The general perception, and reality to some extent, of this Astro team is that they do not have the pieces to compete for a spot in the playoffs this season. The puzzle isn’t too far from being completed with players like SP Jordan Lyles and LF J.D. Martinez in the minors, Michael Bourn continuously getting better at the plate and rewriting the record books for Astros in centerfield, and Hunter Pence finally playing at a level that is suitable for a player of his caliber. One of the question marks that we are seeing come to fruition as well is the saga of Brett Wallace.
Wallace started the year in competition with Carlos Lee to see who would take over the role as first sacker for the Astros, and his monstrous spring left little doubt that he was the man for the job. Questions began to surface, though, as the season started off a little slower than anticipated for the slugger. Here is what he has accomplished so far through 21 games played: 71 AB, .324 AVG, 14 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 14 K, and 8 BB.
A vast majority of these at bats, 57 of them, came against right handed pitching, against whom he is batting .351 with a .491 SLG. There is no doubt that Wallace can handle the righties, but not make this a year where he learns how to get disciplined against the south paws? For example, Randy Wolf pitched for the Brew Crew yesterday, but Wallace received a day off like he normally does against his left handed foes. Brad Mills is trying to piece together a lineup that will win the most ball games for the sake of his job, but you have to wonder when Wallace is going to get the experience he needs to become a serviceable batter on both sides of the plate. He was traded here to take the place of Berkman, not to be a 130 game starter.
Another puzzling move by Mills, in my opinion, is why Wallace (SLG of .451) and Carlos Lee (SLG of .364) continue to bat where they do in the lineup. Carlos Lee has continued to struggle ever since his season ending injury in 2009, and we eventually need to face that. Lee shows zero signs of improvement, and you have to wonder when we need to just cut ties and let someone else play. In the meantime, he has yet to see any playing time this season outside of the 4 spot in the order, and this is killing many scoring opportunities for the team. Wallace is third on the team in doubles and has the second highest SLG on the team (behind Pence). His 7 RBIs are a mockery when you see how he is batting on the year. People argue that it will be a “detriment” to his learning experience to move Wallace up in the order, but he is showing that he is a prototypical 3 spot batter.
The other side of this equation is Hunter Pence. Pence is another player that has to be taken under consideration when juggling the lineup, and he might be the first person to tell you that he would be a strange fit for the clean up spot. The truth of the matter is, though, that the Astros do not have a single player that matches up well at the clean up spot outside of Carlos Lee, and … well there is no need to beat a dead horse. That would leave the lineup as follows:
1. Michael Bourn
2. Angel Sanchez
3. Brett Wallace
4. Hunter Pence
5. Carlos Lee
6. Bill Hall
7. Humberto Quintero / J.R. Towles
8. Chris Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, I dislike Bill Hall almost more than the next guy, but he is slowly turning it around. Chris Johnson has struggled immensely so far this year, and a move similar to the Red Sox where they moved Jacoby Ellsbury down to the 9 spot may be needed in order to just let Johnson reset and get his season back on track. What do you think of the suggested lineup?