Astros Opponents: Don’t Wake a Sleeping Bear

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Evan Gattis‘ nickname is “El Oso Blanco,” which is appropriate for his situation now. The teams who are scheduled to play the Astros in the early season are lucky because Gattis is not hitting like the “White Bear” is supposed too. Every manager that plays against the Astros right now is telling their pitchers to not wake the bear, so they tiptoe around him. This sleeping bear will eventually wake up, and when he does, he will be a force to be reckon with for opponents.

Does the Bear Sleep Often in April?

Could Gattis be another Chris Carter, someone who struggles at the beginning of the season, and then gets hot in the middle of the season? To decide this, let us look at his April stats for the past two years.

Stats are from MLB.com.

During his first two seasons in the majors, Gattis has not struggled like he has this year. In fact, in 2013 he started off hot power wise. The hot start in 2013 forced the Braves to put Gattis in left field when regular catcher Brian McCann returned from the DL. Yes, Gattis has played in the outfield before. The Braves were so confident with Gattis that they let McCann leave to go to the Yankees so that he could be the everyday catcher. Gattis didn’t have a down year in 2014, but nagging injuries held him down a little. The Braves started a rebuild after the trade of Jayson Heyward to the Cardinals.

Does the Bear have a Thorn in His Claw?

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Gattis does not seem to be injured. If he is, it is not publically known right now.  What is wrong with “El Oso Blanco?”

Unlike the previous two seasons with the Braves, Gattis is the everyday designated hitter for the Astros. Some people can handle sitting on the bench until it’s their turn to bat. Other players use the free time to think their swings over, and dwell on the negatives. Maybe this is what is going on with Gattis; he might have inner thoughts that he is not part of the team if he’s not playing the field.

Solution: Give him some time in left field.

The Astros traded some talent to the Braves for Evan Gattis, and maybe Gattis feels like Wayne and Garth. “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” Maybe the pressure of performing for the team who traded part of their future to get him is making him press too much. When you are pressing, you try to swing harder. When you swing harder, a hitter doesn’t have the normal control of the bat as they normally would.

Solution: Gattis needs to hit his first home run. Get that monkey off his back.

All spring, Gattis batted fifth or sixth. Come opening day, and he found himself in the cleanup slot. We forget that he has only been in the majors for two years; and has a history of depression. Like number two above, this pressure from being expected to produce could be holding him back. Last year batting fifth, Gattis hit .294/ 13 Homers/ 24 RBI’s/ .946 OPS. While batting cleanup, he hit .239/ 3 homers/ 10 RBI’s/ .692 OPS. With the Astros so big into analytics, I’m surprised they didn’t take this into consideration.

Solution: Hit him lower in the lineup, move Castro to the cleanup hole for now.

The last reason is probably the most likely reason for his struggles. The Astros play in the American League, and he has not faced many of these pitchers before. It took Albert Pujols a year to adjust to the American League pitchers. In addition to the different pitchers, the designated hitter rule as mentioned before could be a big issue.

Solution: Give the man some time Astros fans.

There can be various reasons why Gattis is sleeping right now, but every team that plays the Astros is hoping that Gattis stays asleep for a little longer. Once the bear awakes, the Astros will have the big impact bat in the lineup that they traded for this offseason. Gattis’s stats while with Atlanta are not a fluke, his production will come. Astros fans will be the first to point out that Gattis in 2013 and 2014 had 19 and 17 strikeouts in April respectively. So far this April, he has 13 already. According to FanGraphs, Gattis has a 42.4% strikeout rate.

Better times are ahead, I know some of you are getting “bear”y impatient, but he will “claw” his way back to being a power hitter soon.

[Update: Right after the conclusion of writing this post, Evan Gattis hit his first homer of 2015. The A’s have officially woken up the bear, but will he stay awake?]

Next: Astros Draft Target: Walker Buehler

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