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Astros’ Lineup Top Heavy? Bottom Third of Lineup is Struggling

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Aug 31, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (6) lays on the ground after being hit by a pitch by Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Vidal Nuno (not pictured) in the third inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (6) lays on the ground after being hit by a pitch by Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Vidal Nuno (not pictured) in the third inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Altuve, Springer, and Correa can’t carry the Astros on their own. Who else is ready to step up and help them out?

Few teams in baseball boast a first third as good as Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. This trio of potential All-Stars ranks in the top five in runs (2nd), doubles (2nd), home runs (1st), RBIs (4th), stolen bases (1st), walks (1st), batting average (4th), on-base percentage (1st), slugging percentage (2nd). All three men at the top of the lineup are hitting over .280 with runners on base. The problem for the Houston Astros: the back of the order isn’t getting on base.

While the top third continues to produce, the bottom third leads the majors in strikeouts and ranks 20th in on-base percentage. After some combination of Colby Rasmus, Tyler White, and Marwin Gonzalez, all of which are hitting around of above the league average comes the bottom third. Luis Valbuena, Carlos Gomez, Preston Tucker, Jason Castro, Erik Kratz, and Jake Marisnick are all hitting below the league average and of that group of hitters, only Tucker (.232) is hitting above .200. 

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Houston has some potential fixes within their system already. The easiest would be making sure utility infielder Gonzalez is in the lineup every day. After Tyler White’s ridiculous start the Astros haven’t had consistent production from their corner infielders except Gonzalez. His .289 batting average in the month of May is the third best of the team. Gonzalez also broke his streak of home runs without runners on base, smashing a pair of two-run dingers last week. Before May, Gonzalez led the majors with 25 career home runs without a man on base. Gonzalez figures to be a placeholder until Colin Moran is called up to the big leagues.

A few other adjustments of merit would require roster moves, starting with a more reliable nine-hole hitter. It might be time to think about promoting Tony Kemp. With the tremendous success of the top of the order having someone that can set the table would create extra scoring opportunities. Jason Castro’s hot month has helped, but the former All-Star catcher has averaged a strikeout per game for his career and hasn’t hit above .225 since his last year appearing in the Mid-Summer Classic, 2013. Marisnick has seen more playing time at the bottom spot lately but has just three hits in 30 plate appearances in 2016. Kemp has averaged a .300 / .394 / .404 line in four minor league seasons. Even a slight regression from that would be a welcomed change.

Evan Gattis figured to rejoin the team as the designated backup catcher, meaning that Erik Kratz’s time with Houston is likely drawing to a close. He has two hits as an Astro. That’s just sad. Also under the microscope is center fielder Carlos Gomez. He hasn’t been as bad as Kratz, but he has been noticeably erratic at the plate so far in 2016. At this point, the two-time gold glove winner has made more noise breaking bats than hitting baseballs. Gomez is still waiting for his first home run of the 2016 campaign. In the meantime, the fan base continues to grow more and more impatient with his antics each game.

George Springer has two grand slams this season, Jose Altuve is hitting .400 this month, and Carlos Correa is back to his home run hitting form. They are doing everything they can to will this team to win. They just need a little bit of help.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***

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