Houston Astros: Looking at Evan Gattis’ struggles in the playoffs
By Eric Huysman
As part of what we do at CTH is answer Houston Astros fan’s questions through Ask.fm. With our regular interaction with fans during the season, it hasn’t been used recently, until I finally got the password from the old Editor. If you ever have a question, just click on the link on the CTH Twitter handle @astrosCTH. One of our readers asked the following question, “If Gattis is the DH why doesn’t he hit?” I see your frustration with Evan Gattis, the sole reason he is on the team is to hit with power. It’s like a kicker in football whose only job is to make field goals and he misses the game winning kick.
Gattis has been a pretty good hitter overall this season following the trade from the Atlanta Braves. In fact, part of the reason that the Astros were as successful as they were was due to Gattis’ 27 home runs and 88 runs batted in. You can see why A.J. Hinch kept penciling in Gattis as the fifth hitter until the final game of the ALDS before he switched Carlos Gomez and Gattis in the lineup. What was the issue with Gattis in the playoffs, let’s take a look at the difference of his stats from last year to this? (Stats from Baseball-Reference)
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To the naked eye, it would seem that Gattis improved in most of the categories, but it’s a result of 203 more plate appearances in 2015 versus 2014. Gattis even cut back on his strikeout rate 19.7% versus 24.2%, but cutting down the strikeout rate is not always a good thing. Part of what made Gattis a threat was his aggressiveness at the plate and this season especially later in the season. The biggest difference has been his drop across the board with his slash line, most notably finishing much lower than a .300 on-base percentage.
In the playoffs, Gattis had a low slash line of .174/ .174/ .174/ .348. His strikeout rate increased to 26.1% because the pitchers were throwing breaking balls that broke out of the strike zone, and Gattis would chase the ball. Part of what has held back Chris Carter and George Springer this season has they have tried to be more patient, often getting themselves in the hole quickly. When Gattis reaches two strikes, he struggles to get hits or get on base with a slash line of .145/ .183/ .251/ .434 during the regular season via Baseball-Reference.
The Royals pitchers really did a good job mixing up the pitches on Gattis and keeping him off balance. Was he the reason the Astros lost? No, but he could have helped them a little better to score a little more. He had four hits in six games in the playoffs, but they were all singles. His groundball to flyball percentage was 1.50, which is much higher than his career and season numbers. Gattis was just not seeing the ball and the Royals were taking advantage of him going out of the strike zone. It’s a shame because he was coming off a good September and October with a slash line of .270/ .327/ .490/ .817.
Gattis is what you call a bad ball or mistake hitter; he has a way of capitalizing on a pitcher’s mistake pitch. In the playoffs, pitchers don’t make the same mistakes they do in the regular season unless they pitch in the Houston Astros bullpen.
I know Astros fans are getting frustrated with Gattis, but he will be a big part of this team for the foreseeable future. Luhnow, as evident with Carter still on the team, appreciates the premium right-handed power hitter. Gattis was getting used to not playing a position for the first time, so hopefully next year he can regain some of his Braves swag. Unless he is traded, Gattis is not going anywhere because of the talent the Astros traded to get Gattis on the team. He led the Astros in homers and ran batted in, so expect to continue seeing Gattis hit homers for the Astros.
Next: Houston Astros: Reports are that Luhnow is fishing with Chris Carter as bait