone expected Maldy to remain that hot for the rest of the season, I have one question. IF the front office thought that, then why did the Astros Front Office trade for the second best catcher in baseball available? They would have just gotten a decent backup. Click traded for Vazquez expecting he would be played because he KNEW the 36-yr old Maldy would cool off soon. He did. Since 8/1/22, Maldonado has hit 0.522 OPS and 50 wRC+. Terrible but about what we wrote about here and completed expected by us.
For those that want to tell me that the pitchers do better pitching to Maldonado than Vazquez, please understand that is simply NOT true. Despite Maldonado having the McCuller's, Velander's, and almost all of the Valdez starts, has statistically the same catcher ERA as Vazquez does with the Astros.
ERA of pitchers throwing to
Vazquez (after today's game)- 2.99
I KNOW the pitchers praise Maldy for how he calls games and manages the pitching staff. Madonado will be a great pitching and catching coach some day. His primary job today is to catch his pitchers to be effective. Their effectiveness is no better with Maldy than they were with Castro over the last 1.5 seasons and no better than they are with Vazquez since he got here.
If you want Vazquez to perform like one of the best hitting catchers in the MLB again, start him 60-70% of the time. Watch how well it works.
I have questions for Dusty and Maldonadoiacs. If you never pair Vazquez with Verlander and McCullers, what happens in the postseason if the 36-yr old Maldonado breaks down or gets seriously injured? It is irresponsible not to have Vazquez catch both once or twice just in case.
Another question, what will the playing time distribution at catcher be in the postseason?
If Vazquez is getting less than half of the postseason starts, it is a failure at all levels of the Astros organization. If Dusty refuses to play Vazquez more, he simply cannot return next year. He is not maximizing their potential postseason success. Period.
My original title for this article was "How did Dusty Baker ruin Christian Vazquez?" I knew that title would be divisive, but that is how I really feel. Dusty has turned a near All-Star catcher into the same horrible batting catching Astros fans have had to endure all year. Yes, I blame Dusty.
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