Houston Astros: Three hitters to focus on in the ALDS
The Houston Astros begin a three-game set against the defending AL-Champion Kansas City Royals on Thursday night. The first two games will be played in Kansas City before the series shifts to Houston on Sunday.
Both teams have improved drastically over the past few seasons, but differ in their approach to the game. Both teams run well with the Astros and Royals finishing third and fifth in the league respectively in stolen bases. The teams feature solid pitching as well, but the Astros take a more finesse approach than the Royals and their power arms.
The differences are most glaring at the plate for both teams, though. The Astros finished second in all of baseball with 230 home runs and hit almost 100 more than the Royals – ranked 26th with 139 home runs this year. The Astros also finished with the second most strikeouts in the league (1,392) while the Royals struck out the least (973).
Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa are three guys that the team expects to perform at a high level in this series. Three players a strong team does not make, though and the Astros will look to other key pieces to help carry the offensive load against the Royals.
There are a few players on the Astros that have been hot over the course of the past month and epitomize their boom or bust approach. Here are the three players to focus on when the Astros and Royals face off in the ALDS:
Oct 6, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Houston Astros left fielderColby Rasmus
(28) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the New York Yankees during the first inning in the American League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Colby Rasmus is one of the few players on the Astros roster with playoff experience. Although it’s a small sample, Rasmus is 5 for 12 (.417) and hit the tone-setting home run on the first pitch of the second inning vs. the Yankees on Tuesday.
vs RHP – .233/.294/.476, 18 HR
vs LHP – .252/.364/.471 7, HR
Rasmus has shown an ability to hit left-handed pitching this year, but he will find himself in the line-up because of the Royals right-handed heavy pitching rotation.
In wins (73)- .312/.386/.684 23 HRs
In losses (64) – .154/.227/.234 2 HRs
Rasmus is a streaky hitter and seems to feed off the rest of the team. His numbers in wins vs. losses are dramatically different. Buy into it what you will, but if Yordano Ventura makes a mistake against Rasmus, the ball is going a long way, and the odds will swing in the Astros’ favor.
Sep 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros first basemanChris Carter
(23) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Carter is the classic case of “What have you done for me lately?” A hitter many people wanted off the roster in August, Carter has shown again flashes of his potential greatness as a power threat. The big righty’s numbers on the season are nothing to write home about – .199/.307/.427, 24 HRs – but he’s hitting .349/.391/.860 with 6 HRs over the last 28 days.
If he goes on a tear as he did through Texas, Seattle and Arizona to close the season, then the Royals are in trouble. Perhaps where Carter provides the biggest advantage is his patience at the plate (three walks in the Wild Card game). Ventura is a pitcher that can lose control, and Carter knows how to work an at-bat.
In Wins (71) – .240/.371/.543 18 HRs
In Losses (58) – .153/.227/.295 6 HRs
Oct 2, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Astros third basemanLuis Valbuena
(18) hits an RBI double against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the seventh inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Luis Valbuena is another player likely to see the field more than usual because of the Royals rotation. Valbuena struggles mightily against left-handed pitching but hits for a respectable average otherwise with a solid on-base percentage. 20 of Valbuena’s 25 home runs have come against right-handed pitching.
Valbuena will likely be subbed out in the later innings if a more favorable match-up arises to bring in Marwin Gonzalez or Jed Lowrie, but could make a pitcher pay in the early innings. It’s also worth noting that he’s hit much better since being moved down in the line-up. His power numbers have decreased, but his batting average and on-base percentage have risen. He still has the power to shift the momentum of a game.
vs RHP – .247/.327/.481, 20 HRs
vs LHP – .158/.265/.316, 5 HRs
Last 28 days – .357/.449/.667, 3 HRs
In Wins (70) – .255/.331/.556, 20 HRs
In Losses (62) – .183/.285/.288, 5 HRs
What to Expect
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These guys are going to strike out but don’t get frustrated with them if you’re an Astros fan. These hitters represent the bulk of the Astros line-up in that they can strike out three times in a game and then turn a game around.
What will be key is what these guys do when runners are in scoring position. What’s bit the Astros at times is their inability to make contact or a productive out to advance or score a runner. Game One should be a great matchup of power pitching vs. power hitting and something’s got to give.