Why does it seem as though the bullpen and Mills are conspiring against the Astros to throw as many games as possible? Prior to the past couple of weeks, the bullpen had failed to show itself worthy of completing a game on the line, but who is the man in charge of when these guys go in? Mills. I understand that they aren’t the best, but the match ups have been way off for the past couple weeks.
I do not want to come across as an anti-Mill-ite, but their are other aspects of his managerial skills that I am beginning to question. Here, I want to dissect the Keppinger/Barmes dilemma at the two spot of the lineup.
Since coming back to the Astros, Jeff Keppinger has gone 4 for 10 (through the 4 inning of Monday’s game) and has a couple of extra base hits to boot. Coming off of the most productive year of his career, Keppinger was one of the few bright spots on the 2010 Astro squad, and his arrival from the DL is something that this offense truly needs. But where does he belong? To me, it is obvious. As a low strike out guy that puts the ball in play with a decent OBP, he should be batting second on any major league team. This is because you want to advance the lead off man to set your team up for some early runs. In the Astros case, they arguably have the best lead off hitter in Michael Bourn due to his ability to turn singles and walks into doubles with a quick swipe of second base. Kepp’s ability to move Bourn from second to third is something that this offense has missed ever since Sanchez has been removed from the lineup.
The man who has taken over the duty of the two hole hitter even with Kepp back is Clint Barmes. Barmes has a career OBP almost 40 points lower than Kepp and strikes out at a rate double of what Kepp does. What is even more important is that Barmes has a ground ball to fly ball ratio for his career of around .4 while Kepp has a one of around 1.15. Jeff manages to put the ball on the ground at a rate three times what Barmes does, and that does not even take into account the fact that Jeff does it while striking out less.
So, if you want Bourn to remain on first or second due to a strike out or pop fly from Barmes (it has happened twice today in two opportunities), continue to look for Mills to put Barmes in the two spot of the lineup. If you want Bourn to score more often in the first inning after a lead off hit or walk, play Kepp in the two spot. Simple baseball, Brad. Make it happen.