Houston Astros: Strikeouts and Double Plays are Rally Killers

Apr 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro gets a single during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro gets a single during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Grounding Into Double Plays and Strikeouts are Hurting the Houston Astros

The Houston Astros were supposed to build upon their successful 2015 season and take the next step in 2016 to go deep into the playoffs. With 12 games in the books, the Astros still have 150 games left in the season to fulfil expectations and turn the season around. The team batting average is hovering around .240 at the moment, which is down ten points from last season. Unfortunately, the bottom of the order has turned into the rally killers with their batting average this season.

Carlos Gomez started the season as the Astros fifth hitter, but with his .190 batting average, he has been pushed down to the seventh hitter for Tyler White, who is leading the Astros in home runs with four. While Gomez did get the big hit on Thursday to break up the no-hit bid by Ian Kennedy, his bat has not broken out yet. This season, Gomez has taken some of the worst swings that I can remember an MLB player making at times the season. Gomez too frequently has half swings.

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Luis Valbuena in his second season with the Astros has joined the rally killer club this season following his decent 2015 season. He is batting .182 with two doubles and three runs batted in. Last night he struck out twice before being pinch hit for by the .133 hitting Marwin Gonzalez. The third base position is something to watch should Valbuena continue to struggle, they have options in Matt Duffy, Colin Moran, and the soon to be the talk of the town in Alex Bregman. While Valbuena can play great defense, the Astros need some offense from him to win.

My son will get mad at me for writing this, despite Jason Castro‘s recent success, there is a reason he is batting ninth. Castro digressed with the bat in 2015 and has shown some potential in 2016 with two triples, but overall .167 is not good if he is not the defensive whiz as a catcher. These three

These three players listed above are part of the reason why the Astros have the 4-8 record this season, but two of them are former All-Stars, and the third had 25 home runs last year. They can turn it around at any moment, and it looks like Castro is starting to hit better. Gomez has the most potential and can be an impactful bat down the stretch.

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Looking at the entire team, believe it or not, the Astros have not grounded into the most double plays in the American League. The Astros as a whole stranded 19 runners on base in Friday’s games followed by stranding ten runners last night. According to ESPN Astros team stats tracker, the Astros are tied with the Orioles with 13 GDP before last night’s game. I can remember this from Friday night’s 1-0 win, that the Astros would get runners on but would ground into a double player to erase their scoring chances.

Another thing that is hurting the Astros is the fact that they are still striking out way too much this season. The Astros are known for their all-or-nothing approach, the strikeouts at key moments are killing rallies as well. The 108 strikeouts before last night’s game, puts the Astros tied with the Rangers for second place with 108 strikeouts. During Friday’s game as well, the bases were loaded with no outs, and the Astros didn’t score a run.

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This offense will come around, but they need to make better decisions on the bases. George Springer has been struggling, but he is looking to break out of it following his three-hit game last night while hitting his second homer of the year. The overall success of the Astros will lie with their best hitter, who is Carlos Correa. Following a hot start, he has slowed down a little. This team will be good, and we just need the offense to step up more often.

**Stats from Fangraphs**