Astros: Radically rethinking the starting lineup for 2020

Dusty Baker Jr. #12 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to the start of their game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Dusty Baker Jr. #12 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to the start of their game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

It might be time to rethink the Houston Astros lineup for the rest of the season.

For the most part, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker has kept the starting lineup fairly similar to how his predecessor, AJ Hinch, did down the stretch in 2019. But given the way things have gone so far this season, it might be time to shake things up.

George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman have all struggled to begin the season, yet Baker has continued to put them in the top three spots in the batting order. This is a nice approach when they’re hitting well, but it’s an absolute killer when they’re all like this.

By contrast, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa, the typical four through six hitters, have all done well so far. Josh Reddick, who’s been hitting second lately with Springer out, has respectable numbers. I understand Baker’s reasoning for using Reddick there, as the hope is he’ll get more fastballs while hitting in front of Bregman, but I think we can still do better.

Kyle Tucker and Martin Maldonado have put up a few big hits but otherwise have poor numbers. Tucker has even been utilized as the leadoff man a few times, which I understand to a certain extent, as he’s probably the best stolen base threat in the typical lineup. But he has no business batting leadoff at this point in time.

Yordan Alvarez will return soon, which will hopefully add some much-needed punch to the lineup. Regardless, I think the day-to-day lineup needs a good shake up. To that end, here’s what I would do if I were in Baker’s position.

The Changes

Ironically, I would start by keeping Springer in the leadoff spot. He should be back on Friday, according to Baker, and he was heating up before his injury. He leads the team in RBIs and is tied for the lead in homers, and I just can’t think of any better ideas here. That potential punch to lead off the game is tough to pass up.

But after that, things would look different. I would start by moving Brantley into the second spot, as his ability to make contact and penchant to avoid strikeouts would be useful if Springer gets on base. It would also get him more at-bats, which you want from a hitter like him.

Then Correa would hit third, as he leads the team in average, on-base percentage and slugging. Gurriel would hit cleanup, as he’s been strong so far this year and would be the perfect guy to drive in runs following two hot hitters.

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Bregman would move down to the fifth spot and Altuve to the sixth, which definitely seems odd when you think about it. But the hope would be that Bregman has more chances with runners on base, meaning pitchers couldn’t pitch around him in those situations. Some good RBI opportunities might help him get some more confidence.

For Altuve, he needs to take a step back and stop pressing. By hitting lower in the order with less accomplished hitters behind him, he might not see quite as many pitches to hit, which isn’t a bad thing right now. He’s chasing too many pitches, so if he can get into a situation where he’s forced to be more patient, that could help him get back in a groove. He’ll also ideally have less pressure on him if he’s hitting lower in the order.

Then I would have Reddick hitting seventh, Maldonado hitting eighth and Tucker in the nine-hole. Hitting in front of Springer and Brantley might give Tucker some more fastballs, which he could use right now, without the added pressure of being at the top of the lineup.

At Full Strength

When Alvarez returns, I would slot him in the fifth spot behind Gurriel, with Bregman moving down to sixth and Altuve to seventh. Bregman is still a feared hitter, even as he’s struggled some, so putting Alvarez in front of him would give the reigning Rookie of the Year some pitches to hit and hopefully plenty of RBI opportunities. He’ll need that as he tries to find his groove.

I would then hit either Reddick or Tucker eighth, with Maldonado in the nine spot, as there would be no need to use Machete to break up two lefties. This would be an incredibly deep lineup with the potential to wreak havoc on opposing pitching staffs. And here’s the thing — it’s not permanent. There’s nothing that says a lineup must be static. It can be altered as some players heat up and others cool off.

It may seem crazy to have Bregman and Altuve hitting sixth and seventh, but for the time being I think it’s worth a shot. Get your hotter hitters higher up in the order and take a little pressure off two of your centerpieces who are off to rough starts. They can always be moved back up later.

So how does this look?

Springer, CF

Brantley, LF

Correa, SS

Gurriel, 1B

Alvarez, DH

Bregman, 3B

Altuve, 2B

Reddick/Tucker, RF

Maldonado, C