Houston Astros: The Astros Lineup Lacks a True Cleanup Hitter


The Houston Astros have a lot of players that can mash as clear by the 200 home runs they have hit as a team this season. Yes, they have 11 players who have hit ten or more homers with several players looking to join them as well. What the Astros are lacking this season is a true cleanup hitter, one of those guys that finishes the season over 100 RBI’s. The Astros probably thought that they got that guy when the traded for Evan Gattis or the incumbent Chris Carter at the beginning of the year.

Carlos Correa could eventually turn into this player, but like many teams, they put their best overall hitter in the third spot in the batting order. Some notable Astros’ players who batted third are Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and the great Jason Castro last season. The sign of a good RBI guy is that he can put the ball in play with runners in scoring position. The problem with most of the Astros hitters is that they are power hitters who swing and miss very often.

Gattis, with all his ability, often struggles to get the big hit in big situations. Gattis does lead the Astros in homers and RBI’s with 24 homers and 80 RBI’s. When the Astros are ahead (170 at-bats), he has a .241/ .286/ .447/ .733 slash line with eight homers and 24 RBI. What jumps out to you is the OBP, which has been under .300 all season. However, in games where the Astros are trailing (199 at-bats), his slash line decreases to .211/ .249/ .392/ .641 with seven homers and 25 RBI. Ironically, when the Astros are tied (155 at-bats), Gattis has a great slash line of .271/ .301/ .510/ .811 with nine homers and 31 RBI.

This post was not meant to be a Gattis bashing article, just pointing out the deficiencies of the cleanup hitter in general. Let’s take as look at the stats of Astros 2015 cleanup hitters via Baseball-Reference.

Let’s compare the Astros cleanup hitters to the Blue Jays who are leading the league in runs scored. The cleanup hitter for Toronto is batting .270/ .355/ .516/ .871 with 33 homers and 107 RBI. Yes, the Astros can mash up and down the lineup, but until they get a clutch guy batting fourth, they will be hot and cold on offense. The two most successful in limited time batting cleanup are Lowrie and Gomez, both who profile as second hitters.

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Who are options for a cleanup hitter for the 2016 season? We will analyze this during the offseason. Not ready to look beyond 2015 yet, but A.J. Reed seems to be the guy who could easily produce hitting cleanup. To get him on the roster, the Astros will have to cut ties with Robbie Grossman and Carter among others to protect the Rule V eligible players this offseason. Gattis will probably start 2016 batting fourth, I just hope the Astros can survive the rest of 2015.

Next: Houston Astros: Does last night’s game affect Dallas Keuchel’s Cy Young chances?