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Who are the Astros CLUTCH Hitters?

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Last night the Astros lost 2-1 to the Reds. The fact that they lost to the Reds, a 0.500 team, was not terribly surprising. What was frustrating was seeing the Astros bats dormant all night. Yes, the Astros have an overall offensive production issue without Yordan Alvarez in the lineup. That is going to require multiple players to play better and the right trade at the trade deadline if it is not too late by then. However, hoping multiple players step up is just not a strategy.

What was even more frustrating to me was to see Martin Maldonado come to the plate in the seventh inning of a 2-0 game with Chas McCormick standing on second base. This was the 24th time Martin Maldonado, a 56 wRC+ hitter in general, was allowed to hit in the seventh or later inning in a medium to high leverage situation. It has been something I have complained about all year. I call these situations CLUTCH time.

Maldonado Leverage

These are Martin Maldonado's stats in these situations in the last three years. In a word he is atrocious in these situations. It is my opinion that any manager that is allowing Maldonado to bat in these situations is committing managerial malpractice. It is not a BABIP issue in 2022 nor 2023.

One might complain about sample size except this is a multi-year issue. Over his entire career of 431 PA in late and leverage situations, Maldy's wRC+ is 35 and his OPS is 0.497.

I did what I tend to do and put out this tweet after the game.

Another reason the Astros will never allow me in a press conference

“Dusty, in the seventh inning or later in medium or high leverage situations you have sent Maldonado to the plate 24 times and he has gotten 3 hits and 11 strikeouts. When are you going to start PH him more?” 9:56 PM · Jun 16, 2023 1,758 Views

I am sure Dusty would look at me and say "Well, if I pinch hit for him in the seventh, what am I going to do in the ninth?" My answer would be "Well you might not have even batted in the ninth if you had PH in the seventh because you could have scored runs. The other option would have been to PH with someone else for Salazar and put Diaz into the game at catcher and lose the DH. Of course, that is not ideal, but you only lose the DH if you tie the game, you otherwise lost.

Here is the problem. Most Astros fans and apparently Dusty do not understand what the very real difference exists between batting Maldonado and most other Astros in late and leverage situations. Here are the numbers:

Astros Clutch Stats

At 30 wRC+, Maldy is THE WORST option except for Pena to bat in clutch situations. I would rather see Kessinger bat than Maldy.

Most of the Astros step up in clutch situations. They have better wRC+ in late and leverage than they do overall.

There are notable exceptions.

- Pena- I was most surprised that Pena was so bad in clutch situations. Here are his clutch stats.

Pena Clutch

One could argue for Pena, it is a BABIP issue in 2023 and since he was OK in these situations last year, it is not something one should manage around.

- Diaz- Diaz has not been good with RISP in general so far. For these clutch situations the sample size is still small due to lack of playing time. Here are his clutch stats.

Diaz Clutch

- Meyers- Meyers seems to struggle relative to his season in late and leverage situations. Here are his clutch stats.

Meyers Clutch

There is BABIP luck issues in 2022 and some in 2023. Still Jake could do better here.

Without calling out the details, let's note that Alvarez and to a lesser extent Bregman, Tucker, McCormick, and Dubon all step up in these clutch situations. Several others hit about the same.

As a team in clutch situations, they have hit 0.732 OPS and 104 wRC+. This is not a team wide problem. It is a problem for a few players for whom luck or sample size are at least partial explanations. Yes, Meyers has not been great in these situations either. I'd take his 70 wRC+ over Maldonado's atrocious 30 wRC+ any day.

Yes, the Astros have some general batting issues. This requires them to put themselves in the BEST position when it is clutch time. Batting Martin Maldonado late and in leverage spots just doesn't do that. Fix it Astros. The Astros NEED to bat the best Clutch hitters they can.

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