12 Keys for 2016 Season for the Houston Astros in 12 Days: Astros don’t think that strikeouts are a big deal
The Houston Astros provided an exciting playoff run last season that was sponsored by the letter “k.” As predicted, the Astros, aka “Generation-K” that I dubbed them before the 2015 season, led the American League in strikeouts last year. While the Astros are not proud of that stat, they didn’t have the most in the MLB, they finished second to the 2016 World Series favorite from the National League, Chicago Cubs. Both teams were successful despite the strikeouts, so maybe it’s time to rethink how we construct MLB teams. What appeared to be a risky move by Jeff Luhnow, paid off in 2015.
With pitchers and catchers weeks away from reporting to spring training in Florida, I wanted to focus on one thing each day that will be keys to the Astros success in 2016. As you can see in the first paragraph, today’s topic is trying to cut back on strikeouts without losing the aggression and power at the plate. However, Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch are not worried about the Astros striking out, as long as they are still getting good run production as I wrote last year.
During the Hinch Town Hall forum for Astros season ticket holders, when Hinch was asked about what he thought about the Astros striking out a lot, he asked, “do we strike out?” All kidding aside, Hinch said that it is a question that he gets asked a lot, the Astros don’t embrace players striking out. “You have to go with the strength of your club, you can have one guy cut down of his swing to make better contact or let him swing and led the league in homers, we were second in homers to Toronto last year.”
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“It’s all about trying to get a good pitch to hit, and you can’t strike out until you get three strikes. If you send a hitter up trying not to strike out, you are going to hate strike one and strike two.” Hinch said that he would like the team to strike out less, but he was more concerned with getting a runner home from third and situational hitting. The Astros need to focus on the strengths of the team and slowly chisel away at the weaknesses.
“We would be foolish to have some of our higher prone strikeout guys simply just try just to put the ball in play more. Some of the strikeout issues could relate to problems with hand-eye coordination on particular pitches. We do preach, don’t miss the pitch before.” From what Hinch said, some players are getting good swings on pitches, but they struggle with other pitches. I know players like Chris Carter struggled with the breaking ball, everyone has that kryptonite pitch. Otherwise, everyone would be hitting .400 or above.
“As long as the production is coming along with home runs and runs scoring, I try not to make strikeouts a big issue. Publicly, but certainly privately as well, we are not saying it’s okay to strikeout, we never high five after a strikeout.” Hinch said as he concluded his discussion on strikeouts.
As I mentioned earlier, the Astros are not proud of the strikeouts, but like the Cubs, they have learned how to win despite the strikeouts. Some younger players are maturing at the plate, so strikeouts should continue to drop as they did in 2014 to 2015. Last year they cut down to 1392 strikeouts from 1442, which is 50 less than 2014. The Astros need to continue to use their team power as a way to hide their high strikeout rate.
**Strikeout team totals from ESPN team stat tracker**