Mills: Move Wallace Up… NOW!
Normally, I would not challenge the intricacies of the managerial position in baseball due to my lack of experience in the area, but why is Brad Mills insistent on keeping Carlos Lee at the four spot in the lineup? I understand that he is a prototypical clean up hitter when playing at his normal level, but we have yet to see Lee play at his usual level this season and for a majority of last season. Even more frustrating is that the Astros have other options; let’s take a look:
Hunter Pence is playing at a level that could be utilized at the clean up spot. His .486 slugging percentage is higher than the likes of Albert Pujos and Mike Stanton, and sits 26th in the National League. Keeping in mind that there are 16 National League teams, this would land Pence around the middle of the second tier of NL hitters. Ideal? Maybe not, but Pence isn’t your homer run crushing right fielder. He is, though, fifth in the league when it comes to doubles which shouldn’t go without note. When the ducks are on the pond in scoring position, Hunter is crushing the ball with a .405 average and .541 slugging percentage. Ideal? Absolutely. When duty calls, HP drives in the runs, and giving him the opportunity will jump start this already over achieving offense.
That leaves a pair of big shoes to fill in the 3 spot for the Astros. If only we had a player that was top 5 in the NL in AVG and doubles as well as slugging the ball at a top 20 NL pace. Wait… we do? In Brett Wallace? Does Brad Mills know this? Apparently not since he has yet to move Wallace up in the lineup from the fifth spot. The general argument is that the pressure of moving Wallace up in the order will hurt his stats, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Creaming the ball with a .455 AVG and 1.171 OPS in the fifth spot, Wallace shines as he climbs the ladder in the order. Of his 85 at bats, only 27 have come with runners on base due to him batting behind the anemic hitting Carlos Lee. Wallace has only had the chance to knock in 9 runs due to the simplistic idea that he never gets to bat with people on base due to Lee’s inability to keep rallies going, and that trend is NOT looking to change as the year grows on.
This lineup is eons away from being a well oiled machine, so why does Mills continue to ignore the hot hand? Wallace has connected for 6 straight multi game hits and is sporting a 9 game hitting streak going into tonight’s game against the Brewers. Coming off of a shut out, a shake up in the lineup may just be what this team needs to get back on pace. And, on a separate note, the shut out came in the only game in which Angel Sanchez did not start.
Brad. Lee is dragging this team through the mud with his second consecutive slow start. Take a hint from last year: if it’s broke, fix it. The following lineup showcases 4 hitters in a row who can … well, hit:
In the National League Central division that boasts MVP quality sluggers Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, and Joey Votto, we seem to be bringing a knife to a nuclear arms fight. Playing to our strengths will give us a chance to have crooked number innings that can translate to wins. Come on, Brad. Join the fight!
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Trevor Harris is a contributing writer for Climbing Tal’s Hill. Click here to follow him on Twitter and click here to follow CTH.