If the Houston Astros don’t turn it around and climb back towards the top of the A.L. West, will Astros manager A. J. Hinch lose his job?
The Houston Astros and Manager A.J. Hinch are losing with alarming regularity. The team that exceeded expectations in 2015, and was expected to continue that level of excellence this year has so far failed to deliver. With a quarter of the season gone, people are beginning to wonder what needs to happen to fix the problem. When teams lose, often the manager gets fired. If the Astros don’t turn it around and climb back towards the top of the A.L. West, will Hinch lose his job?
Teams lose for any number of reasons:
- Not enough talent
- Talented players, but underperforming
- Some talent, but not enough to make a difference
- A manager who makes the wrong decisions
- A general manager who makes bad trades
- All of the above
- None of the above
- Who the heck knows?
So which reason accounts for the Astros firm grip on last place?
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The Astros have plenty of talent; more than enough, it would seem, to win more than they lose. With an All-Star, MVP caliber player like Jose Altuve, and a Cy Young Award-winning Dallas Keuchel leading the way, this team nearly knocked off the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals in last year’s ALDS. Add to that the 2015 Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa, the emerging star George Springer, last year’s 19 game winner Collin McHugh, prize prospect Lance McCullers, Jr., and we have a core group of young players who gave everyone hope for a great future in Houston.
The Astros have a promising set of rookies who have spent some time with Houston this season, including Tyler White (aka ‘The Great White’), Matt Duffy, Colin Moran, Tony Kemp, Michael Feliz, and Chris Devenski. Any or all of these men could make a difference, and some could become impact players. So far, none has made enough of a difference, but the season is still young.
The farm system is stocked with prospects, adding to the promise for the future. Last year’s top amateur draft pick Alex Bregman is storming his way through Double-A, and will likely soon be promoted to Triple-A, and possibly find himself in Minute Maid Park before the end of 2016. Slugger A.J. Reed will almost surely be promoted to the Astros in June and take over at first base or DH. Bregman and Reed could be the pieces needed to propel the Astros back into winning ways, along with pitching prospects Brady Rodgers, James Hoyt, and Joseph Musgrove.
With this kind of talent, if the Astros don’t win, should Hinch be fired? Obviously, the men on the field must perform, and if they don’t, they should be replaced. It is the manager’s job (with input from the GM) to determine how long to stick with an underperformer – someone like the non-hitting Jake Marisnick or Carlos Gomez, or the streaky White. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow must decide whether to give Ken Giles a chance as closer, or stick with Luke Gregerson. When the manager puts the right guy in the lineup at the right time, he looks like a genius, and when he leaves a cold bat or a pitcher in too long, he looks like the goat.
Is it time now to fire Hinch?
Keep in mind that although an organization like Sports Illustrated picked the Astros to win the World Series in 2017, and then decided Houston would do it this season, it really is a long shot to consider Houston as a realistic contender to win it all in 2016.
Let’s give these guys a break and let them figure out how to pull out of their funk – including Hinch. We would all like to think 2015 wasn’t a fluke, and the Astros can do it again. We also want to believe that Hinch could and should be the Astros manager for a long time to come, regardless of how the team fares in 2016. No, don’t fire A. J. Hinch.
**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference and MLB.com**